Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 H) says:
والجواب أن هذا ليس مسندا بل هو مرسل لو ثبت عن عمرو بن ميمون وفيه ألفاظ هي كذب على رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم كقوله أما ترضى أن تكون مني بمنزلة هارون من موسى غير أنك لست بنبي لا ينبغي أن أذهب إلا وأنت خليفتي فإن النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم ذهب غير مرة وخليفته على المدينة غير علي
The reply is that this (hadith) is not fully-connected in its chain (musnad). Rather, it is mursal (narrated by a Tabi’i directly from the Prophet), (even) if it is authentically transmitted from ‘Amr b. Maymun. It (also) contains statements that are lies upon the Messenger of Allah such as his statement: “Are you not pleased that you are to me of the status of Harun to Musa, with the exception that you are not a prophet? It is not right that I depart except with you as my khalifah.” Verily, the Prophet, peace be upon him, departed many times and his khalifah over Madinah was other than ‘Ali (on each occasion). 1
First, our dear Shaykh grades the hadith of ‘Amr b. Maymun to be mursal. This means that there is no Sahabi in the chain. The last narrator transmitting directly from the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alaihi wa alihi, is only a Tabi’i. Second, Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah claims that it contains clear lies upon the Messenger of Allah, especially the statement that ‘Ali, ‘alaihi al-salam, was his khalifah. He also interprets “depart” in the hadith to mean “depart from Madinah”, rather than “depart from this world”. It would be appropriate to examine its full chain, context and texts in order to determine the validity of the Shaykh’s claims.
Hadith al-Khilafah has come in three sighahs (versions). The first sighah is documented by Imam Ibn Abi ‘Asim (d. 287 H). He records:
ثنا محمد بن المثنى، حدثنا يحي بن حماد، عن أبي عوانة، عن يحيى بن سليم أبي بلج عن عمرو بن ميمون، عن ابن عباس قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم لعلي: أنت مني بمنزلة هارون من موسى إلا أنك لست نبيا وأنت خليفتي في كل مؤمن من بعدي.
Muhammad b. al-Muthanna – Yahya b. Hammad – Abu ‘Awanah – Yahya b. Sulaym Abu Balj – ‘Amr b. Maymun – Ibn ‘Abbas: The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said to ‘Ali: “You are to me of the status of Harun to Musa, with the exception that you are not a prophet. And you are my khalifah over every believer after me.”2
Dr. al-Jawabirah says:
اسناده حسن. رجاله رجال الشيخين غير ابي بلج واسمه يحيي بن سليم بن بلج، قال الحافظ: صدوق ربما اخطأ. وله شواهد
Its chain is hasan. Its narrators are narrators of the two Shaykhs, except Abu Balj, and his name is Yahya b. Sulaym b. Balj. Al-Hafiz said: “Saduq (very truthful), maybe he made mistakes.” There are witnesses for it (i.e. the hadith).”3
‘Allamah al-Albani (d. 1420 H), in his annotated version of Ibn Abi Asim’s Kitab al-Sunnah surprisingly added some new words in brackets:
ثنا محمد بن المثنى، حدثنا يحي بن حماد، عن أبي عوانة، عن يحيى بن سليم أبي بلج عن عمرو بن ميمون، عن ابن عباس قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم لعلي: أنت مني بمنزلة هارون من موسى إلا أنك لست نبيا] إنه لا ينبغي أن أذهب إلا [وأنت خليفتي في كل مؤمن من بعدي.
Muhammad b. al-Muthanna – Yahya b. Hammad – Abu ‘Awanah – Yahya b. Sulaym Abu Balj – ‘Amr b. Maymun – Ibn ‘Abbas: The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said to ‘Ali: “You are to me of the status of Harun to Musa, with the exception that you are not a prophet. [Verily, it is not right that I depart except] with you as my khalifah over every believer after me.”4
Nonetheless, ‘Allamah al-Albani also comments:
إسناده حسن. ورجاله ثقات رجال الشيخين غير أبي بلج واسمه يحيى بن سليم بن بلج قال الحافظ: " صدوق ربما أخطأ ".
