The Prophet’s (s) Traditions as Source of Imams’ Knowledge

The Prophet’s (s) Traditions as Source of Imams’ Knowledge

The main source of infallible Imams’ sciences is the traditions presented by Messenger of Allah (s) to Imam Ali (`a) and Imam Ali (`a) recorded. He then presented these to his successor, Imam Hassan (`a), and later to other infallible Imams (`a) in the same way.

Here is how this tradition collection was compiled: Islamic rules and commandments were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (s) during his 23-year mission in two ways; first, in the form of the Holy Quran, whose illuminating verses were descended to Prophet’s (s) heart and second, as traditions, whose phrases were revealed to his heart in various instances. The Messenger of Allah (s) recited the very Quranic verses to the Muslims and especially to Imam Ali (`a). He recommended Imam Ali (`a) –who was able to read and write– record and maintain Quranic verses for future Muslims. There were, of course, other people, who wrote all Quranic verses or memorized them. Still there were some others who wrote or memorized only some of the verses.

The traditions were, however, dealt with differently. Though Prophet Muhammad (s) conveyed the rules and commandments he received through revelation for his companions, they were not committed to write or memorize the exact words of the Prophet (s) and transmit them to others. They either quoted from the Prophet’s (s) traditions approximately or ignored them and forgot them later. Of course there were people among the companions who were committed to writing or memorizing the traditions of the Prophet (s), but unfortunately they were scarce. Islamic general issues and jurisprudential minor points were very enormous. They should have been kept for Muslims outside Medina –Prophet Muhammad’ city– and later generations. Moreover, many jurisprudential issues were not related to simple life of the people in that age to be asked from Prophet Muhammad (s) and answered by him. That is while Islam is the everlasting religion and should respond to human needs in all ages and places.

The Messenger of Allah (s) who was aware of present and future conditions of Islamic ummah should have found a solution for this scientific problem; maintaining all religious rules, commandments, teachings, and sciences in a safe position, which was immune from mistakes and forgetfulness. This position was not but the luminous heart of Imam Ali (`a). Prophet Muhammad (s) attended to this important duty –by Allah’s revelation and support– from the outset of his mission to his demise. He transmitted whatever he received from revelation to Imam Ali (`a). Imam Ali (`a) in turn attempted at exact recording and maintaining the information and was supported by the Almighty Allah in this major duty.

Imam Ali (`a) stated, “Once, the Messenger of Allah (s) embraced me and said, ‘The Exalted Allah has ordered not to distance you from myself so that you hear my words and remember them.’ Then this Quranic verse was revealed,

وَتَعِيَها أُذُنٌ واعِيَةٌ

…and that ears (that should hear the tale and) retain its memory should bear its (lessons) in remembrance.[27]” [28]

Ibn Abbas has quoted from the Prophet (s), “When the holy verse وَتَعِيَها أُذُنٌ واعِيَةٌ was revealed, I asked my Lord to set that retaining ear Ali’s ear.” Ibn Abbas then says, “Therefore, Ali (`a) recorded and kept what he had heard from Allah’s Messenger and never forgot it.”[29]

Imam Ali (`a) says, “I visited Messenger of Allah (s) everyday. We were alone for an hour or so. I followed him everywhere he went. The Prophet’s (s) companions know that he did not behave so with others. Sometimes he came to my house and sometimes I went to him. We then went to a solitude place. Prophet Muhammad (s) even sent his wives out. When he came to my house, however, Hadrat Fatimah (s) and my children were present. I asked him questions and he answered. When my questions finished, he began speaking. He recited all newly-revealed Quranic verses for me and I wrote them down. He explained exegesis, transformer, outdated, strong, similar, specific, and general of the verses. He had asked Allah to grant me ability to understand and memorize them; therefore, I did not forget any Quranic verse or scientific information I had written down. Prophet Muhammad (s) taught me the whole knowledge Allah had taught him, including halal and haram, recommended and prohibited, past and future information, all the heavenly Books of past prophets (s), and any worship and wrongdoing. I memorized them all and forgot not even a letter of them. The Messenger of Allah (s) put his hand on my chest and prayed that the Almighty Allah replete my heart with knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and light. Then I told him, ‘O Messenger of Allah! I did not forget anything from the time you prayed for me. Do you fear that I forget something?’ He said, ‘’No, I do not fear that you may be forgetful or ignorant.”[30]

Imam Ali (`a) was asked, “Why is it that you have quoted more traditions from the Messenger of Allah (s) than other companions?” He answered, “Because when I asked him questions he answered and when I became silent he began speaking.”[31]

Imam Ali (`a) also said, “By Allah that no verse is revealed except that I know where and about which subject or person it is revealed. My Lord has granted me conscious mind and fluent speech.”[32]


[27] Surah Al-Haqqah (69): 12.
[28] Biharul Anwar, Vol 35, p. 327; Hilyatul Awliya’, Vol 1, p. 108; Manaqib Kharazmi, p. 199.
[29] Manaqib Kharazmi, p. 99.
[30] Kafi, Vol 1, p. 64.
[31] At Tabaqatul Kubra, Vol 3, p. 338.
[32] Ibid, p. 33.