Allamah al-Hilli on Reward, Punishment and Intercession in his Kashf Al-Murad

Translated by Ali Retha1

Translators Introduction:

Allamah al-Hilli (d. 726Hijri / 1325 C), one of the most famous scholars and prolific writers of his time, has written the first commentary of his teachers work: Tajrid al-I’tiqad (Abstract of Doctrines) by Khawajah Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (d. 672/1274). The full title of Allamah al-Hilli’s commentary is Kashf al-Murad fi Sharh Tajrid al-I’tiqad (revealing the intent in the commentary of the Abstract of Doctrines) and is arguably the most famous commentary on Sheikh al-Tusi’s work. What you have before you is a translation of part of this classical text that is normally taught as part of the syllabus in Islamic Seminaries (Hawzat).

Shahid Mutahhari (d. 1399/1979) describes the role of Nasir al-Din al-Tusi in theology:

“Nasir al-Din al-Tusi who is an expert in philosophy and theology, made the most solid theological text by the compilation of the Tajrid al-I’tiqad. After him, every theologian, whether Shi’a or Sunni, had put this book into consideration.”2

Mutahhari also goes on to say how influential this work is: “after Khwajah Nasir al-Din al-Tusi wrote his book Tajrid al-I’tiqad more than ninety per cent of theology (Kalam) assumed the colour of philosophy. After the publication of the Tajrid, all theologians – including the Mu’tazilah and the Asha’irah – followed the same road which was trodden by that great philosopher and Shi’ah theologian.”3

Tajrid al-I’tiqad is divided into six sections with the first three sections focusing on the metaphysical and philosophical concepts such as the concepts of existence, the Creator and His attributes. The last three sections are on theological issues focusing on the Imami beliefs from monotheism to resurrection. This translation at hand only focuses on a part of his discussion from the Sixth Section (maqsad) which is subdivided into several issues (masa’il, singular: mas’alah).

All footnotes are that of the translator, as well as all the Italic text in the brackets found within the main text, to help further clarify the meaning of the text for the reader. This small contribution would not have been possible without the help and grace of Allah swt and the lessons on this work from my teacher Dr Wahid Amin.

Sixth Section: Resurrection, promise and threats and what is related to these

Issue Five: Reward and Punishment

Tusi: One deserves to be rewarded and praised by doing what is obligatory and recommended, as well as doing an action that is opposite of a bad (qabih)4 or leaving it. This comes with the condition that the obligation is done because it is considered obligatory or in seeking the benefit from the obligation, and the same goes with recommended acts and doing the opposite (of something bad) because it is choosing to leave the bad choice and its abandonment.

It is obvious that ordaining a hardship without giving anything in return is injustice and wrong (qabih) and designating it (reward or punishment) from the beginning (for no reason) is incorrect, for if it was so, taklif (obligation to follow the Shariah) would have been futile.

Hilli: Praise is a statement that informs us about the high status of the other, with the intention of raising them.

Reward is a beneficiary given to those who deserve it, comparative to greatness and majesty.

Blame is a statement that informs of the lowered station of others, with the intention of lowering their status.

Punishment is a detriment/harm (dharar) that is deserved, relative to the amount that is appropriate.

Praise and reward are deserved by doing what is obligatory and recommended and doing the opposite of that which is bad, which is the same as leaving or abandoning the bad act, according to those who believe that not doing an act is the same as doing the opposite. Abu Ali5 and a group of the Mu’tazilites6 rejected that praise and reward is deserved by anyone who simply avoids the bad and avoids doing the obligation, as they didn’t consider the abandonment or the leaving of something as an actual act, and hence does not deserve either praise or blame.7 The truth is however, what the author has said (Tusi), as rational people approve of blaming someone who does not do their obligation, even if they consider the not doing a non-action, in the same way they would approve of blaming someone who does the bad action.

One of the conditions that is stipulated for the actor to deserve praise and reward is that they perform the obligation because it is considered obligatory, or they perform it because of the benefit or reason behind the obligation.8 Likewise, the recommended action should be done because it is considered recommended, or it is done seeking the benefit behind the recommendation, and what is considered wrong is refrained from because one must refrain from what is wrong or it is refrained from because of the reason behind its prohibition. For surely if one was to do the obligation or recommended act for other than the reasons we have mentioned above, they deserve neither praise nor reward. Similarly, if they refrained from doing a wrong action because of an ulterior motive, like seeking something pleasurable for example or for any other reason, they would not deserve praise or reward.

