Medical Sects in Islam


Medical Sects in Islam


   by  Dr. Mahdi Muhaqqiq  

The author is a well-known Iranian scholar who has edited, either alone or jointly with other scholars, numerous classics of Islamic philosophy, mysticism, jurisprudence, etc. Among these are: Sabzawari's Sharh Ghurar al-fara'id (1348 H.Sh)(which he, together with T. Izutsu has also translated into English), Nasir Khusro's Diwan (1357 H.Sh), `Abd al-Razzaq Lahiji's Shawariq al-‘ilham fi sharh Tajrid al-kalam, Shaykh Hasan ibn Zayn al-Din's Ma`alim al-din wa maladh al-mujtahidin (Ma`alim al-usul), Abu `Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr Tabrizi's Sharh-e bist-o panj muqaddameh-ye Ibn Maymun. 

The Empiricists - Ashab al‑Tajarib


The empiricists say that medicine is derived from experience, experience being the knowledge which is obtained through the senses. They also say that the principles and rules of medicine result from four things: incident (ittifaq),intention (iradah), comparison (tashbih), and the use of something in one case that was used in another similar case (naql min shay' iki shabihihi).


`Incident' is in turn divided into two parts: natural incident, such as a nosebleed, a sweat, vomiting, or something similar which occurs naturally and which brings either benefit or harm; and `accidental' incident, which occurs in a human being neither naturally nor through his intention, and which similarly results in either some benefit or some harm. An example of an accidental incident is when a sick person falls and blood flows out of him.


`Intention' means when something is experienced by choice; the motive for such an `experience' may be something seen in a dream or other similar thins.


`Comparison' is when the physician employs one of the three instances mentioned above (that is intention, natural incident, or accidental incident) when a new case presents itself. For example, when he sees that his patient, who has a bloody fever, obtains relief through a flow of blood from his nose, whether that occurs naturally, acciden tally, or through his personal will, then he will try drawing blood in similar illnesses.


Finally, naql is the method employed when the physician en counters an illness which he has not seen before, or which he has seen but for which there is no proven treatment. In this case he will resort to naql, that is he will use a medicine which has been proven in the case of one illness in a similar illness, or will use a medicine proven in the case of one organ of the body for another similar organ; or if he does not have access to the proper medicine, he will use a similar one

The Dogmatists - Ashab al‑Qiyas

 The dogmatists hold that there is no doubt that sense and experi ence are the root and principle of all sciences and arts, but these must be subject to the instruments of thought. They say that the rules of medicine and of other arts must be derived through thought and analogy; that is, the determination of unknown things through things which are known. It is through the use of thought and analogy that the various natures and constitutions may be known, and through which the faculties which are the cause of changes in the body may also be known.

Causes of changes in the body are of two types. One is that which necessarily results in alteration: such as climate, movement and rest, food and drink, sleep and wakefulness, and constipation and looseness, as well as mental occurrences such as sorrow or happiness, anger or joy. The second type of .cause is that which results in a change in the body without that change being necessary: such as the change which appears as the result of the blow of a sword, the attack of a wild animal, or burns inflicted on the body.

It is also necessary to know the type of illness which the physician intends to treat, for if it is not known it will not be possible to take it away from the body. Finally, one must know the extent of the illness in order that the type of treatment be determined. The extent will vary in accordance with the following factors: the bodily strength of the patient, age, temperament, the season in which the illness appears, the weather on the day it appears, the type of city the patient lives in, and his habits and profession.

The difference between these two sects is that when a patient comes to an empiricist he refers to his previous experience of persons who have had the same type of illness to the same degree, and who are of similar age and temperament. Then he prescribes the same medicine which proved effective in the past. The analogist will, however, on the basis of the same evidence ‑ that is age, temperament, habits, and residence ‑ envisage a general rule with regard to each type of sickness, and when he is presented with a new case will refer to that rule.

 The methodists - Ashab al‑Hiyal


As for the methodists, they examine neither the causes of illnesses, nor the habits and age of the patient, nor the times of the year, tempe rament and residence, bodily strength or the members of the body. They do not pay attention to each separate and particular case in itself, and they say that such cases are unlimited. Their attention is directed instead to a knowledge of the most general aspects which consist, according to them, either of `constipation' and `looseness', or a combi nation of the two. By `constipation' they mean the trapping of waste which should normally be eliminated from the body, such as the retention of urine and other such things. By `looseness' they mean an excess in the elimination of these same wastes, such as constant urination and the like. By a combination of the two, finally, they mean a sickness which combines both the conditions, such as an eye which is swollen but which is at the same time constantly tearing.

The methodists state that the treatment of these three general illnesses is accomplished either through the management of food and drink, through rest and movement, or through sleep and wakefulness.

Ibn Hindu finally declares that the dogmatists are correct, and goes on to demonstrate the invalidity of both the empiricist and methodist schools. He concludes that it is the dogmatists who hold out the possibility of progress in methods of diagnosis and treatment. The empiricists, because they do not believe in analogy, are extremely limited in this area As for the methodists, who do not deal at all with particularities but pay attention only to certain general aspects, are subject to many errors.

In this paper an attempt was made to show that the arguments of the three Greek medical schools were continued among the physicians of the Islamic world. In spite of the fact that among the Greeks atten tion was paid to experience and analogy together, it appears that Islamic physicians were more in favour of analogy. It can be suggested that this is due to the influence of logic in the centres of scholarship. The influ ence of logic is evident not only in medicine but also in Arabic grammar and Islamic jurisprudence. It is hoped that more research would be carried out on this point




1. Edited by Muhammad Salim Salim (Cairo 1978).


2. Edited by Richard Walzer (Oxford 1944 ).


3. Introduction of MS of Galen's "On Medical Sects," p.4.


4. Hunayn ibn Ishaq, Risalah ila `Ali ibn Yahya, fi dhikr ma turjima min kutub Jalinus, edited by Bergstrasser (Liepzig 1925) p. 4.


5. Ibn Jumay', Treatise to Salah ad Din on the Reviual of the Art of Medicine, edited and translated by H. Fahndrich (Wiesbaden 1983) p. 19.


6. Galen, "On Medical Experience," p.85.


7. Ibid., p.87.


8. Al Mas`udi, Muruj al‑dhahab, edited by Charles Pellat (Beirut 1973) vol.4, p.373.


9. Ishiq ibn Hunayn's Tariq al‑'atibba' by Franz Rosenthal, Oriens, No 7 (1954), pp. 75 and 77.


10. Ibid., p.77.


11. Ibid., p.78.


12. Ibn Abi ' Usaybi'ah, 'Uyun al‑'anba' fi tabaqat al‑ atibba; edited by Nidar Rich (Beirut 1963‑65) p.461.


13. Hippocrates, "Aphorisms", in The Genuine Works of Hippocrates,trans lated by Francis Adams (Baltimore 1936) p.292 and The MedicalWorks of Hippo crates, translated by John Chadwick (Illinois 1950) p.148.


14. Buqrat, Kitab al‑fusul (MS No. 5205, Astan‑e Quds Library, Mashhad, Iran).


15. Sharh Kitab al‑fusul, MS Osler Library, Montreal, No. 7785/66, p.3.


16. Edited by M. Mohaghegh and M. T. Danishpajuh (McGill Institute of Islamic Studies, Tehran Branch 1989).


17. M. Mohaghegh, Miftah al‑tibb wa minhaj al‑tullab(A summary translation) Medical Journal of the Islamic Republic of Iran, vol. 2, No. 1. (Tehran 1408/1988) pp. 61‑63.


Tahrif al-Qur'an: A Study of Misconceptions Regarding Tahreef



The victory of the Islamic Revolution of Iran appalled global unbelief and arrogance. As this revolution gained more and more momentum each day, the panic and fear of the unbelievers and the arrogance escalated.

In the beginning of the glorious Islamic Revolution of Iran, the criminal superpowers, who had divided the interests of the world among themselves, believed that they could subjugate and control this revolution and bring it into their own orbit, so that the Islamic Revolution of Iran would pose no threat to their interests.

However, these superpowers came to realize that this revolution is truly Islamic and aims at the revival of Islam not only in Iran but also all over the world, including Islamic and non-Islamic countries. They even realized that the long-term objective of this revolution is the liberation of all the oppressed people of the world from the yoke of the world-devouring colonialists.

The interest and eagerness that the Muslim people and the oppressed of all the world displayed toward this liberating revolution served to enhance the consternation of the colonialists and their devoted agents. For this very reason, they sought to confront this revolution. Every day they hatched plots to overwhelm the Islamic Revolution of Iran.

Their satanic conspiracies were channelled through the canals of politics and religion, in a manner that new ideas sprang up in their minds daily. By engineering these plots, they poured their poison into the newly-established roots of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Among their most important political plots, one can name their numerous plans for coup d'etat, their fostering and bolstering of political grouplets both in Iran and abroad, their attempts to sow discord among the political and religious leaders, and tens of other intrigues, at the top of which should be considered the Iraqi-imposed war. This destructive war inflicted heavy losses on the lives and properties of the people. The enormous expenses of this war could have been used to improve the conditions of the poor and destitute Muslims of Islamic countries, especially in areas such as Africa and the like.

The conspiracies channelled through religion have not been less important and weaker than their political schemes. In this regard, one of the most important and tried ploy of theirs was to revive the differences between the Sunnis and the Shi'ah. As the overwhelming majority of the Muslim people of Iran unanimously follow the school of thought of the Ahl al-Bayt (A) (the members of the Household of the Holy Prophet-peace be upon them all), the superpowers tried to isolate this vast majority of Muslims from the Islamic Ummah in order to brand this Islamic Revolution as a sectarian revolution. The mercenary mullas, the hirelings who laud the reactionary regimes ruling over Islamic countries, played the most crucial role in this regard. These mercenaries rendered the best services to internationalkufr (infidelity) and arrogance by means of instigating Islamic sects against Shi'ism and by reviving age-old differences which have always served the tactics of the colonialists. They have done so under the name of Islam and sympathizing with Islam.

In the meantime, the Wahhabis, who are, at present, ruling over the holy land of Hijaz and the principal base of Islam and al-Haramayn al-Sharifayn (the holy shrines at Mecca and Medina), have created more trouble than all others. Every day, they publish books and leaflets all over the world and in different languages which are full of falsehood, fabrications, and accusations against the teachings of the members of the Household of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon them all).

Of course, it is not surprising that the Saudi Wahhabism, which has been sponsored by colonialism and is hated by all Islamic sects, and in whose condemnation Sunni `ulama' have written a large number of books, should embark on sowing discord and exciting sedition. This is because the Wahhabis safeguard the interests of the criminal United States in the region and have bartered Islam for kufr.

After the victory of the Islamic Revolution of Iran which resulted in cutting off the hands of foreigners and unbelievers, especially the U.S. imperialism, from this country and which led to the awakening and awareness of the Muslims all over the world, pitifully, these so called Islamic elements and rulers of Islamic countries, instead of cooperating with this revolution and turning to Islam and their nations, turned their backs on both and looked toward the global arrogance, thus initiating their stratagems against the Islamic Ummah by reliance on kufr. This point has been stressed by the Holy Qur'an where it says:

... and Allah will by no means glue the unbelievers a way against the believers. (4:141)

and the Qur'an also says:


They make their oaths a shelter, and thus turn away from Allah's way; surely evil is that which they do. (63:2)

In any case, the issue of tahrif of the Holy Qur'an was one of the issues on which they manoeuvred very much and spared no efforts in propagating all kinds of falsehood and fabrication in this connection. Without offering any rational proof, they attributed belief in tahrif of the Holy Qur'an to the Shi'ah. They believed that by doing so they could make the Muslims pessimistic toward the teachings of the school of thought of the Ahl al-Bayt (A).

These conspiracies prompted for the preparation of this article. Although the colonialists have always contrived to engage the Muslims in conflicts and to keep them busy with mutual polemics and debates with a view to rule over them. Since this matter has not been sufficiently dealt with in the form of short articles for public benefit, this article has been designed to enter into this discussion very briefly, so as to enlighten the minds of all Muslims. Of course, in this respect, detailed books have been written and comprehensive research has been conducted, to which those interested in investigations into this subject can refer for further information. Among the best books on this subject is"al-Bayan", written by Ayatullah al-`Uzma al-Sayyid Abu al-Qasim al-Khu'i. This book's discussion pertaining to absence oftahrif in the Holy Qur'an has been separately published in English.

Tahrif of the Qur'an as Viewed by Traditions:

For those who have a slight familiarity with the books of both sects concerning ahadith (traditions), that is, the Sihah of the Sunnis and the various compilations of the traditions of the Shi'ah, it is manifestly clear that there are numerous traditions on the changes in the Holy Qur'an. Perhaps the traditions on this issue included within the books of the Sunnis are more in number than those of the Shi'ah. Nevertheless, those who have bandied about this issue out of spite and not as an objective and unbiased scientific and scholarly discussion, have always avoided the slightest reference to the traditions included in the books belonging to the Sunnis. They have only zoomed their cameras upon few weak narrations given in the books by Shi'ah. These are the narrations that are not acceptable to the Shi'ah `Ulama' and based on these traditions, they have not issued their views and verdicts.

At this stage, before continuing the discussion, it is necessary to draw the attention of the readers to the fact that, from the viewpoint of Shi'ism, traditions related to the Holy Prophet (S) and Ahl al-Bayt (A) generally fall within one of the following four categories based on their degree of reliability:

1. Veracious (sahih)

2. Good (hasan )

3. Authentic (muwaththaq)

4. Weak  (da'if)

This classification has been based on the types of narrators and transmitters of the traditions. This means that if a tradition possesses a veracious isnad and if it is narrated by truthful and trustworthy narrators possessing all other necessary conditions, it is correct and reliable and can be used by the `ulama' and the jurisprudents. Otherwise, in the absence of any one of the necessary requirements, the degree of the validity of the narration comes down until it becomes a "da'if" narration that cannot be considered and put to effect and that cannot serve as a document or proof for a view or verdict. As the books on ahadith comprise all kinds of traditions, one of the prerequisites for every `alim (theologian) and faqih (jurisprudent) in making judgements and issuing verdicts is to identify and distinguish the traditions in terms of their verity and untruth.

Therefore, upon seeing a tradition, even in a worthy Shiite book, one cannot judge what the view of the Shi'ah on such and such a subject is.

Keeping this in view, it becomes evident that by seeing traditions in Shiite books, whether in the four principal books such as al-Kafi , al Tahdhib , al-'Istibsar , and Man la yahduruhu al-faqih or in other books such as Wasa'il al-Shi`ah , Bihar al-'anwar , and others, one cannot ascribe to the Shiites a view and judgement based on their contents.

None of the few traditions concerning alterations in the HolyQur'an included within the aforesaid books possesses a veracious isnad; therefore, the Shiite `ulama' have not given attention to them. Similar traditions existing in authentic Sunni books have also been disregarded by the Sunni `ulama'. Some of these traditions have been included in the following sources:

Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. V, p. 35; vol. VI, pp. 211, 221.

Sahih Muslim, vol. II, p. 736; vol. III, p. 100; vol. IV, pp. 167-168.

Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, vol. V, pp. 131-133; vol. VI, p. 55; vol. VI, pp. 449-451.

For more information in this field, researchers can refer to the books such as al-'Itqan and al-Durr al-manthur both by al-Suyuti, al Masahif by Abu Dawud, Ruh al-ma`ani by al-'Alusi, and others.

In any case, such traditions in Shi'ah and Sunni books have not been used by the `ulama' of Islam and no attention has been paid to them.

Immunity of the Qur'an from Tahrif:

Now that the traditions on the alteration in the Qur'an included in the Shi'ah and Sunni books are not authentic, reference must be made to the Holy Qur'an itself where it explicitly says:


Surely We have revealed the Reminder and We will most surely be its preserver. (15:9)

Regarding this holy verse, the Shi'ah and Sunni `ulama' of Islam have indicated that the word dhikr (Reminder) refers to the Holy Qur'an and the word hifz (preserving) refers to the fact that Allah the Almighty will preserve the Holy Qur'an from any alteration and mutilation. Shaykh Abu 'Ali al-Tabarsi, a Shi'ah`alim of the olden times, has stated that this holy verse reflects the fact that the Qur'an is immune from any addition, loss, mutilation, and alteration. With respect to this holy verse, `Allamah Tabataba'i has stated:

... therefore, the Qur'an is a living and eternal Reminder which will never die and fall into oblivion. It is immune from any addition and loss. It is immune from and secure. against any alterations in form and style which could affect its character and role, that is, as, "the Reminder of Allah which expresses divine truth and knowledge". For this reason, the aforesaid verse indicates that the Divine Book has always been and will continue to be guarded against any mutilation and alteration.

In the book entitled al-Bayan, Ayatullah al-`Uzma al-Khu i states the following:

This verse is indicative of the fact that the Holy Qur'an is guarded against alteration (tahrif) and that the oppressors do not have the power ever to use it as a plaything.

From amongst the Sunni `ulama', al-Zamakhshari with regard to this verse states: "Allah is the preserver and protector of theQur'an against all addition, loss, corruption and alteration in all times. In contrast, the other Divine Books have not remained unaltered. The same verse is also a proof that the Holy Qur'anis the Book which has been revealed by Allah and has not been a compilation and production of human beings - because if that had been the case, like all similar books, it would have been certainly subjected to alteration and corruption.

Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi also states:

In this holy verse, hifz (preserving) means that the Qur'anis immune from and guarded against corruption, addition, and loss.

Here, we do not intend to point out the statements of the `ulama' of Islam in proof of absence of tahrif in the Holy Qur'an, for this will take much space. We only desire to make mention of the statements of a few great 'Ulama' of Islam (as an example) whose opinions are valid and valuable for the Muslims.

(3) The Care Exercised in Preserving the Text and Recording of the Holy Qur'an:

Among matters scrupulously observed by the Muslims are the calligraphy, comparison, and memorization of the Holy Qur'an. In addition to taking utmost care in calligraphy, words, letters, and the diacritical marks in the verses of the Holy Qur'an, the Muslims including Shi'ah and Sunnis have also written independent books on these issues, lest the slightest alteration should take place in the Holy Qur'an as a result of the lapse of time.

For this very reason, we can see that they have reckoned and recorded the total number of the verses of the Holy Qur'an, the number of words and letters, and even the total number of the dots used in the Holy Qur'an. 

Some of the `ulama' of Islam have even counted the total number of the alphabetic letters which are contained in the HolyQur'an and have said:

The letter "Alif" has occurred 48,940 times; the letter "Ba"' (the second Arabic alphabetic letter) has occurred 11,420 times; and the letter "Ta "' (the third alphabetic letter) has occurred 1,404 times; and so on.

They have reckoned the total number of dots used in the HolyQur'an and recorded them as 1,520,030 in number.

The `ulama' of Islam have always demonstrated matchless precision in regard to the script of the Holy Qur'an. For example, as for the word ni'mah which can either be written by  or  of which are correct, the `ulama' of Islam have stated that the above mentioned word has occurred eleven times with the letter  and in the remaining instances with the letter . Refer to the following verses in which this word has been written with the letter  (2:231; 3:103; 5:11; 14:28 and 34; 16:72, 83, and 114; 31:31; 35:3; 52:29). The same word has been written with the letter  in the remaining verses such as in (2:211: 3:171 and 174; 5:7) and so on.

