|Understanding the Uniqueness of the Qur'an
Approaches to the Understanding of the Qur'an
2. Analytical Study
3. Study of the Sources of Ideas
The Three Distinguishing Characteristics of the Qur'an
Conditions Necessary for the Study of the Qur'an
Uniqueness of the Qur'an
Is the Qur'an Understandable?
Issues in an Analytical Study of the Qur'an
How does the Qur'an Introduce Itself?
The Language of the Qur'an
The Qur'an's Addressees
Conception of Reason in the Qur'an
Evidence in Favour of the Authority of Reason
1. The Qur'an's Emphasis on Rationalism
2. References to the Law of Causality
3. Rational Basis of Divine Commands
4. Combating Deviations of Reason
The Qur'anic Viewpoint Regarding the Sources of Error
Qur'anic Outlook Regarding the "Heart"
Definition of the Heart
Characteristics of the Heart
The study and knowledge of the Qur'an is essential for every learned person as well as for all faithful believers. It is specially essential for those scholars who are interested in the study of man and society, since this book has been effectively instrumental not only in moulding the destinies of Islamic societies, but also in shaping the destiny of the human race as a whole. A brief glance over history would be enough to provide sufficient proof of the claim that there has been no such book that has ever influenced human societies to the magnitude of the Qur'an. It is for the same reason that the Qur'an automatically steps into the precincts of sociological discussions, and becomes the elemental constituent of the subjects of research in this discipline. This means that any deep study and profound research in the field of world history of the last fourteen hundred years, is impossible without the knowledge of the Qur'an.
The study of the Qur'an is essential for every committed Muslim, since it is the main source and foundation of the religious thought and faith. Whatsoever gives meaning, essence and sanctity to his existence lies in the Holy Qur'an.
The Qur'an is not just like other religious books which are content to discuss the problems of existence of God and creation in cryptic tones, or like those which merely convey a series of simple moral advice and counsels, so that those who believe in them are hopelessly left to search for guidance in other sources. Unlike such books the Qur'an formulates the tenets of faith besides communicating the ideas and views that are essential for a man of faith and belief. Similarly, it also lays down the principles of moral and ethical values for the purpose of social and familial existence. It leaves the job of explanation, interpretation, and occasionally that of ijtihad and application of principles (usul) to secondary matters (furu') to be dealt with through ijtihad and sunnah. Accordingly, utilization of any other source depends on the prior knowledge of the Qur'an. The Qur'an is the criterion and standard for judging all other sources. We should judge hadith and sunnah in the light of the Qur'an. We can accept it only when it is in accordance with the Qur'an, otherwise we do not accept it.
There are four more books that come after the Qur'an, and are regarded as the most sacred and the most authentic sources (by the Shi'ah Muslims). They are: Al-Kafi, Man la yahduruhu al-faqih, Tahdhib, and Istibsar. There are also other sources like the Nahj al-Balaghah, and the prayers of al-Sahifah al-Sajjadiyyah. All these books are secondary to the Qur'an, and their authenticity of source is not so absolute as that of the Qur'an. A hadith from al-Kafi is as trustworthy as it may be in conformity with the Qur'an, and reliable so far as its words comply with the teachings of the Qur'an and do not go against it. The Prophet (S) and the infallible Imams have said that their traditions should be checked in the light of the Qur'an; if they do not coincide with the words of the Qur'an, they should be regarded as false and fake, and as being wrongfully attributed to them; since they have not said anything that can go against the Qur'anic teachings.
Approaches to the Understanding
of the Qur'an
Now that the necessity of understanding the Qur'an has been confirmed, let us see what are the ways of understanding this book. Generally for the purpose of a profound understanding of any book it is necessary to study it in three ways:
1. Authentication:At this stage, we want to know to what extent the relationship of a book with its author is authentic. Suppose we want to study the Diwan-Hafiz, or the Ruba'iyyat of 'Umar Khayyam. At first, we have to see whether the work which is attributed to Hafiz, wholly belongs to him, or whether a part of it is Hafiz's work and the rest is an apocryphal annexation to it. Similarly in the case of 'Umar Khayyam, and others too, we must judiciously scrutinize their works. It is here that the matter of examination of manuscripts --and for that matter the oldest of them-- becomes relevant. Thus we see that none of these books can dispense with such a treatment. The Diwan-e-Hafiz printed by the late Qazvini, which has been based on some of the most authentic manuscripts of Hafiz's work, varies greatly from the ordinary editions of Hafiz. printed in Iran and Bombay, which are usually found in homes. The editions of Hafiz's works published during the last thirty or forty years contain as much as twice the amount of Hafiz's original works. In view of certain modern manuscript experts of repute, they are fake; although we occasionally come across in them some verses which match the sublime heights of Hafiz's poetry. Likewise when we study the quatrains attributed to 'Umar Khayyam, we shall find nearly two hundred quatrains of the same poetical standard with only minor differences usually possible even among the authentic verses of a single poet. However, if we look back at the history of Khayyam's times, we shall notice that the number of quatrains attributed to him may perhaps be less than twenty. The authenticity of the rest of them is either doubtful, or may with certainty be said to belong to other poets.