The evidence that one deserves reward for performing their obligations is that it is a hardship (mashaqqah) that Allah swt has imposed upon the dutybound individual (mukallaf)9. If there was no purpose behind these impositions, then it would be considered futile and unjust, which cannot be attributed to the Most Wise. Therefore, if we consider these impositions purposeful, it can be for the purpose of either causing a detriment to others, which is injustice, or for the sake of benefitting others. If it was for the sake of benefit, either He could have given us this benefit from the beginning which is wrong, because it would mean His impositions on us would be considered futile. Or the second option, which is the correct one, where the benefit is given to the one who deserves it, and by virtue of deserving it you therefore get praised and your station is raised. Giving this from the beginning however is wrong because glorifying one who does not deserve it is wrong.

Tusi: Likewise, a person deserves to be blamed or punished by doing something wrong or by failing to do the obligation, because it is part of grace (lutf),10 as well as the textual evidence.

Hilli: Just like obedience is a cause in deserving reward, likewise disobedience, which is an action of wrongdoing or failure to do an obligation, is a cause for deserving punishment for two reasons:

First is rational, as many of the Adliyyah11 believe, because punishment is considered a form of grace, and grace is obligatory. As for the minor premise (that punishment is a form of grace), it is considered so because if the dutybound individual (mukallaf) knew that disobedience deserves punishment, it would dissuade them from the act and it will motivate them to do the opposite of it, and we know this for certain. As for the major premise (that grace is obligatory) we have already discussed this before.12

Second reason (why disobedience deserves punishment) is textual evidence, which is what the rest of the Adliyyah used as evidence, that it is mutawatir13 and is known from the Religion of the Prophet (S). If you have understood this so far, we say there are a group of people (Mutazillah) that believed that failing to do an obligation does not deserve blame or punishment, rather, what necessitates it is doing an action of wrongdoing or doing an action opposite of the obligation, which is the same as not doing it (in our view), as we have mentioned above.

Tusi: There is no problem of deserving both (punishment and reward) at the same time, but from two different perspectives.

Hilli: This is a reply to those who argue that refraining from an obligation cannot be a cause for blame, because if it was so, and refraining from doing an evil action is a cause for praise, then the dutybound individual (mukallaf) if they refrain from both (the obligation and evil action) they would deserve both praise and blame at the same time. The reply to this is that there is no problem for a person deserving both praise and blame at the same time, so that they are praised for one and blamed for the other, in the same way if one was to do an act of obedience with a part of their limbs and an act of disobedience with another part.

Tusi: Necessitating hardship for thanking the benefactor is wrong (qabih)

Hilli: Abu Qasim al-Balkhy14 said that the obligations have been made mandatory for the sake of thanking the benefactor, so they do not necessitate reward if you do them, nor is one entitled to any benefit for doing them, rather the reward given is an extra favour (tafaddul) from God to the person. A group from the Adliyyah however had an opposing view, and the author (Tusi) argued that this is an invalid view as rational people would consider it wrong (qabih) if a person was to give a benefit (ni’meh) to another and then impose hardship upon them and obligate from them gratitude and praise for this benefit without giving any reward for it. They would consider this a deficiency in the benefactor, and they will attribute them with ostentation, which is wrong (qabih) and cannot come from the wise, so it is necessary to say that one is entitled to reward.

Tusi: And due to the judgement of reason concerning it with ignorance.

Hilli: This is a second reason why Balkhi’s view is wrong. Its evidence: all rational people are convinced that giving thanks to one’s benefactor (shukr al mun’im) is obligatory, and if the necessity of giving thanks is known by reason (aql), even though reason cannot comprehend what the legal obligations (takaleef) are, it is necessary then to say it can’t be gratitude.15

Tusi: The condition for the entitlement of reward, for the obligation done by the dutybound individual (mukallaf) or the wrong that is refrained from, is that it involves a hardship. It is not a condition for reward that a person does not have any regret for doing these obligations or not receiving the immediate benefit of the obligation if done for the sake of the benefit of the obligation.

