Recently, a seminal book called Return to Islam by “Mansoor Hashemi Khorasani” has been published in the field of Islamic studies that introduces a new approach toward Islamic teachings and has provoked various reactions among intellectuals in some Islamic countries. The content of this book, which has been written in a scholarly and reasoning manner, based on Islamic certainties and acknowledged facts by all Muslims of different sects, is a critique of the official and common understanding of Islam and presents a distinct and trans-sectarian understanding of it called the pure and perfect Islam.
In this book, the author first explains the criterion of cognition and considers necessity, unity, and self-evidence as its three characteristics. After many studies, he introduces intellect as its example and emphasizes that every cognition must inevitably lead to the intellect. Of course, he considers the intellect different from philosophy and believes that the criterion of cognition is the rational intellect, not the philosophical intellect. In addition, he considers the thousand-year dispute over the basis of goodness and badness between the Ash’arites and the Adliyyah as a verbal dispute due to their inattention to the nature of God’s commands and prohibitions that are creational and legislative, and believes that the intellect and Sharia are both the actions of God, and there is an essential unity between the actions of God, and there is no contradiction nor conflict among them.
He then explains the impediments to cognition and mentions ignorance, imitation, passions, worldliness, fanaticism, arrogance, and superstitionism as the most important examples of them, and within them, discusses the historical pathology of Muslims’ beliefs and actions and critiques their intellectual foundations since the demise of the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him and his family, and also explains and traces the common innovations, deviations, sufferings, and problems of the Islamic world.
In a part of his book, he considers Muslims’ lack of correct and perfect cognition of Islam as the most important cause of their disagreements and deviations, for which he mentions various factors and origins. He also states that their lack of correct and perfect cognition of each other and their enemies are two other causes of them.
One of the important issues challenged in this book is imitation. The author considers imitating the predecessors and imitating oppressive rulers, in the sense of following them, as a cause of the decline of Islamic culture and states that the uprising of Muslims against tyrannical and client state governments is legitimate, even if they claim to be Islamic; as not only does he not consider imitating disbelievers, in the sense of following non-Islamic ideas and models, as the cause of material and worldly progress of Muslims, but he also considers it as the cause of the fall of their culture and civilization. In addition, he considers imitating the majority of people incorrect, and after disproving the validity of consensus and fame as religious sources, due to their conjectural nature, he critiques democracy theoretically and demonstrates it to be ineffective, especially in societies where the intellects of the majority of people have not grown sufficiently.
He also disproves imitating scholars; because it is based on conjecture, which has no authority in Islam, and considers it as one of the causes of disagreements among Muslims for a long time. He believes that ijtihad as in common use, in the sense of inferring rulings from conjectural reasons, is invalid due to the invalidity of conjecture in Islam and counts it necessary to find another way to achieve certainty.
The author then critiques the theory of absolute guardianship of the Islamic jurist fundamentally and considers it an exaggeration about scholars and rules out its possibility from a rational point of view; because, according to the author, unconditional obedience to someone who may intentionally or unintentionally command unjustly is contrary to the ruling of the intellect and Sharia. Also, given the consequences of believing in absolute guardianship of the Islamic jurist, he considers unquestioning obedience to fallible people and giving them the authority of infallible people to be usually the sources of various fitnahs and great corruptions, such as political tyranny, and counts this as another reason for the necessity of avoiding this belief. Of course, it is clear that this critical point of view of the author, although it has been branded as politicized and in opposition to social order in some Shia countries, especially in Iran, is a completely scholarly point of view as well, similar to the points of view of their great and famous scholars, such as Sheikh al-Ansari, Akhund al-Khorasani, and Abu al-Qasim al-Khu’i, and therefore, it is by no means politicized or in opposition to social order.
After that, the author considers superstitionism as an influential factor in Muslims’ beliefs and actions, critiques some Sufis for promoting it, and states that they have had a great role in the spread of irrationalism and emotional and poetic religiousness among Muslims. He also denounces many poets for composing beautiful but incorrect poems that are contrary to the teachings of the Prophets and considers them, like sorcerers, as rivals and enemies of the Prophets, who prevent people from the way of God by «زُخْرُفَ الْقَوْلِ»; “flowery statements” and «لَهْوَ الْحَدِيثِ»; “idle talks.”
