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Imam al-Rida's (a) Debate with Abu Qurra

Imam al-Rida (a), disproved the vague errors which were raised about Islam. Abu Qurra headed for Khorasan in order to examine the Imam (a). He asked Safwan b. Yahya, a close associate of the Imam, to ask the Imam for permission to come in to him. The Imam (a) gave him permission. When Abu Qurra was honored by standing before him, he asked Imam (a) about things concerned the lawful, the unlawful, religious duties, and Islamic rulings, and he answered them. Then he asked him about some matters concerned the Oneness of God, which are as follows:

Abu Qurra said: "Tell me, may Allah make me your ransom, about the words of Allah to Moses." قال أبو قرّة: أخبرني جعلني الله فداك عن كلام الله لموسى؟
Imam said: "Allah knows better with which language He spoke to him, in Assyrian or in Hebrew." فقال: «اللهُ أعلم بأيٍّ كَلَّمَهُ، بالسِّريانيَّة أم بِالعِبرَانِيَّة».
Abu Qurra took out his tongue and said: "I am asking you about this tongue. The meaning of that: Did He speak to him with a tongue like that of man?" فأخرج أبو قُرَّة لسانه وقال: إنما أسألك عن هذا اللسان؟
The Imam disproved Abu Qurra's vague error, saying: "Glory belongs to Allah! He is free from the things you are ascribing to Him! I seek refuge in Allah! He is not like His creatures nor does He speak in the same manner in which they speak. However, there is nothing like Him, the Blessed and Exalted; nor there are speakers and doers like him." فقال  : «سبحان الله عما تقول، ومعاذ الله أن يشبه خلقه أو يتكلم بمثل ما هم متكلِّمون، ولكنه تبارك وتعالى ليس كمثله شيء، ولا كمثله قائل ولا فاعل».
"How is that?" asked Abu Qurra. فقال أبو قُرَّة: كيف ذلك؟
He, peace be on him, said: "The speech of the Creator to the creature is not like the speech of a creature to a creature. He (Allah) does not speak through the opening of a mouth and a tongue. However, He says (to the thing): “Be.” The command and prohibition through which He addressed Musa was with His will without any hesitation in (His) heart." فقال  : «كَلام الخالقِ لمخلوقٍ ليس كَكَلام المخلوق لمخلوق، ولا يلفظ بِشَقِّ فَمٍ ولسان ولكن يقول: (كُنْ ، فكان بمشيئتِه ما خاطب به موسى من الأمر والنهي من غير تردّد في نَفَس».
Abu Qurra: "What is your view of the Books?" فقال أبو قُرَّة : ما تقول في الكُتُب؟
Imam said: "The Torah, the Bible, the Zabur (David's Psalms), the Qur'an, and all the revealed Books are the words of Allah. He sent them down to men as light and guidance. All of them are originated and are other than Allah, Who says: Or that He may produce a reminder for them. And He says: There comes not to them a new reminder from their Lord but they hear it while they sport. Allah originated all the Books which He sent down." فقال  : «التَّوراةُ، والإنجِيل، والزَّبُور، والفُرقَان، وكل كتابٍ أُنزِل كان كلام الله، أنزله للعالمين نوراً وهُدىً، وهي كلّها مُحدَثة، وهي غير الله حيث يقول (عزَّ وجلَّ) : {أوْ يُحْدِثُ لَهُمْ ذِكْراً}. وقال (عزَّ وجلَّ): {مَا يَأْتِيهِمْ مِّنْ ذِكْرٍ مِّنْ رِّبِّهِمْ مُحْدَثٍ إِلاَّ استَمَعُوهُ وَهُمْ يَلْعَبُونَ}، والله أحدَثَ الكتب كلها التي أنزَلَها».
