The leadership of the ummah after the demise of the Holy Prophet is of utmost significance, which should be dealt with in a calm manner free of any prejudice.
The first question which was raised upon the demise of the Prophet (sa,) and which is still an important issue, has been the topic of the social and political leadership of the Muslims after the Prophet’s demise. This is because, without any doubt, the Prophet of Islam has been a great leader for all Muslims and there are many of Quranic verses which lead us to the magnanimity and greatness of this great person. Here are some samples:
﴿ يا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَ أَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَ أُولِي الأَْمْرِ مِنْكُمْ ﴾
“Obey Allah and obey the apostle and those in authority from among you”. 1
﴿ النَّبِيُّ أَوْلى بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ مِنْ أَنْفُسِهِمْ ﴾
“The Prophet has a greater claim on the faithful than they have themselves”. 2
Among the branches of this magnanimity is doing justice in the Islamic community. While in Medina, the great prophet of Islam managed court room affairs, both internally by himself and externally through his representatives. The Holy Quran orders Muslims to accept the Prophet’s judgments on legal cases without questioning
﴿ فَلا وَ رَبِّكَ لا يُؤْمِنُونَ حَتَّى يُحَكِّمُوكَ فِيما شَجَرَ بَيْنَهُمْ ثُمَّ لا يَجِدُوا فِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ حَرَجاً مِمَّا قَضَيْتَ وَ يُسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيماً﴾
“But no! By your Lord! They do not believe in reality until they make you a judge of that which had become a mutter disagreement amongst them, and then do not find any impediment in their hearts regarding what you have decided and submit with entire submission”.3
The Prophet’s leadership of the ummah included his management of Islam’s financial and economic issues. He performed such tasks on his own and was instructed by God to do so in the following verse:
﴿ خُذْ مِنْ أَمْوالِهِمْ صَدَقَةً تُطَهِّرُهُمْ وَ تُزَكِّيهِمْ بِها... ﴾
“Take alms out of their property, you would cleanse and purify them”. 4
In accordance with the content of such Quranic verses, their corresponding narrations, as well as the Prophet’s own personal life style, the Prophet was a great leader for the Muslims and the nation, a great governor for the society, and a policymaker for the ummah. He carried out the same tasks that an absolute governor would. It should be noted that his leadership was bestowed upon him by God without being chosen by the people for such a huge position.
The important point is to know who resumed the Islamic leadership after the Prophet’s demise and to realize who should have been the social and political leader of the Islamic society in order that such a society does not revert or encounter chaos.
No doubt, a system such as the worldwide and eternal system of Islam had calculated this significant topic carefully in advance and the great prophet of Islam had not ignored this critical matter and had deemed it necessary for all Muslims to follow and obey the legitimate custodians of authority.5 There is a concensus with regard to this view. The point is that Muslims should recognize the characters of their rulers whose obedience has been demanded so that they can obey their rulers accordingly.
A group of Muslims contend that the great prophet had appointed the successor after him, by God’s commands, bestowing upon him the socio-political affairs of the society.
A second group holds the view that God let people elect their own leaders upon the Prophet’s demise. The Shiites adhere to the first view and the Sunnites hold the second.
If we confine ourselves to discussing who got the position of leadership upon the Prophet’s demise and how he was elected to such a position, whether he was appointed by the Prophet or elected by people, then such a discussion will be nothing but a historical issue, which would not be of any interest for the present generation after the lapse of fourteen centuries (however such a recognition was of utmost significance at that period).
But if we look at the issue from another angle and consider it not from the socio-political aspect of the Islamic community on the Prophet’s demise, considering the Prophet the supreme source for the Islamic principles and paying heed to the characters of those who could be a source for the distinction between the permitted affairs and the prohibited ones and who could handle the issues of enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong, then the recognition of the Imam and the discussion on Imamate and the religious leadership would be the issue for every Muslim and nobody would be exempt from such a recognition. Let us consider what all these mean:
There is no doubt that the Prophet’s leadership was not exclusively of a socio-political nature. Rather as we can see in the verses of the holy Quran, he was the teacher of the holy Quran,6 describer of Quranic issues7 and announcer of divine precepts (commands)8.
Based on the consensus of the Islamic community and the Quranic text, the Prophet’s behavior in teaching the Islamic ordinances are strong documents for his greatness.
In the fourth chapter of the present book, it is clearly shown that upon the demise of the great prophet, the people’s need for education had not ceased and Islam had not yet accomplished its perfection; therefore, it still was in need of infallibe leaders. That is why after the Prophet’s demise someone had to lead the people and resume the leadership of the ummah in scientific and educational aspects to the point when the Islamic revolution could flourish.
Now we should find out who these proper administrators could be so that the Islamic community could benefit from their thoughts, behavior and statements in all times, and through their guidance the Islamically lawful issues could be distinguished from the unlawful ones, and in this way people could get familiarized with their religious duties.
It is essential for every Muslim to try to identify such leaders, and it is the objective of the present book to make known to Muslims which individuals could be the Prophet’s rightful successors.
To bring up the question of “leadership of Islam after the Prophet’s demise” at this time is not meant to excite people over their religious opinions or to emphasize their differences. Rather, under the present conditions, the religious differences should not be pointed out. After all a writer’s life is more precious than to be spent on prejudiced issues. Our aim is to found the basis of a logical and scientific research devoid of any prejudice or dogmatism so that all classes and sects of Muslims can tolerate one another and can, in this way, put an end to the disturbances that the enemies of Islam bring forth.
In bringing up such issues concerning the leadership of the ummah, two basic principles will be taken into account:
1) Recognizing facts related to the significant issue of the Prophet's successor;
2) Emphasizing the importance of unity among Muslim communities, and the necessity to bring Muslims together in order to put an end to the enemy's pernicious instigations.
This book was being taught to virtuous youth throughout 1972-1973(1351-1352) on Friday nights at Bani Fatemah mosque (Husainiyyeh) on Amir Kabir street in Tehran. This teaching was an instrument used to familiarise the youth with the Ahl-ul-bayt and the genuine successors of the holy prophet.
Due to the continual demand for these lessons, we decided to print them in two different parts. Here we will present you with the first part of the lessons in 24 chapters. We hope to have the second part printed and ready within a short period of time.
Qom, The Seminary,
14 Rab al-thani 1394 / 6 Ordibehesht 1354
- 1. . Quran 4:59.
- 2. 2. Quran 33:6.
- 3. – Quran 9:65.
- 4. . Quran 4:103.
- 5. ."Obey Allah and obey the apostle and those in authority from among you " (Quran 4:59).
- 6. . "And teaches them the book and the wisdom” (Quran 62:2).
- 7. . "And we have revealed to you the reminder that you may make clear to men what has been revealed to them” (Quran 16:44)
- 8. .“And whatever the apostle gives you accept it whatever he forbids you, keep back and be careful of your duty to Allah; surely Allah is severe in the retribution of evil (Quran 59:7).