Also the word "likayla" connected  which can be written either in connected  or disconnectedform has occurred four times in connected form and, in other cases, in disconnected form. Refer to the following verses in which the word has occurred in connected form: (3:153; 22:5; 33:50; 57:23). However, the same word has been written in disconnected form in the following verses: (16:70; 33:37).

Similar precise calculations have been made by the `ulama' of Islam in the connected and disconnected forms of other words in the Holy Qur'an such as f'ima  min ma , bi'sa ma  in lam  , an la and so on.

Now it is to be seen whether with all this exactitude employed by the `ulama' of Islam in recording the Holy Qur'an from time immemorial till now, can one accuse a group of Muslims of the charge of making alterations in the Holy Qur'an and mutilating it or believing in its corruption?

(4) The Extant Holy Qur'an Available to the Shi'ah and the Sunnis:

Another interesting point is, have those who accuse the Shi'ah of believing in the tahrif of the Holy Qur'an ever tried to investigate the copies of Holy Qur'an printed by the Shi'ah in various countries of the world to find out whether they contain the slightest discrepancy with other editions of the Holy Qur'anor not? Which Qur'an contains these forged chapters and verses that are ascribed to the Shi`ah Qur'an? Which Qur'ancontained these that not a single person has ever seen them? Instead of spending so much time in finding a weak tradition or quotation in unauthentic books in a bid to accuse the Shi'ah of believing in the tahrif of the Holy Qur'an, wouldn't it have been better for the mercenary `ulama', who embark on sowing the seeds of discord among the Islamic Ummah, to obtain and see numerous copies of the Holy Qur'an of different editions printed by the Shi'ah to discover whether such an accusation is fair or not?

At present, the antiquated hand-written manuscripts of the HolyQur'an by the Shi'ah from the early days of Islam until now are kept in museums of Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, etc. Some of these manuscripts are, once in a while, precisely reprinted in the same form and exposed to public view. Those who entertain the slightest doubt concerning this matter can personally refer to these manuscripts.

In the museum of the Qur'an in the holy city of Mashhad, I have personally seen some copies of the Holy Qur'an written on parchment made of deer skin. The period of writing of these copies of Qur'an dates back to more than one thousand years. Some of them are attributed to Imam `Ali (A), al-'Imam al-Sajjad (the fourth Imam), and some others are attributed to other Imams, Shi'ah 'Ulama' and pious men. Similarly, in other museums and libraries, there are also some copies of the Qur'anwhich are very ancient, but so far no one has been able to claim that even a single word of these manuscripts of the Qur'andiffers from what is now available to the Shi'ah and to the Muslims of the world.

Thus it is advisable for one to think realistically and not be influenced by these kind of propagandistic hue and cry and not to pay attention to the mental fabrications of malicious individuals and of those who attempt to disunite the people. We, certainly, do not believe that such propaganda will ever have any influence on the minds of the Muslims; however, this subject was worth mentioning lest some simple-minded people might be deceived by these futile statements.

(5) At this stage, it is necessary to review the words and statements of the Shi'ah `ulama' from the beginning until now to unveil the ignorance and malice of some of the so-called 'ulama' of Islam who are nowadays sowing the seeds of discord among the Islamic Ummah through their poisonous writings.

Unfortunately, the celebrated personality of the Sunnis, Abu al Hasan 'Ali Nadwi, who claims to be the leader of the Muslims of India and who is one of the renowned Islamic writers, has explicitly claimed in his recent book called Islam and the Earliest Muslims: Two Conflicting Portraits, published in English, Arabic, Urdu, and Persian with wide circulation all over the world, that with the exception of four Shi'ah `ulama', all others maintain that the Qur'anic text has been mutilated. His exact statement in this regard on page 45 of the book is as follows:

They hold that the Qur'anic text was mutilated; there is almost a consensus among their scholars on this point.'

Then he says in footnote of the same page:

1. Only four Shiite doctors, Saduq, Sharif Murtaza, Abu J'afar Tusi and Abu 'Ali Tabrasi are exceptions to this agreed view of Shiite theologians. But some of them are reported to have recanted their views. Anyway, them is always a doubt that they might have expressed their opinion in favour of purity of the Qu'ran because of their accepted principle of taqaiyya or dissimulation of one's faith.

We see that following his claim, propagandistic publications run by consuming the funds of the treasury of the Muslims-which is nowadays controlled by the Wahhabis and others in the form of petro-dollars also publicize the same allegation in the farthest reaches of the world without conducting any research to confirm its veracity. As an example, a propagandistic publication issued in South Africa under the title of The Truth about Shi'ism, Part 2, states the following on page 20:

The truth about Shi'ism in relation to the Qur'an is summarized in the undermentioned facts.

1. Besides the difference of opinion of only four Shiah theologians in all the centuries of Shi'ism's history, all Shiah authorities unanimously proclaim that the Qur'an which we have in our possession is a fabricated Qur'an.

2. Even the four Shi'i theologians - i.e. four in the entire history of Shi'ism - who dissented with the teaching of Shi'ism in this regard, do not believe that those who reject the Qur'an are kafir. Thus, although all Shi'i authorities unanimously proclaim the belief of the fabrication of the Qur'an, these four dissenters accept all such deniers of the Qur'an to be Muslims. Thus, their dissent and difference are of no real significance. They remain Shiahs who treat lightly the Shi'i teaching of a fabricated Qur'an.

Now the following statements made by great Shi'ah `ulama' are quoted, in chronological order:

(1) Al-Fadl ibn Shadhan, one of the great Shi'ah 'ulama' of the third century of Hijrah, states the following in his book al-'Idahin rejecting some of his contemporary Sunni 'ulama's statements who, by relying on some traditions, believed in the corruption of the Holy Qur'an:

But those who, by quoting such traditions, hold that theQur'anic text has been corrupted, are definitely making a mistake.

(2) Abu Ja'far Mubammad ibn `All ibn Babawayh al-Qummi, known as al-Shaykh al-Saduq, (died 381/991), states the following in his book entitled al- 'I'tiqadat (Beliefs):

With respect to the Holy Qur'an which Allah Almighty has revealed to His Prophet Muhammad (S), we believe that this is that very Qur'an which is between the two covers and is in the possession of the people, and that there is not anything more than this. Whoever charges us with believing in excess, has lied.

(3) In reply to the questions of `Tarabulusiyyat', al-Sayyid al Murtada `All ibn al-Husayn al-Musawi al-`Alawi, (died 436/1044), states:

Knowledge and certainty on the validity of the narration of the Holy Qur'an are like the knowledge and certainty on the existence of countries, cities, famous historical events, popular books, and the poems compiled by the Arabs. This is because the specific regard and attention and the strong motive for the narration of the text of the Holy Qur'an and its upkeeping had been much stronger than the precision and attention given to the above-cited items .... During the time of the Messenger of Allah (S), the Holy Qur'an had been a compiled collection exactly as it is now. The Holy Prophet (S) had even charged a group of his Companions with the responsibility of memorizing and safeguarding the Holy Qur'an. At that time, it was customary for the people to recite the HolyQur'an before the Holy Prophet (S) to ensure the accuracy of the text. The Holy Prophet (S), too, listened to their recitation. A group of the Companions, such as `Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud, Ubayy ibn Ka'b, and others read the whole text of the Holy Qur'an several times in the presence of the Holy Prophet (S).

With a little attention, one comes to realize that all these matters indicate that the Holy Qur'an has been a compiled collection. No one takes into account the opponents of this belief, be they from Imamiyyah (Twelver Shi'ah or Hashwiyyah, for their view is derived from a group of akhbariyyun (or ashab al-hadith, i.e., followers of the traditions) who had narrated weakahadith on the subject, thinking that they had related reliable and valid ahadith. Whereas such weak ahadithhave no power to challenge something based on definitive knowledge and certainty.

(4) Shaykh al-Ta'ifah Abu Ja'far Mubammad ibn al-Hasan al-Tusi d. 460/1067), states:

The remarks about addition and loss in the Qur'anic text are not worthy of respect the Holy Qur'an possesses; as (meaning that the text of the Holy Qur'an is today more than what it was before), there is a consensus among the `ulama' regarding the invalidity of this matter.

Regarding the deficiency of the Holy Qur'an (meaning that some parts of the Qur'anic text have been deleted), apparently the consensus of the Muslim sects also proves the contrary. The same holds true in our school of faith. This is exactly the belief that has been confirmed and proven by al-Sayyid al Murtada (may Allah be pleased with him). This belief has been clearly expressed in the narrations and traditions.

However, there are a number of traditions from the Shi'ah and Sunnis concerning the deficiency of many verses of the Holy Qur'an and regarding the interchange of some of the verses. All these traditions are "akhbar al-'ahad",i.e. traditions which are not mutawatir and cannot cause certainty. Thus, one should turn away and keep away from these sorts of ahadith and should not engage oneself in them. Moreover, these traditions are paraphrasable; had these traditions been correct, they would not have marred the Holy Qur'an which is presently available between the two covers, because knowledge and certainty prove the validity of this Qur'anand no one from among the Islamic Ummah has any objection to or complaint against it, nor does anyone reject it.

(5) Al-Shaykh Abu `Ali al-Tabarsi, who passed away in 548/1153, states the following in the tafsir entitled Majma` al-bayan:

There is a consensus and unanimity among the Muslims that there is not any `excess' in the Holy Qur'an. But with regard to the deficiency of the text of the Holy Qur'an, a group of Imamiyyah and a group of Hashwiyyah who are Sunnis have said that there are alterations and deficiencies in the Holy Qur'an, but the true belief accepted by the Imamiyyah holds otherwise.

(6) Al-Sayyid Ibn Tawus, (died 664/1265), states the following in the book called Sa`d al-su `ud

In truth, the Imamiyyah believe in the absence of tahrif in the Holy Qur'an.

Then, in the refutation of some Sunnis who maintain that theQur'anic text has been corrupted, he states:

I am surprised at those who, while believing that the HolyQur'an has been preserved by the Messenger of Allah (S) and has been compiled by the Prophet (S) himself, have narrated the differences of the people of Makkah and at-Madinah and of the people of Kufah and Basrah. They have also believed that ("In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful) is not an integral part of the surahs (chapters) of the HolyQur'an. It is more surprising that they have reasoned that if  ("In the Name of Allah...") had been an integral part of the surah, then it could have been preceded by something else also. Surprisingly enough! When it is believed that the Holy Qur'an is immune from and guarded against any excess and deficiency, and when such a belief is supported by man's wisdom and by religion, how could it be said that what had been revealed before the surahs has not been included as a part of the Holy Qur'an? Is such a thing possible?"

These were opinions of the great Shi'ah `ulama' of the past whose statements are authentic and valid for all other `ulama' of the subsequent centuries. Thus, there is no necessity to lengthen the discussion and to quote the statements made by the `ulama' of the subsequent centuries. Hereunder, it will only suffice to mention their names along with the titles of their books in which this discussion has been incorporated.

(7) Al-Muhaqqiq Zayn al-Din al-Bayadi (died in 877/1472), inal Sirat al-mustaqim.

(8) Muhammad Baha' al-Din al-`Amili, known as al-Shaykh al-Baha'i (died in 1031/1622), quoted in tafsir Ala' al-Rahman.

(9) Mulla Muhsin, known as Fayd al-Kashani (died in 1091/1680), in tafsir al-Safi

(10) Al-Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Hurr al-`Amili (died in 1104/1692), in his treatise entitled Risalah fi ithbat `adam al-tahrif (a treatise on absence of corruption in theQur'an).

(9) Al-Qadi al-Sayyid Nur Allah al-Shushtari (d. 1019/1610), the contemporary of al-Shaykh al-Baha'i, quoted in Ala' al-Rahman.

(12) Al-Sayyid Muhammad Mahdi ibn al-Sayyid Murtada al Tabataba'i, known as Bahr al-`Ulum (died in 1212/1797), inFawa'id al-'usul.

(13) Al-Shaykh Ja'far ibn al-Shaykh Khidr al-Janahi al-Najafi, known as Kashif al-Ghita' (died in 1228/1813), in Kashf al-ghita' `an mubhamat al-Shari`at al-gharra'.

(14) Al-Shaykh Muhammad Hasan ibn al-Mawla `Abd Allah al Mamaqani (died in 1323/1905), in Tanqih al-maqal.

(15) Al-Shaykh Muhammad Jawad al-Balaghi (died in 1352/1933), in Ala' al-Rahman.

(16) Mulla Fath Allah al-Kashini (died in 988/1588), in the commentary of Manhaj al-sadiqin.

(17) Mirza Hasan al-'Ashtiyani (died in 1319/1901), in Bahr al fawa'id.

(18) Ayatullah Sayyid Husayn Kuhkamari (died in 1299/1882), in Bushra al-wusul ila `ilm al-'usul.

(19) Al-Sayyid `Abd al-Husayn Sharaf al-Din al-Musawi al-`Amili (died in 1377/1957), in Ajwibat masa'il Musa Jar Allah.

(20) Ayatullah al-`Uzma al-Sayyid Abu al-Qasim al-Khu'i, contemporary, in al-Bayan.

These were the names of the great Shi'ah ulama' who wrote books confirming the absence of any kind of tahrif in the text of the Holy Qur'an. Surely, there may be comments by other `ulama' whose books are presently not within our reach.

It should be also noted that making mention of the names of these `ulama' does not necessarily mean that the other `ulama' do not believe in this point. It rather means that since they had not compiled any books in this field, we could not quote their relevant views and opinions.

It is hoped that this brief paper would remove all doubts and accusations made on the teachings of the school of thought of the Ahl al-Bayt (A), and would serve as a basis for further investigations by the researchers and investigators.

Wa al-Salam `ala man ittaba`a al-Huda (and peace be on him who follows the guidance).


The Qur'an and the Nature of Life

Here we intend to carry out a Qur'anic study of the problem of life to find out the specific viewpoint of the Qur'an about life. In particular, we intend to study the view that the Qur'an takes of the relation between life and the supranatural world and Divine will.

The Noble Qur'an recurringly mentions life. In many of its verses, the coming to life of creatures, the different stages of life, the system involved in the creation of living creatures, the effects of life such as intelligence, consciousness, perception, hearing, sight, guidance, inspira tion, instinct and the like are mentioned as the `signs' indicative of Divine wisdom and design. Each of these constitutes an interesting subject in itself, but here we do not intend to discuss them.

One of the themes discussed by the Qur'an in relation to life is that life is in the hands of God; it is God Who gives and takes away life. By this, the Noble Qur'an means that life is not within the control of anyone except God; no one else can give life or take it away. The issue that we now intend to discuss is this.

In the Surat al Baqarah, the Qur'an quotes Abraham (A) as saying to a tyrant of his time:


My Lord is He Who gives life and causes to die. (2:258) 

In the Surat al Mulk, God is described in these words:

... He Who created death and life. (67:2)

There are many verses in the Qur'an which consider God as the sole giver of life (Muhyi) and death (Mumit), and the giving and taking away of life is directly attributed to God and considered His exclusive prerogative. Also, in the verses where some of the prophets are described as bringing the dead to life, the Qur’an is careful to point out that such a thing could occur only with God's permission (idhn). An example is verse 3:49 .


...a Messenger to the Children of Israel saying, "I have come to you with a sign from your Lord. I will create for you out of clay as the likeness of a bird, then I will breathe into it, and it will be a bird, by the leave of God. I will also heal the blind and the leper, and bring to life the dead, by the leave of God .... (3:49)


On the whole, it is one of the points of difference between the theists (ilahiyyun) and the materialists that whereas the theists consider the origin and source of life and its Creator as transcending matter, the materialists consider matter itself to be the creator of life. However, something which is significant in this regard is that there is a subtle but enormous difference between the logic of the Qur'an and the usual logic of the theists regarding the thesis that God is the creator of life. This subtle difference is another of the miraculous characteristics of this noble scripture. We believe that if theistic thinkers become familiar with this logic, they can, once for all, release themselves from the harassment of the materiaalists and also liberate those poor creatures too from the clutches of their fancies and error.

The Problem of Origin of Life


Ordinarily, when (theistic) thinkers want to relate the matter of life to God and Divine will, they bring up the problem of origin of life on the earth and the question regarding the cause of the first emergence of life. Conclusive scientific evidence indicates that life had a definite begin ning on the surface of the earth, that none of the various types of living creatures, including animals and plants, have always existed since eternity. This is because the earth itself has a limited age. Moreover, it was not in its estimated life of several million years always fit for life. We observe that each individual of a species is always born from another individual belonging to that species. Wheat comes from wheat, barley from barley, horse from horse, camel from camel, and man from man. It is not the practice of nature that an animal or plant, for instance, should come into existence from a mass of sheer dust. Always, the origin of a living creature is traceable to another living creature from which it separates in the form of a seed or sperm and grows in a suitable location.

Now, how did life start in the beginning and through what means? Does every one of these innumerable species end in an individual living creature that is the source of its particular species? If that is the case, how did that first creature come into existence, for nature seems to disallow the emergence of a living creature without a speed, sperm or something that should have separated from a living creature? Hence, (they point out), we must admit that an exception to the rule must have occurred. In other words, a miracle had occurred and the Divine hand had emerged from the hidden to create that first living creature.


Or is it possible that all these species. have had a single source and root, and are members of a family of species? On the basis of this hypothesis, too, we confront the same problem. That is, even if we suppose all the species to have been derived from a single unicellular organism, the same question emerges as to how that first living creature came into existence. Isn't it the case that science has proved that a living creature cannot come into existence except from another living creature? Hence, was there an exception to the rule and a miracle, in that the will of God interfered to create instantaneously a living cell?


It is here that the adherents of the materialist outlook are forced to put forward certain hypotheses which are incredible to themselves. The theists, on the contrary, consider it as an evidence for the existence of a creator and state that a supranatural power did interfere to create the first living creature, and that it was the will of God that led to its emergence. Such was the view of Darwin, who was personally a theist. After having solved the problem of the branching out of species for himself, he arrives at one or several living creatures who first emerged on the earth's surface without having been reproduced by another living creature. He says regarding them: `As for these, they came to life through the Divine breath.'


Crissy Morrisen, in the book "The Secret of Man's Creation", says in this regard:


Some say that the corpuscles of life escaped from one of the planets and after wandering in the atmosphere for ages and consecutive centuries descended on the earth's surface. Such a belief is not acceptable, because it is impossible that they should have survived the space's absolute cold, and even if, supposedly, they could survive that danger, the cosmic rays that are scattered in space would have destroyed them. Even if they could pass through this stage, they must have come down accidentally in a very favour able point such as oceanic depths, where several conditions existed simul taneously and a suitable environment was created for them. After all these problems, the question still arises about the origin of life and as to how it did emerge in other planets. Today it has been proved for certain that no environment however favourable and conducive to life can create it. Similarly, no kind of chemical synthesis or combination can create a life corpuscle. The problem of life still remains one of the unsolved problems of science.


Some say that a miniscule particle of matter, of a microscopic size, coagulat ing with a large number of particles of atomic size, disturbed their equilibrium and assumed the form of life through their inclusion and exclusion. Nonethe less, no one has claimed until now that he has produced life with the means of chemical action and reaction.


