A Comparison between the commentary and interpretation of an Islamic Tradition by `Abdu'l-Bahá and Ayatu'llah Khomeini

By Moojan Momen

Presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #138
Centre for Baha'i Studies: Acuto, Italy
July 5–8, 2016
(see list of papers from #138)

published in Lights of Irfan, volume 18, pages 453-470
© 2017, ‘Irfán Colloquia

    There is an Islamic Shi`i Tradition, attributed to the Eleventh Shi`i Imam, Hasan al-`Askari, in which he quotes the sixth Imam Ja`far as-Sadiq. It is very well-known among Shi`i Islamic scholars because it is the basis of their claim that anyone who is not a mujtahid (an expert in the application of Islamic Law) must follow a mujtahid in all religious and social matters. In this paper, we will look at the discussion among Shi`i scholars about this Tradition and the manner in which they use it. By way of comparison we will look at `Abdu'l-Bahá's extended commentary on this same Tradition. In contrast to Khomeini and the other Shi`i religious scholars who use this Tradition to assert their right to be followed by all believers and thus eventually, under Khomeini, their right to political authority, `Abdu'l-Bahá uses this Tradition to describe the spiritual and moral attributes needed in those who wish to play a role in social affairs.