5 Analysis of Baab Ardh al Amaal of Al Kafi, Are deeds presented to Prophet and Imams
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Meaning of “Witness (Shaheed)” in some verses
One of the proofs, which is brought forward by many in support of the theory that Prophet (saww) is aware of the deeds of people, is the use of word “witness (shaheed)” for the Prophet (saw) in some verses of the Quran.
For example, In Surah Baqara, 2:143 Allah (swt) says
وَكَذَٰلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا لِتَكُونُوا شُهَدَاءَ عَلَى النَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ …شَهِيدًا
And thus We have made you a medium (just) nation that you may be witness over the people and (that) the Messenger may be a witness over you….
In Surah Nisa, 4:41
فَكَيْفَ إِذَا جِئْنَا مِنْ كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ بِشَهِيدٍ وَجِئْنَا بِكَ عَلَىٰ هَٰؤُلَاءِ شَهِيدًا
How will it be, then, when We bring from every people a witness and bring you as a witness against these?
In Surah Zumar, 39:69
وَوُضِعَ الْكِتَابُ وَجِيءَ بِالنَّبِيِّينَ وَالشُّهَدَاءِ وَقُضِيَ بَيْنَهُمْ بِالْحَقِّ وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ
and the Book shall be laid down, and the prophets and the witnesses shall be brought up, and judgment shall be given between them with justice, and they shall not be dealt with unjustly.
And there are many other such verses that refer to certain people being witnesses on the Day of Judgment. But does this imply that these witnesses have a special power to see the deeds of all people, or these people are regularly presented with the deeds of all people?
In light of what we have already discussed, we know very clearly that this is not the case. But in order to remove all the confusion, it’s important to understand these set of verses too, which mention certain people, especially the Prophets, being witnesses over their people.
We have already quoted some of the general verses in this regard; let us now quote the verses that can help us understand the previous verses.
In Surah Nisa, 4:159, Allah (swt) informs us about Prophet Isa (as)
وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يَكُونُ عَلَيْهِمْ شَهِيدًا
and on the day of resurrection he (Isa) shall be a witness against them.
In Surah Maeda, 5:116-117, Allah (swt) says
وَإِذْ قَالَ اللَّهُ يَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ أَأَنْتَ قُلْتَ لِلنَّاسِ اتَّخِذُونِي وَأُمِّيَ إِلَٰهَيْنِ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ ۖ قَالَ سُبْحَانَكَ مَا يَكُونُ لِي أَنْ أَقُولَ مَا لَيْسَ لِي بِحَقٍّ ۚ إِنْ كُنْتُ قُلْتُهُ فَقَدْ عَلِمْتَهُ ۚ تَعْلَمُ مَا فِي نَفْسِي وَلَا أَعْلَمُ مَا فِي نَفْسِكَ ۚ إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ عَلَّامُ الْغُيُوبِ
And when Allah will say: O Isa son of Marium! did you say to men, Take me and my mother for two gods besides Allah, he will say: Glory be to You, it did not befit me that I should say what I had no right to (say); if I had said it, You would indeed have known it; You know what is in my mind, and I do not know what is in Your mind, surely You are the great Knower of the unseen things.
مَا قُلْتُ لَهُمْ إِلَّا مَا أَمَرْتَنِي بِهِ أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ رَبِّي وَرَبَّكُمْ ۚ وَكُنْتُ عَلَيْهِمْ شَهِيدًا مَا دُمْتُ فِيهِمْ ۖ فَلَمَّا تَوَفَّيْتَنِي كُنْتَ أَنْتَ الرَّقِيبَ عَلَيْهِمْ ۚ وَأَنْتَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ
I did not say to them aught save what Thou didst enjoin me with: That serve Allah, my Lord and your Lord, and I was a witness of them so long as I was among them, but when Thou didst cause me to die, Thou wert the watcher over them, and Thou art witness of all things.
Even though we know that Prophet Isa (as) will be brought as a witness against his people on the day of judgment, that doesn’t mean that he is aware of all the deeds of his people, as the he is quoted in the verse “I was a witness of them so long as I was among them, but when Thou didst cause me to die, Thou wert the watcher over them, and Thou art witness of all things.”
This proves that just because someone will be brought as a witness on the Day of Judgment does not imply that the person is aware of the deeds of all people. But one might say, this verse is about Isa (as) being unaware after being raised from the earth, but it is quite possible that the Prophets (as) are aware of the deeds of their people when they are present on this earth. In reply we say that we have already answered this claim in the previous chapters, giving examples from the Quran and hadith about our Prophet (saww) and Imams (as) being unaware about the people of their own time.
This is also clear from the example of Prophet Nuh (as). In Surah Shu’ara, 26:111-113
(112) قَالَ وَمَا عِلْمِي بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ (111)قَالُوا أَنُؤْمِنُ لَكَ وَاتَّبَعَكَ الْأَرْذَلُون (113) إِنْ َحِسَابُهُمْ إِلَّا عَلَىٰ رَبِّي ۖ لَوْ تَشْعُرُونَ
They said: Shall we believe in you while the meanest follow you? He said: And what knowledge have I of what they do? Their account is only with my Lord, if you could perceive.
Also if we assume that being a witness on the Day of Judgment means that the person being presented as a witness is fully aware of the deeds of all the people, then we should assume this not just about the Prophet (saww), but also about “Martyrs” (Shuhadaa), “Siddiqoon” and “Salehoon”, since the Quran says that they will also be brought as witness against the people.
Therefore the witnessing mentioned in the Quran refers to that which the Prophets (as) saw physically within their human capacity, this is what they will be a witness for in the court of Allah (swt), in no way does the Quran indicate that Prophets (as) or our Prophet (saww) is aware of all the hidden and apparent deeds of people.
Another way to look at this would be that the Prophets (as) would witness on the day of Judgment that they brought the Haqq (Truth) and not the Batil (Falsehood) that the people innovated after them, hence the people themselves are liable and the Prophets (as) are innocent of what the people did after them, and similarly the Shuhada, Saddiqoon and Salehoon would witness about the innocence of the Prophets (as) from the innovations of their people.