By this discussion Crissy Morrisen intends to prove that the hand of a creator is involved in the origin and beginning of life, because it cannot be explained by material or natural causes. Concerning the origins of man and the great metamorphosis that resulted in the emergence of an intelligent creature with an extraordinary capacity for discursive thought and a power that could create the sciences, he says: "The emergence of man as an intelligent and thoughtful creature is too profound to be considered an effect of material changes in which a creator's hand was not involved." This was a sample of the mode of thought and argument of this group in relation to life and the Divine will. There is no need to cite more or less similar statements of others that do not differ essentially from the passage quoted.


As we know, till now man has not been able, despite all his efforts, to produce with scientific means the substance that makes up the living creatures. For instance, he has been unable to produce with chemical substances an artificial wheat grain possessing the properties of a living grain, which may grow into a plant when sown and develop ears. Nor has he been able to produce artificially the sperm of an animal or man with the capacity to develop into an animal or man. Nevertheless, scientists have not ceased in their efforts, and as yet it has not become conclusively clear for them whether they would be able to do so in the future or if this matter lies beyond man's scientific and technical capacities.


This topic too, which relates to the future has, like the problem of the origin of life, created a controversy throughout the world. Inevitably, that group of theists who, with their above‑mentioned approach and logic, say that the creation of life is in the hands of God, are of the opinion that, in this question too, man's efforts in the field are bound to be fruitless. Since man has no control over life, which is exclusively subject to the Divine will, man cannot create life anytime at his will with the scientific and technical means at his disposal. The prophets who raised the dead were able to do so with the leave of God. It is not possible for anyone to perform such an act without the per­mission of God. And should anyone wan: to do such a thing with the leave of God, it would mean that such a man has joined the ranks of the prophets and performed a miracle, and, of course, God does not carry out a miracle except at the hands of His prophets and awliya.


This group of theists consider man's present incapacity in this regard as the proof of their claim. When they observe that man has produced wheat grains that do not differ in any way in their chemical composition from natural wheat but are devoid of the characteristics of life, they point out that that is because life depends exclusively on the will of God and the creation of life requires God's permission, which He does not give to anyone except His apostles.


We said that the Noble Qur'an explicitly affirms that life lies in the hands of God and that it negates the role of anyone else in the creation of life. However, the Qur'an never refers to the matter of the origin of the human species or the beginning of life in order to affirm this point. On the contrary, it points as evidence to the present empirical order and considers the current, ongoing system of life as the system of crea tion, becoming and development. But when it wishes to describe God's creatorhood in relation to life, it does not make recourse to the first day. In this respect, it makes no distinction between the first day and the subsequent days. Rather, it points to the present orderly changes of life as the changes of creation. For instance, in the blessed Surat alMu'minun it states:


We created man of an extraction of clay, then We set him, a drop, in a re ceptacle secure, then We created of the drop a clot, then We created of the clot a tissue, then We created of the tissue bones, then We garmented the bones in flesh; thereafter We produced him as another creature. So blessed be God, the fairest of creators! (23:12‑14)


This noble verse mentions the systematic transformation and changes that occur in the embryo and considers these developments as a developing series of creations. In the SuratNuh, it states:


What ails you, that you look not for majesty in God, seeing He created you by stages? (71:13‑14)


In the Surat al‑Zumar, it states:


He creates you in your mothers'wombs creation after creation in threefold shadows. (39:6)


In the Surat al Baqarah, it is stated:


How do you disbelieve in God, seeing you were dead and He gave you life, then He shall make you dead, then He shall give you life, then unto Him you shall be returned. (2:28)


In the Surat al Hajj, it states:


It is He Who gave you life, then He shall make you dead, then He shall give you life. (22:66)


There are many verses on this theme and all of them consider the pres ent current order as the system of creation. The splitting of the grain and the seed under the ground, the growth of plants and herbs, the greening of the trees in spring‑time ‑ all of these are mentioned as part of the ever‑new and perpetual Divine creativity. In no place does the Qur'an consider the role of Divine creativity and will in the creation of life as relating exclusively to the first man or the first living creature that emerged upon the earth's surface, or consider only that organism or grain as the creature of God and the product of the Divine will.


The Noble Qur’an also mentions the creation of Adam, but not for the purpose of affirming monotheism (tawhid), or for the sake of the argument that since Adam was the first man, that proves that creation did occur and that `God's hand emerged from its sleeve' to create human life. God's hand has never been concealed within a sleeve.


There is a strange point worthy of notice in this regard. The Qur’an makes use of the story of Adam to convey many teachings of a moral and educative character, such as: man's capacity for attaining to the station of God's vicegerency; his abundant capacity for knowledge; the angels' humility in front of knowledge; man's capacity for attaining superiority over the angels; the harm of greed, the harms of pride, the effects of sin in causing man's decline from the sublimest of stations; the role of penitence in man's salvation and his return to the station of proximity to God; warnings against the danger of misleading satanic insinuations, and the like. But it never relates the special and excep tional situation of Adam in his creation to the subject of tawhid and theology, for the objective behind its mention of Adam's story was a moral and educative one. It was not intended as an evidence in favour of tawhid. Moreover, it confines itself to mentioning Adam, and says nothing about how the life of the other animal species originated on the earth.


We have mentioned earlier the customary approach of the theists who when confronted with the absence of an explanation for the begin ning of life in the first living creature say, "It was the Divine breath which brought it into existence." But the Qur’an considers the life of other human beings also to be the result of the Divine breath, in the same way as it considers the life of Adam as being due to the Divine breath.


In one place the Qur’an relates God as saying to angels regarding Adam:


(And when thy Lord said to the angels `See, 'I am creating a mortal of clay of mud moulded.) When I have shaped him, and breathed My spirit in him, fall you down, bowing before him!" (16:28‑29)

In another place it says:

We created you, then We shaped you, then We said to the angel&‑ Bow yourselves to Adam.' (7:11)

It is clear that, in this verse, creation, the blowing of the Divine breath and the veneration of angels is ascribed to all human beings in general. The Qur'an states in the Sura Alif lam sajdah:

...Who has created all things well and He originated the creation of man out of clay, then He fashioned his progeny of an extraction of mean water, then He shaped it, and breathed His spirit in it. And He appointed for you hearing and sight, and heart; little thanks you show. (32:7‑9)

As pointed out by the exegetes and as indicated by the context itself, the pronoun in sawwahu (he shaped it) relates to sulalah(progeny), not to al‑'insan (man).

 * * *

 The Origin Life and The Divine Will

 Here it is essential to discover the reason why ordinarily the theists refer to the origin and beginnings of life when relating life to the Divine will, and to discover as well the reason why the Noble Qur'an has never taken this path in its effort to affirm monotheism, consider ing as it does life and biological developments absolutely the direct result of God's will, without making any distinction whatsoever between the beginning of life and its continuation.


The truth is that this difference arises from a more fundamental difference between the logic of the Qur'an and all other approaches. It lies in this that a group of theists ordinarily see God from the negative, not the positive, aspect of their knowledge. That is, when faced with a failure to overcome something unknown, they bring in God. They always seek God amid the mass of things unknown to them. That is, they always go after things whose natural causes are unknown to them. When in a certain case they encounter something whose natural cause is unknown to them, they immediately proclaim: "This was brought into existence by God's will." Inevitably, the more the number of things whose natural causes are unknown to them, the more their evidence of God's existence, and the more the number of things known and ex plained, the lesser evidence they seem to have for God's existence. For a group of theologists and adherents of monotheism, the supranatural realm is a storehouse of their unknowns. Whenever they fail to under stand and know something and to discover its natural cause, they immediately relate it to the supranatural. They see the role of the supra natural as lying in, what appears to them as, exceptions to the natural order and violations of the course of nature. When they do not find a natural cause in a certain case, they substitute it with a supernatural one, unmindful of the fact that, firstly, the supranatural realm has its own order and law; secondly, they forget that if a cause takes the place of a material and natural cause, the substitute cause must itself be a material and natural cause on a par with matter and nature. It does not remain a supranatural cause. The natural and supranatural exist on separate planes and not the same plane. Neither a natural cause can take the place of a supranatural cause, nor a supranatural cause the place of a natural cause.


The Holy Qur'an never relies for the evidence of the existence of the One God on cases where the system of natural law and order appears to have been violated. It relies in this regard on cases whose preliminaries and natural causes are known to the people, and it cites this order itself as a testimony to God's existence.


In the case of life, the logic of the Qur'an rests on the view that life is absolutely an emanation (fayd) higher and above the horizon of the physical and the sensible. Whatever the character of the laws involved in it, its source lies on a plane higher than that of sensible matter. Hence, the developments of life are the developments of creation. From the viewpoint of this logic, it makes no difference whether life was created instantaneously, in a single moment, or in the form of a gradual evolu tion, with one creation following another.


This logic rests on the principles that sensible matter is essentially devoid of life and that life is a light and emanation that must come from a higher source. Hence the laws of life, whatever form they may have, are the same as the laws of creation.


The difference between the existential degrees and planes of matter and life is a scientific and proved principle. Should we want to discover the supranatural source of life through the difference of existential planes between matter and life, it has to be on the basis of the positive aspects of our knowledge, not its negative aspects. Thereby we would be searching for God in what is known to us, not in what is unknown to us. Then we would not be compelled to bring down the supranatural from its plane as a substitute for a natural cause that we may fail to dis­cover. Rather, we would assume that a natural cause is definitely in volved though the frontiers of scientific knowledge have not yet reached it.


Sadr al‑Muta'allihin (Mulls Sadra), in the part of his bookal‑'Asfar concerning the soul, severely attacks Fakhr al‑Din al‑Razi precisely for this reason. He says: "I am amazed at this man and the likes of him who, whenever they want to prove the doctrine of tawhid or some other religious doctrine, look for instances where the natural cause involved has not been recognized and where according to their belief the order of the world has been violated and laws have been broken."




From the body of verses cited above it can be inferred that creation is not an instantaneous process from the viewpoint of the Noble Qur'an. 

An animal or human being passes through various evolutionary stages and is always in the process of creation. Rather, basically, the world is always in the process of creation and in the state of perpetual coming into being.

There is an opposite viewpoint which considers creation to be something instantaneous. Whenever its proponents want to discuss the world's creation, they go after `the first moment' when the world was created and brought out from the cover of nothingness. They imagine that if they were not to make such an assumption, the world could no longer be regarded as a creation and as something that came into being. Similarly, whenever they want to discuss life as a Divine creation, they go after `the first moment' when life began.

This kind of thinking is peculiarly a Jewish one:

The Jews have said: 'God's hand is fettered'. Fettered are their hands, and they are cursed for what they have said. (5:64)

That mode of thinking about the relation of life to the Divine will that always goes back to the beginning of life in order to relate it to God's will is the offspring of this Jewish outlook. This Jewish outlook gradu ally became prevalent and has spread everywhere. Regrettably, Islamic theologans too come under its influence. However, as pointed out, the idea of a `first moment' is foreign to the teachings of the Noble Qur'an.

As indicated earlier, a problem that is discussed in our times is whether man would ever be capable of making a living organism. Would he, for instance, be able to make an artificial human spermatozoon which when deposited in the womb or some other suitable environment be able to develop into a complete human being? We said that a group of theists, whose mode of thinking concerning the relation of life to the Divine will always turns to cases of exception and the first beginnings of life, emphatically negates such a possibility. But on the basis of the teachings that we have received from the Qur’an, we may say, there is nothing that stands in the way of such a possibility. This matter needs elaboration and must be examined from two aspects.


Firstly, we must examine the amount of structural complexity of a living organism to see whether or not some day man would be able to discover all the secrets that go into the material composition of the parts of a cell and the natural law responsible for the emergence of a living cell. We cannot say anything from this aspect, for the issue lies outside the scope of our competence. This is what the experts in the field have said: "That which is more significant and higher than the creation of the earth, the planets of the solar system and the whole universe is the substance of the protoplasm."


Secondly, if man one day succeeds in discovering the law of crea tion of living organisms, in the same way as he has discovered the laws relating to other creatures, and discovers all the conditions and material constituents of living organisms, and succeeds in preparing substances exactly like those of living organisms, will that artificial being possess life? The answer is that it will definitely possess life, for it is impossible that the conditions for the existence of an emanation should exist completely without the realization of that emanation. Isn't it the case that the One, Self‑Sufficient and absolutely perfect Divine Essence is the absolute source of all emanations? Isn't the Necessary Being‑by Essence, necessary in all aspects and ways?


Here the doubt may possibly arise in some minds that if such be the case, what will become of the principle that life is exclusively in the hands of God and that others have no role in the giving and taking away of life? We said earlier that this is something acknowledged by the Noble Qur'an, and the answer to this question becomes clear after a review of what has been said. Should man attain such a capacity one day, all that he would have done is to be able to prepare the conditions of life, not the ability to create life. Man cannot give life, but he can complete the capacity of matter for receiving life. In other words, man is the agent of motion (fa`il‑e harakat) not the source of being.


Should man succeed in doing such a thing, surely he would have made an important achievement from the viewpoint of scientific dis covery. But from the viewpoint of a role in creation. of life his role would be the same as that of the parents in reproduction and procrea tion of offspring or of the peasant in creating life in wheat grains. In none of these cases is man the creator of life. All that he accomplishes is to prepare the conditions of a substance for receiving life. The Noble Qur'an has described this matter in the best possible manner in the blessed Surat al‑Waqi`ah:


Have you considered the' soil that you till? Do you yourselves make the plants grow or are We the one who makes them grow? (56:63‑64)

Have you considered the seed that you spill? Do you ‑ yourselves create it, or are We the creators? (56:58‑59)

As to the miracles performed by the prophets, their miraculous char acter lies in that man is incapable of performing such acts with his ordinary knowledge and power. The prophets too had not attained that knowledge and capacity through the ordinary means. An extraordinary power and knowledge that accompanied them had raised them over the plane of physical nature, which made it possible for them to become a source of such a prodigious performance. Should man one day succeed in this achievement (i.e. `artificial' creation of life), it would not mean that he has succeeded in doing something which the prophets did with the leave of God. The prophets used to give life and take it away with the leave of God. But if ordinary human beings some day attain such a capacity, that would be the capacity to prepare the conditions for life, in the same way as today they are capable of causing death by destroy ing the conditions of life, without possessing the capacity to take away life. The giving and taking of life will remain in God's hands even if man, through the discovery of the laws of emanation and withdrawal of life, prepares or destroys the capacities of a substance for possessing life.


We said that man cannot create life and that creation of life lies outside the scope of his capacities. The giving and withdrawal of life is in God's hands, although man can prepare the conditions necessary for life to exist.


This must not lead us to conclude that there is some kind of division of work: that there are some activities that pertain to man without pertaining to God and that there are other activities that per tain to God without pertaining to man. Our sole objective is delimitation of the scope of man's activity, not delimitation of God's acts. That which characterizes the Divine aspect is absolute freedom (itlaq) and absence of limits; the limits and bounds are from the side of the crea ture. This matter needs an elaborate treatment and I request the reader to refer to the fifth volume of Usul‑e falsafeh wa rawish‑e riyalism.



The Utility of Islamic Imagery in the West

  The long history of encounters between Western civilization and Islam has produced a tradition of portraying, in largely negative and self-serving ways, the Islamic religion and Muslim cultures. There is a lot of literature cataloguing (and sometimes correcting) these stereotypes. It is not my intention to rehash this corpus here, though I do rely upon some of the more important works. What I want to do instead is focus on a particular dimension of these encounters, and examine why the West has consistently constructed and perpetuated negative images of Islam and Muslims. My focus will be on the utility of Islamic imagery in Western civilization.



Most people seem to be familiar with stereotypes and negative imagery of Arabs and Muslims-indeed, some are so firmly entrenched that the consumers of these images are unable to distinguish them from reality. At the same time, many people have an idea how these images come about (books, television, speeches). But by looking at the cultural history of Islamic-Western encounters from the perspective of utility, I am able to locate the correlations between imagery and political economy. Western image-makers, including religious authorities, political establishments, and corporate-media conglomerates, conceptualize for their consumers images of Muslims and/or Arabs in sometimes amusing and other tunes cruel or tragic ways. Upon closer examination, these images seem to serve essential purposes throughout the history of Western civilization. At times these purposes are benign, at others quite sinister. Often, there are tragic consequences for Muslims resulting from the socio-political climate fostered by images. Focusing on the dimension of utility can help to reveal some ties between imagery and action. 


At the same time, I am aware that focusing solely on imagery misses the important dimensions of intention and power. Though I reserve a careful look at these dimensions for another study, I do recognize the need to consider here some of those people who have the power to provide public conceptualizations of Muslims, such as religious figures, academics, policy pundits, journalists, and entertainment conglomerates. Drawing upon the historical and cultural catalogue of assumptions and perceptions about Islam, these experts and spokespeople pick and choose the appropriate images to serve their purposes. Many times, they are seemingly unaware of using an image, which is indicative of how deeply entrenched they have become. The stories of those with the power to present need to be told, but they are beyond the scope of this article. Similarly, fruitful research may also reveal the degree to which Muslims contribute to their own images. That, too, I will reserve for another study. The purpose here, then, is to suggest some of the broader utilitarian dimensions of Islamic imagery in the West. 


A recurring theme in the present study is the idea of packaging the complexities of Islam and Muslim cultures into easily comprehensible categories-good and bad, beautiful and dangerous, desirable and repulsive-and I look at these in terms of their utility in Western cultural history and political economy. Academic culture is an important site to reveal the utility of imagery, since these are the studies that inform policy makers and politicians; this is also where Western ideas are introduced into native cultures. But it is also necessary to focus on popular culture, especially news and entertainment, because this is where many people in the West get their impressions of Islam and Muslims. 


The 'Other' in Western Colonial Discourse: 


Images of the Other are prevalent in Western civilization, and have become firmly ensconced in the discourse of colonization and conquest, whoever the victims may be. Some images are rooted in Greek notions of barbarians, others born of the Middle Ages. They have been carried through the Reconquista and Inquisition, picked up during the age of colonial expansion, developed by Orientalists in the 19th and early 20th century, and continue on into the age of mass media and globalized political economy. But images don't exist in a vacuum. They have uses. 


