Why it is necessary to have a Prophet’s Successor?
Did Prophet Muhammad (s) leave the matter of Khilafat to the people? We reject such a notion. Prophet Muhammad [s] left complete instructions for the people in the form of the Holy Qur’an. Anyone that has studied the life of the Prophet (s) will soon recognize that such a notion is false. While the Prophet (s) was alive he taught the Deen to the people. And when misunderstandings arose the people could turn to Rasulullah (s) for guidance, and he always clarified matters to them. Unfortunately following the tragedy of Thursday, it became clear that a group amongst the Sahaba were not willing to listen to the final behest of Rasulullah (s) and they sought to frustrate Rasulullah (s)’s efforts in putting his final instructions onto paper. If Rasulullah (s) was unable to resolve this matter at that time, and that this dispute / misunderstanding took place during his lifetime, such a misunderstanding would not have been clarified after his death.
There was an inherent risk of people having different interpretations of Islam, and there was a risk that people might deviate from the right path, that in consequence could harm the fabric of the Muslim community. This is why Prophet Muhammad (s) on several occasions warned his followers:
Abdullah Ibne Umar narrates:
“Do not revert to disbelief after me by striking (cutting) the necks of one another”
Sahih al Bukhari Arabic-English Volume 9 hadith number 198
Other companions also narrated the same hadith.
Sahih al Bukhari Arabic-English Volume 9 hadith numbers197, 199-200
We read in Sahih Bukhari Volume 9, Book 88, Number 172:
The Prophet said, “I will be at my Lake-Fount (Kauthar) waiting for whoever will come to me. Then some people will be taken away from me whereupon I will say, ‘My followers!’ It will be said, ‘You do not know they turned Apostates as renegades (deserted their religion).’” (Ibn Abi Mulaika said, “Allah, we seek refuge with You from turning on our heels from the (Islamic) religion and from being put to trial”).
In light of these traditions and similar ones in Saheeh al Bukharee one can conclude that it was incumbent up on the Prophet to nominate his successor after him, who would:
- Guide the Muslim Ummah in the same way that Rasulullah (s) did,
- Solve religious disputes, and would have the final say when disputes arose,
- Be a figure behind which the entire Ummah could unite.
It is necessary for the Holy Prophet’s (s) vicegerent to be infallible like the Holy Prophet (s) himself
So that people should adopt his religious commandments and precepts with full certainty and confidence, submit to his instructions considering them to be those of the apostle himself and believe in him wholeheartedly with complete peace of mind. Moreover, it is incumbent upon the vicegerent to be the most knowledgeable of all in his time because he not only has to meet the obligations of being a guide to all in this world in the place of the holy prophet (s.a.w) but also has to ensure the continuity of succession to this responsibility which the greatest of all tasks. Therefore, it is very important for such a person to be the bearer of the attributes of prophecy (Nubuwwah) and inherit the apostle’s knowledge. Such a vicegerent is known as an ‘Imam’ in jurisprudential terms after the completion of prophecy (Nubuwwah), and the office of vital responsibility of grand religious leadership is known as ‘Imamah’. It is also important for such an Imam to be specially nominated by Allah (s.w.t) Himself and it is necessary for the religious legislator (Shari`ye Islam) to have announced by himself the divine nomination of such an Imam, meaning the Imamat of an Imam is to be known and proven through the explicit texts of both Allah (s.w.t) and the holy prophet (s.a.w) otherwise, as a result of the desire for power, there always remains the danger of war for the throne. This crucial responsibility could not be left at the hands of general public because the decisive factor of Imamat is infallibility and only Allah or his apostle or those associated with the holy prophet (s.a.w) can be aware of it. This is the very Godly custom which is not possible to change. Beginning with Adam (a.s) through to the seal of prophets (s.a.w), this is how the vicegerents have been nominated. The holy Prophet (s.a.w) not only announced who his vicegerent was going to be after him but also reiterated the leadership of his Ahlul Bayt [as] and by asking his Ummah to hold fast to the book of Allah (s.w.t) and his Ahlul Bayt together, he has made it very clear till the day of judgement that his Ahlul Bayt were the very true leaders of Islam.