Hilli: Hardship (mashaqqah) is a condition for the entitlement of reward for the dutybound individual’s (mukallaf’s) action, be it obligatory or recommended, or be it the refrainment from the wrong. The only requirement for reward is hardship, if this is removed, so is the subsequent entitlement of reward.16

It is not a condition (for receiving reward) that one does not have any regret/remorse (nedem), because the action of obedience itself is a cause for the entitlement of the reward. There is a detachment between it (obedience and regret), because during the performance of an action it is impossible for one to be regretting of it at the same time. Note that, not regretting is a condition for the continuation of the entitlement of the reward. Likewise, not to gain immediate benefit (from an action) is not a condition for receiving the reward if the dutybound individual (mukkallaf) has done it for the benefit of the obligation, or the obligation itself, or for the benefit of the recommendation or the recommendation itself.17

Issue 6: Attributes of reward and punishment

Tusi: It is necessary that reward is accompanied with glorification and punishment with humiliation because of the necessary knowledge (intuitively) that these two are deserved when you do that which necessitates them.

Hilli: The Mu’tazilah hold that reward is a grand benefit that one deserves, accompanied with glorification, and punishment is a grand harm that one deserves, accompanied with humiliation. They argue for the necessity of reward being accompanied with glorification, and punishment with humiliation, because we know intuitively, whoever does a hard task which he has been obliged with, then such a person deserves glorification and praise and likewise whoever does a wrong act they deserve humiliation and degradation.

Tusi: It is necessary that they are both eternal because of its inclusion in lutf (grace) and because of the eternal nature of praise and blame and were it not the case the opposite of them would occur.

Hilli: The Mu’tazilah hold that reward and punishment are eternal, but the dispute occurred in whether the certainty in their eternality comes from reason (aqli) or comes from scripture (samii). The Mu’tazilah say that it is based on reason, whilst the Murji’eh18 believe it is based on scripture. The author (Tusi) has argued for its eternity for various reasons:

One: The certainty of the eternal nature of reward and punishment will further encourage a servant to obey the commands and further dissuades them from disobedience by necessity, and if this is the case then it would be considered grace (lutf), and grace  is obligatory as we have mentioned before.

Two: Praise and blame are perpetual because there is no time except that it is proper for the obedient person to be praised and the disobedient person to be blamed if there is no apparent remorse from the perpetrator. Both (praise and blame) are effects of obedience and disobedience, hence it is necessary that obedience and disobedience fall in the category of eternal things, so it is necessary for reward and punishment to be eternal, because the eternity of one of the effects necessitates the eternity of the other effect, because the cause is eternal or it falls into the category of something eternal.19

Three: If reward comes to an end then the one who was receiving it will feel pain when it stops, and if punishment was to come to an end then the one who was receiving it will feel happiness for it stopping. This goes against the very nature of reward and punishment because they are free from impurities (unadulterated).20 This is what we have understood from the words of the author (Tusi) and (when he says) ‘the opposite of them would occur’ it means the opposite of reward and punishment, (and when he says) ‘were it not the case’ it means if it wasn’t eternal.

Tusi: It is necessary that they (reward and punishment) are unadulterated, otherwise reward (thawab) would be of a lower state then compensation (awdh) and favour (tafaddul) in the extent they receive from it, and it would be closer to a form of torment (zajr).

Hilli: It is necessary that reward and punishment are free from any impurities. As for reward, if this wasn’t the case then compensation and favour would be greater than it, because it is possible for them to be free from impurities, so therefore reward will be of less value, which is not possible. As for punishment this is because it is a form of torment, so it would be a grace (lutf) (if the punishment was mixed with reward).21

Tusi: Everyone who occupies a rank in paradise will not seek a better rank, and their happiness through gratitude reaches a level that there is no hardship on them anymore. Their contentment in the reward removes the hardship in (avoiding) evils, while the people of fire will be forced to avoid evil (ghabih).

Hilli: After he stated reward is free from any impurities (pain/punishment), it was said to him that the people of heaven will be in different ranks, and if the one in a lower rank will look towards the one who is above them in rewards it will cause them sadness because of their lower status in comparison to the one above and because of the lack of struggle he/she did in their worship. Furthermore, gratitude is still obligatory on them towards the blessings of God upon them or in the refraining of wrongdoings and in this there is hardship.

The answer to the first objection is that the desire of every dutybound individual (mukallaf) is restricted to what they have achieved and they don’t become sad for the lack of what is more because they don’t desire it.22

The answer to the second objection is that they will attain happiness through their gratitude for their blessings to the extent that it will cease to be a hardship. As for refraining from wrong, there is no hardship for them in this because Allah will make them needless from anything with the overwhelming rewards and its benefits from doing any wrongdoing, so no hardship will befall them. As for the people of fire they will be forced to do what is obligatory upon them and forced to refrain from wrongdoing so it will not come from them, and this is not a form of duty (taklif) upon them, because they are compelled with this, and this will be a sort of punishment for them.

