The Imamat and Khilafat

A Synopsis



Hujjatul-Islam Maulana

Syed Najmul Hasan

First Edition September 1991



A Division of Muslim Foundation, Inc.

P.O. Box 390

Bloomfield, NJ 07003

























ALI IBN ABITALIB………………………………………..






This book is being published to meet a compelling need of the western readers, both Muslims and non-Muslims. The late author, an Indian scholar of great renown and an authority on the subject, has presented, in an unbiased and detached manner, the points of view of the Sunni’s and the Shia’s, the two major schools of thought in Islam, on the important issue of the spiritual as well as the temporal succession of the Prophet of Islam, a matter that resulted in ideological division of Muslims immediately after the death of the Prophet. The events that followed cannot be properly appreciated without a profound insight into the nature of the subject and the circumstances that led to this serious split. In view of the importance of the matter, namely who would be the lawful successor of the Prophet upon his death, it should be mandatory for every student of Islam to make an in-depth study of the issue in hand.

This book will only serve as a synopsis on the subject for the reader who may embark on the path of an independent enquiry, leading to a clearer understanding of as to who would be the legitimate successor of the Prophet. For an explorer undertaking this noble task, the enquiry is likely to encompass the following aspects of a wider spectrum of a fascinating study ahead:

  1. Did the Creator who sent the Prophet as the Mercy and Blessing for
    the mankind not instruct the Prophet to name his successor?
  2. Did the Prophet, in his lifetime, name anybody among the Muslims to
    carry out the fulfillment of his mission after him?
  3. Did the companions of the Prophet have the mandate to appoint the
    caliph? If so, did they constitute a lawful and adequate electorate to do
    so? Why did they have to abandon the Prophet’s coffin to settle the
    worldly affairs? And why were the immediate relatives of the Prophet
    neither informed nor consulted for this important task?

To find answers to these questions, the reader must access more detailed accounts. Pyam-E-Aman can provide a list of books on the subject. To conclude, we are full of gratitude to Syed Asghar Razwy, who translated this book from Urdu to English in a very short time. Our special thanks are due to Syed Nasir Shamsi whose discerning review helped maintain the spirit as well as the substance of the original work.



The students of history know that the Creator sent His chosen people to this world, called Prophets or Apostles. Adam, the first man, was also the first prophet. The other well-known prophets, believed by the Jews, Christians and Muslims, are Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, David and Moses. While both Christians and Muslims share a belief in Jesus as a prophet, the Jews deny him.

This chain of apostolic guidance concluded with the coming of Muhammed, the last and the final Prophet of God, called the “Seal of Prophethood” in Quran. There was no Prophet to come after him and any claim to the contrary is false and a blasphemy.

God is just and His guidance is perpetual. The Muslims believe that although the apostolic era had come to an end on the death of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, the guidance was to continue for the benefit of the future generations through the ‘Imam’ or ‘Khalifa,’ the successors of the prophet. However, and incidentally, a disagreement occurred among the Muslims in this matter, which has continued to this day.

This disagreement had adversely affected the strength and the unity of the Muslims. In this matter, those who sought guidance from God and relied on wis­dom, safely passed through the hazardous path, and came to grasp the truth (Haq).They escaped the harmful effects of the controversy. Others, who got car­ried away by ignorance, were lost forever.

It is important for every Muslim, particularly those who have the distinct honor of discovering and embracing Islam afresh, to be aware of these issues for proper understanding of Islam. We shall, therefore, briefly survey the genuine Islamic beliefs; the necessity and the qualities of Prophethood, followed by a discussion about “Imamat” and “Khilafal.”





Islam is the true religion of God. Quran, the last revealed book of God, says: THE RELIGION INDEED BEFORE GOD IS ISLAM. (Ch. 3; Verse 19)


Islam is the creed which has shown the right belief and the right path to man­kind. It promulgated the law of equality and justice. It granted rights to people who were denied those rights before. It taught men the principles of political organization and the laws of ethics. It commanded people to be truthful, fair and just; it forbade arrogance, cruelty, and injustice.

Islam commanded Muslims to be mindful of five important matters in life: (1) protecting religion, (2) protecting the ability to think and reason, (3) protecting life, (4) protecting property, and (5) protecting one’s lineage. Islam has taken cer­tain distinct and significant measures—not found in any other religion before— toward achieving these objectives.

For the first objective, Islam taught cleanliness (Taharat); the system of man­datory prayers (Salat); fasting (som); pilgrimage to Makkah (hajj); zakat and khums (charities), and other acts of devotion. For the second one, Islam made the consumption of intoxicants unlawful, and prescribed penalties for its breach. For the third, Islam passed the Law of Equity (Qisas). For the fourth, Islam made commercial and business laws, and forbade Muslims to steal or rob or usurp, and forbade usury. For the fifth, Islam introduced laws of marriage and divorce. Rape and sodomy were indicted. No religion other than Islam has in fact provided for such comprehensive system of laws.

