Question: What have respected Islamic scholars ruled on the following issue? Is it right to call children ‘Ma’soom’?
بِسْمِ اللّٰہِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِیْمِ
اَلْجَوَابُ بِعَوْنِ الْمَلِکِ الْوَھَّابِ اَللّٰھُمَّ ھِدَایَۃَ الْحَقِّ وَالصَّوَابِ
Answer: In the terminology of Shari’ah, only blessed Prophets عَلَيْهِمُ السَّلَام and angels are ‘Ma’soom’. No one except them is ‘Ma’soom’. According to Shari’ah, ‘Ma’soom’ means the one whom Divine protection has been promised for; due to this, occurrence of any sin from them is impossible by Shari’ah. In view of this explanation, it is not permissible at all to call anyone ‘Ma’soom’ except Prophets عَلَيْهِمُ السَّلَام and angels. To do so [i.e. to call anyone else ‘Ma’soom’] is a distortion of and deviation from the true religion indeed. Moreover, important to remember is the fact that even though the greatest group of blessed Islamic saints do not also commit any sin because Almighty Allah protects them but occurrence of any sin from them is not impossible by Shari’ah. Therefore, there should be no misconception about it.
As far as the above question is concerned, according to established norms, children are also called ‘Ma’soom’ but, in this sense, the above-mentioned Shar’i terminological meaning is not applied. Instead, a literal meaning such as naïve, soft-hearted, innocent, small child, immature child, young is applied. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with calling children ‘Ma’soom’ in the sense of these literal meanings. This cannot even be declared impermissible.
In the book ‘Bahar-e-Shari’at’, a leading scholar of Shari’ah, Mufti Amjad Ali A’zami رَحْمَةُ اللّٰەِ عَلَيْه stated: For a Prophet to be ‘Ma’soom’ is necessary. And this attribute of being ‘Ma’soom’ is specific to Prophets and angels. No one except Prophets and angels is ‘Ma’soom’. To consider Imams [i.e. great Islamic leaders] to be ‘Ma’soom’ like Prophets is a distortion of and deviation from the true religion.
Prophets being ‘Ma’soom’ means Divine protection has been promised for them. Due to this, occurrence of any sin from them is impossible by Shari’ah. Moreover, the greatest group of blessed Islamic Imams and Awliya [i.e. Islamic leaders and saints] do not also commit any sin because Almighty Allah protects them. However, if any sin occurs by them, this is not also impossible by Shari’ah. (Bahar-e-Shari’at, vol. 1, pp. 39)
Imam of Ahl-us-Sunnah, Ash-Shah Imam Ahmad Raza Khan رَحْمَةُ اللّٰەِ عَلَيْه stated: This has distinguished between a Khalifah and a Sultan and it has become quite clear that the rank of a Sultan is much inferior to that of a Khalifah. Therefore, the word ‘Sultan’ is never used with a Khalifah for the reason that it is beneath the dignity of the Khalifah. Till today, no one may have heard such words as Sultan Abu Bakr Siddeeq, Sultan ‘Umar Farooq, Sultan ‘Usman-e-Ghani, Sultan ‘Ali-ul-Murtada or even Sultan ‘Umar Bin ‘Abdul ‘Azeez and Sultan Haroon Rasheed. You will not find the word ‘Sultan’ with name of any Umavi or ‘Abbasi Khalifah. So, it has become quite obvious that the person with whose name ‘Sultan’ is used is not acknowledged as Khalifah. A Khalifah is superior to a Sultan. This is the Shar’i terminological Khilafat which is under discussion. According to established norms, if any Sultan is also referred to as a Khalifah or this word is used for him in his praise, this will neither negate the Shar’i ruling nor will it contradict the Shari’ term. The scholars of Ahl-us-Sunnah have consensus on the fact that among human beings no one is ‘Ma’soom’ except Prophets عَلَيْهِمُ السَّلَام. One who acknowledges anyone else to be ‘Ma’soom’ is out of the fold of Ahl-us-Sunnah. Moreover, according to established norms, children are also called ‘Ma’soom’. This does not need to be discussed [because Shar’i meaning of ‘Ma’soom’ does not apply here]. In a similar way, the teacher of boys is also called Khalifah. (Fatawa Razawiyyah, vol. 14, pp. 187)
Note: According to the Urdu dictionary ‘فرہنگ آصفیہ’, the word ‘معصوم’ has following meanings: naïve, soft-hearted, innocent, small child, young child, immature child. (Farhang-e-Asifiyah, vol. 2, pp. 1090)
وَاللہُ اَعْلَمُ عَزَّوَجَلَّ وَ رَسُوْلُہٗ اَعْلَم صَلَّی اللّٰہُ عَلَیْہِ واٰلِہٖ وَسَلَّم