Question: Do prophets not commit sins? That is, are they sinless?
Being innocent, impeccable, and sinless is peculiar to prophets. (Maraj-ul-bahran)
Every prophet is immune from all kinds of sins, be they grave or venial. (Riyād-un-nāsihīn)
Prophets are immune from, free of committing sins. They cannot commit sins. (Maktūbāt-i Rabbānī, Vol. II, Letter 44)
Imām-i Ghazālī writes in his work Rawdā-tut-tālibīn:
It is established by consensus (ijmā) that the Messenger of Allah is free of committing grave sins, venial sins, and makrūhs. It is also established by consensus that he is free of forgetfulness, negligence, and making a mistake and erring in the messages he conveys.
That it is allowable and possible for him to err in the messages he communicates is conditional upon his realizing it immediately and thus not keeping the error going. This, in turn, is committed in order for wisdom behind what he does to come out into the open and in order to make known the benefit derived from forgetting. The reason for Allahs Messengers committing an error in this regard is to teach knowledge and explain the religion. As a matter of fact, he relates in a hadīth-i sharīf, I do not forget or err in any matter. If such a thing issues from me, it is simply because I can explain what I want to communicate. This state is not a defect on the part of him. Rather, it is meant to broaden tablīgh (communication) and to complete the blessing. All Muslim Sufis and scholars with spiritual knowledge state that it is impossible for him to err, to forget, and to display negligence or laxity except with a view to communicating something, elaborating the rulings in his actions, declaring the religious commandments, and telling the messages of Revelation coming to his heart.
Hadrat Qādi Iyād writes in his book entitled Shifā-i sharīf:
Those who considered small sins allowable for prophets based their argument on the outward meanings of many āyāt and ahādīth. This act of theirs gave way to regarding grave sins as permissible, disintegrating the consensus (ijmā), and uttering such things not befitting a Muslim to utter.
As it is understood from all these citations, prophets do not commit grave or venial sins. They can commit a dhalla. But a dhalla is not a sin. It is not to do what is the best and the most preferable but to opt for what is meritorious. (Riyād-un-nāsihīn)
A verse of Fath Sūra, addressing the Prophet alaihis-salām, declares, Allah forgave your past and future sins. He completed His blessing on you and guided you to the right path. With this verse Allahu taālā holds His Honorable Messenger far from any imperfection and proclaims his being sinless. (Shifā-i sharīf)
Some Islamic scholars explained this verse as follows:
(Allahu taālā protected you from committing sins in the past and in the future.)
Prophets were protected from committing sins
Question: The 128th verse of Baqara Sūra says that the Prophet Ibrāhīm and the Prophet Ismāil prayed as, O Rabb! Accept our repentance. The 121st verse of Tāhā Sūra says, Ādam disobeyed his Rabb. Also, the 15th verse of Qasas Sūra says that Hadrat Mūsā killed one of two people who were fighting, and the 16th verse of the same sūra states that Hadrat Mūsa said, O my Rabb! I have wronged myself; forgive me. Again, the 74th verse of Kahf Sūra says that Hadrat Mūsās friend killed an innocent child. Do these cases not bear witness to prophets committing sins?
Islam cannot be learned from Qurān translations. On the contrary, one may develop such wrong thoughts. Islam can be learned only from correctly written ilm-i hāl books.
Allahu taālā protected prophets from committing sins both before and after they were informed of their prophethood. (Nuhbat-ul-laāli)
Prophets had been protected from committing sins before they were informed of their prophethood as well. (Al-Millat-ul mashhūra by Qādi Iyād)
The purport of the verse related to Ibrāhīm and Ismāil alaihimus-salām is as follows:
([Ibrāhīm and Ismāil said] O our Rabb! Make us fixed in being Muslims, and raise from our descendants a Muslim community. Teach us our manāsik [rites of hajj]. Accept our repentance, for the One who accepts repentance and who is merciful is only You.) [Sūrat-ul-Baqara, 128]
Prophets are protected from commission of sins. After Hadrat Ibrāhīm and Hadrat Ismāil had built the Kaba, they prayed as such in order to teach that the prayers and repentance made at these places would be accepted much more. It means, Render our immunity [our not committing sins] continuous (Qurtubī).
