Quranic Reflection No. 517. Ayat 17:33 – Justice of Imam al-Mahdī (af)

وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا النَّفْسَ الَّتِي حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ  وَمَنْ قُتِلَ مَظْلُومًا فَقَدْ جَعَلْنَا لِوَلِيِّهِ سُلْطَانًا
Lā taqtulūn- nafsal-latī harramallāhu illā bilhaqqi wa man qutila mazlūman faqad ja‘alná liwaliyyihi sultānā
And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden, except with due cause. And whoever is killed unjustly – We have given his heir authority!
(Surat Al-Isrā’, Āyat 33)

As we approach the blessed occasion of the 15th of Shaʿbān, we congratulate all believers and all of creation on the birth anniversary of the Imam of our time, Imām al-Mahdī (may Allah hasten his return).

Life is one of the most precious gifts given to us by Allah ‘azza wajall and it is considered a severe sin to take the life of any individual unjustly. Almighty Allah warns us in numerous verses about this sin: whoever kills a soul, without [it being guilty of] manslaughter or corruption on the earth, it is as though he had killed all mankind (Q 5:33). Not only taking life, but even harming a human being in any way has penalties defined by Islam. Such is the reverence for the right of the human being to life and safety. It is applicable to all human beings, regardless of their faith. The only exceptions are for those who are guilty of committing specific offences which encroach on the rights of others.

In the verse that is being discussed, Allah has given authority to the heir of the one who is killed innocently to seek some form of retribution, without exceeding the limits set by Allah. He says: but let him not exceed limits in taking life. Indeed, he has been supported [by the law] (Q 17:33). Imām Ali ‘alayhis-salām similarly cautioned his children after he was struck by Ibn Muljim when he said to them: O sons of  ‘Abd al-Muttalib, certainly I do not wish to see you plunging harshly into the blood of Muslims, shouting ‘Amir al-mu’minīn has been killed.’ Beware, do not kill on account of me except my killer. Wait till I die by his (Ibn Muljim’s) existing stroke. Then strike him one stroke for his stroke (Nahjul Balāgha, Letter 47).
In a tradition regarding the above verse, Imām al-Bāqir ‘alayhis-salām is reported to have said: The one who is slain unjustly is Husayn and his heir is Imam al-Mahdī. And excess is to slay someone other than his assassins. This world will not expire unless a man from the family of the Prophet (sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam) would come. He will fill the earth with equity and justice as it has been filled with injustice and inequity. (Bihār v. 44, p. 218).

What we understand from the verse and tradition is that Imam al-Mahdī ‘ajjal-lāhu farajah will come to complete what Imām al-Husayn ‘alayhis-salām had started. Imām sought to seek reformation for the Ummah of his grandfather, the Prophet of Islam (s) and he laid the seeds of this reformation through his sacrifice on the plains of Karbala. Imām al-Mahdī will harvest and complete the reformation. But it is the responsibility of the Shīʿah Muslims to nurture and cultivate the seeds of this reformation by continuing to reform themselves and their society to ensure that the time of harvest is sooner than later.

As we celebrate the birth of our Imam, let us each focus on one area of our own lives and find within it an aspect that requires reformation, and diligently put in the effort to reform it. We never know, it could be this one reformation that our Imām is waiting for.

Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī, Al-Amthal fí Tafsīr Kitāb Allah al- Munzal, ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān.