The Prophet appoint a Caliph to stand in his position after his death 1

The Prophet appoint a Caliph to stand in his position after his death 1

Two questions stand at the centre of the Sunni-Shi’i disagreement:

(i) Did the Messenger of Allah, (PBUH&HP), ever appoint any khalifah (Caliph) to stand in his command position and substitute for him in his command roles after his death?

(ii) If he did, who exactly did he designate?

Our brothers from the Ahl al-Sunnah resolutely submit that the Prophet never appointed a khalifah. Rather, he – according to them – died without any designated heir to his command, and gave no indication whatsoever as to the method of appointing future commanders of the Ummah. Therefore, any Sunni Muslim can become the Sunni caliph by inheritance, or through a popular vote, an electoral college, a coup, or an armed rebellion.

By contrast, the Shia Imamiyyah argue that the Messenger of Allah actually appointed twelve khalifahs from his bloodline – by Divine Order - to assume his command roles after him. In line with the Shi’i doctrine, the first of these khalifahs was Amir al-Muminin ‘Ali b. Abi Talib, (PBUH), followed by Imam al-Hasan, ‘(PBUH), then Imam al-Husayn, ‘(PBUH), and then nine others from the progeny of al-Husayn, ‘alaihim al-salam. The twelfth of them, according to Shi’is, is Imam al-Mahdi, ‘(PBUH).

Another crucial difference between the Sunni and Shi’i positions is outlined below:

1. According to Sunni Islam, it is primarily political and military power which determines legitimacy. Therefore, whoever is to seize full political and military control of most of the Sunni communities is their legitimate khalifah. Whoever is not able to achieve that is not the khalifah.

2. On the other hand, Shi’is maintain that it is only divine appointment that determines legitimacy. Even if the divine appointee is denied political or military power, he still remains the legitimate khalifah. Whoever exercises political or military control over him is nothing but a rebel, and so is whosoever fails to recognize his authority. All the messengers of Allah, ‘alaihim al-salam, were commanders of their respective Ummahs till their deaths.(1) Yet, most of them were denied both political and military authority. That, of course, never stripped them of their legitimate command over even the rebel leaders.

However, there are authentic ahadith in the Sunni sources which firmly establish that the Prophet – by the Command of Allah - did appoint twelve khalifahs from his bloodline, with the first of them really being ‘Ali! This then is exactly where the supreme problem lies for the Sunni claims, and - of course – the entirety of Sunni Islam as a whole.

The khalifah is the one who takes the place of another one, who is physically absent for one reason or another. Imam Ibn al-‘Athir (d. 606 H), an ace Sunni lexicographer, explains:

الخليفة من يقوم مقام الذاهب ويسد مسده

The khalifah is whoever stands in the position of the one who is physically absent and substitutes for him.(2)

So, the khalifah is basically the “substitute” of the one who is physically absent. The cause of the absence does not matter – whether distance, death or others. What is important is that someone who occupies/occupied a certain position is physically absent, and another – the khalifah – “substitutes” for him in it. This often happens in football matches. A player is substituted by another who then plays his exact role on the pitch. The substitute is the khalifah of the substituted footballer. With regards to our Ummah, the Messenger of Allah is our amir (commander).(3)

His command endures over, and binds, all Muslims – civilian and military - till the End Time. In particular, he had, and still has, full command of all Muslim armed forces. No Muslim can ever validly claim that the Prophet’s command has ceased over any of the believers. None has ever, and none will ever, do such. The Messenger of Allah is, and will forever remain, the amir of the believers (amir al-muminin).

However, it was impossible for the Prophet to personally exercise all his command roles over the Ummah, even during his lifetime. Therefore, whenever he was unable to do so by himself, he used to deputize people to fill the roles for him. Whoever he appointed was therefore known as his amir (i.e. the amir appointed by him).(4) Imam Ahmad (d. 241 H) records one of his explicit instructions concerning such deputies:

…  ان أبا سلمة بن عبد الرحمن أخبره انه سمع أبا هريرة يقول قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم من أطاعني فقد أطاع الله ومن عصاني فقد عصى الله ومن أطاع أميري فقد أطاعني ومن عصى أميري فقد عصاني

…  – Abu Hurayrah said:

The Messenger of Allah, (PBUH&HP), said: “Whosoever obeys me has obeyed Allah and whosoever disobeys me has disobeyed Allah. Also, whosoever obeys my amir has obeyed me, and whosoever disobeys my amir has disobeyed me.” (5)

Shaykh al-Arnaut says:

إسناده صحيح على شرط الشيخين

Its chain is sahih upon the standard of the two Shaykhs (Sahih Bukhary and Sahih Muslim).(6)

These Amirs (Commanders) were generally appointed either as army commanders or civilian governors. In the latter case, they were also referred to as khalifahs.(7) They stood in the position of the Messenger of Allah – often in a limited capacity – and substituted for him within his Ummah. The question then is about the command roles of the Prophet after his death. Did he appoint amirs to fill them for him or not?

