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“As for those who divide their religion and break up into (sects), you have no part in them in the least: their affair is with Allah: He will, in the end, tell them the truth of all that they did.” (Qur’an, 6:159)
I was talking to a ’12er Shi’a’ Muslim brother. I told him that I thought it was very odd that they would make a big deal of the number 12 when it was simply the number of the 12 tribes of Jacob. That’s it. This idea of the Muslims following 12 Imams is a total concoction.
First and foremost it has absolutely no support from the Qur’an.
We have more than established that here: https://primaquran.com/2018/05/26/are-we-to-follow-infallible-imams-according-to-the-holy-quran/
Our Sunni Muslim brothers are stuck with the following hadith that the 12er Shi’a will often use against them.
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.”
Source: (Sahih al-Bukhari Hadith: 9.329)
We will come back with our critique of this hadith. However, let us first look at the history of this number 12 prior to the advent of the Blessed Prophet Muhammed (saw).
THE NUMBER 12 HAS NO SIGNIFICANCE IN ISLAM.
The number 12 is not in anyone shape or form significant or important in Islam. It is the atomic number of atoms in Magnesium. 12 is the number of zodiac characters in both the West and Chinese models. There are 12 months in a year of the Gregorian calendar. The 12th surah in the Qur’an is called ‘Yusuf‘ or Joseph.
The 12th chapter and 12th verse of the Qur’an say the following:
“Send him with us tomorrow to enjoy himself and play, and we shall take every care of him.” (Qur’an 12:12)
“Surely, the number of months with Allah is twelve months in Allah’s ordinance since the day when He created the heavens and the earth, of these four being sacred.” (Qur’an 9:36)
Nothing here is analogous to 12 Imams. The verse says of the 12 months, 4 of them are sacred. Are our 12er Shi’a brothers going to tell us that of the 12 Imams only four of them are sacred?
This holds no significance to 12 tribes, 12 disciples or 12 imams, or 12 rulers at all.
12, 12, 12 relates to Israel, and the tribes it has absolutely nothing to do with Islam.
THE NUMBER 12 AND THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL
Let us look at Israel (Jacob) and the 12 tribes in the Qur’an and in the Bible.
“Allah made a covenant of old with the Children of Israel and We raised among them twelve chieftains, and Allah said: Lo! I am with you. If ye establish worship and pay the poor-due, and believe in My messengers and support them, and lend unto Allah a kindly loan, surely I shall remit your sins, and surely I shall bring you into Gardens underneath which rivers flow. Whoso among you disbelieves after this will go astray from a plain road.” (Qur’an 5:12)
“And We divided them into twelve tribes And when his people asked Moses for water, We inspired him, “Strike the rock with thy staff!” -whereupon twelve springs gushed forth from it so that all the people knew whence to drink., And We caused the clouds to comfort them with their shade, and We sent down unto them manna and quails, [saying:] “Partake of the good things which We have provided for you as sustenance.” And [by all their sinning] they did no harm unto Us-but [only] against their own selves did they sin.” (Qur’an 7:160)
“And We dispersed them as separate communities all over the earth; some of them were righteous, and some of them less than that: and the latter We tried with blessings as well as with afflictions so that they might mend their ways.” (Qur’an 7:168)
“Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him, we have surrendered.” (Qur’an 2:136)
“Nay! do you say that Abraham and Ismail and Jacob and the tribes were Jews or Christians? Say: Are you better knowing or Allah? And who is more unjust than he who conceals a testimony that he has from Allah? And Allah is not at all heedless of what you do.” (Quran 2:140)
“And verily We gave unto Moses nine tokens, clear proofs (of Allah’s Sovereignty). Do but ask the Children of Israel how he came unto them, then Pharaoh said unto him: Lo! I deem thee one bewitched, O Moses.” (Qur’an 7:101)
Why were 9 tokens given? Why weren’t 12 tokens given? Why weren’t 7 tokens given?
“Say: We believe in Allah and what has been revealed to us, and what was revealed to Abraham and Ismail and Ishaq and Jacob and the tribes, and what was given to Musa and Isa and to the prophets from their Lord; we do not make any distinction between any of them, and to Him do we submit. “ (Quran 3:84)
“Lo! Thus spoke Joseph unto his father: “O my father! Behold, I saw [in a dream] eleven stars, as well as the sun and the moon: I saw them prostrate themselves before me!” (Qur’an 12:6)
Here Joseph mentions 11 stars and altogether 13 celestial bodies. No mention of anything 12 here.
