I was trying to find what I would consider as the best representative of your approach to understanding Islam and I found this statement:
“The basis does not have to be a clearly written aya on Imamat itself, but can also be an all inclusive statement of Allah that also covers the Shia Imams, which our Prophet (PBUH) can elucidate in abundance. If such a hint is mentioned … in Koran, then the Shia sources on Imamat … become valid, become worth-exploring, cannot be rejected merely because it has no hint in Koran.”
I would like to comment on the above statement from two perspectives, the methodology and the content:
In terms of methodology:
I think the above approach treats the Qur’an not as the definite book of guidance but as a poetic or mystical book that can lead the reader to almost any direction, depending what hints the reader might perceive in it. Apart from the fact that this treatment is against the verses of the Qur’an itself, it also has a huge practical problem:
Why should you limit yourself to the 12er Imami Shias? Why not searching the truth by reading the sources of other sects of Shia who have different Imams like Zaidi Shia, Esmayeelee Shia and the rest? Moreover, I can assure you that one may easily find something in the Qur’an that one may perceive as a hint supporting Bahai faith, Qadyani faith, Ibadi faith, Nation of Islam faith, Druze faith, Alawi faith, etc. so why not reading all those sources in search of the truth as well?
So basically you will have to spend your entire life reading about any sects of Muslims that has been emerged trying to find out which one might be the true one. While this is an admirable search for the truth and will be a very educating experience, this sought after guidance is far from the guidance that the Qur’an has promised to be so clear and vivid (2:256).
The only way to come out from this never-ending wondering around different sects is to practically accept the Qur’an as the definite authority and not a book that limits itself in giving only hints about some of the most important beliefs in Islam (that is the theory of Imamah).
In terms of content:
I have a number of reservations about the premises behind the above statement:
1. You refer to hint and general inclusiveness of the verse 4:59. I don't see that. I have tried to write in my past posts why verse 4:59 to my understanding is in conflict with the concept of Imamah. I have not yet seen you addressing these points.
2. Why do you invest so much on what you consider a hint in a verse of the Qur’an but do not give much credit to the many verses of the Qur’an that go against the theory of Imamah, including those verses that praise the companions and indicate that we need to follow their path (e.g. 9:100)? Don’t you think that these verses are directly or indirectly against the theory of Imamah? Is God misguiding us? He has not given us a single verse to clearly instruct us to follow certain infallible Imams but then he praises the companions a lot and gives us a verse like 9:100 that explicitly advises us to follow their path, the same people who 'assumingly' took away the right of those Imams and misguided people as the result. Is this what the Qur’an refers to as clear guidance?!
3. You wrote the prophet (pbuh) has elucidated on Imamah in abundance. I am not sure narrations you are referring to. There is absolutely no reliable reference to the Shia concept of 12 Imams in the mainstream sources. Even in Shia sources you can hardly find a narration by the prophet (pbuh) instructing about the 12 Imams that would be considered as reliable even by Shia standards.
4. You refer to Shia sources on Imamah. Let us be specific. The main Shia sources are as follows:
- Nahj al-Balagha attributed to Ali (ra). Not only there is nothing about the Imamah theory in this book, there are plenty there that goes explicitly against the theory of Imamah. You can find the book here, http://www.al-islam.org/nahj/ please have a look and see if you can find any reference to the theory of Imamah in this book. Please see if you can find even one tiny suggestion by Ali (ra) in this book that he was the divinely appointed Imam and that he was appointed by the prophet (pbuh) as Khalifa and that people were supposed to follow divinely appointed Imams after the prophet (pbuh).
- Sahife al-Sajjadya by Ali ibn al-Hussayn. Please read prayer number 4 in the book http://www.al-islam.org/sahifa/dua4.html and consider whether it encourages people to follow Imams from generation of the prophet (pbuh) or (as the Qur’an advises us – 9:100) to follow the companions of the prophet (pbuh)? Do you not see any hints there against the Shia theory of Imamah?
