Imamate in the Traditions of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.)
By: Ayatullah al-Uzma Shaykh Nasir Makarim Shirazi
When we study the Traditions of Islam written in books, in particular the books of the Sunnis, a researcher encounters an abundance of Traditions of the Holy Prophet which prove the station of the imamate and vicegerency of ‘Imam Ali (A.S.), peace be upon him.
Researchers are surprised that with ail of these Traditions, any doubt should remain on the issue, much less that a person would want to chose a way that is different from the way of the Ahlul Bayt.
These Traditions, which reach into the hundreds (like the Tradition of Ghadir), and tens of other Traditions recorded in tens of famous books are so clear that if one were to follow them, even if one were to put aside following the dictates of a religious authority, the issue would still be so clear that no further proof would be necessary.
As an example, several famous Traditions in this area will be presented and or those who wish to study further in this area, we will mention the sources in which they may do so. (See al-Maraj’at and al-Ghadir).
1. The Tradition of Ghadir
Many of the historians of Islam have written that the Holy Prophet of Islam, towards the end of his life, after the ritual pilgrimage (hajj), spoke to many of the old and new Muslims who, in faith, had come from all over the Hijaz region to perform this ritual, at the time of the return from Mecca, in the area of Jufah, between Mecca and Medina, when they reached a wilderness known as Ghadir Khum, which was a crossroads which separated the people of the Hijaz.
Before the Muslims separated from each other to each go to their particular area of the Hijaz, the Prophet ordered his followers to stop. Those who were ahead were invited to return and those who had remained behind, caught up with them.
The weather was very hot and burning. There was no roof to shelter them. The Prophet informed them that they should all gather to listen to a new command from God which would be expressed during a sermon.
A pulpit was prepared by saddles placed upon a camel and the Holy Prophet mounted the pulpit and addressed the gathering.
“I will soon accept God’s invitation (to death) and I will leave you. I am responsible and you are responsible.
How will you bear witness to me?”
The people said, “We swear that you have carried out your mission and that you have done your best to guide us. May God bless you.”
The Prophet said, “Do you swear to the worship of the One God, to my Divine mission and to the truth of the day of the Resurrection when the dead shall be raised on that day?” Everyone answered, “Yes. We so swear.” He said, “May God be my witness...”
Then he said, “O people! Do you hear me?” They said, “Yea,” and following that, every one was silent and other than the sound of the breeze, nothing could be heard. The Holy Prophet then said, “Now say what you will do with these two valuable things which I leave behind.”
A person from among the multitude cried out, “What two valuable things?”
The Holy Prophet said, “First, the Book of the Holy Qur’an and do not remove yourselves from it so that you be led astray. The second valuable souvenir which I leave among you is my family. God the Almighty has informed me that these two will never separate from each other; they will join me in heaven and you will be destroyed if you part from these two. If you remain behind, again, you will be destroyed.”
The Holy Prophet looked around him. He was looking for someone. Then he saw ‘Imam Ali (A.S.). He bent down and took his hand and pulled him up so that the whiteness under the arms of both showed and all of the people saw him and recognized him.
Here the voice of the Holy Prophet became louder and clearer. He said, “What person from among all people is the most worthy of the believers?”
They answered, “God and the Prophet know best.”
Then he said, “God is my Master and Leader and I am the master and leader of the believers and I am most worthy among them.” Then he added, “Whoever I am the master and leader of, ‘Imam Ali (A.S.) is his master and leader.” He repeated this three times and according to some Traditions, four times. Then he raised his head to the heavens and said, “God loves his friends, and hates those who hate him.
Befriend his friends and leave those who do not befriend him. Know that his is in the right and that he follows the right.”
Then he said, “All of those present, tell all of those who are absent.” The people were still gathered when Gabriel, the trustee of God’s message appeared and revealed verse 58 of surah 5 to the Holy Prophet.
Then the Holy Prophet said, “I praise God. I praise God because he has completed his message and his blessings have ended for me and His satisfaction with my message and the wilayat of ‘Imam Ali (A.S.) has been announced after me.”
A great commotion appeared among the people and then they congratulated ‘Imam Ali (A.S.) for the station he had been given. Abu Bakr, Umar, in the presence of the crowd said to ‘Imam Ali (A.S.), “Congratulations to you, O son of Abu TImam Ali (A.S.)b, you have become my leader and leader of all of the people, men and women who have faith.”
The above Tradition has been recorded in varying versions, some quite lengthy and some short, by many of the scholars of Islam in their books. This Tradition is greater than for one to deny or doubt that the Prophet said it. The scholar, Allamah Amini, in his famous book al-Ghadir mentions 110 people among the Companions and followers of the Prophet and 360 famous books on Islam in which it has been recorded and it has appeared in many of the books of the Sunni brothers on Traditions.