The principles of Islam are in perfect harmony with reason. In the legal system of Islam, there is nothing that can be called irrational. All those prophets who came into this world brought the same message—the Message of Islam. The same message was called at one time the creed of Prophet Abraham or the creed of Prophet Moses or the creed of Prophet Jesus. But when the Prophet Muhammed came, the religion of God was known by its generic name, “Islam.” Quran also made it clear that the religion preached by the earlier prophets indeed was Islam.

According to Islam, God is the Creator of the universe. He exists from eternity to eternity. He is Omniscient and Omnipotent. There is nothing that He cannot do. He has power over all things. He has no limbs or body. He is not confined to any one place. He is not subject to the limitations imposed by space and time. He created space and time. He does not identify with anything, nor can anything identify with Him. He has no partner, no wife, no son, no daughter. He is invisible in his world, and He will remain invisible in the hereafter. No eyes can ever see Him. He is One. He is unique and He is independent. He does not enter anything or anyone at any time. He does not need matter to create the universe. He is wise, and He can never err. All His acts are free from every blemish. He is just and is never unjust to anyone. He does not force anyone to do or not to do anything. But He has shown to everyone the right way and the wrong way, and everyone is free to choose the way he likes. People are responsible for all that they do or they fail to do. God has created everything in the universe. Except Him, there is nothing that is eternal. Matter and soul, light and darkness, sun, moon and stars—all are created by Him.

In the past, many apostles and prophets came to this world. They were all sin­less (Masoom) and superior to the rest of the creation. It was everyone’s duty to obey them, and it was a sin to disobey them.

Quran, as we have it today, is the heavenly book of Islam. It was revealed to Pro­phet Muhammad. There is nothing that is missing from the original, and there is nothing that has been added to it. Other revealed books of the past were the Old and the New Testament but Quran superseded them all.

According to Islam, a time will come when everything that exists will perish, and then will be resurrected. That will be the Day of Judgment. On the Day of Judg­ment, everyone will be rewarded or punished according to his deeds.

Islam repudiates the Hindu doctrines of transmigration of the soul and reincar­nation. Islam also repudiates the Christian doctrines of Trinity and Atone­ment.

Heaven and Hell do exist. The non-believers and the hypocrites will be liable to fall in hell. Prophet Muhammad and his progeny (Aal) can recommend deliverance. They will rescue the believers from the fire of hell and help them enter the heaven.



A prophet is appointed by God to represent Him on the earth. He is God’s direct delegate on earth. The prophethood is the name of the religious as well as temporal sovereignty that Almighty God bestows upon His chosen person, directly and without anyone’s intercession. He is delegated all powers to rule the people. His obedience is mandatory and unconditional. He has the knowledge of the code and the system he is enjoined to enforce. God has made him the leader and guide for his people.


God created this universe, and He created us. Behind His act of creation, there is a purpose. God likes our good deeds. He does not like the bad deeds. But there is no formula to find out what acts please God and which ones displease Him. Human judgment is limited, and cannot essentially help in identifying the good and the bad aspects of every deed. The reasoning faculty, in fact, can help only to a limited extent.

We also know that our salvation depends upon the pleasure of God. It is, therefore, essential that God Himself should tell us what pleases Him and what displeases Him. For this, He selects a perfect individual, teaches him what is right and what is wrong, and then sends him to humanity for its guidance. He bestows upon him the power of miracle to attest him as His messenger, and for a proof for the unbelievers. This is precisely the purpose of the mission of the prophets.

Prophethood is an honor bestowed by God. He Himself appoints His messengers. He alone knows who can be His messenger and He bestows pro­phethood upon him. No man can aspire to become a prophet through his own diligence and industry nor can people appoint someone as a prophet through their consensus. God alone selects His prophets.

It is for this reason that wherever there is any reference in Quran to prophets or to prophethood, God has attributed it to Himself. For instance:

  1. When Joseph attained his full manhood, We gave him power and
    . .(Ch. 12; Verse 22)
  1. . . .and We ordained among his progeny Prophethood. . . (Ch. 29; Verse 27)
  2. We did indeed send before the Apostles to their (respective) peoples. . . (Ch. 30; Verse 47)
  3. But how many were the Prophets We sent amongst the previous peoples. (Ch. 43; Verse 6)
  4. We did aforetime grant to the Children of Israel the Book, the power of com­mand, and Prophethood. . .(Ch. 45; Verse 16)
  5. We sent aforetime Our Apostles with Clear Signs. . . (Ch. 57; Verse 25)
  6.  And We sent Noah and Abraham, and established in their line Prophethood and Revelation. . .(Ch. 57; Verse 26)
  7. Then in their wake, We followed them up with (others of) Our Apostles. . .(Ch. 57; Verse 27)

Also, in Verse 68 of Chapter 28 (Qasas or Narration), God says: The Lord does create and choose as He pleasesThey have no choice (in the matter).