It means that the first step towards the research study of any book is to see to what extent the book in our hands is authentic, whether all the things recorded on its pages are genuine, or if only a part of it is authentic. Moreover, what criteria and standards should be employed in order to judge the authenticity and genuineness of authorship? By what logic can the authenticity of any book be totally rejected or affirmed?
The Qur'an is absolutely exempt from all such criteria that may be applicable to all worldly books. It is regarded as the exclusively singular book since the ancient times. No book of ancient days has remained above doubt to such extent despite a long lapse of several hundred years. No one can ever say about it that such and such a surah has a questionable authenticity or such and such a verse that is present in such and such a manuscript is missing from another manuscript. The Qur'an stands above the notions of manuscript reading. There is no place for the slightest doubt that all of the verses that exist in the Qur'an are those conveyed to Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah (S) who communicated them as the miraculous Word of God. Nobody can ever claim that another version of the Qur'an existed anywhere, or still exists. There has not been any Orientalist either who would begin the study of the Qur'an by saying, "let us trace from the earliest of the manuscripts of the Qur'an to see what was included in it and what was not." The Qur'an is absolutely free from this kind of investigation necessary in case of such books as the Bible, the Torah, or the Avesta, or the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, or the Gulistan of Sa'di and every other ancient or not so ancient work.
Only for the study of the Qur'an no such questions arise, and the Qur'an is far above the usual norms of authenticity and the craft of manuscript reading. Moreover, besides the fact that the Qur'an is one of the heavenly scriptures and has been regarded by its followers as the most basic and authentic proof of the Prophet's (S) claim to prophethood, and as the greatest of his miracles, the Qur'an, unlike the Torah, was not revealed at one time and was not subject to later difficulties in distinguishing the true manuscript. The verses of the Qur'an were revealed gradually during a span of twenty-three years. From the very first day, the eager Muslims memorized its verses, preserved and recorded them. Those were the days when the Muslim society was quite a simple society. No other book existed besides the Qur'an, and the Muslims were inevitably inclined to memorize its verses. Their clear, unmarked minds and their powerful memory, their general ignorance about reading and writing, all these factors assisted them in acquiring and retaining their information regarding the Qur'an. This is the reason why the message of the Qur'an, which was so congenial to their sensibilities and their natural propensities, got effectively imprinted on their hearts like inscription on stone. Since they believed it to be the Word of God, it was sacred to them also. They couldn't permit themselves that a single word or even a letter of it be altered or replaced in its text. They tried to acquire the nearness to God by reciting its verses. It should be noted here that from the very early days the Prophet (S) had engaged a group of scribes for the purpose of writing down the Qur'an, who were known as the "Scribes of the Revelation." This should be regarded as one of the merits in favour of the Qur'an from which all other ancient books are excluded. The absence of any alteration and change in the Word of God was on account of this process of writing and recording from the very beginning.
