The Twelve Imâms of Islâm

The eminent third century scholar, Abu Al-Abbas Abdullah Ibn Jâ’far Hamyari, quote Sindi Ibn Muhammad, quote Safwan Jammal, quote the 6th Imâm Al Šâdiq (Alayhi Salâm) as saying: When the Âya of the Guardianship of Ali (Alayhi Salâm ) was revealed, Prophet of Allah (S) ordered that the ground under the trees nearby be cleaned and his followers did so clearing it from the brushwood and prepared a sunshade for him. Thereupon a call was made for congregational prayer and the Holy Prophet (S) said:

أيها الناس! من كنت مولاه فعلي مولاه، الست أولى بكم من انفسكم؟

O’ People! Of whomsoever I am a master, Ali is his master. Am I not closer to you than your own selves?

The People said: “Yes.”

Ghadîr and the Guardianship of Amîr Al Mûminîn Ali – Alayhi Salâm –

The Prophet of Allah(Sallalahu Alayhi Wa Âlihi Wa Salam) said:

من كنت مولاه، فهذا علي مولاه. رب! وال من والاه وعاد من عاداه

Of whomsoever I am a master, Ali is his master. My Lord! Befriend anyone who befriends him and make enmity towards anyone who makes enmity towards him.

At this moment, the Prophet (Sallalahu Alayhi Wa Âlihi Wa Sallam) ordered the people to pay allegiance to Hazrat Ali (Alayhi Salâm), and they obeyed and paid allegiance to him, making no objection…!
Abu Nadhr Muhammad Ibn Mas’ud Ayashi Samarqandi, a great third century scholar, has also quoted this narration from Imam Sadiq (Alayhi Salâm) through Safwan.

The Event of the Cloak

The famous event known as The Event of the Cloak was reported regarding “the verse of purification.” The context of the event is as follows:

Jâbir Ibn Abdullah Ansâri (Radiallahu Anhu) quote from the authority of Lady Fatima Az-Zahra (‘Alayha Salâm), the Beloved Daughter of the Holy Prophet (Sallalahu ‘Alayhi Wa Alihi Wa Sallam) that she said:

“One day when my Beloved Father, the Holy Prophet (Sallalahu ‘Alayhi Wa Alihi Wa Sallam), visited me in my house, he said:

 

يا فاطمة السلام عليكم

[ `O Fatima! Peace be on you.’ ]

 

I replied:

يا الآبو عليكم السلام

[ `O father! Peace be on you too.’ ]

 

He (Sallalahu ‘Alayhi Wa Âlihi Wa Salam) then said: `I am feeling some weakness within me.’

I [Fatima az-Zahra (‘Alayha Salâm)] said: ‘Allah forbid that you may be sick.’

Then he (Sallalahu ‘Alayhi Wa Alihi Wa Sallam) said: ‘Fatima! Fetch me a Yemenite Cloak and wrap it round me.’ I brought the Yemenite cloak, and covered my dear father with it. I then noticed that his face was glowing like a full moon.

A moment later, my beloved son, Hasan (‘Alayhi Salâm) came and said:

‘O my Dear Mother! Peace of Allah be on you.’

 

I replied: ‘O my loving son, the apple of my eyes, the delight of my heart! Peace be on you too.’

He [Hasan (‘Alayhi Salâm) ] then said: ‘O my dear mother! I am smelling the fragrance of my loving grandfather!’

I said, `Yes, your beloved grandfather is here under the cloak.’

Hasan (‘Alayhi Salâm) then went towards his grandfather, and said: `O my grandfather! Peace be on you. May I enter “the cloak.”

My loving father [Prophet Muhammad (Sallalahu ‘Alayhi Wa Alihi Wa Sallam)] replied: `O my son, the owner of my Fountain (of Kawthar)! Peace be upon you too. Yes; you may enter.’

Thus Hasan (‘Alayhi Salâm) entered the cloak. Soon, after my loving son, Husayn (‘Alayhi Salâm) came, and said: `O my dear mother! Peace be upon you.’

I [Fatima az-Zahra (‘Alayha Salâm)] replied: `O my loving son, the apple of my eyes, the delight of my heart! peace be upon you too’.

He [Husayn (as)] then said: `O my dear mother! I am smelling the fragrance of my affectionate grandfather!’ I replied: ‘Yes, your loving grandfather(as), and your elder brother Hasan (as), are inside the cloak.’

Husayn (‘Alayhi Salâm) then went near the cloak, and said: `O my dear grandfather, the Chosen Prophet of Allah! Peace be upon you. May I also come inside the cloak to be with both of you.’

My loving father replied: `O my son, the interceder of my Ummah! Peace be on you too. Yes you may enter.’

Thus Husayn (‘Alayhi Salâm) too entered the cloak.

Then ‘Ali-Ibn Abu Talib (‘Alayhi Salâm) came, and said: `O beloved daughter of the Holy Prophet! peace be on you.’

I [Fatima az-Zahra (‘Alayha Salâm) replied: `O Abul-Hasan, Commander of the Faithful! peace be upon you too.’

He [‘Ali (‘Alayhi Salâm) ] then said: ‘Fatima! I am smelling the fragrance of my brother, the son of my Uncle.’

I [Fatima az-Zahra (‘Alayha Salâm) ] replied: ‘Yes! He along with your two sons is inside the cloak’

‘Ali (‘Alayhi Salâm) then proceeded towards the cloak, and said: `O Prophet of Allah! peace be upon you. May I also come to you inside the cloak!’

My beloved father [Prophet Muhammad (S)] replied: ‘Peace be upon you also my brother, my vicegerent, my successor, my standard bearer! You may also come inside.’

Thus ‘Ali (‘Alayhi Salâm) also went inside the cloak

Then I [Fatima az-Zahra (‘Alayha Salâm)] went near the cloak, and said: `Peace be upon you, O my loving father! O Prophet of Allah! May I also come to you inside the cloak.’

My loving father [Prophet Muhammad (Sallalahu ‘Alayhi Wa Alihi Wa Sallam)] replied: ‘Peace of Allah be upon you also, my beloved daughter! All dear heart! You too have my permission.’

Thus, I also went inside the cloak. Now when all of us got assembled inside the Cloak,

my affectionate father [Prophet Muhammad (Sallalahu ‘Alayhi Wa Alihi Wa Sallam)] held the two corners of the cloak, and raising his right hand towards the sky said:

‘O Allah! These are my Ahl’Al Bayt .

They are my confidants, and my supporters.

Their flesh is my flesh and their blood is my blood.

Whoever hurts them, hurts me.

Whoever displeases them, displeases me.

Whoever makes peace with them, will make peace with me.

Whoever has enmity against them, will have enmity against me.

Whoever is a friend to them, is a friend of mine. It is because they belong to me, and I belong to them.

O Allah! Bestow Your peace, Benevolence, Mercy, forgiveness, and Your Pleasures on me, and on them. And, keep them aloof from uncleanliness, and keep them pure, and thoroughly purified.’

Then the Lord, Almighty Allah said:

`O my Angels! O inmates of the heavens!

I created this solid firmament, well-stretched earth,

well-lighted moon, shinning sun, rotating planets, rippling oceans, floating boats,

And all other things for the sake, and love of these five persons who are inside the cloak.’

At this, the Archangel Gabriel asked:

`O Lord! Who are they inside the cloak?’

The Lord said:

`They are Ahl’Al Bayt of the Prophet, and the assets of the Prophethood. They are Fatima Az-Zahra, her father, her husband, and her two sons.’

Gabriel said:

`O Lord! Permit me to descend to earth, and join them as the sixth inside the cloak.’

The Lord said: ‘You are permitted.’

Thus Gabriel, the Archangel came down to earth, and said:

`O Prophet of Allah! peace be on you. The Gracious Lord, the Almighty Allah sends His Greetings to you to bestow on you His Grace, and Mercy, and says:

“By My Grace, and Grandeur! I have created this solid

Firmament, well-stretched earth, well-lighted moon,

Shining sun, rotating planets, rippling oceans, floating boats and

All other things for the sake, and love of you and

Your chosen people.”

And, the Lord, Almighty has given me the permission to join you inside the cloak

O Prophet of Allah!

May I come in, and be with you?’

The Holy Prophet replied:

‘O Bearer of the Divine revelations! Peace be upon you also. Yes, you may come in.’

Then Gabriel too came inside the cloak

Thereafter, he spoke to my affectionate father:

‘Allah sends His revelation to you people, and says:

“Surely, Allah has decided that He should keep you, and your Ahl’Al Bayt clean of all pollution, and purify you people with a thorough purification.”‘

Then ‘Ali (as) said to my loving father [Prophet Muhammad (S)]:

‘Tell me! What merit the coming under this cloak has before Allah ?’

The Holy Prophet (S) replied:

`By that Being, Who made me His Prophet and Who [Allah (SwT)], for the salvation of mankind appointed me to Prophethood! When any of our Shiites and supporters will assemble in a

Gathering of the inmates of this earth, and narrate this Hadith, Allah will bestow on them His Blessings and Mercy; angels will encircle them, and as long as they do not disperse,

The angels will pray for the forgiveness of their sins.’