* * *

A messenger of God or His prophet needs knowledge of a special kind to enable him to carry on his prophetic duties. Such knowledge is a gift from God. No one but God can impart such knowledge to His prophets.


  1. Infallibility. A messenger of God or a prophet must be infallible. All Muslims
    acknowledge that a Prophet must be infallible; though some among them differ on
    the definition of infallibility. Some believe that the only requirement of
    infallibility in a prophet is that he should not associate partners with God. Some
    others believe that he must not commit major sins. Then there are those who
    believe that it is not necessary for him to be infallible before he proclaims his mission as God’s messenger.

Yet there are those who believe that a prophet must be free from all sins— major or minor —from the beginning of his life to its end, and he must never commit any error—knowingly or unknowingly.

  1. Superiority. A prophet must be superior to everyone else in every respect. In
    judgment, wisdom, ability, devotion to God, courage and generosity, he should be
    the most superior in his umma (community). In all his personal qualities, he
    should be unique.

If a man in the umma of a prophet were to be superior to him in personal qualities, it would be a reflection on God’s justice itself. But this has never hap­pened. God is Himself free from all defects and shortcomings: therefore, His selection must also be above and beyond every question. Thus it is unthinkable that God would bestow prophethood upon a man who is ignorant or incapable, or inferior to others.

It is only logical that a prophet should be free from all frailties of human charac­ter. If he is not, then no one will respect him, and no one will pay him any attention much less acknowledge him as God’s prophet. No one will obey him. And yet, the purpose of God in sending His messengers to mankind, was that they should be obeyed, as He says in Quran:

We do not send an Apostle but to be obeyed in accordance with the Will of God.  (Ch. 4; Verse 64)



Muhammed, the Prophet of Islam, is the last and the greatest of all the apostles and prophets that God sent to this world.

One of the best proofs that Muhammed was God’s messenger was his charac­ter. Even before he proclaimed his mission as God’s messenger, his character was perfect; no one —friend or foe —could ever find any flaw in him. His life was pure and transparent. The Arabs of pagan times called him Ameen, i.e., ‘Trustworthy,” and Sadiq, i.e., “Truthful.”

When Muhammed proclaimed his mission as God’s messenger, and invited the Arabs to Islam, many of them, fearing the loss of their privileges and status, became his enemies and yet, they didn’t question his integrity. They brought all their valuables for safekeeping with him. They knew that all their deposits were safe with Muhammed even if he admonished them for worshipping idols. In fact, his character was such that a man of perception would have no hesitation in acknowledging him the greatest of all messengers of God.


We read in Quran the following verse:

Behold! God took the Covenant of the Prophets, saying: “I give you a Book and Wisdom; then comes to you an Apostle, confirm­ing what is with you, do you believe in him and render him help.” (Ch. 3; Verse 81)

According to this verse, all the apostles and prophets of God have to ack­nowledge Muhammed as the greatest of them all. So also, he is the last prophet of them all. The belief in the finality of his prophethood is the cardinal axiom of Islam as we read in Quran:

Muhammed is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Apostle of God, and the Last of the Prophets. (Ch. 33; Verse 40)

God began to send His apostles, messengers and prophets to this world starting with Adam. He decided that Prophet Muhammed should be the last one of them. No one else ever got this rank after him.


The mission of the true deputies of the Prophet—his designated successors, was like the prophets of the past. In fact, as the representatives of the last and the superior most prophet of all times, they excelled the prophets of the past to a great deqree. They were neither prophets nor anyone of them made such a claim. They were Imams’ (the Guides) for the ‘umma’ and were the true deputies of the Prophet of Islam, named and designated directly by him in accordance with the Will of God. Anybody who claimed to be prophet after the death of the Prophet of Islam, is without doubt, a liar and an imposter and guilty of denying Quran.


Caliphate, like prophethood itself, provides for sovereignty, both religious and temporal. The difference is that the Prophet receives his commandments directly from God, while a caliph receives his mandate through the Prophet. Therefore, after the Prophet, a caliph is his representative; he is the protector of the law, and he is also its interpreter.

Most Muslims believe that though religion is complete and perfect, a khalifa, nevertheless, is essential after the Prophet. His duty is to protect the religion after the Prophet. The examples of the divine succession are Shees after Adam, Yushaa after Moses, Asif after Solomon, and Shamoon after Jesus. The prophets appointed their successors in their lifetime.


On the question of succession of the prophet, i e., the caliphate, the Muslims split into two parties. One party believes that Abu Bakr, the ‘sahabi’ and the father-in-law of the Prophet, was his successor. The other party believes that Ali, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, was his successor. This basic difference led to disagreements on other issues; even the Articles of Faith, Tawheed, adl, pro­phethood, and Ma’ad, did not escape from controversy. Most differences, however, revolve around the concept of caliphate. This difference about the suc­cession resulted immediately after the death of the Prophet.

The Prophet Muhammed is reported to have said: “My umma will divide into 73 sects, and except for one, all others will be lost,”—meaning thereby that only one group among them will be on the right path. Quite naturally, it is every Muslim’s concern that he be on the right path. Hence, the need to have accurate information on the issue of succession and related matters. One must pray to God for His guidance, while critically examining the two outlooks which so drastically divided the Muslims, immediately after the Prophet’s death.


This search for truth raises the following fundamental questions:


1. Who should appoint the successor of the Prophet, God Himself, or the Muslim umma (community)? If it is assumed that the umma had to appoint the successor of the Prophet, then what was the source of its authority? Did the umma draw up a set of rules for itself to guide it, and then select a successor in its light? Or, did the umma do what it thought was appropriate according to the circumstances?

2. Should a candidate for caliphate have any qualifications or not? If it should, what are those qualifications?

3. Did Prophet Muhammed, in his lifetime, designate anyone as his successor or not? If he did, whom did he designate? If not, why not?

4. Who was accepted as the khalifa after the death of Prophet Muhammad? Did he possess the qualifications necessary for a prophet’s successor?

                                              *  * *

One party firmly maintains that like the prophets, God Himself appoints their successors, and that the umma has nothing to do with this appointment. The Prophet Muhammed had, in a short time, conveyed the Divine Message and there was not to be any prophet after him. In order to protect this religion and explain and reinforce the teachings of Quran, this group asserts the Almighty had con­tinued the Divine guidance in the form of another chain of His chosen people, called Imams who were directly appointed by God and were to act as the Pro­phet’s lawful successors, and were to guide humanity toward the right path. They advance the following arguments in support of their belief in Imamat’:

  1. They often refer to the following verse of Quran:

           The Lord does create and choose as He pleases; They have no choice (in the matter).  (Ch. 28; Verse 68)


They argue that the umma has no right to appoint the Prophet’s successor. God Himself appoints him. Ibn Abil-Hadid writes in his Commentary of Nahjul-Balagha that Umar, the second caliph, once said to Abbas, the uncle of the Prophet: “Quraysh did what it believed was in its interest, i.e. it selected Abu Bakr as khalifa,”‘whereupon Abbas recited the above ‘ayat‘ of Quran, asserting that it was not their business and the Quraysh had no right to pick  a caliph.

  1. They further pointed out that whenever God has mentioned caliphate and leadership in His Book, He has attributed them to Himself, as per the following verses:

a) I will create a Vicegerent on earth. (Ch. 2; Verse 30)

b) I will make you an Imam to the nations. (Ch. 2; Verse 124)

c) (Moses prayed) “And give me a Vizir (deputy) from my family, Aaron, my brother.”  (Ch. 20; Verses 29, 30)

d) And We made them leaders, guiding (men) by Our command. (Ch. 21; Verse 73)

e) And We appointed his brother Aaron with him as a Vizir (deputy). (Ch. 25; Verse 35)

f) O David! We did indeed make you a Vicegerent on earth. (Ch. 38; Verse 26)


  1. Every prophet, they argue, appointed his own successor. Whatever they did in the line of their prophetic duties, it was as per the commandment of God. Therefore, all successors of the prophets were appointed by God. Not once did the umma of any apostle of the past appoint a successor for him. Therefore, there is no reason why this principle should change in the case of the successor of Muhammed who was the last Messenger of God. God would not deprive humanity of His eternal guidance. This guidance, they believe, continued through the Chosen Imams. They quote the following verse of Quran in support of their point oi view:

                    No change will you find in God’s way (of dealing). (Ch. 35; Verse 43)

This group essentially believes in the divine origin of the Prophet’s successor. It maintains that the caliphate is the most important political office in Islam because the security and the existence of the umma hinge upon the caliph’s decisions. An error or misjudgment on his part can put the whole umma in peril. For such a position, the umma lacks the ability to make a right assessment of the character of a candidate. Even if the umma’s selection of a ruler makes him the defacto ruler of the Muslim state, he is not the de jure, rightful, successor to the Prophet.

