SHAFAQNA - An act that prophets do to prove their prophethood that normal individuals aren’t capable of doing is called a “miracle”.
The Holy Quran is the greatest miracle of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). In the Quran, there are numerous verses that speak of and prove it being a miracle. In addition to the many verses that are miracles themselves other than the fact that they are verses of the Quran (eg. the verses that predict the future, those that speak of past nations, very high concepts and teachings etc.). The people back then learned of these different matters through the verses that were revealed to the Prophet (pbuh). In the Quran, two other miracles of the Prophet (pbuh) have also been spoken of; the first being his ascension to the skies and heavens, and the second being him splitting the moon by pointing to it which has been indicated in the beginning of surah Qamar.
In Arabic, the term miracle literally means to make another unable to do something and in religious terms means for one to do something or say something that others are unable of doing or saying. Therefore, the phenomenon that divine prophets would do in order to prove their prophethood that others were unable of doing are all miracles, like the awakening of the dead that Prophet Isa (pbuh) would do, or like the staff of Prophet Musa (pbuh) that would turn into a python.
The Prophet of Islam had many miracles in his lifetime, to the extent that they have counted four thousand miracles for him. His greatest miracle is the Holy Quran that in contrast to the miracles of other prophets, and in contrast to other miracles of his own, is an eternal and never-ending miracle that will remain for all time and eras. It is a book of miracles in different dimensions; it has unique eloquence, and expresses the highest divine teachings and concepts etc. that scholars and commentators have all thoroughly discussed about. The best reason for the Quran being a miracle is its challenging others to bring a surah like it: “And if you are in doubt concerning what We have sent down to Our servant, then bring a surah like it, and invoke your helpers besides Allah, should you be truthful.” No one has been able to bring a surah like it till today, and no one will be able to do so forever. Also, the Quran’s predictions of the future are another example of it being a miracle and since all of these news of the future and the unseen were first disclosed by the Prophet (pbuh) they can be considered his miracles. Some of these predictions that have been mentioned in the Quran are as follows:
1- In order to receive charities, a group of the Bani Asad tribe converted to Islam, but hadn’t truly embraced Islam in their hearts. When they came to the Prophet (pbuh) and claimed that they have become Muslim, the Prophet recited the following verse: “The Bedouins say," We have faith." Say," You do not have faith yet; rather say," We have embraced Islam," for faith has not yet entered into your hearts…” Knowing what is going on in others’ hearts is truly a miracle.
2- Aas ibn Wa’il would insult the Prophet (pbuh) and call him “abtar” (cut off in progeny) because of him not having a son. The Prophet (pbuh) said that Aas is the true “abtar” and called his own progeny the “Kawthar”. This prediction came out to be true and it was Aas’s progeny who was cut off, but the Prophet’s progeny is still alive till today (there are seyyids all over the world today).
3- The Prophet (pbuh) informed of the defeat of the Roman empire to the Persian empire: “The Romans were defeated, in a land nearby; but they will after this defeat become triumphant; it will be soon,
within a few years…”, and this vow actually took place and after a few years it was the Romans who defeated the Persians.
The Holy Quran has mentioned two of the Prophet’s miracles:
1- His ascension to the skies and heavens (Mi’raj): “Immaculate is He who carried His servant on a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque whose environs We have blessed…”
This verse is about when Allah (swt) brought the Prophet (pbuh) to Jerusalem and from there took him to the highest points where no one else has ever gone (the distance between two bows or less).
The Mi’raj (ascension) of the Prophet (pbuh) was his miracle and after returning from it, he gave many news of the unseen.
All Islamic scholars say that the Mi’raj took place before his migration from Makkah to Medinah although there is a difference of opinion on exactly what year it took place; the years that have been claimed are: the second year of his prophethood, the third, fifth, and sixth year and other years have also been claimed.
Also, according to the Quran, the Mi’raj began from Masjidul-Haram in Makkah, although some believe that the house of Umm Hani or the Valley of Abi-Taleb (where the Prophet and his companions were surrounded and suffered sanctions for three years and were put under extreme pressures by their tribe during the advent of Islam). It is possible to say that his first Mi’raj was from Makkah and that the second was from the home of Umm Hani, but there is no evidence that any of his Mi’rajes took place from the Valley of Abi-Taleb.
Another important point about the Prophet’s Mu’raj is that there is also a debate on whether his ascension was a spiritual one or one of the body and soul together.
What most commentators believe is that it was an ascension of the soul and body together.Meaning that the Prophet (pbuh) was transferred with his materialistic body from the Masjidul-Haram to the Mosque of Jerusalem, and ascended to the skies and heavens from there with the same body and witnessed many of the unseen there and mentioned them for the people when he returned.For further information on the true essence of the Prophet’s Mi’raj, one can refer to tafsir books.
2- Shaqqul-Qamar or the splitting of the moon:
Allah (swt) has mentioned this great miracle of His prophet (pbuh) in the beginning of Surah Qamar saying: “The hour (of the day of judgement) drew near and the moon was split”
The story goes like this: The disbelievers of Makkah (before hijrah [the migration to Madinah]) asked the Prophet (pbuh) for a sign saying: “If you are truly the messenger of God, then split the moon into two halves.” The Prophet (pbuh) replied: “If I do so, will you believe?” They all agreed. That night was a night in which the moon was a complete one. The Prophet (pbuh) asked his lord for the moon to be split into two halves. He pointed to the moon and it surprisingly split and many were a witness of this miracle, yet the disbelievers denied this miracle and falsely claimed that Muhammad (pbuh) has bewitched them. The Quran considers the denial of the disbelievers a normal habit saying: “If they see a sign, they turn away, and say," An incessant magic!" They denied, and followed their own desires, and every matter has a setting [appropriate to it]. There have already come to them reports containing admonishment.”
This is part of the matters pertaining to the miracles of our prophet (pbuh).
 Baqarah:23 “وَ إِن کُنتُمْ فىِ رَیْبٍ مِّمَّا نَزَّلْنَا عَلىَ عَبْدِنَا فَأْتُواْ بِسُورَةٍ مِّن مِّثْلِهِ وَ ادْعُواْ شُهَدَاءَکُم مِّن دُونِ اللَّهِ إِن کُنتُمْ صَادِقِین”
 Mohammad Baqir Majlisi, Biharul-Anwar, vol. 17, pg. 199.
 Hujurat:14. “قَالَتِ الْأَعْرَابُ ءَامَنَّا قُل لَّمْ تُؤْمِنُواْ وَ لَاکِن قُولُواْ أَسْلَمْنَا وَ لَمَّا یَدْخُلِ الْایمَانُ فىِ قُلُوبِکُمْ”
 Kawthar:3 “إِنَّ شَانِئَکَ هُوَ الْأَبْتر”
 Biharul-Anwar, vol. 17, pg. 203.
 Rum:1-3. “غُلِبَتِ الرُّومُ،فىِ أَدْنىَ الْأَرْضِ وَ هُم مِّن بَعْدِ غَلَبِهِمْ سَیَغْلِبُون”
 Isra:1. “سُبْحَانَ الَّذِى أَسْرَى بِعَبْدِهِ لَیْلًا مِّنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلىَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْأَقْصَا الَّذِى بَارَکْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنرُِیَهُ مِنْ ءَایَاتِنَا إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِیعُ الْبَصِیر”
 Najm:7-9. “وَ هُوَ بِالْأُفُقِ الْأَعْلىَ، ثمَُّ دَنَا فَتَدَلىَ،فَکاَنَ قَابَ قَوْسَینِْ أَوْ أَدْنىَ، فَأَوْحَى إِلىَ عَبْدِهِ مَا أَوْحَى” Mohammad Husein Tabataba’I, Al-Mizan, vol. 19, pg. 38.
 “وَ لَقَدْ رَءَاهُ نَزْلَةً أُخْرَى،عِندَ سِدْرَةِ المْنتَهَى”
 Abd Ali Arusi Juwayzi, Nurul-Thaqalain, vol. 3, pg. 98, Ismailiyan Press, Qom.
 Seyyid Mahmoud Alousi, Ruhul-Ma’ani fi Tafsiril-Quranil-Adhim, vol. 8, pg. 8, Darul-Kutubil-Ilmiyyah Press, Beirut.
