Twelver Shi’ism and answering Shi’i reformists

As societies have meandered through different epochs, expansions and ideas, it has only been natural for existing notions and ideas to be challenged, and this is a necessary and natural part of society. This can be something to be observed in many varying fields, in which in many instances such a challenge has revolutionised or propelled the field forward.

In the field of religion, we can observe this phenomenon in a group of people who share the same beliefs and within that group someone may present a new idea or new angle of how to view something. This can be very positive. It could lead to the further strengthening, development and a more sophisticated, nuanced understanding of an idea.

It could also be negative and ideologically destructive, coming from an unstable theological foundation, inner doubts, misconstrued theories foreign ideologies or a shaytani influence. All these form misconceptions that somehow challenge this group’s theological structure, directing criticisms at their system of belief, either genuinely questioning their chain of thought, or doing so intentionally to misguide them.

Looking into various arguments and counter-arguments in religion is very important, but the outcome all depends on the foundation. With a weak foundation, one could sway in a direction they were not initially intended to swing towards, which is why we will always need the element of guidance. In any argument or idea, there are always people on the opposite end of the spectrum of what you believe in, who are just as passionate as you may be. So, how do we know what is true belief, and what isn’t?

You will have one religion or sect argue in favour of their belief, and against the opposing group or view. The opposing group will also try to prove their belief, and have a counter-argument. This usually happens in theology, and the interesting fields in religious studies that deal with this are polemics and apologetics.[1] Polemics are those who critique someone else’s religion or belief system and apologetics are those who defend or elaborate on their position against critiques put forward by polemics.

Unfortunately, for those who have not fortified themselves with a strong theological structure, contentious theories or hollow misconceptions can easily become a threat and destabilise such people, dragging them into panic, not knowing how to engage or have the necessary thought framework to deal with such theories or misconceptions.

When you have an outsider making comments about your belief, you usually brush it off, satisfied with your existing understandings and beliefs. In my opinion, I do not think this is a good practice to just dismiss counter-ideas, because we need to pay strong attention to strengthening our belief.

Then you have an insider, within your own ranks, and for whatever reason he/she has formulated serious objections towards what they believe in or what you as a group believe in. This can be especially dangerous as sometimes such an insider does not have sincere intentions with these objections and often veil their true intentions by referring to these objections as something other than misconceptions, critiques, questions etc.  . They instead usher such ideas in and herald them under more flattering titles to make them look more sophisticated and approachable for the intended audiences. This commonly manifests itself as being under the pretence of being “freethinkers”, “defining/thinking in a new paradigm”, “out of box thinking” and wanting to “reform” what they have inherited from their forefathers. This seems especially pertinent in the current milieu of our communities, unfortunately.

One verse that is so dear to these types of “reformers” is the below:

بَلْ قَالُوا إِنَّا وَجَدْنَا آبَاءَنَا عَلَىٰ أُمَّةٍ وَإِنَّا عَلَىٰ آثَارِهِم مُّهْتَدُونَ

Rather they say, ‘We found our fathers following a creed, and we are indeed guided in their footsteps.’[2]

The premise is that what we have inherited from our Shi’i heritage is ridden with false information, weak narrations, Isra`iliyat, exaggeration (ghuluw) and things picked up on the way that has nothing to do with the Prophet (s.a.w.) or Islam.

From early times our esteemed ‘Ulama spent effort answering questions or critiques directed at Twelver Shi’ism and refuting misconceptions. An ideal example for this is Sheikh al-Mufid (336/948 – 413.1022 AH/CE), where he wrote tens of books and treatises in defence of Shi’i belief and refuting common misconceptions raised during that era.[3]

It was a duty seen by scholars to use their knowledge in defence of their creed. The following Prophetic (s.a.w.) hadith shows how important this is:

إِذَا ظَهَرَتِ اَلْبِدَعُ فِي أُمَّتِي فَلْيُظْهِرِ اَلْعَالِمُ عِلْمَهُ فَمَنْ لَمْ يَفْعَلْ فَعَلَيْهِ لَعْنَةُ اَللَّهِ .

When innovations appear in my ummah, the scholar must make manifest his learning, or else the curse of God be upon him.[4]

There are various narrations that instruct us to educate our children in learning the ways of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.), and the dangers of not doing so. The following is from Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.):

بَادِرُوا أَوْلاَدَكُمْ بِالْحَدِيثِ قَبْلَ أَنْ يَسْبِقَكُمْ إِلَيْهِمُ اَلْمُرْجِئَةُ .

Hasten in educating your children [our] teachings before the Murji`ah[5] beat you to them.[6]

This is saying that parents need to quickly tend to the theological structure of their children before they are taken over or brainwashed by other groups. A young person as we all know is very malleable and is prone to confusing ideas or misguided beliefs.

It’s very important for us to strengthen our ‘aqeedah, and at the same time protect it from falsehood or misguidance. If we were to do this, then we would not fall astray, nor panic when faced with the dilemma of someone within us going off track theologically and belief-wise.

Unfortunately, there are instances where certain people tend to grow into something they had not initially intended to grow into. In most cases, people do not intentionally deviate from the straight path, but it happens and is common. This is why we see the Quran warns us about not panicking or being harmed if someone else was to go astray.[7] It would certainly upset us that another soul has deviated from the path, but it should not affect us. There will always be people who are guided, and others misguided. Some start off guided, then deviate, some are misguided, and then guided. This occurred even with some family members of our Ma’sumeen (a.s.), and as the verse says that God leads astray whomever He wishes and guides whomever He wishes.[8]

This phenomenon will never fade away, and the main point here is for us to remember not to be affected, discouraged, or to panic, but to continue on in our path.[9]

We will always encounter people who have conflicting theories, misconstrued ideas or perverted views, from non-Muslims, Muslims, fellow Shi’a, or even ex-Shi’a. This should not hold any weight or bearing on us as practicing Muslims. We should deal with it, in a sensible and healthy way, but never to panic about it. Surely and most definitely, it is sad when someone has become misguided or has deviated, but what can we do – other than pray for them and continue on in our beliefs and acts. In a personal capacity myself, I always wish people the best for whatever path they take and I always pray for everyone’s guidance, including of course myself especially with my many shortcomings that I only hope Allah the All-Forgiving pardons me for.

And it is with the above introduction, well-wishing and understandings that I wish to communicate my feelings on issues affecting our community today in which there are many troublesome and chaotic ideas being thrown about and unfortunately having disastrous perceivable effects. It’s never easy to speak about these things, as we all try to avoid fitnah, discord or any kind of disruption. It is not my intention at all to engage in conflict or disrupt our harmony, but we must fulfil our duty in clearing up matters that are freely being said.

In this discussion I wish to address views put forward by two English-speaking scholars. The first is Sheikh Arif Abdulhussain Bata[10] of Al-Mahdi Institute,[11] and the second scholar is Syed Ali Hur Kamoonpuri of al-Islaah Youtube Channel.[12]

At this time, I feel it is very important to refute misconceptions they have presented regarding Twelver Shi’ism and provide the accepted and mainstream Twelver Shi’ah stance on the related issues to be discussed.

There are a few commonalities between these two individuals, which is why I decided to box them together. Both of them believe it is their mission to reform Twelver Shi’ism and fix all this wrongness we have inherited from our Shi’ah ‘Ulama, or somehow misinterpreted. Al-Mahdi Institute prides itself on being “an open platform for critical Muslim scholarship”. Syed Ali Hur’s channel is called al-Islaah (Reform).

What is being contended?

This article will be centred around three topics of contention among these speakers:

  1. Did the Imams have ‘ilm al-ghayb (knowledge of the unseen)?
  2. Did the Imams know who the next Imam was to be?
  3. Can we prove the existence of our Twelfth Imam?

I will dissect each of these topics by first sharing the views of two individuals in public settings (speeches, recordings etc), then I will present the clear and accepted view of our esteemed scholars and make refutations where necessary. I will first introduce a bit more of a background about the first individual, Sh. Arif Abdulhussain.

Sh. Arif has been at the centre of controversy for his views for some time, and there was an official inquiry and investigation into this conducted by the Khoja Federation, with Sh. Dr. Murtadha Alidina involved.[13]

Sh. Arif claims to be a mujtahid,[14] and also challenges Sh. Alidina and others to verify that. For me, whether he is a mujtahid or not makes no difference, because ijtihad does not give someone immunity from deviation. There are numerous cases where people of high ‘ilmi levels deviated, ideologically or morally. I think what is important is the kind of ideological/theological structure that Sh. Arif prescribes to, and understand what kind of mindset he has. By doing this, we will know where his unorthodox ideas come from, and in him representing non-mainstream Tashayyu’, we should not be surprised by his statements.

I don’t mean this in a disrespectful way. It’s just that should someone want to inquire into why this scholar thinks a certain way, we must first trace their chain of ideas and know what they affiliate themselves to.

To get a better understanding of how Sh. Arif thinks, I would like to give this following example:

In the discussion with the Khoja Federation, one of the criticisms directed at Sh. Arif were his remarks that the majority of duas and ziyarahs in Mafatih al-Jinan are suspicious. In his defence of this view, he states that he is not alone in this belief and shares it with someone else who he describes as an ‘illustrious mujtahid’. Sh ‘Arif then mentions Abul al-Fadhl al-Burqu’i (d. 1993)[15] (Sh. Arif struggled to even correctly pronounce the surname),[16] and shows al-Burqu’i’s book called Ta’arudh Mafatih al-Jinan ma’a al-Quran (The Confliction of Mafatih al-Jinan with the Quran), which he originally wrote in Persian.

Sh. Arif says that Ayatullah Khoi was very fond of al-Burqu’i, and that he had has an ijazah of ijtihad, etc. Sh. Arif refers to al-Burqu’i as a great man and credible, wanting to use him to support his view against Mafatih al-Jinan.

I think this is a great example of Sh ‘Arif taking a very extreme stance that is not common at all in saying the majority of all duas and ziayarahs in Mafatih Al-Jinan are suspicious and predicating this extreme view on very shallow and baseless evidences, as we shall soon see. This is what is especially troubling for me, is that someone like Sh. ‘Arif who has considerable influence on certain Shi’ah communities around the world would not take more care in making sure the starkly opposing views and stance he takes and perpetuates to Shi’ah communities around the world, are not more heavily substantiated. Now, onto examining this example further.

