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Infallibility of Prophet
I recently read a long healthy discussion on the topic of Infallibility of Prophet (saw) on the website Alim.org. This is a humble effort to clarify. Let us overcome our emotion, be objective, factual and deductive inshaALLAH. We all love the prophet and that is must; it is an academic discussion only.
One brother pointer out ..”Sura al-Najm testifies about the Holy prophet’s infallibility so does surah 33 verse 33”. This understanding and its scope can be very subjective. The scope of infallibility needs discussion. However, we cannot discard an authentic hadith, because prophet (saw) forgot something (assuming that violates his infallibility).
Allah is the ONLY one perfect and everything else has some form of deficiency (i.e -death).
Prophets are the best and specially chosen people but they get hungry, get tried, get emotional, get stressed and can have normal human limitations, except in issues related to heavenly message.
The fact that Allaah has commanded us to follow the Messengers and take them as our example. The prophet (saw) must be loved, respected, and obeyed. It does not require any discussion for Muslims. He is the final authority in Islam.
وَمَا كَانَ لِمُؤْمِنٍ وَلَا مُؤْمِنَةٍ إِذَا قَضَى اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَمْرًا أَن يَكُونَ لَهُمُ الْخِيَرَةُ مِنْ أَمْرِهِمْ وَمَن يَعْصِ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ ضَلَالًا مُّبِينًا
It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Apostle to have any option about their decision: if any one disobeys Allah and His Apostle, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path, (33:36)
الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الإِسْلاَمَ دِينًا
This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. (5:03)
Note that the message might have gone through various stages (i.e abrogation, rectification) before the final stage. This is a part of completion process as Allah (swt) willed.
مَا نَنسَخْ مِنْ آيَةٍ أَوْ نُنسِهَا نَأْتِ بِخَيْرٍ مِّنْهَا أَوْ مِثْلِهَا أَلَمْ تَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللّهَ عَلَىَ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِير
We need to understand the role of prophet regarding the message. Can a prophet make mistake, forget, do poor ijtihad or commit sin? And, how that relates to authenticity or perfection of the message? Note the message of Islam is perfect as we saw.
The Prophets are the best of mankind, and the most noble of creation before Allaah. Allaah chose them to convey the call of Laa ilaaha ill-Allaah to mankind, and Allaah has made them the intermediaries between Him and His creation in conveying His Laws. They were commanded to convey the message from Allaah, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):”
أولئك الذين آتيناهم الكتاب والحكم والنبوة فإن يكفر بها هؤلاء فقد وكلنا بها قوما ليسوا بها بكافرين
They are those whom We gave the Book, Al Hukm (understanding of the religious laws), and Prophethood. But if these disbelieve therein (the Book, Al Hukm and Prophethood), then, indeed We have entrusted it to a people (such as the Companions of Prophet Muhammad) who are not disbelievers therein” (al-An’aam 6:89)
The Prophets’ task was to convey the message from Allaah even though they were human, hence the issue of infallibility may be examined from two angles: Infallibility in conveying the message and Infallibility from human error
Infallibility in conveying the message
So with regard to conveying the religion of his Lord, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did not make any mistakes at all (let alone sin), whether major or minor, rather he was infallible and under the constant protection of Allaah.
He did not make mistakes:
وَالنَّجْمِ إِذَا هَوَى .مَا ضَلَّ صَاحِبُكُمْ وَمَا غَوَى. وَمَا يَنطِقُ عَنِ الْهَوَى .إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا وَحْيٌ يُوحَى. عَلَّمَهُ شَدِيدُ الْقُوَى
By the star when it goes down (or vanishes).Your companion (Muhammad) has neither gone astray nor has erred. Nor does he speak of (his own) desire. It is only a Revelation revealed. He has been taught (this Qur’aan) by one mighty in power [Jibreel (Gabriel)] (al-Najm 53:1-5)
He did not make up lies:
وَلَوْ تَقَوَّلَ عَلَيْنَا بَعْضَ الْأَقَاوِيلِ . لَأَخَذْنَا مِنْهُ بِالْيَمِينِ . .ثُمَّ لَقَطَعْنَا مِنْهُ الْوَتِينَ ..فَمَا مِنكُم مِّنْ أَحَدٍ عَنْهُ حَاجِزِينَ
And if he (Muhammad) had forged a false saying concerning Us (Allaah), We surely would have seized him by his right hand (or with power and might), And then We certainly would have cut off his life artery (aorta), And none of you could have withheld Us from (punishing) him (al-Haaqqah 69:44-47)
He did not hide information:
وَمَا هُوَ عَلَى الْغَيْبِ بِضَنِينٍ
He did not forget:
سَنُقْرِؤُكَ فَلَا تَنسَى
He has the best, purposeful negligence and mistake cannot be done by him:
وَإِنَّكَ لَعَلى خُلُقٍ عَظِيمٍ
Infallibility from human error
With regard to the Prophets as people, they may make mistakes or pass less than best judgment. They are corrected by Allah for the integrity of the final message. This may be discussed as follows:
Prophet is a human:
قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَنَا بَشَرٌ مِّثْلُكُمْ يُوحَى إِلَيَّ أَنَّمَا إِلَهُكُمْ إِلَهٌ وَاحِدٌ
With regard to major sins, as it requires no discussion, the Prophets do not commit major sins at all, and they are guided right and protected from such major sins. They may make mistakes, because a mistake may be made unintentionally. They are Matters that have nothing to do with conveying the message and the revelation. The following (see details later) stories of minor mistake or POOR ijtihad of the prophets are well known (they were rectified by Allah to ensure the integrity of the message and we are informed of these by Allah):
…..When the two angels came to Dawood, he listened to the first and did not listen to what the second had to say… and the story of Yoonus when the big fish swallowed him; the story of Adam and the story of the Messenger with Zayd ibn Haarithah, they say that he concealed something which he should have declared openly; and with his Sahaabah (regarding grafting), he told them, “You know better about your worldly affairs,” …..