The other reason responsible for the popularity of the Qur'an among the people was its extraordinary, supernatural literary and artistic dimension depicted in its rhetoric and eloquence. It was this strong literary attraction towards the Qur'an, which had an appeal for the people, that prompted them to immediately memorize its verses. But unlike other literary works like the Diwan-e-Hafiz and poems of Rumi, which are exposed to meddling by admirers who think they are improving on the original, nobody could ever give himself the permission of meddling with the sacred text; for the Qur'an immediately declared in one of its verses:
Had he [the Prophet (S)] invented against Us any sayings, We would have seized him by the right hand, then We would surely have cut his life vein. (69:44-46)
There are several other verses in the Qur'an that forbid forgery in relation to the Word of God. The gravity of this sin as stressed by the Qur'an had profound impression upon minds and served as a severe discouragement in this regard. In this way, before any type of alterations could have taken place in its verses, they were repeated often, thus reaching a stage that it was impossible to increase, diminish or alter even a single word in this heavenly book. Accordingly, there is neither any need of any discussion about the Qur'an from the point of view of authenticity, nor does any scholar of the Qur'an throughout the world see any necessity of such a discussion. However, I think, it is necessary to remind the readers about the fact that, because of the rapid expansion of the Islamic domain and distance of the major part of the population living far away from Medina, which was the center of huffaz (those who memorized) of the Qur'an and the Companions of the Prophet, there arose the danger of occurrence of advertent or wilful gradual alteration in the Qur'anic text. But the prompt dexterity and timely awareness on the part of early Muslims averted this danger. Within the first five decades, they utilized the services of the Sahabah (the Companions of the Prophet) and those of the huffaz of the Qur'an for the purpose of averting the chances of conscious or inadvertent alterations in the text of the Qur'an. They distributed approved copies of the Qur'an from Medina to the surrounding regions. They thus checked any chances of wrongdoing, especially on the part of the Jews, who are well-known champions in this field.
2. Analytical Study:
During this stage of study and analysis of a book, it is essential to understand these things: the subject it deals with, the goal that it pursues, its outlook regarding the world, its point of view concerning man and society, its style and treatment of the subject-whether the treatment of the subject is in an intellectual and scholarly manner, or whether it has its own characteristic style. One more question that is relevant in this context is whether this book contains any message and guidance for humanity or not. If the answer to this question is in the affirmative, then what is the message that it conveys? The first group of questions are, of course, concerned with the point of view and outlook of the book regarding man and universe, about life and death etc. In other words, these questions are associated with the, world-outlook of the book, and in terms of Islamic philosophy, with its al-hikmat al-nazariyyah (theoretical wisdom). But the second group of questions is concerned with the perspective of future of mankind offered by the book. They deal with the suggested basis for moulding the human kind and human societies. This aspect may be regarded as the "message" of the book.
This sort of understanding is, however, concerned with the subject of the book, and is relevant in regard to all kinds of books, whether it is the medical treatise of Ibn Sina, or if it is the Gulistan of Sa'di. It is possible that a book may lack an outlook as well as a message, or it may contain an outlook but not a message, or it may contain both.
Regarding the analytical study of the Qur'an we shall have to see, in general, what sort of problems does the Qur'an deal with, and what is its manner of presenting them. What is its manner of argument and its approach to various problems? Does the Qur'an, being the defender, presenter and protector of faith, and its message being a religious message, view reason as a rival to its teachings, and clings to a defensive posture against it, or whether it considers reason as a supporter and protector of faith and relies upon its power? These questions and various other queries, arise during the analytical study of the Qur'an.
3. Study of the Sources of Ideas:At this stage, i.e. after verification of authenticity of the authorship of a book, and after thorough study and analysis of its contents, we come to the stage of exploring whether the contents of the book comprise of its author's own original ideas, or, the ideas have been borrowed from some other source. For instance, in studying Hafiz's works, after verifying the authenticity of the verses and making their analytical study, we have to see whether these themes, ideas and thoughts that have been incorporated into Hafiz's poetry and poured into the moulds of his words, phrases, couplets, language and style, are actually the creations of Hafiz, or whether only the words and phrases and the beauty, art and craftsmanship reflected in the verses come from Hafiz, whereas the thoughts and ideas belong to someone else, or have been borrowed from another source. After ascertaining his artistic originality, the intellectual originality of Hafiz's works has also to be established.
This kind of study regarding Hafiz, or any other author, implies the study of the source and roots of the author's ideas and thought. This sort of study is secondary to an analytical study; that is, firstly the contents of the author's thought should be completely understood, and afterwards an attempt should be made to identify its roots and sources. Otherwise, the result of one's effort will be something like the works of certain writers of history of various sciences, who write without any thorough knowledge of the subject, or similar to the works of those writers of philosophical books, who undertake, for instance, a comparative study of Ibn Sina and Aristotle, without any knowledge of either. After superficial comparison and on discovering some literal similitudes between the works of the two great thinkers, they immediately sit down to pass a quick judgment. Although, for the purpose of a comparative study, very deep and profound knowledge of the ideas and thoughts of both of the philosophers is required. A lifetime of study is necessary for such a task; otherwise, it has no more value than can be given to blind imitative conjectures.