Its chain is hasan. Its narrators are trustworthy, and are narrators of the two Shaykhs (i.e. al-Bukhari and Muslim) except Abu Balj. His name is Yahya b. Sulaym b. Balj. Al-Hafiz said: “Saduq (very truthful), maybe he made mistakes.”5
This hadith, in the Sunni book, is narrated by Ibn ‘Abbas, radhiyallahu ‘anhu, a Sahabi. Therefore, it is not mursal, as claimed by Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah. Rather, its chain is musnad (well-connected) and hasan (good). Moreover, since the hadith has been authentically transmitted, the Shaykh’s grading of it as “a lie” also has absolutely no basis at all.
The second sighah is recorded by Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal (d. 241 H), in his Musnad:
حدثنا عبد الله حدثني أبي ثنا يحيى بن حماد ثنا أبو عوانة ثنا أبو بلج ثنا عمرو بن ميمون ....قال بن عباس .... وخرج بالناس في غزوة تبوك قال فقال له علي أخرج معك قال فقال له نبي الله لا فبكى علي فقال له أما ترضى أن تكون منى بمنزلة هارون من موسى الا أنك لست بنبي انه لا ينبغي أن أذهب الا وأنت خليفتي
‘Abd Allah – my father (Ahmad b. Hanbal) – Yahya b. Hammad – Abu ‘Awanah – Abu Balj – ‘Amr b. Maymun .... Ibn ‘Abbas said:
.... He (the Messenger of Allah) went out for the battle of Tabuk. So, ‘Ali said to him, “Let me go out with you.” Therefore, the Prophet of Allah, peace be upon him, said, “Do not weep, ‘Ali. Are you not pleased that you are to me of the status of Harun to Musa, with the exception that you are not a prophet? Verily, it is not right that I depart except with you as my khalifah.”6
Al-Arnaut strangely says:
إسناده ضعيف بهذه السياقة . أبو بلج أعدل ما قيل فيه أنه يقبل حديثه فيما لاينفرد به.
Its chain is dha’if with this context. Abu Balj, the fairest that has been said about him is that his hadith is accepted only when he is corroborated.7
However, he contradicts himself elsewhere:
حدثنا عبد الله حدثني أبي ثنا عفان ثنا أبو عوانة ثنا أبو بلج عن محمد بن حاطب.... إسناده حسن من أجل أبي بلج
‘Abd Allah – my father (Ahmad b. Hanbal) – ‘Affan – Abu ‘Awanah – Abu Balj – Muhammad b. Hatib .... Its chain is hasan due to Abu Balj.8
Al-Arnaut also states:
حدثنا عبد الله حدثني أبي ثنا حسن حدثنا زهير حدثنا أبو بلج ان عمرو بن ميمون حدثه قال قال أبو هريرة ....هذا إسناد حسن
‘Abd Allah – my father (Ahmad b. Hanbal) – Hasan – Zuhayr – Abu Balj – ‘Amr b. Maymun – Abu Hurayrah .... This chain is hasan.9
Apparently, Hadith al-Khilafah is hasan by the standards of Shaykh al-Arnaut too! Commenting about the same hadith in Musnad Ahmad, ‘Allamah Ahmad Shakir (d. 1377 H) declares:
إسناده صحيح، أبو بلج، بفتح الباء وسكون اللام و آخره جيم: اسمه يحيى بن سليم ويقال يحيى بن أبي الأسود الفزاري، وهو ثقة، وثقه ابن معين وابن سعد والنسائي والدارقطني وغيرهم. وفي التهذيب أن البخاري قال: فيه نظر! وما أدري أين قال هذا؟، فإنه ترجمه في الكبير 4/2/279 ـ 280 ولم يذكر فيه جرحاً، ولم يترجمه في الصغير، ولا ذكره هو والنسائي في الضعفاء، وقد روى عنه شعبة، وهو لا يروي إلا عن ثقه.