The evidence that they might make mistakes or forget and that they were not left to persist therein is the verses in which Allaah says of Adam (interpretation of the meaning):
وَلَقَدْ عَهِدْنَا إِلَى آدَمَ مِن قَبْلُ فَنَسِيَ وَلَمْ نَجِدْ لَهُ عَزْمًا
وَعَصَى آدَمُ رَبَّهُ فَغَوَى. ثُمَّ اجْتَبَاهُ رَبُّهُ فَتَابَ عَلَيْهِ وَهَدَى
Dawood made a mistake by hastening to pass judgment before hearing the case of the second disputant:
دَاوُودُ أَنَّمَا فَتَنَّاهُ فَاسْتَغْفَرَ رَبَّهُ وَخَرَّ رَاكِعًا وَأَنَابَ. فَغَفَرْنَا لَهُ ذَلِكَ وَإِنَّ لَهُ عِندَنَا لَزُلْفَى وَحُسْنَ مَآبٍ
And he [Dawood] sought forgiveness of his Lord, and he fell down prostrate and turned (to Allaah) in repentance. So We forgave him that, and verily, for him is a near access to Us, and a good place of (final) return (Paradise)” [Saad 38:23-24]
Prophet Muhammad (saw) made unintentional mistakes with regard to some worldly matters. This happened with regard to various spheres of life such as medicine, agriculture, etc.
Muslim narrated in his Saheeh (6127) that Raafi’ ibn Khadeej said: The Prophet of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) came to Madeenah and found them pollinating the palm trees. He said: “What are you doing?” They said: “We always do this.” He said: “Perhaps if you do not do it, that will be better.” So they did not do it, and the harvest failed. They told him about that and he said: “I am only human. If I tell you to do something with regard to your religion, then do it, but if I tell you to do something based on my own opinion, then I am only human.” (link)
Hence it is known that the Prophets are infallible and protected from error with regard to the Revelation, so we should beware of those who cast aspersions upon the Messenger’s conveying of the Message and his laws, and say that it is his own personal opinion. And our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was rebuked by his Lord for several things that are mentioned in the Qur’aan, such as the following (interpretation of the meaning):َ
يا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ لِمَ تُحَرِّمُ مَا أَحَلَّ اللَّهُ لَكَ تَبْتَغِي مَرْضَاتَ أَزْوَاجِكَ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
This refers to the well-known story with some of his wives.
Allah also rebuked His Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) concerning the prisoners of war at Badr:
Muslim narrated in his Saheeh (4588) that Ibn ‘Abbaas said: When the prisoners were taken captive, the Messenger of Allaah (S) (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to Abu Bakr and ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with them): “What do you think about these prisoners?” Abu Bakr said: “O Prophet of Allaah, they are our cousins and kinsmen. I think that we should accept a ransom from them which will give us some support against the kuffaar, and perhaps Allaah will guide them to Islam.” The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “What do you think, O Ibn al-Khattaab?” He said: “I say, no, by Allaah, O Messenger of Allaah. I do not agree with Abu Bakr. I think that you should hand them over to us so that we may strike their necks (execute them). Hand over ‘Aqeel to ‘Ali so that he may strike his neck, and hand over So and so – a relative of ‘Umar – to me, for these are the leaders and veterans of kufr.” The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) liked what Abu Bakr said and he did not like what I [‘Umar] said. The next day I came and found the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and Abu Bakr weeping. I said: “O Messenger of Allaah, tell me, what has made you and your companion weep? If there is a reason to weep, I will weep with you, and there is no reason, I will pretend to weep in sympathy with you because you are weeping.” The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “I am weeping because I was shown the torture to which they were subjected. It was brought as close to me as this tree” – a tree which was near the Prophet of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) – then Allaah revealed the words (interpretation of the meaning):
مَا كَانَ لِنَبِيٍّ أَن يَكُونَ لَهُ أَسْرَى حَتَّى يُثْخِنَ فِي الأَرْضِ تُرِيدُونَ عَرَضَ الدُّنْيَا وَاللّهُ يُرِيدُ الآخِرَةَ وَاللّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ …لَّوْلاَ كِتَابٌ مِّنَ اللّهِ سَبَقَ لَمَسَّكُمْ فِيمَا أَخَذْتُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيم
“It is not for a Prophet that he should have prisoners of war (and free them with ransom) until he had made a great slaughter (among his enemies) in the land. You desire the good of this world (i.e. the money of ransom for freeing the captives), but Allaah desires (for you) the Hereafter. And Allaah is All-Mighty, All-Wise. Were it not a previous ordainment from Allaah, a severe torment would have touched you for what you took. So enjoy what you have gotten of booty in war, lawful and good” [al-Anfaal 8:67-69]
We see that for any mistake, Allah corrected him; that in turn ensures the integrity of the final message.
Hence it is known that the Prophets are infallible and protected from error with regard to the Revelation, so we should beware of those who cast aspersions upon the Messenger’s conveying of the Message and his laws, and say that it is his own personal opinion. After all correction/ rectification provided by Allah, THE FINAL MESSAGE IS CORRECT and Prophet remained perfect in a sense after the correction from Allah.
الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الإِسْلاَمَ دِينًا
ALLAH KNOWS BEST.