For the study and understanding of the Qur'an, an analytical study must be followed by a comparative and historical study. That is, the contents of the Qur'an should be compared with other books that existed at that time, specially the religious ones. For the purpose of such a comparison, it is essential to keep in mind the conditions and relations of the Arabian peninsula with other parts of the world, and the number of educated Arabs living in Mecca at the time. Only then we can arrive at an estimation of the influence of other books of those times on the contents of the Qur'an, and if we find something common in them, discover its proportions. We can then see whether the material that has been borrowed from other books is used in an original manner or not. Does the Qur'an go even further to the extent of playing a role in amending the contents of those books and setting right the errors occurring in them?
The Three Distinguishing
Characteristics of the Qur'an
Our study of the Qur'an acquaints us with three distinguishing characteristics of this holy book. The first distinguishing characteristic is the absolute authenticity of its source. That is, without the slightest need of any comparison between the oldest manuscripts, it is evident that what we recite as the verses of the Holy Qur'an, are exactly the same words presented before the world by Muhammad ibn 'Abd-Allah (S). The second characteristic feature of the Qur'an is the quality of its contents: its teachings are genuinely original and have not been adopted or plagiarized. It is the duty of an analytical study to prove this fact. The third characteristic of the Qur'an is its Divine identity: its teachings have been delivered to the Prophet from a world that transcends his thought and mind. The Prophet (S) was only a recipient of this revelation and message. This is the result that we obtain from the study of the sources and roots of the Qur'an.
But the study of the sources of the Qur'an, and confirmation of its originality, depend upon the analytical study. So I resolve to open this discussion with the analytical study of the Qur'an. We shall first see what is the subject matter of the Qur'an, what kind of problems are discussed in it, what type of problems have been given priority, and in what manner those subjects are presented in it. If we are successful in our critical analysis, and acquire a sufficient understanding of the Qur'anic teachings, it will bring us to an acknowledgment of its principal aspect, which is the Divine aspect of the Qur'an, the quality of its being a Divine miracle.
Conditions Necessary for the Study of the Qur'an
The understanding of the Qur'an requires certain preliminaries which are briefly described here. The first essential condition necessary for the study of the Qur'an, is the knowledge of the Arabic language, such as for the understanding of Hafiz and Sa'di, it is impossible to get anywhere without the knowledge of the Persian language. In the same way, to acquaint oneself with the Qur'an without knowing the Arabic language is impossible. The other essential condition is the knowledge of the history of Islam; since, unlike the Bible and the Torah, this book was revealed gradually during a long period of twenty-three years of the Prophet's life, a tumultuous time in the history of Islam. It is on this account that every verse of the Qur'an is related to certain specific historical incident called sha'n-i nuzul The sha'n-i nuzul, by itself does not restrict the meaning of the verses, but the knowledge of the particulars of revelation throws more light on the subject of the verses in an effective way.
The third condition essential for the understanding of the Qur'an, is the correct knowledge of the sayings of the Prophet (S). He was, according to the Qur'an itself, the interpreter of the Qur'an par excellence. The Qur'an says:
We have revealed to you the Reminder that you may make clear to men what has been revealed to them ... (16:44)
The Qur'an also says:
It is He who has sent among the illiterate a Messenger from among them, to recite His sings to them, and to purify them and to teach them the Book and the Wisdom. (62:2)
According to the Qur'an, the Prophet (S) himself is the exegetist and the interpreter of the Qur'anic text. Whatever has reached us from the Prophet, is of great help in our understanding of the Qur'an. For the Shi'ah, who believe in the infallible Imams (A) also, and believe that the Prophet (S) has transmitted everything he obtained from God to his spiritual successors (awliya'), those genuine riwayat (narrations about the Prophet (S)) that have reached us through the Imams, possess the same degree of authenticity as those obtained directly from the Prophet (S). Accordingly, the authentic riwayat of the Imams are of great help to us in our understanding of the Qur'an.
A very important point to remember during the initial stages of study, is that we should try to understand the Qur'an with the help of the Qur'an itself; because, the verses of the Qur'an constitute a completely united integral whole, a coherent unified structure. If we single out any verse from the Qur'an and try to understand it in isolation from the rest of the Book, it would not be a correct method. However, it is possible that we may happen to understand it, but the method is not recommended by caution, as certain verses of the Qur'an are explanatory for certain other verses. All great commentators of the Qur'an have affirmed this method; the infallible Imams also had approved of this manner of interpretation of the Qur'anic verses. The Qur'an has its own specific mode of discussing various problems. There are instances where if a solitary verse is studied without placing it in its proper context, it gives quite a different sense than when it is seen under the light of the verses dealing with a similar subject.
