Wednesday 18 December 2013

Did the Prophets sin?

Did the Prophets sin?

If I stray, then I stray to my own loss. If I am guided, then it is because of what my Lord inspired to me. He is Hearer, Near. (34:50) [EDIP YUKSEL]

Today I received one of them forward messages which stated- 

“You Chase the Dunya and its pleasures when the Dunya was the punishment for Adam (AS)”

Hasan Al-Basri (may Allah have mercy on him)

The text at first glance seems pretty simple- do not chase worldly affairs as the world we reside in is a punishment for Adam eating from the forbidden tree.

What is bugging me is that I was under the impression that all Prophets were free of Sin [Isma] and therefore they cannot be punished. It seems, to me, acceptable that the Prophets made mistakes.

However, has been dispute over whether Prophets were prone to making errors [Zalla] despite being the messenger of God. The messengers of God are mere examples by which we should live our lives by, humans are prone to making mistakes, its Gods will. I think the under lying question seems to be that if the Prophets are human examples for others to follow then did God make them with flaws to reflect on the common human being? Or did God make them imperfect to set the ultimate example by which we should live by?

Another example that suggests that Prophets were examples for us to live by is that in the Quran it states

“Indeed, in the messenger of God a good example has been set for he who seeks God and the Last day and thinks constantly about God” (33:21) [EDIP YUKSEL]

From this Ayah and reading a number of other translations it can be seen that the word ‘example’ in the ayah can also be translated as ‘pattern’. Both the words still create the assumptions that the Prophets were living ‘examples’ on how a person should live. The fact that the Prophets were simply examples that we should live by imply to me that the Prophets could have been examples to us about how humans are also prone to error’s as so were the Prophets.

Going back to the original point it seems to me from the text message that the Prophet Adam was punished for eating an apple therefore its a necessity to believe he committed a sin. Where does this lead my point of view? If it is the case that the Prophet Adam did sin then does that mean that we also believe in the original sin?  So where does this lead us Muslims with regards to the infallibility of Prophets. Here is some information that helped me answer my question.

According to Sahih Bukari Volume 4:578. The Prophet Abraham lied on three occasions twice for the sake of God and one for the protection of his wife Sarah.

The hadith goes as follows –
Abraham did not tell a lie except on three occasion. Twice for the Sake of Allah when he said, "I am sick," and he said, "(I have not done this but) the big idol has done it." The (third was) that while Abraham and Sarah (his wife) were going (on a journey) they passed by (the territory of) a tyrant. Someone said to the tyrant, "This man (i.e. Abraham) is accompanied by a very charming lady." So, he sent for Abraham and asked him about Sarah saying, "Who is this lady?" Abraham said, "She is my sister." Abraham went to Sarah and said, "O Sarah! There are no believers on the surface of the earth except you and I. This man asked me about you and I have told him that you are my sister, so don't contradict my statement." The tyrant then called Sarah and when she went to him, he tried to take hold of her with his hand, but (his hand got stiff and) he was confounded. He asked Sarah. "Pray to Allah for me, and I shall not harm you." So Sarah asked Allah to cure him and he got cured. He tried to take hold of her for the second time, but (his hand got as stiff as or stiffer than before and) was more confounded. He again requested Sarah, "Pray to Allah for me, and I will not harm you." Sarah asked Allah again and he became alright. He then called one of his guards (who had brought her) and said, "You have not brought me a human being but have brought me a devil." The tyrant then gave Hajar as a girl-servant to Sarah. Sarah came back (to Abraham) while he was praying. Abraham, gesturing with his hand, asked, "What has happened?" She replied, "Allah has spoiled the evil plot of the infidel (or immoral person) and gave me Hajar for service." (Abu Huraira then addressed his listeners saying, "That (Hajar) was your mother, O Bani Ma-is-Sama (i.e. the Arabs, the descendants of Ishmael, Hajar's son)."

Simply reading this hadith implies the Prophet Abraham lied in order to be effective in fulfilling his task of propagating the word of God and also to protect his wife Sarah. Contrary to this, scholars suggest that when the Prophet Abraham said ‘I am sick’ it was a metaphorical way of saying that he was disgusted by his family worshipping idols.

The second time he lied, was when he destroyed some idols and left the largest most important idol standing. Then he declared “(I have not done this but) the big idol has done it”, in this scenario it is suggested that the Prophet Abraham was being sarcastic in declaring that the largest idol made him destroy the others, intending to send the message that the idols cannot speak nor can they make a human do anything as they were merely man-made objects.

On the third attempt that he lied he said “She is my sister” when referring to his wife Sarah when talking to the tyrant Abimelech. With regards to this potential lie the prophet had said it is suggested that the Prophet Abraham did not lie but instead he was ambiguous in his definition of sister. As in Islam all humans’ brothers and sisters descended from Adam and Hawa right?

It is also suggested that doubting the power of God is a sin by many people however we are humans. We do not see, hear, feel nor experience God as we do physical objects in the world.

“Abraham said, "My Lord, show me how you resurrect the dead." He said, "Do you not already acknowledge?" He said, "I do, but to assure my heart." He said, "Choose four birds, then cut them, then place parts of the birds on each mountain, then call them to you; they will come racing towards you. Know that God is Noble, Wise."(2:260) [EDIP YUKSEL].

