Hadith of the Twelve Successors

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The hadith of the twelve successors, or twelve caliphs (Arabic: حديث الاثني عشر خليفة‎, translit. ḥadīth al-ithnā ‘ashar khalīfah) is an Islamic prophecy, attributed to Muhammad. It is most popular among Twelver Shiites, as they interpret the prophecy was fulfilled by The Twelve Imams. The hadith (classified as Sahih) is widely accepted by all Muslim groups but its interpretation varies heavily.

Sunni view[edit]

According to the prophecy there will reign twelve caliphs—presumably the first being crowned upon the Prophet's death—and after which the caliphate would cease to exist and mark the beginning of the judgement day or armageddon. It is stated that all twelve caliphs will be from the tribe of Quraysh.

Another interpretation is that the prophecy was fulfilled by the Rashidun Caliphs.[1] Some commentators, such as Ibn Kathir and Ibn Taymiyya, link this hadith with the biblical account of Moses and his twelve deputies.[2][3][4][5]

Imam Muslim on Sahih Muslim wrote: Rasulullah s.a.w said: "This religion (Islam) will remain standing until twelve caliph, which all of them is from Quraysh, rule over you." (Sahih Muslim)

Imam Abu Dawud on Shahih Abi Dawud wrote: Masyruq said: We were sitting with Abdullah bin Mas'ud to learn Al-Qur'an from him. Someone asked him: Did you ask Rasulullah s.a.w how many caliphs will rule this ummah? Ibnu Mas'ud answered: Of course we asked this thing from Rasulullah s.a.w and he answered: "Twelve, like the amount of the leaders of Banu Israel." (Shahih Al-Bukhari)

Western academics also clarify that the Twelve leaders stated in this hadith cannot be the Twelve Imams of the Shi'a as the latter did not, on the whole, rule over the Muslims as is required in this hadith: "Imami or Twelver (Ithna ashari) Shi'ism is defined by the fact that it recognises twelve imams descended from Ali through his son Husayn. None of these imams, after Ali himself, were caliphs or attained any significant political power..."[6]

Shia view[edit]

Shia Muslims believe in the concept of Imamah, while rejecting the Sunni view of Caliphate. According to Shias, the twelve sucecssors from the hadith are already known as The Twelve Imams.

Biblical Prophecy[edit]

"And for Ishmael, I heard his prayer; Behold, I will bless him and make him father of twelve descendants, twelfth King will be born and I will be born and I will make him a great nation." Genesis 17:20

The above-mentioned prophecy is taken from English translated versions of the Genesis creation narrative found in both the Tanakh and The Bible. The earliest know example is found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Est. 408 BCE to 318 CE.

Fihr, which is the founder of Quraish tribe, is a descendant of Prophert Ishmael.

Fihr (Quraish) bin Malik bin Nadhr bin Kinanah bin Khuzayma bin Mudrikah bin Ilyas bin Mudhar bin Nizar bin Ma'ad bin Adnan bin Udad bin al-Muqawwam bin Nahur bin Tayrah bin Ya'rub bin Yasyjub bin Nabit bin Ishmael bin Abraham.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 11, 2013. Retrieved January 24, 2013. 
  2. ^ Tarikh ibn Kathir 250
  3. ^ Tarikh ibn Kathir, volume 6, p. 249-250
  4. ^ Tarikh ibn Kathir, 6:248; Kanz al-Ummal, 13:27; Al-Haskani, Shawahid al-Tanzil, 1:455, Tradition No. 626.
  5. ^ 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
  6. ^ Hugh Kennedy, The Caliphate, 241.