Assalamu Alaykum, I was once read of some narrations that report that Imam Ali (AS) burned someone for the sin of declaring him as being God. I've been able to find the narration in Bukhari but I believe it was also narrated in Shia books although I'm not able to recall which specific book I read it in. Also, from what I understand burning people is a punishment that is solely reserved for Allah (SWT) and would thus be a sin if committed by a human. Thus with our belief in the infallibility of the Imams, I wish to know if these narrations are legitimate at all and if not, how would it be reconciled with our beliefs.

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IN THE NAME OF ALMIGHTY ALLAH Dear Brother Salaam alaykum 1- According to authentic Hadiths from Sunni and Shiite sources, after the Holy Prophet (s.a.), no one is more aware of God’s religion and divine rules than Imam Ali (a.s.) as he was infallible both in his knowledge and his acts; that is, both his words and his practice were exactly in accordance with the plain truth and the words of God and His Prophet. Therefore, the words and lifestyle of Imam Ali shall be as a divine scale at the Day of Judgment as well as a standard for differentiation between truth and falsehood. The accuracy and inaccuracy of people’s acts, speeches and beliefs should be measured with Imam Ali, as we read in the clear and decisive statement of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) narrated both in Shiite and Sunni sources: “Ali is with the truth (haqq); and the truth is with Ali; the truth will be with Ali wherever he goes.” The Holy Prophet (s.a.) also prayed: “O Allah! Turn the truth with Ali wherever he turns!” “Ali is with the truth and the truth is with Ali; and the two will not separate from each other until they meet me at the heavenly fountain of Kawthar”. In Sunnite sources we read a hadith from Prophet Mohammad (s.a.): “Ali moves on the right path; whoever follows him, has followed the truth; and whoever goes out of his path has actually left the truth.” All these narratives express the fact that Imam Ali is a benchmark of the truth; his words and practice reflect the truth; whoever is with him shall be on the right path, and whoever leaves him is moving in the wrong direction. Hamwini, a Sunni Shafei scholar, quotes the Messenger of God (s.a.) as saying: “Whoever wants to adhere to my religion and be saved after my death must follow Ali ibn Abitalib because he is the Imam and leader of all Muslims and the commander of the faithful after me. His words are my words; his orders are my orders, his interdicts are my interdicts, and his followers are my followers. Whoever opposes Ali, Almighty God shall forbid him from entering the paradise and will place him in the hell, which is an evil destination.” **** Taking into consideration the above, we can conclude that if Imam Ali , peace be upon him, ordered to burn an apostate (Murtad) or infidel (Kafir), surely, the decree of Almighty God and His prophet, too, will be the same. Secondly, the authenticity of the hadith «لا یعذب بالنار الا رب النار» (i.e. No one is permitted to punish anyone by burning in fire but Almighty Allah) is not 100% proven although it is quoted in some Shia and Sunni books. In this hadith, even its contents violate itself because the narrator, Hamza al-Aslami, says: “The Messenger of Allah dispatched me on a mission and told me: When you reached the person, burn him in the fire. However, when I was moving from there, the Holy Prophet (s.a.) loudly addressed me: Don’t burn him; but kill him! Because no one has the right to punish anyone by burning in fire but Almighty Allah. Our question is: Did the Holy Prophet not know the command of Almighty God from the beginning?! Certainly it is not correct to say that the Messenger of Allah was ignorant about God's commandment because this is against our beliefs. Moreover, in some other versions of this hadith it has been said that the Holy Prophet (s.a.) said: “Don’t burn him; but cut off his hands and feet and then kill him!” while the Holy Prophet himself had ordered Muslims not to mutilate and cut off the limbs of anybody. Another reason which for the lack of authenticity for this hadith is the practice of companions of the Holy Prophet and the fatwa (religious decree) of a number of Sunni and Shia scholars who permit burning some people who commit the heinous practice of sodomy and homosexuality. Sunni scholars have mentioned that the first caliph Abu-Bakr had ordered to burn apostate people who had opposed Islam by refuting the Islamic principle of paying Zakat. Also we read in the Sunni book Sahih al-Moslem that a person named Mughayra ibn Saeid was burned because he had claimed to be a prophet! Even in Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties, the caliphs had ordered to burn some people like al-Shalmaghani and Hussein ibne Mansur al-Hallaj. Some Sunni Ulama including al-Qortubi believe that according to the Quranic verse: “And kill the polytheists (Mushrekin) wherever you find them …” it would be permissible to kill Mushrekin in any way, even by burning them in fire; but cutting off the parts of their body is prohibited. Shia Ulama believe that according to the hadiths of the Ahlulbayt it would be permissible to kill those who perform the act of sodomy in any of different three ways: 1- beheading by a sword; 2- throwing the guilty from a mountain while the hands are tied up; 3- burning them in fire.


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