** *

Now the second group: After the death of the Prophet of Islam, according to them, the Muslims decided that they had to select and appoint a khalifa or a leader for the umma. In their opinion, it was important to elect a leader of the Muslims even before the body of the Prophet was laid to rest. While the family of the Prophet was busy preparing for his funeral rites, several Muslims rushed to a secluded place called “Thaqeefa Bani Sa’eda.” A controversy erupted regarding who would succeed the Prophet. The tempers rose and hot words were exchanged until Umar bin al-Khattab, a sahabi (companion), raised his voice and declared Abu Bakr to be the caliph. The other people who were present, followed suit and extended their allegiance to the newly-appointed caliph. This later group of Muslims called this process as “Ijma,” or selection by the ‘umma.’

Their argument is that God expects Muslims to enforce His laws, maintain internal peace, and defend the frontiers of Islam from external aggression. These are mandatory duties and cannot be carried out without a leader. Therefore, the umma had to appoint a leader without any delay.

(SURPRISEThese people seemed to be more farsighted and cautious than Allah and his last Prophet. According to this view, Allah and Prophet Muhammad did not appoint anyone, thus leaving a gapthereby making Islam vulnerable, while these people noted the danger immediately and acted accordingly. Come on,  God or the Prophet would not have left such an important matter at the mercy of These people, some of whom were new in faith.)



According to the first group, God Himself appoints the successor of his Pro­phet. Such a successor possesses unique qualities like knowledge, courage, piety, devotion to duty and generosity which make him a befitting successor of the prophet. He has unfailing grasp of knowledge and a perfect understanding of Quran and its laws. And other than the Prophet himself, he is superior in knowledge, courage and piety to anybody else in the entire umma. Only through this superiority, he is ordained ‘custodian’ of God’s Book, and a rightful successor of the Prophet.

But if it is not so, and a man of inferior worth is set up as a leader of the unma, then it would be a flagrant miscarriage of justice. How can an intelligent and a knowledgeable man be subordinate to an ignorant person, they argue.

A prophet is infallible. His successor therefore, should also be infallible. If he is not, he would be liable to commit crimes and to make mistakes. It would also be possible that he could be a liar. If he is, he would forfeit the trust of all Muslims.

Also, if a fallible man is the head of the Islamic State, it would be the duty of everyone in it to obey him. If he is a sinner, the umma will have to obey him even in his sins. But Islam has forbidden Muslims to obey anyone in sin and crimes.

If the leader of the Muslim umma is a sinner or a criminal, then the Muslims will have to carry out their duty of Nehy -anil -Munkar to try to stop him from commit­ting sins and crimes. Thus the Muslims will find themselves in the role of censors of the morals of their leader. Thus the Muslims would find themselves in the impossible situation of obeying and disobeying his orders—simultaneously!

* * *

The other group says that a khalifa does not have to be infallible. The umma, they say, must obey his lawful commands, and disobey the unlawful commands. In certain circumstances, they may disqualify him for caliphate and even remove him.

Abu Bakr is quoted to have said in his inaugural speech: “O people! I have been made your ruler though I am not better than you. If I carry out my work properly, support me; if I do not, correct me.” (Tarikuh-ul-Khulafa).

In another book called Shark -Tajweed, Abu Bakr has been quoted as saying: “I may confront Shaitan occasionally. So if I act correctly, help me; if not, avoid me.”

Some of the scholars in this group have gone so far as to say that even a sinful (fasiq) and an ignorant (jahill) man can become khalifa of the Prophet. Allama Taftazani says in his book, Shark Aqa Id Nasafi, that a sin or falsehood does not disqualify a caliph.

This group of Muslims believe that it is the duty of the umma to appoint a leader, and that leader should have the following requirements:

  1. adult
  2. sane
  3. free (not a slave)
  4. male
  5. just
  6. capable of leading an army in war
  7. brave
  8. knowledgeable about Islamic rules and regulations
  9. visible (present) and not absent (invisible)
  10. a Muslim

* * *

Contrary to the above, the other group of Muslims believes that there is only one way of finding a khalifa, and that is through divine guidance. This is made known to the umma by the Prophet himself or by the khalifa designated by him. It was, they say, in this manner that all the successors of the prophets of the past were chosen. There is no other way a successor of a prophet can be chosen.

The Sunni Muslims say that a khalifa can be selected in any one of the following  four ways:


  1. Consensus, i.e. the agreement of the key figures of the umma in selecting a
    leader. But it is not necessary that all the key figures even in the same city should
    be in agreement on this point.The commentator of Mawaqif says: ‘The opinion of
    even one or two of the key figures in the matter of selecting a leader is enough, and
    others should follow it.