Abu Qurra said: "Will the Books perish?" فقال أبو قُرَّة : هل تُفنَى؟
Imam said: "The Muslims have unanimously agreed that all things except Allah will perish. (Everything) other than Allah is the action of Allah. As for the Torah, the Bible, the Zabur (David's Psalms), the Qur'an, are the action of Allah. Do you not hear that the people say: ‘The Lord of the Qur'an,’ that the Qur'an will say on the Day of Resurrection: ‘My Lord, I made so-and-so thirst by day and sleepless by night, so accept my intercession for him.’ As for the Torah, the Bible, and the Zabur, they are also created and have Lord. They were originated by Him whom nothing resembles. They are guidance for those who have minds. As a result, he who claims that they are as eternal as He is, then he manifests: Allah is not the first, not eternal, not one, speech as eternal as He is and has no beginning, and He is not Allah." فقال  : «أجمعَ المسلمون على أنَّ ما سوى الله فانٍ، وما سوى الله فعل الله، والتوراة والإنجيل والزَّبور والفرقان فعل الله، ألم تسمع الناس يقولون: رب القرآن، وأن القرآن يقول يوم القيامة: يا ربِّ هذا فلان – وهي أعرف به منه – قد أظمأتُ نهارَه وأسهرتُ ليله، فَشَفِّعنِي فيه. وكذلك التوراة والإنجيل والزَّبور وهي كلها مُحدَثة، مَربُوبة، أحدثها من ليس كمثله شيء هُدىً لقومٍ يعقلون، فمن زعم أنَّهُنَّ لم يَزلْنَ معه فقد أظهر أن الله ليس بأول قديم، ولا واحد، وإن الكلام لم يزل معه، وليس له بدو، وليس بإِلَه».
Abu Qurra said: "We have been told that all the Books will come on the Day of Resurrection while men are on one level standing for the Lord of the worlds and looking until they (the Books) return into Him, for they are part of Him and He is part of Him; therefore, the come to Him?" فقال أبو قُرَّة : إنا روينا: إن الكتب كلّها تجيء يوم القيامة والناس في صعيد واحد، قيام لِربِّ العالمين، ينظرون حتى ترجع فيه، لأنها منه وهي جزء منه، فإليه تصير.
Imam said: "In this manner the Christians said that al-Masih (i.e. Jesus Christ) was the Spirit of Allah, part of Him, and would return into him. In this manner the Magians said that the fire and the sun were part of Him and would return into him. Exalted is our Lord above that He is parted and different. It is the parted which is different and harmonious. That is because every parted thing is imagined. As for plenty and smallness, they are created and demonstrate the creation of their Creator." فقال : «هكذا قالت النصارى في المسيح إنه روحه، جُزء منه، ويرجع فيه، وكذلك قالت المجوس في النار والشمس أنهما جزء منه ترجع فيه. تعالى ربُّنا أن يكون متجزياً أو مختلفاً، وإنما يختلف ويأتلَّف المُتجزي لإن كل متجزي متوَّهم ، والكثرة والقلة مخلوقة دالَّة على خالق خلقها».
Abu Qurra said: "We have been told that Allah divided ocular vision and (His) speech between two prophets. He gave His speech to Musa, and His vision to Muhammad, may Allah bless him and his family?" فقال أبو قُرَّة: إنا روينا: إن الله قسم الرؤية والكلام بين نبيَّين، فقسم لموسى الكلام ولمحمد الرؤية؟
Imam said: "Who brought the message from Allah to the thaqalayn (i.e. the jinn and men): the eyes attain Him not; they comprehend Him not in knowledge; there is nothing like Him? Wasn't Muhammad, may Allah bless him and his family, (who brought these beliefs?)" فقال  : «فمن المُبلغ عن الله الثقلين: الجن والأنس؟ إنه لا تدركه الابصار، ولا يحيطون به علماً، وليس كمثله شيء، أليس محمد؟»
"Yes," was the answer. فقال أبو قُرَّة : بلى.
The Imam, peace be on him, made clear the matter to him and explained to him what was vague, saying: "How does a man come to all creatures and tells them that he has come from Allah, that he summons them to Allah through Allah's command and says: ‘The eyes attain Him not; they comprehend Him not in knowledge; and there is nothing like Him.’ And in spite of all that, he should still claim, ‘I have seen Allah with my own eye; I have comprehended Him in my knowledge; and Allah has the form of a man?’ Do you not feel any shame? Even the unbelievers could not charge the Prophet with first bringing one thing from Allah and then, in a different way, announcing some other thing quite contrary to the first." قال أبو الحسن: «كيف يجيء رجل إلى الخلق جميعاً فيخبرهم أنه جاء من عند الله، وأنه يدعوهم إلى الله بأمر الله، ويقول: إنه لا تدركه الابصار ولا يحيطون به علماً، وليس كمثله شيء. ثم يقول: أنا رأيتُه بعيني، واحطتُ به علماً، وهو على صورة البشر. أما تستحيون؟!! ما قَدِرَت الزنادقة أن ترميهِ بهذا، أن يكون أتى عن الله بأمر ثم يأتي بخلافه من وجه آخر».
