Among the qualifications for leadership of the Muslim nation is divine knowledge of all things necessary for the guidance of the nation. In several places the Noble Quran has highlighted this reality. From the many references in the Quran on the subject, we will see how the ‘firmly rooted in knowledge’ are none other than the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his divinely appointed successors.
The Holy Quran has mentioned ‘firmly rooted in knowledge’ (راسخون في العلم) in two places:
- Surah Ale Imran (2): 7
- Surah Nisa (4): 162
Who are the ‘firmly rooted in knowledge’?
The first and highest example of the ‘itifirmly rooted in knowledge’ is none other than the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
- Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) informs regarding the verse of Surah Ale Imran (2): 7 –
وَ ما يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَ الرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْم
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is the best of those firmly rooted in knowledge. Allah taught him (s.a.w.a.) all of what was sent down on him (s.a.w.a.), from its revelation, and the explanation. There was not a revelation but he (s.a.w.a.) knew it’s explanation…and the Quran has specific (context), and general and decisive, and allegorical and abrogating and abrogated, and the firmly rooted in knowledge know it.
- Basair al-Darajat v 1 p 204
- Tafseer al-Ayyashi v 1 p 164
- Basharah al-Mustafa (s.a.w.a.) p 195
There are many reports on these lines:
- Fuzail narrates – I asked Imam Baqir (a.s.) about the report:
There is not from the Quran a verse except for it there is an apparent and a hidden meaning)Imam (a.s.) informed: Its apparent is its revelation, and its hidden is its explanation from it of what has occurred and what has not yet occurred. It passes (on to us with the regularity) like the passing of the sun and the moon, as goes an explanation of a thing from it on the dead as it is on the living. Allah has said: but none knows its interpretation except Allah, and those who are firmly rooted in knowledge (Surah Ale Imran (3):7), and we know it.
- Basair al-Darajat v 1 p 203
- Behar al-Anwar v 23 p 197
- Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) reveals: We are the ones firmly rooted in knowledge and we know it’s (Quran’s) explanation.
- Al-Kafi v 1 p 213
- Imam Sadiq (a.s.): Those ‘deeply rooted in knowledge’ refer to Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) and the Imams (a.s.) after him.
- Al-Kafi v 1 p 213
- Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.):
We are the group whose obedience has been obligated by Allah, for us is the spoils of war, for us is the purification of wealth (through Khums), we are the ‘firmly rooted in knowledge’, we are the envied ones that Allah mentions in His Book.
- Basair al-Darajat v 1 p 204
Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) calls out the false claimants:
Where are those who claimed that they are the ones ‘deeply rooted in knowledge’ and not we; they have lied and rebelled against (us in this claim), although Allah raised us in position and kept them down, bestowed upon us knowledge but deprived them, and entered us (in the fortress of knowledge) but kept them out. With us guidance is to be sought and blindness (of misguidance) is to be changed into brightness. Surely the Imams (divine leaders) will be from the Quraish. They have been planted in this line through Hashim. It would not suit others, nor would others be suitable as heads of affairs.
- Nahj al-Balagha Sermon 144
Even Prophets are lowly ranked vis-à-vis the ‘deeply rooted in knowledge’
There are several levels of knowledge and those ‘deeply rooted in knowledge’ are at the highest level with even prophets trailing them in ranks.
Consider this eye-opening incident:
Some companions were present in the company of Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.); among them was Sudair Sairafi, Abu Basir among others. Imam (a.s.) to Sudair:
Have you read the following verse of Quran – One who had the Knowledge of the Book (Asif Ibn Barkhiya) said: I will bring it to you in the twinkling of an eye. (Surah Naml (27): 40)
Sudair: Yes, may I be sacrificed on you, I have read it.
Imam (a.s.): Do you know how much ‘Knowledge of Book’ he had?
Sudair: You tell us.
Imam (a.s.): A drop of water as compared to the green sea.
Sudair: How less is that?!
Imam (a.s.): On the contrary, how much it is?! Since Allah attributed knowledge and perfection to him. Have you read the verse:
Say: Allah is sufficient as a witness between me and you and whoever has knowledge of the Book. (Surah Raad (13): 43)
Sudair: Yes, may I be sacrificed on you! I have read it.
So he (a.s.) said: O Sudair, is one, who has the Knowledge of Book more knowledgeable or one, who has a part of Knowledge of Book?
Sudair: One, who has Knowledge of the (full) Book is more knowledgeable.
