Navigating the complexities of Leadership (Imamah)
(Al Muqaddimah al Zahra’ fi Idah al Imamat al Kubra)
By: Al Imam Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ahmed ibn Uthman al Dhahabi (673 A.H – 748 A.H)
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
All praise is for Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala alone; and sufficient is He subhanahu wa ta ‘ala (for us). May peace be upon His chosen servants.
The Ahlus Sunnah, Mu’tazilah, Murji’ah, Shia and Khawarij—with the exception of the Najdiyyah—all agree on the necessity of imamah (leadership), and that obedience to an imam ‘adil (just imam) is compulsory upon the Ummah. However, the Najdiyyah—a sect within the Khawarij—say that imamah is not necessary; and that it is sufficient that people uphold each other’s right amongst themselves. This is obviously an invalid opinion.
The said groups also agree that there should only be one imam at any given time. However, Muhammad ibn Karram, Abu al Sabbah al Samarqandi and their respective supporters disagree; permitting the co-existence of two or more imams at any given time. They draw support for their view from the Ansar’s statement:
مِنَّا أَمِيرٌ وَمِنْكُمْ أَمِيرٌ.
… [Let there be] a leader from us and a leader from you.
They also substantiate their viewpoint by citing the situation of ‘Ali, and his son, Hassan radiya Llahu ‘anhuma, with Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
However, in disproving this we rely on what the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:
إِذَا بُوْيِعَ أَحَدُ الْخَلِيْفَتَيْنِ، فَاقْتُلُوْا الآخِرَ مِنْهُمَا.
When the pledge of allegiance has been taken for two khalifahs, kill the one for whom the pledge was taken later.
Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says:
وَلَا تَكُوْنُوْا كَالَّذِيْنَ تَفَرَّقُوْا وَاخْتَلَفُوْا مِنْۢ بَعْدِ مَا جَآءَهُمُ الْبَيِّنَٰتُۚ وَأُوْلَٰٓئِكَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيْمٌ
And do not be like the ones who became divided and differed after the clear proofs had come to them. And those will have a great punishment. 
In this verse, Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala forbade division and dissention. If we permitted two imams, then a third or even a fourth imam would also be permitted. In fact, every city and town would have their own imam! This would result in widespread disorder and utter destruction.
Furthermore, the Ansar retracted their view and conceded (to having one imam). As for the situation with ‘Ali and Hassan radiya Llahu ‘anhuma, the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam forewarned that a group would emerge from one of two dissenting parties; the party closest to the truth would (eventually) fight them.
The one to fight this faction was none other than Amir al Mu’minin, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Thus, he was the rightful leader without a doubt. It was for this reason the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said that the transgressing party will kill ‘Ammar (ibn Yasir).
‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu was the forerunner to imamah; whoever differed with him (referring to Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu), was mistaken. However, Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu was considered a (legitimate) mujtahid and so he will be rewarded by Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala nonetheless.
With reference to the Ansar’s statement:
[Let there be] a leader from us…
Their intent thereby was simply to say, “Let there be a ruler (wali) from us. When he dies then let there be a ruler from among you (the Muhajirin); and like this, in perpetuum.” They were not suggesting that there be two simultaneous imams. 
The situation with ‘Ali and Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhuma was such that neither of them surrendered to the other. Likewise, Amir al Mu’minin Hassan radiya Llahu ‘anhu did not surrender at first. However, he eventually abdicated in favour of Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
We find that the Ansar nominated Sa’d ibn ‘Ubadah radiya Llahu ‘anhu, and the Muhajirin Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu; all the while ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu was in his house alone with no one save his family and Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu. He did not try to rally support (for himself) or demand they should pledge allegiance to him. The truth dawned upon him sometime later (and he too pledged his allegiance to Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu). He went on to explain that the only reason he delayed was out of benign reproach; as Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu did not consult with him in this matter. Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu explained to him that the only reason for haste was his fear that the people of the saqifah may rush into a premature decision.
In the end everyone—with the exception of S’ad radiya Llahu ‘anhu—pledged their obedience to Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu as they recognised him most competent for this task; not out of fear of him or that he was desirous of it.
If an ignorant person claimed that their pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu was indeed out of fear; one wonders what brought this on since he recommended ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu as khalifah.
Are we to imagine that in the matter of leadership they would pledge their lives in obedience to a fellow from Banu Taym (i.e. Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu) whilst disobeying the Prophet of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam by suppressing and concealing his ‘categorical appointment’ (nass) of his cousin, ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu? By Allah, so grave is this statement that one shudders to think the consequences if even a child uttered it! A statement such as this is a stepping stone towards heresy!
Furthermore, if ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu—notwithstanding his valour, nobility, high standing, and (the fact) that he was the first to embrace Islam—really did contest the issue of leadership, and truly desired it, he would have immediately been supported by his uncle, ‘Abbas—a nobleman of Quraysh, his cousin, Zubair—the disciple (hawari) of the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and Abu Sufyan ibn Harb of Banu Umayyah, among others.
How true are the words of the most honest man who ever lived:
يَأْبَى اللهُ وَالمُؤْمِنُونَ أَنْ يُخْتَلَفَ عَلَى أَبِي بَكْرٍ
Allah and the believers refuse any disagreement about Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
Tell me, what would bring people to love Abu Bakr, prefer him over others [for leadership], and finally pledge allegiance to him? Was it because of his brute force; or was it because of Banu Taym’s large numbers and their position of leadership in society? Could it be due to their vast wealth and abundance of slaves?Are we to imagine this for a man, who, after having been given the pledge of allegiance went out to earn a living? Why then would his people stop him from selling a few items of clothing to provide for his family, and instead fix a stipend for him from the Bayt al Mal.
Through him, and his successor, ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu, the Din became well-established. Empires were conquered, the kingdoms of Kisra, Qaysar, and Muqawqis were obliterated, and shirk (polytheism) dissipated. May Allah cause your nose to grovel in the dust out of humiliation for your hatred towards these two!
But, as the saying goes, “Your love of something is blinding and deafening.” Had Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala truly desired your salvation you would have instead abundantly recited the verse:
وَالَّذِيْنَ جَآءُوْ مِنْۢ بَعْدِهِمْ يَقُوْلُوْنَ رَبَّنَا اغْفِرْ لَنَا وَلِإِخْوَٰنِنَا الَّذِيْنَ سَبَقُوْنَا بِالْإِيْمَٰنِ وَلَا تَجْعَلْ فِيْ قُلُوْبِنَا غِلّٗا لِّلَّذِيْنَ ءَامَنُوْا رَبَّنَآ إِنَّكَ رَءُوْفٞ رَّحِيْمٌ
And [there is a share for] those who came after them, saying, “Our Lord, forgive us and our brothers who preceded us in faith and put not in our hearts [any] resentment toward those who have believed. Our Lord, indeed You are Kind and Merciful.”
What then can be said of the Ansar? Loving them is part of faith. It is they who pledged their loyalty to the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam until death. It was they who provided sanctuary for him, supported him, and in so doing declared their opposition towards the entire Arabian Peninsula. They even fought the armies of the Byzantines, Persians, and Coptic’s despite their large numbers. It is remarkable how such individuals, despite being around their leader and senior, S’ad radiya Llahu ‘anhu, turned their attention away from him upon the arrival of three ‘outsiders’ from Quraysh. By Allah, they did not submit to them and pledge their allegiance to Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu except that they became aware of the truth.
Let us assume that they were spineless and incapable of standing up to these three to instate one of their own—as preposterous as this sounds—would they not have at least said, “It is not for us or for you; instead it is for he whom the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam has explicitly nominated.” as you claim?
Can you not see that your felony has been exposed? How spurious are your arguments! How repulsive your bigotry! You resemble the Jews; who rejected the truth and massacred the prophets. You possess the nature of Abu Jahl and the obstinacy of Iblis.
If you simply set aside your bias, cast aside ignorance, adopt sound knowledge, and submit to impartiality, you would be granted success. May Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala protect us and you from stubborn resistance and arrogance in the face of truth.