Abu Qurra said: "He (Allah) says: And indeed he (the Prophet) saw Him in another descent?" {فقال أبو قُرَّة: إنه يقول: {وَلَقَدْ رَآهُ نَزْلَةً أُخْرَى
Imam said: "After this verse there is another verse which demonstrates what the Prophet had seen, and in which Allah says: His heart does not lie of what he saw. Allah says that the heart of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and his family, did not belie of what his eyes did see. He says: Indeed he (the Prophet) saw one of the greatest signs of his Lord. Therefore the signs of Allah are other than Allah. He says: They do not comprehend Him in knowledge. Now, if eyes could see Allah, then people could comprehend Him in knowledge." فقال  : «إن بعد هذه الآية ما يدل على ما رأى، حيثُ قال: {مَا كَذَبَ الفُؤَادُ مَا رَأى} ، يقول : ما كذب فؤاد محمد ما رأت عينَاه ، فقال : {لَقَدْ رَأى مِنْ آَيَاتِ رَبِّهِ الكُبْرَى} فآياتُ الله غير الله. وقال: {وَلا يُحِيطُونَ بِهِ عِلْماً}، فإذا رأته الأبصار فقد أحاط به العلم، ووقعت المعرفة».
Abu Qurra said: "Do you deny the traditions?" فقال أبو قُرَّة : فنكذِّب بالرواية؟
Imam said: "When the traditions are contrary to the Qur'an, I deny them. (Besides) all Muslims unanimously believe that Allah cannot be comprehended by knowledge, that the eyes do not attain Him, and that there is nothing like Him." The Imam, peace be on him, appointed a measure for the correctness and incorrectness of the traditions. The measure is that if the tradition agrees with the Qur’an (in meaning), then it is correct; otherwise it is incorrect. فقال  : «إذا كانت الرواية مُخالفة للقرآن كَذَّبتُها، وما أجمع المسلمون عليه أنه - أي الله تعالى - لا يُحاط به علماً، ولا تدركه الأبصار، وليس كمثله شيء»
Abu Qurra said: "What is the meaning of these words of Him, the Exalted? Glory belongs to Him Who made His servant go on a night from the Sacred Mosque to the remote mosque of which We have blessed the precincts." {فقال أبو قُرَّة: ما معنى قوله تعالى: {سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَى بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلاً مِّنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الأَقْصَى
Imam said: "Allah, the Exalted, told that He made him go, and then He (i.e. Allah) told (us) why He made him go namely Allah told (us) about the reason for this travel by night, saying: So that We may show to him some of Our signs. Therefore, the signs of Allah are other than Allah. Allah has shown the reason and explained why He did that toward him and what he (the Prophet) did see. And He said: Then in what announcement would they believe after Allah and His communications?" فقال  : «لقد أخبر الله تعالى أنه أسرَى به، ثم أخبر أنَّه لِمَ أُسْرِيَ به، فقال: {لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ آَيَاتِنَا}، فآيات الله غير الله، فقد أعذر، وبَيَّن لِمَ فعل به ذلك، وما رآه، وقال: {فَبِأَيِّ حَدِيثٍ بَعْدَ اللهِ وَآيَاتِهِ يُؤْمِنُونَ}
Abu Qurra said: "Where is Allah?" فقال أبو قُرَّة: أين الله؟
Imam said: "The ‘where’ is a place. This is the question of one who is present about one who is absent. As for Allah, the Most High, is not absent; nor was there an eternal thing before Him. He is everywhere. He is Director, Creator, Keeper, the Holder of the heavens and the earth." فقال : «الـ ( أيْنَ ) مَكان، وهذه مسألة شاهدٍ عن غائب ، فالله تعالى ليس بغائب، ولا يُقدِمُه قادم، وهو بِكُل مكان، موجود، مدبِّر، صانع، حافظ، ممسك السماوات والأرض».