The Sunni Muslims say that the companions of the Prophet were very strict in matters of faith. They accepted the selection of a leader by one or two men. Thus, Umar made Abu Bakr khalifa, and Abdur Rahman bin Auf made Uthman khalifa. Both of them didn’t consider it necessary to find out the opinions of the key figures in Medina or (in the selection of Uthman) the opinions of anyone in Medina or in the provinces. No one disagreed with them over this mode of select­ing a leader and no one criticized it.


  1. An incumbent khalifa has the right to appoint another man as khalifa, i .e. his own successor.
  2. Consultation. A few men can select one of themselves as the new khalifa by a majority vote.
  3. Military force. The fourth way is for a candidate of khilafat to appeal to naked military force. If a man overpowers an incumbent khalifa by military force, then he would become khalifa, and the defeated khalifa would be deposed.


The commentator of Maqasid says in this connection: ‘When a leader (khalifa) dies, and a new candidate for leadership arises who overcomes the people, then he would be considered the leader, even if he is sinful and ignorant. And then another man comes along and overcomes him, then the new man would become the leader, and the defeated one would be deposed.”

These are the four modes of finding a leader for the Muslim umma, according to the Sunni Muslims. The authority for all these modes is the actions of the com­panions of the Prophet.

Abu Bakr became a leader through election; therefore election is the first mode. Abu Bakr appointed Umar as his successor, and this was the second mode. Umar selected six members of a committee and made them responsible to appoint a leader; the new leader had to be one of these six members. This was the third mode. Finally, Muawiya seized the government by brute force, and this was the fourth mode.

As a rule, a policy is made, and should be made beforehand, and then governmental decisions are taken in the light of its principles.


* The Sunni Muslims claim that it was the duty of the Muslim umma to select a leader for itself. If so, then it should have made a set of rules to guide it, and then made a khalifa in its light. But it was not done. What was done was that some action was taken, by the umma, and then that action was given the status of a law.

The Sunni Muslims say that these four modes of finding leaders of the umma, evolved spontaneously because the Prophet himself did not designate his own successor, and left this matter to the discretion and judgment of his companions (or umma).

The Shia Muslims say that the Apostle of God himself decided who would be his heir and successor. He designated Ali as the leader of the Muslims after his own death, and did not do it only once, but repeatedly, especially on the following occasions:


  1. The first time when the Apostle declared that Ali was his successor was at the Banquet of Dhul-Asheera in Makkah. In the fourth year of the Call, Muhammed received the following commandment from Heaven: And admonish your nearest kinsmen. (Ch. 26; Verse 214)

In compliance with this commandment, Prophet Muhammed invited forty members of the clans of Hashim and Muttalib to a feast. He told them that he had brought a message for them which would guarantee their welfare, success and happiness in the two worlds. He then asked them: “Who among you will share the burden of this work with me, and who among you would become my vizir (deputy), successor and vicegerent?”

Prophet Muhammed repeated this question three times, and each time it was Ali alone who volunteered his services. Prophet Muhammed accepted Ali’s offer, embraced him and declared in front of everyone that Ali would be his deputy and successor.


  1. The second occasion occurred during the campaign of Tabuk. Before leaving Medina with the expedition, Muhammed appointed Ali as his viceroy in the city. But the hypocrites said that Muhammed had left him behind because he con­sidered him a burden. When Ali mentioned this to the Prophet, he told him: “Are you not content to be with me what Aaron was to Moses … one of us must remain in Medina.”


  1. A third occasion was when Sura Bera’a (the 9th chapter of Quran) was revealed. The Apostle initially sent Abu Bakr with the new sura to Makkah so that
    he could read it to the pilgrims—both Muslim and non-Muslim.

But after Abu Bakr ‘s departure, Gabriel came and said to the Apostle that the new chapter had to be promulgated either by himself or by some member of his immediate family, and by no one else. Thereupon, the Apostle called Ali and sent him to Makkah with new instructions. Ali took the chapter in question from Abu Bakr, and promulgated it in Mina. Abu Bakr returned to Medina and asked the Apostle if he had received any commandment about him (about Abu Bakr). The Apostle said he had not but Gabriel had come, and said that the new chapter had to be promulgated either by himself or his next of kin.

  1. The fourth occasion occurred in the plain of Khumm near the spring of Ghadir in the north of Makkah.

When the Farewell Pilgrimage was over in 11 A.H. (632 A.D.), Muhammed left Makkah to return to Medina. When he was in the plain of Khumm near Ghadir, Gabriel brought the following revelation:

0 Apostle! proclaim the (Message) which has been sent to you from the Lord If you do not, then you will not have fulfilled and proclaimed His mission. And God will defend you from men (who mean mischief). For God does not guide those who reject faith. (Ch. 5; Verse 67)

The Apostle ordered all pilgrims to halt, and then addressed them in a speech in which he said, among many other things, that he would soon part company with them, and asked them if he had or if he had not delivered God’s final message to them properly. All of them said with one voice that he had. He then asked them if he had or if he did not have a greater right on their souls than they themselves had on their souls. They said that the Messenger of God had a greater right on their souls than they themselves had on them.