Its chain is sahih. Abu Balj: his name is Yahya b. Sulaym. He is also called Yahya b. Abi al-Aswad al-Fazari, and he is thiqah (trustworthy). Ibn Ma’in, Ibn Sa’d, al-Nasai, al-Daraqutni and others declared him thiqah. It is said in al-Tahdhib that al-Bukhari said: “There is a problem in him”! I do not know: where has he said that? This is because in his (al-Bukhari’s) biography of him in al-Kabir 4/2/279-280, he does not mention any criticism against him, and he (al-Bukhari) does not write his biography in al-Saghir, and neither he nor al-Nasai has mentioned him in (his respective) al-Dhu’afa. Moreover, Shu’bah has narrated from him, and he does not narrate except from thiqah narrators.10
Imam al-Hakim (d. 403 H) records the hadith too:
أخبرنا أبو بكر أحمد بن جعفر بن حمدان القطيعي ببغداد من أصل كتابه ثنا عبد الله بن أحمد بن حنبل حدثني أبي ثنا يحيى بن حماد ثنا أبو عوانة ثنا أبو بلج ثنا عمرو بن ميمون ....قال ابن عباس :.... وقعوا في رجل له بضع عشرة فضائل ليست لأحد غيره.... وخرج رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم في غزوة تبوك وخرج بالناس معه قال فقال له علي : أخرج معك قال : فقال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم لا فبكى علي فقال له : أما ترضى أن تكون مني بمنزلة هارون من موسى إلا أنه ليس بعدي نبي إنه لا ينبغي أن أذهب إلا وأنت خليفتي
Abu Bakr Ahmad b. Ja’far b. Hamadan al-Qati’i – ‘Abd Allah b. Ahmad b. Hanbal – my father (Ahmad b. Hanbal) – Yahya b. Hammad – Abu ‘Awanah – Abu Balj – ‘Amr b. Maymun .... Ibn ‘Abbas said:
.... They are attacking a man who has ten EXCLUSIVE merits.... The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, went out for the battle of Tabuk, and the people went out with him. So, ‘Ali said to him, “Let me go out with you.” Therefore, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Do not weep, ‘Ali. Are you not pleased that you are to me of the status of Harun to Musa, with the exception that there is no prophet after me? Verily, it is not right that I depart except with you as my khalifah.”11
هذا حديث صحيح الإسناد
This hadith has a sahih chain.12
Al-Dhahabi (d. 748 H) backs him:
Meanwhile, Imam al-Nasai (d. 303 H) has documented the third sighah, through the same hasan chain of transmission as the first:
وخرج بالناس في غزوة تبوك فقال علي أخرج معك فقال لا فبكى فقال أما ترضى أن تكون مني بمنزلة هارون من موسى إلا أنك لست بنبي ثم قال أنت خليفتي يعني في كل مؤمن من بعدي
.... He (the Messenger of Allah) went out with the people for the battle of Tabuk. So, ‘Ali said to him, “Let me go out with you.” Therefore, he (the Prophet) said, “Do not weep, ‘Ali. Are you not pleased that you are to me of the status of Harun to Musa, with the exception that you are not a prophet? You are my khalifah, that is, over every believer after me.”14
This third sighah reveals that the second sighah actually misses some words. When the Messenger of Allah declared Amir al-Muminin as his khalifah, he explicitly explained what he meant, so that the khilafah is not confused with ‘Ali’s governorate over Madinah. In the end, all three sighahs actually say the same thing: ‘Ali was the khalifah of the Messenger of Allah over every believer after him.
These various reports record varying degrees of details of the text of Hadith al-Khilafah. However, by combining the sighahs, a clear picture emerges:
1. The Messenger of Allah made Amir al-Muminin his khalifah over Madinah during the battle of Tabuk.
2. The Prophet himself led the army to Tabuk.
3. ‘Ali was very distressed with the appointment and preferred to participate in the battle as a soldier. This displeasure made him weep.
4. His request to the Prophet to let him participate as a soldier in the battle was turned down.
5. To make him happy and pleased, the Prophet stated that he was exactly the Harun of this Ummah, except that while Harun was a prophet, he was not.
6. The Messenger of Allah also informed him that he would become his khalifah over his entire Ummah after him.15
7. The Prophet further added that it was not right for himself to depart except with ‘Ali being his khalifah over the entire Ummah after him.