We shall now prove from Qur’anic verses that the Imams of the Shia Ithna Asheri sect were indeed the real vicegerents of the holy Prophet (s.a.w).
In the Qur’an there are several circumstantial narratives pertaining to past prophets and incidents, one might think that the purpose behind it may just be to either educate us on history or to make the book more interesting but remember that such a thought would be subjugating to a purposeful and holy book like the Qur’an. Allah (s.w.t) has clearly informed us that the past events have been narrated in the Qur’an for the sole purpose of enabling us to deduce examples from them. Therefore, this Ummah should be extracting lessons from every event described in the Qur’an and should not consider them simply as entertaining stories.
Allah says in Qur’an 7:176
Therefore relate the narrative that they may reflect
And He says:
[12:111] In their histories there is certainly a lesson for men of understanding. It is not a narrative which could be forged, but a verification of what is before it and a distinct explanation of all things and a guide and a mercy to a people who believe.
He further says:
[11:120] And all we relate to you of the accounts of the apostles is to strengthen your heart therewith; and in this has come to you the truth and an admonition, and a reminder to the believers.
[73:15] Surely We have sent to you an Apostle, a witness against you, as We sent an apostle (Musa) (a.s) to Firoun.
The above verse clearly elucidates the similarity between Hadhrath Musa (a.s) and Hadhrath Muhammad (s.a.w), therefore the Ummah of the holy Prophet (s.a.w) are also similar to those of prophet Musa (a.s.)
Allah has stated in very clear words that:
[32:23] And certainly We gave the Book to Musa, so be not in doubt concerning the receiving of it, and We made it a guide for the children of Israel.
[32:24] And We made of them Imams to guide by Our command when they were patient, and they were certain of Our communications.
This makes it very clear that Allah (s.w.t) had Himself nominated the Imams to succeed Musa (a.s). The prestige of these Imams of Bani Israel has also been known in that their commandments and guidance to their people have been in accordance with the will of Allah (s.w.t). Mistakes or disobedience to Allah (s.w.t) could not at all have happened with them. Meaning, the way their nomination as Imams has been announced, the same way their infallibility has been manifested.
Note that, if the holy Prophet’s [s] vicegerents were not to be nominated directly by Allah (s.w.t), the Ummah of Musa (a.s) would have assumed superiority over the Ummah of Muhammad (s.a.w), therefore it has to be accepted that, the nomination of the holy prophet’s Imams also, in accordance with the custom of Allah (s.w.t), should have been and has always been divine, this way the superiority of the Ummah of the holy Prophet (s.w.t) has been consistently established.
[5:12] And certainly Allah made a covenant with the children of Israel, and We raised up among them twelve chieftains; and Allah said: Surely I am with you; if you keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate and believe in My apostles and assist them and offer to Allah a goodly gift, I will most certainly cover your evil deeds, and I will most certainly cause you to enter into gardens beneath which rivers flow, but whoever disbelieves from among you after that, he indeed shall lose the right way.
In the above verse, Allah (s.w.t) announces that the number of chieftains of the people of Musa (a.s) had been twelve, the children of Israel were bound by a covenant to obey them, Paradise had been promised in recompense to obedience to them and a message of destruction had been conveyed to them in case of disobedience.
It has also been indicated in different places in the Qur’an, that the first vicegerent of prophet Musa (a.s) had been his own brother Harun (a.s.)
[25:35] And certainly We gave Musa the Book and We nominated with him his brother Harun an aide.
On one occasion, Musa’s (a.s) supplication and its acceptance has been stated as follows.
Musa (a.s) said:
He said: O my Lord! Expand my breast for me
And make my affair easy to me
And loosen the knot from my tongue
(That) they may understand my word;
And give to me an aide from my family:
Haroun, my brother,
Strengthen my back by him,
And associate him (with me) in my affair
So that we should glorify Thee much,
And remember Thee oft.
Surely, Thou art seeing us.