Even a large group of the scholars of Islam have written independently about this Tradition, including Allamah Amini who himself has written an excellent, independent book about the particularities of this Tradition. The names of 26 Islamic scholars have been included in a separate book.
A number of the people who have seen this Tradition as being something which cannot be denied, have tried to deny it in discussing the issue of imamate and cImam Ali (A.S.)phate and have said that the word mula’ (master) here means friend whereas if one notes the Tradition with care, the conditions under which it was recorded and the place where it was recorded, it is clear that the intention behind it was none other than imamate and wilayat in the sense of leadership of the people:
a. The verse on endeavoring to have Islam be better understood, which we have presented in the previous discussions, and before this, the situation in which it descended with the strong tone of recitation which appeared in it, well shows that the words are not about friendship and normal or average honesty because the was no place for such concern and all of this importance and emphasis was not necessary.
Also the verse of Ikmal ad-Din which was revealed after that shows that the above issue was extremely important like the issue of leadership and the successor to the Prophet which was relevant.
b. The method in which the Tradition was stated with all of the introductory remarks in the burning wilderness, with the extensive sermon, having the people swear to their beliefs and in a sensitive time and place are all proof of our claim.
c. The congratulations which the various groups of people gave to ‘Imam Ali (A.S.) and the poems that poets recited that day and on the following days, all are proof of this expression that the words are about the selection of Hazrat ‘Imam Ali (A.S.) to the position of imamate and wilayat and nothing else.
Think and Answer
1. Describe the story of Ghadir.
2. Narrate the Tradition of Ghadir with several proofs which have been mentioned about the Prophet in several famous books on Islam.
3. Why does the word mula in the Tradition of Ghadir refer to imamate and leadership and not friend?
4. What prayer did the Holy Prophet recite and what were the events of Ghadir concerning the rights of ‘Imam Ali (A.S.)?
5. Where are Ghadir and Jahfah?
The Tradition of Manzalah and the Tradition of Yawm Ad-Dar
Many of the great Shi’ite and Sunni commentators upon the Holy Qur’an say in commenting upon 7:142 that it refers to Moses, peace be upon him, leaving for 40 days to go to the place of the covenant and the selection of Aaron to succeed him, which have been recorded in the famous Tradition of manzalah.
The Tradition states when the Prophet was moving towards the battlefield of Tabuk (Tabuk was a place in the north of the Arabian peninsula which shared a border with the Eastern Roman Empire), he left ‘Imam Ali (A.S.) in his place in Medina.
They informed the Holy Prophet that the Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire had sent a great army to attack the Hijaz and Medina and Mecca so that they could kill the bud of the Islamic Revolution before its special human program and ideals of longing for the truth could be exported to its area.
‘Imam Ali (A.S.) said, “Do you leave me among the women and children, not allowing me to go to the battle of jihad and seek honor there?”
The Holy Prophet said, “Are you not satisfied to be to me as Aaron was to Moses except that there will be no Prophet after me?”
These words can be found in the most famous books on the Traditions as recorded by the Sunnis, that is, namely, Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim with the difference that in the former, all of the Tradition has been recorded and in the latter, all of the Tradition appears once and then in another place only the sentence, “Are you not satisfied to be with me as Aaron was to Moses except that there will be no Prophet after me?” appears by itself.
This has been recorded in many of the books of the sunnis, including the Sunan ibn Majah, Sunan Thirmidi, Musnad Ahmad and many others. The Companions who have recorded it are more than 20 people, among whom are Jabir ibn Abdallah Ansari, Abu Sa’d Khadani, Abdallah ibn Mas’ud and Mu’awiyah.
Abu Bakr Baghdad in the History of Baghdad records from ‘Umar ibn Khattab, the following, “He saw a man who was speaking in an unworthy manner to ‘Imam Ali (A.S.).
‘Umar said, ‘I think you are a hypocrite because I have heard that the Prophet said, “‘Imam Ali (A.S.) is in relation to me as Aaron was to Moses, other than that after me there will be no Prophet.”
It is notable that from the respected source of the Traditions, it can be seen that the Prophet of Islam did not only use this sentence on the occasion of the Battle of Tabuk but that he repeated it seven times on various occasions which shows its generImam Ali (A.S.)ty of meaning: On the day when the covenant of brotherhood (al-mawakhat awwal Mecca) was made among the brothers in Mecca, the Prophet chose ‘Imam Ali (A.S.) as his brother and repeated this same sentence.
On the second day of al-Mawakhat, when the day of brotherhood between the Emigrants and the Helpers was repeated, this was repeated and the Prophet once again repeated the Tradition of Manzalah.
