Possessors of the prophetic sciences

Possessors of the prophetic sciences

The Messenger of Allah (s) was very much concerned for propagating the sciences and laws of Islam. Companions of the Prophet also made efforts to memorize the laws, but the Holy Prophet (s) did not consider this sufficient. He was well aware that the severe condition of the early period of Islam did not permit the Muslims to obtain the extensive Islamic sciences perfectly and to learn them by heart. He knew that companions were not immune from mistakes and doubts and there was possibility that by the passage of time, they would forget some of the laws or make them controversial.

It was therefore necessary that in order to protect the divine laws of Islam, they should be entrusted to a safe and reliable entity that is immune of mistake and doubts, so that Muslims may refer to them whenever they need. Hence, it was revealed from Almighty Allah to the Messenger of Allah (s) to choose Ali Ibne Abi Talib (a), since he was capable of bearing this important responsibility in every way.

With regard to this, Ali (a) says: The Messenger of Allah (s) told me: Allah ordered me to bring you close to me and commanded that you listen and remember. It is upon Allah that you listen and remember. Thus the following verse was revealed:

وَ  تَعِيَهَآ أُذُنٌ وَاعِيَةٌ

…and that the retaining ear might retain it.” (69:12)[129]


Ibne Abbas has narrated from the Messenger of Allah (s) that he said: When the following verse was revealed: “…and that the retaining ear might retain it,” the Prophet said: I requested Almighty Allah to make them as the ears of Ali (a). Ali (a) says: I did not hear anything from the Messenger of Allah (s), but that I memorized it and never forgot it ever.[130]

In the same way, he says: When I came before Almighty Allah, He spoke to me confidentially; thus whatever I learnt, I taught it to Ali; thus Ali is the door of my knowledge.[131]

Amirul Momineen (a) says: Certainly, you know my position of close kinship and special relationship with the Prophet of Allah - peace and blessing of Allah be upon him and his descendants. When I was only a child, he took charge of me. He used to press me to his chest and lay me beside him in his bed, bring his body close to mine and make me smell his smell. He used to chew something and then feed me with it. He found no lie in my speaking, nor weakness in any act. From the time of his weaning, Allah had put a mighty angel with him to take him along the path of high character and good behavior through day and night, while I used to follow him like a young camel following in the footprints of its mother. Every day he would show me in the form of a banner some of his high traits and commanded me to follow it.

Every year he used to go in seclusion to the hill of Hira, where I saw him, but no one else saw him. In those days Islam did not exist in any house, except that of the Prophet of Allah - peace and blessing of Allah be upon him and his descendants - and Khadija, while I was the third after these two. I used to see and watch the effulgence of divine revelation and message, and breathed the scent of Prophethood. When the revelation descended on the Prophet of Allah - peace and blessing of Allah be upon him and his descendants - I heard the moan of Satan. I said, “O Prophet of Allah, what is this moan?” and he replied, “This is Satan, who has lost all hope of being worshipped. O Ali, you see all that I see and you hear all that I hear, except that you are not a Prophet, but you are a vicegerent and you are surely on (the path of) virtue.”[132]

Imam Ali (a) was asked: How is it that you have more traditions than other companions? He replied: When I asked the Prophet about something he replied to me; and when I was silent, he initiated the discussion.[133]

Amirul Momineen (a) said: “I would go in the presence of the holy Prophet once every day and once every night, when he would admit me and he would deal with me the way he wanted. The Sahabah, companions of the Prophet knew that the holy Prophet would not deal with others the way he dealt with me. Also the Prophet would come to my house most of the time, but when I would go to any one of his houses, he would admit me and would ask his wife to leave us alone and then we would have been the only ones therein. When he would come to my house, he would ask Fatima or any of my children to leave the house then whatever I would ask, he would answer me and when I would have exhausted all of my questions, he would begin from his side. Thus, nothing of the holy Quran has ever been revealed but that the holy prophet made me read it and dictated me and I wrote it down with my own hand writing. He taught me the interpretations of that verse and its explanations, its abrogating or that which was abrogated, the clear texts and the unclear statements, the ones of particular or general nature. He would pray to Allah to give me understanding and strong memory. I never forgot any of the verses of the book of Allah or any of the knowledge that he had dictated to me, which I wrote them down from the time he prayed to Allah for me. He did not leave anything of the lawful and unlawful, commands or prohibitions that were there or that would come into being in future or any book that were revealed to anyone before him about the matters of obedience or disobedience that he had not completely taught me and I had not memorized them all. I have not forgotten of them even a single letter. The holy Prophet once placed his hand on my chest and prayed to Allah to fill my heart with knowledge, proper understanding, wisdom and light. I then said, “O messenger of Allah, may Allah take the soul of my mother and father in service for your cause, from the time you prayed for me, I have not forgotten a single matter or missed to write down anything. Do you fear that I might forget them in future? “I do not fear for you any forgetfulness of ignorance.” The holy Prophet (s) replied.’”[134]

