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Hadith of the Twelve Successors

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Title: Hadith of the Twelve Successors  
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Subject: Shia Islam, The Twelve Imams, Succession to Muhammad, Imamate (Twelver doctrine), Hadith of the two weighty things
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Hadith of the Twelve Successors

The Hadith of the Twelve Successors (Arabic: حديث الاثني عشر خليفةtranslit.: Hadith Al-Ithna Ashar Khalifah) is a Sahih Hadith in Islam, in which the Islamic prophet Muhammad said on several occasions, referenced in both Sunni and Shiah sources from at least 37 chains of narrators in over 100 hadiths, that there will only be twelve Caliphs/Khalifah (successors) to him, all of whom are from Quraysh, that there will be impostor caliphs to guard against, and that after the last of the twelve caliphs, the earth will be swallowed (i.e. the Day of Judgement will occur).


  • Hadith 1
  • List of Narrations 2
  • List of Caliphs 3
    • Sunnis 3.1
      • 5 Rashidun Caliphs (632–661) 3.1.1
      • 33 Umayyad Caliphs (661–750/1031) 3.1.2
        • 14 Caliphs of Damascus (661–750)
        • 8 Emirs of Córdoba (756–929)
        • 11 Caliphs of Córdoba (929–1031)
      • Ibn al-Zubayr's Caliphate (684–692) 3.1.3
      • 54 Abbasid Caliphs (750–1258/1517) 3.1.4
        • 37 Caliphs of Baghdad (750–1258)
        • 17 Caliphs of Cairo (1261–1517)
      • 13 Al-Mohad Caliphs (1145–1269) 3.1.5
      • 29 Ottoman Caliphs (1453–1924) 3.1.6
      • Sharifian Caliphate (1924) 3.1.7
    • Shiah Imams/Caliphs 3.2
      • 5 Zaydi Imams/Caliphs 3.2.1
      • 6 Tawussi Imams/Caliphs 3.2.2
      • 7 Waqhifi Imams/Caliphs 3.2.3
      • 7 Fathi Imams/Caliphs 3.2.4
      • 49 Ismaili Imams/Caliphs 3.2.5
        • Seveners
        • Fatimid
          • 16 Druze Imams/Caliphs
          • 20 Mustaali Imams/Caliphs
          • 24 Hafizi Imams/Caliphs
          • 21 Tayyibi Imams/Caliphs
          • 49 Nizari Imams/Caliphs
      • 12 Ithna-Ashari Imams/Caliphs 3.2.6
  • Secular View 4
  • Shia view 5
  • Sunni Views 6
  • Sufi view 7
  • Links to the Bible 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


A version of the hadith with most details mentioned in it:

The Prophet Muhammad said:
"Islam shall neither pass away nor be deviated while there are my 12 Caliphs/Khalifahs (successors) from my nation in it, all of them will be from Quraysh. When the last of them passes away, the Hour will be established and the earth will be destroyed (swallowed) with all its inhabitants."

List of Narrations

Reports of Muhammad talking about the Twelve Successors from Sunni and Shia texts:

  • The Messenger of Allah said: This affair (Islam) shall neither pass nor will come to an end while my twelve caliphs pass in it. All of them will be from Quraysh.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8]
  • The Messenger of Allah said: This religion shall survive till the Hour is established, and there are twelve caliphs (ruling) upon you. All of them will be from Quraysh.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16]
  • The Messenger of Allah said: Surely Islam will always remain mighty while there are my twelve caliphs in it. All of them will be of the Quraysh.[17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25]
  • The Messenger of Allah said: This affair (Islam) shall always remain upright till there are twelve chiefs. All of them will be from Quraysh.[26][27][28][29]
  • The Prophet said, "There will be twelve Muslim rulers (who will lead the Islamic world)." He then said a sentence which I did not hear. My father said, "All of them (those rulers) will be from Quraysh."[30]
  • I joined the company of the Holy Prophet with my father and I heard him say: This Caliphate will not end until there have been twelve Caliphs among them. The narrator said: Then he (the Prophet) said something that I could not follow. I said to my father: What did he say? He said: He has said: All of them will be from the Quraysh.[31]
  • I heard the Messenger of Allah say: The affairs of the people will continue to be conducted (well) as long as they are governed by twelve men. Then the Holy Prophet said words which were obscure to me. I asked my father: What did the Messenger of Allah say? He said: All of the (twelve men) will be from the Quraysh.[32]
  • I heard the Messenger of Allah say: Islam will continue to be triumphant until there have been twelve Caliphs. All of them (the twelve Caliphs) will be from the Quraysh.[33]
  • The Holy Prophet said: This order will continue to be dominant until there have been twelve Caliphs. The narrator says: Then he said something which I could not understand, and I said to my father: What did he say? My father told me that he said that all of them (Caliphs) would be from the Quraysh.[34]
  • It has been reported on the authority of Jabir b. Samura who said: I went with my father to the Messenger of Allah and I heard him say: This religion would continue to remain powerful and dominant until there have been twelve Caliphs. Then he added something which I couldn't catch on account of the noise of the people. I asked my father: What did he say? My father said: He has said that all of them will be from the Quraysh.[35]
  • It has been narrated on the authority of Amir b. Sa'd b. Abu Waqqas who said: I wrote (a letter) to Jabir b. Samura and sent it to him through my servant Nafi', asking him to inform me of something he had heard from the Messenger of Allah. He wrote to me (in reply): I heard the Messenger of Allah say on Friday evening, the day on which al-Aslami was stoned to death (for committing adultery): The Islamic religion will continue until the Hour has been established, or you have been ruled over by twelve Caliphs, all of them being from the Quraysh. also heard him say: A small force of the Muslims will capture the white palace, the police of the Persian Emperor or his descendants. I also heard him say: Before the Day of Judgment there will appear (a number of) impostors. You are to guard against them. I also heard him say: When Allah grants wealth to any one of you, he should first spend it on himself and his family (and then give it in charity to the poor). I heard him (also) say: I will be your forerunner at the Cistern (expecting your arrival).[36]
  • The Messenger of Allah said: There will be twelve caliphs for this nation.[37]
  • The Messenger of Allah said: Surely this religion will always overcome its opponents and no enemy or deserter can ever harm it while there are twelve caliphs from my nation in it. All of them will be from Quraysh.[38]
  • Masrooq rates that someone asked Abdullah Ibn Masood, "O Abaa Abd al-Rahmaan, did you ask the Messenger of Allah how many caliphs will rule this nation?" Abdullah Ibn Masood replied, "Yes, we did ask the Messenger of Allah and he replied, "Twelve, like the number of chiefs (nuqabaa) of Bani Israel""[39]
  • The Prophet said: "This religion remains standing until there are twelve vicegerents over you, all of them agreeable to the nation, all of them from Quraysh."[40]
  • The Prophet said: "There will be after me twelve Amirs, all of them from Quraysh."[41]
  • The Prophet said: There will be twelve caliphs after me, all of them will be from Quraysh.[42][43][44][45][46][47][48][49][50][51][52][53][54][55][56][57]
  • The Messenger of Allah said: This affair (Islam) shall always remain mighty impregnable (against evil) and victorious against all its opponents while it is ruled by twelve, all of them will be from Quraysh.[58][59][60][61][62]
  • The Messenger of Allah said: This affair shall always remain mighty and victorious over its opponents while there are twelve. All of them will be from Quraysh.[63]
  • The Messenger of Allah said: This affair (Islam) shall always remain righteous while there are twelve chiefs. All of them will be from Quraysh.[64][65]
  • The Prophet said: This affair shall always remain closely united till there are twelve caliphs in it all of them will be from Quraysh.[66]
  • The Prophet said: This affair (Islam) will always survive while there are twelve chiefs in it. All of them will be from Quraysh.[67][68][69][70][71]
  • The Messenger of Allah said: There will be twelve strong supports for this nation. Whoever forsakes them will not harm them. All of them will be from Quraysh.[72][73][74]
  • The Messenger of Allah said: This affair (Islam) shall always overcome the one who opposes it. No enemy or opponent will harm it while there will be twelve caliphs from Quraysh.[75][76][77]
  • The Messenger of Allah said: Surely this affair (Islam) shall always remain dominant. No opponent can harm it while there are twelve chiefs. All of them will be from Quraysh.[78]
  • The Messenger of Allah said: This affair of this nation (Islam) shall always be dominant while there are twelve chiefs or caliphs. They are all from Quraysh.[79][80][81]
  • The Messenger of Allah said: The affair of this nation shall always remain straight and dominant over its enemy while there are twelve caliphs amongst them. All of them will be from the Quraysh.[82][83][84][85]
  • The Messenger of Allah said: There will be twelve strong people from the Quraysh. The one who bears enmity against them, his enemy, will not harm them.[86][87]
  • The Messenger of Allah said: Twelve (caliphs) will follow this affair (Islam). All of them will be from Quraysh and their likes will not be seen.[88]
  • Abdullah ibn Masood on being asked if he asked the Messenger about how many caliphs will rule this nation. He replied in affirmative and said that the Messenger replied, "Twelve, like the number of chiefs (nuqabaa) of Bani Israel."[89][90][91][92][93][94][95][96][97][98][99][100][101]
  • The Messenger of Allah said: Your caliphs will be twelve, equal to the number of chiefs of Bani Israel.[102][103][104]
  • The Prophet said: Know that the affair of my nation shall always be righteous while there are twelve caliphs in it. All of them will be from the Quraysh.[105][106][107][108][109][110]
  • The Prophet said: This religion shall always be upright while there are twelve from Quraysh. When they are no more, the earth will be destroyed (swallowed) with all its inhabitants.[111][112][113][114][115][116][117]
  • The Prophet who said, “I am the chief of the Prophets and Ali ibn Abi Talib is the chief of successors, and after me my successors shall be twelve, the first of them being Ali ibn Abi Talib and the last of them being Al-Mahdi.” Al-Juwayni also narrates from Ibn ‘Abbas from the Prophet : “Certainly my Caliphs and my legatees and the Proofs of Allah upon his creatures after me are twelve. The first of them is my brother and the last of them is my (grand) son.” He was asked: “O Messenger of Allah, who is your brother?” He said, “Ali ibn Abi Talib” Then they asked, “And who is your son?” The Holy Prophet replied “Al-Mahdi, the one who will fill the earth with justice and equity like it would be brimming with injustice and tyranny. And by the One Who has raised me as a warner and a give of good tidings, even if a day remains for the life of this world, the Almighty Allah will prolong this day to an extent till he sends my son Mahdi, then he will make Ruhullah ‘Isa ibn Maryam to descend and pray behind him (Imam Al-Mahdi). And the earth will be illuminated by his radiance. And his power will reach to the east and the west.” Al-Juwayni also narrates that the Messenger of Allah informed: “I and Ali and Hassan and Hussain and nine of the descendants of Hussain are the purified ones and the inerrant.”[118]
  • A Jewish man named Na'thal came to the Prophet and said, "O' Muhammad, I want to ask you about issues that my heart have been stumbling upon for a long time, and if you give me an answer I will accept Islam", so the Prophet said, "Ask O' Abu Umara", and so the Jewish man said, "O' Muhammad, tell me of your Lord" and so the Prophet answered him, and then the Jewish man asked, "tell me, who is your successor? There has never been a Prophet that has never had a successor, and our Prophet Musa ibn Imran made Jusha' ibn Nun his successor", and so the Prophet said, "My successor is Ali ibn abi Talib, and after him my two sons al Hassan and al Hussain, and then there will be 9 successors from the line of Hussain", so the Jewish man said "O' Muhammad, tell me their names", the Prophet replied "When Hussain dies, then it is his son Ali, and then if Ali dies then it is his son Muhammad, then if Muhammad dies it is his son Ja'far, then if Ja'far dies it is his son Musa, then if Musa dies it is his son Ali, then if Ali dies it is his son Muhammad, then if Muhammad dies then it is his son Ali, if Ali dies then it is his son Hassan, and if he dies it is Muhammad al Mahdi, and therefore they are twelve", and then the Jewish man said, "I bear witness that there is no God but Allah, and that Muhammad is his messenger, and that these are your successors. In our ancient books, Musa ibn Imran himself said that there would be a man who would come named Muhammad or Ahmed, and that his successors are twelve"[119]

