Imamat and Khilafat
The appointment of the Khalifa and Imam was made by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) solely on the command of Allah. There is therefore no room for involvement of the people in such an appointment. Allah states in the Holy Qur’an: “And your Lord creates and appoints whom He pleases; they have no choice in the matter; Glory be to Allah, and exalted be He above what they associate (with him).” (28:68)
In the Holy Qur’an Allah had designated the Prophets Adam and Dawood as Khalifa only; His representatives on earth. “O Dawood, surely We have made you a ruler in the land.” (38:26)
However, He appointed Ibrahim not only his Prophet and Khalifa, but also to the exalted position of an Imam. “Surely I will make you an Imam.” (2:124)
According to the well-known tradition of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), there would be Twelve successors after him. The eminent leading scholars of the Sunni sect have accepted the authenticity of this tradition, and have reproduced it in their books as well. In Islamic history, the Omayyad, the Abbassis, and their successors were only temporal rulers. They had never been appointed by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.); in fact, according to some traditions, he had proclaimed them as usurpers.
Undoubtedly, the true successors and Khalifas of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) are the Twelve Imams who, like the Holy Prophet himself, were from the dynasty of Hashim of the Quraysh tribe, and superior to, and bestowed with authority over all creations. They possessed knowledge, and power to perform miracles and all the qualities found in the Prophet (s.a.w.). Like him, they were pure of every sin and impurity. These are the Imams described by Allah in the Holy Qur’an as “the truthful persons of authority and pure.” The Sunni scholar, Fakhruddin Razi, states in his Tafsir-e-Kabir, volume 3, page 357 (Egyptian edition), that the verse commanding, “Follow Allah, His Prophet and those in authority.” (4:54), stipulates that those in authority whose obedience has been ordered, should be sinless and infallible; otherwise it would mean that Allah has ordered obedience to the whims of those who could err in delivering the commands to Allah.
The identity of those Twelve Imams, the successors of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), is established from a few of the traditions reported in Sunni Books: Sheikhul Islam, Sheikh Suleiman Hanafi Nakshbandi Balkhi Kanduzi, who died in 1294 A.H., and who was the most revered Saint of the Sultan of Istanbul (Turkey), Abdul Aziz Khan, writes in his book Yanabi ul Mawaddah, at pages 369-71 (as translated into English):
“A Jew, by the name Naasaal, visited the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) and asked him to clear some of the doubts he entertained, promising that if he was satisfied with the explanation from the Prophet (s.a.w.), he would embrace Islam. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) permitted him to present his questions. He first asked on the unity of Allah and His qualities, and received replies which satisfied him. He then asked on the succession to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), for each Prophet had declared his successor before his death, e.g. Hadhrat Musa appointed Yusha bin Noon. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) replied “My successor is Ali Ibne Abi Talib, after him my two grandsons Hasan and Husayn, and after them nine Imams who will be descendants of Imam Husayn (a.s.) will be my successors.” The Jew asked for the names of the Nine Imams and the Prophet announced, “After Husayn will be his son Ali Ibnal Husayn, and after him his son Muhammad Ibne Ali (Baqir), and after him, Ja‘far Sadiq, and after him, Musa Kazim, and after him, Ali Ridha, after him, Muhammad Taqi, after him, Ali Naqi, after him Hasan and after him his son Muhammad Mahdi. These will be my nine successors in this order.”
The Jew then requested the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) to describe to him how his first three successors Ali, Hasan and Husayn would die. The Prophet (s.a.w.) replied, “Hazrat Ali will be assassinated with a sword, Hasan will be poisoned and Husayn will be killed while hungry and thirsty for three days.” The Jew then asked where these three martyrs would live and the Prophet (s.a.w.) replied. “They will live with me in Heaven.” The Jew recited the Holy testimony, became a Muslim, and said, “O Prophet of Allah, undoubtedly all those whom you named are your successors. They have been described in detail in the books of the previous Prophets and also in the Covenant of Moses. It is vividly stated in them that there will be a Prophet in the last days by the names Ahmed and Muhammad, and who will be the last of the Prophets, and after him there will follow no Prophet. He will have Twelve successors; the first of whom will be his cousin and son-in-law, the second and the third of his successors will be brothers. The first successor will be assassinated with a sword, the second poisoned, and the third will be killed along with his children and companions, all being hungry and thirsty in a desert. They will bear all these calamities with patience and will be rewarded by Allah with exalted positions, and will provide salvation to their friends and followers from the fire of Hell. The remaining nine successors will be descendants of the third successor, so that in all they will be Twelve, like the figure of the Asbat.”
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) then asked him if he knew the Asbat. He replied, “Yes, they were twelve; and amongst them was Lawa bin Barkhya who disappeared from the Israelites, then reappeared and fought the Emperor of Karastya and killed him.” The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) continued, “Verily, what happened with the Israelities will be repeated with my followers. My Twelfth successor will disappear. In those days, the times will be such that Islam will remain in name; the Qur’an only a ritual and will not be practised. When such darkness will have pervaded the earth, my Twelfth successor will reappear and re-establish Islam, equity and justice. Fortunate will be the followers who will obey him, and the wrath of Allah awaits those who will disobey him.”
