In the Qur’an, Allah (swt) says

وَاتَّبِعُوا أَحْسَنَ مَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكُمْ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ يَأْتِيَكُمْ العَذَابُ بَغْتَةً وَأَنْتُمْ لَا تَشْعُرُونَ. أَنْ تَقُولَ نَفْسٌ يَا حَسْرَتَا عَلَى مَا فَرَّطْتُ فِي جَنْبِ اللَّهِ وَإِنْ كُنْتُ لَمِنْ السَّاخِرِينَ

And follow the best that has been revealed to you from your Lord before there comes to you the punishment all of a sudden while you do not even perceive lest a soul should say: O woe to me! For what I fell short of my duty to (the Side of) Allah (Janb-Allah), and most surely I was of those who laughed to scorn. (Surah Zumar 39:55-56)

The dictionary meaning of ‘janb’ is the side rib, but here it has a metaphorical meaning. Most commentators have said that ‘fell short of my duty’ refers to a decrease in Allah’s obedience or in Allah’s proximity. It has come in many traditions that the ‘Janb-Allah’ is the metaphor of the holy Prophet and the guiding Imams (Peace be upon them) and their obedience and Wilayat. So the ayah refers to the hostile ones to the Infallibles regretting their falling short on obedience to the Infallibles on the day of judgement.

Imam Sadiq (as) said, that Ali (as) said in one of his sermons: “I am the guided one and I am the father of orphans and the destitute and the husband of widows. I am the refuge for every weak one and the fort of safety for every fearful one. I am one to make the believers reach Paradise and I am the firm rope of Allah (Hablulla-ul-Matin) and I am the firmest handle (Urwatul Wuthqa). I am the ‘word of piety’, I am the eyes of Allah, the truthful tongue of Allah and the side of Allah regarding which Allah says: O woe to me! For what I fell short of the side of Allah (Janb-Allah). And I am the hands of Allah that Allah has made wide for His creatures for mercy and forgiveness and I am the gate of repentance ‘Bab-e-Hitta’ for this Ummat.”

Source: Ma`ani Al-Akhbaar, Sh. Sadooq, Chapter 13, Hadith #14, Page 18-19 (See Image 1); Al-Tawheed, Sh. Sadooq, Chapter 22, Hadith #2, Page 164-165 (See Image 2)

Grading: In the translation of Hayat Al-Qulub, by Allaamah Majlisi (rh) translated by Sayyid Athar Rizvi, Volume 3, Page 463, it is said to be with Authentic chains (See Image 3)

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Al-Kulayni has narrated from Imam Moosa Ibne Ja’far (a.s.) in the explanation of this verse:

He (as) said: ‘Janb-Allah’ is Amirul Momineen (a.s.) and after him his successors with that high status which they shall have until the matters will reach to the last one among them.

Sanad: Muhammad ibn Yahya has narrated from Muhammad ibn al-Husayn from Muhammad ibn Isma‘il ibn Bazi‘a from his uncle Hamza ibn Bazi‘a from Ali ibn Suwayd from abu al-Hassan Musa ibn Ja’far (as) who said the above hadith

Source: Usool Al-Kafi, Volume 1, Chapter 45, Hadith #9 (See Image 1)

Grading: Allaamah Al-Majlisi (rh) says the chain is Hasan/Good (حسن) [Mira’at Al-Uqool, Volume 2, Page 121 (See Image 2)]

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In another hadith:

‘Abu Ja’far Muhammad Bin Ali (as) said: ‘Ali (as) said: ‘I am the Side of Allah, and I am the regret of the (Hostile) people of the Day of Judgement.

Sanad: And from him, from Ali Bin Al-Abbas, from Hasan Bin Muhammad, from Husayn Bin Ali Bin Baheys, from Musa Bin Abu Al-Ghadeer, from Ata’a Al-Hamdany who said the above hadith

Source: Ta’weel Al-Ayaat, Volume 2, Page 520, Hadith #25 (See Image)

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Finally in Tafseer al-Qummi.

Ali Ibne Ibrahim (ra) have said in the Tafsir of both the verses that, what ‘has been revealed to you ‘ is the Quran and the ‘best’ thing mentioned in the Quran, is the Wilayat of Amirul Momineen (a.s.) and the pure Imams (a.s.). That is why ‘Janb-Allah’ refers to the Imam – Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said that we are ‘Janb-Allah’.

Source: Tafseer Al-Qummi, Volume 2, Pages 250-251 (See Image)

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Allah (swt) then speaks of another metaphor in the Qur’an:

وَلَا تَدْعُ مَعَ اللَّهِ إِلَٰهًا آخَرَ ۘ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۚ كُلُّ شَيْءٍ هَالِكٌ إِلَّا وَجْهَهُ ۚ لَهُ الْحُكْمُ وَإِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ

Except the face of Allah everything will get destroyed. (Surah Qasas 28:88)

Most commentators have said that ‘face’ means the self of Allah and everything would be destroyed before the day of Judgement and then created again. Some have said that it means the religion of Allah and His worship.

However, we have many hadiths that seem to give another deeper, inner meaning to it.

Imam Al-Sadiq (as) said: Allah has made us in the best creation and bestowed us the best form (face) and appointed us as the caretaker of His creatures and bestowed us a tongue that testifies for Him and made us His wide hands for His creatures and appointed us as the face of Allah as we guide the people towards Him. And we are the treasurers of Allah in the Heavens and the earth. By our blessings trees bear fruits and reach perfection, and rivers flow. Due to our blessings rain falls from the sky and vegetation grows on the land. The worship of Allah is performed by witnessing our worship. If we were not there Allah would not have been worshipped. That we have taught the people the method of worshipping Allah as complete worship of Allah is not possible by others or because our Wilayat (Mastership) is a condition for acceptance of worship. If our Wilayat was not there no worship would have been accepted.

Source: Al-Tawheed, Sh. Sadooq, Chapter 12, Hadith #8, Page 151-152 (See Image 1)

Grading: In the translation of Hayat Al-Qulub, by Allaamah Majlisi (rh) translated by Sayyid Athar Rizvi, Volume 3, Page 463, it is said to be with Authentic chains (See Image 2)

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Kulaini narrated that Imam Sadiq (as) said about ayah 28:88:

‘It means whoever comes to Allah through obeying His commandments, i.e. following Prophet Muhammad (sawa), is the ‘Face’ of Allah that does not perish. So also are His words, “One who obeys the Messenger has certainly obeyed Allah. . . .’” (4:80)

Sanad: A number of our people have narrated from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khalid from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn abu Nasr from Safwan al-Jammal from (Imam) abu ‘Abd Allah (as) who said the above hadith.

Source: Usool Al-Kafi, Volume 1, Chapter 45, Hadith #2 (See Image 1)

Grading: Allaamah Al-Majlisi (rh) says the chain is Sahih/Authentic (صحيح) [Mira’at Al-Uqool, Volume 2, Page 113 (See Image 2)]

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May we not be of those who fell short in our duties to the Side of Allah (swt), meaning the Prophet (sawa) and Imams (as) of Ahlulbayt (as) – and recognize them as the face of Allah and remain in obedience and submission to Allah (swt) through them. Ameen.