Ismaili Shi’a and Circular Reasoning

O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority 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 the result. (Qur’an 4:59)

Recently an Ismaili Shi’a sent me an e-mail in regards to my entry on the Hadith of Ghadir Khum. Though he has sent me a pdf with many contentions he asked me to address, I feel that I have some to respond to the heart of the matter.

The heart of the matter is to understand what the Qur’an says about this issue.  He had sent me a link that I am sure he felt would help to establish the case. Unfortunately, if you click on the link it shows that the page is not there!  Thankfully, I have the habit of saving material.

So here is the pdf file with the arguments in it. This was written by Mohib Ebrahim.

Originally to appear here:

If the link fails I have uploaded the PDF file here:


So for now let me deal with the heart of the issue. What if we left all the contentious issues aside we would still be stuck with the question on what evidence do we have in the Qur’an to substantiate this position?

So in the e-mail, he wrote:

Likewise, there are numerous verses in the Qur’an that highlight the doctrines of the Imamate, infallibility of the Shi’a Imams (as) and the nobility of the Ahl ul Bayt (peace be upon them). It is not true that such concepts are absent from the Qura’n in a way that we, the Shi’i of Ali (as), are forced to consult supplementary ahadith to support our viewpoints. For more information on the Qura’nic and philosophical/rational proofs of Imamate you can visit:

So let us address what Mohib Ebrahim has written

What immediately stood out to me was the very diplomatic way that the reader was being prepped for the clear admission that there is no ‘smoking gun verse’ in the Quran in regards to the Imamate at all.

Instead, the reader is teased with information like:

“The dilemma is not improved, but rather compounded, when evidence from the Qur’an is relied upon simply because the Qur’an itself admits, in verse 3:7, to its own partial ambiguity thereby rendering those parts open to individual interpretation “

“Given the disagreement about a historical event despite overwhelming agreement on its record by both sides, one can only imagine the disagreement over arguments relying on the Qur’an, given its admitted ambiguity”

Interestingly the issue is compared to the ‘Gordian Knot

He continues thus,

“So does this Gordian Knot have a solution or are we of modern and later times hamstrung with the vexing task of trying to tease out the truth from an incomplete historical record 1,400 years after the fact?” “Leaving aside those ambiguous verses that require the Imamat to explain they refer to the Imamat, past attempts to validate the Imamat from the Qur’an were, in general, based on arguing a specific interpretation of what were, hopefully, “smoking gun” verses that one could then point to and proclaim, “Here, clear verses where Allah ordained the Imamat.” However, the fact is that such “smoking gun” verses are few and far between — if they are to be found at all, given the disagreements over interpretation, as explained above. Furthermore, even if they are very clear when read in a certain light, it is precisely because they need to be read in that certain light and then argued in isolation, that they do not, in my opinion, provide substantive, let alone conclusive, evidence.”

Now you people are intelligent. This is not a misrepresentation by myself. This is a clear cut admission.

So ultimately the intellectual endeavors of the Ismail’s, or to as the gentleman in the e-mail asked me to be circumspect in regards to Islams sects, let me just say this particular sect of Ismaili Shi’a, as they too have many subdivisions.

Ultimately the intellectual endeavors of this particular sect of Ismaili Shi’a want us to believe in circular reasoning, putting the cart before the horse and finding passages simply because we want so desperately to find them.

In fact the author, Mohib Ebrahim, states:

I find it hard to accept that Allah has left the truth of this matter hostage either to the irreconcilable differences of expert Arabic linguists or personal interpretations of the Qur’an’s ambiguous verses.”

Surely it is self-evident that answers must be found in the “plain verses,” and not the ambiguous ones, for otherwise we would have an unresolvable paradox where the instructions on how we are to acquire the correct meaning of the Qur’an’s ambiguous verses, were themselves cloaked in ambiguity.”

“Therefore, rather than trying to find and interpret a single “smoking gun” verse, argued and relied on in isolation, to justify Imamat, I use what I call Qur’anic Threads.”

To preface one’s argument in such a way is the end of the discussion, period. In fact, there was no beating around the bush. We have no ‘smoking gun‘ verse. Such ambiguous verses require us to put the cart before the horse, believe in the infallible imam’s ability to interpret before finding such passages. However, I will continue the article with the look into these various ‘threads‘ insh’Allah.

I don’t know if it would be appropriate to say that Ibrahim, Jacob, Issac were leaders of mankind. As in the whole of humanity. It is more appropriate to say a leader for the people, meaning his people.

Also, to say that Allah (swt) appoints and a leader the question has to be asked. If people appoint a leader and Allah (swt) appoints a leader are the two things mutually exclusive? After all, that is the reason for this post. It is the reason for this discussion. There is no clear cut verse in the Qur’an for us to follow infallible Imams. There is no clear cut verse in the Qur’an that names Ali (r.a) as a leader for the community.  In fact, people point to extraneous sources to indicate that Ali (r.a) was to be preferred as a leader.