8. Lastly, ‘Ali’s khilafah in the hadith is part of his ten exclusive merits, according to Ibn ‘Abbas.
Interestingly, Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah seeks to capitalize on the fact that the hadith was delivered during ‘Ali’s khilafah over Madinah. He therefore restricts the khilafah in the hadith to mere governorate over a town or city within the Ummah. On that basis, he kicks it out:
فإن النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم ذهب غير مرة وخليفته على المدينة غير علي
Verily, the Prophet, peace be upon him, departed many times and his khalifah over Madinah was other than ‘Ali (on each occasion). 16
His submission however fails for two reasons. First, the Messenger wanted to tell ‘Ali something to make him happy, considering the latter’s deep distress over his appointment as governor of Madinah. How then would he have still mentioned that same governorate to cheer him up? Does that make any sense? Besides, the Prophet specifically indicated that the khilafah he was speaking about would be over the entire Ummah after him. This certainly is different from the governorate of Madinah, which was over a tiny portion of the Ummah while the Messenger of Allah was still alive! How on earth did our dear Shaykh miss this simple, clear difference?
As if the weird actions of Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah on Hadith al-Khilafah are not enough, ‘Allamah al-Albani sinks even deeper:
أما ما يذكره الشيعة في هذا الحديث وغيره أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال في علي رضي الله عنه: " إنه خليفتي من بعدي ". فلا يصح بوجه من الوجوه، بل هو من أباطيلهم الكثيرة التي دل الواقع التاريخي على كذبها لأنه لو فرض أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قاله، لوقع كما قال لأنه (وحي يوحى) والله سبحانه لا يخلف وعده
As for what the Shi’ah mention about this hadith and others that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said about ‘Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, that “he is my khalifah after me”, it is NOT authentic for many reasons. Rather, it is one of their (i.e. Shi’is’) several fabrications, which are exposed as lies by history. If truly the Prophet, peace be upon him, had said it, it would have occurred as predicted, because it is wahy revealed, and Allah never betrays His Promise.17
Has the ‘Allamah really forgotten that he has personally authenticated the chain of that hadith? Or, did he choose to become economical with truthfulness and sincerity after realizing that Hadith al-Khilafah simply cannot be twisted to kill its true meaning? It is rather unfortunate that ‘Allamah al-Albani plays this lowly “Ibn Taymiyyah” card despite his high calibre.
The only excuse he has actually tabled for attacking the hadith (despite his claim of the existence of many) is that it contradicts historical reality. Rather than ‘Ali, Abu Bakr became the khalifah. Therefore, ‘Ali could not have been the designated successor?! This reasoning further exposes another aspect of ‘Allamah al-Albani: his shocking ignorance of the meaning of the word khalifah! Does he even read the Qur’an at all?
Musa and Harun, ‘alaihima al-salam, were both messengers chosen by Allah:
فأتياه فقولا إنا رسولا ربك
So go you both to him and say: “Verily, we both are messengers of your Lord”18
By the Order of Allah, every messenger was a ruler of his people:
وما أرسلنا من رسول إلا ليطاع بإذن الله
We sent no messenger, but to be obeyed by Allah’s Leave.19
So, what happens when the people refuse to obey a messenger? Does he lose his status? By the reasoning system of ‘Allamah al-Albani, if Allah had truly appointed someone a messenger, then the people would certainly have obeyed him. If they did not obey him, then it must have been that he was not a genuine messenger!
Harun, apart from being a messenger, was also Musa’s khalifah over the latter’s entire Ummah:
وقال موسى لأخيه هارون اخلفني في قومي
Musa said to his brother, Harun: “Be my khalifah over my people.”20
But, what happened once Musa went away temporarily from his Ummah, with his brother as his khalifah over them? A rebel leader rose against Harun, and stole power. The people of Musa thereby disobeyed Harun and followed the rebel leader, named al-Samiri. Allah informed Musa of the situation while he was still absent from them:
قال فإنا قد فتنا قومك من بعدك وأضلهم السامري
He (Allah) said: “Verily! We have tried your people in your absence, and al-Samiri has led them astray.”21
The Qur’an continues:
ولما رجع موسى إلى قومه غضبان أسفا قال بئسما خلفتموني من بعدي أعجلتم أمر ربكم وألقى الألواح وأخذ برأس أخيه يجره إليه قال ابن أم إن القوم استضعفوني وكادوا يقتلونني
When Musa returned to his people, angry and grieved, he said, “What an evil thing is that which you have done during my absence! Did you hasten and go ahead as regards the matter of your Lord?” He threw down the Tablets and seized his brother by his head and dragged him towards him. Harun said, “O son of my mother! Indeed the people judged me weak, and were about to murder me.”22
In line with the logic of ‘Allamah al-Albani, since Allah announced Harun as a messenger, and Musa too called him his khalifah, then the Israelites must have obeyed him. Otherwise, the Promise of Allah would have failed! Moreover, because they disobeyed Harun and obeyed al-Samiri – in the thinking line of ‘Allamah al-Albani – the former was therefore no longer a messenger or a khalifah! Rather, al-Samiri became the true messenger and khalifah by staging a successful rebellion! How can a Muslim scholar reason like that?