Firstly, anyone with basic knowledge knows that Abul Fadhl al-Burqu’i was a very dubious character. Wahhabis/Salafis especially love him, as they believe he is an ex-Shi’i.[17] They give him the title of Ayatullah al-‘Udhma al-‘Allamah, and this very book mentioned above was printed in Saudi Arabia. However, numerous sources say that he was not a mujtahid, and he was also expelled from Qom.[18] Unfortunately, he was very confused, and did not recognise himself to be a Shi’i, nor a Sunni. He wrote books in favour of Shi’ism, and he also wrote books against Shi’ism. Among the main views he held was rejecting the existence of Imam al-Mahdi (a.a.f.). It is said at the end of his life he repented and he returned back to Tashayyu’.

A serious question to ask Sh. Arif is if he genuinely believed Burqu’i was as praiseworthy as he had mentioned, because no scholar or even average Shi’i would in any way support, promote or praise the likes of Burqu’i.[19] So, as mentioned above, it is extremely troubling Sh. Arif would take such an opposing view, communicate this to Shi’ah communities yet have such a weak substantiation for the view, completely substantiating the view on troublesome evidence like relying on Abul Fadhl al-Burqu’i.

All of his misconceptions and criticisms have been refuted in detail by our esteemed ‘Ulama.[20]

In general, misguided scholars or ex-Shi’a all have the same cliché criticisms: Everything is ghuluww, tawassul is shirk, ‘ulama are corrupt or too backward, khums is baseless, we need reform, so many hadiths are fabricated, etc. Such criticisms are not new or novel and have existed for many centuries already. There is nothing new, innovative or revolutionary in such ideas, they are just the same recycled criticisms just being dressed up with modern influences and jargon language.Some people hold Sh. Arif with high regard, believing how unique he is, thinking outside of the box and beyond the shackles of dogmatic prejudices. The reality, however, is quite different. There is nothing unique about this approach, and those in the Arabic and Farsi speaking worlds know that these kinds of criticisms have been laid countless times over the past centuries. They have been thoroughly debunked by our esteemed scholars throughout history, and the reason the “mainstream” today is what it is, is that these criticisms do not hold any scientific or academic weight and have mostly been lost to history, only being revived every so often by a newcomer who wishes to claim his stake in fame.

Many people are attracted to his calm serene demeanour, with his use of complex terms and big words, like his unprecedented theory of form & essence, existentialism, contextualisation, no-finality, evolution efflux, horizontal/vertical/existential axis, existence and religion being in a constant form of ‘flux’ and so on. He incorporates these things in his fiqh theories which basically imply that there are aspects of Islamic law that contradict with fundamental modern human rights and that the process of deriving Islamic rulings (ijtihad) requires reformation.

His theological views appear based on what he dubs as “God Centricity” which also implies that current Shi’i Imami beliefs have moved away from the correct idea of Tawhid that is espoused in the Qur’an.

There are many examples of these “outside the box” kind of ideas that Sh. Arif puts forward, and it’s been going on for years. Perhaps before it was more subtle, and lot of people did not pick up on it. I’ll give one example of this lecture where Sh. Arif presents a collage of ideas he believes we need to refine, like how we see intercession of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.). He does not explicitly say we must avoid it, but anyone listening would conclude that there is no need at all for shafa’ah. He then goes on to say that although he has utmost respect for our ‘Ulama, the age of bulugh for a girl in our modern society must not be 9, but 13, and so on.[21]

As I said, there are too many things to mention, and this could be the overall reason as to why the office of Ayatullah al-‘Udhma Seyid Sistani retracted their ijazah from Al-Mahdi Institute.[22]

This happened back in 2015, and for any Shi’i, this of course is very concerning and signifies a lot. A.U. Sistani is not political, nor naive or gullible to just simply withdraw an ijazah. It is a very serious thing to do, and it carries many meanings, the simplest of them is this place and its director are no longer reliable.

Then again, for some, even this, was still not enough to avert people from him. We could just leave it at him wanting to be a part of the non-mainstream, unorthodox reformist group.

Much more can be said, but I must return back to the topic I wish to address.

1. Did the Imams have ‘ilm al-ghayb (knowledge of the unseen)?

Syed Ali Hur Kamoonpuri is another voice that has arisen recently with a mission to “deliver” the Shi’a from their misguidance and reform the Shi’i faith by refuting any attribution of the Imams having “knowledge of the unseen”. Syed Ali Hur generally believes that what we have today in Shi’ism is ridden with exaggeration (ghuluww), and we are all sinking as a sect, and nobody is prepared to save it.[23] Of course, he is sacrificing himself to “save us”. Syed Ali Hur also pretty much questions the very existence of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.).

Syed Ali Hur explains that early scholars rejected the notion that our Imams (a.s.) had ‘ilm al-ghayb, and that this was something formulated by the Ghulat, which seeped into mainstream Shi’i faith. The example he gives is what Sheikh al-Saduq says about those who believe the Imams (a.s.) had ‘ilm al-ghayb in that they are like the Ghulat and the Mufawwidhah.[24] Of course, this can be easily explained, based on the Madrasah of Qom at that time and what Sheikh al-Saduq was dealing with, along with what this term ‘ilm al-ghayb meant then.[25] In his book al-Tawhid, and in many other places, Sheikh al-Saduq affirms the Imams (a.s.) possessing ‘ilm al-ghayb.[26]

Syed Ali Hur’s arguments against Twelver Shi’ah belief in the Imams’ ‘ilm al-ghayb are not new at all, and what he says can unsurprisingly be seen word-for-word in the writings of some Sunni academics such as Dr Nasir al-Qifari who wrote a three-volume book critiquing Twelver Shi’ism, by the name of ‘Usul Madhhab al-Shi’ah al-Imamiyah al-Ithnay ‘Ashariyah: ‘ardh wa naqd (Principles of the Shi’ah Imami Twelver sect: survey and critique).[27] In this book he mentions the very argument that Sheikh al-Saduq and other early Shi’ah Ulama rejected the concept of the Imams (a.s.) having ‘ilm al-ghayb.[28]

Is ‘ilm al-ghayb that contentious and problematic that it needs to be categorically removed from our creed? Has it created a distorted image of the Ma’sumeen (a.s.), or has it produced deviants and led to corrupt ‘aqidah? How many of those who believe the Imams (a.s.) have ‘ilm al-ghayb have genuinely deviated and become among the Ghulat?

What is behind this persistence on wanting to get rid of it and reject it? Who’s benefitting?

The topic of knowledge of the Ma’sum (a.s.) is an interesting topic, as it discusses the scope of knowledge the Prophets/Imams (a.s.) have. This topic delves into the type of knowledge the Ma’sum has, explaining it from an epistemic perspective and also from its miraculous side.

Our fundamental belief is that anything and everything the Prophets and Imams have are from Almighty God, and they are but His servants. The knowledge that the Ma’sum (a.s.) has is God-given, and what they know is endowed upon them by the Almighty. God’s knowledge is infinite and unlimited, whereas their knowledge is finite and limited, but with a greater capacity than any other regular human.

I understand that some might be sensitive towards the term ‘ilm al-ghayb, because of the Sunni view on this, or that the immediate reference one makes is it being exclusive to Almighty God, as parts of some Quranic verse allude to.

Does the Quran allow an interpretation of humans to have irregular levels of ghaybi knowledge, like Asif ibn Barkhiya? What we can see is yes, if it is allowed by the Almighty.[29]

We don’t see our Ma’sumeen (a.s.) as soothsayers, and their knowledge of the unseen did not remove them from their public duties and how they conducted their lives. They are the Rasikhun fi al-‘ilm (those vested with knowledge), as the verse says.[30]

We don’t need to use the term ‘ilm al-ghayb. We can say God-given knowledge, knowledge of the Ma’sum, or anything else. The important thing is we do not believe they have independent knowledge parallel to God. It is Allah ta’ala who gave them access to this type of knowledge that other people do not have access to. The Ma’sumeen’s ilm al-ghayb is by medium of God. For us, Imamah is similar to Nubuwwah. The Prophet (s.a.w.) is the “city of knowledge”, and Imam Ali (a.s.) is its gate.

Allamah al-Amini (d., 1970), the author of the encyclopedia al-Ghadir has a book on this topic, called ‘Ilm A`immah al-Shi’ah bi al-ghayb. As short as it may be, he expresses his bewilderment as to why some find it so difficult to accept that the Imams (a.s.) had knowledge of the unseen. Khidhr (a.s.) did, other Prophets (a.s.) did, and even non Ma’sumeen did.

The reformist is going to say: ‘Oh, well Shi’ah in general believe this, and nothing is sacred, so let’s doubt it, because I haven’t really come across something tangible to support it. Nothing is sacred, and I cannot defend it, so I reject it’.

What kind of odd attitude is that? Even by academic standards, such a stance makes no sense.

For argument’s sake, let’s accept Syed Kamanpoori’s view that early Ulama did not believe in the Imams having that scope of knowledge. Since when do you even acknowledge or respect what they say? As we will see later, he questions the very existence of Imam al-Mahdi (a.a.f.) that these same ‘Ulama affirm.

Picking and choosing what early ‘Ulama say and either use that as an argument for mainstream Tashayyu’, or against mainstream Tashayyu’ is not very genuine or credible as an approach.

The two early Shi’ah books, Basa`ir al-Darajat and Kamal al-Din mention a hadith from Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (a.s.), where he says:

إِنَّ اَللَّهَ لاَ يَتْرُكُ اَلْأَرْضَ بِغَيْرِ عَالِمٍ يَحْتَاجُ اَلنَّاسُ إِلَيْهِ وَلاَ يَحْتَاجُ إِلَيْهِمْ يَعْلَمُ اَلْحَلاَلَ وَاَلْحَرَامَ فَقُلْتُ جُعِلْتُ فِدَاكَ بِمَا ذَا يَعْلَمُ؟ قَالَ: وِرَاثَةٌ مِنْ رَسُولِ اَللَّهِ صَلَّى اَللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَ آلِهِ وَ عَلِيِّ بْنِ أَبِي طَالِبٍ عَلَيْهِ اَلسَّلاَمُ .