Tusi: It is permitted that entitlement of reward is dependent on a condition, if it was not so then someone who just knows Allah (without any action) would be rewarded.

Hilli: There is a group who believed that entitlement of reward is dependent on a condition, whilst others rejected this, but the first view is the truth. The evidence of this is that were it not so then the one who knows Allah only would be rewarded, even if they are heedless of the miracle and they deny the Prophet (S), and since the consequent is false so is the premise. To proof that a condition is necessary, we know that to know Allah is an independent form of worship in itself, so if there was no further condition for reward to be given for this, then it would be necessary to reward such a person, even if they did not believe in the Prophet (S), by not paying any attention to his miracle.

Tusi: One condition is that a person’s faith continues till death (muwafat), because of His words Most High: ‘…If you join others in worship with Allah, surely your deeds will be in vain…’ (39:65) and His words Most High: ‘…But whoever of you turns back from his religion…‘ (2:217).

Hilli: The Mu’tazillah have differed into four views: Some of them have said reward and punishment is deserved at the moment of obedience or disobedience and they denied that this depends on the condition of faith till death (muwafat). Others have said they deserve this in the afterlife. Others have said they deserve it at the moment the soul is taken away from someone (at death). Others have said they deserve it immediately but with the condition of faith till death (muwafat). If Allah knows that someone’s obedience will continue to be firm until death or afterlife, they deserve reward immediately and likewise punishment. If it was in the knowledge of Allah that a person’s obedience becomes redundant or they repent from disobedience before death, they neither deserve reward or punishment. The author (Tusi) has inferred from this on the view that faith must continue till death (muwafat) from the verse ‘…If you join others in worship with Allah, surely your deeds will be in vain…’ (39:65) and ‘…But whoever of you turns back from his religion, and dies disbelieving – for those, their deeds have become worthless…‘ (2:217).

We say that the meaning of ‘worthless’ (ihbat) here either means that the persons action was void from the very beginning or that the reward becomes dropped after its acceptance or because of disbelief (kufr) nullifying it. The first two views are false. As for the first view, because the nullifying of an action was dependent on performing polytheism and because the verse is a conditional statement and can only take place in the future, and the second view is falsified for the same reason as the first. As for the third view this is falsified because of the rejection of the redundancy of actions (ihbat), as will be discussed.

Issue 7: In redundancy (ihbat) and covering (takfir)

Tusi: Redundancy is false because it is akin to injustice, and because of the words of the Most High: “Whoever does an atom weight of good will see it” (99:7).

Hilli: People differed in their views here, a group from among the Mu’tazillah upheld the idea of redundancy (ihbat) and covering (takfir), which means that a dutybound individual’s (mukallaf) reward in the past are made redundant because of a later disobedience (ihbat) or that the past sins are covered up (removed) because of a later obedience (takfir). Both of these ideas have been rejected by those who have searched this thoroughly (muhaqiqun), whilst those who agree to it have differed in its details. Abu Ali23 said whatever comes last cancels what comes before, and what remains is the most recent actions. Abu Hashim24 says the one that is less is nullified by the one that is more, and some of what is more is nullified by that which is less in relation to its level, and what is left is what is deserved. And this is the quantifiable theory (muwazanah).25

The evidence that shows that redundancy (ihbat) is false is that it entails injustice, because someone who both obeys and disobeys, and their disobedience is more, their status will be like the one who hasn’t done any obedience, and if their obedience is greater, they would be like the same status as one who hasn’t done any disobedience. Furthermore, if the acts are equal it will be as if they have done neither of them (obedience and disobedience), which is not what the rational people will conclude. Also, (another evidence) is because of His words most high ‘Whoever does an atom weight of good will see it, and whoever does an atom weight of bad will see it’ (99:7-8) and keeping His promises of rewards (wa’d) and threats (wa’eed) is necessary.

Tusi: And because there will be no priority if the latter one is double and because contradiction will occur if they were equal.