Think about what you are saying! You are attacking the al sabiqin al awwalin (forerunners of Islam); the participants of Badr and Bay’at al Ridwan; the best nation produced as an example for mankind; those about whom Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says:
أُوْلَٰٓئِكَ هُمُ الصَّٰدِقُوْن
Those are the truthful.
Yet still you accuse them of such dishonour which will not even be attributed to mercenaries for hire, the Tatars, the thugs of Khawarizm, or even the munafiqin! Where is your intelligence?
Look at what you are saying and reflect upon the consequences thereof! You portray them as the most evil and oppressive of people! You attribute hypocrisy to them, and the crime of concealing (knowledge of) Din.
By Allah, if there truly was a dispute among them, and a power struggle—Allah forbid—that still would not dissuade us from loving and honouring them. The Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum had their differences, which at times, caused them to become upset with each other, but they would always settle their affairs and maintain mutual love. Even Musa ‘alayh al Salam became annoyed at his brother, Harun ‘alayh al Salam, to the extent that he grabbed him by the beard. However, he regained his composure afterwards and sought Allah’s subhanahu wa ta ‘ala forgiveness for himself and his brother.
Such was the case with Abu Bakr and ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhuma. They too disputed as mentioned in a reliable hadith. Those that (initially) did not pledge their allegiance to Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu also disputed. ‘Ali and ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhuma had a dispute on the issue of Fadak and so they raised their complaints to ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu. So what happened? Similarly differences arose between ‘Ali and Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhuma, and between Muawiyah and ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhuma. These differences reached a point where blood was shed; with each party having exercised their discretionary judgment. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala forgave them and is still pleased with them radiya Llahu ‘anhum.
Even our own Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam felt upset and dissatisfaction for his daughter, Fatimah’s radiya Llahu ‘anha sake when news reached him that Amir al Mu’minin ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu decided on marrying the daughter of Abu Jahl. When ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu sensed that the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was annoyed, he broke off his proposal to avoid displeasing the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. This did not lower his status with the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in any way.
Moreover, where did ‘Ali, Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhuma, and Banu Hashim’s strength and courage disappear? Were they unable to kill a simple cloth merchant; someone with little wealth or family backing; a person who had no bodyguards for protection? Were they incapable of dealing with a ‘hypocrite’ who transgressed; and concealed the ‘unambiguous appointment’ of ‘Ali’?
What stopped ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu and his family from assassinating Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu in defence against ‘falsehood’ and establishing the ‘truth’? On the contrary, he recognised virtue in those deserving of it, and pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu out of his excellence and superiority, may Allah be pleased with them both.
If it is said that the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum simply forgot the unequivocal appointment then from where did the Rawafid receive this information, and who transmitted it to them? All this speculation is nothing but foolishness and simply impossible.
If they say: ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu had, in the past, killed some members of Quraysh and this left bitterness, hatred and rancour for him in their hearts.
We say: This is a weak attempt at distorting the facts and a blatant lie! This could possibly apply for Banu ‘Abd Shams, Banu Makhzum, Banu ‘Abd al Dar, and Banu ‘Amir, since ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu killed at least one or two from each of these clans. He killed ‘Amr ibn ‘Abd Wudd from Banu ‘Amir; al Walid ibn ‘Utbah, al ‘As ibn Sa’id al ‘As and ‘Uqbah ibn Abi Mu’it (according to one narration) from Banu ‘Abd Shams; and a few men from both Banu Makhzum and Banu ‘Abd al Dar. However, anyone who possesses any knowledge of history will know that not a single one of these tribes had a major role to play on the day of the Saqifah. If anyone then only Abu Sufyan radiya Llahu ‘anhu, who was inclined towards ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu out of tribal bias and rivalry, only because the matter of leadership had reached Banu Taym; not for religious reasons.
How does that account for the fact that Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan, Khalid ibn Sa’id ibn al ‘As, and Harith ibn Hisham were all inclined to the Ansar for religious reasons? Bear in mind the Ansar were responsible for killing of Abu Jahl, the brother of Harith ibn Hisham. Furthermore, Muhammad ibn Abi Hudhayfah ibn ‘Utbah sided with ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu against Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
Set aside this impudence and tell us: Whom from the Ansar did ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu kill that spawned such jealously which led to his right (to Caliphate) being concealed and delayed? Most of them did not fight with him.
