وَ اعْتَصِمُوْا بِحَبْلِ اللهِ جَمِيْعًا وَ لَا تَفَرَّقُوْا
“And hold fast by the rope of Allah all together and be not disunited…”
[Surah Aale Imraan (3): verse 103]
In the recent times, this verse has been one of the most quoted but, at the same time, most misinterpreted verses of the Holy Quran. Many people have tried to use this verse to their liking by using their flawed understanding to interpret it. They do not realise that it is forbidden to interpret the Holy Quran without referring to the teachings of Ahle Bait (peace be upon them). There are traditions which clearly state that nothing is more distant from the intellects of men than exegesis (Tafseer) of the Holy Quran. It means people do not have the ability or capacity to interpret the Quran by themselves and the Quran cannot be understood except by referring to the Ahle Bait (peace be upon them), who are its real addressees. As a result, when people venture into self-interpretation of Quranic verses, the outcome is contrary to the divine command. This approach is not very far from the approach of those who claimed that the Holy Quran is sufficient for us. So let us refer to the real addressees of the Holy Quran, the house of divine revelation where the Quran descended, for the correct interpretation and explanation of this verse and find out who is ‘The Strong Rope’ of Allah.
Disclaimer: We will refer only to traditions from Shia sources, that too only from exegesis (Tafseer) of Holy Quran, for answers and with the blessings of Ashaab-e-Kisaa i.e. the 5 holy personalities of the cloak (peace be upon them), we shall bring 5 traditions for the same.
1. Tafseer al-Qummi, vol. 1, p. 108
Abu Jarood narrates from Abu Jafar Imam Muhammad Baqir (peace be upon him) concerning “and be not disunited”. Imam (peace be upon him) replied:
“Surely Allah, Blessed and High be He, knew that they (people) shall soon be divided after (the demise of) their Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) and shall differ. So He prohibited them from (such) division – like He had forbidden the ones before them – and He commanded them that they should come together (be united) upon the Mastership (Wilaayat) of the progeny of Muhammad (peace be upon them) and not be disunited.”
2. Tafseer Furaat al-Kufi, p. 90
Ibn Abbas narrates that I was with the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) when a Bedouin came and asked: O Messenger of Allah! What is the word of Allah in His Book “and hold fast unto the rope of Allah and be not disunited”? What is the rope of Allah?
Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) replied:
“O Bedouin! I am His Prophet and Ali Ibn Abi Talib is His rope.”
The Bedouin left saying: I have brought faith in Allah and His Messenger and I have held on to His rope.
3. Tafseer al-Ayyaashi, vol. 1, p. 194, H. 122
Ibn Yazid narrates that I asked Abul Hasan Imam Kazim (peace be upon him) about the verse “and hold fast unto the rope of Allah.” Imam (peace be upon him) replied:
“Ali Ibn Abi Talib (peace be upon both of them) is the strong rope of Allah.”
4. Tafseer al-Burhaan, vol. 1, p. 670, H. 3 (1863)
Muhammad Ibn Husain narrates from his father than Imam Ali Ibn Husain Zain al-Aabideen (peace be upon both of them) said:
“Once Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) was sitting with his companions in the mosque and said, ‘A man who will approach you from this door is a man from Paradise and he should be asked regarding his reason for coming here.’ Then a man emerged, tall, similar to a man from the Mudhir tribe. He stood in front of Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny), greeted him and sat down. He asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah! I have heard that Allah, Mighty and Majestic be He, concerning what He revealed (in the verse) and hold fast unto the rope of Allah all together and be not disunited… What is this rope which Allah has commanded us to fasten unto and not and that we should not be separated from it?’
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny) bowed down his head in silence for some time. Then he raised his head and pointed towards Ali Ibn Abi Talib (peace be upon both of them) and announced, ‘this is the rope of Allah, the one unto whom if anyone holds on, then he is protected through him (Ali) in his worldly life and he will never be deviated due to (fastening unto) him (Ali) even in his hereafter.’
So that man rushed towards Ali (peace be upon him) and embraced him from behind him while exclaiming ‘I have fastened unto the rope of Allah and the rope of His Messenger. Then he stood up, turned and left.
Then another man stood up and asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah! Can I go and meet him and ask him to seek forgiveness from Allah for me?’ So the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) said, ‘(Yes) In fact, you will find him standing (outside).’
Then Imam (peace be upon him) said: So the man met him and asked him to seek forgiveness from Allah for him.’ That Bedouin replied, ‘Did you even understand what the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny) informed me and what I asked him?’ He said: Yes (I did). So that person emphasised, ‘If you hold fast unto with that rope Allah shall forgive you and if you don’t then Allah will never forgive you.’
5. Tafseer Noor al-Saqalain, vol. 1, p. 376, H. 305
It is narrated in Amaali of Shaikh al-Taaifah viz. Shaikh Tusi (may his grave be sanctified) through his chain of narrators that Umar Ibn Raashid quotes that Imam Jafar Ibn Muhammad (peace be upon both of them) said concerning the verse ‘and hold fast unto the rope of Allah all together’ that ‘we are the rope’.
Apart from these, there are many other similar traditions in authentic Shia books which elaborate further on the interpretation of the aforementioned verse.
- All 5 traditions in the interpretation of the verse clearly prove that ‘The Strong Rope’ of Allah refers to the Ali Ibn Abi Talib and the infallible Imams (peace be upon them)
- Allah has commanded everyone to be united and hold fast unto the rope of their Mastership (Wilaayat)
- If all Muslims wish to be united and come together on to a single platform, then the main criterion for such Islamic unity cannot be anything other than Mastership of Ali Ibn Abi Talib (peace be upon both of them)
- All attempts to establish Islamic unity by forsaking this criterion will be invalid and not as per the divine command in the Holy Quran and in fact, will be Un-Islamic
- Staying attached to the Mastership of Ahle Bait (peace be upon them) after the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) will save Muslims from being divided
- Belief in the Mastership of Ahle Bait (peace be upon them) is equivalent to belief in the Nubuwwat of Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) and Tauheed
- Allah will forgive the sins of a person who fastens unto ‘The Strong Rope’ of Allah viz. Mastership of Ali Ibn Abi Talib and the infallible Imams (peace be upon them) after him