 Translation of Al-Mizan, vol. 19, pg. 39.
 See: translation of Al-Mizan, under the first verse of surah Isra.
 Qamar:1. “اقْترَبَتِ السَّاعَةُ وَ انشَقَّ الْقَمَر”
 Fadhl ibn Hasan Tabarsi, translation of Majma’ul-Bayan, vol. 24, pg. 10.
 “وَ إِن یَرَوْاْ ءَایَةً یُعْرِضُواْ وَ یَقُولُواْ سِحْرٌ مُّسْتَمِرٌّ،وَ کَذَّبُواْ وَ اتَّبَعُواْ أَهْوَاءَهُمْ وَ کُلُّ أَمْرٍ مُّسْتَقِر”
SHAFAQNA-- In order to answer this question, a few points need to be made:
1- There is a lot of evidence that before Prophet Adam (pbuh), there were humans living on the face of the planet.
Allamah Tabatabai says: “Verse 3 of surah Baqarah somewhat suggests that before the creation of Prophet Adam (pbuh), there were humans living, giving rise to the question the angels asked Allah (swt) [when He “announced” that He was appoint Prophet Adam (pbuh) as His vicegerent on earth]: “Will You set in it [earth] someone who will cause corruption in it, and shed blood…?”
In the book Tawhid of Sheikh Saduq, Imam Sadiq (as) has been narrated saying: “You think that Allah (swt) hasn’t created humans other than yourselves; but He has. He has created a thousand thousand [a million] “Adams”, and you are the descendants of the final “Adam”.
2- With help from writings and drawings found in caves, it can be proven that humans from this race also lived in caves. The question is, do all of these drawings and writings belong to those who came after Prophet Adam (pbuh)?
Of course, according to what verses of the Quran say, all of those on earth today are descendants of Prophet Adam (pbuh). For instance, Allah (swt) says: “O Children of Adam! Do not let Satan tempt you, the same way he expelled your parents from paradise”, and as we all know, the Quran is a book to all of humanity, so when it addresses all children of Adam (pbuh), it is actually addressing all people, hence the children of Adam being equal with all the people being addressed by the Quran.
In another verse, He says: “O mankind! Be wary of your Lord who created you from a single soul, and created its mate from it, and, from the two of them, scattered numerous men and women [across the earth]”.
Therefore, if the things found in caves date back to millions of years ago, one must say that they do not belong to people from our race, but from races before Prophet Adam (pbuh), because Prophet Adam (pbuh) lived about 7000 years ago.
But if they belong to after such a date and time, it can be said that even people of this race and descendants of Prophet Adam (pbuh) have lived as cavemen as well.
Of course, comparing buildings today with buildings of that time gives us the conclusion that back then, the building process was a very simple one and people would abide in very simple homes to protect them from the cold, heat and wild animals; these homes being caves or gaps and cleavages between mountains; this being pointed to in the Quran as well.
The Quran says: “وَ جَعَلَ لَکُمْ مِنَ الْجِبالِ أَکْناناً” (…and [He] granted you resorts in the mountains). “أکنان” is the plural form of “کن” (pronounced “kinn”) which denotes a means of concealment and protection, and that being the reason for why hiding places and caves and refuges in the mountains are all called “کن”.
In this verse, we see that resorts in the mountains have been considered blessings by Allah (swt).Living in caves and in the hearts of mountains even after the advancement of building methods, was common and a sign of civilization, as the Quran says that some would hew homes out of the mountains, enjoining themselves therein by wining and dining!”
Therefore there are great chances that people from the race of Prophet Adam (pbuh) actually did live in caves and there is nothing wrong with such a claim.
 Translation of Al-Mizan, vol. 4, pg. 223.
 Ibid, pg. 231.
 Some believe that there is no doubt about people living in caves from this race. Da’eratul-Ma’arefe No (The New Encyclopedia), vol. 4, pg. 331.
 Translation of Al-Mizan, vol. 4, pg. 223.
 Translation of Al-Mizan, vol. 4, pg. 223.
 Nisa’:1 “یا أَیُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوا رَبَّکُمُ الَّذی خَلَقَکُمْ مِنْ نَفْسٍ واحِدَةٍ وَ خَلَقَ مِنْها زَوْجَها وَ بَثَّ مِنْهُما رِجالاً کَثیراً وَ نِساء”
 For further information, see index: The lifetime of man according to the Quran, Question 701.
 See: Tafsir Nemouneh, vol. 11, pg. 346.
 See: Shu’ara:149.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- There is no inconsistence between these two. If we have heard that Prophet Adam has been created six to seven thousand years ago, this might refer to a different and new generation of human beings which started with Prophet Adam (A.S.) and might have been preceded by numbers of generations of human beings who have gone extinct. There is a lot of evidence in hand that suggests a whole different generation of humans unlike Prophet Adam existed before him.
This is also in accord with the teachings of the Quran and Islamic Hadith. 
Allamah Tabatabai (R.A.) comments under the first ayah of surah Nisa’: “The surface meaning of the verse suggests that the term “ نفس واحدة ” is referring to Adam and “ زوجها ” to Eve, who are the mother and father of mankind. We also are from this generation  of humans and judging by the Quran, mankind’s species goes back to them. The noble verse implies that the existing generation of human beings goes back to Adam and Eve and that nobody else has played any part in producing this generation.
In the history of the Jews we read that the human species we know of doesn’t surpass a history of approximately seven thousand years which seems to be reasonable. Therefore, logic suggests the same as what history dictates. But geological experts believe the history of human beings to be millions of years.
This is their point of view, but the proof they present isn’t convincing. We don’t have a reason that proves that these fossils belong to the ancestors of this chain of human beings we witness today. We also have no reason to believe that these fossils don’t belong to a generation or kind of beings who lived before Prophet Adam (The Father of Mankind) and were instinct way before our ancestor and were never connected to the chain of human beings we are from.
The Holy Quran has not explicitly explained the emergence of mankind on the planet earth, in terms of whether we were the only generation of mankind or if there were other generations before us making us the last generation.
From paying attention to some verses of the Quran, we can slightly deduce that before the creation of Prophet Adam (The Father of Mankind) and his generation there were other human beings who lived here, where He says: “…And when your Lord said to the angels: I am going to place in the earth a khalif (representative), they asked: Will you place in it someone who will make mischief in it and shed blood”. 
Allamah Tabatabai says: “We can slightly deduce from ayah 30 of surah Al-Baqara that before the creation of Prophet Adam (A.S.) there was a different generation of human beings who caused the angels to ask: Will you place in it someone who will make mischief in it and shed blood .” 
This ayah implies that another generation of human beings was created before the generation of human beings we know and are part of what was created, which the angels were initially familiar with.
In some traditions coming from the imams (A.S.), we witness proof of the existence of eras of human beings prior to the current era.
Sheikh Saduq (A.S.) has narrated a hadith in which the imam tells the narrator: “You might believe that God Almighty has not created humans other than you. Well this is false because he has created millions of humans and you from the last generation of them.” 
In Khisal, Sheikh Saduq also narrates that Imam Baqir (A.S.) has stated: “From the time He created the earth, God Almighty has created within it, seven worlds (and made all of them instinct), none of which were of the generation of of Prophet Adam. God created all of them from the crust of this earth and created generation after generation with corresponding worlds for all generations till finally Prophet Adam was created and reproduced his descendants solely from him.  , 
On this account, if we conclude that the line of history for mankind extends to a million years based on fossils found perhaps in caves, they don’t belong to the current generation of human beings, because the story of Prophet Adam appears to be about 7000 years old. 
For more information on this topic, please refer to:
 Adopted from Question 637 (website: 701).
 Translation of al-Mizan, vol. 4, pg. 214, Qum, Islamic Publications Office, 1417.
 Baqarah:30, “وَ إِذْ قالَ رَبُّکَ لِلْمَلائِکَةِ إِنِّی جاعِلٌ فِی الْأَرْضِ خَلیفَةً قالُوا أَ تَجْعَلُ فیها مَنْ یُفْسِدُ فیها وَ یَسْفِکُ الدِّماءَ وَ نَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِکَ وَ نُقَدِّسُ لَکَ قالَ إِنِّی أَعْلَمُ ما لا تَعْلَمُون”.