Hilli: This is an evidence to invalidate the view of Abu Hashim in his quantifiable theory (muwazanah), its explanation is as follows: If we assume that a dutybound individual (mukallaf) deserves five parts26 of reward and ten parts of punishment, it is not possible to say which of the five parts of punishments will take priority in removing the five parts of reward, so either we say both are dropped which is against his theory, or none of them are dropped, which is the correct view. If we assume that one has done five parts of rewards and five parts of punishment if you prioritise one over the other then either the good will cancel the bad or the bad will cancel the good and one cannot prioritise either. If both are considered together, then both reward and punishment will be joined together equally while they are opposite of each other and this implies the joining of two contradictories which is impossible.

Issue 8: The termination of punishment for the one who performs major sins

Tusi: The Kafir’s27 punishment will be eternal whilst the punishment of the one who does the major sins (kaba-ir)28 will be terminated because they deserve reward for their faith and because it is considered wrong (qabih) for rational people.

Hilli: The Muslims unanimously agree (ijmaa’) that the punishment of the Kafir is everlasting and never stops29, but they differed with regards to those Muslims who performed the major sins. The Wa’idiyah30 believed that they will be in the same line as the Kafir. The Imami’s and a large group among the Mu’tazilah and Asha’ireh believed that the punishment is not eternal.

One should know what the characteristics are of what constitutes a small or major sin. As for the small sin there are a variety of views: from them is that it is said in comparison to obedience, so it is small in comparison to an obedience which is greater to it or it is smaller than such an obedience, in the sense that deserving of punishment is at all times less than the deserving of reward. We have made the condition of the generality of the time because the state changes in it that the reward of obedience may sometimes be more than the punishment of the disobedience and sometimes it may decrease, then it cannot be said that this is a minor sin in comparison to the obedience at all times. Rather the minor sin is dependent on the time that its punishment is less than its reward and there being a difference in comparison between the obedience and disobedience because the comparison between the two differs according to the time it is done for the sake of Allah, as He, the most High has said ‘there is no comparison between the one who spent before the victory and fought’ (57:10).

Another view is that it is said to be a minor sin in comparison to another disobedience. So it is said that this disobedience is less than another in the sense that its deserving of punishment is less at all times than the other one.

Another view is that it is in comparison to the reward of the doer, meaning that its punishment is less at all times than the reward of its doer at all times, and this is what the scholars have agreed upon.

As for the major sins it has different views similar to the above. If you know this then we say: the truth is that the punishment of the one who does major sins is not eternal, and the evidence for this is two-fold:

First; that one deserves everlasting reward for their belief (iman), from His words, the Most High: ‘whoever does an atom weight of good will see it’ (99:7) and belief is the best of all good actions. So if they deserved punishment, either reward is given first than punishment, which is an incorrect view by consensus, because belief deserves eternity of reward as we have mentioned, or the other way round (punishment first, than eternal reward) which is the correct view. As for joining them (reward and punishment) at the same time is impossible.31

Second; if we assume that a servant of God has done many good actions throughout their lives in sincerity to God, than disobeys at the end of their lives with a single act of disobedience, whilst their faith is still intact, can they be punished eternally in hell like the one who has put partners to God (shirk) throughout their life? This is impossible because it is considered wrong (qabih) according to all rational people.

Tusi: The scriptural sources need interpretation (t’awil), and the eternity of punishment is specific to the Kafir.

Hilli: This is a response to the evidence brought forward by the Wa’idiyyeh, who argued using scripture (naql) and reason (aql). As for the scriptural evidences, the verses that point to their eternity (in hellfire), His words Most High: ‘whoever disobeys Allah and His Prophet and exceeds the boundaries they will be given eternity in hell’ (Quran 4:14) and His words, Most High, ‘whoever kills a believer intentionally for them is eternal punishment’ (Quran 4:93) as well as other verses. As for the rational evidence, as mentioned previously, reward and punishment must be eternal.32

The response to the scriptural evidence is by interpretation (ta’wil), by either denying the generality of the verses or specifying them to only indicate Kafirs. Or by interpretation (ta’wil) of the word eternity (Khulud) to mean long lasting not everlasting (da-imen). As for the rational argument for the everlasting punishment, this is regarding the Kafirs, as for it including other than them, then no.

Issue 9: The permissibility (jawaz) of forgiveness (afw)33

Tusi: Forgiveness is a reality because it is the right of Allah, Most High, and hence it is possible if He drops it (punishment), and there is no harm to Him for leaving it, whilst it will harm the one subjected to it, therefore abandoning it is good and because it is (a form of) generosity (ihsan)34.

