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Meaning of 'There will be 12 leaders after me'

Published: 25/08/2011 12:12:00 PM GMT
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The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “There will be twelve leaders after me, all of them from Quraysh.” What does this hadith mean? Does it refer to the twelve Shi`ah imams?

Answered by

Sheikh `Abd Allah al-Dumayjî

Jâbir b. Samurah said: I heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) say: “There will be twelve leaders (amîr) after me.” Then he said a word I did not hear.

I asked my father: “What did he say?”

He said: “All of them from Quraysh.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (7223)]

Jâbir b. Samurah said: I heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) saying: “Islam will remain mighty for the duration of (the rule of) twelve caliphs.” Then he said a word I did not hear.

I asked my father: “What did he say?”

He said: “All of them from Quraysh.” [Sahîh Muslim (1821)]

This hadîth is used as evidence by Ahl al-Sunnah to prove that the supreme leader should be from Quraysh. This is, in fact, supported by numerous other evidences.

For instance, Imam Ibn Hazm writes: “The narration ‘The imams are from Quraysh’ is classed as amutawâtirnarration (i.e. a narration of the general masses).” [al-Fasl (4/89)]

Ibn Hajr says regarding the same hadîth: “I have collected the lines of transmission of this hadîth from nearly forty Companions.” [Fath al-Bârî: (7/32)]

Many scholars have declared there to be consensus in this issue such as al-Nawawî, al-Qâdî `Iyâd, al-Mâwardî, and Ibn Khaldûn. There is no consideration given to the disagreement in this regard from the people of heresy and innovation.

It is worth saying that this condition of being from the tribe of Quraysh is to be considered upon selecting or appointing a ruler. It is not to be insisted upon by the public in a case where a ruler comes into power over the Muslims by force. It does not apply to the rulers and princes who take charge of public affairs in some Muslim countries.

The meaning of the hadîth is clear and what it fortells actually took place in the way the Prophet (peace be upon him) said.

The scholars cite this hadîth as evidence on the permissibly of referring to someone as “caliph” who comes after the rightly guided Caliphs, as long as he is from Quraysh.

That is why the Ottoman leaders were called Sultans and not Caliphs because they were not from Quraysh.

There is nothing in this hadîth to support what the Ithnâ `Asharî Shî`ah (Twelver Shi`ah) claim.

They cannot compare their twelve Imams with what is mentioned in this hadîth for two reasons:

1. The hadîth mentions the word “Caliph” and “amir” and did not mention the word “imam”. The Shî`ah distinguish between Caliphate and Imamate and do not consider them to be the same, as opposed to Ahl al-Sunnah.

2. The hadîth refers in absolute terms to leadership in Quraysh, and that will indicate initial consideration of the four Caliphs, while the Shî`ah consider the twelve Imams as starting from `Ali and his sons only. Then after that they follow different sects. The Zaydî Imams are different from the Ithnâ `Asharî imams who are in turn different from the Ismâ`îlî imams and so forth.

And Allah knows best.

Source: Islam Today

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