There is absolutely nothing in the entirely of the Qur’an that would assign or even remotely hint that the 12 sons of Israel (Jacob) played in any role, that the 12er Shi’a designates for their 12 Imams. Nothing analogous here at all.
Now, what does the Bible say about these 12 sons of Jacob/Israel?
The sons of Leah:
Reuben the firstborn of Jacob,
Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.
The sons of Rachel:
Joseph and Benjamin.
The sons of Rachel’s servant Bilhah:
Dan and Naphtali.
The sons of Leah’s servant Zilpah:
Gad and Asher.
These were the sons of Jacob, who were born to him in Paddan Aram.
Source: (Genesis 35:22-26)
“All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.” (Genesis 49:28)
There is absolutely nothing in the entirely of the Bible that would assign or even remotely hint that the 12 sons of Israel (Jacob) played in any role, that the 12er Shi’a designates for their 12 Imams.
Were the 12 Imams the names of 12 tribes? Did the descendants of these Imams fight each other in a bitter civil war as was the case with Judah and Benjamin against the other 10 tribes? I believe the answer to all of this is a resounding No! Nothing analogous here at all.
NUMBER 12 AND THE DISCIPLES OF JESUS.
Jesus had 12 disciples because they were to go to each of the 12 tribes of Israel as previously mentioned. That’s it.
Now let us turn our attention to the disciples of Christ Jesus (a.s), as they are mentioned in the Qur’an.
“When Jesus found Unbelief on their part He said: “Who will be My helpers to (the work of) Allah?” Said the disciples: “We are Allah’s helpers: We believe in Allah, and do bear witness that we are Muslims.” (Qur’an 3:50)
“And behold! I inspired the disciples to have faith in Me and Mine Messenger: they said, ‘We have faith, and do thou bear witness that we bow to Allah as Muslims'”. (Quran 5:111)
“O you who believe! Be Allah’s helpers, even as Jesus son of Mary said unto the disciples: Who are my helpers for Allah? They said: We are Allah’s helpers. And a party of the Children of Israel believed while a party disbelieved. Then We strengthened those who believed against their foe, and they became the uppermost.” (Qur’an 61:14)
There is absolutely no mention of the number of disciples anywhere in the Qur’an, which is both telling and interesting.
Now let us turn our attention to the disciples of Jesus (a.s) as they are mentioned in the New Testament.
“The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus.” (Matthew 10: 2-4)
“Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28)
“These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 10:6)
“It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.“ (Revelation 21:12)
We have no record anywhere of the 12 sons of Jacob or the 12 disciples of Jesus giving legal verdicts, and so forth to anyone.
Not only that but the analogy creates real problems for the 12er Shi’a concept because the 12 sons of Jacob and the 12 disciples of Jesus were concurrent (not in succession).
Not only that but one of the 12 disciples of Jesus was a traitor.
So if this analogous to the 12er Shi’a pray tell us which of the “12 imams” was a traitor to Rasul Allah (saw)?
In fact, the 12er Shi’a seem to catch the unsuspecting Sunni Muslims with something that they may be remotely familiar with or something that seems vague. “You remember about 12 tribes of Israel?” “Oh yeah”, says the Sunni layman. “You remember Jesus had 12 disciples?” “Hmm sounds right”, says the unsure Sunni Muslim who has never bothered to really check into these issues.
So after they ‘establish‘ something about how the number 12 is somehow significant than comes the ahadith from Bukhari and Muslim about 12 rulers, and so forth.
Now note that these 12 disciples of Jesus according to the above text were with him concurrently, not in succession. None of these disciples ever disappeared waiting until the present. One of these disciples betrayed Jesus. Which of the “12 Imams” betrayed Rasul Allah (saw)?
Also, you will note that these 12 disciples were to go unto the 12 tribes of Israel (Jacob). The whole of the New Testament is about Jesus (The Messiah) coming for his people, not the whole wide world. That is why you have the name of the 12 tribes of Israel at the gates of heaven in the vision.
Are these 12er Shi’a Imams going to have their names on 12 gates for 12 tribes of Arabs (only) numbering 12,000 each?
The only thing analogous between the 12er Imams and the 12 disciples of Jesus, who were sent to the 12 descendant tribes of Jacob is the number 12.
Now, this may not be very damaging to our Zaidi Shi’a brothers but we have clearly pulled the rug out from any idea or concept about there being anything analogous here.
Unfortunately, our respected Imams of Hadith were not infallible in their collection of hadith, they allow hadith to slip in about 12 leaders. The 12er Shi’a than use ahadith such as this to convert Sunni Muslims to their perspective.
Mohammad Hashim Kamali (May Allah have mercy on him) explains the situation best.