Another fundamental and important issue that Mansoor Hashemi Khorasani has addressed in his distinct and controversial book Return to Islam is the issue of Islamic government. In his point of view, the rule over people is only for God, and none but He has the right to rule over them, and He exercises His government by appointing a deputy who is called a “Caliph.” Therefore, the basis for the formation of the Islamic government and its political legitimacy is God’s specific and definite permission, which does not exist for any of the current rulers in the Islamic world, and therefore, none of their governments is currently an Islamic government. He states that the Islamic government needs a ruler who is specifically and definitely appointed by God, considers this need as one of the obvious matters and essentials in Islam and other Abrahamic religions, and believes that there is no room for debate about it. Of course, unlike all Muslim scholars of all Islamic sects, the author believes that people can have access to such a ruler, and the reason for their lack of access to such a ruler, contrary to their popular belief, is not God’s wisdom but failure to provide the necessary conditions for having access to him, and whenever they meet these conditions in a completely normal and conventional process, their access to him will be realized. Accordingly, their lack of access to him is not an excuse for them to choose a ruler other than him; because on the one hand, considering the possibility of their access to the ruler appointed by God, there is no need to choose another ruler, and on the other hand, their lack of access to this ruler is due to their failure, and therefore, it cannot be justified as an excuse for them to choose another ruler, even if they appear to have no choice. Based on this, Islamic government is possible only with the sovereignty of God’s Caliph on the earth, and the sovereignty of God’s Caliph on the earth is possible only with the free will and actions of people.
Elsewhere in the book Return to Islam, Khorasani considers the establishment of Islam to be useful and effective only in its pure and perfect form and believes that establishing a part of it alone or mixed with something outside of it, not only is it not useful and effective but also can be harmful and dangerous, and this is contrary to the belief of most Muslims who think that establishing a part of Islam is also desirable and effective. He likens Islam to a single system with interconnected components that if one component does not work, the other components will also lose their efficiency, and the whole system will fail. Therefore, Muslims have no choice but to establish the entirety of Islam in its purest form, and this is possible only if the Caliph of God on the earth teaches it.
Another fundamental and important issue in this book is that the author considers the implementation of Islamic hudud and punishments contingent upon the implementation of all general and political rulings of Islam and believes that legislating these hudud and punishments has been done in view of the rule of God on the earth, proportional to the time and place that all rulings of Islam are implemented as deterrents. Therefore, the implementation of these hudud and punishments in another time and place is not fair or proportional; especially considering that from the author’s point of view, the rulings of Islam are interdependent and interconnected, affect each other, and are influenced by each other. It is clear that this point of view, although it poses a great challenge to jurisprudence and the basis of the implementation of criminal law, is a completely scholarly point of view as well, which originates from the author’s particular intellectual foundations.
In another part of the book Return to Islam, Mansoor Hashemi considers disagreements among Muslims, sovereignty of other than God, association with non-Islamic nations and cultures, emergence of madhhabs and their competition with each other, moral decadence, and hindrance of the enemies of Islam as the most important impediments to the establishment of the perfect and pure Islam since the demise of the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him and his family, and talks about each of them in detail, with a historical, pathological, and trans-sectarian perspective.