At this, ‘Ali (as) said:

`By Allah! We and our Shiâ have now become triumphant.’

Then the Holy Prophet (Sallalahu ‘Alayhi Wa Alihi Wa Sallam) said:

‘O ‘Ali! By that Being, Who made me the righteous prophet and appointed me to the prophet-hood for the sake of people’s salvation, whenever in the gathering of the inmates of this earth our Shiites and friends will assemble and narrate this Hadith of ours, and if some-one amongst them will be in agony, Allah will remove his trouble; and if someone was sorrowful, Allah will relieve him of his sorrows; will answer his needs.’

Then ‘Ali (‘Alayhi Salâm) said:

`By Allah! At this moment we have been crowned with success, and Blessings; and by the Lord of Ka’bah, in the same way our Shiâ too have become triumphant, and blessed in this world, and the Hereafter.’

Other Informative Reports About The Twelve Imâms

The various narrations of Hadith al-­Thaqalayn also indicate the occasion on which the Prophet (S) proclaimed publicly the primacy of Ahl Al Bayt and gave the clear orders to follow them. ‘Allamah ‘Abd al-Aziz Tabataba’i, who has studied the various narrations of Hadith al-Thaqalayn as recorded by various traditionists mentions four occasions on which the Prophet (S) proclaimed it publicly. First of these is the occasion when the Prophet (S) proclaimed it during his last hajj at ‘Arafat.

On this occasion, the Prophet (S) was accompanied by more than a hundred thousand Muslims. The second occasion relates to his proclamation at Ghadir Khumm, during the course of his return journey to Madinah. The third occasion relates to his proclamation in the Mosque of Madinah. The fourth one relates to his pronouncement of Hadith al-­Thaqalayn in his chamber during his last illness. All these occasions lie within a period of ninety days and pertain to the Prophet’s last days.

There are, however, many narrations of the hadith – in fact, most of them – which do not contain any clue about the time and place of its pronouncement. In the following are given instances of the narrations of Hadith al-­Thaqalayn relating to each of these occasions, accompanied by the sources which record them.

 

Al-­Tirmidhi in his Sunan (v, 662, no. 3786) records the following tradition

عن جابر بن عبدالله قال: رأيت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم في حجته يوم عرفة وهو على ناقته القصواء فسمعته يقول: ((يا أيها الناس, إني تارك فيكم ما إن أخذتم به لن تضلوا: كتاب الله وعترتي أهل بيتي)).

….Jabir ibn ‘Abd Allah said: “I saw the Messenger of Allah – upon whom be God’s peace and benedictions – in the course of his hajj pilgrimage on the day of ‘Arafah. The Prophet (S) was seated on his camel, al-­Qaswa’, and was delivering a sermon. I heard him say: ‘O people, I am leaving among you that which if you hold on to you shall never go astray: the Book of Allah and my kindred, my household.”

Al-­Tirmidhi states that the same tradition has been narrated by Abu Dharr, Abu Sa’id, Zayd ibn Arqam and Hudhayfah ibn Usayd.

Among others who have recorded this tradition are:

1. al-­Hafiz Ibn Abi Shaybah, as in Kanz al-­‘ummal (1st ed.), i, 48;

2. al-­‘Uqayli in al-­Du’afa’ al-­Kabir, ii, 250;

3. al-­Hakim al-­Tirmidhi, Nawadir al-usul, 68, 50th asl;

4. al-­Tabarani, al-­Mu’jam al-­kabir, iii, 63, no. 2679;

5. al-­Khatib, al-­Muttafiq wa al-­muftariq, cf. Kanz al-­‘ummal, i, 48 and Majma’ al-­zawa’id, v, 195; ix, 163, x, 363, 268;

6. al-­Baghawi, al-Masabih, ii, 206;

7. Ibn al-Athir, Jami’ al-usul, i, 277, no. 65;

8. al-Rafi’i, al-­Tadwin, ii, 264 (in the biographical account of Ahmad ibn Mihran al-­Qattan; this hadith has been deleted in the Indian print, but is present in the manuscripts of the book ! );

9. al-­Mizzi, Tahdhib al-­kamal, x, 51, and Tuhfat al-ashraf, ii, 278, no. 2615;

10. al-­Qadi al-­Baydawi, Tuhfat al-ashraf;

11. al-­Khwarazmi, Maqtal al-­Husayn (A), i, 144;

12. al-­Khatib al-­Tabrizi, Mishkat al-­masabih, iii, 258;

13. Ibn Kathir, Tafsir (Bulaq edition, on the margin of Fath al-­bayan), ix, 115;

14. al-Zarandi, Nazm al-­durar al-­simtayn, 232;

15. al-­Maqrizi, Ma’rifat ma yajib li Al al-­Bayt al-­Nabawi, 38.

