As I understand, the subject of infallibility of the Prophets (peace be upon all of them) is dealt differently in Sunni and Shi'ite theology. I believe it is necessary to present my understanding of both views before I can ask the question.

Sunni View

We believe that the Prophets are infallible with respect to all they conveyed from Allah, in word, deed and what they approved of. The majority of Sunni scholars also viewed that the prophets were protected from major sins but not from minor sins. With regard to minor sins, these might have been committed by them. However, if they committed such actions, they were not left to persist, rather, Allah (Exalted be He) pointed that out to them and they hastened to repent. We can witness that in several ayah in Qur'an:

The Story of Prophet Adam (عليه السلام):

... And Adam disobeyed his Lord and erred. Then his Lord chose him and turned to him in forgiveness and guided [him]. [Surah Taha 20:121-122]

Or Prophet Musa (عليه السلام) also committed a mistake of killing an Egyptian man. In Verse 28:16 of the Quran, Allah Almighty says:

He said, "My Lord, indeed I have wronged myself, so forgive me," and He forgave him. Indeed, He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.

And there are similar mention about Prophet Dawud(عليه السلام) and in many Ayahs, Allah corrects Prophet Muhammad (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) like in Surah At-Tahrim 66:1 or Surat 'Abasa or Surah Al-Anfal. It is also worth mentioning the hadith of the pollination of palm tree where the Prophet (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) made a mistake in worldly affair.

In my perspective (correct me if I am wrong), the following is the Shi'ite view regarding the Prophets (peace be upon all of them) and also, the Imams (including the twelve Imams).

Shi'ite View:

  • The Prophets and Imams are free and protected from both major and minor sins.
  • The Imams are free from errors.
  • The Imams do not make mistake with respect to worldly affairs.
  • The Imams do not forget anything.

How does the above presented ayah reconcile with the Shi'ite view?


2 Answers 2


Let me first give some explanation of the Shi'ite viewpoint on the subject. In your quotation from Sunni view:

We believe that the Prophets are infallible with respect to all they conveyed from Allah, in word, deed and what they approved of.

Shia Muslims believe the prophets to be infallible in any way not restricted only to their prophecy. This also seems reasonable as one should be able to trust in them and if they do/say something wrong how would people be able to trust in them in the rest of their deeds/invitations, including the call that says they are messengered by Allah? Let me clarify this more thoroughly: all of us are infallible with respect to some sins, e.g. murder, that is, if someone asks us to kill someone innocent we just strictly answer "No!" with not even a single instant of being in scruple. However, the same people may be fallible with respect to other sins, be it small or big. If I am a person fallible in some respects and infallible in some other respects then people would find me as a person who is sometimes fallible and sometimes infallible, and of course a person like me would not be trustable when I am tended to assert a big claim, that all that I say about these concepts are nothing but true, messages of Allah A.J. . Would you believe me or you would remain in doubt? The prophets to be trustable should certainly be infallible with respect to all the sins such that not even a single sin should have been ever reported about them.

The majority of Sunni scholars also viewed that the prophets were protected from major sins but not from minor sins.

There are no small and large sins for the prophets, the sins all would be considered large for them as they are to be good patterns for their people, a small sin may affect their whole prophecy. If I do a small sin and the holy prophet of Islam does that as well would the punishment be equal? Would his sin be considered small as mine? Also from Quran (Al-An'aam:50)

Say: "I tell you not that with me are the treasures of Allah, nor do I know what is hidden, nor do I tell you I am an angel. I but follow what is revealed to me." Say: "can the blind be held equal to the seeing?" Will ye then consider not?


And now about the sins apparently counted in Quran in relation with the prophets, in Shia view: (actually there many more than what you have gathered here)

In a Hadith from Imam Reza PBUH available in Ref [1] we have:

Ma'mun the Abbasid Caliphate gathered a number of Ulamaa' around Imam Reza (PBUH) to ask him their questions, then Ali-ibn-Jahm asked him the same question based on verses of Quran. Imam Reza A.S. answered "Woe to you! Fear God and be away of interpreting the divine verses by your own opinion, as Quran says: but no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah, and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge (Ael-Emran: 7)", then imam answered all his questions one by one. In brief:

  • About Adam PBUH that Allah says "وَعَصَىٰ آدَمُ رَبَّهُ فَغَوَىٰ" that seemingly implies "thus did Adam disobey his Lord, and allow himself to be seduced." (Taha: 121): Allah created Adam as his Argument and Caliph on the earth and not heaven, whereas the disobedience of Adam was in heaven and not earth.