 Translation of al-Mizan, vol. 4, pg. 223.
 Sheikh Saduq, Tawhid, pg. 277, vol. 2, Tehran.
 Sheikh Saduq, Khisal, vol. 2, pg. 652, hadith 54.
 Adopted from Quranic Inquiries website.
 For further information, see: The age of mankind according to the Quran, Question 637 (website: 701).
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- This question refers to the differences which exist between the Holy Prophet (S) and other people. In fact, it does not concern the general differences between men and women in the way they have sexual relationships with each other.
In a nutshell, we should say that:
1- The privileges given to the Prophet (S) are for the obligations which have been put exclusively on him.
2- The Prophet (S) never went to extremes in making use of these rights and privileges.
3- As per Shia belief about the permissibility of fixed-time marriage, there is not any difference between the Prophet (S) and other men in terms of the number of women they can marry?
4- Although the limitations and restrictions applied to the Holy Prophet’s wives were associated with their status, yet they were not forced to live with the Prophet (s). In fact, they accepted these limitations of their own consent and choice.
The above question can be answered in several parts which are as follows:
1. Do all those cases which have been pointed in verse 50 of Sura al-Ahzab concern the Prophet (S) exclusively?
2. Why was a special kind of marriage particular to the Prophet (S) in the sense that the believing women could dedicate themselves to the Prophet (S) and be married to him without receiving dowry (mahr)?
3. Why did the Prophet (S) enjoy special privileges in sexual matters as compared to other men?
4. In spite of all these privileges for the person of the Holy Prophet (S), why were his wives deprived of the rights of an ordinary woman? In other words, why were they not allowed to marry another man after the demise of the Prophet (S)?
Now we shall deal with the above questions in the same order in which they appeared above:
1. First of all, it is necessary to give a look at the verse in connection with the first part of your question. God, the Exalted, says to the Holy Prophet (S) in the said verses:
"يا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ إِنَّا أَحْلَلْنا لَكَ أَزْواجَكَ اللاَّتي آتَيْتَ أُجُورَهُنَّ وَ ما مَلَكَتْ يَمينُكَ مِمَّا أَفاءَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكَ وَ بَناتِ عَمِّكَ وَ بَناتِ عَمَّاتِكَ وَ بَناتِ خالِكَ وَ بَناتِ خالاتِكَ اللاَّتي هاجَرْنَ مَعَكَ وَ امْرَأَةً مُؤْمِنَةً إِنْ وَهَبَتْ نَفْسَها لِلنَّبِيِّ إِنْ أَرادَ النَّبِيُّ أَنْ يَسْتَنْكِحَها خالِصَةً لَكَ مِنْ دُونِ الْمُؤْمِنين." 
“O Prophet! surely We have made lawful to you your wives whom you have given their dowries, and those whom your right hand possesses out of those whom Allah has given to you as prisoners of war, and the daughters of your paternal uncles and the daughters of your paternal aunts, and the daughters of your maternal uncles and the daughters of your maternal aunts who fled with you; and a believing woman if she gave herself to the Prophet, if the Prophet desired to marry her-- specially for you, not for the (rest of) believers; We know what We have ordained for them concerning their wives and those whom their right hands possess in order that no blame may attach to you; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” 
Whoever has even little knowledge of Shari’ah law knows that the women mentioned in this verse are not lawful exclusively for the Prophet (S) except for once case. They are lawful for all people and the sentence “We have made lawful to you” does not imply exclusivity; rather there are also other verses which are addressed to the Prophet (S) but the injunctions in those verses include all Muslims alike.
2. The only case which is particular to the Prophet (S) is where a woman gives or dedicates herself to the Apostle of God (S) volitionally and with her own consent. Marriage with such a woman is prerogative of the Prophet (S) and others have no right to it. However, if we look carefully at this part of the verse, we will come to a very interesting conclusion at the end:
Firstly, this method is not practically a way to provide a real monopoly for the Prophet (S); rather if a woman refers to other individuals as well and expresses his willingness for marriage with them, there is the possibility of marriage to take place. The only difference is that the Prophet (S) could marry her without paying a dowry whereas if others are to marry her, it is necessary for the husband to pay a dowry.
Secondly, some exegetes of the Holy Quran are of the view that the Prophet (S) never benefitted from this exclusive right but there is a group of exegetes who believe that only one woman married the Prophet (S) in this way. According to some reports, she was a widow or a divorced woman with a child named Sharik.
We, therefore, cannot consider this method of marriage, an extraordinary privilege for the Prophet (S) nor can we say that it is an indication of the Prophet’s freedom to gratify his sexual needs.
3- As for why men in general can choose up to four wives,while there is not such a restriction for the Holy Prophet (S), we must say that:
1-3. The privileges given to the Prophet (S) are for the obligations which have been put exclusively on him. That is why we see that if the Prophet (S) has been given a privilege in one case, in another case he has been obligated to do a certain act of worship (such as the Tahajjud Prayer) as an exclusive duty of his. Tahajjud or the night prayer is an obligatory prayer for the Holy Prophet but it is a recommend act for others and they will not be punished for not offering it.
Some believe that since that Holy Prophet (S) was at the peak of irfan (Gnostic relations) with God and on the hand he was bound to live a normal life with ordinary people, therefore he needed some adjusting media (means) of which associating with the wives was considered to be one.
2-3. A study of the history shows the establishment of harems with dozens and sometimes hundreds of concubines kept by the rulers but the Prophet (S), despite theoretically being allowed to have such a harem, as per the most famous report, did not, in practice, have wives more than the number of the fingers. Among his wives only one of them was a girl, the rest were either widows or divorced women. All of this shows that sexual gratification was not the only motive behind the Prophet’s marriages.
3-3. According to Shia, apart from the Holy Prophet (S) other men are also not faced with any constraints about the number of wives they can have. However, only four wives can be permanent and the rest, if any, should be married through temporary marriage contract.
4-3. Regardless of some natural differences among the wives, you cannot find an instance where one of the Prophet’s wives may have complained about her sexual needs not being met. In other words, all the Prophet’s wives were happy and content with the situation they were in. As shall be mentioned, none of the Prophet’s wives wanted to separate from him. However, we can rarely see any individuals who may treat their wives justly in terms of meeting and satisfying their sexual needs. It is for the same reason that the limitations in terms of the number of wives they can marry shall be justifiable.
4. Regarding the last part of your question, we must say that the differences existing between the Prophet’s sexual freedom and his wives refer to one of the following two cases:
1-4. A part of these differences originates in the differences which exist naturally among men and women and which are not particular to the Prophet (S). The reason has been provided in its respective place. Although this part of the answer does not directly deal with your question, you can refer, in that connection, to the relevant answers in the footnote. 
It should be note also that the Prophet’s sexual relationships with his wives, insofar as they are live, are not different with other men, thus the same limitations which apply to other women also apply to the Prophet’s wives.
2-4. The second part has something to do with the differences existing between the Prophet’s wives and other women. In this regard, it is necessary to mention that owing to the high status of the Prophet’s wives in society, they could not behave in the way the ordinary women behaved. God says to them:
“O wives of the Prophet! you are not like any other of the women; If you will be on your guard, then be not soft in (your) speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease yearn; and speak a good word.” 
“O wives of the prophet! whoever of you commits an open indecency, the punishment shall be increased to her doubly; and this is easy to Allah.” 
Attaining such an important status and being entitled as the mothers of the faithful cannot happen forcefully and without their personal consent.
It is for the same reason that God, the Exalted, advises the Holy Prophet (S) as such:
“O Prophet! Say to thy Consorts: "If it be that ye desire the life of this World, and its glitter,- then come! I will provide for your enjoyment and set you free in a handsome manner. But if ye seek Allah and His Messenger, and the Home of the Hereafter, verily Allah has prepared for the well-doers amongst you a great reward.” 
It was only then that the Prophet’s wives were allowed to choose between one of these two options:
First, if they are to separate from the Prophet (S), they can receive a valuable gift and separate from him very respectfully and then carry on their lives like other ladies. Naturally, if they were to choose this option, they could marry another man.
Second, considering their privileged worldly position and the suitable heavenly rewards which they receive, if they remained pious and God-fearing, they could still remain the Prophet’s wives.
