The skeptics claim that the Imams (a.s.) so long as they knew the result of their actions (martyrdom in Karbala, death through poisonous grapes, etc) could be guilty of suicide (self-destruction) which Allah has forbidden in this verse:
وَلاَ تُلْقُواْ بِأَيْدِيكُمْ إِلَى التَّهْلُكَةِ
- …and cast not yourselves to perdition with your own hands… (Surah Baqarah (2): 195)
The infallible Imams (a.s.) are not the examples of this verse, which talks of self-destruction / suicide in violation of basic intellect / common sense, viz. driving rashly beyond the speed limit leading to accident / death or not taking basic precautions during a pandemic leading to sickness / death and so on.
Acting as per divine decree or the laws of Islam does not amount to self-destruction or suicide. Else all divinely mandated battles (Jihad) in the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) lifetime and beyond would amount to self-destruction and suicide.
Imam Husain (a.s.) headed for Karbala in submission of divine decree
When Ummul Momineen Umm Salma (s.a.) pleaded with Imam Husain (a.s.):
Do not cause me grief by going to Iraq, for I heard your grandfather the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) say: My son Husain (a.s.) will be killed in the land of Iraq in a tract of land called Karbala.
Imam Husain (a.s.) replied: Mother! I, also know that I will be slain unjustly and oppressively, and the Omnipotent has decreed to see my family and followers in chains, seeking help and finding no helper… If I do not die today, I will tomorrow, and if not tomorrow, then the day after. By Allah! There is no avoiding death.
- Maqtal al-Husain (a.s.) – Muqarram p 136
- Al-Hidayah al-Qubra p 202-204
- Ithbat al-Hodat v 4 p 52
Foreknowledge is a defining trait of Imamate
Imam s (a.s.) had foreknowledge (of death and other events) as Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) informs:
An Imam who does not know what would happen to him and the unfolding events then such a person cannot be a divine authority (Hujjat) on the creatures.
- Al-Kafi v 1 p 258
- Mukhtasar al-Basair p 62
An Imam has foreknowledge. Without it, his Imamate comes into question. This foreknowledge includes events leading to his death (martyrdom) and his embracing martyrdom in submission of divine decree. This foreknowledge of submission to divine decree does not imply suicide in violation of basic intellect as cautioned by Allah in Surah Baqarah (2): 195.
Imams (a.s.) bound by divine pledge
The Imams (a.s.) never did and would not do anything except owing to a covenant of Allah, and a command from Him and they do not violate it.
- Al-Kafi v 1 p 279
This is the title of a chapter which consists of four traditions (Al-Kafi v 1 p 279-283) that prove that when an Imam performs an action, it is based on a divine command and covenant, which they do not violate ever.
So, if Imam Husain (a.s.) journeys to Karbala knowing that he will be killed or Imam Ali Reza (a.s.) consumes poisonous grapes knowingly, it is all in harmony with a divine command and covenant.
For the Imams (a.s.) acting in harmony with divine command and covenant is not self-destruction or suicide of Surah Baqarah (2)” 195. Rather, it is ultimate obedience to God’s order and the prelude to attaining lofty degrees. Without passing through the stages of patience and tribulations of martyrdom they cannot achieve the towering status Allah has reserved for them.
Allah has granted the foreknowledge of death and other events to His Chosen servants (Imams, Prophets) knowing that they will act on the divine command and covenant. If others had been granted such foreknowledge they would not have acted on the divine command for patience in tribulation. Hence Allah has not granted the foreknowledge to them and ‘Allah best knows where He places His message’.
For details readers can refer to Shaikh Mufid’s (r.a.) Al-Masail al-Ukbariyyah p 80