He knew for certain that he was going to die one day, and would no longer be able to personally perform his command roles at all anymore within his Ummah. So, what did he do about these roles? Did he follow his Sunnah of appointing amirs to perform them for him whenever he was unable to do by himself? Or, did he abandon his own Sunnah?! Our brothers from the Ahl al-Sunnah say: Yes, he abandoned his own Sunnah!

He knew that he still had those roles in his Ummah which would endure after his demise, and that he would soon be unable to carry them out personally. Yet, he deputized no one to perform them for him in his absence (due to death). Meanwhile, the Shia contradict the Ahl al-Sunnah on this matter.

They argue that it was absolutely impossible for the Messenger to have departed without taking steps to ensure the continued fulfillment of his command roles over his Ummah after him. They submit instead that he actually appointed twelve amirs to fill his full command roles for him among his followers till the Hour.

The Shi’i claim apparently has support in authentic Sunni reports. For instance, this is an authentic hadith documented in the Musnad of Ahmad bin Hanbal:

عن جابر بن سمرة قال سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم يقول يكون من بعدي اثنا عشر أميرا فتكلم فخفي علي فسألت الذي يلينى أو إلى جنبي فقال كلهم من قريش

‘Abd Allah – Shurayh b. Yunus – ‘Umar b. ‘Ubayd – Simak b. Harb – Jabir b. Samurah:

I heard the Messenger of Allah, (PBUH&HP), saying, “THERE WILL BE AFTER ME TWELVE AMIRS”. Then he said something which I did not hear clearly. So I asked the one next to me, and he said, “All of them will be from Quraysh.”(8)

Shaykh al-Arnaut comments:

حديث صحيح وهذا إسناد حسن من أجل سماك

It is a sahih hadith, and this chain is hasan due to Simak.(9)

al-Tirmidhi (d. 279 H) says about the same hadith:

هذا حديث حسن صحيح

This hadith is hasan sahih (10)

And al-Albani (d. 1420 H) agrees:

صحيح

Sahih (11)

Imam Ahmad further records:

حدثنا عبد الله حدثني أبي ثنا مؤمل بن إسماعيل ثنا حماد بن سلمة حدثنا داود بن هند عن الشعبي عن جابر بن سمرة قال سمعت النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم يقول يكون لهذه الأمة اثنا عشر خليفة

‘Abd Allah (b. Ahmad) – my father (Ahmad b. Hanbal) – Mumal b. Isma’il – Hamad b. Salamah – Dawud b. Hind – al-Shu’bi – Jabir b. Samurah:

I heard the Prophet, (PBUH&HP), saying: “There will be FOR this Ummah TWELVE KHALIFAHS.”(12)

Shaykh al-Arnaut says:

حديث صحيح

It is a sahih hadith. (13)

Note that the hadith says “for this Ummah” and not “in this Ummah”. So, it explicitly and very emphatically limits the number to twelve till the extinction of the Ummah at the Last Hour. The phrase “in this Ummah” - although having the same effect too - would have been weaker.

Ahmad again documents:

حدثنا عبد الله حدثني أبي ثنا هاشم ثنا زهير ثنا زياد بن خيثمة عن الأسود بن سعيد الهمداني عن جابر بن سمرة قال سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم أو قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم يكون بعدي اثنا عشر خليفة كلهم من قريش

‘Abd Allah (b. Ahmad) – my father (Ahmad b. Hanbal) – Hashim – Zuhayr – Ziyad b. Khaythamah – al-Aswad b. Sa’id al-Hamdani – Jabir b. Samurah:

I heard the Messenger of Allah, (PBUH&HP), saying, or the Messenger of Allah, (PBUH&HP), said: “THERE WILL BE AFTER ME TWELVE KHALIFAHS, all of them from Quraysh.”(14)

Al-Arnaut comments:

حديث صحيح

It is a sahih hadith (15)

In some other ahadith, their direct appointment by the Prophet is stated, as well as their primary identities. Imam Ibn Abi ‘Asim (d. 287 H) records:

ثنا أبو بكر، ثنا عمرو بن سعد أبو داود الحفري، عن شريك، عن الركين عن القاسم بن حسان، عن زيد بن ثابت قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إني تارك فيكم الخليفتين من بعدي، كتاب الله وعترتي أهل بيتي وإنهما لن يتفرقا حتى يردا علي الحوض.