He said: You are indeed granted your petition, O Musa
With this matter, the Ummah of Muhammad (s.a.w) have been clearly informed that in the Ummah of Musa (a.s) the one to be nominated as the first successor of Musa (a.s) was not someone out of the family but it was Musa’s (a.s) brother. That is why in the Ummah of Muhammad Mustafa (s.a.w) also, the first person to be nominated as his vicegerent was Ali (a.s) who is the brother of the holy Prophet (s.a.w). The word ‘Brother’ has been clearly mentioned in the Qur’an. That is why the holy prophet (s.a.w) referring to Ali (a.s) has said, ‘Ya Ali, Anta Minni Bimanzilati Haruna Min Musa Illa Annahu Laa Nabiyyu Ba’di’, O Ali your position in relation to me is tantamount to that of Harun with Musa, except that there will be no prophet after me. He also said ‘O Ali you are a brother to me in this world and the hereafter’.
The above two traditions of ‘Position’ and ‘Brotherhood’ are accepted by both the sects though a few Nasibis have tried to belie it. Therefore, there is no proof whatsoever regarding the holy Prophet (s.a.w) having referred to anyone else apart from Imam Ali (a.s) as his brother or as someone whose position to him was like that of Harun (a.s) to Musa (a.s)! The enemies have tried very hard to put a cover over this tradition but fortunately light could not be blocked from shining.
[35:31] And that which We have revealed to you of the Book, that is the truth verifying that which is before it; most surely with respect to His servants Allah is Aware, Seeing.
[35:32] Then We gave the Book for an inheritance to those whom WE CHOSE from among Our servants; but of them is he who makes his soul to suffer a loss, and of them is he who takes a middle course, and of them is he who is foremost in deeds of goodness by Allah’s permission; this is the great excellence.
The word ‘Istefaa’ is that special word that has always introduced Allah’s chosen guides to us.
[3:33] Surely Allah chose Adam and Nuh and the descendants of Ibrahim and the descendants of Imran above the nations.
The status of Istefaa is the very status that portrays the great qualities of the holy Prophet (s.a.w), which is the reason why his holy name is followed by the title ‘Mustafa’. This word manifests Allah’s (s.w.t) special selection. With this very word, Allah (s.w.t) has introduced those personalities to us who from the Ummah of Muhammad (s.a.w), He has specially selected and made them the heirs of the Qur’an. (Refer to tradition of Thaqalayn).
The prophets and apostles enjoy the peak of faith and wisdom as they are the leaders of mankind. Transmitting the same leadership onto another person from the people is known as ‘Wisayah’ or ‘khilafah’ and ‘Succession’ or ‘Imamah ’. After a prophet or an apostle and a leader of a nation, his son is preferred by God for succession as is mentioned in the Qur’an:
[52:21] And (as for) those who believe and their offspring follow them in faith, We will unite with them their offspring and We will not diminish to them aught of their work; every man is responsible for what he shall have wrought.
For example, in another place it is mentioned:
[57:26] And certainly We sent Nuh and Ibrahim and We gave to their offspring the (gift of) prophecy ( Nubuwwah ) and the Book; so there are among them those who go aright, and most of them are transgressors.
Now it has become obvious that after Nuh (a.s) and Ibrahim (a.s), their children were nominated for succession with the prestige of prophecy (Nubuwwah). Now that prophecy (Nubuwwah) has terminated, the book has definitely remained and Allah (s.w.t) has introduced its heirs to us in the verse:
Therefore, one has to admit that the right of succession to the holy prophet (s.a.w) belongs to his offspring only and not to a stranger.
[17:71] (Remember) the day when We will call every people with their Imam;
The above verse clearly necessitates the existence of an Imam in every period, every generation and every age. Referring to certain personalities, Allah has mentioned the following in the Qur’an which shows who the Imams who would have their people called with are:
[2:143] And thus We have made you a medium (just) nation that you may be the bearers of witness to the people and (that) the Apostle may be a bearer of witness to you; and We did not make that which you would have to be the qiblah but that We might distinguish him who follows the Apostle from him who turns back upon his heels, and this was surely hard except for those whom Allah has guided aright; and Allah was not going to make your faith to be fruitless; most surely Allah is Affectionate, Merciful to the people.