“Verily, Almighty God will never leave the Earth without a person of knowledge that the people need and he not need them. He will know the permissible and the prohibited.” I [the narrator] asked: “May I be sacrificed for you, how does this know?” He (a.s.) said: “Being inherited from the Messenger of God (s.a.w.) and Ali ibn Abi Talib (a.s.).”[31]

Another hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) says:

إِنَّا لَوْ كُنَّا نُفْتِي اَلنَّاسَ بِرَأْيِنَا وَهَوَانَا لَكُنَّا مِنَ اَلْهَالِكِينَ وَلَكِنَّهَا آثَارٌ مِنْ رَسُولِ اَللَّهِ صَلَّى اَللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ أصل [وَأُصُولِ] عِلْمٍ نَتَوَارَثُهَا كَابِرٌ عَنْ كَابِرٍ نَكْنِزُهَا كَمَا يَكْنِزُ اَلنَّاسُ ذَهَبَهُمْ وَ فِضَّتَهُمْ.

If we were to give verdicts to people based on our personal views and opinions, we would have been among the perished. Rather, the information we have is from the Messenger of God (s.a.w.) and the principles of knowledge that we inherit chest from chest, and we safeguard it the same way as people safeguard their gold and silver.[32]

There are literally hundreds of these kinds of ahadith from our Ma’sumeen (a.s.), many graded as authentic as well.

The numerous Quranic verses and many hadiths clearly indicate the scope of knowledge of the Imams (a.s.). Did Imam Ali (a.s.) not ascend the pulpit in Kufa and say “Ask me before you lose me.” Did Imam Ali (a.s.) not ask his son Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba (a.s.), who was very young at that time, to also ascend the pulpit and deliver a sermon, to reveal his level of divine knowledge.

When Prophet Jesus (a.s.) while still being an infant said that God has given him the Kitab and Hikmah, does this not show his exceptional level of knowledge? Clearly this illustrates such a thing is possible for a prophet, and even for someone who isn’t a prophet, but if we say it for an Imam, now suddenly it is ghuluww?

Let’s accept what Syed Ali Hur says, that our early ‘Ulama did not believe that the Imams had ‘ilm al-ghayb. While it is positive that he at least values the view of our early ‘Ulama, although his understanding is completely wrong, he appears to be quite selective in disregarding their belief in the existence of our Twelfth Imam.

The usual line of argument is, shouldn’t we develop our own ideas, away from reliance upon our forefathers? The response to this is even if we did so, based on Quran and hadiths we have with us, we can still conclude that the Imams (a.s.) had levels of ‘ilm al-ghayb.[33]

Some interesting books and references that have been written by experts in this field are:

  • Sheikh Ali Namazi Shahrudi, ‘Ilm al-Ghayb.[34]
  • Sayyid Muhammad Husain Tabatabai, ‘Ilm al-Imam.[35]
  • Sheikh Khalil Rizq, ‘Ilm al-A`immah al-Ma’sumeen: muqaran falsafiyyah-kalamiyyah.[36]
  • Sheikh Muhammad Husain Mudhaffar, ‘Ilm al-Imam.[37]
  • Sabah ‘Abbas Hasan al-Sa’idi, Ilm al-Imam bayn al-Iltaqiyah wa al-Isha`iyyah…[38]
  • Article (Farsi): Ahmad Marvi, Seyed Hassan Mostafavi, The Rational and Narrational Bases of Imam’s knowledge of the Unseen (ghayb).[39]
  • English: The Knowledge of The Unseen & The Knowledge of The Book.[40]
2. Did the Imams know who the next Imam was to be?

For Sh. Arif, it might sound absurd that people genuinely believe he doesn’t believe in Imam Mahdi,[41] and he might be shocked at that, but why is this kind of accusation directed at him and nobody else? It must come from somewhere.

Basically, Sh. Arif has said that Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (a.s.) had no idea who the next Imam was and no matter how we try to rationalise this, we get caught out and cannot explain what’s going on.[42]

Let’s first have a look at whether our Imams (a.s.) had prior knowledge to who the next Imam will be. Sh. Arif in that same lecture attests that the great Marja’ Seyid al-Khu`i (q.s.) had demonstrated arguments proving the Imams (a.s.) had knowledge of who will be the next designated Imam. For us this is important, not only because the late Seyid al-Khu`i was a Marja’, but more because he was a highly qualified expert in the science of the biography of narrators (‘ilm al-rijal). This means that what he refers to is based on due deliberation and diligence in that field.

Nonetheless, we will overlook what contemporary scholars say, because for reformists, the views of contemporary Maraji’ and scholars do not hold any weight.

The overall vibe we get from these reformists is that Twelver Shi’ism was something spontaneous and it just happened to develop without any pre-planning or even solid approval from the Prophet (s.a.w.) or the early Imams (a.s.). This is a very important point that is commonly advocated by Zaidi scholars and sympathisers as well.

Our belief is that the holy Prophet (s.a.w.) by Divine decree appointed Imam Ali (a.s.) as his successor, the Caliph and the Imam, and also appointed the next eleven Imams from his offspring, one after the other. Each of our eleven Imams (a.s.), from Imam Ali (a.s.) to Imam Hasan al-‘Askari (a.s.) adhered to this appointment by appointing the next Imam, who would take over the Imamah of the previous Imam and assume the role of God’s Hujjah on this earth.

This is what we believe as Twelver Shi’ah.

For us, Imamah is like Nubuwwah, it is not endowed upon someone unless they have the most perfect of qualities, and as it is the highest of divine positions, it is only given to the most noble and most complete of God’s creation.

Now, what is the proof for this?

Do we have an explicit verse in the Quran that mentions this? No.

Do we have a signed letter from the Prophet (s.a.w.) that says this? No.

Are there narrations that are of the level of tawatur?[43] No.

But then again, that’s the common argument Sunnis use: if Imam Ali (a.s.) was so important, why wasn’t he explicitly mentioned in the Quran? The reply is that the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) was the Prophet of Islam (a.s.), and he’s mentioned only 5 times. The Prophet Jesus (a.s.) is even mentioned more than him. The Chapter of the Cow is close to three juz’s of the Quran, whereas the Chapter of Muhammad (a.s.) is under four pages.

We do not have a signed letter. We don’t even have a complete full Quranic manuscript from that era as well. Does that mean the Quran is batil, or that we cannot rely on it? We know that the basis of our religious tradition strongly relies on the oral tradition, which was the normative mode of transmission of that time.

As for tawatur, only a very small percentage of our hadiths are of the level of tawatur, like hadith al-ghadir, but even that is challenged and objected, so even if it was at the level of tawatur, it would still be rejected by many, for whatever reason.[44]

What we know for a fact is how Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) were persecuted. They continuously suffered at the hands of Bani Umayyah and Bani ‘Abbas. They were killed, their family members were killed, their companions were tortured and killed, their supporters were killed or banished. The Imams (a.s.) lived under constant surveillance, and in order for them to survive, they had to protect themselves. They did this by avoiding confrontation, being secretive, and observing taqiyyah.

At times, they would say something or do something that would not be aligned with Shi’i belief, for the sake of deterring the enemies away and safeguarding Islam. The Imams (a.s.) knew they were being monitored, so in order to elude them, they had to be vague, say something contrary, or perform acts under the pretence of taqiyyah.

Sheikh al-Mufid’s (d. 413/122 AH/CE) Kitab al-Irshad[45] is a good source for understanding this. As we know, Sheikh al-Mufid is one of our outstanding early scholars, and his relevance is that he lived during the early years of the Major Occultation. This means he had a direct connection and link to those who lived during the Minor Occultation, and then during the life of our 11th Imam, Imam Hasan al-‘Askari (a.s.).

This gives him a strong position in his chain of narration. Let’s have a look at one of many examples of what Sheikh al-Mufid narrates in Kitab al-Irshad. This is Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) mentioning to some of his elite companions that his son Musa al-Kadhem (a.s.) will be the next Imam:

رَوَى مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ اَلْوَلِيدِ قَالَ سَمِعْتُ عَلِيَّ بْنَ جَعْفَرِ بْنِ مُحَمَّدٍ اَلصَّادِقِ عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ يَقُولُ: سَمِعْتُ أَبِي جَعْفَرَ بْنَ مُحَمَّدٍ يَقُولُ لِجَمَاعَةٍ مِنْ خَاصَّتِهِ وَ أَصْحَابِهِ اِسْتَوْصُوا بِابْنِي مُوسَى خَيْراً فَإِنَّهُ أَفْضَلُ وُلْدِي وَ مَنْ أُخَلِّفُ بَعْدِي وَ هُوَ اَلْقَائِمُ مَقَامِي وَ اَلْحُجَّةُ لِلَّهِ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ عَلَى كَافَّةِ خَلْقِهِ مِنْ بَعْدِي. وَ كَانَ عَلِيُّ بْنُ جَعْفَرٍ شَدِيدَ اَلتَّمَسُّكِ بِأَخِيهِ مُوسَى وَ اَلاِنْقِطَاعِ إِلَيْهِ وَ اَلتَّوَفُّرِ عَلَى أَخْذِ مَعَالِمِ دِينِهِ عَنْهُ وَ لَهُ مَسَائِلُ مَشْهُورَةٌ عَنْهُ وَ جَوَابَاتٌ رَوَاهَا سَمَاعاً مِنْهُ [46].

[Muḥammad b. al-Walīd reported: I heard ‘Alī b. Ja‘far b. Muḥammad al-Ṣādiq, peace be on them, say:] I (i.e. ‘Alī b. Ja‘far) heard my father, Ja‘far b. Muḥammad, peace be on them, say to a group of his close associates and followers: “Treat my son, Mūsā, peace be on him, with kindness. He is the most meritorious (afḍal) of my children and the one who will succeed after me. He is the one who will undertake (qā’im) my position. He is Allāh’s proof (ḥujja) to all His creatures after me.”[47]

The single way of appointing the Imam is by specific designation, or what we call nass.[48] Again, this is a significant difference between Twelver Shi’ism and Zaidism, who believe that an Imam is Imam if he makes the claim, invites people to his claim and meets the description of being a Hashemi and rising with a sword.[49]

Twelver Shi’ism lived under the most difficult of circumstances, which is why they had to observe taqiyyah. At times they were able to publicly announce who the next Imam was, and at times they kept it vague or secret. However, in any case, the Imams knew exactly who the successor will be.