 

In Sahih al-Bukhari (Arabic-English version), the tradition about the Twelve Imâms is as follows:

Sahih al-Bukhari Hadith: 9.329

Narrated Jabir Ibn Samura:

I heard the Prophet saying, “There will be twelve commanders (Amir).”He then said a sentence which I did not hear. My father said, the Prophet added, “All of them will be from Quraish.”

سمعتُ النبي يقول: يكون إثنا عشر أميراً. فقال كلمة لم أسمعها. فقال أبي كلُّهم من قريش.

 

In Musnad Ahmad, the tradition about the Twelve Imâms  is as follows:

The Prophet (S) said: “There shall be twelve Caliphs

for this community, all of them from Quraish.”

يكون لهذهِ ألامة إثنا عشر خليفة كلُّهَم من قريش.

Reference: Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v5, p106

 

In Sahih Muslim, the traditions about the Twelve Imâms are as follows:

Narrated Jabir Ibn Samura:

The Prophet (S) said: “The matter (life) will not end, until it is passed by twelve Caliphs.”He then whispered a sentence. I asked my father what the Prophet said. He said, the Prophet added: “All of them will be from Quraish.”

إنَّ هذا الامر لا ينقضي حتَّى يمضي فيهم إثْنا عشر خليفة. ثمَّ تكلم بكلام خفيٍّ. فقلتُ لإبي: ما قال؟ قال: كلُّهُم من قريش.

Sunni references:

– Sahih Muslim, Arabic version, Kitab al-Imaara, 1980 Edition Pub. in Saudi Arabia, v3, p1452, Tradition #5

– Sahih Muslim, English version, Chapter DCCLIV (titled: The People are subservient to the Quraish and the Caliphate is the Right of the Quraish), v3, p1009, Tradition #4477

 

Again from Sahih Muslim:

The Prophet (S) said: “The affairs of people will continue to be conducted (well) as long as they are governed by the twelve men.”

لا يزال أمرُ الناس ماضياً ما وليَهُم إثْنَي عشر رجلاً.

Sunni references:

– Sahih Muslim, Arabic version, Kitab al-Imaara, 1980 Edition Pub. in Saudi Arabia, v3, p1453, Tradition #6

– Sahih Muslim, English version, Chapter DCCLIV (titled: The People are subservient to the Quraish and the Caliphate is the Right of the Quraish), v3, p1010, Tradition #4478

Also:

The Prophet (S) said: “Islam will continue to be triumphant until there have been twelve Caliphs.”

لا يزال الاسلامُ عزيزاً إلى إثْنَي عشر خليفة.

Sunni references:

– Sahih Muslim, Arabic version, Kitab al-Imaara, 1980 Edition Pub. in Saudi Arabia, v3, p1453, Tradition #7

– Sahih Muslim, English version, Chapter DCCLIV (titled: The People are subservient to the Quraish and the Caliphate is the Right of the Quraish), v3, p1010, Tradition #4480

 

Again:

The Prophet (S) said: “Islâm will continue until the Hour (day of resurrection), having twelve Caliphs for you, all of them will be from Quraish.”

لا يزالُ الدين قائماً حتَّى تقوم الساعة أو يكون عليكم إثْنا عشرَ خليفةً كُلُّهُم من قريش.

Sunni references:

– Sahih Muslim, Arabic version, Kitab al-Imaara, 1980 Edition Pub. in Saudi Arabia, v3, p1453, Tradition #10

– Sahih Muslim, English version, Chapter DCCLIV (titled: The People are subservient to the Quraish and the Caliphate is the Right of the Quraish), v3, p1010, Tradition #4483

More Sunni references of similar traditions:

– Sahih al-Tirmidhi, v4, p501

– Sunan Abu Dawud, v2, p421 (three traditions).

– Others such as al-Tiyalasi, Ibn al-Athir, etc.

 

Also in another wording, the Messenger of Allah uses the word “Imâm”instead of “Caliph”. It is widely narrated that:

The Prophet (S) said: “The Imâms are from Quraish”

ألأئِمة من قُريش.

