Hadith of the thaqalayn

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The hadith of the thaqalayn (Arabic: حديث الثقلين, lit.'saying of the two treasures') refers to a statement, attributed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad, that introduces the Quran, the principal religious text in Islam, and his progeny as the only two sources of divine guidance after his death. Widely reported by both Shia and Sunni authorities, the hadith of the thaqalayn is of particular significance in Twelver Shia, where their Twelve Imams are viewed as the spiritual and political successors of Muhammad.

Hadith of the thaqalayn[edit]

There exist several versions of this hadith in Sunni sources.[1] The version that appears in Musnad Ahmad, a canonical Sunni hadith collection, reads,

I [Muhammad] left among you two treasures which, if you cling to them, you shall not be led into error after me. One of them is greater than the other: The book of God (Quran), which is a rope stretched from Heaven to Earth, and [the second one is] my progeny, my Ahl al-Bayt. These two shall not be parted until they return to the pool [of abundance in paradise, kawthar].[1]

Muhammad might have repeated this statement on multiple occasions,[1][2][3] including his Farewell Pilgrimage and later at the Ghadir Khumm, shortly before his death in 632 CE.[2][4] The version of this hadith in al-Sunan al-kubra, another Sunni hadith collection, adds the warning, "Be careful how you treat the two [treasures] after me."[5] Similar versions of the hadith can be found in other major Sunni sources, including Sahih Muslim, Sahih al-Tirmidhi, and Sunan al-Darimi.[6] According to the Shia theologian Muhammad H. Tabatabai (d. 1981), the hadith of the thaqalayn has been transmitted through more than a hundred channels by over thirty-five companions of Muhammad.[7]

Shia Islam limits the Ahl al-Bayt to the Ahl al-Kisa, namely, Muhammad, his daughter Fatima, her husband Ali, and their two sons, Hasan and Husayn.[8][9] In Shia theology works, the Ahl al-Bayt often also includes the remaining Shia imams.[10] There are various interpretations in Sunni Islam, though a typical compromise is to include Muhammad's wives in the Ahl al-Bayt, in addition to the Ahl al-Kisa.[11] In some Sunni versions of the hadith, however, ahl al-bayt has been replaced with sunna, that is, practices of Muhammad.[11][12]

Significance in Sunni Islam[edit]

Some Sunni versions of the hadith of the thaqalayn replace ahl al-bayt with sunna, that is, practices of Muhammad.[11][12][13] This change is either intended to challenge the Shia implications of the hadith,[13] or, if authentic, may imply that the ahl al-bayt of Muhammad are a source of his sunna.[14] Muhammad is indeed viewed as the 'living Quran', the embodiment of God's will in his behavior and words.[15] Both Sunni and Shia Muslims uphold the Quran and the sunna of Muhammad, though Shia extends the sunna to also include the traditions and practices of their imams.[16]

Significance in Twelver Shia Islam[edit]

Names of Muhammad, his daughter Fatima, and the Twelve Imams, inscribed on the tilework of the shrine of Ali al-Rida, the eighth of the Twelve Imams, Mashhad, Iran

In Twelver Shia, the hadith of the thaqalayn establishes a parallel between the Quran and the family of Muhammad,[13] implying that the two serve as the only sources of divine guidance after Muhammad.[17] The hadith also implicitly describes (some) descendants of Muhammad as the true interpreters of the Quran,[18] and those descendants are viewed as the living embodiments of the Quran in Twelver Shia.[13] As divine guides, those descendants must also be infallible lest they lead their followers astray.[17] The hadith also implies that Earth is never void of a descendant of Muhammad, an infallible imam, who serves as the divine guide of humankind in his time. These are the Twelve Imams in Twelver Shia.[17] The last of these imams, Muhammad al-Mahdi, is believed to remain miraculously in occultation since 874 and is expected to return in the end of times to eradicate injustice and evil.[19] Beyond the Twelvers, the belief in the eschatological Mahdi remains popular among all Muslims, possibly owing to numerous traditions to this effect in canonical Sunni and Shia sources.[19]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Momen 1985, p. 16.
  2. ^ a b Abbas 2021, pp. 81, 209.
  3. ^ Mavani 2013, p. 80.
  4. ^ Shomali 2003, p. 50.
  5. ^ Abbas 2021, p. 81.
  6. ^ Shomali 2003, p. 51.
  7. ^ Tabatabai 1975, p. 60.
  8. ^ Momen 1985, pp. 16–17.
  9. ^ Leaman 2006.
  10. ^ Howard 1984.
  11. ^ a b c Goldziher, Arendonk & Tritton 2012.
  12. ^ a b Brunner 2014.
  13. ^ a b c d Haider 2014, p. 36.
  14. ^ Shomali 2003, pp. 54–55.
  15. ^ Esposito 2010, p. 43.
  16. ^ Ahmad 2010, p. 59.
  17. ^ a b c Tabatabai 1975, p. 156.
  18. ^ Bar-Asher.
  19. ^ a b Madelung 2012.

References[edit]

  • Abbas, H. (2021). The Prophet's Heir: The Life of Ali ibn Abi Talib. Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300252057.
  • Ahmad, A.U.F. (2010). Theory and Practice of Modern Islamic Finance: The Case Analysis from Australia. Universal Publishers. ISBN 9781599425177.
  • Bar-Asher, M.M. "Shī'ism and the Qur'ān". In Pink, J. (ed.). Encyclopaedia of the Qur'ān. Retrieved 21 May 2023.
  • Brunner, R. (2014). "Ahl al-Bayt". In Fitzpatrick, C.; Walker, A.H. (eds.). Muhammad in History, Thought, and Culture: An Encyclopedia of the Prophet of God. ABC-CLIO. pp. 5–9. ISBN 9781610691772.
  • Esposito, J., ed. (2003). The Oxford Dictionary of Islam. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195125584.
  • Esposito, J. (2010). The Future of Islam. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199742295.
  • Goldziher, I.; Arendonk, C. van; Tritton, A.S. (2012). "Ahl Al-Bayt". In Bearman, P.; Bianquis, Th.; Bosworth, C.E.; van Donzel, E.; Heinrichs, W.P. (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam (Second ed.). ISBN 9789004161214.
  • Haider, N. (2014). Shī'ī Islam: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107031432.
  • Howard, I.K.A. (1984). "Ahl-e Bayt". Encyclopaedia Iranica. Vol. I/6. p. 365.
  • Leaman, O. (2006). "Ahl al-Bayt". In Leaman, O. (ed.). The Qur'an: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. pp. 16–17. ISBN 9780415326391.
  • Madelung, W. (2012). "al-Mahdī". In Bearman, P.; Bianquis, Th.; Bosworth, C.E.; van Donzel, E.; Heinrichs, W.P. (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam (Second ed.). ISBN 9789004161214.
  • Mavani, Hamid (2013), Religious Authority and Political Thought in Twelver Shi'ism: From Ali to Post-Khomeini, Routledge Studies in Political Islam, Routledge, ISBN 9780415624404
  • Momen, M. (1985). An Introduction to Shi'i Islam. Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300035315.
  • Shomali, M.A. (2003). Shi'i Islam: Origins, Faith, and Practices. Islammic College for Advanced Studies Press. ISBN 190406311x.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: ignored ISBN errors (link)
  • Tabatabai, S.M.H. (1975). Shi'ite Islam. Translated by Nasr, S.H. State University of New York Press. ISBN 0873953908.