Allamah al-Hilli (648/1250 – 726/1325 AH/CE) in his book Minhaj al-Karamah fi Ma’rifat al-Imamah says:

When Almighty God sent His Messenger Muhammad (s.a.w.), he conveyed the Message and appointed Ali ibn Abi Talib as his successor after him, and then appointed his son al-Hasan al-Zaki after him, then appointed his son Husain al-Shahid, then appointed Ali ibn al-Husain Zayn al-‘Abidin, then appointed Muhammad ibn ‘Ali al-Baqir, then appointed Ja’far ibn Muhammad al-Sadiq, then appointed Musa ibn Ja’far al-Kadhem, then appointed Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha, and then appointed Muhammad ibn ‘Ali al-Jawad, then appointed ‘Ali ibn Muhammad al-Hadi, then appointed al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali al-Askari, then appointed the last, al-Hujjah Muhammad ibn al-Hasan, peace be upon them.[50]

Of course, Sheikh al-Kulaini mentions a whole set of narrations explaining how Imamah is appointed and succeeded, and not that it occurs due to kinship, or being the elder son, or anything else. It is Almighty God and His Messenger who designate and appoint the Imams, one after the other.[51]

The concept of Imamah according to Shi’ah is something rationally necessary, and there must be an Imam representing Almighty God on earth and leading the Muslim ummah as opposed to the Muslim ummah being in perpetual limbo without a proof of God on earth at all. Such a notion is logically and rationally incoherent. Almighty God chose one hundred and twenty-four thousand Prophets, and He did the same with choosing and appointing the Imams. We refer to this as nasb, ja’l or istifa`.

We believe the Imam must be infallible, and this can only be through Divine appointment, delivered by a truthful Prophet, and not that the people choose, or through bay’ah. People choosing an imam or pledging allegiance, or the person claiming Imamah and inviting people to it (as Zaidis believe) can be done by a non-ma’sum, and that defies the very purpose of Imamah, as Twelver Shi’ah believe.[52]

We also know the multitude of Prophetic narrations that refer to the number Twelve that is repeatedly mentioned and cannot be denied or rejected.[53] Twelve Chiefs, Twelve Caliphs, Twelve Imams, Twelve Naqibs, Twelve Amirs, all of them from Quraysh. Furthermore, we have our own Imams who mention Twelve as well, along with their companions and early scholars.[54] This will be discussed in the next section.

How can we say that this Divine promise of keeping the earth under the authority of a hujjah be vague or unknown, even by the previous hujjah? Does this not cast doubt on the very leadership of the Imam, in that he has no clue who will be designated for Imamah, nor has he himself decided? As we read in the Quran, Almighty God promised Prophet Jesus (a.s.) that five centuries after him a Messenger will come by the name of Ahmad (s.a.w.).[55] Can it be fathomed that the Imams be delegated to lead the ummah, but yet not be informed at least of the names of who will be next? The same argument we use to prove how the Prophet (s.a.w.) had laid out a strategy and plan for his future ummah by appointing Imam Ali (a.s.), to avoid confusion or sedition can be used for each of the Imams (a.s.) as well.

We can assume that in Sh. Arif Abdulhussain’s statement he was just provoking the crowd, wanting to get a reaction so he can address this topic. We can say he was posing a challenging scenario for the purpose of dialogue, or any other justification. It’s not easy to just brand him as genuinely believing that Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) had no idea who the next Imam was. What we can say and be cognizant of, is how responsible we are for posing a misconception and not immediately addressing it, so as to avoid any confusion of misguidance.

Ultimately, he is a religious cleric, and claims to be a Mujtahid as well. A religious cleric will always have this in mind, being responsible for the message he is conveying. By many, this is instead usually taken as being brave, because he is “criticising orthodoxy”.

Sh. Arif says “The greatest calamity that has fallen upon Islam is the Hadith Literature”.[56] I really don’t know how to understand or interpret this statement, because when he says “hadith has come and undone all the beauty that Islam gave,” does this mean he is a Quranist? As a Mujtahid, has he created his own methodology of fiqh and usul? Does he pick, choose and decide what is authentic and what isn’t? In Sh. Arif’s formulating of a fatwa, if he rejects previous sources or believes they are full of holes, where is he getting his references from? Or is this a new madhhab all together? I must say again that modernist Muslims love this kind of popular pseudo-intellectualism, because it panders to the audience, paints the speaker as innovative and avant-garde, bolstering their apparent perception of original intellectual thought i.e. it makes them look smart in front of audiences who are easily beguiled and swayed by such language and elicitations to emotions. This is especially the case in front of Western audiences in Western countries.

A major problem we face with these kind of reformist figures is their lack of appreciation or value to our early scholars, which makes it difficult for us to use early scholars as evidence. This makes further development and thought very problematic as you disregard the bulk of all religious literature and evidence to lean on. So what do you then substantiate all your theories and ideas on? Sh. Arif believes our grand ulama have fallen prey to invalid and unreliable hadith, and hence only he has the solution to this. He aggressively criticises Sheikh al-Saduq and Sheikh al-Mufid.[57]

Sheikh Arif says that Imam Ali (a.s.) did not designate Imam Hasan (a.s.) as the khalifah, but in Imamology he is the divinely appointed Imam.[58] I kind of understand what he’s saying, but it’s so confusing and unnecessary, unless explained properly.

Even if we were to further examine this whole issue of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (a.s.) not knowing the next Imam, it is not an idea that is something new.

Abu Ishaq al-Nawbakhti (250–320 (350?) AH) was an important theologian contemporary to Ali ibn Babawaih al-Qommi (d. 381 AH). Al-Nawbkahti wrote one of the earliest books on Shi’i theology and Imami belief called al-Yaqut fi ‘Ilm al-Kalam. In this book the author explicitly mentions there being tawatur in the nass of the eleven Imams after Imam Ali (a.s.), with each Imam specifying the Imam after him.[59]

Allamah al-Hilli narrates a hadith from the Prophet (s.a.w.) that has been widely-transmitted in Shi’i references:

قَالَ صَلَّى اَللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ لِلْحُسَيْنِ عَلَيْهِ اَلسَّلاَمُ هَذَا اِبْنِي إِمَامٌ اِبْنُ إِمَامٍ أَخُو إِمَامٍ أَبُو أَئِمَّةٍ تِسْعَةٍ تَاسِعُهُمْ قَائِمُهُمْ .

He (s.a.w.) said to al-Husain (a.s.): My son is an Imam, son of an Imam, brother of an Imam, and the father of nine Imams, the ninth Imam will be their riser.[60]

These narrations and views substantiated in our early books did not pop out of nowhere. How can someone who claims ijtihad make such a shocking statement? If he lacks that much confidence in his ‘aqidah, why is he clinging onto it? If it’s all hearsay and made up of fabricated or weak hadiths, isn’t it hypocritical to stick with it? What could he possibly substantiate his belief upon then?

Also, who claims that the only way of proving the Imams (a.s.) is by specific narrations that explicitly mention each of the names of the Imams (a.s.)? We have narrations where an Imam says who the next Imam will be. We have narrations that speak of some of the Imams and give their descriptions, like Baqir al-‘Ulum, etc. We have some of the later Imams (a.s.) making a statement and saying their forefathers and the grandfather the Prophet (s.a.w.) had designated them as an Imam.

Putting all this aside, who can claim that there was anyone contemporary to any of our Imams who had even a close level of knowledge or status to that of the Imam? Nobody!

Ismailis discuss this extensively and present detailed proof that Imam Sadiq designated Ismail.[61] Although Zaydis and Ismailis have fundamental problems with the narrators of many of our Imams, like Zurarah or Abu Basir, so when we quote a hadith narrated by them, they reject it, but yet when they stumble across an ambiguous or weak hadith that supports their creed, they accept it.

As we have different tafsirs of Quranic verses, we also have different tafsirs of hadiths, even muhkam, mutashabah, etc. With the hadith in al-Ghaybah or al-Kafi that alludes to there being bada` in the Imamah of Ismail, and it changed to Imam Musa al-Kadhem (a.s.), the wordings used in that narration must be interpreted in such a way that aligns with the Twelver Shi’i belief. For example, the word bada is not just bada`, it could mean ‘reveal’, in the sense that Ismail was the elder son of Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.), and people automatically assumed he was the next Imam, but Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) “revealed” that he wasn’t.[62] Furthermore, in that same narration, the second part mentions Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) writing his will to Imam al-Kadhem (a.s.).

This is one of these narrations:

اَلْوَلِيدِ بْنِ صَبِيحٍ قَالَ: كَانَ بَيْنِي وَ بَيْنَ رَجُلٍ يُقَالُ لَهُ عَبْدُ اَلْجَلِيلِ كَلاَمٌ فِي قِدَمٍ فَقَالَ لِي إِنَّ أَبَا عَبْدِ اَللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ أَوْصَى إِلَى  إِسْمَاعِيلَ  قَالَ فَقُلْتُ ذَلِكَ لِأَبِي عَبْدِ اَللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ إِنَّ عَبْدَ اَلْجَلِيلِ حَدَّثَنِي بِأَنَّكَ أَوْصَيْتَ إِلَى إِسْمَاعِيلَ فِي حَيَاتِهِ قَبْلَ مَوْتِهِ بِثَلاَثِ سِنِينَ فَقَالَ يَا وَلِيدُ لاَ وَ اَللَّهِ فَإِنْ كُنْتُ فَعَلْتُ فَإِلَى فُلاَنٍ يَعْنِي أَبَا اَلْحَسَنِ مُوسَى عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ وَ سَمَّاهُ.

Al-Walid ibn Sabih said: I had an old conversation with a man by the name of ‘Abd al-Jalil, and he said to me that Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) had appointed Ismail. I mentioned this to Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.), saying: “‘Abd al-Jalil told me that in your will you have appointed Ismail while he was alive, three years before he died.” Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) said: “O Walid, by God that is not the case. If I was to appoint anyone, it would be to so and so, [i.e. Abu al-Hasan Musa (a.s.), and he named him]”.[63]

The hadiths mentioned by Ismailis and Zaydis do not conform with the overall fundamentals of Twelver Shi’ism and the definite beliefs that we have. For us, the Imam is pre-creationally prepared for his role and duty, and his ‘ismah is not spontaneous, but takawini from his birth.

So, I don’t really know why Sh. Arif would say this and be adamant about it. Is he just quoting a view, and leaving it for his audience to decide, or is he trying to appeal to Ismailis, or does he want to show the complexity of hadith, or does he think by saying this people will tone down on their views regarding the Imams and ‘ilm al-ghayb?

Whatever the case may be, what he mentions certainly does not go in line with Imamism, not even for a reformist Imami Muslim.

If we have this many mustafidh riwayaat[64] having the strongest of chains of the most reliable of narrators, then how can we say Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) was still confused about what’s going to happen with who the seventh Imam will be. Why didn’t Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) bring this topic up with his father Imam al-Baqir (a.s.)? Why didn’t he make it absolutely clear, beyond any doubt that the Imams limited knowledge did not allow them to know who would be next?