Again, in the same book, at page 371, in Chapter 77, on the traditions of the Twelfth successor, he writes under the heading Tahkik (Confirmation): “It is reported by Jabir bin Samra, a companion of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), that he has said, ‘Islam will last so long as my Twelve successors will remain, and they will all be from the Quraysh’.” The books of Bukhari, Muslim and Tirmizi report this tradition in identical terms. Moreover, Yahya bin Hasan states in his book Umdah, that twenty traditionists have reported a tradition from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) that there will be Twelve successors all from the dynasty of the Quraysh. The leading Sunni authors Bukhari and Hamid have each reported three traditions and Tirimizi also reports one tradition in the same vein. Muslim writes that Abdi Saad, a companion of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), wrote to Samra asking him for any tradition he might have heard from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.). In reply, Samra wrote that on the Friday on which Aslami was stoned to death, the Prophet (s.a.w.) said that Islam would survive to the Day of Judgement, and that there would be Twelve successors after him, all from the clan of Quraysh. A number of traditions in the same vein have been reported in the Sunni books, all confirming that there would be Twelve successors to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.). Indeed, the Twelve successors mentioned can only refer to the Twelve Imams accepted by the Shia Ithna-asheries. They can have no connection with the Omayyad Khalifas, as they were not twelve in number and, except for Omar bin Abdulaziz, they were all tyrants. Moreover they were not from the dynasty of Hashim as has been declared in the numerous traditions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.). By the same token, they cannot be the Abbasi Khalifas for they too, were not twelve in number and were tyrants and enemies of the family of the Prophet (s.a.w.).
So the twelve successors declared by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) are certainly the Twelve Imams (a.s.) from the progeny of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) and who, in their respecitve times, were unparalled in their knowledge, prayers, piety and bravery.
None other than the Twelve Imams (a.s.) qualify in terms of the traditions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.).Again, the same book in chapter 78 at page 374 quotes, “In the book Faraid us-Simtayn, it is stated that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) has declared that whoever
does not believe in the reappearance of Mahdi (a.s.) is an infidel, and whoever does not believe in the re-appearance of Jesus from the heavens is also an infidel, and whoever does not believe in the emergence of the one-eyed Dajjal is also an infidel.”
Moreover, in the same book, a tradition is reported from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) from Ibne Abbas, that he said, “There will be Twelve successors after me who will be the Hujjat of Allah on His creation. The first of them will be Hazrat Ali (a.s.) and the last of them will be Hazrat Mahdi (a.s.). At that time the earth will brighten and his rule will prevail throughout the earth.”
All the Muslims are unanimous, Shia and Sunnis, in the belief that there would be twelve successors of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.). It is clear from the celebrated traditions already set out that the true Twelve successors, according to the traditions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), are the Twelve accepted by the Shia Ithna-asheris commencing with Imam Ali (a.s.) and culminating with the Twelfth Imam Hazrat Muhammad Mahdi (a.s.).
However, two traditions are quoted from Sunni books which list the names of the Twelve Imams from which it will be clear that, to make the figure of twelve, they include Omayya, his son Yazid, etc. who cannot deserve to be termed successors to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.).
- Mulla Alikari in Sharhe Mishkat and again in Sharhe Akber names the 12 Khalifas of the Sunnis as:
(1) Abu Bakr (2) Omar (3) Othman (4) Hadhrat Ali (5) Muawiya
(6) His son Yazid (7) Abdul Malik bin Marwan and his four sons
(8) Walid (9) Suleiman (10) Hasham (11) Yazid (12) Omar bin Abdulaziz.
- Suyuti in his Tarikhul Khulafaa (History of Caliphs) has quoted from the Sharhe Bukhari by Sheikhul Islam Ibne Hajar: “According to the authentic traditions, Muslims are unanimous in their acceptance of the following Khalifas to whom they swore allegiance:
- Abu Bakar (2) Omar (3) Othman (4) Hadhrat Ali (a.s.) and after him, as there was no unanimity about succession of Imam Hasan (a.s.), there was a settlement in favour of (5) Muawiya and, after him Hazrat Imam Husayn (a.s.) did not succeed as he was martyred, so (6) Yazid was accepted by consensus and allegiance sworn to him. On his death there was a dispute over his succession, but consensus favoured Abdul Malik but only after Ibne Zubair had been killed. (After Yazid, Marwan ruled for six months and his son Abdul Malik for 21 years, but they both have been excluded from the list of Khalifas). In the report quoted as (1) above, Abdul Malik has been included as the 7th Khalifa but excluded in this
After Yazid, the four sons of Abdul Malik are regarded as successors namely (7) Walid (8) Suleiman (9) Yazid (10) Hasham and after them (11) Omar bin Abdul Aziz (referred to as number 12 in the tradition (1) above)
- Walid Ibne Yazid Ibne Abdul Malik bin Marwan (according to the tradition cited as (1) above he would be the 13th Khalifa!).
However, it is established from all the celebrated Muslim works and authentic traditions that the Twelve Imams followed by the Shia Ithna-asheris are the true Twelve successors amongst whom Hadhrat Ali (a.s.) is the first and Hadhrat Mahdi (a.s.) the last.