List of Caliphs

There are 73 different sects that have come out of Islam. These 73 are usually divided under two biggest umbrella categories - being Shi'a (those who continued following Ali ibn Abi Talib after the passing away of Muhammad) and Sunni (followers of Abu Bakr ibn Qhuhafah who declared their new Caliph). Below is a list of Caliphs/Imams from different sects.


Note: Many of the later Caliphs were long after the death of Muhammad, and many were not from Quraysh.

5 Rashidun Caliphs (632–661)

33 Umayyad Caliphs (661–750/1031)

14 Caliphs of Damascus (661–750)
8 Emirs of Córdoba (756–929)
11 Caliphs of Córdoba (929–1031)

(Not universally accepted; actual authority confined to Spain and parts of Maghreb)[120][121]

Ibn al-Zubayr's Caliphate (684–692)

Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr (684-692)[122]

54 Abbasid Caliphs (750–1258/1517)

37 Caliphs of Baghdad (750–1258)

(Not accepted by the Muslim dominions in the Iberian peninsula and parts of North Africa).[123][124]

17 Caliphs of Cairo (1261–1517)

(The Cairo Abbasids were largely ceremonial Caliphs under the patronage of the Mamluk Sultanate that existed after the takeover of the Ayyubid dynasty)[125][126]

13 Al-Mohad Caliphs (1145–1269)

(Not widely accepted, actual dominions were parts of North Africa and Iberia)[127][128]

29 Ottoman Caliphs (1453–1924)

From 1908 onwards the Ottoman Sultan was considered the equivalent of a constitutional monarch without executive powers, with the General Assembly consisting of chosen representatives.

(These can be considered Ottoman Caliphs 30–32)

Sharifian Caliphate (1924)

Shiah Imams/Caliphs

Note: The word 'Imam' means Islamic guide, and is also used for Islamic Prophets and Holy books, such as the Torah and Injil. It is used refer to the vicegerents/Muslim rulers whom Allah has divinely appointed.

5 Zaydi Imams/Caliphs

6 Tawussi Imams/Caliphs

7 Waqhifi Imams/Caliphs

7 Fathi Imams/Caliphs

49 Ismaili Imams/Caliphs


The group that believed Muhammad ibn Ismail to be the Mahdi who had withdrawn into occultation and would return again to earth some day, came to be known as the Seveners. This term is often incorrectly applied to the "Ismailis" who had separated from the Seveners and gone further on with the succession to the Imamat.