So we realise that these personalities who would be called with their people are those who are under the holy Prophet (s.a.w) and who are the governors and guardians of all people. And only these can be called ‘Imams’. Every generation has been instructed to follow these very personalities. (‘O you who believe, guard yourselves against evil with full awareness of divine laws and be with the truthful’) with this we come to understand that such entity remains in every generation who in the real sense of truth both in words and actions is an infallible.
[13:7]You are only a Warner and (there is) a guide for every people.
This shows that for every generation of human beings, the existence of a true guide is a sure thing.
The Imam (a.s) In Concealment
The meaning of ‘Ghayb’ is ‘not to be seen’ it does not mean to cease to exist. It has already been proven that the existence of an Imam in every generation is necessary. Therefore, if he can not apparently be traced then he is in Ghayb and is hidden in the veil of nature.
[10:20] And they say: Why is not a sign sent to him from his Lord? Say: The unseen is only for Allah; therefore wait– surely I too, with you am of those who wait.
From Qur’anic studies, we come to learn that there is some reality in Ghayb and it is important to have a belief in it. Like the commencement of the word of Allah itself follows:
[2:3-5] Those who believe in the unseen and keep up prayer and spend out of what We have given them… And who believe in that which has been revealed to you and that which was revealed before you and they are sure of the hereafter. These are on a right course from their Lord and these it is that shall be successful.
If we take the word Ghayb in the above verse to mean Allah (s.w.t) then it is apparent that without the belief in Allah (s.w.t), there is no question at all of being a ‘Muttaqee’ (Pious) and if we take it to mean the day of judgement then this has already been referred to in ‘Bil Yawmil Aakhir’. Therefore, this ghayb is something else all together, without a belief in it; no guidance can be derived from the Qur’an despite being a Muttaqee.
According to Traditions too, the Twelve Imams (a.s) are the very Vicegerents of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w)
According to the prophetic clear texts, the true Imams are only and only Hadhrath Ali (a.s) and eleven Imams from among his offspring whose infallibility and purity are evident both from the Qur’an and traditions. On several occasions the holy Prophet (s.a.w) had explicitly announced the Caliphate, Guardianship, Governorship, Succession and Vicegerency of Ali (a.s). The ulema of Ahl Sunnah have accepted the tradition of Ghadeer ‘Man Kuntu Mawlahu Fa haadha Aliyyun Mawlaahu’ ‘Whomsoever I am a leader to, Ali is also his leader’ as authentic. The remaining eleven Imams of this family of infallibility and purity have this clear text to their credit that each of them pointed out during his life time as to who was going to succeed him. Moreover, even the holy Prophet (s.a.w) is reported in ‘Saheeh’ and ‘Mustanad’ traditions to have clearly mentioned both the number and names of the Imams who were going to succeed him. However, putting brevity into consideration only one such tradition is quoted here.
Hadhrath Jabir Ibn Abdullah Al Ansari (r.a) is reported to have said that after the revelation of the glorious verse ‘Ya Ayyuhal ladheena aamanu ateeullaaha wa ateeurrasoola wa ulil amri minkum’ O you who believe comply with Allah and with the apostle and the Ulil Amr from among you, I asked the holy prophet (s.a.w) that I have understood Allah (s.w.t) and His apostle and have even complied with them but o prophet (s.a.w), who are the Ulil Amr who we are asked to comply with? The holy Prophet (s.a.w) replied that these are my vicegerents. They have been nominated as your governors and guardians after me. The first one among them is my brother Ali (a.s), after him my son Hassan (a.s), then my son Hussain (a.s), after him his son Ali ibn Hussain (a.s) (Imam Zayn al Abideen), after him Muhammad ibn Ali (a.s) (Imam Muhammad al Baqir), O Jabir, when you meet this son of mine, please pass on my greetings to him. Then Ja’far ibn Muhammad (a.s)(Imam Ja’far as Sadiq), then Musa ibn Ja’far (a.s) (Imam Musa al Kadhim), then Ali ibn Musa (a.s) (Imam Ali ar Ridha), then Muhammad ibn Ali (a.s) (Imam Muhammad At Taqi), then Ali ibn Muhammad (a.s) (Imam Ali an Naqi), then Hassan ibn Ali (a.s) (Imam Hassan al Askari), then Muhammad ibn Hassan al Mahdi (a.s) (Imam Akhir az Zamaan), my this son will fill the earth with justice during the last days similar to the way it will have been filled with injustice.