Abu Bakr – ‘Amr b. Sa’d Abu Dawud al-Hafri – Sharik – al-Rakin – al-Qasim b. Hisan – Zayd b. Thabit:

The Messenger of Allah, (PBUH&HP), said, “I AM LEAVING BEHIND AMONG YOU the two khalifahs after me: the Book of Allah and my bloodline, my Ahl al-Bayt. Both shall never separate from each other until they meet me at the Lake-Font.” (16)

‘Allamah al-Albani declares:

حديث صحيح

It is a sahih hadith. (17)

Imam Ahmad too documents:

حدثنا عبد الله حدثني أبي ثنا الأسود بن عامر ثنا شريك عن الركين عن القاسم بن حسان عن زيد بن ثابت قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم انى تارك فيكم خليفتين كتاب الله حبل ممدود ما بين السماء والأرض أو ما بين السماء إلى الأرض وعترتي أهل بيتي وإنهما لن يتفرقا حتى يردا على الحوض

‘Abd Allah (b. Ahmad) – my father (Ahmad b. Hanbal) – al-Aswad b. ‘Amir – Sharik – al-Rakin – al-Qasim b. Hisan – Zayd b. Thabit:

The Messenger of Allah, (PBUH&HP), said, “I AM LEAVING BEHIND AMONG YOU two khalifahs: the Book of Allah – a rope stretching between the heaven and the earth or from the heaven to the earth – and my bloodline, my Ahl al-Bayt. Both shall never separate from each other until they meet me at the Lake-Font.” (18)

Shaykh al-Arnaut comments:

حديث صحيح بشواهده دون قوله : " وإنهما لن يتفرقا حتى يردا علي الحوض " وهذا إسناد ضعيف لسوء حفظ شريك

The hadith is sahih through its shawahid (witnesses), except his statement “Both shall never separate from each other until they meet me at the Lake-Font.” (19)

Continue in the next article: ( The Prophet appoint a Caliph to stand in his position after his death 2 )

NOTES:

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1. The Quran 4:64

2. Ibn al-Athir, Abu Sa’adat al-Mubarak b. Muhammad al-Jazari, al-Nihayah fi Gharib al-Hadith wa al-Athar (Qum: Muasassat Isma’iliyyan) [annotator: Mahmud Muhammad al-Tanahi and Tahir Ahmad al-Zawi], vol. 2, p. 69

3. There are several verses of the Qur’an which order all believers till the Day of al-Qiyamah to “obey” the Messenger – 4:64, 3:32, , 3:132, 4:13, 4:59, 4:69, 4:80, 5:92, 8:1, 8:20, 8:46, 9:71, 24:47, 24:51, 24:52, 24:54, 24:56, 33:33, 33:66, 33:71, 47:33, 48:17, 49:14, 58:13, and 64:12.

4. This shows that it is permissible, and in fact the Sunnah, to refer to deputies and substitutes in command roles as amirs.

5. Abu ‘Abd Allah Ahmad b. Hanbal al-Shaybani, Musnad (Cairo: Muasassat Qurtubah) [annotator: Shu’ayb al-Arnaut], vol. 2, p. 511, # 10645

6. Ibid

7. We have discussed instances of this usage in the main body of this book, especially in the chapters on Hadith al-Khilafah and Hadith al-Manzilah.

8. Abu ‘Abd Allah Ahmad b. Hanbal al-Shaybani, Musnad (Cairo: Muasassat Qurtubah) [annotator: Shu’ayb al-Arnaut], vol. 5, p. 99, # 20978

9. Ibid

10. Abu ‘Isa Muhammad b. ‘Isa al-Sulami al-Tirmidhi, al-Jami’ al-Sahih Sunan al-Tirmidhi (Beirut: Dar Ihya al-Turath al-‘Arabi) [annotator: Muhammad Nasir al-Din al-Albani], vol. 4, p. 501, # 2223

11. Ibid

12. Abu ‘Abd Allah Ahmad b. Hanbal al-Shaybani, Musnad (Cairo: Muasassat Qurtubah) [annotator: Shu’ayb al-Arnaut], vol. 5, p. 106, # 21051

13. Ibid

14. Ibid, vol. 5, p. 92, # 20890

15. Ibid

16. Abu Bakr b. Abi ‘Asim, Ahmad b. ‘Amr b. al-Dhahhak b. Mukhlid al-Shaybani, Kitab al-Sunnah (al-Maktab al-Islami; 1st edition, 1400 H) [annotator: Muhammad Nasir al-Din al-Albani], vol. 2, pp. 350-351, # 754

17. Ibid, vol. 2, p. 351, # 754

18. Abu ‘Abd Allah Ahmad b. Hanbal al-Shaybani, Musnad (Cairo: Muasassat Qurtubah) [annotator: Shu’ayb al-Arnaut], vol. 5, p. 181, # 21618

19. Ibid