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Imamate in the Prophetic Sunnah:

The Messenger of Allah (may God’s peace and benediction be upon him and his Household) has disclosed several utterances regarding Imamate, narrated by both the Shi‘ah and Sunnah, in their books and Masànid (Musnads). Once he referred to it with using the expression Imamah, and another time with the word successorship, and once again with the word ‘wilàyah’ (guardianship) or imàrah (princedom).

About the word Imamah he (S) said: “The best of your leaders are those whom you love and they love you, and whom you pray upon and they pray upon you (after death), while the most wicked of your leaders are those whom you detest and they detest you, and whom you curse and they curse you.” They (who were present) said: O Messenger of Allah, shall we declare war against them by the sword? He replied: “No, as long as they are establishing.

He also said: “After me there will be leaders that can never follow my guide, and never adopt my sunnah, among whom will rise up men having hearts of the devils inside a body of a human being.”49

And about caliphate he (S) said: “Religion remains established till the Doomsday or twelve successors rule over you, all being from Quraysh.”50

Jàbir ibn Samurah is reported to have said: I heard the Messenger of Allah, may God’s peace and benediction be upon him and his Progeny, say: “Islam is still powerful as long as twelve successors are there,” saying then a word I couldn’t understand, so I asked my father: what did he say? He replied: All are from Quraysh.”51

About princedom he (S) said:

“There will be emirs whom you recognize but deny. Whoever recognizes (them) will be acquitted and whoever denies will secure (against danger), but who admits and follows, (thereat) they said: Shall we fight them? He replied: No, as long as they keep on establishing prayer.”52

Further, about the word princedom he (S) said: “Verily there will be twelve emirs, all are from Quraysh.”53

He is also reported to have warned his Companions saying: “You will covet eagerly for imàrah (princedom, rule), and this will turn to be a regret on the Doomsday, so what an excellent nurse she is, and how bad the weaner is.”54

In another narration the word wilàyah is used instead of imàrah.

The Messenger of Allah (S) said further: “Whoever presides over subjects of Muslims, and dies after being dishonest with them, Allah shall verily forbid him the heavens.”55

In another place he (s) uttered a hadith about wilàyah:

“The affairs of people keep on running their course as long as being presided over by twelve men, all being from Quraysh.”56

That was a brief survey about the concept of Imamate or caliphate, which I have displayed from the holy Qur’àn and the genuine Prophetic Sunnah without exposition or interpretation. Rather I have mainly depended upon the Sihàh of Ahl al-Sunnah other than the Shi‘ah, since this affair (i.e. caliphate of twelve men from Quraysh) is regarded by them as an irreproachable intuition, about which there is no slight difference between even two of them, despite the fact that the ‘ulamà’ of Ahl al-Sunnah expressly declare that the Messenger of Allah (S) said:

“After me there will be twelve successors (ruling over you) who are all from Banu Hàshim.”57
Al-Shi’bi reports from Masruq that he said: “When we were in the house of Ibn Mas’ud offering him our codices (masàhif), a lad said to him: Did your Prophet make a covenant informing you how many successors will be after him? He replied: You are still so young, and no one other than you has ever asked me the question you have put forth... the answer is yes, our Prophet (s) has assured us that after him there will be twelve caliphs, the same number as that of the chiefs of Israel...”58

After that, we have to review the opinions of the two sects, to know the veracity of the claim of each of them through the express texts. We will also discuss the interpretation of each of them for this critical issue that created disunity among the Muslims, dividing them into creeds and sects, and theological and thought schools, after being one Ummah (nation). And any dispute erupted among the Muslims, whether in regard of fiqh (jurisprudence), or tafsir (exegesis) of the Qur’àn, or in comprehending the Prophetic Sunnah, is traced back to and caused by the caliphate. No one is aware of the caliphate that — after the Saqifah — turned to be a factual affair due to which authentic traditions and express verses were disapproved and for whose establishment and confirmation many other traditions were composed and fabricated, that have no root or origin in the authentic Prophetic Sunnah. All this reminds me of Israel and the status quo, as the Arab Heads of State and Kings have met and reached an agreement that there should be no recognition of or compromise or peace with Israel, and whatever is taken by force can never be regained but by force. After only a few years they met again to sever, this time, their ties with Egypt due to its recognition of the Zionist Regime. After passage of some few years they resumed their relations with Egypt, never deploring its normalization of ties with Israel, though the latter had never recognized the right of the Palestinian people, and never changed its position. Rather it increased in its stubbornness and obstinacy, multiplying its repression against the Palestinian people. History is repeating itself and events are recurred, and the Arabs are used to commit themselves to surrender to the status quo.


49. Ibid., Vol. VI, p. 20, bà al-’amr bi-luzum al-jamà‘ah ‘inda îuhur al-fitan”.

50. Ibid., Vol. VI, p. 4, “bàb al-nàs tubba‘ li-Quraysh wa al-khilàfah fi Quraysh”.

51. Ibid., Vol. VI, p. 3; and Sahih al-Bukhàri, Vol. VIII, pp. 105, 128.

52. Ibid., Vol. VI, p. 23, “bàb wujub al-’inkàr ‘alà al-’umarà’.”

53. Sahih al-Bukhàri, Vol. VIII, p. 127, “bàb al-’istikhlàf”.

54. Ibid., Vol. VIII, p. 106, “bàb Ma yukrah min al-hirs ‘alà al-’imàrah”.

55. Ibid.

56. Sahih Muslim, Vol. VI, p. 3, “bàb al-Khilàfah fi Quraysh”.

57. Yanàbi‘ al-mawaddah, Vol. III, p. 104.

58. Ibid., Vol. III, p. 105.

Adapted from the book: "To Be With the Truthful" by: "Muhammad al-Tijani al-Samawi"

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