On that day when the Holy Prophet ordered that the doors which opened from the homes onto the mosque should be closed and he only allowed ‘Imam Ali (A.S.)’s door to remain open, he repeated this same sentence.
Thus it was stated on the occasion of the battle of Tabuk and three other times, the documentation of which is found in the books of Sunnis scholars. There is, then, no room for doubt neither from the point of view of documentation nor from the point of view of the generImam Ali (A.S.)ty of the meaning.
The Content of the Tradition of Manzalah
If we study the above Tradition, and we put aside any pre-judgments, we can make use of this Tradition to show that all of the positions which Aaron had among the Bani Israel in respect to Moses, ‘Imam Ali (A.S.) had except as to the Prophet because no other conditions exist in the Tradition.
Thus, we can conclude that:
1. ‘Imam Ali (A.S.) was the choice of the ummah after the Prophet (as Aaron had such a position).
2. ‘Imam Ali (A.S.) was the minister and consultant or special assistant to the Prophet and a partner in his leadership because the Qur’an has proven this for Aaron (see 20:2932).
3. ‘Imam Ali (A.S.) was the successor to the Prophet and as long as he was present, no one else could take this position, as Aaron had this in relation to Moses.
The Tradition of Yawm Ad-Dar
According to that which has appeared in Islamic history, the Prophet in 3 AH was assigned to make open his invitation which he had kept secret until then. As the Holy Qur’an says: “And admonish your nearest kinsmen.” (26:214)
The Holy Prophet called his close family to the home of his uncle, Abu TImam Ali (A.S.)b. After they had eaten, he said, “O sons of Abdul MuttImam Ali (A.S.)b, I swear that I know no one among the Arabs who has brought anything better than what I have brought. I have brought the goodness of this world and the next and God has ordered me to invite you to these precepts and I will befriend one of you to be my brother and my successor.”
No one showed any interest in his proposal, other than ‘Imam Ali (A.S.), peace be upon him, who was the youngest among them. He arose and said, O Prophet of God, I am your helper upon this way.” The Prophet put his arm around his neck and said, “This brother is my inheritor and my successor among you. Listen to his words and obey his orders.”
But the lost tribe did not accept and turned to magic.
The above famous Tradition is called Yawm ad-Dar (the day of the invitation in the home). It is clear proof that many of the Sunnis scholars like ibn Abi Jarir, ibn Abi Hatam ibn Mardawiyah, Abu Na’im, Biliaqi, ThImam Ali (A.S.)bi,Tabari, ibn Athir, Abu al-Fada and others have recorded it (for further information see al-Marajiat, p. 130 and Kitab al-Haqaqah al-Haqq, vol. 4, p. 62).
Whenever we study this Tradition, without any prejudgments, the truth of ‘Imam Ali (A.S.)’s cImam Ali (A.S.)phate and wilayat becomes clearer to us because it refers directly to cImam Ali (A.S.)phate and leadership.
Think and Answer
1. What is the Tradition of Manzalah? How many People have confirmed it?
2. What was the content of the Tradition of Manzalah and what position did it prove for ‘Imam Ali (A.S.)?
3. Aaron had what position in relation to Moses, according to the Holy Qur’an?
4. Which scholars have recorded the Tradition of Manzalah?
5. What does the Tradition of Yawm ad-Dar and its content and documentation show?
The Tradition of Thaqalayn and Noah’s Ark
The Documentation of the Tradition of Thaqalayn
One of the famous Traditions among the ‘ulama of the Sunnis and Shi’ites is the Tradition of Thaqalayn.
A large group of the Companions, without any break, recorded this Tradition from the Prophet and some of the great ‘ulama say that 30 of the Companions have mentioned it (Sirah Halabi, vol. 33, p. 308)
A large group of the recorders have mentioned this in their books and there can be no doubt as to this Tradition.
The great scholar, Sayyid Hashim Bahrani, in his book, Ghayat al-Maram, mentions this Tradition with 39 documentations from the Sunni scholars and 80 documentations from the Shi’ite ‘ulama. Mir Hamad Husayn Hindi, another great scholar who studied this issue further, mentioned 200 Sunnis who have recorded this Tradition and he has compiled them in 6 volumes.
Among the individuals of the famous Companions who have recorded this are Abu Sa’id Khudari, Abu Dharr Ghifari, Zayd ibn Arqam, Zayd ibn Thabit, Abu Rafa’, Jabir ibn Matam, Huzaifah, Damarah Islami, Jabir ibn Abdallah Ansari and Umm SImam Ali (A.S.)mah.