Sunni references:

– al-Mustadrak, by al-Hakim, v3, p149

– Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal

– Sahih al-Nisa’i, from Anas Ibn Malik

– Sunan, by al-Baihaqi

– al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqa, by Ibn Hajar al-Haithami, Ch. 11, section 2, p287

Obviously, the above traditions are not fit to the first four Caliphs all together, as they were less than twelve.

And they can not be applied to the Umayyad Caliphs, because

(a) they were more than twelve;

(b) all of them were tyrants and unjust (except Umar Ibn Abd al-Aziz);

(c) they were not from the Hashimites and the Holy Prophet had said in another tradition that: “All of them will be from the Bani Hashim…”

Also they cannot be applied to the Abbasid Caliphs, because:

(a) they were more than twelve;

(b) they persecuted the descendants of the Prophet every where which means they did not comply with the Qur’anic verse: “I don’t ask you any wage except to love my family.”(42:23).

The recollection about the unfortunate history of Caliphate indicates that, even from the Sunni point of view, there was no good Caliph left after the first 4 Caliphs (It would be 5 if we include Umar Ibn Abd al-Aziz. Some Sunnis are very generous and they add Imam al-Hasan (as) and Imam al-Mahdi (as) to the list as well.)

To fill out the twelve set, some even included the well-known tyrants to the list such as Yazid Ibn Mu’awiya, Marwan Ibn al-Hakam, Abdul-Malik Marwan, and Husham Ibn Abdul-Malik. The reason is clear and as I stated previously, it is due to the lack of decent and sincere rulers in the History of Islam.

I would like to remind you that “Caliph”means successor/deputy. The successor of the Prophet (or the preceding Caliph) should come immediately after the demise of the Prophet (or the preceding Caliph). If there is any gap between the successors, the word “successor”does not make any sense. So successors should come right after the other without any gap. Also as the Prophet (S) suggested in the above traditions, those twelve Caliphs will cover till the day of resurrection.

As you may know, the Followers of the Members of the House of the Prophet (S) refer to these 12 Caliphs as of their 12 Imams starting with Imam ‘Ali (as) and ending with Imam Mahdi (as) the leader of our time. There are Caliphs because Allah made them Caliphs (They are vice-regents of Allah on the earth). With the passage of time and through historical events, we know that by the above traditions the Holy Prophet (S) meant the twelve Imams from his Ahlul-Bait who are the descendants of the Prophet since we have no other 12 pure candidates in the history of Islam upon whose righteousness all Muslims agree. It is interesting to know that even the enemies of Shi’a have NOT been able to find any fault in the virtues of the twelve Imams of Shi’a. Moreover these twelve Imams came one after another without any gap.

It is now clear that the only way to interpret the previously mentioned traditions which are narrated by al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud and al-Tirmidhi, al-Hakim, and Ahmad Ibn Hanbal is to accept that it refers to the Twelve Imams from the Prophet’s Ahlul-Bait, because they were, in their times, the most knowledgeable, the most illustrious, the most god-fearing, the most pious, the best in personal virtues, and the most honored before Allah; and their knowledge was derived from their ancestor (the Prophet) through their fathers. These are the Ahlul-Bait whose sinlessness, flawlessness, and purity is confirmed by the holy Qur’an (the last sentence of verse 33:33).

Also the above mentioned traditions of the Prophet which are considered to be authentic by the Sunnis, proves beyond doubt that the concept of “Twelve Imams”can NOT be a Twelver Shi’ites concoction! It is amazing that despite the acknowledgment of al-Bukhari and Muslim and other prominent Sunni scholars about the twelve Imams, the Sunnis always stop at the four Caliphs!

More interestingly, there are Sunni reports in which the Messenger of Allah named these twelve members of his Ahlul-Bait one by one starting with Imam ‘Ali (as) and ending with Imam al-Mahdi (as). (see Yanabi’ al-Mawadda, by al-Qunduzi al-Hanafi).

 

Now after reviewing all these straightforward authentic traditions which ALL Muslims unanimously agree upon, we can legitimatyely ask the question why are not ALL muslims following then orders from Rassul’Allah – Sallalahu Alayhi Wa Âlihi Wa Salâm – and why are so many Muslims ignorant about it?

The Islâmic world should remember that the Prophetic Orders are to be obeyed. This is of critical importance in these troubled times considering the grave overt and covert  deceptions, aggressions and dangers the Ummah is facing.  If Muslims do not know their Twelve Leaders, how they obey them and staty on the Right Path? Indeed, the Messenger of Allah (S) said:

He who dies while he does not know the Imam of his age, is like the one who died during days of Jahiliyya (the era before Islam).

من ماتً و لم يعرف إمام زمانهِ مات ميتة جاهلية.

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