Accountability of the Scholar and its Severity

//Accountability of the Scholar and its Severity

Muʿjam al-Aḥādīth al-Muʿtabara, Accountability of the Scholar and its Severity – Ḥadīth #3

[3/45] Ma’ani al-Akhbar: My father from Sa’d from Ibn Abi al-Khattab from Ibn Mahbub from Hammad b. Uthman from Abi Ja’far عليه السلام in regards the words of Allāh Mighty and Majestic: “and the poets – only the astray follow them” (26:224) he said: have you seen anyone following the poet? rather it (“poets” in the verse) refers to a group who gain understanding (seek knowledge) for other than the religion so they themselves become misguided and also misguide others.

(1) The group referred to are the scholars who seek knowledge for the world (or in street lingo: “scholars for dollars”). They base their religious rulings on their own whims and flights of fancy and in turn create an unrecognizable religion misguiding their followers. They are referred to as the poets because like the poets they base their judgments and opinions on faulty imagination.

There has been a long-standing academic “feud” with a lot of pointed words exchanged between Professors Irfan Shahid (recently deceased) and Michael Zwettler over the word “ghawun” in this verse. One of the arguments Shahid makes for his interpretation of the verse is that Zwettler’s alternate interpretation “does not correspond with the facts of pre-Islamic Arab literary and social life, in which there was no place for poets with followers.” Zwettler concedes this point. The narration in question has the Imam himself supporting this point and could have been the strongest argument in favour of Shahid (especially considering how early an authority is making it) but he was ignorant of this narration as far as I am aware and did not make use of it. Furthermore, the narration adds a new dimension which was overlooked by both Shahid and Zwettler in their understanding of the verse with the Imam giving a Ta’wili inner-layer interpretation of the word “poet” as a person who exerts effort to become learned for materialistic reasons. This example again reminds us that even a relatively straight-forward word in the Qur’an might not be fully understood using rational and linguistic techniques but requires guidance from the Aimma.

The Bibliography where you can follow the boring/fascinating (depending on your point of view) to and fro between Shahid and Zwettler arranged in chronological order.

(1) I. Shahid, “A Contribution to Koranic Exegesis,” in Arabic and Islamic Studies in Honor of Hamilton A.R. Gibb, ed. by G. Makdisi (Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press: 1965), pp. 563-80.

(2) M. Zwettler, The Oral Tradition of Classical Arabic Poetry: Its Character and Implications (Columbus, Ohio State University Press: 1978).

(3) I. Shahid, “Another Contribution to Koranic Exegesis: The Sura of the Poets ( xxvi )” JAL 14 (1983): 1-21.

(4) M. Zwettler, “A Mantic Manifesto: The Sura of ‘The Poets’ and the Qur’anic Foundations of Prophetic Authority,” in Poetry and Prophecy: The Beginnings of a Literary Tradition, ed. by James L. Kugel (Ithaca, Cornell University Press: 1990), pp. 75-119, 205-31 (notes).

(5) I. Shahid, “The Sura of the Poets, Qur’an xxvi : Final Conclusions,” JAL 35 (2004): 175-220.

(6) M. Zwettler, “The Sura of the Poets: […]

Muʿjam al-Aḥādīth al-Muʿtabara, Accountability of the Scholar and its Severity – Ḥadīth #2

[2/-] al-Khisal: From my father from al-Himyari from Harun from Ibn Ziyad from Ja’far b. Muhammad from his father from his forefathers عليهم السلام that Ali عليه السلام said: there is in hell a mill-stone which grinds – will you not ask what it grinds? It was said to him: and what does it grind O commander of the faithful? He said: corrupt scholars, and sinful reciters (of the Qur’an), and unjust tyrants, and treacherous ministers, and lying officials.1 And there is in hell a city called ‘the fortified’ – will you not ask me what is in it? it was said: what is in it O commander of the faithful? he said: in it are the hands of the oath-breakers.2 Comments

1. العرفاء  – Urafa is plural for Arif (lit. ‘person who knows’), the knowledge they possessed was to do with Urf (customs) and societal conventions not knowledge of the Diin which belonged to the Ulama (sing. Alim). An Arif was responsible for the administration of certain tribal or military units called Irafa, they collected taxes, distributed stipends, maintained the Diwan – register of names and arbitrated conflicts. Significantly, they also reported back their units’ doings to the governor and could be held responsible for their men’s rebellion or misconduct. An Arif had to be an influential person within the tribe who is respected by all, though not necessarily from the chiefly lineage. They came into special prominence under the Umayyads who used them as intermediaries between the governors of the Amsar and the tribes in the political hierarchy.

2. The hands of the Nakithin is singled out because it is what they used to give their false pledges of allegiance before betrayal.

If you look at the five categories of people mentioned by the Imam all of them have certain responsibility within the society or in other words are in positions of authority. They may be Scholars, Qurra (a professional class of people who were experts on the text of the Qur’an, having memorized it, and deemed themselves its guardians and tutors), rulers, their assistants, and the lower-level bureaucracy. If a society is to prosper all these have to be honest brokers with good intentions.

[-/2] الخصال: عن أبيه، قال عن الحميري، عن هارون، عن ابن زياد، عن جعفر بن محمد، عن أبيه، عن آبائه عليهم السلام أن عليا عليه السلام قال: إن في جهنم رحى تطحن أفلا تسألون ما طحنها؟ فقيل له: فما طحنها يا أمير المؤمنين؟ قال: العلماء الفجرة، والقراء الفسقة، والجبابرة الظلمة، والوزراء الخونة، والعرفاء الكذبة وإن في النار لمدينة يقال لها: الحصينة أفلا تسألوني ما فيها؟ فقيل: وما فيها يا أمير المؤمنين؟ فقال: فيها أيدي الناكثين

Muʿjam al-Aḥādīth al-Muʿtabara, Accountability of the Scholar and its Severity – Ḥadīth #1

 [1/44] al-Kafi: Ali b. Ibrahim from his father AND Muhammad b. Ismail from al-Fadhl b. Shadhan all together from Ibn Abi Umayr from Jamil b. Darraj who said: I heard Aba Abdillah عليه السلام saying: when the soul will reach here – and he pointed with his hand to his throat – there will be no repentance for the scholar then he recited: “Verily repentance is upon Allāh only for those who work evil in ignorance” (4:17).
[1/44] الكافي: علي بن ابراهيم، عن أبيه، ومحمد بن إسماعيل، عن الفضل بن شاذان جميعا، عن ابن أبي عمير، عن جميل بن دراج قال: سمعت أبا عبدالله عليه السلام يقول: إذا بلغت النفس ههنا – وأشار بيده إلى حلقه – لم يكن للعالم توبة، ثم قرأ: “إنما التوبة على الله للذين يعملون السوء بجهالة”
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