Thereupon, the Prophet introduced Ali ibn Abi Talib to the Muslims as their future sovereign, and as the Chief Executive of Islam. He said to them: “Ali is the master of all those people whose master I am.” He then prayed for Ali saying: “O God! Be a friend of all those people who are Ali’s friends, and be an enemy to those people who are his enemies; help those who help him, and abandon those who abandon him.”

As soon as the Apostle concluded his speech, he received one more revel­ation—the last one—which reads as follows:

This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. (Ch. 5; Verse 3)

This last revelation was Allah’s endorsement of the Apostle’s action in designating Ali as his successor in the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. Also, with this revelation, Heaven’s last message to mankind was completed. No other messages came to Muhammed after this revelation. The true believers presented their congratulations to Ali ibn Abi Talib as the Chief Executive of Islam. Poets composed verses felicitating him on this historic occasion.

* * *

There are other verses of Quran which point up the excellence of Ali ibn Abi Talib, one of which is:

Only God is your Wali; and His Apostles and those who believe, those who keep up regular prayers and pay the poor while they bow. (Ch. 5; Verse 55)

Abu Dharr el -Ghifari (R) says: “One day I was praying in the mosque with the Messenger of God. Just then, a man came into the mosque and asked for some charity. No one gave him anything. Thereupon he lifted his gaze toward the sky, and said: ‘O God! be Thou a Witness that I sought charity in Thy Own House, and no one gave me anything.’ Thereupon, Ali ibn Abi Talib (who was also praying) beckoned to him with his finger, on which he was wearing a ring. The man came and removed the ring from his finger.” Just then Gabriel came and presented this verse to the Apostle of God in recognition of Ali’s charity.

* * *

The Shia Muslims believe that the successor of Muhammed is Ali ibn Abi Talib, and then the eleven Imams, all his lineal descendants each of whom was, in his own time, the successor of the Prophet of Islam, and the leader of all Muslims. The twelfth of them was Imam Mehdi (A.S.). He disappeared in 256 A.H., and will reappear when commanded by God to do so.


** *

The Sunni Muslims say that there was no decree on the succession of the Prophet. The Prophet did not appoint anyone as his successor.Therefore, the companions did just what was the right thing. In support of their claim, they quote a hadith in which the Prophet is alleged to have said: “My umma (people) will not unite on error.” Therefore, whoever will be elected the khalifa, would be the right one.

Therefore as soon as the Prophet died, his companions forgot his funeral, and went to Saqifa to elect his successor. Ali, Abbas and his sons, and a few others, were the only ones who stayed with his body, and were occupied in giving burial to it.

In Saqifa there were many disagreements among the companions. Ansar wanted their own chief. Then Umar held the hand of Abu Bakr, and gave him his pledge of loyalty, and soon many others followed him.




Abu Bakr belonged to the clan of Taim. He was the father of Ayesha, the wife of the Prophet. He accepted Islam when he was 40 years old.

The Shia Muslims who believe that the Caliphate belonged to Ali, are critical of his sincerity. They blame him for depriving Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet, of her property “Fadak” which the Prophet had given her. She remained angry with him until her death, and forbade Abu Bakr to come to her funeral. The Pro­phet had said: “Fatima is part of me; whoever displeases her, displeases me, displeases God, and whoever displeases God, becomes an apostate.” One of the verses of Quran reads as follows:

Those who displease God and His Apostle, God has cursed them in this world and in the Hereafter. . . (Ch. 33; Verse 57)

Shias also charged that Abu Bakr and his friends did not report to Usama, the commander appointed by the Apostle, for duty even though the Apostle urged them to do so. Also, when Ali refused to take the oath of loyalty to Abu Bakr, he sent some people including Umar to intimidate him. They threatened to burn down the house of the daughter of the Prophet.



Ali belonged to the clan of Bani Hashim. He was the first cousin of Muhammed, the Prophet of Islam, and was also his son-in-law. He was married to Fatima Zahra. He was infallible. He was the foremost Muslim. He was the Gate of the City of Knowledge. He was the bravest of all men. He was born inside the Kaaba, and Muhammed himself brought him up as his own son. All his life, he fought against the enemies of Islam and Muhammed. He climbed onto the shoulders of the Apostle of God, and smashed all idols in the Kaaba. Not for one moment did he worship the idols.