For instance, the specific mode and style of the Qur'an may be noticed from the distinction drawn between al-ayat al-muhkamat (the firm verses) and al-ayat al-mutashabihat (the ambiguous verses). There is a prevalent view regarding the muhkamat and the mutashabihat. Some people imagine that al-ayat al-muhkamat are such verses as whose meaning is quite simple and clear, whereas the meaning of al-ayat al-mutashabihat is cryptic, enigmatic and puzzling. According to this notion, men are only permitted to cogitate upon the meaning of al-ayat al-muhkamat, and al-ayat al-mutashabihat are basically inscrutable and beyond their understanding. Here, the question arises, what is the philosophy underlying al-ayat al-mutashabihat? Why has the Qur'an put forward such verses that are incomprehensible? A brief answer to this question is that neither muhkam means "simple" and "clear", nor mutashabih means "ambiguous", "cryptic" and "enigmatic." "Ambiguous" and "enigmatic" are adjectives applicable to sentences that do not convey the meaning in a direct and simple manner, as are sometimes met in the writings of various authors. For example, when Sultan Mahmud rewarded the poetic efforts of Ferdowsi with a reward of an insignificant and humiliating amount of money, Ferdowsi did not accept it, and instead he accused Sultan Mahmud of the trait of parsimony in his versified lampoons. Some of them were quite clear and obvious whereas the others were not devoid of ambiguity and a lot of enigma. Ferdowsi is quite direct when he says:
Had the king's mother been an honourable lady,
He would have rewarded me with knee-high gold and silver.
However, when he remarks:
The palm of king Mahmud, the conqueror of lands,
Was nine times nine and three times four,
what does he intend to say? Here Ferdowsi has made use of an enigmatic technique. Those who are interested would like to know the solution: 9 X 9=81, 3 X 4=12, and 81 plus 12 add up to 93. Ferdowsi says, the Sultan's palm was just like 93. It means that the fist of the Sultan was so tightly closed that only his thumb was free, and this thumb along with the index finger (which acquires the shape of 92 and other three fingers make 93. Through this obscure statement Ferdowsi wants to emphatically report the miserliness of the Sultan.
We shall see whether there are actually any enigmatic and abstruse verses in the Qur'an. Such an assumption contradicts with the text of the Qur'an which unequivocally states that it is a clear and comprehensible book whose verses provide guidance and shed light. The core of the problem is that some of the issues dealt with in the Qur'an are related to metaphysical matters and the transcendental world, which cannot be expressed in ordinary language. In the words of Shaykh Shabistari:
The word fails to encompass meaning,
The ocean cannot be poured into a pot.
Since the language of the Qur'an is the same as used by men, inevitably, the same diction is used for the most sublime and spiritual themes as we human beings use for earthly subjects. But in order to prevent any misunderstanding about certain problems, some verses have been devised in such a way that they need to be explained with the help of other verses. There is no way except this. For example, the Qur'an wanted to point out to a truth namely, seeing God through the heart; that is, to witness the presence of God by means of one's heart. This idea has been expressed in the following terms:
(Some) faces on the Day shall be bright, looking towards their Lord. (75:22-23)
Uniqueness of the Qur'an
The Qur'an makes use of the verb "looking," and no other word more suitable could be available for the expression of the desired sense. But to avert the possibility of any doubt, the Qur'an explains in other place:
Vision perceives Him not, and He perceives all vision. (6:104)
The second verse makes the reader distinguish between two different meanings conveyed by the same word. In order to avoid any possibility of ambiguity in its exalted themes, the Qur'an asks us to check the mutashabihat against the mahkamat:
He sent down upon thee the Book, wherein are verses firm (ayat mahkamat) that are the essence of the Book. (3:6)
Thereby, the Qur'an means that there are certain verses whose firmness cannot be denied and other meanings cannot be derived from them, except their real ones. Such verses are the 'mother' of the Book (umm al-kitab). In the same way as a mother is the refuge to her child, or a cosmopolitan city (umm al-qura) is the center of small cities, al-ayat al-muhkamat are also regarded as the axes of the mutashabihat. Al-ayat al-mutashabihat are, of course, to be cogitated upon and understood, but they are to be pondered upon with the help of al-ayat al-muhkamat. Any inference drawn without the help of the mother-verses would not be correct and reliable.
