“And Allah wishes only to remove all abomination from you, you Ahlel Bayt, and to make you pure and spotless.” (Quran, 33:33)
The Shia claim that this verse makes the Ahlel Bayt infallible; the Shia believe that here Allah (عز و جل) made the Ahlel Bayt perfect in the sense that they cannot make any mistakes, nor forget anything, nor commit any sins whatsoever. Based on this interpretation, the Shia claim that the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم), Ali (رضّى الله عنه), Fatima (رضّى الله عنها), Hasan (رضّى الله عنه), Hussain (رضّى الله عنه), and the other nine Imams are the infallibles.
But does this verse actually make anyone infallible? First off, if we say that this verse makes people infallible, then we must say that it makes the Prophet’s wives (رضّى الله عنهم) to be infallible, since Allah (عز و جل) addresses the Prophet’s wives. Let us analyze the entire verse:
“O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any other of the women; If you will be on your guard, then be not soft in your speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease yearn; and speak a good word. And stay quietly in your houses, and make not a dazzling display, like that of the former Times of Ignorance; and establish regular Prayer, and give regular Charity; and obey Allah and His Messenger. And Allah only wishes to remove all abomination from you, you Ahlel Bayt (People of the House), and to make you pure and spotless.And recite what is rehearsed to you in your homes, of the Signs of Allah and His Wisdom: for Allah understands the finest mysteries and is well-acquainted (with them).” (Quran, 33:32-34)
But the truth is that nobody was made infallible by this verse. Allah’s (عز و جل) statement was not to assure the Prophet’s wives (رضّى الله عنهم) that they had already been purified, but rather to stipulate a condition that if they obeyed Him, He would remove all abomination from them and thus purify them. He only wished to purify them if they met this condition, namely that they wear Hijab when they are out of the house (i.e. not making a dazzling display) and establish regular prayer as well as charity. If we analyze the context, we find that Allah Almighty (عز و جل) was giving the Prophet’s wives some divine directions to do all what He commanded them and to abstain from what He forbade. He thus informed them that if they conformed to His commands and abstained from what He forbade, He would reward them by removing all abomination from them and make them pure and stainless.
It should be noted that Allah Almighty (عز و جل) has used this pattern of speech to address many people. Consider the following verse:
“Allah does not wish to place you in a difficulty, but to make you clean, and to complete His favor upon you, that you may be grateful.” (Quran, 5:6)
In this verse, Allah (عز و جل) is talking about the believer; should we really conclude that that Allah (عز و جل) has now made the person completely clean and purified based on this? That is indeed missing the important conditional statement that Allah (عز و جل) is making.
In another verse, Allah Almighty (عز و جل) says:
“Allah does wish to make clear to you and to show you the ordinances of those before you.” (Quran, 4:26 )
He also says:
“Allah does wish to lighten your (difficulties): For man was created weak (in flesh).” (Quran, 4:28)
The wish of Allah (عز و جل) expressed in the above mentioned verses comes as a condition of being loyal to His commands, to love Him and make Him pleased. Otherwise, without fulfilling this condition, His wish will not come into reality, (i.e the purification will not occur).
In another verse, Allah Almighty (عز و جل) says:
“For Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly in repentance and loves also those who keep themselves pure and clean.” (Quran, 2:222)
Allah also said in the Quran to all His believers:
“But He so will to purify you and complete His favors on you.” (Quran)
Allah (عز و جل) so addresses His servants in many other Quranic verses in a similar vein. Therefore, if we claim that the aim of Allah Almighty (عز و جل) in purifying the Ahlel Bayt was to make them infallible, it would necessitate us to say that all the believers are infallible, following the Quranic verse which states that Allah Almighty (عز و جل) so wills to purify them.
As Allah Almighty (عز و جل) told us of His wish to purify members of the Prophet’s family, He similarly informed us of His wish to purify the believers as well. Therefore, if we suppose that the wish of Allah (عز و جل) to purify the believers was meant to make them infallible, then all sincere pious believers are infallible and impervious to sin. (Of course, this is incorrect and we find that none of these verses make anyone infallible.)
