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Khan al-Amin

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Khān al-Amīn (Arabic: خانَ الاَمین) literally means “the trusted [angel] has betrayed.” It is a belief attributed by some Sunni scholars to Shias. They claim that Shias believe that Gabriel was primarily commanded to deliver the revelation to Imam 'Ali (a), but then he betrayed and breached the command, delivering the revelation to Muhammad (s). They say that Shias repeat the phrase at the end of their prayers.

However, Shias believe that Imam ʿAli (a) was not a prophet, holding that Gabriel is infallible and he never defies God’s commands. Moreover, the phrase repeated three times by Shias at the end of their phrases is “Allah is greater.”

For Shiite scholars, this is a false accusation against Shias, and an attempt to liken Shiism to a Jewish sect in which Gabriel was supposed to deliver the revelation to someone, but then delivered it to someone else.

Attribution of “The Trusted [Angel] has Betrayed” to Shias

The phrase “khan al-Amin” (literally: the trusted [angel] has betrayed) is a belief attributed to Shias by some Sunni and Wahhabi scholars. Some of them limit the attribution to a group of Ghali (exaggerating) Shias. As they claim, the Shias believe that Gabriel was indeed supposed to deliver the revelation (the Qur'an) to ʿAli (a), but then he betrayed and defied the commands, delivering it to the Prophet (s).

According to ʿAbd Allah b. Jibrayn (d. 1430/2008), a Wahhabi mufti, he heard that some Shias put their hands on the knees before the “salam” in the prayer, and then recite the phrase “khan al-amin.” The truth is that Shias do not recite such a phrase in their prayers. After finishing the “salam section of their prayers, they often raise their hands three times, each time reciting “Allah is greater.” This is because, as suggested by Shiite jurists, it is recommended to recite takbir for three times after the “salam” of the prayer.

Appealing to Ibn Hammad’s Poem

Some Sunni scholars have adduced a verse attributed to Ali b. Hammad al-Basri, a Shiite poet in the fourth/tenth century, as evidence that at least a group of Shias believe that Gabriel betrayed God’s commands. The verse reads as follows:

The trusted [angel] went astray and blocked it [i.e. the revelation] from Haydar

I swear to God, that the trusted was not trustworthy.

According to Qadi Nur Allah Shushtari and Abu 'Ali Ha'iri, two Shiite scholars, “amin” (the trusted) in this verse refers to Abu 'Ubayda al-Jarrah, who is deemed the “trusted by the nation” (amin al-umma) by Sunni Muslims, but he made efforts to help Abu Bakr b. Abi Quhafa take over the caliphate and steal it from Imam ʿAli (a). There is a hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari, one of the authentic six collections of hadith for Sunnis, which says that Abu 'Ubayda al-Jarrah was the trusted figure of the Islamic nation.

Motivation

According to Ja'far Subhani, a Shiite authority, it was a Jewish belief that Gabriel betrayed in delivering the revelation, but enemies of the Islamic unity attributed the same belief to Shias. Fakhr al-Razi, a Sunni exegete of the Quran (d. 606/1209), says in his exegesis of the verse 97 of Qur'an 2 that the Jews were antipathetic to Gabriel after the emergence of Prophet Muhammad (s), since they believed that Gabriel was supposed to deliver the revelation to a person from the Jews, but he betrayed.

In his book ʿIqd al-farid, Ibn ʿAbd Rabbih (d. 328/940), a Sunni scholar, points to the Jewish antipathy toward Gabriel, and then says that Rafidis (a pejorative term for Shias) have a similar belief, since they hold that Gabriel betrayed God’s commands when he delivered the revelation to Muhammad (s), since he was supposed to deliver it to ʿAli (a). Ibn Jawzi (d. 597/1201), a Hanbali jurist, and Ibn Taymiyya Harrani (d. 728/1328), a Salafi scholar, have said the same thing as a point of similarity between the Jews and the Shias.

Inconsistency with Shiite Beliefs

Shiite scholars believe that it is false accusation to Shias. Indeed, they say, there is no Shia who believes that Gabriel betrayed or recites the phrase “khan al-Amin.” Moreover, the belief in Gabriel’s betrayal is inconsistent with other Shiite beliefs, including:

  • The infallibility of angels: the belief in Gabriel’s betrayal does not square with the belief in his infallibility. For, according to Shiite scholars, angels, including Gabriel, are infallible and immune to sins, and hence, they never defy God’s commands. Moreover, Allama Tabataba'i, a Shiite exegete of the Quran, says that Gabriel never makes changes in the revelation either intentionally or unintentionally.

Abd Allah Jawadi Amuli, a Shiite exegete of the Quran, believes that there was and there will be no person who is more perfect than the Prophet (s), since if there was such a person, he would be the last prophet.

References

  • Ibn Taymīyya, Aḥmad b. ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm. Minhāj al-sunna al-nabawīyya fī naqd kalām al-shīʿa al-qadarīyya. Edited by Muḥammad Rashād Sālim. Riyadh: Jāmiʿat al-Imām Muḥammad b. Saʿūd al-Islāmīyya, 1406 AH/1986.
  • Ibn Jibrīn, ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān. Sharḥ al-ʿaqīda al-ṭaḥāwīyya.
  • Ibn Jawzī, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. ʿAlī.