Badā' (meaning: "revealing after concealing",[1] or "alteration in the divine will"[2][3][4][5][6][7]) is a Shia Islamic concept regarding God. It refers to God revealing his will about a decision, wherein the people thought his will had already been made on that issue, as the Shia believe that God has knowledge of the ultimate outcome.[1]

Twelvers, along with other Shia sects such as the Zaydis, reject predestination.[8][9][10][11] This belief is further emphasized by the Shia concept of Bada’, which states that God has not set a definite course for human history. Instead, God may alter the course of human history as is seen to be fit.

Shia Twelvers believe matters relating to the human destiny is of two kinds: definite and indefinite; God has power to change every thing which he wills and God's creativity is continuous.[12]

Explanation of Bada’

The Shi’a concept of Bada’ can be thoroughly explained through the words of Ayatollah Morteza Motahhari (a disciple of Ayatollah Khomeini):[13]

“In Islam there is an issue called bada' (revision). The concept of bada' has an apparent meaning which few would regard as acceptable. Some have even criticized the Shi'ah for believing in bada'. The meaning of bada' is revision in Divine Destiny (qada'), meaning that God has not fixed a definite and final form for the course of human history. In other words, God Says to man: "You yourselves are in charge of the fulfilment of Divine Destiny, and it is you who can advance, stop or reverse the course of history." There is no blind determinism either on the part of nature or the means of life or from the viewpoint of Divine Destiny, to rule over history.”

Furthermore, bada' does not occur in the knowledge of God (which is absolute and unchanging, and is described as "al-lawh al-mahfûz” – i.e. the protected tablet), it can only occur in the knowledge of humans and angels (which is not necessarily absolute, and is described as "lawhu 'l-mahw wa 'l-ithbat” – i.e. the tablet that can be erased and re-written).[14][15] An example of this is stated by Imam Ali:

"You read the Book (i.e., the Qur'an) at night as well as day; so is there anyone among you who knows what was revealed in it? If it had not been for a verse in the Book of Allah, I would have informed you of what has happened (in the past), what will happen, and what shall happen until the Day of Resurrection. And that is the verse: 'Allah erases and confirms what He Wishes, and with Him is the Mother of the Book.' [Surah Ar-Ra'd: 39]..."[16][17][18]

This last passage is significant; in it, although Imam 'Ali claims to have the access to 'ilmu 'l-ghayb (knowledge of the unseen) he acknowledges that it is totally dependent upon the will of Allah.[19]


In the Quran

According to the Qur'an, God originally appointed thirty nights of worship for Moses, and later increased it to forty nights before granting him the Torah:

And We appointed with Musa a time of thirty nights and completed them with ten (more), so the appointed time of his Lord was complete forty nights
Qur'an, [Quran 7:142]

The wisdom behind the change in the length of appointment was only known afterwards, wherein the people took to disbelief:

And remember We appointed forty nights for Moses, and in his absence ye took the calf (for worship), and ye did grievous wrong.
Qur'an, [Quran 2:51]

The change from thirty nights to forty nights do not reflect a change in God's Knowledge, but only a change in the knowledge that Moses possessed.

During the life of Muhammad

The Muslim's initially faced Jerusalem during their prayers, up until 17 months after the Hijra.[20] Thereafter Muhammad was commanded to change the direction of prayers (Qibla) towards the Ka‘bah of the Sacred Mosque.[20][21] The wisdom behind the change was also mentioned in the Quran:

..and We appointed the Qibla to which thou wast used, only to test those who followed the Messenger from those who would turn on their heels (From the Faith).
Qur'an, [Quran 2:143]

The change once again reflects only a difference in the knowledge of Human beings.

Badā' with respect to Imāmate

An example of Bada' with Imamate is offered by three of the early Shia scholars:

Narrations from these sources state that the Imāmates of Mūsā al-Kādhim and Hasan al-‘Askarī were given to them after the death of their siblings, who were originally supposed to be the Imāms. Due to these narrations, the belief among the Ismaili Shi’a that the Twelver Shi’a replaced Isma'il ibn Jafar with Musa al-Kadhim through the excuse of bada’, has been a point of criticism by the Ismaili’s against the Twelver’s.[22] However these narrations are rejected by Twelvers based on narrations from Muhammad,[23] as well as narrations from the respective fathers of those Imāms,[24][25] in which they were directly named as the successors to the Imāmate.