Obviously, the second option is accompanied with some limitations also.
History stands witness to the fact that all of the Prophet’s wives preferred being with the Prophet (S) while being fully aware of the limitations and consequences of the marriage. According to a report, Aisha preceded others in declaring her consent and satisfaction.
One of the limitations for the Prophet’s wives was that they were not allowed to marry other men after the demise of the Prophet (S). It is clearly stated in verse 53 of Chapter al-Ahzab which says:
“And it is not for you to cause annoyance to the messenger of Allah, nor that ye should ever marry his wives after him. Lo! that in Allah's sight would be an enormity.”
Ibn Abbas says that this verse was revealed about a man who wanted to marry Aisha after the demise the Holy Prophet (S). Another commentator named Al-Saddi says that the man who wished to marry Aisha was Talha bin Ubaidullah.
Note that Talha was the very man who, with the support of the Mother of the Faithful, created a big mischief that resulted in the bloody Battle of Jamal. Now, if he would marry the Mother of the Faithful, what would happen? There is no doubt that he would create greater seditions and mischief in the land as the husband of a woman who was a former wife of the Prophet (S). He would steer the public mind or the common sense to justify his evil deeds.
It was for this and many other reasons that others were not allowed to approach the Prophet’s wives for marriage after the Holy Prophet’s demise. As was mentioned earlier, the Prophet’s wives were allowed to separate from him and marry another man during his lifetime but since they chose, of their own consent, to stay married to him, they also implicitly accepted the limitations.
 - Al-Ahzab, 50.
 - Translated by Shakir
 - See for instance: Sura Talaq (divorce) verse 1.
 - Kulayni, Muhammad bin Ya’qub, Al-Kafi, vol.5, pg. 384, hadith 2, Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyah, Tehran, 1365 (1986) A.H.
 - Tabari, Abu Ja’far Muhammad bin Jarir, Jami’ul Bayan fi Tafsir al-Quran, vol.22, pg. 17, Darul Ma’refah, Beirut, 1412 A.H.
 - Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir, Behar al-Anwar, vol.22, pg. 202, Al-Wafa Institute, Beirut, 1404 A.H.
 - In this regard, you can refer to different exegetic (commentary) books under the third verse of Sura al-Nisa.
 - Al-Isra, 79.
 - Kulayni, Muhammad bin Ya’qub, Al-Kafi,pg. 5, pg. 451.
 - Indexes: “The difference in the blood money for Man and Woman” No. 2207; “The Difference between Man’s Blood Money and Woman’s”, No. 2379; “The Philosophy of the Difference in the Ruling Applied to A Female and Male Apostate,” No. 1912; “The Reason behind the Difference in the Blood Money of Man and Woman”, No. 7469; “The Difference in the Inheritance of Man and Woman”, No. 886.
 - Al-Ahzab, 32.
 - Al-Ahzab, 30.
 - Al-Ahzab, 28 – 29.
 - Tabari, Abu Ja’far Muhammad bin Jarir, Jame’ul Bayan fi Tafsir al-Quran, vol.21, pg. 100.
 -Ibn Kathir al-Damishqi, Tafsir al-Quran, al-Azim, vol.6, pg. 403, Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyah, Beirut, 1419 A.H.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) In order to clarify the subject of the discussion, it is necessary to mention the following points:
1. Being an intellectual school, Shia accepts rational principles and standards which are also endorsed and approved by Shari’ah. The precedence of these principles over every other belief is a part and parcel of Shia belief and which Shia is also proud of. For instance, when it is proved in theology that God cannot be physical in the sense of being composed of, or containing, matter or energy, then we cannot interpret the verses that indicate physicality of God in a literal way. In fact, we must see what those verses actually mean and that meaning certainly does not imply physicality of God.
2. The verses of the Quran have the capability and capacity to interpret one another. At times, we must not interpret even one verse without taking other verses into consideration. In fact, we may have to take several verses and the context into consideration in order to find the right meaning of a verse. If we interpret one verse without considering the preceding and succeeding verses into account, we will not be able to understand the reality of the Quran.
Having said that, we will now turn to the main discussion, i.e. infallibility. Infallibility or inerrancy of the Prophet is one of the beliefs for which different rational arguments have been put forth and lengthy discussions have taken place around it in theology.
In addition to rational arguments, there are also some Quranic verses which indicate that the Prophet is infallible and that he does not err: "He (alone) knows the Unseen, nor does He make any one acquainted with His Mysteries,- Except a messenger whom He has chosen: and then He makes a band of watchers march before him and behind him - That He may know that they have (truly) brought and delivered the Messages of their Lord: and He surrounds (all the mysteries) that are with them, and takes account of every single thing." The verses which refer to this belief are too many and they have been mentioned in different books.
As opposed to these rational and textual proofs, there are some verses and narrations which ascribe error to the infallibles ranging from Adam (a.s.) to the Prophet of Islam – peace be upon him and his family. Among the verses which call on the Prophet to seek divine forgiveness is the following verse: “So know that there is no god but Allah, and, ask protection for your fault and for the believing men and the believing women; and Allah knows the place of your returning and the place of your abiding. “
Such verses, if compared with the verses regarding infallibility, are less strong because the verses concerning infallibility are explicit and inconspicuous.
Generally speaking, these verses and applications of such nature can be summed up in the following meanings:
1. The word “sin” in these verses refers to abandoning a preferred action which is not opposed to infallibility but at the same time it creates a need for repentance and seeking divine forgiveness. Most of these verses refer to abandoning a preferred action which is why the Prophet (pbuh) was commanded to seek divine forgiveness.
2. At times, repentance or istighfar (seeking divine forgiveness) goes out of what is considered to be a normal repentance. It is just an excuse for a talk between the lover and the beloved. For example, the Commander of Faithful, Imam Ali (a.s.) says: «کَیْفَ أَسْکُنُ فِی النَّارِ وَ رَجَائِی عَفْوُک» (Or, how may I reside in the fire [of hell] while my hope is Your forgiveness?) In order to understand the truth and the cause of this saying, we can say a lot of things but apart from that we must consider it probable that such statements should be treated as “love talk” between lover and the Beloved. They should not be confined to their apparent and literal meanings.
 Vide Indexes: “Infallibility of Prophets from the Perspective of the Quran”, question 15798; “The Necessity of Infallibility and Ways to Distinguish It in the Imam (a.s.)” question 5548; “Infallibility of Moses and Killing the Coptic”, question 3452; “Infallibility of Prophet (pbuh) and Leaving What is More Preferable”, question 20724.
 Jinn, 26 – 28; Vide: Tabatabai, Sayyid Muhammad Hussein, Al-Mizan fi Tafsir al-Quran, vol.2, p. 134 – 139, Islamic Publications Office, Qom, fifth edition, 1417 A.H.
 Ta-Ha, 121: “Then they both ate of it, so their evil inclinations became manifest to them, and they both began to cover themselves with leaves of the garden, and Adam disobeyed his Lord, so his life became evil (to him).”
 Muhammad, 19.
 Makarem Shirazi, Naser, Tafsir Nomouneh, vol.21, p. 452, Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyah, Tehran, first edition, 1374 A.H.
 Tusi, Muhammad bin Al-Hassan, Mesbah al-Mutahajjid wa Selah al-Muta’bbed, vol.2, p. 847, Fiqh al-Shi’ah Institute, Beirut, first edition, 1411 A.H.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- The fourteen infallibles are fourteen shining stars at the highest point of spiritual ranks and human perfection. All of them possess divine knowledge and perfection, while deficiency and misguidance have no way in them: “Verily, Allah's will is to remove away impurity from you, the people of the messenger's household and to purify you a thorough purification”. So all of these glorious individuals are at the climax of human perfection and salvation.
Nevertheless, the messenger of Allah (swt) is the highest and most complete of them all; possessing characteristics and advantages that no other infallible shares with him, as Imam Sadiq (as) has stated in the same hadith you have questioned about: “The imams are all like the messenger of Allah (swt), the only difference being that they aren’t prophets, thus what is halal for the prophet isn't halal to them (they can't have more than four wives), but they are like him in everything else.”