Hadhrath Jabir (a.s) says that he had once been in the presence of Imam Baqir (a.s) when the Imam was only five years old. The Imam had at once asked Jabir as to why was he not passing on his grandfather’s greetings to him. Jabir then did as was requested by the holy prophet (s.a.w).
1. Yanaabiul Mawaddah, page 369 by Suleiman al Qunduzi
2. Shawaahidun Nubuwwah, page 195
3. Also refer to Sawaiq Muhriqah, page 97.
4. Through the chains of Saheeh Muslim, Abu Dawood, Nasaai, Ibn Maajah and Bayhaqi.
5. Ar Hajjul Mataalib, page 402, Mawaddatal Qurbah, Manaaqib Qawarizm, Mafaatih al Mataalib, Hasbeebus Sayr, Rawdhatul Ijaabah
Allamah Ibn Hajar Makki in his book Sawaiq Muhriqah confirms our claim on page 90, (Egyptian Print) in the following words, ‘In the tradition of Thaqalayn, the instruction that has been given of the adherence to Ahlul Bayt points out that in every generation there would be a person worth adhering to till the day of judgement from the Ahlul Bayt of the holy Prophet (s.a.w). That is why the holy Prophet (s.a.w) describes them as the cause of security for the people of the world’.
The most sufficient evidence of all is another tradition wherein the holy Prophet (s.a.w) says ‘After me, there shall always be just men from my Ahlul Bayt [as] among my Ummah who will save this religion from the interpolations of the misguided, from the interpretations of the ignorants and from the liars and they shall be guiding to the right path’.
Beware; your leaders are going to present you before Allah (s.w.t) with them on the day of judgement, so think carefully over who you take as your leaders. (Fulk Najaat).
Putting the above statements into consideration, let us now scan through the beliefs and practises of the various sects of Islam formed after the demise of the holy Prophet (s.a.w) and find out which is the group that believes in the divine nomination of the Imams of the holy Prophet’s Ummah like the in Ummah of Musa (a.s), and whose number is like the chieftains of Bani Israel which is twelve (12), and that the first vicegerent of the apostle’s Ummah is his brother like the first vicegerent of Musa (a.s), that the transmission of Imamate remains within the offspring of holy Prophet (s.a.w) after his brother like it remained within the offspring of Musa (a.s), and the Imams of the Ummah are free from sins and errors like the Imams of Bani Israel, who in the true sense are the truth of ‘Yahduna Biamrina’ and who should be the nominated heirs of Allah’s book, who possess the complete knowledge of ‘Ilmul Qur’an’, and who as per the tradition of thaqalayn as mentioned by the holy prophet be associated with the Qur’an, an Imam from them should be present in every generation, the last one of them should be in the veil of Ghayb but due to our faith in ghayb a belief in him should be important like it is important to have a belief in Isa (as.) from the children of Israel who is alive and in ghayb. Without doubt, when we complete scanning, the above principles are not visible in any sect apart from the Shia Imamiyyah. From which it is proven that, with regards to the Imams for guidance, the teachings and examples of the Qur’an can not be in conformation with anyone apart from the twelve Imams (Ahlul Bayt).
The one quality of the Shiite sect that makes it superior to the rest is that their Imams are of the highest knowledge calibre, superior to all creatures, most brave, best in ethics, pious, devout, just, kind, and infallible. None of the Imams of any other sect of Islam can be proven to have been infallible.