Thursday, June 20, 2019
News Code : 352979 | Publish Date :2018/8/25 - 15:15 | Category: ARTICLES
Doctrines of Shi’i Islam/ IMAMATE (IMAMA) part ۵
Means of establishing the leadership of the community
The Holy Prophet, under divine command, chooses a great individual, one eminently qualified for the task of leadership of the umma, publicly appointing him as his successor.

Hawzah News Agency ­– Now that it is clear that the wisdom of the Prophet must, of necessity, have led him to offer guidance on the principle of leadership of the Islamic umma, we should consider the solution proposed by him. Here, we shall critically address the two main perspectives on this question: [either] (a) the Holy Prophet, under divine command, chooses a great individual, one eminently qualified for the task of leadership of the umma, publicly appointing him as his successor; [or] (b) the Holy Prophet leaves to his people the responsibility for choosing a leader after his death.

It should be clear which of these two perspectives is corroborated by the Qur’an, the Sunna and the events in the life of the Prophet. A close examination of the life of the Prophet—from the day he was commanded to proclaim the new faith first to his near of kin, then to all mankind—reveals that he repeatedly made clear the distinctive qualities of his successor, thereby indicating that the means by which the leadership of the community was to be established was that of explicit designation (tansis) and not election by the people. This point can be proven by the evidence we offer below:

1. Hadith: Yawm al-Dar (‘The Day of the Home’). Three years after the beginning of the Prophet’s mission, he was commanded by God to proclaim openly his call, with the revelation of this verse:

And warn thy tribe of near kindred. (Sura al-Shu’ara, XXVI: 214)

The Prophet invited the chiefs of the Banu Hashim and said to them:


‘I have brought for you the best of this world and the next. God has commanded me to invite you to this [religion of Islam]. Which of you will help me establish this religion, to be my brother and my successor?’ He repeated this question three times, and each time it was ‘Ali, alone, who stepped forward, declaring his readiness to help the Prophet. Then the Prophet said: ‘Truly, this is my brother, my heir and my successor among you.’

2. Hadith: al-Manzila (‘The [Spiritual] Rank’). The Prophet, on various occasions indicated that the station and rank of ‘Ali in relation to him was that of Aaron in relation to Moses, denying ‘Ali only one degree comprised in the station of Aaron, that of prophethood. The Prophet said in a hadith that is almost mutawatir:


‘O ‘Ali, your rank [manzila] in relation to me is that of Aaron in relation to Moses.’


Now, according to the Qur’an, Aaron had the rank of a Prophet, a caliph and a minister (wazir) at the time of Moses, and this hadith proves that ‘Ali clearly had the rank of a caliph and a minister, like Aaron, but not that of a Prophet. Naturally, if the meaning were other than that of affirming, in regard to ‘Ali, all the ranks apart from prophethood, there would have been no need to make an exception of prophethood alone.

3. Hadith: al-Safina (‘The Ark’): The Prophet likened his ahl albayt to Noah’s ark, saying:

‘Is not the likeness of my ahl al-bayt among you like the ark of Noah among his folk? Whoever takes refuge therein is saved and whoever opposes it is drowned.’

We know that Noah’s ark was the sole place of refuge for people seeking to save themselves from the Deluge. Thus, according to this hadith, the ahl al-bayt of the Prophet is the sole refuge for those seeking protection against the tenebrous phenomena—sources of delusion and confusion—that confront humanity.

4. Hadith: Aman al-umma (‘Security of the community’): The Prophet made it known that he saw his ahl al-bayt as a source of unity and a means of distancing his umma from divisiveness, saying:


‘Just as the stars are a means of securing (aman) the people of the earth against drowning, my ahl al-bayt is a means of securing (aman) my umma from division. If a tribe among the Arabs opposes them, they fall into dispute and become part of Satan’s minions.’

5. Hadith: al-Thaqalayn (‘The Two Precious Things’): This hadith is one of those classified in Islam as mutawatir, and is found in many books written by scholars of both branches of Islam. In this hadith, the Prophet is preaching to the whole community:

‘Verily, I am leaving with you two precious things, the Book of God and my progeny, my ahl al-bayt; for as long as you cling to these two, you will never go astray; and truly they will not be parted from each other until they join me at the Hawd{ [a pool of Paradise, identified with al-Kawthar].’

This [last] hadith places side by side the authoritative knowledge of the ahl al-bayt and the Qur’an, thereby requiring Muslims to hold fast in matters of faith both to the Qur’an and the ahl albayt. But it is a great pity that some people knock on all doors except the door of the ahl al-bayt! The hadith al-Thaqalayn, upon whose authenticity both Shi<a and Sunni alike are in agreement, can help to bring about a truly unified umma among the world’s Muslims; for if the two groups differed over the question of political leadership and authority after the Prophet’s death, they are still able, despite this difference over historical interpretation, to be as one as regards the sacred significance of the ahl al-bayt. The Prophet provided no grounds for a schism to occur between the two groups; on the contrary, there ought to have been—according to this universally acknowledged narration—unison of will and singleness of purpose.

In general, during the period of the caliphate, the caliphs themselves referred to ‘Ali as their source of authoritative knowledge, and disputes over religious matters were resolved by recourse to him. In truth, from the time the ahl al-bayt of the Holy Prophet was set aside as a source of religious authority, a spirit of sectarianism set in, and groups with different names crystallized, one after the other.




Ayatollah Jafar Sobhani, Doctrines of Shii Islam, A Compendium of Imami Beliefs and Practices, Translated and Edited by Reza Shah-Kazemi, published by I.B.Tauris Publishers, london • new york  2003.

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