  • About Yunes PBUH that Allah says " وَذَا النُّونِ إِذ ذَّهَبَ مُغَاضِبًا فَظَنَّ أَن لَّن نَّقْدِرَ عَلَيْهِ فَنَادَىٰ فِي الظُّلُمَاتِ أَن لَّا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا أَنتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ" that seemingly implies "And remember Zun-nun, when he departed in wrath: He imagined that We had no power over him! But he cried through the depths of darkness, There is no god but thou: glory to thee: I was indeed wrong!" (Al-Anbiya':87): Yunes surmised that Allah will never restrict his life for him but Allah did it according to the verse: "But when He trieth him, restricting his subsistence for him …" (Al-Fajr:16), and if it was the case that Yunes was thinking that God may have no power on him this was Kufr with no doubt.

  • About Yusof PBUH that Allah says "وَلَقَدْ هَمَّتْ بِهِ وَهَمَّ بِهَا" that seemingly implies "And (with passion) did she desire him, and he would have desired her" (Yusof:24): Zuleikha was to reach him with passion and Yusof was to kill her, as her insistency may have caused Yosuf to do the shameful deed, but Allah survived hi of the situation and then stated that: "thus (did We order) that We might turn away from him (all) evil and shameful deeds" (Yusof:24).

  • About Davud PBUH that Allah says "وَظَنَّ دَاوُودُ أَنَّمَا فَتَنَّاهُ فَاسْتَغْفَرَ رَبَّهُ وَخَرَّ رَاكِعًا وَأَنَابَ" that seemingly implies "... and David gathered that We had tried him: he asked forgiveness of his Lord, fell down, bowing (in prostration), and turned (to Allah in repentance)." (Sad:24): First Ali-ibn-Jahm tells a story that was spread among people about the prophet Davud, A.S., when he finished Imam said, while he was beating his hand on his brow, "To Allah We belong, and to Him is our return(Al-Baghareh:156), you have introduced an honorable prophet accused of being frail in worshipping God, doing passionate deeds and murdering, while he only surmised that Allah has not created a human more knowledgeably than him. For him not to think so God sent to him two angles and then verses 22,23 of surah Sad is about their arguments, he judged between them without hearing claims of the both sides. It was his only mistake, and Quran says: "O David! We did indeed make thee a vicegerent on earth: so judge thou between men in truth (and justice)" (Sad: 26), then Imam gave some clarifying information on the rest of the story first stated by ibn-jahm.

  • About Muhammad PBUH that Allah says "وَتُخْفِي فِي نَفْسِكَ مَا اللَّهُ مُبْدِيهِ وَتَخْشَى النَّاسَ وَاللَّهُ أَحَقُّ أَن تَخْشَاهُ " that seemingly implies "But thou didst hide in thy heart that which Allah was about to make manifest: thou didst fear the people, but it is more fitting that thou shouldst fear Allah." (Al-Ahzab: 37): one of the prophet's wives was "Zeinab-bint-Jahsh" who was a wife for the prophet's stepson Zeid before. Although she was his wife but he didn't call her in her name for him not to be accused more by the hypocrites and the prophet was in fear for the people not to turn back to Jaheliyat's beliefs with the hypocrites' sayings, and so the noted verse was inspired to him. Then Imaam Reza A.S. stated that there are three marriages that Allah himself commanded for them: marriage of Adam and Eve, marriage of Muhammad and Zeinab, and the marriage of Ali and Fatimah, PBUT.

Also there are many other misgivings clarified in the same reference [1], about Adam and Eve, about Abraham, about Yusof, about Moses and etc., PBUT, but it's almost 20 pages long and I cannot just write all of them here, you'd be better to find a similar book and read the clarifications of the Ahl-ol-Beit A.S. on these issues. This short answer was only to address a few and also grab your attention to the verse (Ael-Emran:7):

He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book: In it are verses basic or fundamental (of established meaning); they are the foundation of the Book: others are allegorical. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: "We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord:" and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding.