One group of the Seveners propagated their faith from their bases in Syria through Daʿiyyūn ("Callers to Islam"). In 899, the fourth Da'i announced that he himself was the "Imam of the Time" being also the fourth direct descendant of Muhammad ibn Ismail in the very same dynasty. This caused a split between his Sevener followers accepting his claim and those Seveners disputing his claim and clinging to Muhammad ibn Ismail as the Imam in occultation. This Imam and Fourth Da'i, Ubayd Allah al-Mahdi Billah, eventually became the First Fatimid Caliph. This separated group from the Seveners now became known as the Fatimids of the Maghreb and Egypt. This was the reason why the Qarmatians, the original Seveners, were the Fatimid's most irreconcilable opponents.


After his death, the succession was disputed. The regent Malik al-Afdal placed Mustansir's younger son Al-Musta'li on the throne. This was contested by the elder son an-Nizar, who however was defeated and died in prison. This dispute resulted in the split into two branches, lasting to this day, the Nizari and the Mustaʿli.

16 Druze Imams/Caliphs
The Druze believe in the divinity of all Imams and split off after Al-Hakim bi-Amrillah's disappearance, believed by them to be the occultation of the Mahdi. Thus leaving them with 16 Imams/Caliphs.
20 Mustaali Imams/Caliphs

The Mustaali recognize the following as Imams/Caliphs:

Hafizi Muslims claim that Amir died without an heir and was succeeded as Caliph by his cousin Al-Hafiz. The Mustaʿli split into the Hafizi, who accepted him and his successors as Imam, and the Tayyibi, who believed that Amir's purported son At-Tayyib was the rightful Imam and had gone into occultation:

24 Hafizi Imams/Caliphs

The Hafizi recognize the following as Imams/Caliphs:

  • Al-Hafiz(11th Fatimid Caliph, died 1149)
  • Al-Zafir (son of Al-Hafiz, 12th Fatimid Caliph, died 1154.)
  • Al-Faiz (son of Al-Zafir, 13th Fatimid Caliph, died 1160.)
  • Al-Adid (son of Al-Zafir, 14th Fatimid Caliph, died 1171.)

The Fatimid dynasty ended with Al-Adid's death.

21 Tayyibi Imams/Caliphs

The Tayyibi recognize the following as Imams/Caliphs:

The Tayyibi branch continues to this day, headed by a Da'i al-Mutlaq as vice-regent in the imam's occultation. The Tayibbi have broken into several branches over disputes as to which Da'i is the true vice-regent. The largest branch are the Dawoodi Bohra, and there are also the Sulaimani Bohra and Alavi Bohra.

49 Nizari Imams/Caliphs

The Nizari recognize the following as Imams/Caliphs:

12 Ithna-Ashari Imams/Caliphs

The only place 12 Caliphs/Successors appear from all groups that call themselves Muslims and are all Qurayshi