Imam (a.s.) pointed to his chest and said: Knowledge of the Book, by Allah, the whole of it is
with us. Knowledge of the Book, by Allah, the whole of it is with us.
- Al-Kafi v 1 p 257
Only the infallible Imams (a.s.) being ‘deeply rooted in knowledge’ have authority over Quranic sciences and by virtue of this rank higher than all the prophets (a.s.), except the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
‘Deeply rooted in knowledge’ and Lailatul Qadr
Deep knowledge of the Holy Quran and its explanation is not limited to the time of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). The Quran’s sciences and miracles will not cease till the Day of Judgement. The ‘deeply rooted in knowledge’ are updated regularly with the Quranic sciences in an ongoing process.
Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) informed Ibn Abbas:
Lailatul Qadr comes every year and in that Night the affairs for the whole year are sent down. To receive the details of the affairs are the divine leaders after the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
Ibn Abbas: Who are they?
Imam (a.s.): I and the eleven persons from my descendant who all are Imams, (Muhaddathun) such persons to whom angles speak.
- Al-Kafi v 1 p 532-533
- Al-Fusul al-Muhimmah v 1 p 392
- Ithbat al-Hodat v 2 p 9, 31, 81
- Al-Insaf p 193
In another report we find:
In Lailatul Qadr the angels and Rooh al-Qodos descend on the Imam of the Era and submit him all that they have recorded from lifespan, sustenance, death…
- Tafseer al-Qummi (r.a.) v 2 p 431
All this points to the fact that being ‘deeply rooted in knowledge’ is an ongoing process and not a one-time knowledge transfer of Quranic sciences.
View of the Ahle Tasannun
It is narrated from Ahle Tasannun (Ahle Sunnat / Sunni) sources that Ibn Abbas is the one who is ‘deeply rooted in knowledge’.
- Tafseer al-Quran al-Azeem v 2 p 13 (Tabarani)
- Al-Kashf wa al-Bayan v 3 p 14 (Tafseer al-Thalabi)
This reported claim of Ibn Abbas is questionable. He could not be from the ‘deeply rooted in knowledge’ on the explanation of the Holy Quran without training from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), but there are no records of any such training. There are reports of Ibn Abbas having studied under guidance of Ali (a.s.), which makes Ali (a.s.) worthier of the title of ‘deeply rooted in knowledge’.
Also, as we have seen being ‘deeply rooted in knowledge’ is not a one-time process. Every Lailatul Qadr sees descent of new sciences and information on the ‘deeply rooted in knowledge’ so any claimant of this title must also be a recipient of the new sciences and Quranic explanation. Is Ibn Abbas or any other claimant ever received this new knowledge?
In fact, there are many reports of other scholars of the Muslim nation relying on guidance from Ali (a.s.) in Quran and fiqh.
The scholar of the Quran, Abdullah Ibn Masood narrates:
There are three scholars on the earth.
- The scholar of Syria
- The scholar of Hejaz
- The scholar of Iraq.
As for the scholar of Syria, it is Abul Darda
As for the scholar of Hejaz, it is Ali (a.s.)
As for the scholar of Iraq, it is your brother (referring to himself).
The scholars of Syria and Iraq need (knowledge from) the scholar of Hejaz (Ali a.s.) while the scholar of Hejaz does not need the two of them.
- Al-Riyaz al-Nazarah trad 1,583
- Tarikh Madina Dimishq v 47 p 122
- Hidayah al-Huyara p 184 (with variation) of Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, student of Ibn Taymiyyah
- Al-Khesal v 1 p 173 under Chapter of Three Traits trad. 229
- Behar al-Anwar v 40 p 118
The ‘deeply rooted in knowledge’ is but one of the titles signifying the wealth of knowledge at the disposal of Ali (a.s.) and his infallible sons (a.s.) till the Day of Judgment. In the Sermon of Ghadeer, we find the Holy Prophet referring to divine knowledge being a key differentiator in his successors – Certainly, there is no knowledge except that I have taught it to Ali (a.s.), and he is the evident Imam (whom Allah mentions in the Chapter of Yasin: “… And We have kept the detailed account of everything in an evident Imam).
However, the Muslim nation blundered by side-lining the deserving successors of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and picking others who lacked knowledge on the basics of religion, leave alone the lofty sciences of the Holy Quran. Consequently, they remained deprived of the Quranic sciences even though in their midst was the speaking Quran – Ali (a.s.), who was succeeded by his eleven infallible sons who were just as proficient in Quranic knowledge.