In a similar manner Talhah, Zubair, and S’ad radiya Llahu ‘anhum had killed a number of mushrikin, so why would they single out ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu for resentment and not include these others as well?
The Rawafid have been known to possess little shame—just as they are known for being insolent and foolhardy—to the extent that they say that it was the underlying hostility and resentment that caused Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas, Rabi’ah ibn Zaid, Ibn ‘Umar, Usamah, Muhammad ibn Maslamah, Abu Ayub, Abu Hurayrah, Zaid, among others from the Muhajirin and Ansar radiya Llahu ‘anhum to delay in pledging their allegiance to ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
In response to this I say: How I wish I knew which classified report describes the situation between them as such!
All that can be said is that the aforementioned Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum, and others like them, considered it incorrect to fight during internal conflict and hence refrained from fighting (alongside ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu against Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu).
When Hassan radiya Llahu ‘anhu abdicated in favour of Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu the Ummah was once again united under a single ruler. Hence this year was named ‘am al jama’ah (The Year of Unification). The entire Ummah accepted to be led by a single man.
This demonstrates that those present in the Islamic world—that year—agreed on validity of the Caliphate of a person other than the most suited for it in terms of religious superiority. A number of Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum pledged allegiance to Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu even though they were others who were undeniably superior to him such as Sa’d, Ibn ‘Umar, Hassan, and a number of participants of Badr and Hudaybiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhum. Is there any issue with this?
Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu was certainly competent for leadership. He was noble, brave, generous, awe-inspiring, and possessed many other great qualities, despite some foibles. May Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala overlook them and pardon him. He was the first of the monarchs; and the most resolute of them though he did not reach the prominence of the Khulafah Rashidun. Not nearly.
A number of great people abstained from pledging allegiance to both Ibn Zubair and Marwan. But as soon as ‘Abd al Malik ibn Marwan assumed control they pledged allegiance to him and accepted him as a leader. This was not done in spite of Ibn Zubair, or because they were necessarily pleased with ‘Abd al Malik, or that they preferred him over others with greater merit and virtue. The deception of the Rawafid exceeds all bounds.
If we were to assume the correctness of their fabricated narrative, why then did ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu include ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu in the shura when he excluded own relatives from it? Among those excluded were Sa’id ibn Zaid al ‘Adawi, a participant at Badr and one of the ten who were promised paradise by the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam; and ‘Umar’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu own son, ‘Abdullah radiya Llahu ‘anhu. The persons entrusted with making major decisions—the ahl al hall wa al ‘aqd, the best of this Ummah—accorded ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu his rightful position, with impartiality and without prejudice.
When ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu called for everyone to pledge allegiance to him and a group of Muhajirin and Ansar went ahead with it, we find that none of them were afraid of him reproaching them for having concealed his ‘unequivocal nomination’. Furthermore, no excuse was presented for having pledged allegiance to those before him. Further still, he did not reprimand anyone for disclaiming his ‘unequivocal nomination’ not did he criticise them. This is despite him now having full control, and being in a position of authority over his ‘adversaries’ and there remained no reason to warrant Taqiyyah (dissimulation).
These are your minds which Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala allowed to be deluded and led astray. Perhaps He subhanahu wa ta ‘ala did not intend true guidance for them.
After Amir al Mu’minin ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu was killed and no one remained whom ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu ought to fear. Yet we never find ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu as having said to the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum “What is with you? How grave of a crime is this? For how long will this denial continue? For how long will you conceal my ‘direct appointment’ by the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam? For how long will you deny my obvious merits over you?”
Assume for a moment that he suppressed his anger and remained silent, was there no one bold enough and willing to stand up for the truth from the Banu Hashim? Was ‘Abbas—despite his loftiness and esteem—incapable of being frank with them about this? Was ‘Aqil ibn Abi Talib—someone for whom Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu afforded a great deal of courtesy—also incapable? By Allah, how strange is this! For how long will these extremist Shia be blinded by their prejudice?