Secular View

The Hadith of the Twelve Successors is a famous tradition attributed to

  • Ahl-al-Bayt Its Meaning and Origin

External links

  1. ^ Sahih al-Muslim, Kitab al-Imaarah
  2. ^ Al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, Vol. 2, pg 285, Tr. No. 2068 and 2069
  3. ^ Kefaayah al-Asar, pg 51, Chap 6, Tr. No. 3
  4. ^ Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 36
  5. ^ Al-Taraaef, pg 168-172
  6. ^ Al-Khesaal, pg 469-473. Tr. No 12-30
  7. ^ Al-Umdah by Ibn Bitreeq
  8. ^ E'laam al-Waraa by Tabarsi
  9. ^ Sahih al-Muslim, Kitab al-Imaarah
  10. ^ Mukhtasar al-sahih al-Muslim by Tirmidhi, Tr. No. 1196
  11. ^ Musnad Ahmad, Vol. 5, pg 89
  12. ^ Musnad Abi Ya'laa, Vol. 13, pg 456, Tr. No. 23(7463)
  13. ^ al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, Vol. 2, pg 218. Tr. No. 1809 and Vol. 2, pg 216. Tr. No. 1801
  14. ^ Kanz al-Ummaal Vol. 12, pg 32, Tr. No. 33855
  15. ^ al-Ghaibah by No'mani, pg 120, part 6, Tr No. 9 and pg 119, Chap 6, Tr. no. 6
  16. ^ Bihar Al-Anwar Vol. 36, pg 281, Chap 41, Tr. No. 102
  17. ^ Musnad Tayalesi, Vol. 3, pg 105 Tr. No 767 and Vol. 6, pg 180 Tr. No 1278, published at Hyderabad, India in 1321 A.H
  18. ^ Al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, Vol. 2, pg 258, Tr. No. 1964
  19. ^ Al-Fetan, Vol. 1, pg 39, Chap 7, Tr. No. 2
  20. ^ Al-Malaahem wa al-Fetan pg 32, chap 29
  21. ^ Musnad Ahmad, Vol. 5, pg 93
  22. ^ Sunan Abi Dawood, Kitab al-Mahdi
  23. ^ Taarikh Baghdad, Vol. 12, pg 126, No. 516
  24. ^ Al-Bidaaya wa al-Nihaayah, Vol. 1, pg 18
  25. ^ Al-Mojam Al-Kabeer, Vol. 2, pg 214, Tr. No. 1792 and 1793
  26. ^ Musnad Ahmad, Vol. 5, pg 86
  27. ^ al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, Vol. 2, pg 218, Tr. No. 1808
  28. ^ Lawaame' al-Uqool, Vol. 5, pg 150
  29. ^ al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, Vol. 2, pg 215, Tr. No. 1798
  30. ^ Sahih Bukhari, Book 89, Hadith #329
  31. ^ Sahih Muslim, Book 20 Hadith #4477
  32. ^ Sahih Muslim, Book 20 Hadith #4478
  33. ^ Sahih Muslim, Sahih Muslim, Book 20 Hadith #4480
  34. ^ Sahih Muslim, Book #020 Hadith #4481
  35. ^ Sahih Muslim, Book #020 Hadith #4482
  36. ^ Sahih Muslim, Book #020, Hadith #4483
  37. ^ Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol. 5 Pg. 106
  38. ^ Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol. 5 Pg. 87
  39. ^ Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol. 1 Pg. 398
  40. ^ Sunan Abu Dawoud, Book 36 Number 4266
  41. ^ Sunan al-Tirmidhi (Arabic) Chapter of Fitan, 2:45 (India) 4:501 Tradition #2225 (Egypt) Hadith #2149 (numbering of al-'Alamiyyah)
  42. ^ Musnad Ahmad, Vol. 5, pg 92
  43. ^ Kanz al-Ummaal, Vol. 12, pg 33, Tr. no 33860 narrating from Tabraani and Tr. No. 33803, narrating from Tirmidhi
  44. ^ Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Kitab al-Fetan, Chap 46, Tr. No. 2223
  45. ^ Tarikh Baghdad Vol. 14, pg 353, No. 7673
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  47. ^ Al-Ghaibah of No'mani, pg 123 chap 6, Tr. No 14, and pg 120, Chap 6, Tr. No. 8
  48. ^ Kifaayaa al-Asar, pg 50, Chap 6, Tr. No. 2
  49. ^ Nihaayah al-bidaayah wa al-Nihaayah Vol. 1, pg 17
  50. ^ Yanaabi al-Mawaddah, Chap 77, pg 445
  51. ^ Al-Mawaddah al-Qurbah, pg 215
  52. ^ Kashf al-Yaqeen, chap 2, pg 71
  53. ^ Al-Ghaibah by No'maani pg 120, Chap 6, Tr. No. 8
  54. ^ Kifaayah al-Asar, pg 27, Chap 2, Tr. No 5 and pg 76, Chap 8, Tr. no. 6 and pg 77, Chap 8, Tr. No. 7 and pg 78, Chap 8, Tr. No. 9
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  57. ^ Kamaal al-Deen, Vol. 1, pg 279, Chap 24, Tr. No. 26
  58. ^ Musnad Ahmad, Vol. 5, pg 93, 96, 98
  59. ^ Al-Ghaibah by No'maani, pg 116, chap 6, Tr. No. 17
  60. ^ Sahih Muslim, Kitaab al-Imaarah
  61. ^ Kanz al-Ummaal, Vol. 12, pg 32, Tr. No. 33850
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  63. ^ Tarikh al-Khulafaa, The chapter of the duration of the Caliphs, pg 7
