A Critique of Current Positions Concerning the Nature of Immaculacy (‘esmat)

Document Type: Original Article


1 al-Mustafa International University

2 PhD Student in Islamic Philosophy, al-Mustafa International University


 Most theologians (motekallemān) consider immaculacy (‘esmat) to be a [form of] divine grace (mohebbat-e elāhī) which is bestowed on those who are immaculate (ma’sūm), and they believe that those who are not granted this benefit do not have the ability to attain to this station. Some have considered immaculacy to be a result of [the attainment of] a clear and indubitable knowledge, while others have likened it to an angel which [acts to] preclude the committing of sin. This group of positions concerning immaculacy are subject to serious criticisms: issues such as the relationship between immaculacy and free will, the value of the station of immaculacy, and the differences which obtain between those who have attained to this station and ordinary people, all entail questions which none of the current positions concerning immaculacy is able to provide satisfactory answers to. This article posits that refraining from sin (esmat azgonāh) is a volitive phenomenon and that everyone has the ability [in potentia] to reach this station; but that inerrancy, i.e. the avoidance of error (esmat az khatā va eshtebāh) is an involuntary phenomenon which is a precondition for the station of prophethood and/ or of the station of the imamate.
[Thus, this paper posits that] having chosen a given person for the station of prophethood and/ or for the station of the imamate, Almighty God immunizes him from the committing of any and all error in order [to guarantee] that he will not commit [any] error in the explication [and promulgation] of His religion. It is the view of the authors that this is the only position that [is capable of providing] lucid answers to the above-mentioned objections.