The Apostle said that Ali’s love was the love of God and His Messenger, and hostility to him was hostility to God and His Messenger. The Apostle also said: ‘Ali’s flesh and blood was the flesh and blood of himself (the Apostle’s). Obedience to him is obedience to the Apostle, and opposition to him is opposition to the Apostle. He is with Truth and Truth is with him. His love is Faith. The Quran was revealed in the house in which he lived. For him, the sun turned back from the horizon. Both parties—the Shia and the Sunni—have acknowledged his excellence. There is only one difference, viz., one party acknowledges him and his descendants alone as the successors of the Prophet; whereas the other party acknowledges him as the fourth caliph.



The Muslims are divided into two categories. One of them recognizes only Ali as the successor of the Prophet, and after him, it acknowledges the eleven Imams who are his lineal descendants as the representatives of Muhammed, the Apostle of God. They are: Imam Hasan, Imam Husain, Imam Zayn-ul-Abideen, Imam Muhammed Baqir, Imam Jafer Sadiq, Imam Musa Kazim, Imam Ali Raza, Imam Muhammed Taqi, Imam Ali Naqi, Imam Hasan Askari and Imam Mehdi. They do not acknowledge anyone else as the successor (s) of the Prophet. They are known as the Shia Muslims.

The people in the second category acknowledge Abu Bakr as the first khalifa; Umar as the second; Uthman as the third; and Ali as the fourth. Since the Prophet said: I will have twelve successors,” ‘they also count among his successors people like Muawiya, Merwan, Yazid and Yazid bin Abdul-Malik, to complete the figure twelve.

These two parties, viz., Shia and Sunni, are in disagreement not only upon the question of the succession of the Prophet of Islam but also on the questions of Tauheed, Prophethood, and Maad. They disagree upon questions of Taharat (purification), mandatory prayers, fasting, zakat, khums, Hajj, business, and family matters like marriage and divorce and the questions of inheritance also.

These differences are very obvious. It is to be hoped that readers would be able to judge for themselves, after a critical review and scrutiny of the claims of both parties, who is right and who is wrong. They will thus be able to find the True Faith.


ABOUT OUR COVER: The Prophethood and Imamat is like a pure spring water; everybody takes advantage of God’s gift without paying much attention to its vital importance and beauty. And as the fresh water gushes out necessary nutrients, in the same way does the Prophethood and Imamat flow out important nutrients (knowledge and guidance) needed for mankinds survival in this world.


“I will create a Vicegerent on earth.”                    —Quran 2:30

“I will make you an Imam to the nations.”        —Quran 2:124

“0 you who believe! Obey Allah and obey The Messenger and those among you invested with Divine Authority; and if you differ, bring it before Allah and The Messenger if you believe in Allah and The Last Day. This is the best and the fairest way of settlement.”     Quran 4:59                          ,

“And remember the Day of Judgment when we shall call human beings with their Imams.” —Quran  17:71

“One who dies and does not recognize the Imam (A. S.) of his time, dies the death of a pagan.” —The Last Prophet (S.A. W.)




This book was first published by “Anjuman-e-Moweed-ul-Uloom” Lucknow, India in 1935. It was founded by Hujjatul-Islam Syed Mohammad (Al-Marhoum). His own book, “Islam in the Light of Shi-ism” was a book of world fame. This book brought thousands of people on the right path.

The author of this book “The Imamat and Khilaf at – A Synopsis” is none other than Ayatullah (Al-Marhoom) Syed Najmul-Hasan. Suffice to say that he was the person instrumental in establishing most of the Theology Schools of the Subcontinent. Prominent among them are Madratul-Waizeen, Madrasa-e-Nazmia and Madrasa-e-Nasiria of Jaunpur. On the other hand, he was a very progressive Alim. He helped many English institutions to be started. The top among them are Shia College Luck-now and Imamul-Madaris Intercollege Amroha.

As Allama, Dr. Mujtaba Hasan Kamoonpuri had once said, “The effect of sound educational decisions taken by Ayatullah Najmul Hasan could be felt over the entire century.”

Actually the horizon of his educational and religious services were beyond the Indian Subcontinent covering Africa, Iran and Iraq. God bless their souls.


The Imamat and Khilafat A Synopsis

Copyright@ 1991 by Message of Peace, Inc. (A Division of Muslim Foundation, Inc. NJ, U.S.A.)

All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a data base or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Printed in the United States of America I.S.B.N. 1-879-402-10-6


The publication of this book was made possible in the Loving Memory of Their Beloved Parents – Marhoomeen




– Ushrawi, Karbalai & Mashadi -and




We request a Sura-e-Fatiha for all the departed souls.

“From Allah We Come, To Allah We Return.”


(Pyam-E-Aman)           Small Book Series #12

P.O. Box 390               I.S.B.N. 1-879-402-10-6

Bloomfield, NJ 07003 U.S.A.

August, 8 1991

Muharram 27, 1412