Thursday, 22 February 2018

Reality of Khilafah (Part 3) 12 Caliphs of Quraish

بسم الله الرحمـن الرحيم

والصلاة والسلام على رسوله الكريم

والعاقبة للمتّقين

Twelve Caliphs

It having been established that the Caliphate of Prophecy would last only thirty years after the death of the Prophet :

خِلاَفَةُ النُّبُوَّةِ ثَلاَثُونَ سَنَةً ثُمَّ يُؤْتِي اللَّهُ الْمُلْكَ مَنْ يَشَاءُ

The Caliphate of Prophecy is thirty years, then Allah will grant kingdom to whom He wills

(Sunan Abi Dawud)

We now come to another prophecy of Prophet Muhammad regarding the number of Caliphs:

لاَ يَزَالُ الإِسْلاَمُ عَزِيزًا إِلَى اثْنَىْ عَشَرَ خَلِيفَةً

“Islam will not cease to be mighty until there have been twelve Caliphs”

كُلُّهُمْ مِنْ قُرَيْشٍ

“All of them from Quraish”

(Sahih Muslim)

Now the problem posed with this Hadith is that if the twelve Caliphs are to be understood as appearing consecutively, beginning with Abu Bakr al-SiddiqRA, then it will have to be admitted that only the first four or five of these Caliphs were ‘Rightly-Guided’ or upon the ‘Prophetic Way’, while the rest were not. So the rest of the caliphs, beginning with Mu’awiya b. Abi Sufyan, are described as caliphs in only a linguistic sense, otherwise, as the first Hadith I cited in this entry states, they were essentially kings:

1. Abu Bakr

2. Umar

3. Uthman

4. Ali


5. Mu’awiyah

6. Yazid

Abdallah b. Zubair*

7. Mu’awiyah b. Yazid

8. Marwan

9. Abd-al-Malik

10. Walid

11. Sulayman

12. Umar b. Abd-al-Aziz

*If HasanRA, who ruled as Caliph from Kufa for barely six months then resigned from the office and pledged allegiance to Mu’awiyah, is not to be considered from the list of Twelve Caliphs, but rather his Caliphate simply being an extension of the Caliphate of his father Ali b. Abi TalibRA, then the last of the Twelve Caliphs would in fact be Umar b. Abd-al-AzizRA. It is reported that the great Imam and jurist Sufyan al-ThawriRA said:

الْخُلَفَاءُ خَمْسَةٌ أَبُو بَكْرٍ وَعُمَرُ وَعُثْمَانُ وَعَلِيٌّ وَعُمَرُ بْنُ عَبْدِ الْعَزِيزِ رضى الله عنهم

“The Caliphs are five: Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali and Umar b. Abd-al-Aziz, Allah be pleased with them.” (Sunan Abi Dawud #4631)

However, this narration is weak due to the narrator Abbad al-Sammak who is unknown. Hence, the Hadith of the Twelve Caliphs is not necessarily meant to be considered a proof for the virtue of each of them individually, but rather to convey the news that in the time of these twelve rulers Islam shall be mighty, but after the last of these caliphs (Umar b. Abd-al-Aziz), the might of Islam will begin to decline. The truth is that if this interpretation of the Twelve Caliphs is accepted, it will have to be admitted that the Hadith is not necessarily a proof for the personal virtue of each of them individually, since among them were undoubtedly evil, wicked oppressors like Yazid b. Mu’awiyah, Marwan b. Hakam, and Walid b. Abd-al-Malik. In accordance to the prophecy, despite coming from different clans, all of these twelve were from Quraish. The Twelver Shi’ites argue that the Hadith of the Twelve Caliphs is a reference to their Twelve Imams, with Ali b. Abi TalibRA being the first and the alleged Absent Imam being the Mahdi and the twelfth Imam. But this interpretation is far-fetched and forced, because the word Caliph can only be applied to one who was actually in a position of temporal authority and not himself subject to the authority of any ruler. Apart from Ali b. Abi TalibRA and his son HasanRA, none of the other ‘Twelve Imams’ ever occupied the office of caliphate, but were subject to either Umayyad or Abbasid rule. Furthermore, if these Twelve Imams are identical to the Twelve Caliphs predicted by the Prophet Muhammad , he would have described them as coming from his Ahl-al-Bayt, or at the very least, as being Talibids/Alids or even Hashemites, and not the broader description of being from Quraish. By describing the Twelve Caliphs as being from Quraish, it is inferred that they will not all be from a single clan or single family, otherwise a more specific description would have been used instead of a broader one in accordance with the fact that the speech of the Prophet Muhammad is جوامع الكلم concise’ and ‘comprehensive’.

But now the reader should know that the correct interpretation of this Hadith of the Twelve Caliphs is that they will not necessarily be consecutive, and therefore, it can be a proof for the virtue of each of the Twelve Caliphs individually. Indeed, other Ahadith make explicit that among the Caliphs will be the promised Mahdi, who has not as of yet appeared. The Mahdi is described as a Caliph:

مِنْ خُلَفَائِكُمْ خَلِيفَةٌ يَحْثُو الْمَالَ حَثْيًا لاَ يَعُدُّهُ عَدَدًا

“Among your caliphs is a Caliph who shall distribute handfuls of wealth without counting it.”

(Sahih Muslim)

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