“Hadith critics have expressed reservations, nevertheless, over the authenticity of various ahadith, Some politically tendentious ahadith have come under criticism. One such hadith that al-Bukhari has recorded on the authority of Jabir b Samura is as follows:
“I heard the Prophet, peace be on him, saying that ‘there will be twelve rulers (amiran), ‘ and then the Prophet uttered words which I did not hear-but my father believed they were ‘…all of them will be from Quraysh’. “
“The Shi’i scholars have taken this hadith as “decisive evidence”, on the veracity of their belief in the twelve Imams. The Sunnis themselves have advanced different interpretations of this hadith. One interpreter thus understood this to mean that the twelve amirs will be simultaneous, all to whom will be laying claim to leadership, and the context is, therefore, one of tumult (al-fitna). “
“The various versions of probably this same hadith that Muslim and Abu Dawud have recorded say something different. Briefly, Muslim recorded a hadith to the effect “this matter (i.e the Caliphate) will not go away until twelve Caliphs have come and gone.” Abu Dawud similarly recorded a hadith to the effect that “this religion shall remain until twelve Caliphs have ruled, all of them with the agreement and support of the umma.”
“The commentator of al-Bukhari, Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, has quoted these views, and reading all of them together, he thought that the reference therein was to the Caliphate. But this only added to complication in view of the common knowledge that the approved Caliphs were only four, not twelve, According to Qadi ‘Iyad Al-Yahsubi the hadith “probably meant just leaders (‘a’immat al’adl) of whom four have lived and the rest may emerge any time before the day of resurrection.” This was “just the right sort of interpretation,” according to Jawad Yasin, for its Shi’i readers with which to vindicate their belief in occultation and the return of their twelfth Imam any time before the day of resurrection.”
“Ibn al -Jawzi surmised on the meaning of the hadith at issue and commented that the Prophet had probably meant twelve rulers excluding his Companions. It was then suggested that the hadith had referred to the Umayyad Caliphs. The problem here was that the Umayyad Caliphs, starting from Mu’awiya (d. 41 H) to Marwan al-Thani (d. 127 H) numbered fourteen, not twelve. Ibn al-Jawzi’s response to this was that Mu’awiya may be excluded since he was a Companion. Then he added that Marwan Ibn al-Hakam (d. 65 H) should also be excluded as he was a usurper and took office after the people had elected ‘Abd Allah b al-Zubayr. This rather imaginative interpretation fitted in with the counting of the Umayyad Caliphs at twelve and the image that was consequently conveyed of them was that they were leaders who ruled with the support of the umma.”
“This interpretation was based on several questionable assumptions one of which excluded the first four Caliphs from the counting altogether, then it was assumed that Mu’awiya as not a usurper of political power; that Marwan b. al-Hakam was not to be counted as a Caliph, and that ‘Abd Allah b al-Zubayr had been conclusively elected to be the Caliph.”
“All of these rather weak interpretations were attempted with the pious yet questionable motive of upholding the reliability of the leading hadith collections and also to lend support perhaps to the Umayyad rule. The episode sustained itself simply because the chain of transmitters of the hadith in question appeared sound. Al-Bukhari and Muslim evidently recorded it because of its isnad without praying much attention to its meaning. And then the series of apologetic commentaries followed suit to justify what they had done.”
“If the true purpose of all hadith is to clarify and interpret the Qur’an and those aspects of Islam that can properly be said to be the necessary part of its belief structure and its Shari’a, then the hadith we have just reviewed is so peripheral that it hardly merits all the speculative effort that is undertaken to justify it.”
Source: (A Textbook of Hadith Studies pages 206-208 Mohammad Hashim Kamali)
Very well said!
Imam Bukhari used Shi’a narrators in his hadith.
Abd al-Razzaq al-San’ani (Died 211 AH)
Ibn ‘Adi said: They (i.e. scholars) did not see any problem in his (Abd al-Razzaq Al-San’ani) hadith except that they attributed Shi’ism to him…He was a man of honour … he narrated traditions in praise of the Household of the Prophet (Ahl al-Bayt) and disparaging others… Mukhlid al-Shu’ayri said: I was with ‘Abd al-Razzaq when someone mentioned Mu’awiyah. ‘Abd al-Razzaq said: ‘Do not pollute our assembly by mentioning the descendant of Abu Sufyan!’.
Source: [Al-Mizzi, Tahdhib al-Kamal, under “‘Abd al-Razzaq al-San’ani”]
Ibn ‘Adi also narrated the hadith from Abd Al Razzaq al-San’ani , “If you see Mu’awiyah on my pulpit then kill him!”