Hilli: A group from among the Mutazillah of Baghdad have said that forgiveness is permissible rationally but impermissible scripturally, whilst the Basra Mu’tazilah upheld that it is (also) permissible scripturally, which is the correct view. The author (Tusi) concluded for this with three reasons:

One: Punishment is the right of Allah so it is possible for Him to leave it, and these two premises are obvious.

Two: Punishment is a harm to the dutybound individual (mukallaf), but there is no harm to the deserving individual if it was abandoned, and whenever this is the case then abandoning it is good. As for it (punishment) being a harm for the mukallaf this is obvious, as for it being non-harmful when abandoned, this is certain, because Allah, Most High, is needless of everything and because abandoning such an act is a form of goodness, it is therefore possible by necessity.

Tusi: And because of Scriptural evidence

Hilli: This is the evidence from scriptural sources and it is based on the (Quranic) verses that point towards God’s forgiveness, from His words Most High: ‘Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills’ (4:48) So either these two norms (ahkam) (in the verse) is with repentance (tawbeh) or without. The first option is false, because association with Him (Shirk) is forgiven for with repentance, hence the second option is correct.35

Also, any sin followed by (sincere) repentance results in compulsory forgiveness, so the verse is not referring to the sin that’s forgiveness is compulsory, because what is compulsory on God does not correlate with His willingness of doing so, so it wouldn’t make sense for God to say ‘for whom He wills’. It is therefore necessary to revert the verse to those sins that are not compulsory for forgiveness, as can be seen in this verse also: ‘Surely your Lord is full of forgiveness for people, despite their wrongdoing’. (13:6) ‘Despite’ (alaa) refers to either the current state (haal) or consequence (qaradh) (of their wrongdoing), for example one can say ‘I hit Zayd because of his sin’, hence this is as a result of their sin (qaradh) but this is not what is intended from the verse for sure, hence the first view (current state/haal) is what is meant. Also Allah most High, has stated in His glorious book that He is All forgiving All merciful, and all Muslims have agreed on this, and there is no meaning to this unless it is dropping the punishment from the sinner.

Issue 10: Intercession (Shafa’ah)

Tusi: There is consensus on the acceptance of intercession, and it was said it is for the increasing of benefit and voiding of what is deserved.

Hilli: All scholars agree that the Prophet is able to provide intercession, one evidence for this is the saying of the Most High: ‘so your Lord may raise you to a station of praise’. (17:79) It was said that this (station of praise) is intercession. There were different views: The Wa’idiyah said that intercession is merely a request for the increase of benefit for the believers, who deserve reward. As for the Tafaduliyah36 they said intercession is for the sinners (fussaq) from among the Ummah (followers of the Prophet) in dropping of punishment, and this is the correct view. The author (Tusi) rejected the first view because had intercession been nothing more than increasing a persons benefit and rewards, we would be seeking intercession for the Prophet because we ask Allah to raise his rank but this is false because the one who is doing the intercession is higher in position than the one who is being interceded for.37

Tusi: Rejection of obedience does not correlate with the rejection of responding (to a request) and the other scriptural sources (that deny intercession) are interpreted to refer to those who are Kafir (only).

Hilli: This is a response to those that believe intercession is only an increase of reward and they have given several evidence for this:

One: His words, Most High “for the unjust there will be no devoted friend and no intercessor [who is] obeyed.” (40:18). Allah has denied the acceptance of intercession for the unjust (dhalim), and the wrongdoer (fasiq) is unjust (dhalim). The answer: The Most High (Allah) has denied that an intercessor will be obeyed, and we agree to this, because in the afterlife there is no intercessor who will be obeyed, because the one who is obeyed is higher than the one who obeys and Allah Most High is above any existent thing and there is nothing above Him. There is however no correlation between the denial of obedience of an intercessor to denial of responding to the request of the intercessor, this is clear. Moreover, why is it not possible that the unjust here (in the verse) is referring to the Kuffar (only), as other evidences have shown?

Two: His words Most High “there will be no helpers for the unjust.” (2:270) If the Prophet (S) interceded for a wrongdoer (fasiq) he would be a helper to them.

Third: His words Most High “nor shall intercession benefit anyone” (2:123) and “no one in the least shall avail another” (2:48) and “no intercession of intercessors will be of any avail to them.” (74:48) The response to all these verses is that it is specific to the disbelievers (kuffar) only from among the evidences.