Ali (a) said: By Allah, no verse is revealed, but that I knew in what context, at what place and about what it was revealed. My Lord bestowed me with a perceptive heart and a speaking tongue.[135]


Some important points can be concluded from the above tradition:

1. Ali (a) remained with the Prophet since his childhood; so much so that he accompanied him even when he retired to the cave of Hira; and he emulated the Prophet in his manners and practice. The Messenger of Allah (s) was also most attentive to his training.

2. Ali (a) possessed considerable capabilities, he witnessed the effulgence of revelation, heard the voice of Jibraeel and the cry of Shaitan.

3. After proclamation of prophethood (Besat) also, the Holy Prophet (s) was commanded by Almighty Allah to bring Ali close to him.

4. The Prophet requested Almighty Allah to bestow to Ali (a) understanding, extraordinary perception and a hearing ear, in such a way that he must not forget anything at all. Almighty Allah also fulfilled the request of the Holy Prophet (s) and He bestowed to Ali (a) powerful understanding and memory, in such a way that whatever he learnt by heart, he remembered it all his life.

5. Imam Ali (a), throughout the days and nights had confidential meetings with the Holy Prophet (s), in which no one other than him participated. That meeting took place at the residence of the Prophet or at the place of Imam Ali (a). The Prophet taught his knowledges to Ali (a) at the question of Imam Ali (a) or of his own accord.

6. In these meetings and in all instances when Ali (a) was in the company of the Prophet, he heard all the verses of Quran directly from His Eminence; wrote them down and also memorized them. He also learnt the sciences of interpretation and commentary of Quran etc. from the Holy Prophet (s).

On the basis of this, throughout his life, he learnt all points of religious cognition and laws of religion from the Messenger of Allah (s) and his blessed heart became a mine of knowledge and effulgence.

Ali (a) – a University

Imam Ali (a), as a result of his personal capacity and special supplication of the Prophet with regard to his training and education, throughout a period of twenty-three years of prophethood, obtained all the knowledge, cognition and laws of religion, all the verses of Quran and their interpretation from the Messenger of Allah (s) and became a treasure trove of religion cognition, as the Messenger of Allah (s) has clarified this time and again.

The Messenger of Allah (s) told Ali (a): O Ali, may you enjoy the taste of knowledge; you have drank knowledge like water.[136]

The Holy Prophet (s) said: I am the city of knowledge and Ali is its gate. One who desires knowledge should enter by the gate.[137]

The Messenger of Allah (s) said: O Ali, I am the city of knowledge and you are its gate; one who thinks that he can enter the city without going through the gate is a liar.[138]

Salman Farsi has narrated from the Holy Prophet (s) that he said: After me, Ali Ibne Abi Talib (a) is the scholar of the Ummah.[139]

Anas bin Malik has narrated that the Messenger of Allah (s) said to Ali (a): After me, you would explain the issues in which the Ummah differs.[140]

Abu Saeed Khudri also says: The Messenger of Allah (s) said: The best judge in my Ummah is Ali.[141]

On the basis of this academic comprehensiveness of Imam Ali (a) and his being the treasurer of knowledge of prophethood for the Ummah is supported by the Messenger of Allah (s).

The Holy Prophet (s) performed this important task with regard to Imam Ali (a), so that the knowledge of prophethood remained in a secure place and that after him it can benefit the Ummah.
Writing down of traditions

In spite of the fact that the Messenger of Allah (s) knew that Imam Ali (a) was immune to errors and forgetfulness in learning the laws of religion, he still ordered him to record in writing, all the knowledge and laws, so that it would remain available for future generations.