For example, in their invasion and colonization of the Americas Europeans brought with them-in addition to muskets and cannons-a great deal of cultural baggage, including rigid and preconceived notions of the Other. These images, intertwined with religious and political conflicts, all found their way into the new world, and eventually entangled Native peoples In fact, historians have shown that American legal traditions regarding Native peoples are based on legal traditions of the Holy Roman Empire which were born of the Crusades against Muslims. For that reason, it will be instructive to spend some time looking at images of Native Americans in the West 


The American scholar Berkhofer carefully analyzes the rationale for images of the "Indian " Particularly striking is his observation that there is a dual image, of "good" or "noble" Indians and "bad" or "ignoble" Indians, and how this developed from pre-conception to image to fact He nicely summarizes the elements of the image: 


  1. generalizing from one tribe's society and culture to all Indians 
  2. conceiving of Indians in terms of their deficiencies according to White ideals rather than in terms of their own various cultures 
  3. using moral evaluation as description of Indians


Berkhofer suggests that "since Whites primarily understood the Indian as an antithesis to themselves, then civilization and Indianness as they defined them would forever be opposites "  He believes that while some researchers have uncovered one or another element of the Indian image, most have failed to put it all together. Images of Indians are usually treated by scholars in two ways Some have studied "what changed, what persisted, and why," while others studied "what images were held by whom, when, where, and why ' Some scholars see them "as a reflection of White cultures and as the primary explanation of White behaviour vis-a-vis Native Americans", while others see them "to be dependent upon the political and economic relationships prevailing in White societies at various times " While each approach is useful in its own way, I agree with Berkhofer's suggestion that any comprehensive understanding of Western images has to consider both aspects, asking not only what the images were and how they continue, but also who holds them and why He combines the two approaches into a useful and broadly applicable methodology for analyzing images and their utility Berkhofer's methodology helps us to ask questions like who benefits from these images, and how are they manipulated and perpetuated? I want to look at European images of Muslims in this framework, and consider in particular the way images change to suit particular historical circumstances 


Framing the Ubiquitous Orient 


A growing body of critical literature examines the formation, utilization and perpetuation of images in the context of European conceptualization and colonization of the Muslim .Critics generally agree that Orientalist pursuits of knowledge are inextricably tied to colonial and imperial power, and that the West's self-image has been cultivated in a binary relationship with Islamic culture The literature in this area is quite detailed, and there is no need to repeat all of it here What I want to do is first look briefly at some of the factors in the development and maintenance of this binary vision from the Crusades through the modern period, and then apply the same method to more recent examples 


According to Norman Daniel, "luxury" and "bellicosity" formed a dual image of Islam in Medieval Western Europe This nexus is intertwined with a second ignorance and malice In considering how the dual image of Islam persists, Daniel suggests that in some cases the reason is ignorance and in others it is malice Ignorance and malice can work together, as in, for example, when a malicious campaign directed by state power toward a scapegoat is explained by using images that rely on the general ignorance of the state's subjects and constituents This is an important factor in the maintenance of imagery, especially in democratic societies, and I will return to it later. 


Edward Said was one of the first to make explicit connections between Western colonization and images of the Muslim world Said shows how the discourse of Orientalism gave itself legitimacy, revealing that what Orientalists were really talking about was creating the levers of power Said's general premise is that knowledge is inextricably tied to power, and that pure scholarship does not exist Drawing upon textual criticism from selected British and French Orientalists of the 19th and 20th centuries, he summarizes the "principle dogmas" of Orientalism 


one is the absolute and systematic difference between the West, which is rational, developed, humane, superior, and the Orient, which is aberrant, undeveloped, inferior Another dogma is that abstractions about the Orient, particularly those based on texts representing a "classical" Oriental civilization, are always preferable to direct evidence drawn from modern Oriental realities A third dogma is that the Orient is eternal, vmiform, and incapable of defining itself; therefore it is assumed that a highly generalized and systematic vocabulary for describing the Orient from a Western standpoint is inevitable, and even scientifically "objective". A fourth dogma is that the Orient is at bottom something either to be feared (the Yellow Peril, the Mongol hordes, the brown dominions) or to be controlled (by pacification, research and development, outright occupation whenever possible) 


After noting that these dogmas "persist without significant challenge in the academic and governmental study of the modern Near Orient," Said argues that "the Orient" is itself a constituted entity, and that the notion that there are "geographical spaces with indigenous, radically different inhabitants who can be defined on the basis of some religion, culture, or racial essence proper to that geographical space is equally a highly debatable idea."  While there are numerous institutions in the West engaging in the study of the Orient, there are few if any in the Orient, and those are invariably run by Westerners (for example, the American Universities of Beirut and Cairo, or the Robert College in Turkey), and consequently, little if any study of the West is done by Orientals. 


Building upon the foundation of classical Orientalism, a new breed of Orientalist emerged out of Cold War concerns. Characterized by a fusion of classic Orientalism with post-World War II social science, the new discourse was put at the service of foreign policy makers who emphasized prediction and control. However, with all the new techniques, as Said shows, most have not escaped the 4 dogmas of what we might call the orthodox discourse. Neo-Orientalists replace philology with a more anomalous expertise, which, like philology, is still based on language skills, but is more oriented toward strategic and business interests. This new Orientalism is practiced with an almost mystical authority by experts and Area Studies specialists who have mastered the necessary languages. The usual rationale for continuing Orientalism is that "we" can get to know another people, their way of life, thought, etc. To this end, the new Orientals (many trained at the feet of the orthodox masters) are sometimes allowed to speak for themselves, but only to a limited degree. The Oriental becomes useful as a direct source of information, but the Orientalist still remains the source of all knowledge. 


As a way to avoid reconfiguring Orientalist discourse in new contexts, and to diffuse pre-existing truths, Said recommends some questions to keep in mind when approaching the Other: 


  1. How does one represent other cultures? 
  2. What is another culture? 
  3. Is the notion of a distinct culture (or race, or religion, or civilization) a useful one, or does it always get involved either in self-congratulation (when one discusses one's own) or hostility and aggression (when one discusses the "other") ? 
  4. Do cultural, religious, and racial differences matter more than socio-economic categories, or politico-historical ones? 
  5. How do ideas acquire authority, "normality," and even the status of "natural" truth? 
  6. What is the role of the intellectual? 
  7. Is he there to validate the culture and state of which he is a part? 
  8. What importance must he give to an independent critical consciousness, an oppositional critical consciousness?


Said concludes with a warning to guard against accepting handed down notions of the other, and incorporating them into one's work without first subjecting them to critical analysis. 


Thierry Hentsch incorporates and complicates most earlier studies of Orientalism. He believes that Western images of the Muslim world are projections of Western insecurities about Self onto the Other, and that as long as the Other is a mirror for the Self, there will always be conflict. I think this is becoming evident in the recent usage of images of Muslims and -Islam, built upon not only centuries of images but in particular upon very carefully constructed images of Arabs from the 1960s and 1970s. I will return to this in due time. 


To Hentsch, Western images of a sensual yet violent Orient are self-telling myths. Like Bernal, Hentsch believes that racist myths of Western supremacy were fabricated in the 17th and 18th centuries and projected backward to explain contemporary realities. As Said pointed out, collating these myths became the job of the Orientalists. But Hentsch's sweep is far wider and more inclusive than Said. He considers pre-Orientalist cultural factors, and brings his treatment right up to the 1990-91 Persian Gulf Oil War. Hentsch believes that the West's myth of the Orient will continue to serve its explanatory functions right on into the next century. 


Hentsch's essential hypothesis is that the area we call the Middle East (which he defines as the nations from Morocco to Iran; Said's Orient) has been a self-reflecting mirror for Western civilization, in which the West defines itself by constructing an Other who is everything the West is not. Hentsch's thesis is that the "Orient" is an zimmense repository of our own imagined world" and that "we reveal ourselves through our way of seeing."  His "capital supposition" is that "any study of the Other is futile unless we first observe ourselves face to face with it, and in particular, unless we attempt to understand how, and why, we have studied and represented this self-same Other down to the present day." Speaking on ethnocentrism, Hentsch asserts that it "is not a flaw to be simply set aside, nor is it a sin to be expunged through repentance. It is the precondition of our vision of the Other. Far from offering us absolution, this precondition compels us constantly to return to our point of departure, if only to grasp the internal and external imperatives which shape our curiosity about the Other." I want to continue with Hentsch's analysis, and look in particular at the genesis and continuation of images as they relate to the emerging European colonizing enterprise. 


Races Debased and Unities Sundered: 


In November of 1095, Pope Urban II initiated the first European attempt at colonizing the Muslim world-known in the West as the Crusades-by drawing this fateful picture: 


For you must hasten to carry aid to your brethren dwelling in the East, who need your help, which they have often asked For the Turks, a Persian people, have attacked them I exhort you with earnest prayer- not I, but God-that, as heralds of Christ, you urge men by frequent exhortation, men of all ranks, knights as well as foot soldiers, rich as well as poor, to hasten to exterminate this vile race from the lands of your brethren Christ commands it And if those who set out thither should lose their lives on the way by land, or in crossing the sea, or in fighting the pagans, their sins shall be remitted Oh what a disgrace, if a race so despised, base, and the instrument of demons, should so overcome a people endowed with faith in the all-powerful God, and resplendent with the name of Christ Let those who have been accustomed to make private war against the faithful carry on to a successful issue a war against the infidels Let those who for a long time have been robbers now become soldiers of Christ Let those who fought against brothers and relatives now fight against these barbarians let them zealously undertake the journey under the guidance of the Lord. 


The Pope's words lay out many of the themes that would characterize this mass colonial movement East for the next two centuries In one reading of the Crusading venture, restless knights and small-tune princes are enticed by their lords with tales of land and wealth, in the hopes of turning their swords away from the increasingly nervous feudal establishment, or what the Pope calls the faithful brethren Landless folks and the poor-euphemized by the Pope as criminals-can also be turned Eastward with enticements of land and Divine forgiveness But what is most interesting here is that the Pope conceptualizes his Oriental Other in racial terms The enemy, for now, is the debased races of Turks and Persians, and Islam is not yet a part of the Western conceptual matrix. 


There is also an overlap here with Christian treatment of Jews as the "instruments of demons", one of the key tenets of anti-Semitic white supremacy In Christian Europe, Jews and Muslims suffered the wrath of an increasingly rabid and intolerant resurgent Christianity, culminating in the expulsion of both from Muslim Spain in the 15th century, at the dawn of the expansionist age while this is not the place to trace this legacy in detail, this is also the period in which the religion of rationalism replaced Christianity, with the images of the other traveling full circle from Pope Urban's 11th century "debased races" to the Age of Enlightenment, with its biological explanation for colonization and genocide As Hentsch shows, the uses of Islam continued to change according to European internal and external political and economic situations In the 16th century, when Ottoman Empire was consolidating its control over Mediterranean trade routes, the resulting "rift" was projected back to the first centuries of Islam, making a contemporary economic problem seem to be the result of "age-old" conflict Any rift in the Mediterranean was there long before Muslims came on the scene There was never any trans-Mediterranean unity The Catholic Church, which inherited the decaying Roman Empire, soon split into its Eastern and Western branches Conventional history, such as is found in World Civilization textbooks, overlooks this and continues to frame Muslims for sundering the imaginary unity of European civilization Religious imagery had its uses as well Christian disunity, which began long before Muslims came on the scene, was blamed on Muslim hordes that exploded from Arabia, forever sundering the unity of the Church 


When the Ottomans were at the peak of their power in the 17th century, European princes viewed them as a respected and powerful rival However, with the waning of Ottoman power, the Muslim world was seen as a place of exotic trials and espionage This newly exoticized Orient began to be loved for its objects, while its people were despised or belittled By the 19th century, race-based explanations for colonization had fully re-emerged As Hentsch suggests, some Muslims were considered by Europeans to be civilized according to their criteria, but this was explained by the presence of Aryan blood in some Muslim races In fact, as French travelers saw it, the problem with Persians was that, despite their pure Aryan roots, their blood was tainted because of mixing with lesser, darker skinned breeds Before continuing this trend into the modern period, I want to go back over this terrain and look at Christian and European obsessions and insecurities with sex and violence, and the ways they provided particularly fertile ground for images of Muslims. 


Medieval Phantasms of Sex and Violence 




And, if you desire to know what was done about the enemy whom we found there, know that in the portico of Solomon and his Temple, our men rode in the blood of the Saracens up to the knees of the horses (Daimbert, Official Summary of the 1st Crusade) 


Those amongst the Saracens are considered most religious who can make the most women pregnant they lie with their concubines and wives often in times of fast, because they suppose making love and desire are so meritorious, either to satisfy lust or to generate many sons to strengthen the defense of their religion. (Bishop Jacques de Vitry on the 5th Crusade) 


Count Roland gripped his sword dripping with gore he strikes his valiant blows, shivering shafts of spears and bucklers, too, cleaving through feet and fists, saddles and sides To see him hack the limbs from Saracens, pile them upon the earth, corpse upon corpse, would call to mind a very valiant knight. (Verse from the Song of Roland, 12th century minstrelsy) 


Nor did Mahomet teach anything of great austerity. . . indeed, he even allowed many pleasurable things, to do with a multitude of women, abuse of them, and suchlike. . . many Christians change and will change to the Saracen religion. (Dominican Friar Humbert of Lyons, c. 1300) 


These quotes are instructive in their presentation of Western Christian foundational attitudes toward Islam. In Medieval Europe, the Popes began to use Islam as a proxy to convince backsliding Christians to return to the fold and to convince themselves that Christians were chaste, denouncing Islam as a sexually liberal and even licentious religion. Once the Europeans gained a foothold in West Asia, one of the areas of greatest concern was miscegenation. In the Crusader mind, even sex with one's own wife was a carnal sin; sex with an infidel woman was punished by "castration for the Crusader and facial mutilation for the woman." Muslim women were "viewed as defiled and wanton whores and seductresses." To Christians, Muslim ease with sexuality was seen as "offensively non-ascetic behavior." 


In fact, it seems that Medieval Christians could do nothing but condemn the Muslim appreciation of sexuality, and 




. . . therefore they attacked "Islam" as a religion that had been directly set up to encourage promiscuity and lust. . . Biographies of Mohammed by Christians describe the Prophet's sex life in a manner that reveals far more about their own sexual problems than about the facts of the Prophet's life. The Koran was said, quite incorrectly, to condone homosexuality and to encourage unnatural forms of intercourse. One scholar claimed that the foulness of lust among Muslims was inexpressible; they were deep in this filth from the soles of their feet to the crown of the head. Soon the Church would accuse any out-group in Christendom of excessive and unnatural sexual practices and twelfth century Christians stigmatized "heresy" of Islam by cursing what they considered its sexual laxity. 


To really grasp the utility of this imagery, we need to look at sexuality in European history. In his discussion of human sexuality, Foucault describes Arab-Muslim societies as among those "which have endowed themselves with an ars erotica" in which "truth is drawn from pleasure itself, understood as a practice and accumulated as experience." Western civilization, on the other hand, possesses a scientia sexualis, the "procedures for telling the truth of sex which are geared to a form of knowledge-power strictly opposed to the art of initiations and the masterful secret." In the West, the confession is "one of the main rituals we rely on for the production of truth" and "Western man has become a confessing animal."  What needs confessing is the sin of enjoyment. 


European discomfort with sexuality in Medieval times gradually gives way to a new outlook, still rooted, as Foucault stresses, in the old insecurities, but now at least with an outward expression of enjoyment. By the twentieth century, the alterity of sexuality has now been reversed, suggests Karen Armstrong, with the post-Christian West seeing itself as sexually liberated vis-a-vis a sexually repressed Islam: 




At a time when many people in the West are liberating themselves from the sexual repressions of their Christian past, Islam is constantly denigrated as a sexually repressive religion. We have completely reversed the old stereotype and not many people seem interested in the truth of the matter or wish to find out about Islam itself. They simply want to bolster their own needs against their long established counter-image: Islam 


Sex and violence continue to be juxtaposed in disturbing ways in American culture. For example, American pilots watched porno movies while preparing to carpet bomb Baghdad in the 1991 Persian Gulf Oil war, and they scribbled sexually explicit graffiti on the bombs, labeling them as "Mrs. Saddam's sex toy" or "a suppository for Saddam." George Bush purposefully mispronounced "Saddam" (which in Arabic has a heavy accent on the last syllable) so that it sounded more like Sodom, evoking the Biblical city of wanton sexual depravity, and thus sodomy. A wartime propaganda book produced by an American public relations firm hired by the Kuwaitis was entitled The Rape of Kuwait, adding another facet to the highly sexualized justification for what amounts to a firebomb lynch-party of Iraqis reminiscent of the same charge leveled at African Americans to justify racist brutality. I'll come back to some of these themes in a moment, but I first want to consider further some unique elements of the American conceptualization of the Muslim other. 


Orientalizing the American Way: 


Most of the literature on Orientalist pursuits focuses on European forms of Orientalism. Comparatively little has been written about the peculiarities of American Orientalism. The latter is worth careful attention, since the United States seems obsessed with becoming the leader in a unipolar world, and some official policy circles list Islam as a "new" but qualified threat to that supposed inevitability. 


17th through 19th century American writings illustrates how Europeans who invaded North America believed that they were God's chosen people, that the land they were colonizing was the promised land, and that Native people's were God-less heathen who were to be driven from their homes and burned. Sha'ban points out that religiously driven settlers, Puritans in particular, imagined parallels between themselves and the wandering tribes of Israel. These early roots were bolstered by an emerging and increasingly strong, literal, and exclusive sense of a relationship with their God, who had ordained pre-United States settlers to be "a light in the West" that would shine over the rest of the world. This expansionary, violent, and millennial sense of a divine mission became known as "manifest destiny." 


In practice, manifest destiny initially meant bringing the "light" of American style Protestant Christianity to the rest of the world. Americans saw themselves as being placed in the "center of the world" by Providence in order to carry out a Divine mission, as a writer in the American Theological Review put it in 1859: 


Indeed, radii drawn from our eastern, western, and southern shores, reach almost all Pagan, Mohammedan, and Papal lands, or rather most of them can be reached by nearly direct water communication. 


The American missionary enterprise-the vanguard of manifest destiny- required information on "barbarians," "heathens," "savages," and "pagans," and especially "Mohammedans," "Turks," and "Saracens." Beginning in the early 19th century, particularly when manifest destiny turned cast as well as west, American writers took a strong interest in Islam and the Prophet. In various treatises, they dwell on the Prophet (upon whom be peace) as an impostor and portray Islam as a deviant Christian heresy. Some of the very few instances where this does not apply tend to romanticize the Prophet as a hero, but these views also had at bottom the intention to defeat Islam and convert Muslims to Christianity. An equally important goal of 19th century religious writings on Islam, as Sha'ban notes, was to describe the alleged depravity of Islam in order to assert the imagined purity of Christianity, a tendency inherited from Medieval European Christianity. 


Commercial, diplomatic, and military contacts with Mediterranean Muslim lands, coupled with evangelical revivalism in the late 18th and early 19th century, led to a "shift of the American myth of God's Israel from the New World to the Holy Land." But the imaginary world of Biblical Zion constructed in the parlors and parishes of the United States soon had to be reconciled with the realities on the ground in Palestine. Unfortunately, this reconciliation did not entail rethinking the vision of Zion-it meant imposing that vision on Muslims and non-Protestant Christians who happened to be in the way of the American sense of Providence. 


Americans were also motivated in their dealings with Islam and Muslims by a complex amalgam of Oriental fairy tales. Making use of a body of literature largely ignored by other critics of Orientalism, Sha'ban takes a particular interest in Orientalism as found in popular American literature. He notes that one of the most often printed books in the 19th century United States was a translation of the Arabian Nights. That collection of fables and fairy tales, often translated in the West subject to the sexual whims of the translator and marketed to titillate readers, was taken as an accurate portrayal of a timeless, exotic, and mystical East. Tales of harems, genies, and magic carpets found their way into most American homes and libraries. These stories often provided the criteria by which secular travelers to the East would judge their own experiences. 


Sha'ban's detailed analysis of travel literature reveals that, time after time, American men traveling to the East were both aroused and repulsed by Muslim culture. One American traveler to Istanbul in 1858 was so mystified and aroused by a veiled Muslim woman that he offered $50 to buy her, but soon realized it was not possible since he "was no Mohammedan." While often envying the Turks for their "harems," some travelers also looked for signs of distress so that they might heroically rescue "oppressed" women from the clutches of the Turkish "barbarians." These expectations were founded upon what Sha'ban calls the "dream of Baghdad", and he aptly demonstrates that such dreams abound in early American Orientalism. This dream of Oriental splendour was picked up by Hollywood in its early years, with Rudolph Valentino epitomizing the Romantic lover in Arab garb. Similar Oriental fantasies permeated American entertainment all through the 20th century, ranging from cartoons like "Popeye meets Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves," to "The Adventures of Sindbad" and "Lawrence of Arabia," and right on up to the 1989 Disney Orientalist extravaganza "Aladdin.' 