In this ayah it is clear that even Abraham doubted the power of God until he was shown proof with his eyes that God is powerful beyond human understanding. An explanation of this Ayah shows that Abraham had the right to ask questions about the existence of God. This was because the Prophets had the ability to perceive the knowledge of God using reliable facts unlike the common human. Therefore, Abraham had the right to ask God to show Gods ability to bring the dead back to life. This is also a suggestion to humans that a person’s faith is not based on subjective knowledge and therefore doubting something that we have no physical evidence of is often difficult, especially when Abraham doubted Gods ability despite having the ability to talk to God.

The question of whether Prophets were prone to error or wrongdoing [Zalla] or if they were infallible [Isma] is also discussed by scholars to decide upon the definition and the concept of Sin. The argument in support for suggesting that the Prophets did not sin was that many Prophets did not decide upon an action without a revelation that guided the Prophets to carry out a ruling.

Yet in very rare cases the Prophets used logical reasoning to come to a decision (which can be the wrong decision). It is important to note that these actions done through logic which turned out to be wrong was done before a command was revealed by God advising them of an alternative. When the Prophet was younger he helped his uncles rebuild the Kaba. His uncle advised him to hoist the heavier stones using his garments and when he fell his thighs were revealed. At this point an Angel commanded him to cover himself as it was not fitting for a future messenger to act in this manner. This is an example of the Prophet performing an action (of revealing his private parts as skin above the knees should be hidden) that would be considered a sin in the later years yet at that moment it was not a command of God that it was a sin. Reference of this hadith however is unreliable as I could not find the footnote.

It is however against the word of God to imply that a decision of the Prophet is incorrect when the Prophet has confided in God as the following verse states-

Is there a disease in their hearts, or are they doubtful? Or do they fear that God and His messenger would wrong them in the judgment? In fact, they are the wrong doers. (24:51) [EDIP YUKSEL]

There is also emphasis on the distinction between sin and forgiveness. It is not a necessity for forgiveness to be an action as a result of sin. By this I mean that the word for forgiveness can also be used interchangeably with ‘pardon’ by God. By this I mean that God has made a ‘pardon’ for certain actions in extreme circumstances but does not necessarily mean that a sin was committed- if God has pardoned a potential sin then performing that action is not a sin. An example of this is

…So, whoever is forced by severe hunger and not seeking sin, then God is Forgiving, Compassionate. (5:3) [EDIP YUKSEL]

O you who acknowledge, do not come near the contact prayer while you are drunk, until you know what you are saying. Nor if you have had intercourse, unless traveling, until you bathe. If you are ill, or traveling, or one of you come from the bathroom, or you had sexual contact with the women, and could not find water: then you shall seek clean soil and wipe your faces and hands. God is Pardoning, Forgiving.
 (4.43) [EDIP YUKSEL]

Both these examples suggest that God ‘pardons’ the potential sin of eating forbidden and  not cleaning yourself with water before praying in extreme circumstances therefore it cannot be counted as a sin. In contrast if a person commits a sin then asks for ‘forgiveness’ this circumstance is different to that of God ‘pardoning’ a potential sin. Therefore, if the Prophet ever performed Wuzu without water or ate Haram food due to severe hunger then it is not a sin as it is pardoned before being called a sin. 

Another example of the infallibility of Jesus can be seen in Surah Maryam which states the following
To be dutiful to my mother, and He did not make me a rebellious tyrant. Peace be upon me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I am resurrected alive." (19:32-33) [EDIP YUKSEL]

This is another argument to show that all the actions of Jesus were sin free form the day of birth and this infallibility of Jesus will remain forever.

This brings me to the belief that Prophets were prone to making errors however they never committed a sin. This could have been for various reasons such as God had not yet commanded an action they performed a sin or the action that can be classed as a potential sin has been pardoned. 

This evidence to suggest the Prophets never sinned has, if anything, opened a can of worms as to why the Prophet Adam was banished to Earth. 

The actions of Prophet Adam was wrong as he disobeyed God’s command which was to not eat from the tree. However, according to some scholars it is important to not that there are two different types of commands of God in terms of context and in terms of consequences. 

Firstly, the command of God that was given to an immortal therefore the concept of sin is different to that of a mortal. Therefore it is important to note that the concept of disobeying God for a human like you and I is that we are committing a sin which will result in punishment unless we repent. However, disobeying an order given in heaven does not necessitate a sin.

Another reason why Adam did not sin was because there are two types of commands from God.

There is the Al-amr al-mawlawi also known as a legislative command, which is a command from God which, if disobeyed, means it is a sin and therefore the person should be punished. 

The second type of command from God is Al-amr al-irshadi otherwise known as advisory command. This is a command given by God which if not followed does not mean it is a sin but it means that there are still consequences of the action. 

For instance, if a person kills an animal without saying Bismillah it is not a sin. However, the consequence of this is that it is forbidden for that meat to be consumed. 

Going back to Adam AS it can be determined that the command given by God was in heaven and therefore Adams action was not a sin. Also, Adam did not disobey a Al-amr al mawlawi (legislative command) he disobeyed an Al-amr al-irshadi (advisory command) command which is not a sin but the consequences of disobeying this command was being sent to Earth to live as a mortal.

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