Ali (a) said: The Messenger of Allah (s) told me: O Ali, write down what I dictate to you. I asked: Do you fear that I will forget it? He replied: No, because I requested Almighty Allah to make you a memorizer (Hafiz); but you should write down for the Imams in your descendants.[142]

Imam Ali (a) obeyed the instructions of the Holy Prophet (s) and wrote down whatever he heard from the Prophet from the sciences and laws and also memorized them. Afterwards, the same books (writings) were transferred to other Imams as inheritance. One of the academic sources of the knowledge of Ahle Bayt (a) was that – as they stated on different occasions – it is written in the Book of Ali, or Sahifa or Jamia…

Bakr Ibne Karib Sairafi said: I heard Abu Abdillah (a) say: “In our possession is that, because of which we have no need of the people, but the people need us. And in our possession is a book, dictated by the Messenger of Allah (s) and inscribed in the handwriting of Ali (a) – it is a scroll in which is every permitted and forbidden thing is mentioned. When you bring a matter to us, we know if you will do it and we know if you will not do it.”[143]

Abdullah bin Sinan says: I heard Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a) say: I have a skin (book) seventy yards long, which was dictated by the Holy Prophet (s) and is in the writing of Ali (a); everything that the people are in need of is present in it; so much so that it even mentions the penalty of a bruise.[144]

On the basis of this, one of the methods of preserving knowledge and laws of religion in the early period of Islam was by writing. That is why the responsibility of writing was entrusted to Ali Ibne Abi Talib (a).

After the sciences and laws of religion were transferred through the Holy Prophet (s) to the powerful memory of Imam Ali (a) and through His Eminence they were secured and preserved, the Messenger of Allah (s) introduced Ahle Bayt (a) as the point of reference of knowledge and called people to them.

After the passing away of the Holy Prophet (s), Ali (a) employed these two ways in the guidance and instruction of people. In addition to this, he also transferred his memorized and written sciences to his son, Imam Hasan (a). After the martyrdom of Imam Ali (a), Imam Hasan (a) in turn transferred the memorized knowledge and books to Imam Husain (a). In this manner, every Imam transferred the books to the Imam after him till they reached to the twelfth Imam – may Allah hasten his blessed reappearance, as the Imams have themselves explained, those books were one of the sources of their knowledge.

Jabir has narrated from Imam Muhammad Baqir (a) that he said: O Jabir, if we spoke to you from our personal opinion, we would have been from the destroyed ones. On the contrary, we only mention the sayings of the Messenger of Allah (s) that we have received.[145]

Some narrators of Imam Muhammad Baqir (a) heard him say: My tradition is the tradition of my father; and tradition of my father is tradition of my grandfather; and the tradition of my grandfather is the tradition of Imam Husain (a) and the tradition of Imam Husain (a) is the tradition of Imam Hasan (a) and the tradition of Imam Hasan (a) is the tradition of Amirul Momineen (a) and the tradition of Amirul Momineen (a) is the tradition of the Messenger of Allah (s) and the tradition of the Messenger of Allah (s) is the statement of Allah, the Mighty and Sublime.[146]

On the basis of this, the Messenger of Allah (s) chose his Ahle Bayt (a), who are immune from mistake and forgetfulness, for the purpose of preserving the sciences and laws of religion. Therefore he entrusted the sciences of prophethood to them in two ways: through verbal instruction and memorization and through writing and reliable books. The Holy Imams (a) and Ahle Bayt (a) of the Prophet also transferred this in two ways: One, through quoting them from their forefathers and another by quoting from the books they had inherited from the Messenger of Allah (s). In any case, it was considered to be the most reliable way of narrating traditions.

Thus, according to the tradition of two weighty things and similar traditions, it is obligatory on Muslims to refer to them in obtaining the knowledge of religion.[147]


[129] Manaqib Khwarizmi, Pg. 199
[130] Manaqib Khwarizmi, Pg. 199
[131] Yanabiul Mawaddah, Pg. 79
[132] Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 192
[133] Ansabul Ashraf, Vol. 2, Pg. 98
[134] Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, Pg. 64
[135] Tabaqat Ibne Saad, Vol. 2, Pg. 338
[136] Usdul Ghaba, Vol. 4, Pg. 22
[137] Yanabiul Mawaddah, Pg. 82
[138] Yanabiul Mawaddah, Pg. 82
[139] Faraidus Simtain, Vol. 2, Pg. 97
[140] Mustadrak, Hakim, Vol. 3, Pg. 122
[141] Manaqib Khwarizmi, Pg. 39
[142] Yanabiul Mawaddah, Pg. 22
[143] Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, Pg. 241
[144] Jame Ahadith Shia, Vol. 1, Pg. 10
[145] Jame Ahadith Shia, Vol. 1, Pg. 13
[146] Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, Pg. 53
[147] It is said that the sciences of the Infallible Imams (a) are not restricted to these two ways, on the contrary, they have other ways as well, whose mention is not presently possible.