- 1. Abu al-‘Abbas Ahmad b. ‘Abd al-Halim b. Taymiyyah al-Harrani, Minhaj al-Sunnah al-Nabawiyyah (Muasassat Qurtubah; 1st edition, 1406 H) [annotator: Dr. Muhammad Rashad Salim], vol. 5, p. 34
- 2. Abu Bakr b. Abi ‘Asim, Ahmad b. ‘Amr b. al-Dhahhak b. Mukhlid al-Shaybani, Kitab al-Sunnah (Dar al-Sami’i li al-Nashr wa al-Tawzi’) [annotator: Dr. Basim b. Faysal al-Jawabirah], vol. 1, pp. 799-800, # 1222
- 3. Ibid
- 4. Abu Bakr b. Abi ‘Asim, Ahmad b. ‘Amr b. al-Dhahhak b. Mukhlid al-Shaybani, Kitab al-Sunnah (al-Maktab al-Islami; 1st edition, 1400 H) [annotator: Muhammad Nasir al-Din al-Albani], vol. 2, p. 565, # 1188
- 5. Ibid
- 6. Abu ‘Abd Allah Ahmad b. Hanbal al-Shaybani, Musnad (Cairo: Muasassat Qurtubah) [annotator: Shu’ayb al-Arnaut], vol. 1, p. 330, # 3062
- 7. Ibid
- 8. Ibid, vol. 4, p. 259, # 18305
- 9. Ibid, vol. 2, p. 355, # 8645
- 10. Abu ‘Abd Allah Ahmad b. Hanbal al-Shaybani, Musnad (Cairo: Dar al-Hadith; 1st edition, 1416 H) [annotator: Ahmad Muhammad Shakir], vol. 1, p. 331, # 3062
- 11. Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad b. ‘Abd Allah al-Hakim al-Naysaburi, al-Mustadrak ‘ala al-Sahihayn (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-’Ilmiyyah; 1st edition, 1411 H) [annotator: Mustafa ‘Abd al-Qadir ‘Ata], vol. 3, p. 143, # 4652
- 12. Ibid
- 13. Ibid
- 14. Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman Ahmad b. Shu’ayb al-Nasai, Sunan al-Kubra (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah; 1st edition, 1411 H) [annotator: Dr. ‘Abd al-Ghaffar Sulayman al-Bandari and Sayyid Kasrawi Hasan], vol. 5, p. 112, # 8409
- 15. ‘Ali obviously was very passionate about serving Islam. This was why he preferred to be a soldier, rather than a governor. As a soldier, he believed that his contributions would be far greater. The Prophet then informed him that he was holding, and would also be holding, ranks and positions that would afford him unprecedented opportunities to serve Islam. This was to make him happy, and it did.
- 16. Abu al-‘Abbas Ahmad b. ‘Abd al-Halim b. Taymiyyah al-Harrani, Minhaj al-Sunnah al-Nabawiyyah (Muasassat Qurtubah; 1st edition, 1406 H) [annotator: Dr. Muhammad Rashad Salim], vol. 5, p. 34
- 17. Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman Muhammad Nasir al-Din b. al-Hajj Nuh b. Tajati b. Adam al-Ashqudri al-Albani, Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Sahihah wa Shayhun min Fiqhihah wa Fawaidihah (Riyadh: Maktabah al-Ma’arif li al-Nashr wa al-Tawzi’; 1st edition, 1415 H), vol. 4, p. 344, # 1750
- 18. Qur’an 20:47
- 19. Qur’an 4:64
- 20. Qur’an 7:142
- 21. Qur’an 20:85
- 22. Qur’an 7:150