Imam Sadiq (as) has been narrated saying that the prophet of Islam was the first to answer Allah’s (swt) call in the realm of Dhar and was the closest of all to Him and obtained the highest spiritual rank that even none of the special messengers and closest angels to Allah’s (swt) dominion had ever reached. He is so close to Allah (swt) that He [Allah] says in the Quran: “Until he was within two bows’ length or even nearer”. He is the one who ascended the many levels of spirituality, all in one night, during the Mi’raj. Out of all of the infallibles, he is the only one to have received revelation directly from Allah (swt). The Holy Quran was revealed onto him, the most complete religion ever to come from Allah (swt) was given to him and was entrusted with conveying it to the people. He is the one who has reached the highest levels of morality and the only one whom Allah (swt) sends his continuous salawat [blessings and mercy] upon and makes the salawat, the salawat of the angels and all believers solely his.
Each one of these advantages by itself is enough to show how unique and high of a rank the prophet (pbuh) possessed and as Imam Baqir (as) beautifully explains the rank of every infallible: “The “good tree” is the prophet (pbuh)…the branch of the tree is Ali (as), the trunk of the tree being Fatimah (as) and its fruit the children of Ali (as) and Fatimah (as).”
In this valuable narration, the rank of each of the infallibles has been portrayed in a very beautiful manner.
In the end, one thing that needs to be pointed to is that knowing the rank of the infallibles is a very important matter which needs to be thoroughly and correctly fulfilled; both neglecting to do so and going beyond the limits about it are dangerous and are means of misguidance. Imam Ali (as) states in the Nahjul-Balaghah: “Two categories of people will face ruin on account of me; he who loves me with exaggeration and exceeding the bounds [by saying that I am God], and he who hates me intensely.”Therefore, we are obliged to recognize the ranks and importance of the infallibles and follow their footsteps to salvation and felicity along with putting aside negligence and excessiveness regarding them.
Hopefully, we will all by the mercy and grace of Allah (swt) be lead to the straight path and be protected from going astray.
 عِدَّةٌ مِنْ أَصْحَابِنَا عَنْ أَحْمَدَ بْنِ مُحَمَّدٍ عَنِ الْحُسَیْنِ بْنِ سَعِیدٍ عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ بَحْرٍ عَنِ ابْنِ مُسْکَانَ عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ أَبِی عَبْدِ اللَّهِ عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ مُسْلِمٍ قَالَ سَمِعْتُ أَبَا عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع یَقُولُ الْأَئِمَّةُ بِمَنْزِلَةِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ ص إِلَّا أَنَّهُمْ لَیْسُوا بِأَنْبِیَاءَ وَ لَا یَحِلُّ لَهُمْ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ مَا یَحِلُّ لِلنَّبِیِّ ص فَأَمَّا مَا خَلَا ذَلِکَ فَهُمْ فِیهِ بِمَنْزِلَةِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صOsul Kafi, vol.1, pg.270; Mir’atul-Uqul, vol.3, pg.161.
 Bihar, vol.5, pg.236.
 انما بعثت لاتمم مکارم الاخلاق Bihar, vol.16, pg.210.
 ان الله و ملائکته یصلون علی النبی یا ایها الذین آمنوا صلوا علیه وسلموا تسلیماً Ahzab:56.
 Referring to the verse: کشجرة طبیه اصلها ثابت و فرعها فی السماء Ibrahim:24.
 Tafsirul-Qummi: أَبِی عَنِ ابْنِ مَحْبُوبٍ عَنْ أَبِی جَعْفَرٍ الْأَحْوَلِ عَنْ سَلَّامِ بْنِ مُسْتَنِیرٍ عَنْ أَبِی جَعْفَرٍ ع قَالَ سَأَلْتُهُ عَنْ قَوْلِ اللَّهِ تَعَالَى مَثَلًا کَلِمَةً طَیِّبَةً الْآیَةَ قَالَالشَّجَرَةُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ص وَ نَسَبُهُ ثَابِتٌ فِی بَنِی هَاشِمٍ وَ فَرْعُ الشَّجَرَةِ عَلِیُّ بْنُ أَبِی طَالِبٍ ع وَ غُصْنُ الشَّجَرَةِ فَاطِمَةُ ع وَ ثَمَرَاتُهَا الْأَئِمَّةُ مِنْ وُلْدِ عَلِیٍّ وَ فَاطِمَةَ ع شجرة رسول الله نسبة ثابت فی بنی اثم و فرع الشجرة علی بن ابیطالب و غض الشجرة فاطمه (س) و ثمراتها الائمة من ولد علی و فاطمه (ع) و ... Biharul-Anwar, vol.9, pg. 218.
 “هلک فیّ رجلان محب غال و مبغض قال” Nahjul-Balaghah, Short Sayings, no.113.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - Without a doubt, the prophets all had a unique relationship [referred to as revelation] with Allah (swt), through which they would obtain the laws, rules and teachings of the religions they were sent for.
The true essence of this relationship is too complex and unknown to us and man isn't capable of comprehending it; nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that man is absolutely unfamiliar with it. In other words, “revelation” isn't an issue that must be disregarded just because its true essence isn’t comprehendible to us and we can't have an in depth and profound knowledge of it; what should and needs to be done is to try to get as familiar as possible and as much as our thought and intellects allow us to.
In Arabic, wahy or revelation refers to anything used to transfer knowledge or anything else to another person or thing. One thing that all forms of wahy share is the quickness, speed, concealment and mysteriousness that can be found in all of them.
The essence of wahy and what it actually is: Wahy or revelation usually has to do with knowledge and cognition, not stimulation and action, although when one acts, he makes use of the mind. Knowledge and cognition are a specific type of existence that are totally free of essence (mahiyyah).
In other words, revelation is a concept obtained from “existence”, thus not having an essence and not having the capability of being defined through genus and differentia. Therefore, revelation is too high to fall under one of the ten famous predicaments. The concept of revelation, like the concept of existence, has only one instance which has various degrees and levels.
Thus, the definitions that can be found for wahy, aren’t actually logical definitions, but they are merely descriptions. Add to that the fact that wahy isn't a normal relationship that can be experienced by all; it is limited to a small number of individuals, making it a concept that can't be defined by normal people.
Definition [Description] of wahy or revelation
Having said the above about the true logical definition of wahy, Allamah Tabatabai states: “Wahy is a special form of cognition and understanding inside the prophets which is only possible for those who have been graced by Allah (swt).”
He also says: “Wahy is an extraordinary and exceptional thing like inner cognitions, and complex and mysterious understanding which is hidden from the five senses.”
Now to answer the question:
Islamic scholars and thinkers have reached different conclusions on the issue through Quranic verses and hadiths:
Abdul-Razzaq Lahiji: “Anyone who perceives that the prophet (pbuh) ever did anything according to his own opinion without waiting for revelation, hasn’t truly understood prophethood and intellect says this person is closer to not being considered a religious individual, especially because he is directly contradicting the Quran when it says: “و ما ینطق عن الهوی، ان هو الا وحی یوحی” and it is very wrong to say that this verse is limited to some of the things the prophet (pbuh) does, not all of them, because all issues related to religion are equally in need of divine verification and revelation.”
Tafsir Nemouneh also says: “When the Quranic verse says “ان هو الا وحی یوحی”, it apparently covers more than just Quranic verses (meaning that it isn't only Quranic verses that the prophet (pbuh) needs revelation for), because considering its context and the verses preceding it, the verse is saying that the tradition of the prophet (pbuh) is also in need of revelation and in other words, not only doesn’t it cover the prophet’s (pbuh) sayings, but it also covers his actions and behavior as well; the reason for such being that in verses 3 and 4 of surah Najm, it has been clearly stated that: “Not he speaks out of his own desire, He relates to you only what is revealed To him”.
In his commentary on this verse, Allamah Tabatabai says: “The verse “he does not speak out of his own desire” itself is an absolute one; its absoluteness implying that nothing the prophet (pbuh) says is out of desire, yet considering that the word “صاحبکم” shows the mushrikin (idol worshippers) are the ones being addressed by these verses, one must say that when the verse is saying that the prophet (pbuh) says nothing out of personal desire, it means what he invites you to and the verses of the Quran he recites for you aren’t out of personal desire [and have nothing to do with him], but they are things that have been revealed unto him from Allah (swt) [and are what Allah (swt) has wanted to be passed on to you, hence breaking the absoluteness of the verse].”
