The Inerrancy (‘Isma) of the Prophets
Hawzah News Agency – The term ‘Isma is to be understood in the sense of inviolability and immunity. In the domain of prophecy it comprises the following aspects: (a) in respect of the station of receiving, preserving and conveying revelation; (b) in respect of being protected against all disobedience and sin; (c) in respect of being protected against error in both individual and social affairs.
As regards the first of these degrees, there is universal agreement; for were there to be any likelihood of error or mistake at this degree, the trust of the people in the Prophet would be shaken, and they would not be able to rely upon the other messages of the Prophet; in consequence, the whole purpose of revelation would be undermined. The Holy Qur’an tells us that God has placed the Prophets under an all-encompassing supervision to ensure that the revelation is correctly conveyed unto mankind, as it is said:
]He is the] Knower of the unseen, and He revealeth unto none His secret, save unto every Messenger whom He hath chosen, and then He made a guard to go before him and a guard behind him, that He may know that they have indeed conveyed the messages of their Lord. He surroundeth all their doings, and He keepeth count of all things. (Sura al-Jinn, IXXII: 26–28)
In these verses, two types of guardian are mentioned in regard to the function of protecting the integrity of the revelation: angels who guard the Prophet against every type of evil; and the Almighty Himself, who guards the Prophet and the angels. The reason for this comprehensive supervision is to ensure the realization of the purpose of prophecy, that is, that revelation be conveyed unto mankind.
Ayatollah Jafar Sobhani, Doctrines of Shii Islam, A Compendium of Imami Beliefs and Practices, Translated and Edited by Reza Shah-Kazemi, published by I.B.Tauris Publishers, london • new york 2003.