He also considers the tendency to Hadiths as one of the impediments to knowing the pure and perfect Islam and its establishment by Muslims; because in his opinion, Hadiths, in the sense of conjectural narrations from the Sunnah of the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him and his family, have no validity due to the invalidity of conjecture in Islam, and it is not sufficient to rely on them to deduce a belief or a ruling. He believes that there is no reason to exclude the conjecture arising from Hadiths from other conjectures; because the invalidity of conjecture is one of the rulings of the intellect that do not accept exceptions. Therefore, only a mutawatir Hadith whose narrators are numerous and leads to certainty is valid, while such Hadiths are very few and not available enough. However, from the author’s point of view, the solution to this predicament is not to refer to non-mutawatir Hadiths, but to go to the Caliph of God on the earth, and if it is not possible to go to him at present, it is because of people’s failure to make its arrangements, and therefore, there is no excuse for them to refer to non-mutawatir Hadiths. Hashemi Khorasani believes that people have put themselves in a desperate situation by their failure to make the necessary arrangements for having access to the Caliph of God on the earth, and that this situation is not imposed upon us from God to conflict with His grace. However, he believes that they can get out of this desperation; because their access to the Caliph of God on the earth is possible when his security is guaranteed by them; as his sovereignty over them is possible when their demand, support, and obedience to him are guaranteed by them.
In another part of his book, Mansoor defines Islam as submission to God, which is manifested in the acknowledgment of His last Prophet. He believes that the followers of each Prophet are considered Muslims until the next Prophet comes to them; but when the next Prophet comes to them, if they acknowledge him, they remain on their Islam, and if they deny him, they turn away from Islam. In this part of his book, after introducing the last Prophet of God and proving his Prophethood, the author explains the position of the Quran and the Sunnah and points out very important and fundamental points in this regard. One of these points is the impossibility of abrogating, specifying, and generalizing the Quran by the Sunnah; considering that the only duty of the Sunnah is to explain the Quran, and it cannot contradict it in any way; as it is conjectural in most cases and not able to contradict the Quran, which is certain; but rather, in mutawatir cases, it is not as mutawatir as the Quran either and cannot stand in an equal position to it.
In another part of the book Return to Islam, the author considers the Sunnah of the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him and his family, authentic, which can be followed forever, but he believes that having access to it in a certain way is possible mainly for people of his time and not for future generations. Therefore, future generations need another authority to achieve certainty about the Sunnah of the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him and his family, and that authority is the Caliph of God on the earth, who is considered the successor to the Prophet in implementing God’s rulings, and he is naturally always available to people like the Quran. After examining the definitive Islamic texts, including the verses of the Quran and mutawatir Hadiths of the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him and his family, the author proves elaborately and convincingly to all Muslims, free from any sectarian orientation, that the Caliphs after the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him and his family, are twelve men from his Ahl al-Bayt, the first three of whom are Ali, Hasan, and Husain and the last of whom is the Mahdi. He then studies the position of the Mahdi and his role in the realization of the ideal of Islam, which is global justice, and in this regard, he brings up some accurate and profound details that are completely novel and unprecedented. For example, unlike others who believe that the creation and advent of the Mahdi depend first on the will and action of God and are subject to His wisdom and expediency, he believes that they depend first on the will and action of people and are subject to their free will and readiness, and explicitly and decisively asserts that their access to the Mahdi is possible, and therefore, they must think only of protecting, supporting, and obeying him and not make themselves busy protecting, supporting, and obeying anyone other than him, whoever he may be.
At the end of his book, Hashemi explains the most important principle of Islam, which is monotheism, and divides it into three parts: monotheism in creation, monotheism in legislation, and monotheism in judgment or sovereignty, and he explains each of them in detail. He then introduces the rest of the principles of the beliefs and the rulings of Islam, redefines each of them with a distinct and particular method, and opens new doors to jurists about Zakat, Hajj, and Jihad, from each of which new doors are opened.
In this way, he redefines the beliefs and rulings of Islam by relying on clear intellectual rules and based on definite religious texts, which are nothing but verses of the Quran and mutawatir Hadiths of the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him and his family, and presents a new and distinct understanding of it that can be considered an Islamic school and ideology, capable of revolutionizing the attitude and approach of Muslims of the world and preparing the ground for their unity and mutual closeness in the near future and major and fundamental changes in their political and cultural structures.
We recommend all Muslims of the world, especially scholars, to study this important and influential book, and we expect them and the officials of Islamic countries to show the necessary patience and forbearance in the face of it by observing freedom of thought and expression and adhering to Islamic ethics and scholarly etiquette, and to avoid hasty and irrational confrontations with thoughts and thinkers.