زُرَارَةَ عَنْ اَبِي جَعْفَرٍؑ فِي قَوْلِهِ فَسْئَلُوا اَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ اِنْ كُنْتُمْ لا تَعْلَمُونَ مَنِ الْمُعَنْوَنُ بِذَلِكَ قَالَ نَحْنُ قُلْتُ فَاَنْتُمُ الْمَسْئُولُونَ قَالَ نَعَمْ قُلْتُ وَ نَحْنُ السَّائِلُونَ قَالَ نَعَمْ قُلْتُ فَعَلَيْنَا اَنْ نَسْاَلَكُمْ قَالَ نَعَمْ قُلْتُ وَ عَلَيْكُمْ اَنْ تُجِيبُونَا قَالَ لَا ذَاكَ اِلَيْنَا وَ اِنْ شِئْنَا فَعَلْنَا وَ اِنْ شِئْنَا تَرَكْنَا ثُمَّ قَالَ هذا عَطاؤُنا فَامْنُنْ اَوْ اَمْسِكْ بِغَيْرِ حِسابٍ
Zoraarah asked Imam Abu Jafar al-Baqer (peace be upon him) about the word of Allah, “Ask the people of remembrance if you are not knowing.” Who are implied by this?
He (peace be upon him) replied, “We.”
I inquired, “So you are the ones who should be asked?”
He (peace be upon him) replied, “Yes.”
I asked, “And we are the questioners?”
Again, he (peace be upon him) replied in the affirmative.
I questioned, “So, is it obligatory upon us to ask you?”
He (peace be upon him) said, “Yes.”
I asked, “Is it compulsory upon you to reply to us (our question)?”
He (peace be upon him) responded, “No. This is up to us. If we please, we will reply and if we please, we will leave it.” Then he (peace be upon him) recited the following verse, ‘This is our grant. So, give or withhold without any account’.”
Here, the word remembrance is used in its first meaning viz. the Holy Quran. The people of Quran are those whose knowledge of Quran is complete, not based on whims and views which are certainly prone to errors. Thus, they should know the whole Quran, not part of it.
The last sentence is important. It is not necessary for the Imams (peace be upon them) to answer all questions. Allah has given them the Quran in its entirety. He has made it obligatory for the people to question but it’s not necessary for them (peace be upon him) to reply. They (peace be upon him) will see if it is ok to reply, they will do so; not otherwise. (Here, the example of giving money to Jaabir and Kumait can be given).
Imam (peace be upon him) quotes the verse from Quran about Prophet Sulaiman (peace be upon him). When for a lowly thing like worldly bounties, Allah has given the authority to Sulaiman to exercise his choice, then for a spiritual bounty like knowledge, Allah will not give the Ahle Bait (peace be upon them) authority?
1. Behaar al-Anwaar, vol. 23, p. 174, H. 3
2. Tafseer Ali Ibn Ibraheem al-Qummi, vol. 2, p. 68