Corporate American Phantasms: 


The dual image of luxury and bellicosity, as suggested by Daniel above, can be illustrated through looking at the incredible popularity of the Arabian Nights-type themes in American corporate culture. Though its use as literature has declined somewhat in recent times, the Arabian Nights, as noted above, was once among the most popular books in America. Hollywood has capitalized on this American obsession with things Oriental in its recent production of "Aladdin," a phantasmagoria of Orientalist cliche, complete with a menagerie of harems, genies, magic carpets, and, of course, murderous barbarians. 


A promotional documentary about the making of Aladdin boasts of authenticity in its producers' emulation of "Islamic design" and "Persian architecture," showing scenes of animators carefully drawing images of mosques and calligraphy from photographs; they appear to use great care in detailing their drawings to the minutest degree. But one thing is missing from all this careful attention to detail-people. Characters in Hollywood's Aladdin are compound stereotypes, grossly racist caricatures of the worst Western phantasms-villainous sorcerers in turbans, sensuous harems, sumptuous feasts, hordes of fat ugly thugs with swords (ready to chop off hands for stealing bread), flying carpets, genies. All this is an alterity of the hero, Aladdin, who speaks and acts as if straight out of an American suburban high school. 


Sometimes, American media wizards ram together luxurious and bellicose images to create the classic American phantasm. A recent example is the 1995 American football Super Bowl half-time antics, an extended commercial-like foray. First, crooner Tony Bennett sings "Desert Caravan" against a backdrop resembling a mosque. Then Indiana Jones (who shot up many a Muslim barbarian in his Hollywood films) swings into the scene and rescues the football-shaped Super Bowl trophy from hordes of turbaned Muslims with swords (or were they Arabs? or Turks? Moors?). Jones makes short work of these generic barbarians, retrieving the trophy, along with a blonde heroine for good measure. This is followed by a song and dance routine, featuring gyrating women wearing costumes right out of the 1960s American Orientalist situation comedy "I Dream of Jeannie." Other women are draped in black or white chadors; some of these women doff their veils and swing them along with their hips, as if reveling in their new found "liberation." Of course, it is the American hero Jones who has rescued them from their oppressive Muslim masters. The show climaxes with a flashy display of fireworks, and the fans erupt into a jingoistic frenzy, the likes of which rivals similar outbursts when the national anthem is played. Clearly, such Oriental fantasies are part of America's national heritage, which can be utilized by production designers for all sorts of entertainment and commercial purposes. 


Commercial television and its corporate advertising conglomerates from time to time intensify their utilization of Islamic exotica in Popular American culture. Interestingly, this often takes place side by side with an increase in the vilification of Muslims and Islam. American corporate news is full of talk about "Islamic terror," "Muslim suicide bombers," "the warriors of Allah," "the holy war of Islam," or "Iranian backed radical extremist Moslem fundamentalist terrorists." Examples abound, including a notorious programme in the Fall of 1994 called "Jihad in America," which described a centrally controlled, top-down international Islamic conspiracy to carry out terror in the US, or the more recent rush to blame the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing on Muslims. These public displays of jingoistic fury have real repercussions on the ground, with a series of mosque- burnings and increased hate and bias crimes against Muslims, including the tragic case of a new mosque in Yuba City, California, burned to the ground by arsonists on the eve of its opening to the community in September 1994. Imagery creates a climate within which such acts seem to make sense. 


Images of Muslims seem to ebb and flow with the American political tides, and close examination reveals some connections. Following the violent orgy of death and mayhem popularly known to Americans as "Desert Storm," American corporate television began to feature advertisements with an Arabian Nights motif. For example, a commercial aired on corporate TV throughout 1991 and 1992 for "Near East Rice Pilaf" features scenes in a Middle Eastern bazaar. The ad segues to an American family preparing to gorge themselves on an exotic dish, as if eating Near East Rice Pilaf will somehow transport the consumer into an Eastern fantasy world. IBM computers, as part of its globalized campaign of superficial multicultural inclusion, produced a similar commercial, which utilizes Arabic dialogue and racist caricatures. In an exotic bazaar setting, two natives thoughtfully extol the virtues of the latest American techno-excesses. A similar commercial was produced by Isuzu automobiles, taking place somewhere in North Africa, also with Arabic (as well as French) speaking natives. It begins with a call from a minaret, a pseudo adhan (which has always been an aural symbol for Islam in American film and TV), and ends with the natives being dazzled by expensive leather seats and the corporation's newest mobile contraption. These and other commercials share the common theme of a utilizing a timeless fantasy world that is backwards yet ready for the salvation of American consumer culture. Not intended to sell computers and cars to anyone but Americans, these utilizations of Orientalist imagery serve to make powerful connections for consumers, especially between tradition and progress. 


With increasing numbers of American corporations hopping on the Oriental bandwagon, American Muslims have tried to form collective responses. According to a series of press releases beginning in November 1994, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has mounted several campaigns against greeting card corporations for cards that objectify veiled Muslim women in degrading ways, or which feature nude women juxtaposed with verses from the Qur'an. There have been beer commercials featuring actresses with verses of the Qur'an emblazoned across their chests, and the fashion industry has suddenly discovered the beauty of Islamic calligraphy, using it in clothing designs modeled by voluptuous women in public pageants. CAIR has also worked on a number of bias incidents, many involving women barred from working because they choose to wear the Islamic modest dress. It seems that in American corporate culture, veils and other Oriental exotica are widely utilized to titillate buyers, but that real women who wear the Muslim modest dress are despised and rejected. Another phenomenon has also emerged since the Persian Gulf Oil War. There is an increasing number of corporate news media programmes about Muslims living in the US Some no doubt grew out of wartime public relations on behalf of "good Muslims," like the Kuwaiti royals, who hired one of the biggest US public relations firms to manage their wartime propaganda. Most juxtapose two images there is a "terrorist fringe" among US Muslims (the "bad Muslims"), but most other Muslims are peace-loving and eager to be assimilated to the American way of life (the "good Muslims") The American corporate news pundits continually remind consumers that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the US; at the same time, they tell Americans that "Islamic terror cells" are on the rise in the US Muslims in such stories are usually defined by their politics and class While the media assure Americans that most Muslims are dutiful middle-class citizens, the "terrorist fringe" is always laying at the wait, a threat to the very core of American interests and values Such images have been utilized by politicians and corporate leaders to frighten American citizen-consumers into accepting all sorts of barbarous immigration and security laws. 


Closer scrutiny reveals that, in most cases, the Muslims profiled on corporate TV programmes are Palestinians One insidious implication is that Palestinians are somehow inherently irrational, though this is not always made explicit The misogynist character of dominant media imagery of Muslims in the US is underlined, for example, when the corporate news shows images of Palestinian or other Muslim men crying, perhaps after another Israeli raid on their homes Since "real men" don't cry, it becomes hard for Americans to imagine other people's grief expressed in that way, and it is seen instead as an expression of rage or insanity The point is that some images are heightened by the inability of television to portray anything but the most extreme expressions of emotion, causing some to label TV as best suited to portray death. This technical inadequacy is something that even good PR can't fix It also heightens the effectiveness of television as a medium to utilize deep-seated American visions of sex and violence in Islam 


US corporate news features often use Islamic religious symbols to frame stories about violent political events For example, a 1994 story about the end of the disastrous American intervention in Somalia begins with the reporter intoning ominously "night falls ul Mogadishu" over the Islamic call to prayer and a backdrop of a mosque silhouetted by a dark, cloudy sky The report segues to picture bites of destroyed American helicopters and corpses of US marines. The call to prayer in this case, as in many others, forebodes death and terror. Furthermore, this is the only Somali voice in the piece. 


Some media portrayals of Muslims are reminiscent of the contrived sense of inevitability that Native American scholar Ward Churchill brings out in his comments about the Orientalist extravaganza epic film, Lawrence of Arabia: 


Its major impact was to put a 'tragic' but far more humane face upon the nature of Britain's imperial pretensions in the region, making colonization of the Arabs seem more acceptable-or at least more inevitable-than might have otherwise been the case. 


The US media often rely on pre-existing images of Muslim barbarity in order to explain the need for intervention or to help the US military save face when things don't come out as planned When the US Marines were escorting members of the UN out of Somalia in February 1995, ABC News televised a report of a multiple amputation, featuring a man who presumably had just been convicted of theft in an Islamic law court The piece was pure emotion and imagery, seeming to say, with Churchill's tragic self- righteousness, "look how easily the natives revert to their barbarity once we leave " 


Despite its pervasiveness in the media, imagery that I have described above is far removed from the daily experiences of most American citizen- consumers But lately, some media producers have tried to bring these images closer to home 


TV Holy War 


In the Fall of 1994, PBS aired a documentary by journalist Steve Emerson Titled "Jihad in America," it followed on the heels of other recent works that put forth the thesis of an elaborate, secret, and centralized network of "Islamic terrorists," who take orders from Iran, and who are mounting a violent war against their hated enemy, the mighty Great Satan. 


Evidence within the programme suggests that Emerson has access to official government intelligence Most of the programme either consists of interviews staged by Emerson, or clips from Muslim conferences (which are available publicly from the organizations that sponsor conferences) However, some clips appear to be from other sources, such as home videos confiscated from Muslims in FBI sweeps during the Oil War and in the wake of the World Trade Center incident, or surreptitiously taped surveillance videos Using "former" FBI and State Department officials as informants is only a smoke screen to cover the access Emerson has to official intelligence Concurrent with the debut of his program, Emerson was invited to appear on news and talk shows as an "expert on terrorism " A year or so of this kind of programming set the climate for what became a rush to judge Muslims for crimes they did not commit 


Within hours after a truck bomb blew up the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on Wednesday 19 April 1995, word was out that "Islamic extremists" were responsible Talking heads on all the major corporate news outlets made immediate parallels to the World Trade Center bombing, or to the car bombing of the American Marine barracks in Beirut Programmes sporting logos like "Terror in the Heartland" popped up on all the major networks. Speculations ran wild: an international cartel of terrorists were retaliating for the abduction from Pakistan of their leader, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef; fanatical followers of Shaykh Omar Abdel Rahman were protesting his trial in New York; Muslim extremists intended to show that even America's heartland was not safe from Mideast terror; religious and political "zealots" from the Middle East were lashing out at the US. 


That night, Steve Emerson, along with CBS Mideast expert Fuad Ajami, asserted on a CBS news programme that the bombing had "all the earmarks of Islamic radical extremists," and that Muslim terrorists were now "wreaking havoc in the land they loathe." Former FBI agent and Pan Am flight 203 bombing investigator Oliver "Buck" Revell, who rose to public prominence after appearing in Emerson's anti-Muslim tirade "Jihad in America," was once again wheeled out of obscurity, spewing theories about how vulnerable the US was to attacks by Islamic militants. 


It was not only the corporate news media that jumped to such conclusions about Muslims. The same accusations and speculations could be heard from other corners of US officialdom. For example, the director of the House Republican Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, Yossef Bodansky, well known for his conspiracy theories about a centrally controlled Islamic "holy war" against the West, assured viewers that "we have a host of enemies that have vowed to strike at the heart of the Great Satan" and called upon law enforcement agencies to take preventative measures that amount to severe curtailments of civil liberties. The tirades by assorted "terrorism experts" continued into Thursday 20 April, when World Trade Center investigator Michael Cherkasky told CNN that "we've got to know what's going on in these fanatical terrorist groups," and called for beefed up intelligence against immigrants. 


Politicians worked quickly to capitalize on the tragedy, quickly realizing its utility for pushing new anti-immigration laws and wiretap legislation. Then Republican Senate Majority Leader, and later Presidential candidate, Bob Dole reminded the President that the Senate was ready to pass a new "counter-terrorism" bill, the Omnibus Counter-terrorism Act of 1995, which had provisions for enabling the use of "secret evidence" to deport immigrants, allowed for the banning of fundraising by "suspected terrorist" organizations, and lessened or eliminated restrictions for conducting phone taps. Similarly, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde emphasized that the US had to identify "potentially dangerous foreigners" and that "we should keep them from getting into the country in the first place," while Florida congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen cried that "the radical Islamic movement has penetrated America and presents a real threat to our national security and serenity." Summing up the general tone of most reporting up to this point, James Wooten, an expert on terrorism at the Congressional Research Service, asserted that "it's no longer to be looked at from afar, it's come home to roost." 


As if a vast contingency plan were set in motion, other Federal agencies quickly joined the fray, and there was even talk of possible "retaliation" against. a Middle Eastern state. The Pentagon detailed several Arabic language interpreters to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for possible use in interrogating suspects, and the FBI began to question Arab and Muslim groups in the Oklahoma City area. A Jordanian-American was detained in London and returned to the US for questioning because his luggage contained "possible bombmaking equipment," but which later turned out to be a telephone and other innocuous items. When the man's identity was announced publicly, his property in Oklahoma was vandalized and his wife spat upon. 


Though the mainstream media ignored repercussions, the independent Muslim press reported hate crimes related to these incidents. A Muslim woman in Oklahoma city miscarried her late term child when an angry mob besieged her home with bricks and stones. Muslims and Arabs were harassed and many organizations received death and bomb threats and phone calls demanding that they get out of the US. All of this abuse was further exacerbated by continuing reports, such as one that the Immigration and Naturalization Service was on the lookout for men of "Middle Eastern appearance" and that they had detained several suspicious men of "Middle Eastern origin." 


All of this occurred within less than 48 hours after the blast. However, when the composite sketches of "two white males" were released in the late afternoon of 20 April, people began to ask if this reduced the possibility that the bombing was carried out by "Middle Eastern terrorists." News services started mentioning a possible "lone kook" or a "disgruntled employee.' When a suspect with ties to American ultra-nationalists was arrested, attention shifted to the "militia" phenomenon. Although resurgent white supremacy had been seething for years, and despite the warnings of watchdog groups, the mainstream media acted as if the militias had come out of nowhere. 


The lesson here is that, while a white American Christian acts alone Muslims always work together. In such a discourse, Muslims are guilty merely by association with the vast menagerie of imagery that government and corporate outlets use to sell products and ideas to Americans. The cruel ironies of American domestic problems began to pile up for Muslims: once it was announced that a man with possible ties to the militias was arrested for the Oklahoma City bombing and emphasis shifted away from "Islamic terror", some branches of the corporate news media insisted on clinging to the hope that there might still be an "Islamic connection," since "our boys" don't do such things; once a white Christian American "good old boy" stood accused of the crime, programmes entitled "Terror in the Heartland" were replaced by those with titles like "Tragedy in Oklahoma;" once it was clear that there were no "Islamic extremists" to blame, the tone of public discourse softened remarkably, with less talk of "retaliation" and more about "forgiveness " Despite the obvious haste with which American officialdom was set to blame Muslims, there were no public apologies to Muslims once it was clear that they could not bc blamed. 


The Utility of "Muslim Terror" in Israeli-American Relations: 


In the 1970s, Arab American academics like Edmund Ghareeb, Jack Shaheen, and Michael Suleiman made strong connections between stereotypes of Arabs in corporate culture and the issue of Palestine. They concluded that in order for the dispossession of Palestinians to bc supported by ordinary Americans, Arabs had to bc written off as either backward barbarians (who don't understand that colonization is in their best interests) or violent terrorists (who deserve to be eliminated). This was a time when no one used the term "Muslim fundamentalist." Even the Islamic revolution in Iran was seen as some kind of wild and crazy Persian phenomenon. 


At the same time, with the gradual acquiescence of Arab regimes to either American or Israeli demands throughout the 1980s and 1990s, there was a shift from "Arab terror" to "Muslim terror." The infrastructure of imagery, already in place from decades of anti-Arab propaganda, simply had to be transferred to Muslims, the new "enemies of peace." In fact, many of the same political problems still persist, but the "terrorists" are now conceptualized as Muslims, since Arab regimes were now obedient allies. Although the Persian Gulf Oil War was a successful test case for enframing the Muslim world into "good" and "bad" parties, Zionist colonization of Palestine still remains one of the core issues contributing to conflict in West Asia. 


American scholar Edward S. Herman believes that anti-Muslim racism in US corporate culture is closely related to the issue of Palestine. He sees an "enormous pro-Israel (and anti-Arab) bias of the mainstream media and intelligentsia," and gives four sources of this bias: 


  1. Israel's strategic value to the US. 
  2. the influence of the pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC. 
  3. Western feelings of guilt toward Jews. 
  4. anti-Arab racism.


Herman clarifies what he means by anti-Arab racism: 




This racism is mainly an effect and reflection of interest and policy rather than a casual factor. . . Arabs who cooperate with the West. . . are not subject to racist epithets and stereotypes. This suggests that if other Arabs were more tractable and responsive to Western demands they would cease to be negatively stereotyped. Scapegoating is a function of power and interest. 


While his remarks on anti-Arab racism illustrate my point about the utility of imagery, I want to take another one of Herman's observations-the pervasiveness of the Israeli lobby in framing American policy-and look at the utility of Muslim terror in that context. 


The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) held a conference on the "Middle East Peace Process" in Washington DC on 7 May 1995, which was aired live on CSPAN. The guests of honour included US president Bill Clinton and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. In his speech, Rabin warned that "extremist radical Islamic fundamentalists" are the "enemies of peace" and that "Khomeinism without Khomeini is the greatest danger to stability, tranquillity and peace in the Middle East and the world." The "scourge of Khomeinism" has replaced the "scourge of communism," and even as the Israelis "consolidate peace with Jordan," the forces of "terror" are seeking to "destroy peace between peoples of our area." He called for the "free world," which successfully mobilized itself against communism, to mobilized itself against "Khomeinism." Rabin concluded by stressing that "only a strong Israel can guarantee stability in the Mideast" and that, therefore, US foreign aid "must remain a key pillar of the peace process." But the aid Rabin demands is about more than "peace" and "stability." 


Israel cannot survive without continuous transfusions of American dollars, both from US government aid ($4-5 billion in American tax dollars annually), and private contributions, making Israel one of the few states in the world whose economic viability relies almost entirely on foreign donations and charity. (Despite this, it has never been economically viable, with even the World Bank considering Israel to be a weak financial risk.) This is meaningful because recently the US Congress has been threatening to cut foreign aid. While the Cold War provided the impetus for supporting aid for Israel as the ''first line of defense" against the "communist threat," it seems that the "Islamic threat" is now being utilized for the same purpose by Israeli politicians and their proxies in the US Congress. 


After Rabin concluded his speech, AIPAC president Steve Grossman introduced US president Bill Clinton by emphasizing that Clinton has raised the "strategic partnership between the US and Israel to new levels." Clinton began his speech by emphasizing that the US role in the "peace process" was to "minimize the risks taken for peace." He then noted that Russia's cooperation with Iran was a "prime concern" of the US because Iran is "bent on building nuclear weapons." Clinton ignored another "prime concern" of people living in the region, the long standing Israeli nuclear weapons programme and its cooperation with South Africa in detonating a several nuclear weapons, or its kidnapping and imprisonment of Mordecai Vanunu, an Israeli technician who revealed the existence of the long-denied Israeli nuclear weapons programme to the outside world. 