The major problem here is how Sh. Arif incriminates himself and his core Shi’i belief without knowing and in effect condemning his own faith. If he was only an academic, like Abdulaziz Sachedina, or even an ex-cleric, like Mohsen Kadivar, it would be less sensitive, but he is a religious cleric and wears (even sometimes) the scholarly garb.

As Twelver Shi’a, we claim that Imamah is embedded within the teachings of Islam, from the beginning, and did not just spontaneously surface in the event of Ghadir. But then to suppose just the opposite and remark that Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) did not know who is next Imamah would entail that Imamah is not as fundamental as we claim. Imamah develops over time.

Furthermore, another important theological principle that Shi’a believe in, is that only a Ma’sum can fulfil the burial rites of another Ma’sum. Only a Ma’sum can wash, shroud and bury a Ma’sum. If this is the case, then how can Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) not know who will be taking this major responsibility?

Saying the Imam did not know who the next Imam was is only due to the fact that the individual believing so does not believe in the vast knowledge of the Ma’sum.

It was the severe persecution the Imams were living under that did not allow them to explicitly and openly say to everyone in public who the next Imam was. That’s why certain sects like the Fatahiyah, Ismailiyah and Waqifiyah came out. That’s also why Bani Abbas gained power. Bani Abbas took over Bani Umayyah because of their relation to Ahlul Bayt (a.s.). They used this as grounds for justifying their authority, because the Muslims were well aware that leadership is from Quraysh and the kin of the Prophet (s.a.w.). This occurred during the time of Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.), and similarly to the nubuwwah of Prophet Moses (a.s.) being concealed from Fir’awn, such was the case to a certain extent the imamah of Imam al-Kadhem (a.s.). Most people did not know who was the next Imam as this was not public information as of yet, so they just assumed it was the elder son. Some then assumed it was ‘Abdullah al-Aftah, and he was happy with that and called people to him. The enemies of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) were waiting to ambush the Imams and had spies everywhere, and so the Imams had to neutralise the situation by acting cautiously.

Furthermore, a major problem is with the Ismailis and Zaydis cherry-picking ambiguous hadiths that support their views.

What we can see is these doubts about Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) is not something new, but existed even at that time, which is why the Imams and early ‘Ulama put effort in refuting it. Refer to al-Kafi and see the hadiths that condemn Zaydism and Ismailism and refute their claims about the Imams.[65]

Has Sh. Arif read these hadiths, or is it because he rejects ‘ilm al-ghayb of the Ma’sumeen, this has led him to questioning his own Imam?

You might ask what is so bad about the Imam not knowing? You might say if someone says the Imam did not know who the next Imam was, this does not really damage their ‘aqidah. That’s absolutely wrong, because it does go against our fundamental Shi’i belief that the Imams were not only appointed in pre-existence, and that they were infallible from birth, and their names and descriptions were already known, but also the Imams having comprehensive knowledge of the past, present and future.[66]

Based on our theological belief and the historical testimonies, the Imams had clear knowledge of who their successor was, but due to different circumstances, they either publicly announced it, or kept it concealed and only informed some of the elite.

As Twelver Shi’ah, we believe Imamah is an extension of Nubuwwah, and it will continue as long as existence continues. There must always be a hujjah on Earth and this is theologically necessary. As mentioned earlier, it would be logically incoherent to assume the opposite.

3. Can we prove the existence of our Twelfth Imam?

Now to speak of the last issue. In a recently circulated audio clip, Syed Kamoonpuri questions the very existence of the Twelfth Imam, Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.).

It raises the question of whether Syed Ali Hur is influenced by al-Burqu’i the same way as Sh. Arif? One of the main problems al-Burqu’i had with Tashayyu’ was his questioning of the existence of Imam al-Mahdi (a.a.f.).

I don’t know where these things come from? Is it attention, or fame, or just sensationalism? Is it being over-confident, or genuinely innocent? Is it ignorance, or arrogance? I really don’t know.

Among the things Syed Ali Hur says in this regard is how we cannot just blindly follow our forefathers and accept something that does not have tangible evidence, rejecting many of the reports as unreliable being either exaggerators or Isra’iliyat. Is Syed Ali Hur influenced by al-Burqu’i the same way as Sh. Arif, and we know that one of the main problems al-Burqu’i had with Tashayyu’ was his questioning of the existence of Imam al-Mahdi (a.a.f.).

Allow me to turn the scenario and present this argument: I am going to assume that Syed in Ali Hur’s name is not his given name, but he is a “Sayyid”, a title indicating his being of the family of the Prophet. Would there be tangible and definitive evidence to support this or rather is this based on reliance on one’s own forefathers? What is the likelihood of this being fabricated? We know that in the subcontinent there was a Sayyid Dynasty whose rulers claimed to be Sayyids, and this became a social status of prestige.[67] Much research has been conducted that indicates that the taking of the ‘Sayyid’ title in the subcontinent was largely a product of the caste system in place within the society.[68] Let me be clear, I don’t say this in order to insult or degrade this brother or cast doubt upon his being a Syed, rather that the basis for a family’s Sayyid-ness is in most circumstances reliant on this being handed down from father-to-father.

The exact same can be said about the existence of our Imam (a.a.f.), except to a much greater degree.

One of the quite odd points Syed Ali Hur raises on the existence of Imam Mahdi (a.a.f.) is that we must question the veracity of this because al-Bukhari and Muslim don’t mention it in their books.[69]

From the time of the Minor and Major Occultation, all scholars mention his birth and existence including many Sunni scholars and historians. The chain is uncut, and they hold the highest status of reliability and truthfulness. I won’t be refuting all of the doubts raised in this clip, as this was done concisely by Sheikh Dr Mansour Leghaei, but what we can say is that fabricating or concealing hadiths are a reaction to the reality of how the circumstances were at that time, but information did ultimately end up in books.

Denial of the existence of Imam al-Mahdi also has a direct implication on the concept of the Twelve Imams.

Worth mentioning on the subject of Sahih al-Bukhari, Muhammad al-Bukhari (194/810 – 256/870 AH/CE), who was contemporary to Imam al-Jawad, Imam al-Hadi and Imam al-‘Askari (a.s.), while he may not discuss the existence of Imam al-Mahdi does in fact mention the concept of Twelve Leaders.

We can therefore establish the presence of the concept of Twelve dating earlier than the completion of the Twelve Imams. It also pre-dated the era of Sheikh al-Saduq, Sheikh al-Kulaini, Sheikh al-Mufid and Sheikh al-Tusi.

Sheikh al-Saduq in his book Kamal al-Din wa Tamam al-Ni’mah quotes the narration:

إنا لم ندَّعِ أن جميع الشيعة عرف في ذلك العصر الأئمة الاثني عشر بأسمائهم، وإنما قلنا: إن رسول الله أخبر أن الأئمة بعده اثنا عشر، الذين هم خلفاؤه، وأن علماء الشيعة قد روَوْا هذا الحديث بأسمائهم، ولا ينكر أن يكون فيهم واحدٌ أو اثنان أو أكثر لم يسمعوا بالحديث

We have not claimed that all the Shi’ah during that time recognised who the Twelve Imams were and their names. Rather, we have said that the Messenger of God (s.a.w.) informed that there are twelve Imams after him, who will be his successors. Shi’ah scholars have narrated this hadith, mentioning their names, and they do not reject that one, two, or more people had not heard this hadith.[70]

Sheikh al-Saduq also says that non-Twelvers have narrated this hadith to the level of mustafidh.[71]

Among the books that Sheikh al-Saduq wrote that is unfortunately lost is Kitab al-Nass ‘ala al-A`immah al-Ithnay ‘Ashar[72] which goes into detail on this topic.

Contemporary to Sheikh al-Saduq was Sheikh ‘Ali ibn Muhammad al-Khazzaz al-Razi al-Qommi. He wrote a book called Kifayatul-‘athar fi al-nusus ‘ala al-A`immah al-Ithnay-‘ashar.[73] This book is specifically devoted to proving the textual evidence of Twelve Imams (a.s.).

Another book by Ahmad ibn ‘Ayyash al-Jawhari (d. 401 AH), a teacher of the Rijali scholar Sheikh al-Najashi (d. 450)[74] called Muqtadhab al-Athar fi al-nass ‘ala al-‘A`immah al-Ithnay ‘ashar, and the significance of this book is his focus on quoting narrations from Sunni chains that prove the Imamah of the twelve Imams (a.s.) and their names.[75] This book was written before al-Khazzaz’s book Kifayatul-‘athar.

Then there is a famous scholar Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn ‘Uthman al-Karajaki (d. 449 AH) who was a student of Sheikh al-Mufid and al-Najashi, and even Sunni scholars like al-Dhahabi graded him as reliable. It is said that he was among the greatest of Shi’i hadith scholars in the 5th century AH. He also compiled a book exclusively dedicated to narrating and authenticating the twelve Imams (a.s.), naming it al-Istinsar fi al-nass ‘ala al-‘Aimmah al-Athar.

The Twelve in Non-Shi`i Sources

Yahya ibn al-Bitriq al-Hilli (523/1129–600/1204 AH/CE) was a famous Shi’i scholar and muhaddith who wrote a book called ‘Umdah ‘Uyun Sihah al-Akhbar fi Manaqib Imam al-Abrar. This book is among the first of Manaqib books, and it mentions the hadiths that mention the virtues and merits of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) in Sunni references. Interestingly, on the topic of Twelve Caliphs, Ibn Bitriq explains al-Bukhari having three different chains to this hadith.[76] Ibn Bitriq also mentions Muslim in his Sahih having nine paths and chains to the hadith of the Caliphs after the Prophet being Twelve in number, and all of them from Quraish.[77]

The relevance here is that al-Bukhari lived during the era of the Imams. So, al-Bukhari was not influenced by a theory formulated later on, as what some Sunnis, ex-Shi’ah and confused Shi’ah say. Yes, Sunni ‘ulama have bent over backwards trying to interpret what this ‘Twelve’ means and who they are, but to no avail or plausible explanation.

We know that unfortunately al-Bukhari did not narrate from any of our Imams (a.s.), nor from Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Shafi’i or Abu Hanifah, but did narrate two narrations from the Umayyad Caliph ‘Omar ibn ‘Abd al-Aziz. For Sunnis this point is irrelevant, because they say al-Bukhari and Muslim were focused on quoting from muhaddiths.