Hadrat Imām-i Rabbānī declares:
We should not think that the sins of the beloved are like the sins of enemies. What the good look on as doing good is sinning to the beloved has been said. Their sins and faults, if they have, are unlike others sins. They are similar to erring or forgetting. They have not been committed on purpose, by intent. The 115th verse of Tāhā Sūra, which purports, Ādam forgot. He did not commit intentionally, deliberately, indicates this fact.
This means to say that Hadrat Ādam did not mean to commit a sin. He perpetrated it not on purpose but by forgetting and in error. Therefore, he was pardoned. On the other hand, Iblīs did it deliberately and purposely, thus being cursed eternally. Both cases contained a contravention of the command. But one of them related to forgetting and erring while the other related to doing it purposely and intentionally.
The information in Tafsīr-i Qurtubī concerning Hadrat Mūsās killing the Egyptian is as follows:
1. Hadrat Mūsā was 12 years old then.
2. He intervened in two people so as to break up the fight. The Egyptian died when Hadrat Mūsā pushed him away lightly.
3. Hadrat Mūsā did not have intent to kill someone in this event. It took place inadvertently, that is, accidentally. Notwithstanding it, he begged Allahu taālās pardon for it. Allah, in turn, forgave him.
Hizir alaihis-salām, who was in Hadrat Mūsās company, killed the innocent child by order of Allah. It was told that the child concerned would be a disbeliever when he grew up and would persecute his parents. Therefore, he was killed in order for Allah to grant a good child in place of him. It was not Hadrat Hizir who was at fault in this happening.
Prophets do not worship the moon or the sun
Question: Though it is a known fact that prophets do not commit sins even before they are informed of their prophethood, why is it written in the Qurān's translations that Hadrat Ibrāhīm said, This is my Rabb, meaning the star, the moon, and the sun?
No prophet commits any sin, attributing a partner to Allahu taālā in particular, even before he starts to communicate his prophethood. He does not say, The sun is my Rabb, as polytheists do. It is purported in the Qurān al-karīm:
(Ibrāhīm [Abraham] was neither a Jew nor a Christian. He was an upright Muslim, who truly knew Allah. He was not one of the polytheists, either.) [Sūrat-u Āl-i Imrān, 67]
(Verily, before this, We gave rushd [guidance before he reached puberty] to Ibrāhīm as well. We knew [that he was fit for and worthy of it].) [Sūrat-ul-Anbiyā, 51]
These Quranic verses testify that Ibrāhīm alaihis-salām had been on true guidance even before he reached puberty, too. (Baydāwī)
When this is the case, to say that Ibrāhīm alaihis-salām worshiped the star, the moon, and the sun means not understanding the statements in the Qurān al-karīm. Nearly all translations and explanations state that he said, This is my Rabb, meaning the star, the moon, and the sun. No gloss is given for it at all. Hence, it is not possible to learn such branches of knowledge as Islamic jurisprudence and Islamic creed from the translations of the Qurān al-karīm.
In Tafsīr-i Mazhari, the explanations provided for the verses from 76th to 79th of the Anām Sūra are as follows:
By pointing to stars, the moon, and the sun and by saying, Is it my Rabb? Ibrāhīm alaihis-salām wanted to silence those who worshiped them. The same is written in Shaikhzādas annotation to the tafsīr of Baydāwī.
In Tibyān, it is rendered as, I wonder if this is my Rabb? This rendition, too, contains an element of doubt. But the four explanations it quotes from tafsīr books are as in the following:
1. Ibrāhīm alaihis-salām said so in order to express the polytheists ignorance.
2. He meant to say, Can such a thing be a Rabb? Is my Rabb this? in order to reproach polytheists for what they were doing and teach them the truth.