Look at verse 2:124 “His covenant is not with the evildoers. If a purified lineage also equates to purified offspring

then why did Allah (swt) put the clause ‘My covenant does not include the doers of evil‘?

Look at verses: 3:33-34 THEY were descendants of one another is true, but not all prophets are descendants of one another.  Unless one means that we all come from Adam (a.s). In that sense, the whole of humanity is the Ahl Bayt of Adam (a.s)

They were all descendants from one another.  We are all from Adam (a.s). So what is the point?

From Adam (a.s) we got two sons one of whom is the first murderer of another human being. Which brings us back to what Ibrahim (a.s) prayed for, ‘and of my offspring?’  to which Allah (swt) responds ‘My covenant does not include the doers of evil.’

You can imagine Adam (a.s) making such a du’a for his Ahl Bayt, his offspring, one of which became a murderer.

Look at verse 57:26 among their seed…

It is interesting that the verse above is half quoted. The full verse says,

“And We have already sent Noah and Abraham and placed in their descendant’s prophethood and scripture; and among them is he who is guided, but many of them are (fasiqun) defiantly disobedient.” (Qur’an 57:26)

Among those descendants of Noah and Abraham are those who are guided but most of their descendants are defiantly disobedient. We have a clear example of one of the children of Noah (a.s) who disobeyed.

“And Noah called to his Lord and said, “My Lord, indeed MY SON IS OF MY FAMILY (AHLI) and indeed, Your promise is true; and You are the most just of judges! He said, “O NOAH, INDEED HE IS NOT OF YOUR (AHLIKA) FAMILY; indeed, he is one whose work was other than righteous, so ask Me not for that about which you have no knowledge. Indeed, I advise you, lest you be among the ignorant. Noah said, “My Lord, I seek refuge in You from asking that of which I have no knowledge. And unless You forgive me and have mercy upon me, I will be among the losers.” (Qur’an 11:45-47)

Also, look at verses 17:2-3 quoted above. “From the seeds carried along with Noah” came evil beyond evil. In fact, it is interesting that if we continue to read the passage it says:

“And We conveyed to the seeds of Israel in the Scripture that, “You will surely cause corruption on the earth twice, and you will surely reach [a degree of] great haughtiness.” (Qur’an 17:4)  

“Those were the ones upon whom Allah bestowed favor from among the prophets of the seeds of Adam and of those We carried [in the ship] with Noah, and of the seeds of Abraham and Israel, and of those whom We guided and chose. When the verses of the Most Merciful were recited to them, they fell in prostration and weeping.” (Qur’an 19:58)

So why didn’t that guidance and choice descend to their progeny? If Allah (swt) saved Noah (a.s) and wiped out the evil, it is only reasonable that evil manifested from among the descendants of Noah (a.s)

Allah (swt) clearly said that the seeds of Israel would cause corruption and become haughty.

Just like one of the seeds of Adam was a murderer.

Just like Allah (swt) put a clause in Ibrahim’s du’a request.

It’s almost as if these people would own a chain of hotels across Europe one day that sells alcohol. It is as if these people one day would preoccupy themselves with the worldly life and marry supermodels.

“Also, from their fathers and their seed and their brothers-and, We chose them and We guided them to a straight path.” (Qur’an 6:87)

“Those are they unto whom We gave the Scripture and command and prophet-hood. But if these disbelieve in that, then indeed We shall entrust it to a people who will not be disbelievers in that.” (Qur’an 6:89)

Allah (swt) chose and guided them, But if they were to disbelieve therein, they would be replaced by those who would not disbelieve therein. So the possibility to disbelieve is there. This is also confirmed to me by my experience meeting people who are descendants of the Blessed Messenger (saw) who are atheists.

Look at what he says above about “Obey Allah and Obey the Messenger” (Quran 4:59)

Mohib Ebrahim says continues:

“For, it is self-evident that if “those who are in authority” were also not pure, like Allah and the Messenger, they will make mistakes and, thus by definition, cannot be rightly guided. Consequently, to avoid being misled by such leaders, others with more knowledge would have to double-check them rendering such leaders redundant and undermining the legitimacy of their claim as rightly guided leadership.”

Wait a minute. When did tahara (purity) become equated with infallibility? No that is certainly not the case. I hope no one thought they could sneak that one passed us.

“So they ask you about menstruation. Say, “It is harmful, so keep away from wives during menstruation. And do not approach them until they are pure (tatahharna). And when they have purified themselves, then come to them from where Allah has ordained for you. Indeed, Allah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves.” (Qur’an 2:222)

I hope no one is seriously suggesting that we do not approach our wives until they become infallible?  