Our understanding is al-Bukhari and Muslim who narrated from over 2400 narrators were very selective in making sure they mainly narrated from people who were hostile towards Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) or were unknown, and that was the case. Yes, there is one hadith al-Bukhari and Muslim narrate about Imam Ali and Fatimah al-Zahraa (a.s.), that they wouldn’t wake up for prayer, and the Prophet (s.a.w.) would wake them up.[78]

To further twist the knife, al-Bukhari narrates from the Khawarij and Nasibis and grades them as reliable, like ‘Imran ibn Ḥiṭṭān who praised Ibn Muljam, the killer of Imam Ali (a.s.). Or Marwan ibn al-Hakam who was cursed and expelled by the Prophet (s.a.w.). So, what we understand from all this is that even prior to the existence of all the Twelve Imams, a strong presence of the number Twelve can be seen in Sunni sources and narrations,[79] as well as Shi’iah sources. Even non-Sunnis, like Zaidis and Ismailis carried on with some concept of Imamah, and not closing it off, for the very reason of how necessary it is for there to be an Imam at every time. Zaidis and Ismailis fought with each other and split apart. Their own imams fought between each other and branded other imams as heretics, etc. Other Shi’i sub-groups had very short lives, like the Fatahis and the Waqifis.

Twelver Shi’ism continued as it was, and if there are off-shoots or divisions, it’s not regarding the core-principle of Twelver Shi’ism, but other things, like jurisprudence (eg. Akhbarism), ideological (eg. the Shaykhiyah).

With all the hadiths that speak about Twelve, this can only be applicable to Twelver Shi’ism. The consistency and cohesion that exists in Twelver Shi’ism cannot be seen in any other madhhab or firqah.

Who are these Twelve then? They cannot be the Umayyad & Abbasid caliphs, because they were a lot more in number. They cannot be the Zaidi imams, because they are even more. They cannot be the Ismaili imams, because they are also way more than twelve. Furthermore, these caliphs or people who assumed the position of imam did not have the qualities of an imam, by either lacking the knowledge, being evil tyrants or public sinners.

What we can see is although Sunni sources mention the hadiths of Twelve, and they go to extreme measures in interpreting these narrations, but more importantly try to dismiss or conceal them as well. We cannot overlook this, seeing clear prejudice against Shi’ism and Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) by minimising the value of these traditions to avoid self-incrimination.

Let me just add that if we include other hadiths, like Ghadir, Thaqalayn, Ark of Salvation, dying and not knowing the Imam of your time, etc, that speak in favour of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.), there would be no way to avoid how strong the argument becomes.

The following hadith mentioned in Sunni and Shi’i sources attest to this. It is narrated in that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said:

اَلنُّجُومُ أَمَانٌ لِأَهْلِ اَلسَّمَاءِ، وَأَهْلُ بَيْتِي أَمَانٌ لِأُمَّتِي، فَإِذَا ذَهَبَتِ اَلنُّجُومُ ذَهَبَ أَهْلُ اَلسَّمَاءِ، وَإِذَا ذَهَبَ أَهْلُ بَيْتِي ذَهَبَ أَهْلُ اَلْأَرْضِ.

As stars are the refuge for the people of the heavens, and my Ahlul Bayt are the refuge for my ummah. If the stars go, so will the people of heaven, and if my Ahlul Bayt go, so will the people of earth.[80]

Speaking of “twelve”, we can see Biblical origins to this as well.  Imam al-Ridha (a.s.) mentioned this in his dialogue with the Catholicos Priest (al-Jathaliq). Numerous ‘Ulama have written about this, as old as al-Nu’mani (d. 361 AH) in his book al-Ghaybah.[81]

One of the passages in the Old Testament says:

And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.[82]

Even Ibn Taymiyah criticises the Jews and Christians who had converted to Twelverism due to being influenced from their scripture.[83]

The narrations that refer to the Twelve Imams are either in mentioning the number, as can be seen in Sunni sources, or in some detail, like saying “the nine Imams from Husain (a.s.)”, or by their names and titles. This is why there are so many books from the 4th and 5th century AH that refute all those repeated arguments and prove the core-belief of Imamism.

A wonderful study on the context and chain of the hadiths of Twelve Imams from Sunni and Shi’i sources was done by Sh. Safa` al-Din al-Khazraji. He explains the various expressions used and counts the hundreds of narrations in the many sources.[84]

Another problem we would face is many of the early Sunni sources that mention twelve and details are rejected by some Sunni scholars due to the fact that they believe the author was Shi’i. Some of these books are Manaqib Amir al-Mu’minin, by al-Khwarazmi (d. 484 AH), Muruj al-Dhahab, by al-Mas’udi (d. 346 AH),[85] Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah, by Ibn Abi al-Hadid (d. 605 AH), Yanabi’ al-Mawaddah, by al-Qanduzi (d. 1294 AH), etc…[86]

A Shi’i source that is very important, but I have not used in order to avoid objection is Kitab Sulaym ibn Qays al-Hilali (allegedly d. 76 AH). This book and its author have been a centre of debate, with some scholars rejecting it and fabricated, and others accepting it as authentic.[87]

For the sake of tabarruk, I would like to conclude this part with the following hadith from Imam al-Ridha (a.s.). Our Eighth Imam (a.s.) put special effort in making sure those around him knew about the Twelfth Imam (a.a.f.). Di’bil al-Khuzai (d. 246) was a famous poet and one of the companions of Imam al-Ridha (a.s.). He recited a poem in the presence of the Imam, to which the Imam excessively wept, and a part of what he then said to Di’bil was:

يَا دِعْبِلُ، اَلْإِمَامُ بَعْدِي مُحَمَّدٌ اِبْنِي وَبَعْدَ مُحَمَّدٍ اِبْنُهُ عَلِيٌّ وَبَعْدَ عَلِيٍّ اِبْنُهُ اَلْحَسَنُ وَبَعْدَ اَلْحَسَنِ اِبْنُهُ اَلْحُجَّةُ اَلْقَائِمُ اَلْمُنْتَظَرُ فِي غَيْبَتِهِ اَلْمُطَاعُ فِي ظُهُورِهِ لَوْ لَمْ يَبْقَ مِنَ اَلدُّنْيَا إِلاَّ يَوْمٌ وَاحِدٌ لَطَوَّلَ اَللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ ذَلِكَ اَلْيَوْمَ حَتَّى يَخْرُجَ فَيَمْلَأَ اَلْأَرْضَ عَدْلاً كَمَا مُلِئَتْ جَوْراً

O Di’bil, the Imam after me will be my son Muhammad, and after Muhammad will be his son Ali, and after Ali will be his son al-Hasan, and after al-Hasan will be his son al-Hujjah al-Qa`im, who will be the awaited one during his occultation and obeyed with his appearance. If there was only one day left for this world, Almighty God will extend that day until he comes out and fills the Earth with justice after it has been filled with tyranny.[88]

Conclusion

I had not planned for this to be so long, and I apologise for that. There might also be some repetition, some emotional pleading, and maybe even vague passages. My point is not to flare up a debate, or engage in personal attacks, or anything of that sort or nature. My intention is to explain our side of what we believe, and that when our belief is challenged, even by someone within our own ranks, we have a lot to say, and we must try to clarify it to those interested.

Building ‘aqeedah is always difficult, and destroying it is easier still. All this shows how simple it is to throw around misconceptions, but how difficult it is to establish something. It started with just one sentence: “Imam al-Sadiq didn’t know who the next Imam was.” And all this not only to refute that, but also for my fellow brothers and sisters to read between lines and not be deceived by fame or technical jargon or sophisticated sentences or rhetoric. All of these reformists thrive over attention and push the wrong buttons to get reaction. They love sensationalism, and I genuinely believe that even they don’t believe most of what they themselves say. Most of what they say is just repackaging of old shubuhat, with some academic regurgitation. The public who are into that find it fascinating that someone is talking their language and is becoming a fringe group, to stand out from everyone else, to say “we are different”.

That’s why it’s so dangerous to give platform to deviants, as popular as they may be.

At least respect the views of 99% of Twelver Shi’ah, and discuss your misconceptions behind closed doors or in scientific circles. It is completely unnecessary to discuss or throw interpretations to such topics in the public domain, especially upon weak and unsubstantiated theories. If these were sincere discussion of knowledge, they would be shared within circles of knowledge and academics, not in the public domain. Why say these things in general public and leave it as an open-ending misconception, where most of the audience will have no idea what to think or even have the necessary knowledge or qualifications to interpret such theories in a healthy and academic way. They might see you as an ultimate authority and take what you say without question. Your confusion, unstable belief and incorrect information will weaken the faith of others. It will also be used as a super-weapon against us by Sunnis, Zaydis and Ismailis.

In the many hours I spent reading and watching lectures from these reformists,[89] I saw nothing other than casting doubt, questioning, rejecting, mixing, confusing, big words, hollow slogans, and mentioning literally tens of topics all at once. No system or framework of theory or understanding whatsoever. Anyone listening would not end up being a proud Shi’i Muslim, nor have answers to any of the misconceptions presented. They will just have unanswered questions and feeling a sense of disillusionment that Shi’a Ulama in general are just misleading them.

Are these people not responsible for this? OK, A.U. Sayyid Sistani withdrawing the ijazah from Sh. Arif was not enough of a hint for people to understand how misguided he is, so what else is needed? Clearly, nothing will be enough, because reformists have chosen their path. They would rather be aligned with Kadivar,[90] Ahmad al-Katib and whoever else.

Not once do you critique other sects or divulge in pointing out their negative things. It’s probably out of courtesy. Why don’t you do that to us? Why do you insist on reform in certain areas that are of value for us Shi’ah, like hijab, or in things that keep us strong and independent, like khums? Does this not aid the enemy of Islam and Tashayyu’?

Why don’t you demand change and reform in areas most Shi’ah would want, like social justice, un-Islamic conduct in communities, practicing of extreme rituals, and so on? Or these cliché things don’t get the clicks or attention, nor do they push the buttons and aggravate people? People need to see beyond the catchy phrases, loving caring statements and slogans that Sh. Arif and other reformists use, like “free-thinker”, “intellectual”, etc.

I think the problem is how these reformists cast so much doubt on our ‘Ulama, past and present. If they claim to be religious scholars or scholars of religion, then why do they not at least value the views of our ‘Ulama. So, literally thousands of scholars are all wrong and far from Tashayyu’, but Sh. Arif, Syed Ali Hur and others who beat along with their drums have it all right!