Clintons rationale for preventing Iranian-Russian cooperation was that since Iran has "ample oil reserves" it cannot possibly need nuclear technology for peaceful energy purposes. He warned that while Iran haunts the Mideast," the US will seek to "contain Iran as the principle sponsor of terrorism in the world," reminding his audience that Iran undermines the West and its values." He also thanked the Israelis for "drawing our attention to Iran's history of supporting terrorism." But the utility of this imagery became clearer when Clinton next asked for AIPAC to help out with the floundering American embargo against Iran. American attempts at convincing the Europeans and Japanese to sever their economic ties with Iran have been met with little international support, and he seemed to think the Israelis would have some sway over European politicians. 


Clinton stated that US support for Israel was "absolute" and that all forms of current assistance will be continued.-He chastised the US Congress as a bunch of "budget cutting back door isolationists" for daring to suggest that the US discontinue its bloated but politically selective foreign aid programs, emphasizing that the US "did not win the Cold War to blow the peace" on budgetary issues. But the kind of peace that Clinton and his cohorts support is clear from the ensuing promises he made to the AIPAC congregation. 


Clinton revealed that the once closed American space launcher vehicle market would now be open to the Israeli arms industry, along with other previously unavailable high-tech US weaponry. He also noted that the US would escalate its pre-positioning of weaponry in Israel, and that it would buy $3 billion worth of Israeli made military products. Since the US already has the largest military-industrial complex in the world, buying weapons from Israel is another thinly disguised form of economic aid. 


As with other aid, US taxpayers are slated to foot the bill in the name of "national security." Clinton explained the need for all of this wheeling and dealing about war and weapons of mass destruction as necessary because "Israel is on the front line of the battle for freedom and peace." Again seeming to assume that they held some sway over public opinion, this time domestically, Clinton suggested that AIPAC help to "lobby" the American people about budgetary matters. 


Israel needs more than military aid. Clinton also assured his audience that the US will continue to support-loan guarantees for the "settlement of 600,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union." This is perhaps the most intractable problem in the Middle East conflict, and one of the main causes of tension, since many Russian emigres are given inducements (and military training) to settle in West Bank areas, in and around Palestinian towns. But in the official conceptualization of this issue, when people who live there resist in any way, they do so because they are inherently "terrorists," not because of any machinations of state power. This contradiction is worth a closer look. 


Rabin used the word "terrorist," and its by product "terror," more than "peace" in his speeches like the one at the AIPAC conference. Bernard Nietschmann attempts to provide clarification of the utility of language used to describe conflict and war. He concludes that most wars and conflicts in the world today are of the state-versus-nation variety, and in most cases the state is able to frame the nation they are trying to subdue as "terrorists" or "extremists." Those states, in many cases clients of larger states like the US, are generally supported by the major Western corporate news media. Nietschmann believes that a term like "terrorist" is in most cases a non-word in the struggle for normative issues: the aggressors have always provided the definitions of words used to explain their actions. As we have seen above, words provide the climate for actions. 


Especially useful is the assertion that "terrorist" is basically a non- word, because it is always used from a position of power to describe those who struggle against the status quo, or the emerging neo-colonial world order. (One could add to this the term "fundamentalist," which came into vogue after the Islamic Revolution in Iran; similarly, the French use "integriste.") State terminology defines struggles and these terminologies are used to undermine nations that want to have their own vision. More often than not, the nations under state domination are indigenous peoples- Native Americans, Palestinians, South Africans, Australian Aboriginals- who were displaced by European invaders. 


Nietschmann reminds his fellow Western political scientists that state systems set up boundaries and that all peoples within those boundaries become subjects. The present historical moment does tell us that states result in hierarchy and violence, that lines on a map make the world, that history has become the history of lines. States define land masses, and most defy logic. The state system serves transnational corporations, which need to bc able to deal with a head man. In addition to facilitating transfer of goods, states also allow use of force within their borders. Usually, the violence is explained as a police action against terrorists, who are portrayed as acting out of some kind of irrational, religious fanaticism. Occasionally, states will even cross borders into another state to attack "terrorists" without actually declaring war on that state, as in repeated Israeli invasions of southern Lebanon, or the recent Turkish incursions into northern Iraq. 


There are parallels to this discussion in US history. When Mexicans resisted US expansion in the 19th century, they were called "bandits." Texans had a policy to shoot on sight any bandits, and sometimes marched as far as Mexico City to root out banditry. However, the "war against banditry" was accompanied by a systematic process of enclosure and depopulation, followed by mass ranch ownership. Within 2 years, over a million acres were conquered, while the "bandits" were relegated to the realm of American popular culture. Similar stories could be told about racism toward Native Americans. Returning to Berkhofer's discussion of whites stereotyping Native Americans, he notes that warlike images of Indians prevailed when Indians were a threat to US interests, and that the nostalgic images prevailed when they were seen as a vanishing race. When the US was involved with military action against Haiti around the turn of the century, American newspapers featured stories about stereotypical Haitians, drawing upon a previously constructed repertoire of images and tales of cannibalism and barbarous voodoo rituals. 


Nietschmann's distinction between "state" and "nation" is useful, but it suffers from some glaring omissions, particularly in his list of nation/state conflicts. Israeli incursions into Lebanon since the early 1970s are not mentioned, nor is Indian domination over Kashmir. While the Timorese struggle against the Indonesian state is stressed, the struggle of the Achenese is ignored. These Muslim peoples have been struggling against oppression and domination since the 19th century, first against Dutch imperialism and later against its Indonesian surrogate state. Can the Shi'ites of Iraq and Bahrain (where they are oppressed majorities) and in Saudi Arabia (where they are an oppressed minority) be classified as "nations"? Or are religious distinctions not acceptable? There are other shortcomings in this short work on a long topic, but the overall point is instructive. 


Conventional American public discourse utilizes images of Islamic resistant movements as intolerant and predisposed toward violence. While many contemporary movements do have a strong anti-Western sentiment, it is often qualified and in any case is a fairly recent phenomenon. If Arabs and Muslims are extremists in anything, I believe that it is in the patience and tolerance they have shown toward persistent Western interventions until very recently. Islamic movements have much more important characteristics than intolerance and violence. A central concept is social justice. In the West, where it is fashionable to be anti-social under the pretense that socialism is obsolete, it is easy to overlook calls for social justice and fixate instead on violent struggle. But seeing social movements only in terms of violence, real or imagined, is seeing them only in terms that are important to a narrow set of strategic interests. 

I became deeply interested in this line of research around the time of the Persian Gulf Oil War in 1990-91. I was amazed at how readily the government and the corporate news media were able to rally public support for that senseless and destructive war. I was sickened by the grotesqueness of the war and the way academic experts and journalists self-righteously mimicked each other's stereotypes and biases in their inhuman depictions of "bad" Arabs and Muslims, while slavishly parroting the official public relations-fueled imagery of the "good" ones. I found it absolutely incredible that the persona of Saddam Hussein could be reworked from loyal proxy, during his murderous war against Iran, to Hitlerian demon after he became too big for his American britches. I thought to myself, Americans must be brain dead if they buy this. Many did. Not content with that as the sole explanation, I set out to see how imagery could be reworked to expedite a shifting political economy. This article is largely about what I found. One of the points I have tried to make is that Western civilization maintains a shifting array of images about Islam and Muslims. These images can be called upon as needed to explain, justify or simplify complex political, social and economic problems, whether they be international or domestic.


Words of the Word of God: Jesus Christ ('a) Speaks through Shi'i Narrations

In the Qur'an, in a passage describing the annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus ('a) is described as a Word from God: "O Mary! Verily Allah gives you the glad tidings of a Word from Him; his name is the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, eminent in this world, and in the Hereafter of those near [to God]" (3:44)

The context in which this ayah was revealed was one of inter-religious encounter. It is said that the Christians of Najran sent a delegation to the Prophet of Islam (s) at Makkah to question him about the teachings of Islam concerning Jesus ('a), and God revealed the above and other ayat of Surat Al 'Imran in response. The response is not only not a denial of Christian teachings, although the divinity of Christ is clearly rejected, but also an affirmation of much believed by Christians as well, even the designation of Christ as logos: 'O People of the Book! Do not go to extremes in your creed, and do not say of Allah but the Truth. Verily, the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, is only an apostle of Allah and His Word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a Spirit from Him (Qur'an 4:171) So in addition to being called the Word of God, Jesus ('a) is also called a Spirit of God and in some of the narrations reported in the Shi'i tradition, this title is used.

Of course, the interpretation of the logos in Christian theology differs markedly from the interpretation of the kalimah by Muslim scholars. For the Christian, according to the Gospel of John, the Word was God and the Word became flesh.' For the Muslim, on the other hand, the Word is creature, even while it is the creative principle, for it is in God's utterance of the word 'Be'. That creation takes place. To call Christ the Word of Allah is not to deify him, but to verify his status as prophet. Because of his high status as prophet, Jesus ('a) becomes a complete manifestation of God, one who conveys the message of God, one who can speak on behalf of God, the Word of God Jesus ('a) becomes the Word of God not because of an incarnation whereby his flesh becomes divine, but because his spirit is refined to such an extent that it becomes a mirror whereby divinity comes to be known. The temple is holy not because of any inherent sanctity in the structure, but because it is the place of the worship of God.

The differences between Islamic and Christian thinking about Jesus ('a) are as important as they are subtle. Both accept the virgin birth, although it is ironic that a growing number of liberal Christians have come to have doubts about this miracle while Muslims remain steadfast! Among the other miracles attributed to Jesus ('a) in the Glorious Qur'an are the revival of the dead and the creation of a bird from clay, but all of the miracles performed by Jesus ('a) are expressly by the permission of Allah. Just as in the miracle of his birth, Jesus ('a) came into the world by a human mother and divine spirit, so too, his miracles are performed as human actions with divine permission. In this regard the error of the Christians is explained by Ibn 'Arabi as follows:

"This matter has led certain people to speak of incarnation and to say that, in reviving the dead, he is God. Therefore, since they conceal God, Who in reality revives the dead, in the human form of Jesus, He has said, They are concealers [unbelievers] who say that God is the Messiah, son of Mary. (5:72)" 

The point is that one can find God in Jesus ('a) without deifying him, and furthermore that deifying Jesus ('a) is really an obstacle to finding God in Jesus ('a), for in the deification one ceases to look in Jesus ('a) for anything beyond him. It is as if one were to become distracted from a message by focusing one's attention on the words through which it was conveyed.

To the above point it may be added that not only does the doctrine of the incarnation prevent one from finding God in Christ ('a), but it also prevents one from seeing Christ ('a) the man, because his imagined divinity gets in the way.

One of the central questions of Christian theology is: "Who was Jesus Christ?" The formulation of answers to this question is called Christology. In this area of theology, Christians have debated the significance of the historical Jesus as opposed to the picture of Jesus presented in the traditions of the Christian Churches and the Biblical understanding of Jesus. The time has come for Muslims to begin work in this area, as well. Through the development of an Islamic Christology we can come to a better understanding of Islam as contrasted with Christianity, and Islam in consonance with Christianity, too. Indeed, the first steps in this direction are laid out for us in the Qur'an itself, in the verses mentioned above and others. Contemporary work toward an Islamic Christology is scarce. Christian authors have tended to stress the salvific function of Jesus ('a) which seems to have no place in Islam, and given this, the Christians ask one another whether Christ ('a) can be the savior of Muslims and others who are not Christians. Christians should be reminded that Muslims accept Jesus ('a) as savior, along with all the other prophets, for the prophetic function is to save humanity from the scourge of sin by conveying the message of guidance revealed by God. The important difference between Islam and Christianity here is not over the issue of whether Jesus ('a) saves, but how he saves. Islam denies that salvation is through redemption resulting from the crucifixion, and instead turns its attention to the instruction provided in the life of the prophets ('a).

Muslims, on the other hand, have tended to produce polemical works showing how much of what is in the Bible is consistent with the Islamic view of Christ ('a) as prophet rather than as a person of the Trinity. Some interesting work along these lines has been initiated by Ahmad Deedat in South Africa. More profound insights into the differences between Islam and other faiths, including Christianity, may be found in the writings of Frithjof Schuon, Shaykh 'Isa Nur al-Din Ahmad, who presents the beginnings of a genuine Christology from a sufi perspective in his Islam and the Perennial Philosophy. There is also a valuable collection of stories about Jesus ('a) culled from the writings of various Muslim mystics, Jesus in the Eyes of the Sufis. Some of the items reported in this work have their origins in the narrations attributed to the Shi'i Imams ('a) presented below.

These days there is much discussion of dialogue between different faith communities. Conferences have been held for this purpose in the Islamic Republic of Iran as well as in Africa, Europe and the United States. Perhaps one of the best ways Christians can find common ground for discussion with Muslims is to become familiar with the portrait of Jesus ('a) presented in Islamic sources, the most important of which are the Qur'an andhadith, and as for the latter, no matter what one's religious orientation, it must be admitted that the narrations handed down through the Household of the Prophet (s) deserve careful attention. For those of us who have the honor of being counted among the Shi'ah, the importance of what has been related by the Ahl al-Bayt weighs especially heavily, as it should, according to the famous hadith al-thaqalayn", in which the Prophet (s,), in the last year of his life, is reported to have said:

"Verily, I am leaving with you two weighty things (thaqalayn): the Book of Allah and my kindred, my household, for indeed, the two of them will never separate until they return to me by the Pond [of Kawthar on the Last Day]."

Perhaps some Christians will be dismissive of what is said of Jesus ('a) in the Islamic narrations because the main debate about contemporary Christology among Christians is whether research about the historical Jesus ('a) is relevant to religion, or whether knowledge of Jesus ('a) requires attention to the role he plays in the Church and in theology. The Islamic narrations, coming centuries after the life of Christ ('a) (and in some cases more than a century after the life of Muhammad [s] will likely be dismissed by liberal Christians in pursuit of a portrait of Jesus ('a) based on the standards of historical research currently accepted in the West. The neo-orthodox Christian claims that the Savior is not to be found in history, but in the Church, so it will not be surprising if he displays no interest in what Islam has to say about Christ ('a). However, the Christian may find that the Islamic perspective illuminates a middle ground between the historian's emphasis on the natural and the ecclesiastical emphasis on the supernatural. The humanity of Jesus ('a) is evident in the narrations of the Shi'ah, but it is a humanity transformed, a perfected humanity, and as such there is no denying its supernatural dimension.

The Muslim always seems to appear as a stranger to the Christian, but perhaps it is from the stranger that the Christian can best come to know his savior. The crucifix has hung in the Church for so long that it becomes difficult for the Christian to find significance there. The attraction of the quest for the historical Jesus is that it provides a fresh look at the subject, even if that quest is marred by naturalistic presumptions inimical to the religious outlook. By trying to see Jesus ('a) as the Muslim sees him, the Christian may find his savior come to life, lifted up to God in his own inner life rather than crucified. 

If we have given reason for Christians to study the narrations of the Shi'ah about Jesus ('a), the question of the value of such study for Muslims remains. Some might wonder why, when we have the Qur'an and Sunnah, we should be especially interested in Jesus ('a). To begin with, Jesus ('a), along with the prophets Noah, Abraham, Moses, Peace be with them, and Muhammad (s) has a special status in Islam as one of the greatest prophets, the ulu al- 'azm, the prophets who brought the divine law. What was revealed to the last of them, (s), is a confirmation of what was revealed to the others. The truth of the revelation is not to be found in its particularity but in its universality, and we come to understand this best when we understand the teachings of all the prophets ('a). Is this not why so much attention is given to the previous prophets in the Qur'an?

All of the prophets ('a) have brought a gospel of love, love of God and love of neighbor and love even for the meanest of His creatures. So, in the reports narrated below we find Jesus ('a) giving some of his food to the creatures of the sea. At the same time, however, this love is not to be confused with a sentimentalism which would prevent the execution of the divine law. Jesus ('a) found fault with the Pharisees not because of their regard for the exterior forms of religion, but because of their disregard for its interior forms, that is, because of their hypocrisy. 


The words of the Spirit of Allah reported in the selections that follow are primarily concerned with morals. These are Christian morals and at the same time Islamic morals. Today Christendom is in a state of moral upheaval. Peculiarly modern ideas of what is right and wrong have found their way into the theologians' understandings of ethics. Significant areas of agreement are difficult to find. The simple morality taught by Jesus ('a) and which continues to be emphasized in Islam resonates in the narrations of the Shi'ah. While excessive asceticism is forbidden, we are to turn, like Jesus ('a), away from the world to find refuge in God.


From the following narrations we not only become reacquainted with the moral teachings of Jesus ('a) and with his character, but we also discover what the dear friends of Allah, the Household of the Prophet (s) found it important to transmit about him, and thereby we get a glimpse into their moral teachings and characters, too.

Muhammad Legenhausen

The Words of Jesus ('a)

Divine Omnipotence:

1. It is said that Jesus the son of Mary ('a) was sitting and an old man was working with a small shovel tilling the earth. Jesus ('a) said: "O Allah! Extract his desire from him." The old man put down the small shovel and slept for an hour. Then Jesus ('a) said: "O Allah! Return the desire to him." Then he stood up and began to work. Jesus ('a) asked him about it. He said: "When I was working my soul said to me: 'How long will you work, being that you are an old man?' Then I put down the small shovel and slept.' Then my soul said to me: 'By Allah! You have no alternative but to live as long as you remain.' Then I stood up with my small shovel." (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 329)

2. It is reported that Abu 'Abd Allah [Imam Sadiq] ('a) said: "The Devil [iblis, the devil who tempted Adam and Eve. Cf. Qur'an 2:34; 7:11; 15:31; 38:74] said to Jesus the son of Mary: 'Does your Lord have the power to put the earth into an egg without reducing the size of the earth or enlarging the egg?' Then Jesus ('a) said: 'Woe unto you, for weakness is not attributed to Allah. Who is more powerful than He Who makes the earth subtle and makes the egg great?' (Bihar al-anwar, iv, 142)

3. It is reported that Imam Sadiq ('a) said: "Iblis came to Jesus ('a), then he said: 'Do you not claim that you can revive the dead?' Jesus said: 'Yes.' Iblis said: 'Then throw yourself down from the top of the wall.' Then Jesus said: 'Woe unto you! Verily the servant does not try his Lord.' And Iblis said: 'O Jesus! Can your Lord put the earth in an egg while the egg remains in its form?' Then he said: 'Verily impotence is not attributed to Allah, the Supreme, but what you said cannot be.' " (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 271)

Of Human Poverty:

4. One of the Imams is reported to have said: "It was said to Jesus the son of Mary ('a): 'How did you begin the morning, O Spirit of Allah?' He said: 'I began the morning with my Lord, the Blessed and Supreme, above me and the fire (of hell) before me and death in pursuit of me. I do not possess that which I hope for and I cannot avoid what I hate. So which of the poor is poorer than me?' " (Bihar al-anwar, lxxvi, 17)

The World and the Hereafter:

5. Jesus ('a) said: "O assembly of disciples! I have thrown the world prostrate before you, so do not lift it up after me, for one of the evils of this world is that Allah was disobeyed in it, and one of the evils of this world is that the next world is not attained except by abandoning this one. So pass through this world without making it your home, and know that the root of all wrong is the love of this world. Many a vain desire leaves a legacy of lasting sorrow." (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 327)

6. [Jesus ('a)] said: "Blessed is he who abandons the present desire for the absent promise." (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 327)

7. Jesus ('a) said: "Who would build a house on the waves of the sea? This world is that house, so you should not take it as a dwelling.'' (Bihar al-anwar," xiv, 326)

8. Jesus ('a) said: "Woe to the companion of the world! How he dies and leaves it and how he relies on it and it deceives him, and how he trusts it and it forsakes him! Woe unto those who are deceived! How that which is repugnant encompasses them and that which is beloved separates from them! And that which is promised will come to them. And woe to those whose endeavors are only for the world and error. How he will be disgraced before Allah tomorrow!"

(Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 328)

9. Jesus, Peace be upon him, is reported to have said: "How can one be of the people of knowledge if the next world is shown to him while he remains involved in this world, and what harms him is more desirable to him than what benefits him?'' (Majmu'at at warram, i, 83)

10. It was said to Jesus ('a): "Teach us a deed for which Allah will love us." He said: "Detest the world and Allah will love you. (Tanbih al-khawatir, i, 134)

11. It has been reported by Mujahid from Ibn 'Abbas from the Apostle of Allah, may the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him and with his folk: "Verily, Jesus. Peace be upon him, passed a city which had come to ruin and whose foundations had collapsed. He said to some of his disciples: 'Do you know what it is saying?' One said: 'No.' Jesus, Peace be upon him, said: 'It says: "Verily, the true promise of my Lord has come. My rivers have dried up, though once they were full; my trees have withered, though once they were in bloom; my castles are in ruins and my residents have died. Then, oh, these are their bones within me, and their property that was gained lawfully along with their ill-gotten gains are in my belly, and the inheritance of the heavens and the earth is only for Allah." '" (Adab al-nafs, I, 122)

12. The Messiah, Peace he upon him, said to the Apostles: "Verily, the eating of barley bread and the drinking of plain water today in this world is for he who would enter heaven tomorrow." (Adab al-nafs, ii, 225)

13. It is reported that Abu 'Abd Allah [Imam Sadiq], Peace he upon him, said: 'Jesus the son of Mary, may the blessings of Allah be upon him, said: 'You work for the sake of this world while it is not by work that you are provided for in it. And you do not work for the sake of the next world, while it is only by work that you will be provided for in it. Woe be unto you, evil learned ones ('ulama)! You take your wage and neglect works. Soon the worker's work will he accepted, and soon you will be driving forth from the narrowness of this world toward the darkness of the grave. How can one be knowledgeable who is on the way to the next world and yet his face is turned towards this world, and he likes the things that harm him more than the things that benefit him?' ' (Al-Kafi, ii, 319)

14. Jesus ('a) said: "The love of this world and the next cannot come together in the heart of a believer, like water and fire in a single vessel." (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 327)

l5 It is reported that Abu 'Abd Allah [Imam Sadiq], Peace be upon him, said that Jesus, Peace be upon him, said: ''It is hard to get any good thing whether it is of the world or the hereafter. As to the good things of this world they are hard to get because there' is nothing of it which as soon as you extend your hand to get, some profligate does not grab first, while the good things of the other world are hard to obtain because you do not find any helper who may help

you to obtain it.'' (al-Kafi viii, 144)

16. When Jesus passed by a house whose inmates had died and others had taken their place, he said: " woe to your owners who inherited you! How they have learned no lesson from their late brothers." (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 329)

17. Jesus ('a) said: "This world and the next one are rivals. When you please one of them you displease the other." (Bihar al-anwar, lxxiii, 122)

18. It has been reported that Abu 'Abd Allah, Peace he upon him, said: "The world took the form, for Jesus ('a), of a woman whose eyes were blue. Then he said to her: 'How many have you married?' She said: 'Very many.' He said: 'Then did they all divorce you?' She said: 'No, but I killed all of them.' He said: 'Then woe be to the rest of your husbands! How they fail to learn from the example of the predecessors!'

19. It is reported that 'Ali ibn al-Husayn [Imam Sajjad], Peace be upon him, said: "The Messiah, Peace be upon him, said to his Apostles: 'Verily, this world is merely a bridge, so cross over it, and do not make it your abode.' '' (Bihar al-anwar xiv, 319)

20. I heard Imam Rida ('a) say: "Jesus the son of Mary, may Allah bless him, said to the apostles: 'O Children of Israel! Do not grieve over what you lose of this world, just as the people of this world do not grieve over what they lose of their religion, when they gain this world of theirs.' " (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 304; al-Kafi. ii, 127)

21. Jesus ('a) said: "Do not take the world as a master, for it will make you its slave. Keep your treasure with one who will not squander it. The owners of the treasures of this world fear for its ruin, but he who owns the treasure of Allah does not fear for its ruin.'' (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 327)

22. Jesus ('a) said: ''In truth I say unto you, just as one who is sick looks at food and finds no pleasure in it due to the severity of the pain, the companions of this world find no pleasure in worship and do not find the sweetness of it, for what they find is the sweetness of this world. In truth I say unto you, just as an animal which is not captured and tamed becomes hardened and its character is changed, so too when hearts are not softened by the remembrance of death and the effort of worship they become hard and coarse, and in truth I say unto you, if a skin is not torn, it may become a vessel for honey, just as hearts, if they are not torn by desires, or fouled by greed, or hardened by pleasures, may become vessels for wisdom.'' (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 325)

23. It was said to Jesus ('a): "[Would it not be better] if you got a house?" He said: "The remains which are left from those before us is enough for us.'' (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 327)

On Wisdom

24. It is reported that Jesus ( 'a) said: ''O assembly of scholars ('ulama)'. Just as the sovereigns have abandoned wisdom, leaving it to you. So you should abandon sovereignty, leaving it for them.'' (Adab al nafs. i, 134)

25. And it was said to him [Jesus ( a)]: "Who trained you?" He said: "No one trained me. I saw the ugliness of ignorance and I avoided it.'' (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 326)

26. The apostle of Allah [Muhammad] (s) said: "Jesus the son of Mary ('a) stood up among the Children of Israel and said: 'O Children of Israel! Do not speak with the ignorant of wisdom, for otherwise you do injustice with it, and do not keep it from its folk, for otherwise you do injustice to them, and do not help the unjust with his injustice, for otherwise your virtue becomes void. Affairs are three: the affair whose righteousness is clear to you, so follow it: the affair whose error is clear to you, so avoid it'. and the affair about which there are differences, so return it to Allah, the Almighty and Glorious." (Faqih, iv, 400)

27. Jesus the son of Mary ('a) said: "O assembly of Apostles! I have a request of you. Fulfill it for me." They said: "Your request is fulfilled, O Spirit of Allah!" Then he stood up and washed their feet. They said: "It would have been more proper for us to have done this, O Spirit of Allah!" Then he said: "Verily, it is more fitting for one with knowledge to serve the people. Indeed, I humbled myself only so that you may humble yourselves among the people after me, even as I have humbled myself among you." Then Jesus ('a) said: "Wisdom is developed by humility, not by pride, and likewise plants only grow in soft soil, not in rocks.'' (Bihar al-anwar, ii, 62; Al-Kafi, vi, 37)

28. Al-Sayyid ibn Tawus, may Allah have mercy on him, said: I read in the Gospel that Jesus ('a) said: "I tell you, do not worry about what you will eat or what you will drink or with what you will clothe your bodies. Is not the soul more excellent than food, and the body more excellent than clothes? Look at the birds of the air, they neither sow nor reap nor store away, yet your heavenly Lord provides for them. Are you not more excellent than they'? Who among you by worrying can add a single measure to his stature'? Then why do you worry about your clothes?'' (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 317) 


29 It is reported by Mufaddal, one of the companions of Imam al-Sadiq ('a), from Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq, Peace be upon him, in a long hadith, that he said: "Jesus the son of Mary, Peace be upon our Prophet and upon him, used to spend some time with the disciples and advise them, and he used to say: 'He does not know me who knows not his soul, and he who does not know the soul between his two sides, does not know the soul between my two sides. And he who knows his soul which is between his sides, he knows me. And he who knows me knows He Who sent me.' " (Adab al-nafs, ii, 213)

On Prayer and Worship:

30. Jesus ('a) said to a worshipper, "What do you do?" He answered, "I worship." He ('a) said, "Then who provides for you?" He said, "My brother." He ('a) said, "Your brother is more of a worshipper than you are!" (Adab al-nafs, i, 215)

31. I asked Abu 'Abd Allah [Imam Sadiq ('a)] about the best thing by which the servant may draw near to his Lord and what is most beloved by Allah, the Almighty and Glorious. He said: "I know of nothing, after knowledge (ma'rifah), better than the ritual prayer (salat). Do you not see that the good servant Jesus the son of Mary ('a) said: 'And He enjoined on me the ritual prayer (salat) and the alms tax (zakat) for as long as I live.'?" (Al-Kafi, iii, 264)

32. It is reported that Imam Sadiq ('a) said: "Jesus the son of Mary ('a) passed by a group of people who were crying. He asked why they were crying. It was said to him that they were crying for their sins. He said, they should pray about them and they will be forgiven." (Bihar al-anwar, vi, 20)

Pride of the Sanctimonious:

33. Jesus ('a) said: "O group of Apostles! How many lamps the wind has put out, and how many worshippers pride has corrupted.!" (Bihar al-anwar, lxxii, 322)

On Chastity:

34. Imam Sadiq ('a) said: "The Apostles met with Jesus ('a) and said to him: 'O teacher of the good! Guide us!' He said to them: 'Verily Moses the interlocutor of Allah ('a) commanded you not to swear by Allah, the Blessed and Exalted, falsely, and I command you not to swear by Allah falsely or truly.' They said: 'O Spirit of Allah! Guide us more!' Then he said: 'Verily Moses the prophet of Allah ('a) commanded you not to commit adultery, and I command you not to talk to yourselves about adultery, let alone to commit adultery. Verily one who talks to himself about adultery is like one who sets fire to a house that is decorated so the smoke damages the decor, even though the house is not burnt.' (Al-Kafi, v, 542)

35. Jesus (a) said: "Never stare at that which is not for you. If you restrain your eyes you will never commit adultery; and if you are able to avoid looking at the garments of women who are not permitted for you, then do so." (Majmu'at al-Warram, i, 62)

36. It is reported that Imam Sadiq ('a) said: "Jesus the son of Mary ('a) said, 'When one of you sits in his house, he should have clothes on. Verily, Allah has allotted modesty for you, just as He has allotted your sustenance."" (Bihar al-anwar, lxxi, 334)

Looking at the Bright Side:

37. It is reported that he [Jesus ('a)] passed by a carcass with his disciples. Then the disciples said: "How putrid the smell of this dog is!" Then Jesus ('a) said: "How intense is the whiteness of his teeth!" (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 327)

Hope and Fear:

38. It is reported that Abu 'Abd Allah [Imam Sadiq] ('a) said: "Jesus the son of Mary ('a) sent two of his companions on an errand. Then one of them returned thin and afflicted and the other fat and chubby. He said to the one who was thin: what did this to you, that I see you this way?' He said: 'The fear of Allah.' And he said to the other who was fat: 'What did this to you, that I see you this way?' He said: 'A good opinion of Allah.' " (Bihar al-anwar, lxx. 400)


39. It is reported from Imam Sadiq, Peace be upon him, from his father that he said: "Jesus, Peace be upon him, used to say: 'Regarding the terror which you do not know when you will encounter [i.e. death], what prevents you from preparing for it before it comes upon you suddenly?' (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 330)

Of Advice and Advisers:

40. And he (Jesus ('a)) said: "How long will you be advised without taking any advice? Certainly you have become a burden to the advisors." (Adab al-nafs, i, 175)

41. [Imam] al-Sadiq, Peace be upon him, said: "Verily, a man came to Jesus the son of Mary, Peace be upon him, and said to him: 'O Spirit of Allah! I have committed fornication [or adultery, sex between a man and woman not married to each other, in Arabic: zina] so purify me.' Then Jesus ordered the people to be called so that none should be left behind for the purification of so-and-so. Then when the people had been gathered together and the man had entered into a hole, so as to be stoned, the man in the hole called out: 'Anyone for whom Allah, the Supreme, has a punishment should not punish me.' Then all the people left except for John and Jesus, Peace be upon them. Then John, Peace be upon him, approached him and said to him: 'O sinner! Advise me!' Then he said to him: 'Do not leave your self alone with its desires or you will perish.' John, Peace be upon him, said: 'Say more.' He said: 'Verily, do not humiliate the wrongdoer for his fault.' John, Peace be upon him, said: 'Say more. He said: 'Do not become angry.' John, Peace be upon him, said: 'That is enough for me.' " (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 188)

Goodness Imperishable:

42. Jesus ('a) said to his companions: "Accord great regard for the thing which is not eaten by the fire." They said: ''What is that?" He said: "That which is good (al-ma'ruf)." (Bihar al-anwar. xiv, 330)


43. Imam Sadiq ('a) said: ''Verily, when Jesus the son of Mary ( 'a) passed along the shore of a sea, he threw a piece of his bread into the water, Then some of the disciples said: 'O Spirit of Allah and His Word! Why did you do this when that was your food.' He said: "I did this in order that some animal among the animals of the sea may eat it, and the reward of Allah for this is great.' (Tahdhib, iv, 105)

Moderation in Food and Sleep:

44. Jesus ('a) said: "O Children of Israel! Do not be excessive in eating, for those who are excessive in eating are excessive in sleeping, and those who are excessive in sleeping are deficient in praying, and of those who are deficient in praying, it is written that they are negligent." (Sharh Nahj al-balaghah, xix, 188;Adab al-nafs. i, 189)

45. Jesus the son of Mary ('a) stood up among the Children of Israel to preach. He said. 'O Children of Israel! Do not eat before you become hungry and when you become hungry eat but do not eat your fill, because when you eat your fill your necks become thick and your sides grow fat and you forget your Lord" (Bihar al-anwar lxvi, 337)

The blessed and the wretched:

46 It is reported that [Imam] Ali (a) said: "Jesus the son of Mary (a) said: ''Blessed is he whose silence is contemplation (fikr). whose glance is an admonition, whose house suffices him and who cries over his mistakes and from whose hand and tongue the people are safe.' '' (Bihar a1-anwar xiv, 319)

47 Jesus said: "How can someone benefit himself while he trades himself for all that is in this world, then he abandons that which he has traded as inheritance to others and destroys himself. But blessed is the man who purifies himself and prefers his soul to everything of this world.'' (Bihar al-anwar xiv, 329)

48. I heard Imam Sadiq ( 'a) say: ''Christ ( 'a) said to his disciples: 'If you are not lovers and my brothers, you must accustom yourself to the enmity and hatred of the people, otherwise you will not be my brothers. I teach you this that you may learn it; I do not teach you so that you may become proud. Verily, you will not achieve that which you seek unless you give up that which you desire, and by enduring patiently that which you detest. And guard your gaze for it plants lust in the heart, and it is sufficient to tempt one. Happy are they who see that which they desire with their eyes, but who commit no disobedience in their hearts. How far is that which is in the past, and how near is that which is to come. Woe to those who have been deluded when what they loathe approaches them, and what they love abandons them, and there comes that which they were promised. There is lesson in the creation of these nights and days. Woe to those whose efforts are for the sake of this world, and whose achievements are errors. How he will be disgraced before his Lord! And do not speak much about anything other than the remembrance of God. Those who talk much about things other than God have their hearts hardened, but they do not know it. Do not look at the faults of others as if you have been appointed to spy over them, but attend to the emancipation of your own selves, for you are slaves, possessed. How much water flows in a mountain without its becoming soft, and how much wisdom you are taught without your hearts becoming soft. You are bad slaves, not pious slaves, nor of those who are noble and free. Indeed you are like unto the oleander: all who see it wonder at its flowers, but when they eat from it they die. Peace be unto you.' (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 324)

Of wealth and Property:

49. It is reported that Jesus ('a) found fault with property and said: ''It has three characteristics.'' It was said: ''And what are they', O Spirit of Allah.''' He said: ''One acquires it illegitimately, and if it is acquired legitimately, it keeps one from spending it in its right place, and if one spends it in its right place, its management keeps one from worshiping one's Lord." (Bihar al-anwar xiv 329)

50). It is reported that the Commander of the faithful [Imam Ali], peace be upon him, said: "Jesus the son of Mary, Peace he upon him, said: 'The dinar is the illness of religion, and the scholar (al-'alim) is the physician of religion. So if you see that the physician brings illness upon himself, distrust him, and know that he is not to advise others.' " (Bihar al-anwar. xiv, 319)

On Company:

51 Imam Ali ('a) said: "Jesus the son of Mary ('a) said: 'Verily the evil doer is infectious, and the associate of the wicked is brought down. So beware of those with whom you associate.' " (Al-Kafi, ii, 640)

52. It is reported that Abu 'Abd Allah [Imam Sadiq], Peace he upon him, said: The Apostle of Allah, may the Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and his progeny, said: 'The Apostles said to Jesus, Peace he upon him: "O Spirit of Allah! With whom should we keep company?" He said: "He the sight of whom reminds you of Allah, the speech of whom increases your knowledge, and the works of whom make you desirous of the other world." ' " (Al-Kafi, i, 39)

The Incorrigible Fool:

53. It has been reported that Abu 'Abd Allah [Imam Sadiq], Peace be upon him, said: 'Verily, Jesus the son of Mary ('a) said: 'I treated the sick, then I healed them by the permission of Allah, and I cured those born blind and the lepers by the permission of Allah, and I treated the dead and revived them by the permission of Allah, and I treated the fool, but I could not correct him' Then it was said: 'O spirit of Allah. What is a fool?' He said 'He is one who is admirable in his own view to himself, He who considers all merit to be for him and not against him, and who finds all rights to be for himself and does not find against himself any right. Such is the fool for whom there is no way to cure him.'" (Bihar al anwar, xiv, 323)

The Heart's Sickness:

54 And Jesus the son of Mary said: "There is no sickness of the heart more severe than callousness, and no soul is more severely affected than the one that goes without hunger, and these two are the halters of expulsion [from divine mercy] and abandonment." (Bihar al-anwar, lxvi, 337)

55. Verily, Jesus ('a) said: "Why do you come to me clothed in the garments of monks while your hearts are those of ferocious wolves? Wear the clothes of kings, but soften your hearts with fear." (Bihar al-anwar, lxxiii, 208)

Anger and Its Source:

56. It is reported that Abu 'Abd Allah [Imam Sadiq] ('a) said "The disciples said to Jesus the son of Mary ('a): 'O teacher of the good! Teach us what is the most severe of things.' Then he said: the most severe of things is the wrath of Allah.' They said: 'Then what prevents the wrath of Allah?' He said: 'That you not be wrathful.' They said: 'What is the source of wrath?' He said: 'Pride, haughtiness and contempt for the people.' '' (Bihar al-anwar, xvi, 257)

Five Evils:

57. It is reported that Abu 'Abd Allah, [Imam Sadiq], Peace be upon him, said: "The Messiah, Peace be upon him, used to say: 'He who has many worries, his body becomes sick; he who is ill-tempered, his self becomes his torment; he who often talks, often stumbles; he who often lies, loses his worth; he who quarrels with men, loses his manliness.' (Bihar al-anwar. xiv. 318)

Evil scholars:

58. Imam Sadiq ('a) said: Jesus the son of Mary, Peace be upon our Prophet and his progeny and with him. said: Woe unto the evil scholars! How the fire inflames them!' (Al-Kafi, i, 47)

Satan's Clientele:

59. Jesus ('a) met Iblis who was driving five donkeys. Loads were upon them. Jesus ('a) asked him about the loads. Iblissaid, "They are for trade, and I am looking for buyers." Jesus ('a) said, "What is the merchandise?" Iblis said, "One of them is injustice." He ('a) asked, "Who buys it?" He said, "Rulers. And the second is pride." He asked, "Who buys it?" He said, "Village chiefs. And the third is envy." He asked, "Who buys it?" He said, "The learned. And the fourth is treason." He asked, "Who buys it?" He said, "Those who work for merchants. And the fifth is trickery." He said, "Who buys it?" He said, "Women." (Bihar al-anwar, lxiv, 196)

The Richest of All Men:

60. Jesus, Peace be upon him, said: "My hands 'are my servant and my feet are my mount; the earth is my bed, a stone my pillow; my blanket in the winter is the east of the earth and my lamp in the night is the moon; my stew is hunger and my motto is fear; my garment is wool and my fruit and my basil what grows from the earth for wild beasts and cattle. I sleep while I have nothing and I rise while I have nothing, and yet there is no one on earth wealthier than I" (Bihar al-anwar, xvii, 239)

Seeking God's Pleasure:

61. And Jesus ('a) used to say: "O apostles, love God through hatred of the 'disobedient, and approach God by distancing [yourselves] from them, and seek pleasure by their displeasure." (Bihar al-anwar xiv, 330)

Criterion of Mutual Relations:

62. It is reported that Imam Sadiq, Peace be upon him, said: "Jesus the son of Mary, Peace be upon them, said to some of his companions: 'Do not do to others what you do not like others to do to you, and if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him your left cheek too.[7] (Bihar al-anwar, x, 287).