Tell me: Did the moral decency and fear of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala disappear from the hearts of the believers and honourable mujahidin to the extent that they were no longer willing to uphold the Prophet’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam nomination of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu?
Were they only going to disclose this information after ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu was killed; that too under trying circumstances and even though the killers of ‘Uthman and other seniors appointed ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu as their leader relying on ijtihad? Add to this the fact that they did not substantiate their position citing prophetic nomination.
لَقَدْ أَسْمَعْتَ لَوْ نَادَيَتَ حَيًّا | وَلكِن لا حَياةَ لِمَنْ تُنَادِي
You could have made someone hear if he was alive
Alas the person you are calling is lifeless
What a travesty indeed! The best Ummah—those who have been taken out as an example for mankind and whose territory stretches over the breadth of nearly two continents—not only agreed in its entirety to remain silent about ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu right to succession but denied him such rights! All of this whilst they never feared him or encountered difficulty in opposing him? Impossible!
Then amazingly, the following day, they pledge allegiance to him, thereby entering into his obedience, and then sacrificing themselves for his sake—as they did in Jamal and Siffin? Under such circumstances heads were rolling, blood flowing, the Qur’ans are being raised onto spears; and still no one to raise their voice and speak out?
Woe unto you! Fear Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala! Adhere to the nomination of your Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam!
Why did ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu not utter a single word of these on the Day of Siffin? Instead, he eventually settled for arbitration.
Hisham ibn al Hakam al Rafidi says, “Is it inconceivable for them (the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum) to have concealed the nass even though they perpetrated even more heinous crimes such as killing one another?”
We say: This is actually the greatest proof against you, you fool! When he perceived the dissention emerging ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu was the first to fight! It was he who came to fight them and not the other way around. However, both of the parties legitimately exercised their discretion in terms of ijtihad and both parties earnestly read the situation differently, May Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala forgive them.
‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu and his party were closer to the truth than the army from Sham. The Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam referred to the latter as al fi’at al baghiyah (the transgressing party). We refrain from speaking about what transpired between the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum whereas you, on the other hand—with your ignorance—make a distinction between them. You undermine the lofty status of the rest of the Sahabah even in issues where they did not fight with one another. Which of us then exercised greater caution and deserves divine safety?
When ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu was martyred and Hassan radiya Llahu ‘anhu emerged with an army the size of a mountain, and a cavalry in excess of one-hundred thousand that were willing to die for his sake. What made it so easy for him to put down his arms and hand the matter over to Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu, thereby aiding him with his ‘misguidance’? In so doing, he relinquished his right—and that of his father’s since the time of the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
Thereafter his brother, Hussain—the martyr radiya Llahu ‘anhu—comes along and follows suit. He too, remains silent without breaking his allegiance to Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu. When Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu died Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu stood up and pursued leadership; he found it difficult to remain silent and refrain from fighting. He fought until he too was martyred radiya Llahu ‘anhu. If it was that he did not consider his allegiance to Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu acceptable, he would have acted with him in the same way he did with Yazid.
Any fair-minded person cannot object to this, the noble grandsons of the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam Hassan and Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhuma handed over complete authority to Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu. They entered into his obedience without being forced, at a time when they yielded strength and force with the backing of an enormous army. This proves that they acted willingly. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala restored unity in the Ummah through Hassan radiya Llahu ‘anhu. People’s blood was spared and the masses became subdued. The Ummah settled on someone who, despite the existence of those who were superior to him, still yielded the necessary skills for political leadership. To Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala belongs all praise.
If the noble grandsons radiya Llahu ‘anhuma of the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam refused to relinquish their positions, and Hassan radiya Llahu ‘anhu remained in power, there is no doubt that they would have had the upper hand against the people of Sham.
Take the case of Ziyad. Who is Ziyad? He was an unknown entity with no family and legitimate lineage. who refused (an order of) Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu had to appease him to keep him in line to the extent that he appointed him as a governor and eventually recognised him as a brother. There are insights to be gained from this incident for those who are fair-minded.