Abu Qurra said: "Is Allah not on the heaven, not on other than it?" فقال أبو قُرَّة: أليس هو فوق السماء دون ما سواها؟
Imam said: "Allah is in the heavens and in earth. And it is He Who in heaven is Allah and in earth is Allah. It is He Who shapes you in the wombs as He likes. He is with you wherever you are. It is He Who directed Himself to the heaven, and it was a vapor. It is He Who directed Himself to the heaven, so He made them seven complete heavens. It is He Who sat Himself upon the throne (of authority). He was while there was no creation. He was just as He was when there was no creation. He does not move with those who move." فقال  : «هو الله في السماوات وفي الأرض، وهو الذي في السماء إِلَه، وفي الأرض إله، وهو الذي يصوِّرُكم في الأرحام كيف يشاء، وهو معكم أينما كنتُم، وهو الذي استوى إلى السَّماء وهي دُخَان. وهو الذي استوى إلى السماءِ فَسوَّاهُنَّ سبع سماوات، وهو الذي استوى على العرش، قَد كان وَلا خَلْق، وهو كما كان إذ لا خَلْق، لم ينتَقِل مع المُنتَقِلين».
Abu Qurra said: "Why do you raise your hands toward the heaven when you pray?" فقال أبو قُرَّة: فَما بَالُكم إذا دعوتُم رفعتم أيديكم إلى السماء؟
Imam said: "Surely, Allah has enslaved His creatures with kinds of acts of worship. There are places of flight to Allah, so they flee to Him and are enslaved. He has enslaved His servants through words, knowledge, action, guidance, and the like. He has enslaved them through directing the prayer toward the Ka'ba. He has also directed toward it the hajj and the Omra. He has enslaved His creatures during the supplication and request. As for imploring through stretching out the hands and raising them toward the heaven, it (shows) the state of submission (to Allah) and the mark of exclusive devotion and servility to Him." فقال  : «إن الله استعبدَ خلقه بِضُروب من العبادة، ولله مَفازِعَ يفزعون إليه ومستعبد، فاستعبَدَ عبادَه بالقول والعلم، والعمل والتوجّه، ونحو ذلك استعبدهم بتوجيه الصلاة إلى الكَعبة، ووجه إليها الحَجَّ والعمرة. واستعبد خلقه عند الدعاء والطلب، والتضرّع ببسط الأيدي، ورفعها إلى السَّماء حال الاستكانة، وعلامَة العبودية والتذلل له».
Abu Qurra said: "Who are nearer to Allah, the angels or the inhabitants of the earth?" فقال أبو قُرَّة: من أقرب إلى الله الملائكة أو أهل الأرض؟
Imam said: "If you mean the span of the hand and the arm, then all things are the same (for Him) and are His action. He does not busy Himself with some of them (and leaves the rest). He directs the highest of the creatures and the lowest of them. He directs the first of them and the last of them without any trouble, toilsomeness, burden, consultation, and fatigue. If you mean that which of them is nearer to Him due to means, then the most obedient to Him. You know that the servant is close to Allah when he prostates himself in prayer. You know that four angels met. One of them was from the highest creatures, one of them was from the lowest creatures, one of them was from the east of the creatures, and one of them was from the west of the creatures. They asked each other. All of them said: ‘(We have come) from Allah. He has sent me with so-and-so. This is evidence for that (nearness to Allah) is in position without comparison and resemblance." فقال  : «إن كُنتَ تقول بالشِّبر والذراع، فإن الأشياء كلها باب واحد هي فعله، لا يشتغل ببعضها عن بعض، يدبِّر أعلى الخلق من حيث يدبر أسفله، ويدبر أوَّله من حيث يدبِّر آخره من غير عناء، ولا كُلفة ولا مُؤْنة، ولا مشاورة، ولا نصب. وإِن كنتَ تقول: من أقرب إليه في الوسيلة، فأطوَعهم لهُ، وأنتم ترون أن أقرب ما يكون العبد إلى الله وهو ساجد. وروَيتم أن أربعة أملاك التقوا أحدهم من أعلى الخلق، وأحدهم من أسفل الخلق، وأحدهم من شرق الخلق، وأحدهم من غرب الخلق، فسأل بعضهم بعضاً فكلهم قال: مِن عندِ الله، أرسلني بكذا وكذا. ففي هذا دليل على أن ذلك في المنزلة دون التشبيه والتمثيل» .