In which God has stressed that he himself has inspired some Ayat in a way that are ambiguous and through which no one will survive but those who follow him and his men --who are firmly grounded in knowledge. I we don't access to their deep meaning we should only simply pass over them by confessing that "We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord". Hope that it may help.


Reference 1:

قصص الآنبیاء یا سرگذشت پیامبران از آدم تا خاتم انبیاء صلوات الله علیهم اجمعین written in Arabic by آیت الله سید نعمت الله جزایری translated to Persian by یوسف عزیزی


If we know the correct definition of Sin and also do not use unreliable interprets of Quran (like who are based on personal opinions and have false information either intentionally or unintentional) prophet had no minor or major sin and all are infallible.

Regarding Adam a.s:

Sin is disobeying Allah in rules of religion. When there is no religion so there is no sin. Adam ate from that tree when he was in Heaven and before any religion start and before God define sin for him. So although it was disobeying Allah but it was not sin. he just came to existence and one said him do not eat from this tree and another said him this tree has benefits and if you eat will have divine like. It was first time he saw Satan and Allah did not defined for him to hearing Satan is sin. Also later when he came to earth he was very sad for leaving heaven and was crying for a very long time until an angel came to earth and talked him. He asked the angel: what God said about me after I left there? The Angle said: Allah said to us:

وَإِذْ قَالَ رَ‌بُّكَ لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الْأَرْ‌ضِ خَلِيفَةً

And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, "Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority."... http://tanzil.net/#2:30

Adam said: he really said I will make upon the earth a successive authority? Angel said yes. So Adam became happy because knew it has been plan of Allah from first to Adam come to earth and be Caliph (successive authority) of Allah on earth. That angel then converted to a black stone and it is now the black stone in Kaaba.

Regarding Moses a.s.

Firstly Istiqfar is not always for sin. Istiqfar has many usage.

In previous verse Allah says:

وَدَخَلَ الْمَدِينَةَ عَلَى حِينِ غَفْلَةٍ مِّنْ أَهْلِهَا فَوَجَدَ فِيهَا رَ‌جُلَيْنِ يَقْتَتِلَانِ هَـذَا مِن شِيعَتِهِ وَهَـذَا مِنْ عَدُوِّهِ فَاسْتَغَاثَهُ الَّذِي مِن شِيعَتِهِ عَلَى الَّذِي مِنْ عَدُوِّهِ فَوَكَزَهُ مُوسَى فَقَضَى عَلَيْهِ قَالَ هَـذَا مِنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ إِنَّهُ عَدُوٌّ مُّضِلٌّ مُّبِي

And he entered the city at a time of inattention by its people and found therein two men fighting: one from his faction and one from among his enemy. And the one from his [faction] called for help to him against the one from his enemy, so Moses struck him and [unintentionally] killed him. [Moses] said, "This is from the work of Satan. Indeed, he is a manifest, misleading enemy." http://tanzil.net/#28:15

Quran says one of two fighting men were his Shia (from his faction/his follower) and other was his enemy. So killing an enemy of prophet (who is also enemy of God) who was fighting his Shia is not a sin. Also he did not have intention of killing him and Istiqfar was not for any sin but Istiqfar was because he taught maybe his actions may not satisfy God fully.

Also prophet (SAWW) always said Astaqfirullah everyday for purifying his heart.

انه ایغان علی قبلی فانی اقول استغفرالله سبعین مرة

My Heart gets rust so I sa Astaqfirullah seventy times.

Reference of Hadith:نهايه/ابن اثير، ج3، ص403 -باب الغين مع الياء ‎

The prophets and Awlia of Allah when turn their attention from Allah to people and talk them their heart get some rust and this cause them cannot see spiritual universe and meet Allah properly so clean their heart by saying Istiqfar.

About other prophets can be asked in separate questions.


Infallibility of the Prophets (Part I) (Part II) (Part III)

  • Hi @Ahmadi, maybe you would like to also take a glance at the book I cited before, about Moses A.S. it adds that he asked Allah for forgiveness as killing that person put him in a dangerous situation, as he was going to be stealth and that informed people that he is now inside the city. Also "Esteghfar" means asking for forgiveness, for ourselves or for others, and our prophet most of the time asked Allah for forgiveness for his people, not his faults or sins, as he had neither sin not even fault.
    – owari
    Commented Sep 20, 2012 at 13:24

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