We accept that ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu precedence among the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum, we recognise his experience, his remarkable fighting skills, his virtues, and that he was the best of people in his time; but what was it that raised Sayed Hassan and Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhuma to the same status? At that time, there were others who held a relatively higher and closer status, like Sa’d and Sa’id radiya Llahu ‘anhuma. Ibn ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhuma too, were it not for something prior, could have been a candidate for Caliphate when they agreed to arbitration.
Similarly, Zayn al ‘Abidin, ‘Ali ibn al Hussain—despite his prominence and nobility—he does not appear to exceed the likes of Sa’id ibn al Musayyib, al Qasim, Salim, and ‘Urwah in knowledge and action. The same can be said for Abu Jafar, Muhammad ibn ‘Ali—despite his eligibility for Caliphate— he is not a peer to his brother Zaid, Ibn Shihab ‘Abd al Rahman ibn al Qasim, and ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al ‘Aziz in terms of knowledge and action. Likewise Jafar ibn Muhammad—despite his suitability for leadership—he too was not superior in terms of his knowledge and action to ‘Umar ibn ‘Umar, Ibn Abi Dhi’b; and Musa ibn Jafar too was not greater than ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al ‘Aziz al Zahid al ‘Umari; and ‘Ali ibn Musa al Rida over Muhammad ibn Idris al Shafi’i al Muttalibi. As for al Rida’s son, Muhammad, his grandson, ‘Ali (al Hadi) and his great-grandson, al Hassan ibn Muhammad al ‘Askari they all possessed great nobility and authority, but between them and the likes of Zayn al ‘Abidin, his son, al Baqir, and his grandson, al Sadiq there is a stark difference in their knowledge and virtue.
As for their ‘awaited’ twelfth—imaginary—Imam, of him there are only two views, no third. Either he was born and later died, or he was never born to begin with. The latter view is more likely. As for the claim that he was in fact born and has been living in the cave of Samarra for the last four hundred and seventy years; and that he is alive today being sustained (by Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala; and that he will return and “fill the world with justice and equity”; and that he possesses the knowledge of both the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and Imam ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu—as a matter of fact knowledge of all that passed and will be—and that he is not susceptible to error, he does he forget, he is infallible, among other amazing traits. These are fabrications of the Rawafid liars; the forgeries of people who display absolutely no shame before Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala in the claims they make. We know of no ‘awaited’ person who is alive—even before the advent of Islam—except for the two Messiahs: the Messiah of guidance (who is currently in the heavens) and the Messiah of misguidance (who is shackled up on an island off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea). He is the Dajjal, the worst possible thing awaited. The Messiah of guidance, ‘Isa ibn Maryam ‘alayh al Salam will eventually kill him near the Gate of Ludd.
And then there is the flower of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, Hussain radiya Llahu ‘anhu. He lived relatively later yet he rarely narrated hadith or issued fatwa. All of his narrations combined would not even reach two pages. And on the other hand we find Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhuma—the most learned of the ummah (habr al ummah), his fiqh alone reaches twenty volumes, as do his narrations of hadith. Similarly, Hussain’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu son, ‘Ali, his fatawa and hadith do not exceed more than three pages at most. If all of Sa’id ibn al Mussayib’s knowledge, fiqh, and hadith were gathered it would fill an entire large volume! Abu Jafar has narrations and sayings that reach about two small volumes. Even his son, Jafar, transmits similar knowledge if not more. But Musa al Kazim, the knowledge he transmits does not reach even half of that. Yet they claim these twelve Imams possess knowledge of the entire Shari’ah.
What then is to be said about those scholars whom we have just mentioned? With their renowned status and extra-human ability to communicate with everyone, did these Imams simply disclose some of their knowledge and conceal the rest? If they intentionally concealed their knowledge then this is a very repugnant and unfortunate act indeed! Even so, why would they announce something that was necessary to conceal in the first place?
Set aside these baseless claims and assertions, for true knowledge only comes with learning. If you claim that Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala taught them directly or revelation descended upon them then you have likened them to the Ambiya’.
