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The Twelve Imams

This article is in reference to the question that: Where did the twelve Imams (AS) come from and why should the number of Imams be twelve and twelve only? As a matter of fact, the answer is right inside the Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim. There are numerous Sunni collections of traditions which all recorded the following authentic tradition from the Prophet (PBUHHF). Here, for the sake of brevity, I only quote from Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, and Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal. In Sahih al-Bukhari (Arabic-English version), the tradition is as follows: Sahih al-Bukhari Hadith: 9.329 Narrated Jabir Ibn Samura: I heard the Prophet saying, There will be twelve commanders (Amir). He then said a sentence which I did not hear. My father said, the Prophet added, All of them will be from Quraish. ========= In Musnad Ahmad, the tradition is as follows: The Prophet (PBUHHF) said: There shall be twelve Caliphs for this community, all of them from Quraish. Reference: Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v5, p106 ========= In Sahih Muslim, the traditions are as follows: Narrated Jabir Ibn Samura: The Prophet (PBUHHF) said: The matter (life) will not end, until it is passed by twelve Caliphs. He then whispered a sentence. I asked my father what the Prophet said. He said, the Prophet added: All of them will be from Quraish. Sunni references: - Sahih Muslim, Arabic version, Kitab al-Imaara, 1980 Edition Pub. in Saudi Arabia, v3, p1452, Tradition #5 - Sahih Muslim, English version, Chapter DCCLIV (titled: The People are subservient to the Quraish and the Caliphate is the Right of the Quraish), v3, p1009, Tradition #4477 ========= Again from Sahih Muslim: The Prophet (PBUHHF) said: The affairs of people will continue to be conducted (well) as long as they are governed by the twelve men. Sunni references: - Sahih Muslim, Arabic version, Kitab al-Imaara, 1980 Edition Pub. in Saudi Arabia, v3, p1453, Tradition #6 - Sahih Muslim, English version, Chapter DCCLIV (titled: The People are subservient to the Quraish and the Caliphate is the Right of the Quraish), v3, p1010, Tradition #4478 ========= Also: The Prophet (PBUHHF) said: Islam will continue to be triumphant until there have been twelve Caliphs. Sunni references: - Sahih Muslim, Arabic version, Kitab al-Imaara, 1980 Edition Pub. in Saudi Arabia, v3, p1453, Tradition #7 - Sahih Muslim, English version, Chapter DCCLIV (titled: The People are subservient to the Quraish and the Caliphate is the Right of the Quraish), v3, p1010, Tradition #4480 ========= Again: The Prophet (PBUHHF) said: The Islamic religion will continue until the Hour (day of resurrection), having twelve Caliphs for you, all of them will be from Quraish. Sunni references: - Sahih Muslim, Arabic version, Kitab al-Imaara, 1980 Edition Pub. in Saudi Arabia, v3, p1453, Tradition #10 - Sahih Muslim, English version, Chapter DCCLIV (titled: The People are subservient to the Quraish and the Caliphate is the Right of the Quraish), v3, p1010, Tradition #4483 ========= More Sunni references of similar traditions: - Sahih al-Tirmidhi, v4, p501 - Sunan Abu Dawud, v2, p421 (three traditions). - Others such as al-Tiyalasi, Ibn al-Athir, etc. ========= Also in another wording, the Messenger of Allah uses the word Imam instead of Caliph. It is widely narrated that: The Prophet (PBUHHF) said: The Imams are from Quraish Sunni references: - al-Mustadrak, by al-Hakim, v3, p149 - Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal - Sahih al-Nisai, from Anas Ibn Malik - Sunan, by al-Baihaqi - al-Sawaiq al-Muhriqa, by Ibn Hajar al-Haithami, Ch. 11, section 2, p287 ========= Obviously, the above traditions are not fit to the first four Caliphs all together, as they were less than twelve. And they can not be applied to the Umayad Caliphs, because (a) they were more than twelve; (b) all of them were tyrants and unjust (except Umar Ibn Abd al-Aziz); (c) they were not from the Hashimites and the Holy Prophet had said in another tradition that: All of them will be from the Bani Hashim... Also they cannot be applied to the Abbasid Caliphs, because: (a) they were more than twelve; (b) they persecuted the descendants of the Prophet every where which means they did not comply with the Quranic verse: I dont ask you any wage except to love my family. (42:23). My recollection about the unfortunate history of Caliphate indicates that, even from the Sunni point of view, there was no good Caliph left after the first 4 Caliphs (It would be 5 if we include Umar Ibn Abd al-Aziz. Some Sunnis are very generous and they add Imam al-Hasan (AS) and Imam al-Mahdi (AS) to the list as well.) To fill out the twelve set, some even included the well-known tyrants to the list such as Yazid Ibn Muawiya, Marwan Ibn al-Hakam, Abdul-Malik Marwan, and Husham Ibn Abdul-Malik. The reason is clear and as I stated previously, it is due to the lack of decent and sincere rulers in the History of Islam. I would like to remind you that Caliph means successor/deputy. The successor of the Prophet (or the preceding Caliph) should come immediately after the demise of the Prophet (or the preceding Caliph). If there is any gap between the successors, the word successor does not make any sense. So successors should come right after the other without any gap. Also as the Prophet (PBUHHF) suggested in the above traditions, those twelve Caliphs will cover till the day of resurrection. As you may know, the Followers of the Members of the House of the Prophet (PBUHHF) refer to these 12 Caliphs as of their 12 Imams starting with Imam Ali (AS) and ending with Imam Mahdi (AS) the leader of our time. There are Caliphs because Allah made them Caliphs (They are vice-regents of Allah on the earth). With the passage of time and through historical events, we know that by the above traditions the Holy Prophet (PBUHHF) meant the twelve Imams from his Ahlul-Bait who are the descendants of the Prophet since we have no other 12 pure candidates in the history of Islam upon whose righteousness all Muslims agree. It is interesting to know that even the enemies of Shia have NOT been able to find any fault in the virtues of the twelve Imams of Shia. Moreover these twelve Imams came one after another without any gap. It is now clear that the only way to interpret the previously mentioned traditions which are narrated by al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud and al-Tirmidhi, al-Hakim, and Ahmad Ibn Hanbal is to accept that it refers to the Twelve Imams from the Prophets Ahlul-Bait, because they were, in their times, the most knowledgeable, the most illustrious, the most god-fearing, the most pious, the best in personal virtues, and the most honored before Allah; and their knowledge was derived from their ancestor (the Prophet) through their fathers. These are the Ahlul-Bait whose sinlessness, flawlessness, and purity is confirmed by the holy Quran (the last sentence of verse 33:33). Also the above mentioned traditions of the Prophet which are considered to be authentic by the Sunnis, proves beyond doubt that the concept of Twelve Imams can NOT be a Twelver Shiites concoction! It is amazing that despite the acknowledgment of al-Bukhari and Muslim and other prominent Sunni scholars about the twelve Imams, the Sunnis always stop at the four Caliphs! More interestingly, there are Sunni reports in which the Messenger of Allah named these twelve members of his Ahlul-Bait one by one starting with Imam Ali (AS) and ending with Imam al-Mahdi (AS). (see Yanabi al-Mawadda, by al-Qunduzi al-Hanafi). Now after reviewing all these straightforward authentic traditions which ALL Muslims unanimously agree upon, I would like to ask, based on the Sunni point of view who are those twelve Caliphs after Prophet Muhammad (PBUHHF)? Please support your assertion by references from Quran and or the six Sunni collections of traditions, and also justify their deeds in the course of history. Remember that the instructions of these twelve successors of the Prophet should be obeyed. As such, if you dont know your twelve leaders, how do you want to obey them? Indeed, the Messenger of Allah (PBUHHF) said: He who dies while he does not know the Imam of his age, is like the one who died during days of Jahiliyya (the era before Islam).

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