Home Infallibles The problem with exaggeration (ghuluw)

The problem with exaggeration (ghuluw)

Inspired by Ghadir, an Islamic Perspective, by His Eminence Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)

It has been reported that Imam Ali (a.s.) once said: “Two kinds of people will be damned on my account; an exaggeratedly loving person and a forsaking, hating person

History relates that once, a caravan of merchants saw Imam Ali (a.s.) passing by. They immediately came down off their horses, and gathered around. The Imam (a.s.) was surprised by their behavior and asked them to contain themselves and mount their houses again since he is an ordinary man and he would never ask them for reverence and royalty treatment.

Ali (a.s.) loved Allah and His Messenger (p) and was humble to both. He did not want to take him near the position of God the almighty in any way, or to take him near the position of God Almighty in any way, or to take him near the position of the Prophet (p). He used to emphasize his humbleness towards God as he expressed it in the supplication of Kumail: “I, a weak, insignificant, humble, poor and destitute creature of You,” showing how profound was his devotion towards God in mind, heart, and conduct. The more devoted a person is, the nearer to Allah he will be.

Therefore, Ali (a.s.) wanted to tell those who love him to stay balanced just as he wanted from those who hated him to study the matter on the basis of the truth that the Imam (a.s.) represented. Those who showed exaggeration in their love to Imam Ali (a.s.) and the Members of the Household (a.s.) should not be regarded as ones who are living a genuine loyalty or allegiance to Ali (a.s.) and his sons. To be loyal is to adhere to their message; the message of Islam. They said: “He who is a waly (a devout follower) of God is a true waly of us and by God our welaya cannot be attained except through piety.” So when we say we love Members of the Household (a.s.), it should mean that we follow their examples as mentioned by Imam Zein Al-Abidin (a.s.): “Love us the love of Islam.” Love should not deviate away from the faith as portrayed in the Book of Allah and Sunnah.

The matter requires us to take a closer look into the hadiths narrated by the Prophet (p) and Members of the Household (a.s.), to investigate the chain of narrators, and to examine the content of the hadith. We should impose a scientific approach to hadiths in their fundamental principles and in their historical context.

This is because certain people lied and ascribed lies to the Imam (a.s.) through exaggeration, so as to establish for the social reality of Muslims, who used to be deeply troubled with any kind of exaggeration, especially if related to the Members of the Household (a.s.).

Ibrahim Bin Abi Mahmoud reported that: “I once asked Imam Ar-Rida: we have a hadith in the virtues of the Commander of the Faithful (Imam Ali)(a.s.) and the virtues of the Members of the Household, and it is narrated by individuals who are not your follower. When we do not know such hadiths narrated from you, shall we accept and adopt them? He said: “O Ibn Abi Mahmoud, my father told me as he narrated from his grandfather that the Messenger of Allah (p) said: Whoever listens to a speaker worshipping him, so if his speech is from Satan, then he is worshipping Satan.” Then he said: “O Ibn Abi Mahmoud, those who do not follow us fabricated hadiths about our virtues and made them into three categories: one is exaggeration, the second is under-estimating our position and the third is spelling out the shortcomings of our enemies. Is the people hear exaggeration about us, they accuse the Shia followers of atheism and accuse us of claiming divinity. And if they hear how they underestimate us, they will believe it, and if they hear about the shortcomings of our enemies, using their names, they will do so with us.” The Imam (a.s.) continued: “Oh Ibn Abi Mahmoud, if people go left and right, hold onto our way” which is the balanced one “for those who hold onto us, we hold onto them, and those who go away from us, we go away from them, because at the very least a man will corrupt his belief if he calls a marble a fruit stone then abides by it, and forsakes those who do not go along with it

The hadith gives a clear confirmation that even exaggerations that elevate the status of the Members of the Household (a.s.) and describe them in a way that does not comply with their human nature are corrupted. It is significant that one realizes that exaggeration has the same effect as fanaticism as both lead to the same catastrophic effects. True followers of the path Muhammad (p) and of the Members of the Household (a.s.) should be aware of the consequences of exaggeration and refrain from being fanatic as it does not comply to the Islamic teachings and principles.