Others Opinion of Oneself:

63. The Messenger of God (s) said: "Jesus the son of Mary ('a) said to John the son of Zachariah, 'If something is said of you which is true, then know that it was a sin that you had committed, so ask God's forgiveness for it, and if something is said of you which is not true, then know that a good deed will be recorded for you for this, for which you did not have to labor.' " (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 287).


On Having a Good Opinion of God:

64. Al-Sayyid ibn Tawus, may God have mercy on him, said: "I read in the Gospel that Jesus ('a) said: 'Who among you gives his son a stone when he asks for bread? Or who hands out a snake when asked for a cloak? If despite the fact that your evil is well-known you give good gifts to your sons, then it is more fitting that your Lord should give good things to one who asks." (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 318; Sa'd al-su'ud, 56) 

Inner Chastity

65. Jesus ('a) said: "You heard what was said to the people of yore, 'Do not commit adultery,' but I tell you, he who looks at a woman and desires her has committed adultery in his heart. If your right eye betrays you, then take it out and cast it away, for it is better for you that you destroy one of your organs than cast your entire body into the fire of hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it away, for it is better for you to destroy one of your organs than that your entire body should go to hell. (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 3l7) 

The Life and Acts of Jesus ('a)

66. It is reported that Imam 'Ali ('a) said in one of his sermons: "If you like, I will tell you about Jesus the son of Mary, Peace he upon him. He used a stone as his pillow, wore course clothing and ate rough food. His stew was hunger and his lamp in the night was the moon. His cover in the winter was the east of the earth and its west. His fruit and his basil is that which grows from the earth for the cattle. He had no wife to try him, and no son to grieve him. He had no wealth to distract him, nor greed to abase him. His mount was his feet and his servant was his hands." (Nahj al-balaghah, Sermon 158)

67. Imam Musa al-Kazim ('a) said: "John the son of Zachariah ('a) cried and did not laugh, and Jesus the son of Mary ('a) laughed and cried; and what Jesus did was more excellent than what John did." (Al-Kafi, ii, 665)

68. Jesus, Peace he upon him, served a meal to the Apostles, and when they had eaten it, he himself washed their hands. They said: "O Spirit of God! It would have been more proper for us to wash yours!" He said: "I did this only that you would do this for those whom you teach." (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 326)

69. It is reported that Abu 'Abd Allah [Imam Sadiq], Peace he upon him, said: "Verily, Jesus the son of Mary, Peace be upon him, came to the tomb of John the son of Zachariah, Peace he upon him, and he asked his Lord to revive him. Then he called him, and he answered him and he came out from the grave and said to him: 'What do you want from me?' And he said to him: 'I want you to be friends with me as you were in this world' Then he said to him: 'O Jesus! The heat of death has not yet subsided, and you want me to return to the world and the heat of death would return to me. So he Jesus left him, and he returned to his grave.' " (Al-Kafi iii, 260)

70. Jesus, Peace he upon him, passed by a grave whose occupant was being chastised. Then he passed it the following year when he was not being chastised. He said: "O Lord! I passed through this town last year and he was being chastised, and I passed through it this year while he is not being chastised." Then God revealed to him: "O Spirit of God! Verily one of his children matured and removed obstacles from a road and sheltered an orphan. Then I forgave him for the deeds of his child." (Al-Kafi. vi, 3)

71. Imam Sadiq ('a) was asked: "Did Jesus the son of Mary raise anyone from the dead, so that he ate and had a livelihood, and continued his life for a term and had off spring?" He said: "Yes, he had a friend who was a brother to him in God. And when Jesus passed by, he would go to visit him. And Jesus ('a) would spend a while with him. Then he would leave with salutations of Peace unto him. Once his mother came out to him [Jesus] and she said to him: 'He died, O Apostle of God!' He said to her: 'Would you like to see him?' She said: 'Yes.' He said to her: 'I will come tomorrow to raise him with the permission of God. The next day he came and said to her: 'Accompany me to his grave.' So they went to his grave. Jesus ('a) stopped and then he called on God. Then the grave opened and her son came out alive. When his mother saw him and he saw her, they cried. Jesus ('a) felt compassion for them and said to him: 'Would you like to remain with your mother in the world?' He said: 'O Apostle of God! With eating and a daily bread and a term, or without a term and a daily bread?' Then Jesus ('a) said to him: 'Of course with daily bread and a term. You will live for twenty years, marry and father a child.' He said: 'Yes, in that case.' " [Imam Sadiq] said: "Then Jesus ('a) returned him to his mother and he lived for twenty years, married and fathered a child." (Bihar al-anwar xiv, 233).

72. Abu al-Layth said in his commentary of the Qur'an: "The people asked Jesus ('a) in ridicule: 'Create a bat for us and put a soul in it, if you are one of the truthful. Then he took some clay and formed a bat and breathed into it. Then it suddenly flew between the sky and the earth. The clay was molded and breathed into by Jesus, but the creation was by God, the Supreme. And it is said that they asked to create a bat because it is more wonderful than other creatures. (Bihar al-anwar, lxiv, 322)

73. Al-Sayyid ibn Tawus, may God have mercy on him, said: "I read in the Gospel that Jesus ('a) boarded a ship and his disciples were with him, when suddenly there was a great confusion in the sea, so that the ship came near to being covered by the waves. And it was as though [Jesus ('a)] was asleep. Then his disciples came to him and awakened him and said: 'O master! Save us so that we do not perish.' He said to them: 'O you of little faith! What has frightened you?' Then he stood up and drove away the winds, and there was a great stillness. The people marveled, and said: 'How is this? Verily the winds and the sea obey him.' "  (Bihar al-anwar xiv, 266)

74. It is reported that a woman from Canaan brought her invalid son to Jesus, Peace he upon him. She said: "O Prophet of God! This my son is an invalid. Pray to God for him." He said: "That which I have been commanded is only the healing of the invalids of the Children of Israel." She said: "O Spirit of God! Verily the dogs receive the remnants from the tables of their masters after the meal, so, avail us of that which may benefit us of your wisdom." Then he supplicated God, the Supreme, asking for permission. Then He gave His permission, and he made him well. (Bihar al-anwar xiv, 253)

75. It is reported that Jesus ('a) passed by a man who was blind, leprous and paralytic, and Jesus heard him giving thanks and saying: "Praised be God Who has protected me from the trials with which He afflicts most of men." Jesus ('a) said: "What trial remains which has not visited you?" He said: "He protected me from a trial which is the greatest of trials, and that is unbelief" Then Jesus ('a) touched him, and God cured him from his illnesses and beautified his face. Then he became a companion of Jesus ('a) and worshipped with him. (Bihar al-anwar, lxxi, 33)

God's Words Addressed to Jesus

76. Imam Ja'far Sadiq ('a) said: "Among things with which God, the Blessed and Exalted, exhorted Jesus ('a) was: 'O Jesus! I am your Lord, and the Lord of your fathers. My Name is the One (al-Wahid), and I am one (Ahad) and single (Mutafarrid) in creating all things. All things are My handiwork, and all My creations shall return to Me.' " (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 289)

77. It is reported that Abu 'Abd Allah [Imam Sadiq] ('a) said: "Jesus the son of Mary ('a) ascended [to heaven] clad in garments of wool spun by Mary, woven by Mary, and sewn by Mary. When he was brought up to heaven it was called: 'O Jesus! Cast off from yourself the finery of the world.' "(Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 338)

78. God confided to Jesus the son of Mary ('a): "O Jesus! Cut yourself off from fatal desires and part with every desire that keeps you away from Me, and know that you are near me at the station of a trusted Apostle (rasul), so beware of Me." (Tuhaf al- 'uqul, 375).

79. It is reported that one day Jesus, Peace be upon him, came upon severe rain and thunder, so he sought a place of shelter. He saw a tent at a distance, and came to it. There he saw a woman in it, so he turned away from it. Suddenly, he saw a cave in a mountain, and when he arrived there he saw a lion in it. So he rested his hand against the cave, and said: "My God! Everything has a shelter, but You put no shelter for me." Then God, the Supreme, revealed to him: "Your shelter is in the abode of My Mercy. By My Greatness, on the Resurrection Day, verily, I will marry you to a hundred houris created by My hands, and verily for your wedding I will lay out a feast for four thousand years, each day of which is like the lifetime of the entire world. And I will command a crier to cry out: Where are the ascetics of the world? Be present at the wedding of the ascetic Jesus the son of Mary!" (Bihar al-anwar xiv, 328)

80. One of the Imams [Imam Sadiq or Imam Baqir] said: "Verily, a man of the Children of Israel exerted himself for forty nights. Then he called God, but He did not answer him. Then he came to Jesus complaining to him and asking him to pray. So Jesus purified himself and prayed to God, the Supreme. Then God revealed to him: 'O Jesus! Verily, he came to me by a door other than that by which one should come. Verily, he called Me while there was doubt about you in his heart. So had he called Me until his neck broke or his fingers had fallen off, I would not have answered him.' "(Al-Kafi, ii, 400)

81. God said to Jesus: "O Jesus! Verily I have granted unto you the poor and made you merciful towards them. You love them and they love you. They are pleased with you as a leader and guide, and you are pleased with them as companions and followers. These are two of My qualities. Whoever meets Me with these [qualities] meets Me with the purest of deeds which are dearest to Me." (Bihar al-anwar lxxii 55)

82. God revealed to Jesus ('a): "Be to the people like the ground below in meekness, like the flowing water in generosity, and like the sun and the moon in mercy, which shine on the good and the sinner alike. (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 326)

83. God revealed to Jesus: "Say to the Children of Israel: 'Do not enter any of My houses without lowered eyes and clean hands. And inform them that, verily, I will not answer the prayer of any of them while any of My creation is oppressed by them.' " (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 327)

84. God the Supreme revealed to Jesus: "O Jesus! I have honored nothing in creation like My religion, and I have bestowed nothing on it like My mercy. Wash your exterior by water and cure your interior by good deeds, for verily you shall return to Me. Get ready, for that which is approaching, and let me hear from you the sounds of sorrow." (Al-Kafi)

Of Knowledge and us Seekers:

85. Verily God the Supreme said to Jesus: "Honor those who possess knowledge and know of their excellence, for verily their excellence over that of all My creation - except for the prophets and messengers - is like that of the sun over the stars, and like that of the Hereafter over this world, and like My excellence over all things." (Bihar al-anwar, ii, 25)

86. Verily God revealed to Jesus: "Indeed, you must be receptive to exhortation! Or you will be ashamed before Me to exhort the people." (Irshad al-qulub)

87. God the Supreme said in the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel: "Woe unto those who have heard the knowledge but have not sought it. How they will be gathered with the ignorant into the fire! And learn the knowledge and teach it, for even if knowledge does not bring you felicity, it will not bring you wretchedness, and even if it does not raise you, it will not lower you, and even if it does not enrich you, it will not Impoverish you, and even if it does not benefit you, it will not harm you. And do not say, 'We fear lest we should know but not act', but say, 'We hope to know and to act.' And knowledge intercedes on behalf of one who has it, and it is for God not to disgrace him. Indeed, on the Resurrection day God will say: 'O assembly of the learned ('u1ama')! What is your opinion of our Lord?' Then they will say: 'It is our opinion that He will have mercy upon us and forgive us.' Then the Almighty will say: 'Indeed, I have done so. Indeed, I have entrusted you with My wisdom not because I wanted evil for you, but because I wanted good for you. So enter among My good servants into My garden (paradise) by My mercy.' " (Bihar al-anwar, i, 186)

The Remembrance of God:

88. Imam Rida, Peace be upon him, said: "Engraved on the ring of Jesus, Peace be upon him, were two sentences from the Gospel: 'Blessed is the servant who remembers God for His sake, and woe unto the servant who forgets God for his own sake.' " (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 247)

89. God, the Great and Almighty, said to Jesus ('a): "O Jesus! Remember Me within yourself and I will remember you within Myself, and remember Me publicly and I will remember you publicly in a public better than that of men. O Jesus! Soften your heart for Me and remember Me much in solitude, and know that My pleasure is in your fawning over Me, in an animated and not in an impassive manner." (Al-Kafi, ii, 502)

Humility and the Etiquette of Prayer:

90. Among things that were revealed by God to Jesus is: "Do not call upon Me except by praying humbly to Me and with all your heart. Then verily when you call upon Me thus I will answer you." (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 290)

91. God revealed to Jesus ('a): O Jesus! "Give Me the tears of your eyes, and the humility of your heart, and stand beside the tombs of the dead, and call to them aloud that you may be advised by them, and say: 'I will join you with those who join you.' (Bihar al-anwar, lxxxii, 178)

92. God the Supreme revealed to Jesus: "When I give you a blessing, receive it with humility, [and] I will complete it for you." (Bihar al-anwar, xiv, 328)


93. [Imam] Ja'far reported that his father ('a) said: "Najashi the king of Habashah [Ethiopia] sent for Ja'far the son of Abu Talib and his companions. When they arrived before him, he was sitting in the dust in his house with worn garments.... Ja'far ibn Abu Talib said to him: 'O pious king! What is the matter, that I see you sitting in dust in worn garments?' He said: 'O Ja'far! We find in that which was revealed to Jesus ('a): "Verily, it is God's due from His servants that they show humility when they are shown favor." So, when God showed His favor by His prophet, Muhammad (s), I showed this humility to God.' " He [Imam Ja'far] said: "When that news reached the prophet (s), he said to his companions: 'Verily, giving alms brings abundance, so give alms and God will have mercy on you, and humility elevates one's station, so be humble and God will elevate you, and forgiveness increases dignity, so forgive and God will grant you dignity. (Bihar al-anwar, xviii, 417)

An Advice to Rulers:

94. A Christian primate (Jathiliq) visited Mus'ab ibn Zubayr [who was a governor during his brother's caliphate] and spoke words that angered him. He [Mus'ab] raised a cane against him, then left him until his anger subsided. He [the primate] said: "If the emir permits me, I would tell him something revealed by God to Christ ('a)". He (Mus'ab) turned to him, and he (the primate) said: "Verily, God revealed to Christ, 'It is not fitting for a sultan to become angry, for he commands and is obeyed, and it is not fitting for him to be hasty, for nothing eludes him, and it is not fitting for him to be unjust, for injustice is repulsed by him.' " Then Mus'ab became embarrassed and was pleased with him. (Adab al-nafs, ii, 69)

On Lying and Hypocrisy:

95 It is reported from the Gospel: "Beware of liars who come to you in sheep's clothing while in reality they are ravenous wolves. You shall know them by their fruits. It is not possible for a good tree to bear vicious fruit, nor for a vicious tree to bear good fruit." ('Uddat al-da'i, l52). 

96. God said to Jesus, Peace be upon him: 'O Jesus! Yours must be a single tongue in secret and in public, and likewise your heart. Verily, I warn you of yourself, and I suffice as the All-aware.It is not proper that there be two tongues in a single mouth, nor two swords in a single scabbard, nor two hearts in a single breast, and likewise two minds." (Al-Kafi. ii, 343)


 Ibn al 'Arabi, The Bezels of Wisdom (Fusus al-hikam). tr. R. W. J. Austin (Lahore: Suhail, 1988), p.177.

 Frithjof Shuon, Islam and the Perennial Philosophy(Lahore: Suhail, 1985).

 Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, Jesus in the Eyes of the Sufis(London: Khaniqahi-Nimatullahi Publications, 1983).

 We are reminded by the Glorious Qur'an: "O Jesus, I will take you away and lift you up to me..." (3:54)

Cf Matt. 23:25.

 Cf Matt 6.25-34:

25.Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?

26. look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or Store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feed~ them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

27. Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

28. And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.

29. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of

30. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31. So do not worry, saying, 'what shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'

32. For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things ""ill be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (NIV)

 This is perhaps one of the most widely misunderstood of the sayings of Jesus ('a). For it does not seem to he intended in the general ascribed to it, for that would amount to encouraging aggression, oppression and wrong doing. Turning the other cheek can however be an effective way of putting to shame the other side. An episode related by Muhammad Husayn Azad about Imam Bakhsh Nasikh, one of the masters of Urdu poetry, suggests how it can be used as an effective deterrent. Once someone had sent as a present some spoons made of crystal glass for the poet. These were considered a novelty in those days, and were quite beautiful. One day a young man belonging to some noble family came to visit Nasikh. Seeing the spoons he asked him about where he had got them and how much they had cost. Then he picked up one of them and held it admiringly. Thereafter as they conversed, to keep his idle hands busy he began to tap the spoon on the ground. The fragile thing that it was broke into two pieces. immediately Nasikh picked up another spoon and placed it in front of the youth with the remark, "Now play with this one!" (Mawlana Muhammad Husayn Azad, Ab-e hayat (Calcutta: 'Uthmaniyyah Book Depot, 1967), p.434)

 The corresponding verses of the Bible are Matt 7:9-11, which in the New international Version (NIV) are translated as follows:

9 Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?

10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

 The corresponding verses of the Bible are Matt. 5:27-30, translated in the King James Version (KJV) as:

27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shall not commit adultery:

28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

 Cf. Matt 8:23-27 (KJV):

23 And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.

24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, inasmuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.

25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.

26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful', O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.

But the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!

 Cf. Matt 7:15-16, 18 (KJV):

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

16 Ye shall know them by their fruits.

A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

 Cf. Qur'an 17:17; 25:5.

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