Abu Qurra said: "Do you admit that Allah is (in the state of) being carried?" فقال أبو قُرَّة : أتقرّ أنَّ الله مَحْمُول؟
Imam said: "Everything carried is (passive) i.e., acted upon by someone else, and is indeed (of others). The word ‘carried’ in itself connotes deficiency and need. On the other hand the carrier is (active) i.e., the one who acts. The word ‘carrier’ signifies analogy within itself, just as the word above, below, the very high and very low are generally used by speakers. Allah has also said: ‘And to Allah (alone) belongs (all) the most beautiful names, so call him by them.’27 And He has never said in His Book that He has been carried. Rather He has said that He carries on land and at sea. And it is He Who holds the heavens and earth lest they remove. And everything which is carried is always apart from Allah. It has never been heard that anyone who believes in Allah and His Majesty called Him (Allah): ‘O the carried!’" فقال  : «كُل محمولٍ مفعول، ومضاف إلى غيره، محتاج، فالمحمول اسم نقص في اللفظ، والحامل فاعل، وهو في اللفظ ممدوح . وكذلك قول القائل: فوق، وتحت، وأعلى، وأسفل، وقد قال الله تعالى: {وَللهِ الأَسْمَاءُ الحُسْنَى فَادْعُوهُ بِهَا} ولم يقل في شيء من كُتُبه أنه محمول، بل هو الحامل في البَرِّ والبحر، والمُمسك للسماوات والأرض، والمحمول ما سوى الله، ولم نسمع أحداً آمن بالله وعظَّمَه قط قال في دعائه: يا محمول..».
Abu Qurra said: "Do you deny the tradition narrated (to us) which says: ‘Verily when Allah becomes angry His wrath is known through (the increased) weight (which the angels feel) on their shoulders while carrying the Throne. (At that moment) the angels prostrate themselves (in prayer). When (Allah's) wrath subsides, the weight of the Throne lightens, and the angels return to their former positions?" فقال أبو قُرَّة : أفنكذِّب بالرواية: إن الله إذا غضب يعرفُ غضبه الملائكة الذين يحملون العرش، يَجدُونَ ثقله في كواهلهم، فَيَخرّونَ سُجَّداً، فإذا ذهب الغَضَب، خَفَّ فرجعوا إلى مواقفهم؟
Imam said: "Tell me, whether Allah, the Blessed and Exalted, has or has not become wrathful ever since He cursed Iblis (Satan), and (tell me) when he became pleased with Iblis, his friends and followers." فقال  : «أخبرني عن الله تبارك وتعالى منذ لَعَن إبليس إلى يومك هذا ، وإلى يوم القيامة ، فهو غضبان على إبليس وأوليائه ، أو عَنهم رَاضٍ؟
Abu Qurra confirmed the Imam's statement, saying: "Yes, He is wrathful with him." فقال أبو قُرَّة : نَعَم ـ هو غضبان عليه .
The Imam opposed him, saying: "Woe unto you! How do you dare to associate with Allah the attribute of changing from state to state? And how do you dare to apply to Him (the Creator) what is applicable to the created while Allah is glorified and far above this? Allah does not perish along with the things which perish; nor does he alter along with things which alter." فقال : «وَيْحَك، كَيف تَجتَرِئ أنْ تَصِفَ رَبَّك بالتغيّر من حال إلى حال، وأنه يجري عليه ما يجري على المخلوقين؟ سُبحانه ، لم يزل مع الزَّائلين ، ولم يتغيَّر مع المُتغيِّرين».
Safwan said: Abu Qurrah was astonished, was unable to answer, and escaped from the session while he was defeated. He was angry with the Imam and harbored malice against him. قال صفوان: فتحير أبو قرة ولم يحر جواباً حتى قام وخرج.