Source: [Al-Dhahabi, Mizan al-’I’tidal, under “‘Abd al-Razzaq al-San’ani”]
And yet in spite of this, his narrations are found in Sahih Bukhari [kitab al-’iman]!
The fact that Imam Al Bukhari would use a Shi’a narrator who also narrated blatantly sectarian ahadith against Mu’awiyah would show anyone who is willing to be fair and honest that he is not above reproach in his compilations.
The brilliant Islamic historian Ibn Khaldun (raheemullah) exposed this with the ahadith about the Mahdi.
Please read the following entry here:
CRITIQUE OF THE HADITH ON THE 12 RULERS.
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.”
Source: (Sahih al-Bukhari Hadith: 9.329)
In Sahih Muslim, the traditions are as follows:
“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.”
Source: (Sahih Muslim, Arabic version, Kitab al-Imaara, 1980 Edition Pub. in Saudi Arabia, v3, p1452, Tradition #5)
Our critique of this hadith will not focus so much on the chain of narration as it will focus on the text itself, but rather using Aql and Mantiq.
Is it not odd that Jabir Ibn Samura is to have related something of such importance from the Messenger of Allah (saw) and yet, did not catch all of it so that his father (or the man standing next to him)has to be the one to inform him of the missing bits?
Why is Jabir Ibn Samura the only one narrating this? He was possibly only 10 years of age at the time.
Why is no clarification sought? The companions are known to ask the Blessed Messenger (saw) about the most minute details of his blessed life. Why is there no clarification sought on a matter of such weight?
If the Blessed Prophet Muhammed (saw) narrated about the future why not simply mention Abu Bakr (r.a) as his successor? It does not seem odd that the Blessed Messenger (saw) would foretell about 12 rulers and yet not state plainly that Abu Bakr (r.a) is to be the successor? Our Sunni Muslim brothers admit there is no explicit statement of the Blessed Messenger (saw) stating that Abu Bakr (r.a) should succeed him.
That alone should cause our Sunni brothers to have a pause concerning this hadith. However, our 12er Shi’a brothers will say that this is exactly the point. The Blessed Messenger (saw) would not leave such a weighty issue without clarity. However, this hadith states the rulers would come from the Quraish but not necessarily the household of the Blessed Messenger (saw).
What should happen is that all of the chains of transmission that relate this particular hadith about 12 commanders/rulers, should be juxtaposed, examined for irregularities, and all the narrators examined.
So there are two possible approaches for our Sunni brothers to respond to us on this.
We have used Aql and Mantiq to question the veracity of the text. Therefore there should be a stronger Aql based and Mantiq based response.
Those who simply say that we accept this hadith and we do not need to reply upon Aql or Mantiq for justification still have not given any satisfactory response on how this hadith gives clarity on any aspect of our faith. The Sunnah provides clarity.
As far as the companions and criticism of them
“Ali b. al-Madini (d. 234/838) wrote an early work (now) lost listing them.”
“The Sunni critics’ view of the Companions was both ideologically driven and practical. Sunni Islam was built on the idea that the Companions of the Prophet had inherited his authority and passed on his teachings reliably. In that sense, as a group, they were above reproach. In terms of hadith criticism, however, the critics’ reach did not extend far enough back to apply the rules of transmitter criticism to the companions. The earliest critics, al-Zhuri, had met only the youngest of the Companions, and his hadith criticism mostly addressed the reports he heard from the Successors. Al-Zuhri, Malik, and Shu’ba had direct experience with the Successors, but they had no real way to evaluate the uprightness or accuracy of Companions. In a sense, reports such as Aisha’s aforementioned rejection of hadiths for content reasons represent vestiges of hadith criticism from the companion generation. That the collective impunity of the Companions was a later construct of the Sunni worldview is evident when one finds occasional minor Companions listed in early books of weak hadith transmitters.“
Source: (Jonathan A .C. Brown Hadith Muhammad’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World pg 88)
Dr. Musa Al-Musawi (The grandson of Ayatollah Abu L-Hassan al-Isfahani) says the following:
“Although we believe that most of the forged narratives from the Imams, were forged after al-ghiba al-kubra (the disappearance of Al-Mahdi Al Muntadhar)…..but any impartial researcher will necessarily conclude that even during the time of the Shiite Imams, many narratives were fabricated and ascribed to the Imams, in the like manner as they were fabricated and attributed to the Prophet.”
Source: (al-Shi’a wa-l-tashih: al-Sira’ bayn al-shi’a wa-l-tashayyu'(the struggle between Shia and Shiism p. 135)