Meaning what this verse verifies is whatever the prophet (pbuh) says regarding religion, stems from revelation, let it be preaching, ideology or guidance, not details that have to do with our material world.
Of course, this doesn’t mean whatever the prophet (pbuh) would say that didn’t have anything to do with religion was out of personal desire, such as if he would ask for a glass of water or for someone to come or go and the like, because in things that have nothing to do with religion, he was backed by infallibility, making him free of any form of mistake and wrongness. Therefore, by keeping this point in mind, it can easily be concluded that regarding such issues [that have nothing to do with religion], the prophet (pbuh) never does or says anything that is in contradiction with Allah’s (swt) satisfaction [or is wrong].
For further information, refer to: Ayatullah Hadavi Tehrani, Ta’ammulat dar Ilme Usule Feqh (series of kharej usul lessons), book one, pp. 34-67 (mabadiye sudure sunnat, martabeh va damaneye esmat).
 Raghib Isfahani, Mufradat Alfadhil-Quran, under the root word of “وحی”.
 For further information on this issue, refer to: Javadi Amoli, Ketabhaye Vahy va Nubuvvat dar Quran; Hadavi Tehrani, Mabaniye Kalamiye Ejtehad dar Bardasht az Qurane Karim, pp. 77-78.
 Muhammad Hosein Tabatabai, Al-Mizan (farsi translation), vol.2, pg. 159.
 Ibid, pg. 160; Also, for further information, see: Ayatullah Hadavi Tehrani, Mabaniye Kalamiye Ejtehad, ppg. 76-78; Abdul-Husein KhosroPanah, Qalamrove Din, pp. 117-130; and index: Revelation and How it Happens (Question 88).
 Abdul-Razzaq Fayyaz Lahiji, Gohare Morad, pg. 461.
 Tafsir Nemouneh, vol. 22, pg. 481.
 The mushrikin whom the prophet (pbuh) would invite to Islam and recite the Quran for, would say that he was falsely associating what he said with Allah (swt) and lying about Him.
 Mohammad Hosein Tabatabai, Al-Mizan (Farsi translation), vol. 19, pg. 42; Seyyid Mohammad Hosein Hoseini Tehrani, Mehre Taban, pp. 212-213.
 What is meant by something having to do with religion, is something that factors into one’s true salvation and prosperity in the hereafter whose mentioning is the responsibility of the prophet (pbuh).
 Ayatullah Abdullah Javadi Amoli, Tafsire Mozou’iye Quran, Sireye Rasoule Akram dar Quran, vol. 8, pg. 32.
 Note that what was said here is higher than what others sometimes say about the prophet (pbuh). They say that in addition to the prophet (pbuh) being a unique personality in receiving revelation, he himself was also a very high and matchless character in his time. Therefore, keeping this in mind, the prophet’s (pbuh) sayings can be divided into two categories:
a) The sayings that were revealed unto him such as Quranic verses
b) Wise sayings that belonged to himself that stemmed from his great personality
Therefore, if an infallible individual states something unrelated to religion, for instance if he makes a scientific point, what he says will be true for sure and without a doubt, the same way if he says something related to religion. Ayatullah Hadavi Tehrani, Ta’ammulat dar Elme Usule Feqh, book one, chapter on mabadiye suduriye sunnat, pg. 35.
 It can be deduced from the verse “و ما ینطق عن الهوی” that the prophet’s (pbuh) traditions and actions were also always with the permission of revelation. Nevertheless, if one believes that this verse doesn’t have such a vast meaning, covering even sayings that don’t have anything to do with religion other verses such as verse 50 of surah An’am and other similar verses imply such a fact. Javadi Amoli,Tafsire Mozoo’iye Quran, the chapter on the prophet’s (pbuh) tradition in the Quran, pg. 33
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- After the prophet (pbuh), Ali (as) was the only one bearing all moral and knowledge related virtues, fighting like a destructive tornado against the infidels in battles, no one being able to stand against his courage, strength and sword. The advent of Islam and the lifetime of the prophet (pbuh) have seen many great accomplishments and merit by Ali (as) in which we will point to a few. The prophet (pbuh) would repeatedly speak of the imam’s (as) virtues and worthiness, saying: “Ali never makes a mistake or error” and “Ali is with the truth and the truth is with Ali.”
In many cases, he had warned of disobeying Ali (as), saying: “Anyone from my family or anyone else that holds the hate of Ali in his heart has left my religion.”
Nevertheless, despite all the commands and advice of the prophet (pbuh), a group of Muslims had plans for governing the Muslim nation after the prophet’s (pbuh) demise. The prophet (pbuh) was totally aware of these plots, but since they hadn’t done anything wrong during the prophet’s (pbuh) lifetime, he couldn’t punish them and retaliate for something they hadn’t done yet, thus, he tried to prevent what was to happen later by doing certain things such as: telling the people on his final Hajj in a place called Ghadir Khum, where people from all over the Muslim world were present that: “O Muslims! Know that Allah (swt) has appointed Ali as your master after me and no one can disobey Allah’s (swt) command. Whosoever rejects Ali’s caliphate, has disobeyed Allah (swt)…”
In the final days of his life, the prophet (pbuh) tried to send off those he knew were against the imamate of Ali (as) along with the army of Usamah outside of Medinah, so that the imam wouldn’t face any substantial problems in the first days of his imamate. Nevertheless, they figured out what was going on and refused to leave with the army. This resulted in the delay of its dispatch until the prophet (pbuh) passed away and those who were against the imam reached what they wanted.
When the prophet (pbuh) saw that a group had returned from Usamah’s army and had disobeyed him, and it looked like they had certain plans, he ordered: “Bring me a pen and paper so that I write something that won't allow you to go astray after me.” One of those present quickly said: “Deep pain has overtaken the prophet, Allah’s book, the Quran, suffices us. He (the prophet (pbuh)) is hallucinating out of pain.” According to some sources of our Sunni brothers, this person was none other than Umar ibn Al-Khattab!
Anyway, this group of Muslims strived and reached its goal; they were thirsty for power and ranks and wanted to fulfill this late wish of theirs. They would consult the imam on military and fiqhi matters off and on, and would accept his views to the extent that once, Abu Bakr went up the pulpit and told the people to take back their bey’ah from him (Abu Bakr) so that Ali would be their leader because as he said there: “I am not the best amongst you (but Ali is).”
Another group of people who were only Muslims in name and on the outside, and didn’t believe in the prophet (pbuh) nor Islam, were waiting for the right chance to exterminate Islam. These people had tried to murder the prophet (pbuh) several times, once when he was returning from Ghadir Khum and another time during the return from the battle of Tabuk.
Therefore, despite the circumstances and different groups of people amongst the Muslims, the prophet (pbuh) had directly spoken of Imam Ali's (as) succession to him time and time again and done all he could to make it happen after him.
The conclusion that must be made here is that if there ever was anything the prophet (pbuh) had to let the Muslim nation know pertaining to the caliphate and succession after him, he did. Also, if he didn’t do anything else more than he did, the reason is because Islam itself would be endangered. Therefore, he did what he did and didn’t go any further so that Islam and his progeny would remain unharmed so that the final imam would be able to emerge and achieve the goal of all prophets and establish a divine worldwide government.
 Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wal-Nihayah, vol. 2, pg. 316.
 See: Jafar Subhani, Furughe Abadiyyat, vol. 2, pp. 461 and 475; Tarikh Dameshq, vol. 42, pp. 448-449; Mustadrak Hakem, vol. 4, pg.93, hadith 4604.
 Abdul-Fattah Abdul-Maqsud (translated by Seyyid Mahdi Jafari), Al-Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (as), vol. 3, pg. 94.
 See: Furughe Abadiyyat, pg. 471.
 Bukhari, vol.1, pg. 22 and vol. 2, pg. 414; Sahih Muslim, Wasiyyah section, chapter 5. For further information: Question 1527 (website: 1692) Not Allowing the Prophet (pbuh) to Write His Will.
 See: Al-Imam Ali ibn Abi-Taleb, vol. 1, pg. 282.
 See: Furughe Abadiyyat, vol. 2, pp. 390 and 404.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- The infallibles, the prophets and imams, are all human just like everyone else, without any difference from this point of view and this is something that the Quran points to as well.