Some may raise the objection that other prominent scholars of recent times such as Imam Khomeini (q.s) or Shaheed Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr (q.s) also were condemned for viewpoints that were seen as going against the mainstream opinion. The main point of difference is that they still remained within the perimeters of the Shari’a and in support of the Shi’i madhhab.

Someone might say I am using this as an excuse to vent out our frustration against Sheikh Arif Abdulhussain who has continuously provoked the Shi’i community, and just added Kamoonpuri for some mixture.[91] Those who know these individuals also know that they are not new to controversy, and neither are their misconceptions or criticisms of our creed. We all had hundreds of opportunities to refute, but wisdom demands that we choose the right time and the correct method.

If someone says “Why don’t you approach him with your concerns?” You can say “Why didn’t he approach any of our living Twelver Shi’ah theologians or scholars and address his concerns about our creed, and share that as well.”

This is no personal attack or anything of that sort, and I distance myself from anyone who wishes to use it as such. I did not find it necessary to initiate any correspondence with Sh. Arif or S. Ali Hur to clarify their views, as all that they have said is public and accessible to all. Should I be wrong in any of my comments, I request any reader to please message me and I will correct it accordingly.

As they are entitled to express their opinion about matters they believe must be said for the sake of adjusting or reforming Twelver Shi’ism, we are also entitled to reaffirm and establish what we have as far as our ‘aqeedah is concerned.

There’s a beautiful hadith Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) narrates from the Messenger of God (s.a.w.), where a part of it says:

فَمَنْ تَرَكَ اَلشُّبُهَاتِ نَجَا مِنَ اَلْمُحَرَّمَاتِ وَ مَنْ أَخَذَ بِالشُّبُهَاتِ اِرْتَكَبَ اَلْمُحَرَّمَاتِ وَ هَلَكَ مِنْ حَيْثُ لاَ يَعْلَمُ.

So, whoever avoids uncertainties will be saved from the prohibited, and whoever takes the uncertainties will be committing the prohibited and unknowingly perish.[92]

Tawfiq comes from Allah ta’ala, and we must always be vigilant that we are not deprived of tawfiq by pursuing dubious, ambiguous, debatable and misleading information or people.

I ask Allah ta’ala to guide us to the Right Path, and keep us guided as well.

 

 

[1] These terms originate from the Greek words polemikos, which means “hostile”, and apologia, which means “speaking in defence”.

[2] Quran, 43: 22.  Also, see: 5: 104.

[3] This is a list of Sheikh al-Mufid’s works, where you can see many of them are refutations, answers and rebuttals. See: https://en.wikishia.net/view/List_of_Works_by_al-Shaykh_al-Mufid

[4] Al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 54.

[5] The Murji`ah (those who postpone) was an early Islamic sect that stood on opposite side of the Khawarij, believing that a Muslim will stay a Muslim even if he was to commit a major sin. Of course, their commonality was that both of them hated the Imams of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.).

[6] Al-Kafi, vol. 6, p. 47.

[7] For example: O you who have faith! Take care of your own souls. He who strays cannot hurt you if you are guided. [Surah al-Ma`idah, verse 105]

[8] Quran, 16: 93.

[9] I mention this because we sometimes have some known or famous individual who slips away from the path, and some of our communities become nervous start to panic. An example for this is Raza Rizvi from Bayat Al Ghadeer group who engage in Shia-Sunni debates, and Raza Rizvi has apparently distanced himself away from mainstream Shia belief, as can be seen in the following interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icsOeBIrkSo&ab_channel=SunnahDiscourse

[10] His website is: http://www.shaykharif.com

[11] https://www.almahdi.edu

[12] https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkFeHyZrnqNXn799Kjj06tA/featured

[13] For Sh. Alidina’s presentation to the WF on his dealing with Sh. Arif, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9T_3Hpjntw&ab_channel=WFKSIMC

For the two-part meeting he had with Sh. Arif, see: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKU51XcQxwwcK_tGcL0TwWg/videos

[14] A letter publicised by Imam Hasan Centre, Sydney in support of Sh. Arif shows that A. Seyid Muhaqqiq Damad has deemed him qualified as a mujtahid. See: https://www.imamhasancentre.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Response_to_Queries_RE_Sheikh_Arif.pdf

Furthermore, another project Sh. Arif Abdul Hussain is involved in is the “collective ijtihad” project, where they wish to offer an alternative approach to ijtihad and marja’iyyah by changing it into a board of experts. See: https://www.collectiveijtihad.org/members

[15] His website is: http://www.borqei.com/?q=en/life

[16] Sh. Arif mentions this in his response to Sh. Alidina, around the 15 min mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWmXW_el6UU&t=1466s&ab_channel=ShaykhArifAbdulhussain

[17] Western scholars also like to cite him, and mention his criticisms against Shi’ism. See: Colin Turner, Islam Without Allah? The Rise of Religious Externalism in Safavid Iran (Surry: Curzon Press, 2000).

[18] See: https://www.aparat.com/v/laU03/  For English, see: https://theshiiteoffensive.blogspot.com/2021/03/the-curious-case-of-ayatollah-borqei.html

[19] If Sh. Arif had just praised the book, we would say well he’s only praising the book that’s against Mafatih al-Jinan, but he goes beyond that and highly praises Burqu’i. It’s just extremely difficult to fathom how any Shi’i would praise him, let alone Sh. Arif who says he is a mujtahid.

[20] The Theological Research Center in Qom, affiliated to A.U. Seyid Sistani has explained who al-Burqu’i is and the problems he had. See: https://www.aqaed.com/faq/143/

[21] See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfrkS3cWvBI&ab_channel=MeisamSeyedAliroteh

[22] See: http://www.sheikh-alsalami.org.au/?attachment_id=1766

[23] He mentions this in the 36min: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlPizrvKZP4&ab_channel=AlIslaah

In this same talk, he mentions that Shahid al-Gharawi had challenged A.U. Seyid Sistani to prove his Marja’iyah, and he mentions this to show that we are always going to have dramas when our interests are at threat, and we will always face accusations and character assassination. Let it be known that these same people who believe Shahid Mirzah Ali al-Gharawi had issues with Seyid Sistani also say that it was Seyid Sistani who was behind al-Gharawi’s assassination.

These are common stories frequently mentioned by al-Ghizzi in his satellite channels. See:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yTLH3eTUCI&ab_channel=%D9%85%D9%82%D8%AA%D8%B7%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%AA%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%82%D9%85%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%81%D8%B6%D8%A7%D8%A6%D9%8A%D8%A9

[24] Ahl al-Tafwidh, or the mufawwidhah (Indeterminists) is a Sunni sect who believe that Almighty God has given absolute authority to His creation to do whatever they do, and He has no involvement at all.

[25] For this discussion, see: http://ipasookh.ir/question/%D8%B4%DB%8C%D8%AE-%D8%B5%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%82-%D8%A7%D8%B9%D8%AA%D9%82%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%90-%D8%A8%D9%87-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%85-%D9%88-%D8%BA%DB%8C%D8%A8-%D8%B1%D8%A7-%DA%A9%D9%81%D8%B1-%D9%85%DB%8C-%D8%AF/

Also see: https://hawzah.net/fa/Magazine/View/5211/5650/55093/%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%85-%D8%BA%DB%8C%D8%A8-%D9%85%D8%B9%D8%B5%D9%88%D9%85-3-%22%D8%A8%D8%AE%D8%B4-%D9%BE%D8%A7%DB%8C%D8%A7%D9%86%DB%8C%22

For Sheikh al-Mufid’s view on ‘ilm al-ghayb, see: http://ensani.ir/fa/article/66239/%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%85-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%AF%DB%8C%D8%AF%DA%AF%D8%A7%D9%87-%D8%B4%DB%8C%D8%AE-%D9%85%D9%81%DB%8C%D8%AF-%D9%88-%D8%B4%D8%A7%DA%AF%D8%B1%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%88%D9%89

[26] See: al-Saduq, al-Tawhid, (Qom: Jami’atul Mudarrisin, 1398 AH) p. 305.

[27] Nasir ibn Abdullah ibn ‘Ali al-Qifari, . ‘Usul Madhhab al-Shi’ah al-Imamiyah al-Ithnay ‘Ashariyah; ‘ardh wa naqd (1994 CE). Many of our scholars have written refutations and answered all his misconceptions. The website www.noormags.ir shows nineteen articles. See: https://www.noormags.ir/view/fa/keyword/%D9%82%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%B1%DB%8C

[28] https://al-maktaba.org/book/12760/931

[29] See: Surah al-Jinn, 26–27.

[30] See: Surah Aal Imran, 7.

[31] Basa`ir al-Darajat, p. 327. Kamal al-Din, p. 274.

[32] Basa`ir al-Darajat, p. 299.

[33] Some detailed answers to this can be seen in:

http://www.islamquest.net/en/archive/question/fa953#

http://www.islamquest.net/en/archive/question/fa3259#

http://www.islamquest.net/en/archive/question/fa607#

[34] Arabic version can be downloaded here: https://shiabooks.net/library.php?id=8841

[35] http://alfeker.net/library.php?id=1341

[36] https://ar.pdf.lib.eshia.ir/97116/1/1

[37] http://shiaonlinelibrary.com/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%83%D8%AA%D8%A8/4072_%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D9%8A%D8%AE-%D9%85%D8%AD%D9%85%D8%AF-%D8%AD%D8%B3%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B8%D9%81%D8%B1

[38] https://imamhussain-lib.com/arabic/pdfs/isdar_book79.pdf

[39] See: https://www.sid.ir/fa/journal/ViewPaper.aspx?id=262690

[40] https://www.al-islam.org/shiite-encyclopedia/knowledge-unseen-knowledge-book

[41] This was a question directed at him, saying that many people ask whether he believes if Imam Mahdi (a.s.) is a real entity. The question and his reply is in the 42min mark: https://www.facebook.com/ShaykhArif/videos/329240204293406/

[42] Sh. Arif has mentioned this a few times, and here is one of them, around the 10min mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRe7FRWsgRA&ab_channel=ShaykhArifAbdulhussain

[43] Tawatur or mutawatir hadiths are narrations are widely-spread, being transmitted on a large scale with numerous sources. With this huge amount of narrators, it basically becomes impossible for it to be a lie.

[44] As important as this point may be, we do have early scholars who strongly believe there is tawatur of Prophetic hadiths that speak of the Twelve leaders. This is of course in addition to there being consensus of Shi’ah Ulama. Sheikh al-Mufid was among the scholars who believed in this.

[45] Kitab al-Irshad has been translated into English by I.K.A. [Ian Keith Aderson] Howard with the title The Book of Guidance.

