My question is about the Surah Al-Nisaa, Ayah 59:
O you who believe! Obey God, and obey the Messenger and those of you who are in authority.
Can you please explain about obeying the persons in authority beside God and the Prophet (pbuh). There are Shiite and Ismailies groups that always bring this Ayah to explain that their Imam is the person in authority and we have to obey him. Their salt is different and their way of worshiping God is different than other Muslim groups and they justify this with this Ayah.
The Qur’an, as it has itself stressed at more than one place, is in the clearest of Arabic dialects [Arabiyun Mubeen]. This fact should be kept in mind while interpreting the verses of the Qur’an.
The Arabic phrase, used in the referred verse of the Qur’an is: “Ool al-amr“. The correct translation of this phrase is: “Those in charge of affairs”. In the Arabic language, this phrase is quite commonly used for those who are given the authority and the responsibility to run the affairs of a collectivity. In other words, this phrase is used for the representatives of the government. Thus, it is quite obvious that in the referred verse the Qur’an has directed us to obey God, to obey His messenger and those who are made in charge of our affairs.
I do acknowledge that there is some difference of opinion regarding the interpretation of this verse. Some people believe that “those who are made in charge of your affairs” [or ool al-amr] implies the group of `ulema [scholars], while as you have yourself stated, others take this verse to refer to their Imams. As far as I know, there is absolutely no basis in the Arabic language to accept either of these interpretations. I also acknowledge that I could be mistaken, but in any case, it is the responsibility of these people to provide us with the linguistic basis, citing some examples from the classical Arabic literature that substantiates their claim. In the absence of such citations, their interpretation is no more than an unsubstantiated claim.
2nd May 1999