The purification mentioned in the aforementioned verse (33:33) was not meant to make anyone infallible, but rather simply to expiate them for past sins like we get expiation for our sins when we go for Hajj. This style is widely used in the Quran. We read in the Quran:
“Of their goods take alms, so that you might purify them and sanctify them…” (Quran, 9:103)
We will never find anybody who says that the purification mentioned in the afore-mentioned verses was meant to make the Prophet’s family members or the believers into infallibles.
Furthermore, and this cannot be stressed enough, the Shia are exaggerating on the meaning of the word “pure.” Allah (عز و جل) desired to make them pure and spotless, but this does not mean that they are infallible! The words “pure” and “infallible” are not interchangeable. Surely, the Shia would have to agree that Salman al-Farsi (رضّى الله عنه) and other great heroes of Islam are considered to be pure, but we do not say that they are infallible. The Shia would say that their Ayatollahs are pure, but few would say that they are infallible. Likewise, this verse in the Quran is addressing the Prophet’s wives (رضّى الله عنهم), promising them to be pure, but it does not in any way confer to them infallibility. This would be reading into the text of an otherwise straight-forward Quranic verse.
Another inconsistency in Shia theology is the fact that the Shia adamantly claim that their Imams areborn as Imams. They are pure from birth and can never sin in their lives. This is a central part of Shia belief, and one reason they claim that a little boy in a cave is to be the Imam Mehdi, since he is born pure. Why then would the verse 33:33 be revealed, clearly indicating that Ali was being cleansed by Allah (عز و جل) for his sins; what sins, we ask, if he was born an Infallible Imam? We ask the Christians why Jesus (عليه السلام) asks Allah (عز و جل) for forgiveness in the Bible if he is infallible; there are many such Biblical verses in which Jesus (عليه السلام) is praying to the “Father” for forgiveness. Surely infallibles have no sins to ask for forgiveness or purification for since they do not sin in the first place!
The verse 33:33 does not mean that purification has already taken place, but it rather asserts explicitly the will of Allah Almighty (عز و جل) to purify the sincere wives of the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم). The Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) was eager to pray for his immediate and other relatives to be included in the verse of purification, in order to achieve the same as his spouses (رضّى الله عنهم) were promised. Likewise, he even included Salman al-Farsi (رضّى الله عنه) in his Ahlel Bayt.
And we ask the Shia: how many times did the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) invoke Allah (عز و جل) to make Ali’s family pure and spotless? The Shia will proudly show multiple times, citing many examples from the Hadith of the Ahlus Sunnah; and we, the Ahlus Sunnah, acknowledge that the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) did ask Allah (عز و جل) multiple times to make Ali’s family pure and spotless. However, we wonder why there would be a need for the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) to keep asking for purification of his family? He asked again and again. If they were infallible and did not have any sins to begin with, then there would be no need to ask Allah (عز و جل) again and again for this purification. Indeed, the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) asking for his relatives to become “pure and spotless” was just one of the many du’as that he would make to Allah (عز و جل). It is what we would call an “every day du’a” much like our local Imam prays for the forgiveness and purification of all his congregation, or how a mother prays for the forgiveness and purification of her children. How many of us have asked Allah (عز و جل): “O Allah, purify me of my sins and purify my family from sins.” Each and every one of us should ask Allah (عز و جل) this. How many of us make this same du’a day after day, obviously indicating that we need Allah’s mercy, not that we are infallible.
In any case, even if the Shia were to somehow convince us that verse 33:33 makes someone infallible, the first to be made infallible by this verse would have to be the Prophet’s wives (رضّى الله عنهم) since they are the ones that verse 33:33 is addressed to. The Shia are thus faced with two options: they can accept Aisha (رضّى الله عنها) as infallible. In this case, they must accept her statement that the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) appointed Abu Bakr (رضّى الله عنه) to be the Imam of the prayers while he was sick; this would mean that Abu Bakr (رضّى الله عنه) was the rightful first Caliph and not Ali (رضّى الله عنه). Such a concession by the Shia would topple a very important foundation of Shi’ism which is rooted in the succession of Ali (رضّى الله عنه). The second option for the Shia is to say that Aisha (رضّى الله عنها) and the Ahlel Bayt were not made infallible by this verse, and this too topples the entire Shia doctrine of Infallible Imamah, a corner-stone of their belief. Either way, the Shia is in a predicament.