  64. ^ Musnad Ahmad, Vol. 5, pg 97
  65. ^ al-Malaahem by Ibn al-Munaadi, pg 113
  66. ^ Musnad Ahmad, Vol. 5, pg 107
  67. ^ Musnad Ahmad, Vol. 5, pg. 97
  68. ^ Sahih al-Muslim, Kitab al-Imaarah
  69. ^ Al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, Vol. 2, pg 228, Tr. No. 1849, and Tr. No. 1850 and Tr. No. 1851
  70. ^ al-Malaahim by ibn Munaadi, pg 112
  71. ^ Firdaus al-Akhbaar, Vol. 5, pg 7705
  72. ^ al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, Vol. 2, pg 214. Tr. No. 1794
  73. ^ al-mo'jam al-Awsat, Vol. 3, pg 437, Tr. No. 2943
  74. ^ Kanz al-Ummaal Vol. 12, pg 33, Tr. No. 33858
  75. ^ al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, Vol. 2, pg 215. Tr. No. 1796
  76. ^ Kanz al-Ummaal Vol. 12, pg 33, Tr. No. 33852
  77. ^ Lawaame al-Uqool, Vol. 5, pg 151
  78. ^ al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, Vol. 2 Pg. 238. No. 1883
  79. ^ al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, Vol. 2, pg 215. Tr. No. 1797 and Vol. 2, pg 226, Tr. No. 1841
  80. ^ Kanz al-Ummaal Vol. 12, pg 33, Tr. No. 33853
  81. ^ Al-Mustadrak alaa al-Sahihain, Kitaab-o-Ma'refat al-Sahaabaa, Vol. 3, pg 317-617
  82. ^ al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, Vol. 2, pg 282. Tr. No. 2059
  83. ^ Kanz al-Ummaal Vol. 12, pg 32, Tr. No. 33848
  84. ^ al-Bidaaya wa al-Nihaaya, Vol. 1, pg 17
  85. ^ al-Ghaibah of No'maani, pg 119, Chap 6, Tr No. 7
  86. ^ al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, Vol. 2, pg 286. Tr. No. 2073
  87. ^ Majmaa az-Zawaaed, Vol. 5, pg 191, Chapter, 'The Caliphs are Twelve'. The author of Muntakhab al Asar says, "Tabraani in his al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, Vol. 2, has brought this tradition of Jaabir from thirty-seven chain of narrators. It is clear that Jaabir has heard the tradition concerning the twelve caliphs on more than one occasion from the Messenger of Allah like the eve of the stoning of Al-Aslami, in the last pilgrimage at Arafaah, when he went to the Prophet along with his father and when he heard the Prophet delivering a sermon in the mosque.
  88. ^ Kamaal al-Deen, Vol. 1, pg 272, Chap 24, Tr. No 21
  89. ^ Musnad Ahmad, Vol. 1, pg 398
  90. ^ Kanz al-Ummaal, Vol. 12, pg 33, Tr. no. 33857
  91. ^ Muntakhab Kanz al-Ummaal, Vol. 5, pg 312
  92. ^ Taarikh al-Khulafaa, pg 7
  93. ^ Majma al-Zawaaed, Vol. 5, pg 190 (The Chapter of Twelve)
  94. ^ Al-Mataaleb al-Aaliyah, Vol. 2, pg 196. Tr. No. 2040-2041
  95. ^ Al-Durr al-Manthoor by Jalaaluddin al-Suyuti under the Quranic verse, "And We raised amongst them twelve chiefs" (Surah Maaedah 5:12)
  96. ^ Mutashaabehaat al-Quran Vol. 2, pg 53
  97. ^ Yanaabi al-Mawaddah, pg 258
  98. ^ Mustadrak al-Sahihain, Vol. 4, pg 501
  99. ^ Musnad Abi Ya'laa, Vol. 8, pg 444, Tr. no 65 (5031), Vol. 9, pg 222, Tr. no 356 (5322)
  100. ^ Mutazab al-Asar pg 3, Tr. No. 1
  101. ^ Isbaat al-Hudaat (by Shaikh Hurr al-Aameli), Vol. 3, pg 196
  102. ^ Al-Ghaibah of No'maani, pg 118, Tr. No 5
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  131. ^ Encyclopedia of Imam Ali, by Mohammad Reyshahri. Farsi link to the book
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  147. ^
  148. ^
  149. ^
  150. ^ Muhammad in the Bible
  151. ^ Tarikh ibn Kathir, volume 6, p. 249-250
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  153. ^ Twelve Successors
  154. ^ Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal v1 p398 and p406; Mustadrak al-Hakim, 4:501; Al-Dhahabi, Talkhis al-Mustadrak 4:501. I; Ibn Hajar Asqalani, Fath al-Bari 16:339; #Ali ibn Abu Bakr al-Haythami, Majma al-Zawa'id 5:190; Ibn Hajar Al-Haythami, Al-Sawa'iq al-Muhriqa, vol 12; Suyuti, Tarikh al-Khulafa, Vol 10; Jami' al-Saghir 1:75; Kanz al-Ummal, 13:27
  155. ^ Tarikh ibn Kathir, 6:248; Kanz al-Ummal, 13:27; Al-Haskani, Shawahid al-Tanzil, 1:455, Tradition No. 626.