- Narrations from Muhammad ibn Ali (known as Imam Baqir) and Jafar ibn Muhammad (known as Imam Sadiq) in the collections of narrations by Shia scholarship. Yes you will have plenty of explanations about the theory of Imamah in these books however there are two major problems:
a. Many of these narrations are considered as weak even by Shia standards.
b. You can easily find narrations in these books that go against the theory of Imamah
I would also like to address some of the secondary issues that you mentioned in your post:
- I really cannot understand your argument about the letter of Sheikh Shaltut. As I wrote a simple reading of the letter makes it crystal clear that Sheikh Shaltut was referring to the juristic school of thought in Shia and not their beliefs.
I am not sure what you mean by relating this to a book that is supposedly a discussion between a Shia scholar and a Sunni scholar from al-Azhar. You might be interested to know that there is a huge controversy about the reliability of this book, meaning, whether it was really a debate between a Shia scholar and a Sunni scholar. It is considered as reliable only in Shia sources. I find it very difficult to accept that the person who was arguing with the Shia scholar in this book (if existed) was a scholar. Please let me know if there is anything in this book that you think proves Shia’ism and I am more than happy to comment on it.
- You wrote in response to my comment on verse 17:78:
“What you are saying about the slots not being the number of prayers can be argued as a personal interpretation”. I can only repeat what I wrote:
“The verse is not counting the number of prayers, but is mentioning the time periods during which the five daily prayers need to be read. ALL THE LEARNED SHIA AND SUNNI SCHOLARS agree with this in principle. “
I am not aware of any reliable Shia source that interprets this verse the way you are interpreting it. Therefore while my interpretation is in principle the same as the interpretation of all learned Shia and Sunni scholars, it seems like it is your interpretation that is a personal one.
- You wrote: "who will interpret Allah and Prophet for the solutions to their dispute?"
First please note that verse 4:59 has full application only for those who lived at the time of the prophet (pbuh). During those days any dispute could easily be removed by the direct guidance of God through His prophet (pbuh). As for when the prophet (pbuh) is not there I have already posted a letter from Ali (ra) in the Shia source of Nahj al-Balagha that seems to be an answer, and the answer as you see is denfintly not an inflallible Imam who would help us out. I copy it again:
"When you are faced with problems which you cannot solve or with a difficult situation from which you cannot escape or when uncertain and doubtful circumstances confuse and perplex you, then turn to Allah and the Holy Prophet (s) because Allah has thus ordered those whom He wants to guide. The way to turn to Allah is to act diligently according to the clear and explicit orders given in His Holy Book and to the turn to the Holy Prophet (s) means to follow the Sunnah of the prophet who all agree on with no dispute."
Anything that cannot be resolved by the above directive can be resolved by consultation as mentioned in the Qur'an (42:38) which yet is another verse of the Qur'an that goes against the theory of Imamah.
- You wrote: “As I understand, Ghamadi Sahib reasons that since the concept of Imamat has no basis in Koran, all the ahadith/riwayaat on Shia Imaams are invalid. It seems that Ghamidi Sahib did not care to study those shia sources on Imamat because he has ruled them out due to the reason mentioned earlier.”
I think there is a misunderstanding. I can assure you that these Shia sources have been studied in scholarly level among our colleagues.
However both Shia and Sunni scholars agree that a narration that is not inline with the Qur’an is not a valid one. It will go against logic and honesty if a scholar finds that a narration is against the Qur’an but still accepts it. This is about the narrations in Shia sources that are narrated from the prophet (pbuh). You may know that vast majority of the narrations in Shia sources do not even go back to the prophet (pbuh) but go back only to the Shia Imams (normally Imam Baqir or Imam Sadiq). Obviously one first needs to believe in divine position of these Imams before accepting them as absolute and unchallengeable source of guidance. Logically this acceptance needs to be authorised by an external divine source (the Qur’an) and not by these sources themselves.
So basically if you are referring to studying Shia sources for the sake of scholarship and knowledge then I think not just Shia sources but we need to study as many sources as possible. However when it comes to understanding our religion, the source can only be the Qur’an and not narrations and writings of different sects of Muslims, being Shia, Sunni, Sufi, etc.