“Truly, it is a noble Quran in a protected book. None touch it but the purified.” (Qur’an 56:79)

Ibn Abbas said concerning the verse, “None touch it except the purified,” that this refers to the Book in the heavens and “the purified” refers to the angels.

Source: (Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr 56:79)

To say that people who are in ritual impurity touch the Qur’an is true. However, to turn around and apply an esoteric meaning to a plain word ‘touch‘ doesn’t help the ‘thread‘ case at all. Nowhere has that word in Arabic used for touch means to interpret.

Notice he says, “Consequently, to avoid being misled by such leaders, others with more knowledge would have to double-check them rendering such leaders redundant and undermining the legitimacy of their claim as rightly guided leadership.”

The Qur’an itself subjects itself to a falsification test by even the most uncouth of people. How is that the Qur’an is subject to a  falsification test and these supposed Imams are not?

In fact, this whole argument used by Shi’i is critiqued here:

As we noted, one would have to prove the odd assertion that purity equates to infallibility.  If that is the case then we know that Ali is not pure because he made a colossal error in the battle of Siffin.   

You can see Ali’s decision critiqued here:

“Furthermore and notwithstanding the above, the Sunni position — that “those in authority” do not need to be pure and faultless — is just an interpretation since there aren’t, to my knowledge, any verses in the Qur’an stating that Allah left mankind free to choose their own leaders .” -Mohib Ebrahim

Are there any verses in the Qur’an where Allah (swt) categorically tells mankind that we are not free to choose our leaders?

So should Western Democracy’s be wary of being too cozy to Aga Khan and Ismail’i since their doctrine is that Democracy is at its core an aberration of what Allah (swt) wants?

Mohib Ebrahim wants us to believe in even more circular reasoning:

Since we are unable to judge — perfectly and without error — who are the pure, Thread III will address the apparently impossible command not to follow disbelievers or those who have sinned. Indeed, Allah has said He

will judge wherein we differ (42:10,22:67-69,5:48,39:46,6:164, etc.) thus precluding us from even making such assessments.”

“Since we are unable to judge or assess..perfectly and without error.”

Ponder that for a moment.

Question: Are we supposed to believe in perfect error-free Imams?

Answer: Yes you are.

Question: Are we able to judge perfectly and without error who these Imams are?

Answer: No you are not.

So these infallible Imams are objectively useless.

Which ahurf or qir’aat are the masses of Muslims to follow?   

These ‘infallible pure imams‘ could simply throw it up in the air and pick one.

Who was the divine guide for 700 years between Jesus (a.s) and Muhammed (saw)?

It doesn’t matter because these ‘infallible pure imams’ have an answer and you are in no position to judge.

The Qur’an itself subjects itself to falsification test, these imams do not.

I will tell you what is really convenient. It’s really convenient that we only have one infallible pure imam at a time. Apparently, in the time of the Blessed Prophet Muhammed (saw), we had him, Ali, and his two sons.

Wouldn’t it have been quite cool to have put Ali and his two sons in isolated rooms and give them a couple of questions and see if they come up with the same answers?

Question: What are the people to do when there become violent fractious splits between these infallible Imams?

Answer: Pick up your sword and hope to Allah that you start stabbing the wrong one. You have no way of objectively knowing which one is the right one!


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2 responses to “Ismaili Shi’a and Circular Reasoning

  1. Kamillah

    I’ve never seen that chart. So Jafar as-Sidiq’s children are where the Twelver, Ismaili split began. Goes right back to the Quranic narration of Cain and Abel – brothers who were at odds. That’s the true sunnah of life in this world, sadly. Blood relations are often some of the most difficult

    Another point you hint at – did Ali, Fatima, Hassan, Hussein (RA/AS not sure what to pick anymore) ever engage in disagreements ? I know on the Sunni side there are narratives suggesting Ali was stopped from marrying another woman while he was with Fatima. And Hassan was said to be “mizwaj” which is someone who practices excessive marrying. This is of course refuted by Shi`is for various reasons. All of this is to say and illustrate some of the more imperfect, human aspects of the Prophet’s family.

    • “This is of course refuted by Shi`is for various reasons.”

      I would change to: “The Shi’a attempt to refute this.”

      “Another point you hint at – did Ali, Fatima, Hassan, Hussein (RA/AS not sure what to pick anymore)”

      Do we see the companions after mentioning each other’s names saying RA/SA?

      This is a latter development in Islam. Like imagine a conversation right? Imagine you and I are companions in that time period.

      “Well you know Kamillah today I was talking to Abu Bakr radillahu anhu, and he was telling me about how Muaviyah radillah anhu was really fond of dates from Yemen.”

      I don’ think this is how they carried out a conversation. I wouldn’t worry about it if you decide to put honorifics after people’s names. Up to you.

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