See also

"There will be Caliphs after me, whose number is like those of the companions of Musa."[155]

A few sources also draw a link to Moses:

"Twelve Caliphs, (like) the number of the Chiefs of Bani Israel." [154]

Several sources also link the Hadith of the Twelve Successors to Twelve tribes of Israel with the words

"We are the remnant of progeny. And that was the prayer of Ibrahim (a.s.) regarding us." [153]

A quote from the Shia Imam Muhammad al-Baqir refers to Abraham's prayer narrated above:

Since these successors, whether Caliph or Imam, originate from the tribe of the Quraish, from which Muhammad sprang, they are considered descendants of Ishmael.

We see the following prophecy in the Taurat which is in the hands of the Jews and the Christians: "Indeed Allah, the Exalted, has given Ibrahim (a.s.) the glad tidings of Isma'il, and he has bestowed a favour and multiplied it and placed in his progeny twelve mighty (personalities)." ...
Ibn Taymiyya said: "And these are the same, regarding whom the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) has given the glad tidings in the tradition of Jabir ibn Samurah and stated their number; indeed this is with regard to the Imams and the Hour will not come till they last."[152]

Muslims identify the "twelve rulers" mentioned in Genesis with the Twelve Successors of the Hadith. For instance, the 14th century Sunni scholar Ibn Kathir stated:[151]

The Shi'a draw a further distinction, arguing that God is not in interested in secular power and refers to the religious authority of prophets or Imams when using the words "rulers" or "kings". According to this argument, the Biblical authors refer to kings or others with secular power when using the same words. Proponents of this view identify the words "great nation" with the Muslim community and not with kingdom. Note however that Twelver Shias consider the Imams not only as religious leaders but also as princes and the rulers.[150]

Some Muslims reject this identification, identifying Gen. 25:17-20 as a direct quotation of God and Gen. 25:13-16 as the fallible narration of a human author. Further, they argue that 25:16 contains the specifier "tribal" not contained in 17:20, "twelve rulers".

These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. These were the sons of Ishmael, and these are the names of the twelve tribal rulers according to their settlements and camps. Genesis 25:13-16

The twelve rulers are commonly understood to refer to the twelve sons of Ishmael:

Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, "Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?" And Abraham said to God, "If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!"
Then God said, "Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year." Genesis 17:17-21

Various Muslim authors link the 'Hadith of the Twelve Successors' to verses in the Biblical Book of Genesis, which relates God speaking to Abraham:

Links to the Bible

“And there is another way close to the spiritual sovereignty and this is the way of the saints and the general friends of Allāh, and this way is marked by its characteristic passion and it carries the guarantee of mediation and the leader and chieftain of the saints of this way is ‘Alī al-Murtadā. And this grand office is reserved for him. On this way, the feet of the Holy Prophet are on ‘Alī’s head and Fatima and Hasan and Husayn are included with him. I believe that he enjoyed this position even before his physical birth, as he did after it, and whosoever has received the divine blessing and guidance, has received it through him, because he is closest to the last point on this way and the centre of this spot belongs to him. And when his period ended, the grand office passed on to Hasan and Husayn and then on to each one of the Twelve Imams, individually and elaborately. And whosoever received guidance in their life and after their death, received it through these saints. And the refuge and place of shelter of the saints of high ranks are these saints, (because they are the centre of all spiritual activity) and the sides tend to converge on the centre” (Maktubat al-Rabbani, 9:173#123).[149]

Finally, another Islamic scholar of India,Imam Rabbani Mujjadid Alf Thani Ahmad Sirhindi, a Master of the Naqshbandi Sufi Order, appropriately highlight the Sunni belief regarding the Twelve Imams in his Maktubaat:

“Alī al-Murtadā has also an edge over Abū Bakr as-Siddīq and ‘Umar Fārūq and this edge lies because of the greater number of his followers and all the highest spiritual and saintly activity, from his days to the end of the world, has to be mediated through him, and he has a say in the kingdom of the kings and the leadership of the leaders and this is not hidden from those who are familiar with the world of sovereignty… Most spiritual chains are directly derived from ‘Alī al-Murtadā. So, on the Day of Judgment, ‘Alī’s army including followers of high status and great reputation, will outnumber and outshine others to be a source of wonder for all the spectators.”[148]

Another prominent Indian Sunni scholar, Shāh Ismā‘īl Dahlawī held the following view:

“In this Ummah the first person to open the door of spiritual dominion is ‘Alī al-Murtadā. The secret of spiritual dominion of the leader permeated his progeny. Therefore, not a single saint is found in the Ummah who is not directly or indirectly indebted to the spiritual leadership of ‘Alī to attain spiritual leadership...Now in the Ummah anyone who is blessed with spiritual leadership by Allāh’s Messenger is indebted either to ‘Alī al-Murtadā or to the Chief Helper Abdul Qadir Jīlānī. No one can reach the status of wilāyah without this (indebted-ness)”. [147]

In the preface of his book 'The Ghadir Declaration', the well known Islamic scholar Professor Tahir-ul-Qadri quotes the following from Shah Wali Allah, one of the greatest Sunni scholars India ever produced:

Indo-Pak Subcontinent

While there may be a difference of opinion amongst some Sunni scholars of the exact identity of the 'Twelve Successors', one cannot deny that some of the greatest Sufi scholars, the vast majority of whom were Sunni, are unanimous on the elect status of the 'Twelve Imams' of spirituality.

Sufi view

They argue that the different branches of the Shia have different numbers of Imams, apart from Ali ibn Abi Talib, Hasan ibn Ali they were not rulers.

Who they regard as al-khulafa' ar-rashidun ("Rightly Guided Caliphs"). They argue that more will come later.