As well, even though Shaykh Tusi cited some of the traditions, he himself[26] along with Shaykh Saduq[27] were both opposed to the idea of Bada' with regards to Imāmate, arguing that if matters as important as Imāmate were subject to change, then the fundamentals of belief should also be subject to change. Muhammad Baqir Majlisi has also offered explanations of the concept of bada'.[28]

Bada’ with respect to the Mahdi

In some traditions attributed to Imām Muhammad al-Baqir the number of the years which had to elapse before the emergence of the Mahdi was specified. For example, a close associate of Imam al-Baqir called Abu Hamzah Thabit ibn Dinar, recalled in the presence of Imam al-Baqir what Imam Ali had said about the end of the period of trial for the Shi’a after 70 years, which would be followed by a period of ease and comfort. Abu Hamza complained that the period had elapsed without the prophecy being fulfilled. Imam al-Baqir explained that God initially did set the time for the Mahdi’s appearance at 70 years. However, when Husayn ibn Ali was killed the time was postponed to 140 years. This time span (of 140 years) was kept a secret and was only told to the close associates of the Imams. However, when the close associates revealed the time span to others, God delayed the appearance of the Mahdi for a further period. This time period is known only to God.[29][30]

This hadith however, is not considered reliable by Shia scholars,[31] based on the chain of narrators (isnad) of the tradition, and because there are no other people who have narrated this tradition.[31] According to the isnad, one of the narrators in the chain would only have been one years old at the time when he heard the hadith.[31]

Bada’ with respect to the foretold signs

According to the Twelver Shi’a, God has not Promised the occurrence of the foretold signs, and thus all such signs are subject to change due to God’s new Decision (bada’). The traditions state that amongst all the signs there are few signs that are definite (i.e. it is unlikely that God changes His Will on their occurrence). Thus, they are very likely to take place before the advent of the Mahdi, as noted in the narration of Umar Ibn Hanzala:[32]

Imam al-Sadiq (AS) said, "There are five definite signs before the rising of al-Qa'im, which are: (the rising of) al-Yamani and al-Sufyani, the (heavenly) cry/call (by Gabriel which will be heard all over the world), the murder of Nafs al-Zakiyya, and the sink (of the Sufyani army) into (the land of) al-Baydaa (located between Mecca and Medina)."[33]

Even for such definite signs God reserves bada’. God may change those of the definite Wills that are not categorized as His Sunan or His Promises. For instance, according to Twelvers, before the reappearance of the Mahdi, al-Sufyani would certainly rise. This is a definite Will, but it is not categorized as a promise. It is just an insisted future event meaning that it is unlikely that God cancels His Permission for the occurrence of this event, though it is still possible. According to the following tradition, God may make bada’ even in such insisted news. Dawud Ibn al-Qasim al-Ja'fari narrated:[32]

We were with Imam al-Jawad (AS) when the issue of Sufyani was brought up and the traditions which state that his advent is of the definite matters. I said to Imam al-Jawad (AS), "Does Allah make bada’ in the definite matters?" He (AS) replied, "Yes." I said, "Then, we have a fear that Allah makes bada’ in (the rising of) al-Qa'im." The Imam replied, "al-Qa'im is of the Promises, and Allah does not break His Promises (referring to verses 3:9 and 13:31)."[34][35]

Moreover, God may cancel the occurrence of the definite signs that were supposed to take place before the advent of the Mahdi.

The possibility of bada’ means the foretold signs are subject to change or cancellation. All the mentioned signs before the Mahdi’s arrival, even if they finally occur, they may happen miraculously in an unpredictable manner. It is narrated:[32]

Imam Ja'far Ibn Muhammad al-Sadiq (AS) said, "Expect the command/kingdom of your master (the Mahdi) in every day and night of your (life), and Allah (said) 'Every day He brings in a (new) matter/situation. (55:29).'"[36]

Therefore, the Mahdi may reappear at any time and his reappearance may be hastened (or postponed) without need for the occurrence of any of the reported definite signs. This can occur by asking God to advance the Mahdi’s reappearance from the bottom of one’s heart, and hence God may make bada’ and advance his reappearance.[37][38][39]

The existence of bada’ plays a central role in the Twelver way of expecting the Mahdi. According to Twelvers, by having faith in bada’, people would keep themselves ready all the time to receive the Mahdi. However, a person who has no faith in the alteration of the signs (due to bada’) and thinks of the reappearance of the Mahdi after the sighting of the signs is actually waiting primarily for the sighting of the signs and then for the Mahdi. Such an individual may deny the Mahdi if he reappears without the signs being fulfilled, as Abu Ubaida al-Hadhaa narrates:

I asked Imam al-Baqir (AS) about this matter (i.e., the rising of al-Mahdi (AS)). He (AS) replied, "Because you expect that it comes to you in a (certain) way, do not deny it (if it happens in another way)."[32][40]

Sunni view

Bada has two meanings in the Arabic language: The first meaning is “Appearance after hiding.” For example, you say “bada” the gates of the city, or the gates of the city had appeared. The second meaning is the “origination of the new idea.” For example, you say “bada” for him a matter, or he got a new idea in a matter. [Mukhtar Al-Sahhah 7/2278, Lisan Al-Arab 14/66, and Majma’a Al-Bahrain 1/45]

The two meanings are reported in the Quran and are attributed to humans. For the first meaning of the word, Allah says, “Whether ye bida “show” what is in your minds or conceal it, Allah calleth you to account for it.” [Al-Baqarah, 284] And the second meaning is when Allah says, “Then it occurred to the men after they had seen the Signs, (that it was best) to imprison him for a time.” [Yousef, 35]

These two meanings – appearance after hiding and the origination of the new idea – must be preceded by ignorance and followed by knowledge. Both of these two meanings are according to the Sunni view on Bada not applicable to Allah. Sunnis view it is a disbelief to attribute such meanings to Allah.

A similar idea to bada is presented in the Tora. In Genesis, chapter 6, verse 5, “But the Lord saw that the wickedness of mankind had become great on the earth. Every inclination of the thoughts of their minds was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made mankind on the earth, and he felt highly offended. So the Lord said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth…”

According to some Sunnis, Shia’s books do not say that Allah knew something He did not know before. Shia means that Allah made up a new matter for the people. However, what Ahl Al-Sunnah (Sunnis) disagree with the Shia is that the Shia use a phrase "bada" or “bida” that means nothing in Arabic but attributing ignorance to Allah in the opinion of Sunnis.

Al-Bida is one of the tenets of faith for the Shia. Many Shia scholars talked about Al-Bida in “Aqeedah” (tenets of faith) books. Some of these scholars are Ibn Babaweeh Al-Qummi in “Kitab Al-Tawheed,” and “Al-E’tiqadat”; Al-Kulayni in Al-Kafi; and Al-Majlisi in Bihar Al-Anwar.

Some Sunnis believe that the theory of Al-Imamah (Imamate) lead to the invention of Al-Bida. They believe the Shia invented Al-bida to save their theory in Al-Imamah from collapsing. Many Shia narrations in the time of Jaffar Al-Saddiq reported from Al-Saddiq himself that the next Imam would be Isma’eel, the eldest son of Al-Saddiq. However, something happened that was not supposed to happen: Isma’eel died before his father did. This really hurt the Shia and the biggest split in Shiasim had just occurred. A huge sect of Shia insisted that Isma’eel was the next Imam, and they are the Isma’eeli Shia. The other sect of Shiasim (the twelver shia), who believed that Mousa the son of Al-Saddiq is the next Imam, claimed that bida happened to Allah. The twelver Shia attributed to Al-Saddiq that he said, “It had never appeared to Allah as it appeared in Isma’eel my son. Allah had taken him away before me so that we may know he is not the next Imam after me.” [Kitab Al-Tawheed, Ibn Babaweeh Al-Qummi, p. 336, and Al-Kafi, vol.1, p. 327]

Therefore, according to Sunnis the Shia are saying that Allah told the people that Isma’eel is the next Imam, then he told them that Mousa is the next Imam. The same thing happened with Al-Hadi (the tenth Imam for the twelver Shias). Al-Hadi had announced that his son, Muhamed, was to be the next Imam. Nevertheless, Muhamed died before his father did. Hence, Al-Hadi gave the next leadership to his other son Al-Hasan Al-Askari and said, “O’ son, thank Allah, for He made a new decision about you.” [Al-Kafi, vol.1, p.326-327. Basa’er Al-Darajat by Al-Saffar, p.473. Al-Irshad by Al-Mufeed p.337. Al-Ghaybah by Al-Tusi, p.122]

And as happened with the Isma’eeli Shia, some of Al-Hadi’s supporters refused to acknowledge the death of Muhamed the son of Al-Hadi and insisted that Muhamed is still alive but in hide. Moreover, they interpreted the announcement of Al-Hadi as a taqqiyah and a cover for the truth.

According to some Sunnis this issue pushed the Shias to adopt the idea of bida to help the Imamah theory, especially that the Shia claim that Mohammed had named the twelve Shia Imams by their names.