[46] Kitab al-Irshad, vol. 2, p. 221.

[47] Al-Mufid, The Book of Guidance, p. 411.

[48] An important source for explaining this and its different interpretations and theories is: al-Hasan ibn Musa al-Nawbakhti, Shi’a Sects (Kitab Firaq al-Shi’a), translated by Abbas Kadhim (London: ICAS, 2007), p. 47 onwards.

[49] This has been wonderfully explained by A. Ja’far Subhani in: Ja’far Subhani, Buhuth fi al-Milal wa al-Nihal, vol. 7, p. 373 onwards.

[50] Ibn Mutahhar al-Hilli, Minhaj al-Karamah fi ma’rifat al-Imamah, ed. ‘Abdul-rahim Mubarak (Qom, Intisharat Tasu’a`, 2000) p. 31–32.

[51] Al-Kulaini, Usul al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 316 onwards.

[52] Proving ‘ismah and it being a necessary quality of an Imam is a different topic that has been extensively discussed in our books on theology.

[53] For a list of Sunni references that mention this, and also grade the hadiths as authentic, see:

https://islamweb.net/ar/library/index.php?page=bookcontents&flag=1&bk_no=52&ID=13211

https://islamqa.info/ar/answers/146316/%D8%AD%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%AB-%D9%8A%D8%AA%D8%B9%D8%A7%D9%82%D8%A8-%D9%81%D9%8A%D9%83%D9%85-%D8%A7%D8%AB%D9%86%D8%A7-%D8%B9%D8%B4%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%A7-%D9%83%D9%84%D9%87%D9%85-%D9%85%D9%86-%D9%82%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%B4

For those who claim that Sunni scholars consider all these narrations to be weak, which initially was a misconception formulated by the ex-Shi’i Ahmad al-Katib, and in refuting this misconception, please see:

https://almerja.com/reading.php?idm=67595

This link explains in detail the sources, narrations and narrators that mention the concept of Twelve.

The famous Salafi scholar Sh. Uthman al-Khamis also acknowledges this on a TV program:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s42gqrCfT1U&ab_channel=%D8%AF%D8%B9%D9%88%D8%A9%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D9%8A%D8%B9%D8%A9%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%AB%D9%86%D9%8A%D8%B9%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A9

[54] Some more references that discuss this as chapters are: al-Kulaini, al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 279, kitab al-hujjah, bab al-isharah wa al-nass ‘ala al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali. Al-Saduq, ‘Uyun Akhbar al-Ridha (a.s.), vol. 1, p. 47, no. 6. Al-Mufid, al-Ikhtisas, p. 207.

[55] Quran, 61: 6.

[56] From the 5:54min mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdxtsVQ9Mn0&ab_channel=ShaykhArifAbdulhussain

[57] For some, this might be petty to mention, but in the many hours I’ve listened to Sh. Arif, I rarely come across instances where when mentioning a Ma’sum, he says salla Allah ‘alaihi wa alih/alaih assalam/alaiha assalam, or uses an honorific title for our ‘ulama. Rather, he says al-Saduq, al-Mufid, etc.

In Western academic circles, mentioning scholars only by their last names is normal. For example, one would say ‘Blackstone’, ‘Mazeaud’, etc. However, in Islamic scholarly tradition, we are generally accustomed to showing our great `Ulama the utmost respect, through using – at the very least – the titles they are generally known by: Sheikh al-Saduq, Sheikh al-Mufid, Allamah al-Hilli, etc. The fact that Sh. Arif, who claims ijtihad and is usually speaking to a mainly Shi’i Muslim audience, uses these alien styles of address only adds to the confusion.

[58] From the 14:23min mark: https://en-gb.facebook.com/ShaykhArif/videos/friday-juma-sermon/132163095497936/

[59] Abu Ishaq al-Nawbakhti, al-Yaqut fi ‘Ilm al-Kalam, ed. Ali Akbar Dhiya`i (Qom: Mar’ashi Najafi Library, 2008) p. 87.

[60] Allamah al-Hilli, Kashf al-Yaqin fi Fadha`il Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s.), vol. 1, p. 331.

[61] See: https://ismailignosis.com/2014/10/02/who-succeeded-imam-jafar-al-sadiq-seven-proofs-for-the-imamat-of-imam-ismail-ibn-jafar/

[62] Sheikh al-Mufid explains this important point in his book al-Fusul al-Mukhtarah, p. 309. Sheikh al-Saduq also comments on this as well in Kamal al-Din, p. 69.

[63] Al-Nu’mani, al-Ghaybah, p. 326.

[64] Mustafidh is an abundantly transmitted hadith, but less than the level of mutawatir.

[65] For example, al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 351. You can read this long hadith here: https://hadith.inoor.ir/fa/hadith/104826

[66] This is an interesting area that should be discussed, especially with various excerpts that refer to Ma’sumeen (a.s.) having such a status even before existence, like in the Ziyarah of Seyyidah Fatimah al-Zahraa (a.s.) that says:

يَا مُمْتَحَنَةُ امْتَحَنَكِ اللّٰهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكِ قَبْلَ أَنْ يَخْلُقَكِ فَوَجَدَكِ لِمَا امْتَحَنَكِ صابِرَةً

[67] See: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Sayyid-dynasty

[68] https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-the-royal-asiatic-society/article/introduction-historicizing-sayyidness-social-status-and-muslim-identity-in-south-asia/6E679081E745C0C1CF3E3F277E2D6FB7

Actually, a study has been made to show how there are self-identified Sayyids in the Indian subcontinent, based on y-chromosomes. See: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Y-chromosomes-of-self-identified-Syeds-from-the-of-Belle-Shah/dffd2fa59e4df44fd2abd237bb317e376cf40d5e

[69] Sheikh Dr Mansour Leghaei has eloquently refuted Syed Kamoonpuri’s misconceptions and explains this argument of al-Bukhari. See from the 21min mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClaI2lpKAdo&ab_channel=ImamHusainIslamicCentre-OfficialYoutubeChannel

[70] Al-Saduq, Kamal al-Din wa Tamam al-Ni’mah, p. 74.

[71] Ibid., p. 96.

[72] In his book Kamal al-Din, Sheikh al-Saduq mentions he has a book by this name. See: Kamal al-Din, p. 96.

[73] This book has been edited by Seyid ‘Abdul-latif al-Husaini al-Kuh-kamri and published by Intisharat Bidar (Qom: 1401 AH).

[74] Both al-Najashi and al-Tusi mention that al-Jawhari was very precise and accurate in narrating hadiths and in his chain of hadiths.

[75] This book has been published a few times in Najaf and Qom.

[76] Ibn Bitriq, ‘Umdah ‘Uyun Sihah al-Akhbar fi Manaqib Imam al-Abrar (Qom, Jami’atul-Mudarrisin, 1407 AH), p. 416.

[77] Ibid.

[78] Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 2, p. 4. Sahih Muslim, vol. 2, p. 187. Also, see: Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 9, p. 101, kitab al-ahkham, bab al-istikhlaf. Sahih Muslim, vol. 2, p. 119, kitab al-imarah. Not to mention the other Sihah and Sunan that have also narrated such ahadith.

[79] For a complete list with all the details of publication, edition, volume, page and hadith number of hadiths related to Twelve Leaders/Imams/Chiefs/Caliphs in Sunni Sihah books, see: http://www.qadatona.org/%D8%B9%D8%B1%D8%A8%D9%8A/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%82%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AA/91

[80] Al-Tusi, al-Amali, vol. 1, p. 379. For a Sunni source that grade this as authentic, see: Ibn Hajr, al-Matalib al-‘Aliyah, vol. 4, p. 262, h. 3972. The Sunni link for this and more hadiths and references is: http://www.ahlesunnat.net/media-library/downloads/regularupdates/ahlebait.htm

[81] Ayatullah Seyid Sami al-Badri is a renowned scholar in this field. He learnt ancient languages and has spent over forty years studying the Bible, writing extensively about this field as well. His website is: https://albadri.info/ . For details on the number twelve in the Old and New Testament, see: https://www.islam4u.com/ar/shobahat/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%AF%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%84-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%87%D9%84-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%AA-%D8%A8%D9%86%D8%B5%D9%88%D8%B5-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D9%88%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%A9#footnote7_7mwf4hw

[82] Bible, NIV, Genesis 17: 18–21.

[83] Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, vol. 6, p. 250.

[84] See: http://nosos.net/%D8%A3%D8%AD%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%AB-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AB%D9%86%D9%8A-%D8%B9%D8%B4%D8%B1-2/#_edn79

[85] This book is considered as one of the earlies Islamic history books, and it has been translated into English. There is also a dispute as to whether he really was Sunni (Mu’tazilite) or Shi’i. See: Masudi, The Meadows of Gold, trans. Paul Lunde and Caroline Stone (Routledge, 1989).

[86] The same goes with Tarikh Dimashq, al-Kashshaf, Kanz al-‘Ummal, Kitab al-Aghani, al-‘Iqd al-Farid, and authors like al-Hasakani, Ibn al-Jawzi, Ibn Qutaybah, and so on. It’s mainly due to the fact that they praised Ahlul Bayt (a.s.), or condemned some of the sahabah or caliphs.

[87] For an interesting English research into these views, see: https://www.iqraonline.net/sulaym-bin-qays-the-thin-line-between-a-fictitious-name-a-loyal-companion/

[88] Of course, the significance of this narration is that it is mentioned in one of the earliest Shi’i books, Kifayat al-Athar. See: Kifayat al-Athar, p. 275.

[89] There are numerous sites and pages from these reformists, and I really doubt whether some of them are genuinely Shi’ah, or in disguise, or maybe even ex-Shi’ah. See for example: https://shiareformist.wordpress.com/

[90] Similar to Syed Kamoonpuri, Mohsen Kadivar is interestingly also very much against the Imams having ‘ilm al-ghayb, and he has written extensively on this. See: https://kadivar.com/category/f-10/00030/3-00030/

[91] Recently the World Khoja Federation organised a conference on Shia theology, with a special focus on refuting the misconceptions of these reformists (not explicitly mentioning any names). It can be seen on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEoDOmi2bQA&ab_channel=WFKSIMC

Ayatullah Qazwini also addressed his concern by publicly inviting these same reformists to a debate and a Mubahala. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnOUeR92teo&ab_channel=TheTruthSeekers

[92] Kitab Man La Yahdhurahu al-Faqih, vol. 3, p. 8.

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