Fourth: His words Most High “and they (angles) do not intercede except for him with whom He is well-pleased” (21:28) intercession of the angles was denied for anyone who Allah is displeased with and the wrongdoer (fasiq) is one who He is displeased with.
The answer: we don’t accept that the wrongdoer (fasiq) is someone who Allah is displeased with (completely), on the contrary Allah is pleased with them on account of their faith.

Tusi: And it was said that it (intercession) is for removing of harm. The truth is both are true (increasing of ones reward and removing of harm), with the second one (removing of harm) being specific for the Prophet (S) because of his saying: ‘I have reserved my intercession for those who commit major sins from my Ummah’.

Hilli: This is in accordance with the second school of thought that we mentioned earlier (the Tafaduliyah) and it is that intercession is for removing of harm, and the author (Tusi) has shown that both meanings can be applied to intercession at the same time, as can be said (for example): ‘so and so interceded for so and so if he asked for increase in benefit or reduction from harm’, and this is a common understanding among rational beings. Then he (the author) clarified that intercession in the second meaning, meaning the removal of harm, is affirmed for the Prophet, from his saying (S): ‘I have reserved my intercession for those who commit major sins from my Ummah’ and this is a widely transmitted narration (mashoor).



  1. Ali Retha is a dentist by profession, who completed his BDS in 2011, Glasgow. He has been studying online at at the Al Mahdi Institute since 2018.
  2. Murtada Mutahhari, An Introduction to ‘Ilm al-Kalam, translated from Persian by ‘Ali Quli Qara’I, Al-Tawhid Vol. II No. 2, Rabi al Thani 1405 – January 1985.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Qabih can mean ugly, wrong, disliked, bad, evil etc. Hence, it holds several meanings. The reader should bear in mind the extent of the meaning of the word for a more in depth understanding and reading of the text.
  5. Abu Ali Al-Jubbai (d.302/915) – An influential Mu’tazili theologian and philosopher.
  6. An early Islamic sect that focused heavily on rational reasoning to deduce its beliefs.
  7. The Mu’tazila maintained that not doing something is not blameworthy because it is a non-action and we cannot be blamed or praised for not doing anything.
  8. For example, I may fast because God has ordered me to do so, or because I am seeking the reason behind that obligation as stipulated by God ‘…that you attain piety’ (2:183). But both reasons are in seeking closeness to God. I cannot seek the benefit of an action for the sake of the benefit alone without seeking a means of closeness to God through it, as all actions are done seeking closeness to Him (qurbatan ila Allahi Ta’alah).
  9. Mukallaf is one who has reached the age of jurisprudential maturity (bulugh) where the obligations and prohibitions (impositions/taklif) becomes mandatory on him/her.
  10. Lutf – translated as favour or grace – is anything which takes one closer to an act of obedience or further from an act of disobedience. According to the Imami’s (Shia/IthnaAshari) it is believed that lutf is obligatory on God towards His subjects.
  11. Those who uphold Justice (Adl) as a fundamental framework of belief (Usul) (like the Imami’s and Mu’tazillah)
  12. This has been mentioned in earlier parts of the book but not included in these passages. It maintains that it is obligatory on a wise and loving God to do that which would take His subjects closer to obedience and further from disobedience, hence lutf is obligatory on God.
  13. A narration/incident that it is so widely transmitted that it brings certainty of its authenticity
  14. Abu al-Qasim al-Balkhi (d. 319/931), was a well-known Muʿtazili theologian from Baghdad. He was also known as al-Kaʿbi.
  15. This is another reason used to disprove that obligations (takaleef) were imposed by God solely as a means for us to show our gratitude to Him, without the entitlement of any reward for it. The example given here is like saying: I know by reason I need to give thanks for the gifts God has given me, but I cannot conclude by reason that I need to perform certain obligations, like the ritual prayer, fasting, Hajj etc. to show my gratitude. Hence thanking the benefactor, and performing these imposed obligations are two different things.
  16. This is regarding what constitutes hardship for the general people in normal circumstances, not exceptions. Hence if I do not consider fasting a hardship, that does not mean I am not entitled for reward, as it is considered a hardship for people generally.
  17. Receiving immediate benefit of an action in this dunya, does not harm our entitlement for the reward of the action in the akhira.
  18. An early Islamic sect, that held that postponement (irjaa’) of judgement was necessary for anyone who performed major sins. For them, belief is the only necessity for salvation, not action.
  19. An act of obedience results in eternal praise, and eternal praise deserves eternal reward. You cannot separate praise from reward, likewise, blame from punishment. In the same way one cannot separate heat from fire, as long as the fire persists, heat will persist.
  20. Meaning reward and praise cannot be mixed with punishment and blame at the same time, and vis versa.
  21. Reward cannot be mixed with torment, and punishment cannot be mixed with happiness, otherwise reward will no longer be reward, and punishment will no longer be punishment.
  22. They only desire what they deserve and they will be contempt with it.
  23. Abu Ali Al-Jubbai (d.302/915). An influential Mu’tazili.
  24. Abu Hashim Al-Jubbai (d. 321/933) son of Abu Ali Al-Jubbai and succeeded his father in leading the Mu’tazilite school of Basra after him.
  25. The idea of muwazanah is that it considers the weight of the actions, hence, what remains more or is heavier out of the two (good and bad) is what the person deserves in the end. This is unlike his father’s theory which only considers the order of the actions, giving all credit to the last actions done, and paying no attention to the previous ones.
  26. Parts here refers to actions that are deserving of reward or punishment.
  27. There has been no mention as to what is meant by the term kafir (Plural: Kufaar). A Kafir here does not merely mean those who are non-Muslim, but it is more plausible that it refers to those who actively deny or reject the truth whilst knowing it is the truth.
  28. Dastghaib Shirazi (d.1984 CE) in his book ‘Greater Sins’ mentions four ways that a sin may be recognised as ‘major’:

    One: Those sins that have been specifically described as major sins in the Quran and traditions (such sins exceed forty).

    Two: Those sins whereby it has been mentioned in the Quran or hadith that the doer of it will be punished with the hell fire.

    Three: If we come to know of a sin as major, and we come to know that another sin is worse than it, then by priority that sin will also be considered a major sin (even if it didn’t meet the previous two criteria).

    Four: where there is consensus among the scholars and jurists of a certain sin being considered as major if this consensus goes back to the time of the Infallible.

  29. In Ibn Arabi’s (d. 636/1240) philosophy, punishment is not only temporal for Muslims, but for the Kafir as well, with everything ending in Divine Mercy. Mulla Sadra (d.1045/1636) also agreed with this, interpreting the verses that talk about eternity of Hell to mean other than permanent residence in Hell. Mulla Hadi Sabzawari (d.1290/1873), Muhammad Jawad Mughniyah (d.1399/1979) and Hassanzadeh Amoli (d.1442/2021) to name a few, also hold similar views, maintaining that the eternity of the fire of Hell does not necessarily correlate with eternity of punishment, and that eternity (khuld) in Hellfire can be interpreted to mean a long time, not everlastingness.

    Reference: ‘The Lord of Retribution is All Forgiving: Dynamics of forgiveness in Shi’ite Islam’ by Mahdi Hasanzadeh and Rasool Akbari, Chapter 5, The Philosophy of Forgiveness, Vol. 3, Edited by Gregory L. Bock, (USA: Vernon Press, 2018).

  30. An umbrella term indicating anyone who emphasised God’s threats more than the rewards, believing that anyone who does major sins is considered a kafir and deserves eternity in Hell. The Khawarij and some from among the Mu’tazillah held this view.
  31. Because one cannot be punished and rewarded at the same time – one of them will need to take precedence.
  32. See: Issue Six: The attributes of Reward and Punishment.
  33. The discussion here is regarding forgiveness when there is no repentance, not after repentance.
  34. Ihsan – can be literally translated to mean ‘to do beautiful things’ and has also been translated to mean, ‘perfection’, ‘excellence’, or ‘beautification’.
  35. The two norms mentioned in the verse are: 1- Allah does not forgive Shirk, 2- Allah forgives what is other/less than that to whoever He wills. We know that even Shirk can be forgiven for with repentance, hence this verse is talking about Allah’s forgiveness without repentance, indicating the permissibility/possibility of forgiveness without repentance for everything other than Shirk.
  36. An umbrella term indicating anyone who emphasised God’s threats more than the rewards, believing that anyone who does major sins is considered a kafir and deserves eternity in Hell. The Khawarij and some from among the Mu’tazillah held this view.
  37. We can do dua (supplication/prayer) to ask Allah swt to raise the rank of the Prophet, but this is not called intercession, this is dua. Hence, it is intercession of the Prophet that is being rejected here, as one who intercedes is at a higher position than the one being interceded for.