There are narrations in Al-Kafi stating that the Imams (peace be upon them) only die by their own choice and whenever they wish to die. The opposition refutes these narrations by saying that Allah (Exalted is He) says: ‘’When their term comes, they can not cause an hour to delay, nor can they advance it’’ in the Holy Qur’an, and that is a clear contradiction to what those narrations state.
Are life and death not in the hands of Allah? How do we respond to those who mock us for believing that our Imams can choose to die?
In the Name of Allah, the All-Beneficent, the All-Merciful.
May Allah bless Muhammad and his Family and damn their enemies.
The belief that the Infallible Imams (peace be upon them) only die if they choose does not contradict the fact that their fate and destiny is a matter decided by Allah. So yes, the Imams (peace be upon them) *choose* to die because Allah has revealed to them the knowledge of the unseen while giving them the power to choose, yet they decide to submit to His will and win His approval.
To explain further: A person who cannot see the future may die in an accident because they chose to drive their car on a particular. Unbeknownst to this individual, their actions, or decisions, have set in motion a series of events that led to their death. The difference between the Imams (peace be upon them) and the person in the previous example is that they are aware of the consequences of their actions and willingly perform the act that leads to their martyrdom. In other words, they choose to die by submitting themselves fully to the will of Allah, even if it means that they must drink the poison that shall end their life or go into battle knowing they will be slaughtered.
Some people might object by saying that this is akin to suicide. If that criticism is valid, we must also object to Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) for wanting to slaughter his son, Isma’il (peace be upon him), as he has not committed a punishable crime by death. And Just as Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) cannot be criticised for his willingness to kill his innocent son, the Imams also cannot be accused of committing suicide because they chose to submit to Allah’s will and perform the acts that lead to their death, despite knowing of the consequences.
There are many examples of Prophets, in both the Qur’an and narrations, that show them performing certain actions that might seem like crimes or contradictions to the rules of Allah. Still, It is important to remember that the Infallibles (peace be upon them) are not bound to the same rules that apply to the rest of us. That said, Allah will always honour the dignity of His Prophets and protect them from all that is indecent and revolting.
The Office of Sheikh al-Habib