Another reason believed by some Sunnis, that provoked the Shias into adopting bida is their belief that their Imams know the unknown. Therefore, if some Shia narrations claim that certain things would happen, and they did not happen, then the Shia could claim that it was because of Bida

Al-Majlisi says in Bihar Al-Anwar that Abu Jaffar said, “O’ Abu Hamzah, if we told you something, and then another thing happened, then Allah does as He Desires. And if we told you something today, and then we tell you the opposite tomorrow, then Allah deletes what He Wishes, and confirms what He Wishes.” [Bihar Al-Anwar by Al-Majlisi, vol.4, p.119. Tafseer Al-Ayashi, vol.2, p.217. Al-Burhan fi Tafseer Al-Quran, vol.2, p.299]

See also


  1. 1 2 Shirazi, Muhammad (2008). The Shi'a and their Beliefs. London,UK: Fountain Books. p. 34.
  2. The meaning of Bada', pg.83
  3. The meaning of Bada', pg,11
  4. The meaning of bada', pg.183
  5. The meaning of Bada', pg.311
  6. The meaning of bada', pg.27 "Mahdis and Millenarians By William Frederick Tucker
  7. The meaning of bada', pg.268, "Shi'ite Heritage" by Lynda Clarke
  8. Need of Religion, by Sayyid Sa'id Akhtar Rizvi, p. 14.
  9. Islamic Beliefs, Practices, and Cultures, by Marshall Cavendish Corporation, p. 137.
  10. Religions of Man, by Charles Douglas Greer, p. 239.
  11. Muslims, by S. H. M. Rizvi, Shibani Roy, B. B. Dutta, p. 20.
  12. Sobhani 2001, p. 159-160
  13. IMAM REZA (A.S.) NETWORK: History and Human Evolution: The Problem of Bada' ( Revision), by Murtada Mutahhari, Translated from Persian by Dr. 'Ali'uddin Pasargadi
  14. IMAM REZA (A.S.).NETWORK: Knowledge of the Ahlul Bayt (A.S.), By Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi
  15. The Justice of God, by S. Saeed Akhtar Rizvi, p. 21-26
  16. al-Ikhtisas, by al-Mufid, p. 235
  17. al-Irshad, p. 34 (in English, p. 21)
  18. al-Amini, al-Ghadar, vol. 6, p. 193-194; vol. 7, p. 107-108
  19. IMAM REZA (A.S.).NETWORK: Knowledge of the Ahlul Bayt (A.S.): What is 'ilmu 'l-ghayb? By Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi
  20. 1 2 Leaman, Oliver (2006). The Qur'an: an encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis. p. 329. ISBN 0-415-32639-7.
  21. Quran 2:144
  22. IMAM REZA (A.S.).NETWORK: The Imamate of Imam Musa Kazim (A.S.): The Death of Hazrat Ismail
  23. al-Tabari (1949). Dalā il al-Imāmah. p. 447.
  24. an-Nu'mani, Ibn Abu Zaynab (2003). "24 - entire chapter on Imam al-Kadhim being successor". al-Ghayba Occultation. Ansariyan Publications.
  25. al-Qurashi, Baqir Shareef (2005). The life of Imam al-Hasan al-Askari. Qum: Ansariyan Publications. p. 21. He [Hasan] is the eldest of my children, and he is my successor
  26. al-Tusi, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan (2003). Kitab al-ghaybah. Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyah. pp. 121, 264.
  27. al-Qummi, Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Babawayh. al-Imamah wa al-Tabsirah min al-Hayrah. p. 148.
  28. Authority and political culture in Shi'ism, By Saïd Amir Arjomand pg.29-30
  29. Expectation of the millennium, By Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr and Hamid Dabashi, pg.26
  30. Islam Without Allah? By Colin Turner, pg.196
  31. 1 2 3 "The Issue of Bada' and the Tradition of Abu Hamza". Imam Reza (a.s.) Network. Retrieved 22 July 2009.
  32. 1 2 3 4 IMAM REZA (A.S.).NETWORK: Moment by Moment Expectation of the Savior
  33. Bihar al-Anwar, vol.52, p.204, Hadith 34
  34. Kitab al-Ghaiba, al-Nu'mani, p.302, Hadith 10
  35. Bihar al-Anwar, vol.52, p.250, Hadith 138
  36. Bihar al-Anwar, vol.95, p.159, Hadith 4
  37. Tafsir, al-Ayyashi, vol.2, p.154, Hadith 49
  38. Mustadrak al-Wasa'il, vol.5, p.239, Hadith 5773
  39. Bihar al-Anwar, vol.52, p.131, Hadith 34
  40. Bihar al-Anwar, vol.52, p.268, Hadith 157


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