Is the Qur'an Understandable?
During the analysis and study of the Qur'an, the first question that arises is whether the Qur'an can be studied and understood. Has this book been introduced for the purpose of studying and understanding it, or whether it is just for reading and reciting and obtaining reward and blessing? The reader, possibly, may wonder at raising of such a question. To him it may appear beyond doubt that the Qur'an is meant for the purpose of knowing and understanding it. Nevertheless, in view of various undesirable currents, which due to numerous reasons came into existence in the Muslim world regarding the question of understanding of the Qur'an, and which had an important role in bringing about the decline of Muslims, we shall discuss this matter in brief. Regrettably, the roots of those degenerate and dangerous notions still persist in our societies. So I consider it necessary to elaborate on this topic.
Among the Shi'ah scholars of three or four centuries ago, there appeared a group which believed that the Qur'an is not a hujjah ("proof", meaning a legal source usable for vindication). Among the four sources of fiqh that have been regarded as the criteria and standard for the understanding of the Islamic problems by Muslim scholars, i.e. the Qur'an, the sunnah (tradition), 'aql (reason) and ijma' (consensus of opinion), they did not recognize three of them. Regarding ijma', they said that it belongs to the Sunni tradition and they could not follow it. Concerning reason, they maintained that reason can also err, and reliance on reason is not legitimate. About the Qur'an they respectfully asserted that the Qur'an is greater in station than being subject to study and comprehension by us humble human creatures. It is only the privilege of the Prophet and the Imams to ponder over the verses of the Holy Qur'an. We ordinary human beings have only the right to read and recite them. This group was that of the Akhbariyun or Akhbaris.
The Akhbaris regarded hadith and chronicles as the only permissible sources of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). One may be astounded to learn that in some of the Qur'anic exegeses written by these people, they mentioned only those verses about which the tradition existed, and refrained from mentioning other verses as if they are not a part of the Qur'an.
Such a kind of practice was an injustice to the Qur'an. This shows that a society that could neglect and alienate their own heavenly book and that too of the standard and stature of the Qur'an, is not at all up to the Qur'anic standards. Besides the Akhbaris there were other groups who also regarded the Qur'an as inaccessible to the ordinary human intellect. Among them the Ash'arites can be named, who believed that the knowledge of the Qur'an does not necessarily mean that its verses should be pondered over, but the real meanings are the same as that the words literally communicate. According to them, whatever we understand from the outward meaning, we have to be satisfied with it. We should not be concerned with the secret and inner meanings. It was quite natural that this sort of thinking regarding the Qur'an, very rapidly, gave rise to serious deviations and grave misunderstandings. Since they were forced on the one hand to the task of interpretation of the meaning of the Qur'anic verses, and, on the other hand, banished reason also from the realm of religious learning, as a result, they were forced to adopt merely vulgar and superficial interpretations of the Qur'anic verses. On account of their faulty way of thinking, they deviated from the regular course of correct thinking, and thus gave way to distorted and faulty religious vision. As the result of this type of religious thinking, heretical beliefs like the personification of God the Almighty, and numerous other distorted ideas like the possibility of visual perception of God, His possession of physical characteristics etc., came into existence.
Opposing the group which abandoned the Qur'an, another group came into existence which used the Qur'an as the means to fulfill their selfish aims. They gave the Qur'anic verses such interpretations as were favourable to their selfish interests, and wrongfully attributed certain ideas to the Qur'anic text that were not at all in agreement with the spirit of the Qur'an. In answer to every objection that was made against them, they said that none except themselves could understand the esoteric and secret meaning of the Qur'anic verses, and whatever they stated was based on the understanding and knowledge of the esoteric meaning of the verses.
The champions of this movement in the history of Islam consist of two groups: the first group are the Isma'ilis, who are also known as the Batinis (secret sect), and the other are the Sufis. Most of the Isma'ilis are found in India and some of them are in Iran. They had formed an empire in Egypt known as the Fatimid caliphate. The Isma'ilis are so-called Shi'ahs who believe in six Imams. But all the Twelver Imami Shi'ah scholars are unanimous in the opinion that in spite of their belief in six Imams, the Isma'ilis stand at a greater distance from the Shi'ite faith than the non-Shi'ite sects. The Sunnis, who do not believe in any of the Imams in
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