We seek refuge with Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala from being forsaken; for there is neither strength, nor power save in Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, the Most High, (and) the Most Great. May the blessings of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala be upon our Master; Muhammad salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, his (blessed and pure) Family and Companions.
 Muhammad ibn Karram al Sijastani was the founder of the Karramiyyah sect. [translator’s note]
 Abu al Sabbah al Samarqandi was a heretical extremist. Ibn Hazm in his al Fisl said (about him): He (referring to Abu al Sabbah al Samarqandi) used to say that Allah’s creation has always been in His presence with Him (physically). He believed that the Ahl al Kitab’s slaughtered meat was unlawful (to consume) and also felt Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu was mistaken in his judgement to wage war against the apostates. Ibn Hajar al ‘Asqalani. Lisan al Mizan, vol. 9, p. 98.
 Imam al Bukhari: Sahih al Bukhari, Hadith no. 3667, 3668.
 Muawiyah did not relinquish control of al Dham during ‘Ali’s Caliphate and after his assassination which led to his son, Hassan radiya Llahu ‘anhu assuming the Caliphate. [translator’s note]
 Imam Muslim: Sahih Muslim, hadith no. 1853.
 Surah Al ‘Imran, 105.
 Imam Muslim: Sahih Muslim, hadith no. 1064.
 Imam Muslim: Sahih Muslim, 2916.
 A mujtahid is someone who is permitted to formulate an independent decision based on his interpretation and application of the various sources of law. [translator’s note]
 Al Dhahabi is presenting his interpretation of their statement.
 Although their differences were not rooted in either of them contesting the Caliphate.
 Had the Imamah of both Imams running simultaneously been valid there would have been no need for Hassan radiya Llahu ‘anhu to surrender the Caliphate.
 The Saqifah refers to the canopy under which the Ansar used to assemble when discussing pertinent matters. [translator’s note]
 Ibn S’ad: Tabaqat ibn S’ad, 3:180.
 Al Dhahabi appears to have adopted a tone of sarcasm with his opposition.
 Referring to the Rawafid. [translator’s note]
 Surah al Hashr, 10.
 The three people referred to here are: Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, and Abu ‘Ubaydah radiya Llahu ‘anhum. They were all present at Saqifah Bani Sa’idah. [translator’s note]
 Abu al Darda’ radiya Llahu ‘anhu narrates the following incident:
I was sitting with the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam when Abu Bakr headed towards us holding onto the edge of his cloak to the extent that he exposed his knees.
The Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “As for your friend he is upset.”
Abu Bakr greeted and said, “O Messenger of Allah! Something happened between me and Ibn al Khattab (‘Umar). I hastened (after the incident) towards him and regretted (my action) and asked him to forgive me but he refused. Therefore I came to you.”
The Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “May Allah forgive you, O Abu Bakr; ”Repeating it thrice.
Then ‘Umar regretted his action and went to the house of Abu Bakr and asked, “Is Abu Bakr home,” and they replied that he was not.
He then went to the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and when the Prophet saw him, his face turned red to the point that Abu Bakr regretted (taking the matter to the Prophet).
Abu Bakr sat up and said, “O Messenger of Allah! I was the one in the wrong,” repeating it twice.
The Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam then said, “Allah sent me to you and you all said, ‘You are lying,’ and Abu Bakr said, ‘You speak the truth,’ he provided me with both physical and financial assistance. Will you not leave my companion for my sake?” repeating it twice.
He (Abu Bakr) was never inconvenienced again after that.
Imam al Bukhari. Sahih al Bukhari, hadith no. 3388. [translator’s note]
 He excluded them because he did not want to show them any sort of favouritism. [translator’s note]
 Hisham ibn Hakam was a shia scholar from the second century (A.H). [translator’s note]
 Al Dhahabi is referring to ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu excluding him from the candidates for Caliphate.
 This is the period of his absence until the time of al Dhahabi. If we extend that period until our times it exceeds a thousand years.
 Imam Muslim: Sahih Muslim, hadith no. 2937.