Do Imams know what God is ignorant of?

Question (Doubt):

Bada occurs for God while Imams of Shia have known in advance what has not happened (Ushûlul Kafi, p. 40). According to al-Kulayni, God did not know that Husayn son of Ali would be killed. According to them the Lord at first did not know. Therefore, God makes a new determination in accordance with the existing conditions. However, Imams of Shia already know what will happen. Therefore, according to Shia doctrine, Bada occurs for God (Ushûlul Kafi, p. 232).

Answer (Refutation):

Dear respected questioner, we sincerely appreciate your correspondence with the center of studies and refuting doubts (Qom Islamic seminary).

Regardless of the false contents attributed to Shia in this question, it is necessary to note 2 points in this regard:

A. the knower and the knowledge are generally divided into two parts: by essence (independent - بالذات) and by accidence (dependent - بالعرض). It is evident from numerous Quranic verses and traditions, that Allah the exalted is the absolute knower and is the only one who knows the universe – whether it be before creation or after creation – by essence and no one but him possess the essential and independent knowledge as stated in the Glorious Quran:

"With Him are the keys of the unseen; none knows them but He."[6:59]

Therefore, the knowledge possessed by others such as the prophets, the vicegerents and infallible Imams (PBUT) is not regarded as essential (by essence). In fact, they cannot benefit from knowledge of the unseen independently and their knowledge originates from the divine knowledge; There is no way that they can attain their knowledge from other than Allah and their knowledge is gained solely by Allah's permission.

B. Bada (بداء) is a theological term which literally means 'emergence of a matter of opinion after being hidden' 1 and has been used in the Glorious Quran by this very definition:

"And the evils they earned will appear to them, and what they used to mock will surround them" [39:48]

The question arises here is that whether Bada occurs for Allah the exalted or not. In other words, is it possible that Allah the Almighty ordains an affair and then he withdraws it as a result of regret?

The theologians often consider the attribution of this meaning of Bada to Allah as disbelief 2 even though such issues have been found in the religions. Thus, the usage of word 'Bada' for Allah is interpreted that the servants' thought may be different from that what is recorded in the protected tablet (اللوح المحفوظ) which is unknown to them; finally when it turns out to be against their thought, they assume that Bada has occurred.

According to Twelver Shia, Bada meaning revision is impossible for Allah for it represents ignorance and flaw which are far away from Allah the exalted 3; Bada based on Shia belief means that one can change his destiny by performing good or bad deeds as the following Quranic verse refers to:

"Verily, Allah changes not what is in a people, until they change what is in themselves." [13:11]


[1] Al-tawhid, Shaykh Sadooq, p.331 (footnote)

[2] Bidayat Al-maaref Al-ilahiya, p.219

[3] Ibid, p.241


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