3. He meant to say, This is my Rabb in your opinion? in order to bring proof against the polytheists.
4. He meant to say, My tribe says that this is my Rabb.
All these four explanations clearly show that Hadrat Ibrāhīm did not say, This is my Rabb, meaning stars, the moon, or the sun; that is, he did not become one of the polytheists. To declare the moon or the sun to be ones Rabb is an act of polytheism. Prophets never commit a sin, let alone an act of polytheism. (Farāid)
Furthermore, on the basis of the 260th verse of Baqara Sūra, which purports, When Ibrāhīm said, O my Rabb! Show me how You give life to the dead, He said, Do you not believe? Ibrāhīm said, I believe, but I wanted to see it to satisfy my heart, some deviant people claim that Hadrat Ibrāhīm was doubtful about Allahs creating. But the matter has been clarified with the verses above that Ibrāhīm alaihis-salām was an upright Muslim who was on true guidance before his puberty as well. Despite this, to utter such a claim means, if it is not out of ignorance, harboring an ulterior motive.
As Hadrat Ibrāhīm comes under such attacks, in a similar way, followers of Ibn Saba speak ill of Hadrat Umar, one of the two pupils of the eye of Islam, saying, Umar doubted Rasūlullahs prophethood at Hudaybiya. At that place Hadrat Umar, just like Hadrat Ibrāhīm, in order to make manifest his submission to Allah and His Messenger, uttered some sayings which purported, O Messenger of Allah! Arent you Allahs Prophet? Arent we on the right way and disbelievers on the wrong? They attack him for these words of his. All Ahl as-Sunnah scholars state that by these statements Hadrat Umar meant to say, O Messenger of Allah! You are, without any doubt, Allahs Messenger. Our way is certainly right while disbelievers is wrong. No concession has been made in this treaty, which is, prima facie, against our interests. (Kurrat-ul-aynayn)
It is understood from these how erroneous and harmful those books named Qurān's translations are. It is not possible for us to learn such necessary knowledge as kalām, fiqh, and tasawwuf from the books called Qurān's translations. It is not even possible for us to understand them from authentic and dependable tafsīrs. We should learn the necessary Islamic knowledge from ilm-i hāl books based on naql (transmission).
Prophets are sinless
Question: It is stated that prophets are sinless. However, is it not a sin that Ādam alaihis-salām ate from the forbidden fruit?
Yes, prophets do not commit sins, but they may commit a dhalla. Dhalla means a failure in finding the truest one among many true things. Ādam alaihis-salām did not eat from the prohibited fruit deliberately. Because he ate it by forgetting, he was held excusable. The 115th āyah (verse) of Tāhā Sūra, which purports, Ādam forgot; he did not do it intentionally, deliberately, shows that Ādam alaihis-salām is excusable and sinless. The following hadīth-i sharīf, too, confirms that Ādam alaihis-salām is deemed excusable:
(Ādam alaihis-salām discussed with Mūsā alaihis-salām in the presence of their Rabb, and Ādam alaihis-salām won a victory over Mūsā alaihis-salām. Mūsā alaihis-salām said:
You are such an Ādam that Allahu taālā created you with His two hands [that is, without any means], blew from His spirit to you, made angels prostrate before you, and put you in Paradise. And then you caused humans to be sent to the earth because of your one fault.
Ādam alaihis-salām said to him:
You are such a Mūsā that Allahu taālā appointed you as a prophet and permitted you to talk to Himself. He gave you a Book which contained explanations for you about everything. By means of your talking to Him and by means of your praying Him, He made you closer to Himself. Then you surely saw how long before my creation He wrote the Tawrāt, didnt you?
Yes, I saw. It was 40 years before.
O Mūsā! Did you also see there the statement, Ādam made a mistake?
Then how do you blame me for my commission of a deed which Allah had written 40 years before He created me that I would commit it?
Thus, Ādam alaihis-salām achieved a victory against Mūsā alaihis-salām.) [Bukhārī, Muslim]