Therefore, it isn't possible for them to be born into this world bearing all virtues and perfection beforehand. Clearly, many of these virtues must be acquired by passing divine exams and through mental and physical worship and striving to reach the pleasure and nearness of Allah (swt).
Of course, some virtues and advantages are possessed by them from the very beginning; good traits they have inherited from their parents and grandfathers, being born from pure wombs, growing in a good and pure environment. All of these and the like factor into one’s spiritual health and reaching the peaks of perfection and completeness, in addition to Allah's (swt) grace and purification playing a vital role as time goes by and the infallible shows that he/she deserves it.
One question that might come up here is:
If the prophets continue to perfect in this world as a result of the passing of time and the occurrence of different events, their religions must be the same and must gradually undergo perfection because their religions are dependant on and somewhat a part of them. This results in the fact that if the prophets had lived longer than what they actually did and other incidents and events had taken place in their lives, their religions would take another form or would be more complete. Therefore, the route to perfection that the prophets were covering must be continued by us, and taking into consideration their experiences, we must present a more complete religion.
The answer to such a statement is that religion and revelation that the prophets had differ from mystical disclosure, vision and inspiration. Religion and its laws have been precisely planned for by the All-Wise.
The process for the perfection of divine religions has been like this: Throughout history, prophets have been sent to pave the way for the most complete divine religion to be presented by the highest of all prophets who was to be their seal as well. This task has been accomplished and the Quran clearly states that Islam is complete. Therefore, it is wrong to claim that religion is still incomplete and that there is still room for its further development.
Of course, there are some who continue the way of the prophets; all prophets have had successors. The imams, who are the successors of the final prophet (pbuh), are responsible for the correct explanation and interpretation[i] of the prophet’s (pbuh) traditions and the Quran. Also, after them, upright Islamic scholars and true Islamic experts are responsible for preaching religion and the Quran in accordance with the needs of their times.
[i] It should be noted that the responsibility imamate entails isn't limited to what was said, but also covers leadership and judgment as well. For further information, see: Hadavi Tehrani, Ta’ammulat dar Elme Usule Feqh, pp. 22-46.
The Quran introduces the prophet (pbuh) as a normal person like everyone else: “I am only a human Being like you; it is revealed to me that Allah is the only God to be worshipped”.
Therefore, the principle that states that the prophets, imams and infallibles are all human beings, disproves that they come to this world bearing all virtues and perfection possible, because one thing is for sure which is that all humans come to this world bearing no or almost no virtues and perfection.
The Quran says: “Allah has brought you forth from the bellies of your mothers while you did not know anything. He made for you hearing, eyesight, and hearts so that you may give thanks”.
Of course, one’s soul always bears some comprehension after birth, and understands much of good and bad, as the Quran says: “By the soul and Him who fashioned it, and inspired it with discernment between its virtues and vices, one who purifies it is felicitous, and one who betrays it has failed”.
So every person bears some spiritual virtues the same way he has intuitive knowledge that he feels without the mediation of anything else (not discursive knowledge that one has to acquire), nevertheless, these virtues differ in different people; some possess more while others possess less. Some make use of these basic virtues to reach even higher ones and achieve more perfection, while others take them for granted and waste and suppress them.
One possible reason for why more perfection and completeness can be found in certain individuals can have to do with the environment they were born in and heredity. A child that is born from a modest and pure mother and father, into a pure family and has been raised under good care clearly has more potential and the capacity to reach the peaks of perfection. On the other hand, one who is born in a haram way, from haram food and grows in a bad environment clearly has much less chances of success.
These initial virtues exist in the infallibles; the sperm they are created from comes from the purest men, they grow in the purest wombs and the environment they grow in is at a high level of spirituality. Clearly, individuals like these will bear the initial and fundamental virtues and the potential to reach high levels of spirituality. As they grow physically and mentally, their spiritual and mental activity increases to the extent that they learn of many truths and realities that others aren't aware of. Of course, Allah (swt) bestows His mercy on all of His servants, especially those who show that they deserve it. One thing that is for sure is that if one takes one step towards Allah (swt), Allah (swt) will take tens and hundreds of steps toward him. As the Quran puts it:
“As for those who strive in Us, We shall surely guide them in Our ways, and Allah is indeed with the virtuous” and
“O, you who believe! If you fear Allah by Regarding piety, He will grant you a Power of Distinction [to distinguish Between Right and Wrong] and Allah Will remove from you, your evil deeds And will forgive you; and Allah is The Owner of the Great-Grace”
When these deserving individuals reach high levels of knowledge and practice (worship), they develop an exceptional relationship with Allah (swt) named “revelation”.
Ayatullah Javadi Amoli says:
“The teacher of one who has reached the level of complete Ikhlas (pure intention and sincerity) and immaterial intellect, is Allah (swt) himself who is pure knowledge and is free from all forgetfulness; it is on this basis that the cobweb-like discoveries of Shaytan have no effect on the infallible’s intellectual, visional and conscientious discoveries. Also, one who reaches practical infallibility never commits any sin, neither purposely, nor mistakenly and out of ignorance. Reaching such a rank is only possible if one has reached the magnanimous and great peak of Ikhlas. Such a person will be very far from the two hell-taking powers of lust and rage, because all practical and provocative factors are under their control.”
In a nutshell, it can be said that the prophets and imams bore the required virtues, infallibility, purity and knowledge when they were appointed, nevertheless, what they bore wasn’t the highest they could have, and as time passed and they had intellectual, spiritual and practical activity on their part and received revelation on Allah’s (swt) part, they continued the path of perfection, reaching higher levels of completeness and perfection. So some of the virtues the infallibles bear are God-given while others are acquired by them, helping them achieve infallibility, imamate or prophethood, and they continue to reach new levels of perfection until their deaths.
One question might come up here which is that if the prophet (pbuh) was continuously covering the path of perfection, if he had lived longer his personality and religion would have developed even further than what it is now, so it can't be said that this religion is a complete one, therefore we must strive for its completion; or maybe there are still prophets to come for each time and era that will bring a religion that suits the needs of that time.
Some have a materialistic look at revelation as none other than “religious experience”; they present the abovementioned question like this:
“Prophethood is nothing more than vision and mystical disclosure. Anywhere there is experience, there is development and completion of experience. Anywhere there is becoming experienced, there is becoming more experienced. The poet becomes more of a poet through practicing poetry; the lecturer becomes more of a lecturer through lecturing; this matter applies to any type of experience. The prophet’s greatest wealth was his personality; this personality was the location, creator, receiver and agent of religious and revelation-related experiences. The expansion that would take place in his personality would trace back to expansion in his experience (and vice versa), and it was because of this that revelation depended on and followed him, not that he depended on revelation.”
“In other words, the prophet’s relationship with the outside world surely had an impact on the expansion of his mission and the expansion of his prophetic experience. Both the prophet is a human, and his experience is human and all those around him are humans. When these human elements come together, a human religion is born.”
“To make it short, the prophet had experience at two different levels and Islam is the fruit of these two: Inner and Outer experience. As time went by, he became more experienced in both, resulting in his religion expanding and developing further. In the outer experience, he built a city (Medinah), managed, fought with the enemies, trained his friends and so on. In the inner experience, he had dreams, revelation, inspiration, ascension (mi’raj), attention (muraqebeh) and thought, and here he became more experienced and had more good results. In order for religion to complete further, the prophet himself has to complete as well because religion is the result and “concentrate” of all his personal and social experiences. In his absence too, both his inner and outer experiences must develop further and expand…if “حسبنا کتاب الله” (The book of Allah (swt) suffices us) is an incorrect claim, then “حسبنا معراج النبی و تجربة النبی” (the prophet’s (pbuh) ascension and his experience suffice us) will also be incorrect.
As for the answer to this question:
1- First of all, the question is based on the assumption that revelation and experience are one, while the two differ. Revelation is from Allah (swt) and through the divine angel of revelation, and the prophets clearly feel another entity revealing unto them and speaking with them, and that their job is to receive and protect what is being conveyed to them. On the other hand, religious experience stems from within; it is a type of relationship with God and doesn’t exceed being a type of vision and mystical disclosure. Mistake and Satanic interference are impossible when it comes to revelation, while vision and mystical disclosure are prone to them. Revelation is considered God’s message to the people and leaves no excuses for any of them and must be followed, while the same doesn’t go for vision and disclosure; they are only proof and need to be followed by the person having the experience, no one else.