The basic Tradition, according to Abu Dharr Ghifari, is that once when he was in the Ka’bah, he turned to the people and said that I heard that the Holy Prophet had said “I leave two things of value among you: the Qur’an and my family. These two will never separate from each other until they enter unto me in the Fountain of Abundance (kawthar) in Paradise. Thus, take care to follow what I have recommended” (Recorded from Jama’ Tarmjghi as from Niyabi’al-mawadah, p. 37)
This Tradition is found in the most reliable of the Sunni sources such as Sahih Tarmidhi Nisai Musnad Ahmad Kanz al-Amal and mustadrak Hakirn, etc.
In many of the books, this Tradition has been called Thaqalayn (two valuable things) and in some it is called khImam Ali (A.S.)fitin or two successors which do not differ in meaning.
It is interesting to note that in the various Traditions of Islam, this verse has been used by the prophet for the people on different occasions.
In the Tradition of Jabir ibn Abdallah Ansari, we read that he said this on the hajj on the day of Arafah.
It is recorded in a Tradition of Abdallah ibn Khattab that in Juhfah (an area between Mecca and Medina where some of the pilgrims enter the state of ihram).
It is recorded in a Tradition of Umm SImam Ali (A.S.)mah where this is said at Ghadir Khum.
It is recorded in a part of the Tradition during the last days of his blessed life, while he was on his death bed.
It is recorded in a Tradition he said this upon the pulpit in Medina (al-Marajat, p. 42)
Even famous Sunni scholars mentioned it ibn Hajar in his book, Sawaiq al-Mahraqah says from the Holy Prophet, “The Holy Prophet of Islam, after saying this Tradition, took ‘Imam Ali (A.S.)’s hand and pulled him up and said, ‘It is ‘Imam Ali (A.S.) and the Qur’an and the Qur’an and ‘Imam Ali (A.S.). They will not separate from each other until they enter unto me in the Fountain of Abundance” (al-Sawa’jn al-Mahraqah, p.75)
In this way, it becomes clear that the Prophet has expressed this as a principle many times and emphasized this and that he made use of many opportunities to express it so that it would never be forgotten.
The Content of the Tradition of Thaqalayn
Here, several points should be noted:
1. The introduction to the Qur’an and his family as ‘two cImam Ali (A.S.)phs’ or ‘two valuable things’ is clear proof that Muslims must never turn away from these two, especially with the condition in many Traditions where it states that, “If these two are released or freed from each other, you will be lost.”
2. Placing Qur’an beside his family and his family beside Qur’an is proof that as the Holy Qur’an will never be altered and that it will be preserved, the family of the Holy Prophet had the position of infallibility.
3. In some of these Traditions, it has been stated that the Prophet said, “On the Day of Resurrection, I will question you about how you behaved towards these two great souvenirs, to see how you have acted towards them.
4. No matter how we interpret the Ahlul Bayt, ‘Imam Ali (A.S.) is the best confirmation. According to the repeated Traditions, he will never be separated from the Holy Qur’an nor Qur’an from him.
In addition to this, in the repeated Traditions, we read that when the verse was revealed about mubahilah, the Holy Prophet called ‘Imam Ali (A.S.), Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn, peace be upon them, and said, ‘This is my Ahlul Bayt.’ (Mash kat al -Masbaih, p. 568, printed in Delhi and Riyadh al-Nafarah, Vol. 2, p. 248, recorded from Muslim and Tarmidhi).
5. Even though it is not clear to us who are enclosed in this world what will be questioned of us, but on the Day of Judgment, we know from the Traditions, that the meaning of the Fountain of Abundance which is a special stream in Paradise with many special privileges is for the real believers, the prophets and the Ahlul Bayt and the followers of that school.
From what has been said, it becomes clear that the leadership of the ummah of Muslims after the Prophet is through ‘Imam Ali (A.S.) and after him, also, through the Imams from this family.
The Tradition of Noah’s Ark
An interesting statement is recorded from the Holy Prophet, in both Sunni and Shi’ite books on Traditions, which is the famous Tradition of Noah’s ark.
In this Tradition, Abu Dharr says, “The Prophet said, ‘My family is like Noah’s ark. Whoever uses it will be saved and whoever separates from it will drown.” (Mustadrak Halcam, vol.3, p. 151).
This Tradition, which is also among the famous Traditions and mentions the necessity for the people to follow ‘Imam Ali (A.S.) and the family of the Prophet after his death, has been emphasized.
Noting that the ark of Noah is a place of refuge and a means of salvation for when the great storm comes, this truth becomes clear that the Islamic ummah will be saved in the storm which came after the death of the Prophet through the Ahlul Bayt.
Think and Answer
1. What does the Tradition of Thaqalayn say and what benefits does it prove for the Ahlul Bayt?
2. Who recorded the Tradition of Thaqalayn?
3. What does Thaqalayn mean? And can other interpretations be given about its meaning?
4 In what situation did the Prophet say it?
5. Describe the Tradition of Noah’s Ark from the point of view of its content and documentation.