Abu Bakr, Umar ibn al-Khattab, Uthman ibn al-Affan, Ali ibn Abi Talib, Hasan ibn Ali

Many Sunnis say that the Hadiths contain the words Ruler not Imam. Some say that the following Rulers are referred to in these Hadith:[146]

The Twelver Shias were a minority shia group, amongst the various Shia groups until Ismail I made conversion mandatory to the Twelver Shias, for Irans largely Sunni (Shafi) population.[139][140] [141][142][143][144][145]

"The majority of the Imamites denied his birth or even his existence, and mocked those who believed in him. According to al-Nu’mani the bulk of these groups abandoned their belief in the hidden Imam. In fact those who continued to hold a firm belief in his Imamate were a small minority belonging to the circles of narrators, like Ibn Qubba and al-Nu’mani himself, who based their belief on the traditions of the Imams (i.e. Hadith about twelve Imams)."

The Occultation of the Twelfth Imam: A Historical Background, by Dr. Jassim M. Hussain, p. 143 says:

"Jafar remained unshakeable in his assertion that his brother (Hasan al-Askari) had no progeny."

Moojan Momen writes in "An Introduction to Shi’i Islam" (London, 1985, p. 162):

Hasan al-Askari’s estate was divided between his brother Jafar and his mother.

Many Historians, Sunnis, Ismaili and Zaidiyyah argue that the 11th Imam, of the Twelver Shia, Hassan al-Askari, did not have a son.[134][135] Twelver Shias say his birth was concealed. Others argue that even if he had a son, Muhammad ibn al-Hassan could not live for over a thousand years.[136][137][138]

Various groups "fulfilled" this prophecy, by putting forward their own set of twelve Caliphs.

"These and other traditions (Hadith) were spread in both Imamite and Zaydite circles, According to al-Saduq these traditions (Hadith) and others predicting the occurrence of the Ghayba were the main reason for the Imamite acceptance of the Ghayba and for their being satisfied that the series of the Imams should stop at the twelfth."

The Occultation of the Twelfth Imam: A Historical Background, by Dr. Jassim M. Hussain, (a devout Imami Shia professor) p.138 says:

This Hadith is a Self-fulfilling prophecy, whereby people could fulfil the prophecy themselves. The Hadith is designed to encourage leaders to try to be great leaders.

Sunni Views

Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Tha'labi in his Manaqib and Tafsir, Ibn Maghazili Faqih Shafi'i in his Manaqib and Mir Seyyed Ali Hamadani in his Mawaddatu'l-Qurba (Mawadda VI) : narrate from the Second Rightly-Guided Caliph, Umar bin Khattab, who, when the Muhammed established fraternal and brotherly ties between the companions, said, 'This Ali is my brother in this world and in the hereafter. Among my descendants he is my caliph; he is my successor (vicegerent) in my community. He is the heir to my knowledge; he is the payer of my debt. What belongs to him belongs to me; what belongs to me belongs to him; his benefit is my benefit and his loss is my loss. He who is a friend of his is really a friend of mine and he who is an enemy of his is really an enemy of mine."

Sheikh Sulayman Balkhi Hanafi in his Yanabiu'l-Mawadda, ch.76, reports from Fara'idu's-Simtain of Hamwaini, who reports from Mujahid, who reports from Ibn Abbas : that a Jew named Na'thal came to Muhammad and asked him questions about Tawhid (Unity of Allah). Muhammad answered his questions and the Jew embraced Islam. Then he said: "O Holy Prophet, every prophet had a wasi (vicegerent). Our Prophet, Moses Bin Imran, made a will for Yusha Bin Nun. Please tell me who is your wasi?" The Holy Prophet said: "My vicegerent is Ali Bin Abi Talib; after him are Hasan, and Husain and after them are nine Imams, who are the successive descendants of Husain."

Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal : When the āyah "And warn your relatives of nearest kin" (26:214) was revealed, the Prophet gathered his family around him and treated 30 of them to a meal and then said: "Who is willing to guarantee my debts and commitments so that he should be with me in paradise and should be my successor from among my family." A person whom Shurayk did not name, answered: O Messenger of Allah you are like a sea, who can take charge of this responsibility. The Prophet repeated his statement to his relatives, and (Imam) 'Alī [('a)] replied: "I will undertake this responsibility."[133]

Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal : Don't try to find faults with ‘Alī, he is indeed from me and I am from him, he is your leader after me. He is from me and I am from him, he is your leader after me[132]

Shias see the 'Hadith of the Twelve Successors' as a basis for their belief in a succession of Imams. Shi'a argue that the "Twelve Successors" must have come in succession, arguing from the term "Successors" (Arabic: Caliph). Twelver Shiites in particular identify the "twelve rulers" with their twelve Imams from Ali to Muhammad al-Mahdi. They maintain that a similar hadith[130] was transmitted from Muhammad in which it was stated that 9 of the 12 Imams are from Hussein ibn Ali's lineage and the ninth is Mahdi.[131]

Shia view


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