2- The Quran clearly states that all guidelines and commands that needed to be revealed unto the prophet (pbuh) in order for religion to be completed, have been revealed in the final years of his lifetime:
“Today I have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed My blessing upon you, and I have approved Islam as your religion”.
Therefore, the completion of the prophet’s (pbuh) personality and Islam had been precisely planned for by the All-Wise and All-Powerful, so that everything would end in a perfect religion being presented by a prophet (pbuh) who was to be the highest and seal of all other prophets. So it is wrong to say: “If the prophet had lived longer, and if incidents had occurred in a way other than what actually took place for him in his lifetime, religion would have had a different form [than what we see today].”
The reason being that all of the main teachings of Islam and other subjects that the people were in need of in order to continue the way and discover the truth had all been taught by the prophet (pbuh).
“Of course, the responsibility of those continuing the way of the prophet (pbuh), meaning the imams (according to the Shia school of thought) and true Islamic scholars and experts, has been and is to explain the verses of the Quran and Allah’s (swt) commands and the traditions of the prophet (pbuh), and to derive the laws and rulings needed in every era and culture from the sources, so that all questions are answered.”
3- In our viewpoint, there is always a need for an infallible teacher, interpreter and one to clarify the verses of the Quran. This is what the famous saying of the prophet tells us: “I am leaving behind two weighty things amongst you; The Book of Allah (swt), and my household; as long as you cling to the two, you will never go astray.”
4- Also, we don’t exclusively allocate all religious experiences, inspiration and dreams to the prophet (pbuh), so that one can correct us by saying “It is wrong to say (حسبنا معراج النبی و تجربة النبی)”. All we say is that revelation (the revealing of the angel of revelation and entrusting one with divine legislative commands) only belongs to the prophet (pbuh), and that the doors to disclosure and vision and inspiration and the like are all open to the sincere and pure servants of Allah (swt).
 Kahf:110; Fussilat:6.
 Abdullah Javadi Amoli, Tafsire Mozu’iye Qorane Karim, vol. 3, pg. 200.
 Of course, this doesn’t disprove “granted” infallibility. For further information, see:
1-The concept of infallibility and its possibility for others.
2- The infallibility of the prophet (pbuh) and not doing what is better.
3- The infallibility of normal people.
 See: Ibid, 213.
 Abdul-Karim Soroush, Baste Tajrobeye Nabavi, pg. 11.
 Ibid, pg. 13.
 Ibid, pg. 16.
 Ibid, pg. 21.
 Ibid, pp. 24-25.
 Javadi Amoli, Tafsire Mozu’iye Qurane Karim, vo. 3, pp. 82-97; Abulfazl Sajedi, Zabane Din dar Quran, pp. 266-273.
 AbdulKarim Soroush, Aftab Magazine, issue no. 15, article “اسلام به وحی و نبوت”.
 See: Murteza Motahhari, Khatme Nubuvvat (The sealing of Prophethood), pg. 37.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- The prophets, imams, and divine apostles all have specific ranks and statuses in our teachings, and the superiority of the imams over all other prophets except Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is something that can be proven. Here, we will point to some of the reasons for this claim:
1- The rank of imamate is higher than that of prophethood; regarding Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh), the Quran says: “وَ إِذِ ابْتَلى إِبْراهیمَ رَبُّهُ بِکَلِماتٍ فَأَتَمَّهُنَّ قالَ إِنِّی جاعِلُکَ لِلنَّاسِ إِماماً قالَ وَ مِنْ ذُرِّیَّتی قالَ لا یَنالُ عَهْدِی الظَّالِمینَ”. 
Allamah Tabatabai interprets this verse like this: “Towards the end of his life, after passing many hard exams, Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) reached the level of imamate, although he had it before, but at the same time didn’t bear the capacity necessary for it.” 
2- The imam (as) is one who guides with a divine entity he bears. In essence, imamate is an authority and impact that the imam has regarding the actions of the people. His guidance isn't like that of the prophets; the prophets only advise and preach, while the imam’s guidance is to actually take the hand of his followers and help them reach the straight path. 
3- Prophet Isa (pbuh), which was one of the five highest prophets (Ulul-Azm) bearing prophethood, will return during the time of Imam Mahdi (aj) and will follow him in prayer. 
In order to explain how such a matter is possible, one must say that according to the rules of the Quran and tradition, and philosophical and gnostic rules, which are actually an explanation and interpretation of the secrets that lie in the Quran and tradition, it is possible for a person who bears the truths and secrets of the names of Allah (swt), but doesn’t bear prophethood, which is only a legislative rank (a rank in which allows one to legislate religious law), to be ahead of a prophet and be his guide; like the person who bears the rank of being judge, his decision has credibility and it is he who gives the final verdict, nevertheless, this rank is temporary and can always be taken away. On the other hand, there might be someone next to him that isn't a formal judge, but is more learned and has more virtues than him. Therefore, although Prophet Isa (pbuh) is a prophet and bears a legislative or tashri’irank, thus being higher than the imam from this perspective, but the imam has generative or takwiniauthority which the prophet (pbuh) doesn’t, making him higher than him, although he is one of the great Ulul-Azm prophets.  The fact that Prophet Musa (pbuh) followed Khidhr (pbuh) is good proof of this matter. The Quran has pointed to this event in some of its verses. These verses disclose that Prophet Musa (pbuh), who had his own religion and also bore the ranks of prophethood and imamate and was known as Kalimullah (the one who spoke with Allah (swt)), went to a servant of Allah’s (swt) who had been taught divine knowledge, but had no religion and no book, and asked him if he (Prophet Musa (pbuh)) could accompany and learn from him. Khidhr tells him that he (Prophet Musa) doesn’t have the tolerance needed to accompany him, and later scolds him harshly saying: “Didn’t I tell you that you can't accompany me?!”, and scolds him afterwards even harsher saying: “You can't stay with me anymore!”. 
4- “The Great Name” of Allah (swt) consists of seventy three “letters” in which Asef ibn Barqiya knew of one, Prophet Isa (pbuh) knew of two, Prophet Musa (pbuh) knew of four, Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) knew of eight, Prophet Nuh (pbuh) knew of fifteen, Prophet Adam (pbuh) knew of twenty five and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) knew of seventy two of them in which he passed on to the imams after him. 
5- All of the things that the prophets had, such as the Prophet Musa’s (pbuh) staff, were in the possession of the imams and are now in the possession of Imam Mahdi (as). 
6- The imams (as) share all of that which the prophet of Islam (pbuh) had, except for being prophet. The great prophet of Islam (pbuh) says to Imam Ali (as): “You see what I see, hear what I hear, the only difference being that you aren't a prophet.”   Imam Hasan (as) says: “None of the previous prophets have fallen ahead of any of the imams in any virtue, other than the virtue of prophethood.”
Therefore, just as the prophet of Islam (pbuh) is higher than all other prophets, the infallible imams the Shia follow are all higher than them as well, other than Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the seal of the prophets.
For further information regarding the rank and status of the imams, the following seem to be of benenfit:
1- The characteristics of the imams in the Quran, Question 2336 (website: 2444).
2- The difference between an imam and a prophet, Question 3094 (website: 3360).
 Seyyid Mohammad Baqir Musavi Hamedani, Translation of Tafsir Al-Mizan, vol. 1, pg. 405.
 Ibid, pg., 411.
 Majlisi, Biharul-Anwar (translation of Davani), pg. 167.
 Hasan Hasanzadeh Amoli, Ensane Kamel az Didgahe Nahjul-Balagheh, pg. 84.
 With help from Question 3218 (website: 3665).
 Kuleini, Usul Kafi (translation of Kamare’i), vol. 2, pg. 215.
 Seyyid Radhiyy, Nahjul-Balaghah, sermon 192 (Qase’ah).
 Hasan Hasanzadeh Amoli, Ensane Kamel az Didgahe Nahjul-Balaghahi, pg. 80.
 Mas’udi, Murujul-Dhahab, vol. 1, pg. 341.