Ranks of Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.)

Man has gone through certain stages to reach his material existence and the world; and he has to go through other stages to return to where he used to be with a qualitative difference:
As He brought you forth in the beginning, so also shall you all return. (7:29)
Evidently this course of ‘from Allah to Allah’ is not something special for human beings; rather, all creatures have a descending and ascending course making the circle perfect. Nevertheless, this course in human beings who are the superior creatures is perfect.
Man goes through the stage of ‘the best made’ to the material ‘the lowest of the low’. Then in an evolutionary cause, he returns to Allah after his epistemological and existential dimensions undergo change.

There are those distinguished human beings among all men, who have the power of leadership and enjoy amplitude. These go through this stage more perfectly. Among all perfect human beings, the Holy Prophet and his Ahl al-Bayt are the most superior of beings. They go through this stage in the most perfect way.
Stages of Man’s Descent
Every being, including humanity, has a stage where ‘he was a thing not worth mentioning’. Then he becomes ‘a thing worth mentioning’.
The first stage is ‘shadow’ – it is the time when man is hidden or unobservable in the Divine knowledge. This is the stage of ‘a thing not worth mentioning’. Then Allah wills to manifest man and man becomes ‘a thing worth mentioning’. In this stage, man deserves the Divine Decree of ‘Be’:
His command, when He intends anything, is only to say to it – Be, so it is. (36:82)
This stage is materialized into an epiphany with an unimaginable speed:
And Our Command is but one, as the twinkling of an eye. (54:50)
About ‘a thing not worth mentioning’, the Holy Quran says:
Does not man remember that We created him before, when he was nothing? (19:67)
And on his becoming ‘a thing worth mentioning’, the Holy Quran says:
There surely came over man a period of time when he was a thing not worth mentioning. (76:1)
This is the stage of entity when something exists but not worth mentioning. From the above said verse, it is inferred that this stage is when man becomes worth mentioning due to the light of the Holy Prophet.
Evidently everything that is addressed by Allah and receives the decree of ‘Be’ from the Creator of the universe cannot be a pure nothing. This is so because a pure nothing cannot be addressed. Therefore, although we did not exist externally, we were in the knowledge of Allah.
One must say that Divine decree and His creation came together to create man:
Surely, His is the creation and the command. (7:54)
Commenting on this wonderful being, the Holy Quran says:
…Surely, I am going to create a mortal of the essence of the black mud fashioned in shape. (15:28)
…Surely, I am going to create a mortal from dust. (38:71)
The above two and other verses refer to the material creation ‘in the lowest of the low’ and then Holy Quran says:
So I have made him complete and breathed into him of my spirit, fall down making obeisance to him. (15:29)
Based on the aforementioned verses, man is a comprehensive being and is distinct from other creatures.
Ahl al-Bayt’s Distinction
Based on the Quranic verse, the Ahl al-Bayt, whether when they were in Allah’s knowledge or when they were created, were distinct from other human beings, as they are all from the same tree and light while other human beings are from different trees:
Ali and I are from the same tree while other people are from a different tree.50
Their capacity and magnitude cannot be compared to other human beings in any position. It is for this reason that it is said, based on authentic narration, that Allah created them from light before the creation of other beings and bestowed knowledge upon them. The Holy Quran says about the importance and dignity of the man who is addressed to by Allah:
And it is not for any mortal that Allah should speak to him except by revelation or from behind a veil, or by sending a messenger and revealing by His permission what He pleases; Surly He is High, Wise. (42:51)
Excellent examples of these people are the Holy Prophet and Ahl al-Bayt. They were addressed by Allah due to the Holy Prophet’s mission and the Ahl al-Bayt received what was revealed to Allah’s messenger.
Describing Imam Ali (a.s.) who is one of the Ahl al-Bayt, the Holy Prophet says:
Surely, you hear what I hear and see what I see.51
Imam Ali (a.s.) had reached the highest stage of knowledge that a creature could reach, in a way that he would decisively say:
I do not serve a Lord whom I have not seen.52
It was also Imam Ali (a.sز) who said:
If all the veils were removed, a bit would not add to my certainty.53
Since there was no veil between him and Allah and he was a medium between people and Allah due to his knowledge, and so the Holy Prophet had said:
Ali and I are from the same light.54
Angels had prostrated themselves before the perfect man due to his knowledge of the Names. This prostration was due to the legal position and not the natural personality of the perfect man. It is for this reason that since then all angels have been under the spiritual power of the perfect man. Presently, all angels and other beings are under the eyes of Imam Mahdi (a.s.) – may Allah expedite his reappearance.
The Capacity of Ahl Al-Bayt(A.S.)
Commenting on the capacity of the angels, Imam Ali (a.s.) says:
Among them are those also whose steps are fixed on earth but their necks are projecting into the skies.55
That is to say the angels are abstract truth hence they encompass the cosmos and have the universe under their cover. Based on narrations, the same abstract truth has manifested itself in the heart of the Holy Prophet and his Ahl al-Bayt. Since the Holy Quran dawned upon the heart of the Holy Prophet, nothing that emanates from him and his Ahl al-Bayt is but the truth, for man cannot have two hearts – one containing the truth and the other containing falsehood. Therefore, Ahl al-Bayt are nothing but the truth; they say nothing but the truth and do nothing but the truth. They are mercy for the world nations and all people enjoy their truth whether they want or not.
Since perfect men have reached up to the Umm al-Kitab (Mother of the Book), it has become tangible for them:
In a book that is protected; none shall touch it save the purified ones. (56:78-79)
These men are beyond limits of nature and time; they have stepped on the past and future, that is to say, they have the time under their feet. For this reason, they are aware of the past and the future. They see the past as it happened and the future as it will happen. Do we not read in the Holy Quran that Allah showed to His Messenger during the Night Ascension the future of the universe until the Judgment Day and its aftermath:
Then he drew near; then he bowed, so he was the measure of two bows or closer still. And He revealed to His servant what He revealed. The heart was not untrue in (making him see) what he saw. What! Do you then dispute with him as to what he saw? And certainly he saw Him in another descent, At the farthest lute-tree: Near which is the garden, the place to be resorted to. (53:8-15)
During the Night Ascension, Allah revealed to the Holy Prophet the essence of the Day of Judgment in the form of heaven and hell. So, the Holy Prophet not only has an understanding of the past and future and he also sees them all. Since Allah’s Messenger with all his spirituality is manifest in the Ahl al-Bayt, they too are aware of the past and the future.

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