Chapter 7: Prophethood and Imamate, Two Inseparable Metaphysical Realities
For Sunnī Muslims, the legitimacy of the Caliphate is an issue of secondary or relative importance. According to Sunnī thought, even an illegitimate Caliph is acceptable as long as he has sufficient strength and ability to resolve the socio-economic problems of the society.1 It is easily understood how individuals with stubborn tribal mentalities and notions of superiority could perceive the Caliphate as being the pinnacle of Arabism. Even the trials and tribulations they suffered due to their loyalty to Islām and the Prophet could not make them forget their prior status as oligarchic tribal chiefs. It is therefore not surprising that the election of Abū Bakr as Caliph was based on pre-Islamic tribal customs. The Caliphate allowed the tribal chiefs to satisfy their nostalgia for the old order by giving the emerging system, despite its radical transformation, traits of political and economic centralism which has been abolished by Islām.2
Abū Bakr assumed the Caliphate, not through the legitimacy of his aspiration, but through the complicity of his peers from the tribe of Quraysh. He gained the unanimous support of the leaders of his tribe and maneuvered himself into power at a time when differences in opinion and division of loyalties prevailed.
History will never understand the cause of such a phenomenon without considering the rivalry between the Quraysh and the non-Quraysh and the muḥājirūn [the emigrants] and the anṣār [the allies]. Without such an understanding, any explication of the development of Shī‘ism would be nothing but a deceitful distortion. Was not the rise of Shī‘ism the case of a revolt of the new over the old established order? Indeed it was. The political and economic centralism of the elders of Quraysh from the days of ignorance [jāhiliyyah] was not extinguished with the arrival of Islām. The partisans of the old order mobilized against the new Islamic order established by Muḥammad and embodied by ‘Alī. The Quraysh defended the old order with the same drive and determination they demonstrated during the lifetime of the Prophet when the Makkan oligarchy had resisted with all their strength against Muḥammad’s divine and revealed message. The ruling classes were particularly disturbed by the fact that, from the very beginning of his mission, the Messenger of Allāh had rejected concepts such as social superiority, pride in ancestry, and Arabism.3 Muḥammad viewed himself, first and foremost, as an “admonisher” [nadhīr] and a “guardian” of his people rather than its “king” [melik].4 As he put it himself, “Surely I am not a king [melik] … I am but the son of a woman who ate dried meat” (Tirmidhī). And to the scandal of the Makkan oligarchy, he abolished all distinction between race and class with the decisive declaration that: “All human beings are equal like the teeth of a comb. There is no superiority of an Arab over a non Arab, of a non-Arab over an Arab, of a white man over a black man or of a male over a female. The only merit in God’s estimation is righteousness.”5
In truth, the Prophet never manifested in any of his sayings or aḥādīth that belonging to the tribe of Quraysh or social status were necessary conditions for being elected Imām or Caliph. Abū Bakr, on the other hand, always maintained, in accord with his background, that the right to the Caliphate belonged to the members of the tribe of Quraysh by the simple fact that they were descendants of “the most honorable Arabs.”6
Whoever examines the Islamic accounts of the period will notice with great surprise that the sector of Muslims who proclaimed Abū Bakr as the First Caliph in the saqīfah soon lost the esoteric and spiritual significance of the Imāmate or the Caliphate, if they ever possessed it at all. For them, as we have said, spiritual authority and temporal power were united in the person of Muḥammad by the fact that he was the Messenger of God and the Intercessor between God and man.7 When it came to Imām ‘Alī, he was viewed by the old oligarchy, in the best of cases, as merely a half-Muḥammad, blessed with an inspired character and the spiritual wisdom of a prophet.8 They did not, however, consider him fit to assume the functions of legal administrator and political leader. For the followers of ‘Alī, among whom were the closest and most famous companions of the Prophet,9 this separation between spiritual authority and temporal power was intolerable. It was not so much the political Imāmate that ‘Alī inherited from Muḥammad which drew the Shī‘ah. Rather, it was the esoteric sense of the Prophethood that continued to pulse within him: Imāmate was the amplification of Prophethood, a more interiorized complement.
According to Shī‘ite thought, divine guidance takes two forms: nubuwwah (prophethood) and wilāyah (guardianship).10 The first is co-substantial to the “Muḥammadan Truth” [al-ḥaqīqah al-muḥammadiyyah], in an absolute, integral, primordial, pre-eternal, and post-eternal sense. The second is constituted by the partial realities of the first: its emissions and luminous epiphanies [maẓhar]; in other words, the Imāms of the Prophetic Household who initiated and continued the “Cycle of Initiation” [dā’irat al-nubuwwah] that was sealed by the Prophet and which, like his luminaries, are identified with the pleroma of the “Light of Lights” [nūr al-anwār] of the “Muḥammadan Light” [al-nūr al-muḥammadī]. From this metaphysical point of view, the Twelve Imāms belong, in their condition of luminous epiphanies of “Muḥammadan Light,” to the same spiritual and temporal category as the Prophet without them been truly and properly prophets.11 This notion is repeated in many aḥādīth [traditions] in relation to ‘Alī, like the one which says “You are to me as Aaron was to Moses except there will be no prophet after me” (Bukhārī, Muslim, Ḥākim, Ṣadūq, Mufīd, Kulaynī).12
The bond that exists between Muḥammad and ‘Alī goes far beyond that of blood. What exists between them is a special spiritual tie [nisbah ma‘nawiyyah] which surpasses the relation of impossibility that “there will be no prophet after me.” The bond between Muḥammad and ‘Alī is the result of their common pre-existence in eternity where they were two spiritual entities united in the same luminous identity. As Prophet Muḥammad has explained in various aḥādīth, “‘Alī and I are from the same Light”13 (Kulaynī, Majlisī, Ma‘ṣūm ‘Alī) “People are from various trees, but I and ‘Alī are from the same Tree” (Tirmidhī, Ibn al-Maghazalī).14 The eminence and spiritual supremacy of the First Imām is also established in the significant tradition in which the Prophet states: “‘Alī has been sent secretly with every Prophet; but with me he has been sent openly” (Kāshānī qtd. in Aḥmed ‘Alī 1157).15 It can also be seen in the tradition which states that: “Every prophet has an executor [waṣī] and a successor [khalīfah] and surely my executor and successor is ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib” (Muttaqī, al-Baghdādī). There is also the tradition that “‘Alī is part of me and I am part of ‘Alī and nobody acts on my behalf except ‘Alī” (Aḥmad, Tirmidhī, Ibn Mājah, Nasā‘ī, Ibn Kathīr, Suyūṭī, Ṣadūq, Mufīd, Kulaynī). In a passage from the well-known tradition of Ghadīr, delivered shortly before the Prophet’s death, ‘Alī successorship is once again confirmed: “Oh People!” said the Prophet, “Allāh granted me the wilāyah [guardianship], placing me above all believers. To whom I have been the master, ‘Alī is also his master [fa man kuntu mawlāhu fa ‘Alī mawlāhu] (Hākim, Dhahabī, Aḥmad, Tirmidhī, Ṣadūq, Mufīd, Kulaynī).”16
In relation to this Shī‘ite doctrine of the “Muḥammadan Light” there is a ḥadīth from the Prophet which affirms that he and ‘Alī are two identical and pre-existing lights that God manifested separately and simultaneously during the “reign” of Adam and in the hidden worlds.17 After having passed from one “reign” to another they were finally placed in the persons of Ḥasan and Ḥusayn who were, simultaneously, two luminous epiphanies that emanated from the “Primordial Light” through which the “Lord of the Worlds” [rabb al-‘ālamīn] illuminated all of creation through the “light of the logos” [nūr al-kalām] or initial fiat lux.18 This “primordial light” protects the Prophet and the Imāms from sin, making them immaculate19 [ma‘ṣūmīn]. At the same time, it confers on them the status of supremacy of the poles [aqṭāb] of the universe and vicars [khalīfah] of God as well as spiritual legatees [waṣī] of the bāṭin [esoteric aspects] of the scripture. As the Imāms have stated, “We are the first and the last. We are the logos of God. We are the executors of the revelation.”20 As can be seen, the parallel between Moses’ position and that which Muḥammad would occupy in later times becomes evident in light of these words.
It was also at this time that the Imāmate was established as part and parcel of the Prophethood. The true Imām and Prophet was Muḥammad; and Muḥammad had a successor, his Aaron, in the person of ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib.21 It is for this reason that Shī‘ite Muslims consider descent from ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib to be an obligatory requirement for any candidate to the Caliphate along with the criteria considered necessary by Sunnī Muslims. The Shī‘ite, however, differ with the Sunnī in that they categorically reject election through shūrah [consultative assembly]. In their eyes, the pre-Islamic process of shūrah does nothing but continue the timocratic orientation of Abū Bakr and the representatives of the old Quraysh oligarchy established in the saqīfah. Since spiritual authority and temporal power come from God above, it is impossible for a man to receive the sacred investiture of Imām or khalīfah through a classicist covenant or a political plot between parties. The word khalīfah appears twice in the Qur’ān. In the first case, it refers to Adam [2: 28]. In the second case, it refers to David [38: 257] with the sense of “legislator:” “We have made you a khalīfah on earth,” says God to Adam, “decide among men with justice!” For Muslims, David was both a Prophet and an Imām, combining both spiritual and political authority.22 The word appears several times in the Qur’ān in the plural, khulafā’ and khalā’if.
The plural “Caliphs” appears in contexts which, in relation to the descendants of Muḥammad, can be translated as “successors” and, at times, as “inheritors,” “proprietors” and even as “vicars” and “substitutes.” The Arabic word khalīfah, from which the English word “Caliph” is derived, comes from a root that is found in several Semitic languages. At times, it has the meaning of “to pass on” or “to transmit.” This would make the word the equivalent of the Latin word traditio and the Greek word paradosis. In Arabic, however, the generally accepted meaning is that of “following” or “coming in place of.” By far, the most common interpretation by the majority of Sunnī ‘ulamā’ [scholars], with the sole exception of the Ṣūfi Masters, is that the Caliph is the vicar or successor of the Prophet. The Caliph is the custodian of his moral and legal inheritance as founder of the faith and legislator for the Islamic government and community. The Caliph is not, however, in the eyes of most Sunnī scholars, the successor to the spiritual office of the Prophet, the executor of his bāṭin or the esoteric interpreter of the word of God. This interpretation, however, is inconsistent with the meaning of the word wilāyah which appears to indicate that the function of the Prophet was not destined to disappear after his death but rather, on the contrary, to continue by means of the spiritual authority and temporal power of the Imāms until the end of times.
- 1. Editor’s Note: Among Sunnī Muslims, there are many traditions justifying submission and obedience to Islāmic rulers, whether legitimate or illegitimate, including: “Behold, he, who is ruled by a ruler who disobeys Allāh, should dislike what he commits as a disobedience to Allāh but should not rise in revolt against him” (Muslim); where the Prophet is asked about rulers who deprive their subjects of their due rights and he responds “Listen to them and obey them because they are responsible for what they are ordained to do and you are responsible for what you are ordained to do” (Muslim); “Listen to the ruler and obey him” (Aḥmad); “The Sultan is the shadow of Allāh on earth; whosoever insults him will be humiliated by Allāh, and whosoever honors him will be honored by Him” (Albānī 475). These traditions may have been fabricated by the authorities to ensure the submission of their subjects.
- 2. Editor’s Note: The author’s point is elusive but absolutely correct. The opponents of ahl al-bayt then tried to rationalize what had already been done.
- 3. Editor’s Note: Almighty Allāh criticizes the Arab love for ancestry saying: “Celebrate the praises of Allāh, as ye used to celebrate the praises of your fathers,--yea, with far more Heart and soul.” (2:200).
- 4. Editor’s Note: As the Almighty Allāh says in the Holy Qur’ān: “Verily We have sent thee in truth as a bearer of glad tidings and a Warner” (2:119). See also 5:19; 7:118; 7:184; 13:7; 27:92; 32: 3; 33:45; 35:23; 46:9; 48:8; 51:51; 79:45 and others.
- 5. Editor’s Note: This tradition, in part or in whole, is found in the following sources: Ibn Abī Ḥātim al-Rāzī’s ‘Ilal al-ḥadīth, al-Bayhaqī’s Sunan, Ibn Isḥāq’s Sīrat Rasūl Allāh, Kulaynī’s al-Kāfi, as well as Daylamī, as cited in ‘Ajlūnī’s Kashf al-Khafā’, among many others.
- 6. Editor’s Note: The Prophet, however, had stressed repeatedly that Islām had come to destroy class privilege.
- 7. Editor’s Note: We would argue that the Companions of the Prophet were divided into two groups: one group, led by ‘Alī, accepted the Messenger of Allāh as both a spiritual and temporal leader. The other group led by Abū Bakr, ‘Umar, and ‘Uthmān accepted him as a spiritual leader, but not as a temporal, political leader. In that area, they felt their opinions were equally valid. This would explain the numerous instances of insolence and insubordination from a certain sector of the saḥābas.
- 8. Editor’s Note: The Prophet said of ‘Alī: “He who wants to see Noah in his determination, Adam in his knowledge, Abraham in his clemency, Moses in his intelligence and Jesus in his religious devotion should look at ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib” (Aḥmad, Bayhaqī, al-Ḥadīd, Rāzī, Ibn Batah).
In Ḥayāt al-qulūb, Majlisī relates a similar tradition in which Muḥammad says, “Let him who pleases look to Adam for his glory, to Shays for his wisdom, to Idrīs and his nobleness, to Nūh and his thanksgiving and devotion, to Ibrāhīm and his fidelity and friendship, to Mūsā and his hostility to the enemies of God, to ‘Isā and His love and familiarity with every believer, and then let him look to ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib” (170-71). Abū Bakr, ‘Umar and ‘Uthmān all called upon ‘Alī’s expertise in legal matters during their respective reigns as Caliph (see Mufīd, Chapter V)
- 9. Editor’s Note: The Shī‘ah of ‘Alī from among the Companions of the Prophet included all the Banū Hāshim, Hudhayfah b. al-Yamān, Khuzaymah b. Thābit, whom the Prophet called dhu al-shahādatayn, the one with two testimonies, Abū Ayyūb al-Anṣārī, Sahl b. Ḥunayf, Uthmān b. Ḥunayf, al-Barā’ b. ‘Āzib al-Anṣarī, Ubayy b. Ka‘b, Abū Dharr b. Jundab al-Ghifārī, ‘Ammār b. Yāsir, al-Miqdād b. ‘Amr, Salmān al-Fārisī, Khālid b. Sa‘īd, Jābir b. ‘Abdullāh al-Anṣārī, Abū Sa‘īd al-Khuḍrī, Bilāl b. Arwah, Miqdād ibn al-Aswad and Muḥammad b. Abū Bakr. Umm Salamah, a pious wife of the Prophet, was also among the followers of ‘Alī. These and people like them among the emigrants and the Anṣār, all these maintained that he was the successor [khalīfah] of the Messenger of Allāh, and the Imām. For the Shī‘ah of ‘Alī, see S.H.M. Jafrī, The Origins and Early Development of Shī‘ah Islām (Qum: Ansariyan, 1989): 51-53; and Muḥammad al-Tījānī, Then I was Guided 2nd ed. (Bayrūt: N.P, 1989): 161; Shaykh al-Mufīd, Kitāb al-irshād: The Book of Guidance into the Lives of the Twelve Imāms, Trans. I.K.A. Howard (London: Muḥammadī Trust, 1981): 2.
- 10. Editor’s Note: In the previous versions of this study, the author explained that: “In Shī‘ite thought there exists an absolute Prophethood [nubuwwah muṭlaqah] which is common and universal and a partial Prophethood [muqayyadah] which is determined and limited by time.” However, as was kindly pointed out by Sayyid Muḥammad Rizvī, the division of nubuwwah into muṭlaqah and muqayyadah is unknown in mainstream Twelver Shī‘ah writings. In fact, such a concept contradicts the concept of khitāmiyyah, the finality of nubuwwah and risālah of the Prophet Muḥammad. The division of Prophethood into “absolute” and “partial” was drawn by the author from the works of Henry Corbin who may have taken it from Ismā‘īlī sources. As this concept is erroneous, the author has retracted them.
- 11. Editor’s Note: Shī‘ite scholars hold that the Imāms are equal to Muḥammad in all regards with the exception of prophethood. Furthermore, the majority of Shī‘ite scholars believe that the Imāms are superior to all prophets, with the exception of Muḥammad.
- 12. Editor’s Note: The Messenger of Allāh also said that: “The flesh of ‘Alī is from my flesh, and his blood is from my blood, and he holds the same position in relation to me as Aaron held in relation to Moses” (Aḥmad).
- 13. Editor’s Note: In another tradition, Imām ‘Alī says, “Aḥmad [Muḥammad] and I are of one Light. The only difference between my light and his is that one preceded the other in time” (Shahrastānī 2:226). Another version of this tradition relates that “Muḥammad and I are of one light, which by Allāh’s command was split in two halves. To the one half Allāh said, ‘Be Muḥammad,’ and to the other, ‘Be ‘Alī’” (al-Yamanī 127).
- 14. Editor’s Note: Likewise, Imām Ja‘far al-Ṣādiq relates that the Prophet said, “I am the root of the good tree; ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib is its trunk; the divinely chosen ones of the descendants of ‘Alī are its branches; and the faithful ones attached to the ahl al-bayt are its leaves” (qtd. in Aḥmed ‘Alī 820).
- 15. Editor’s Note: Similarly, al-Ḥajj Ma‘ṣūm ‘Alī reports in his Ṭarā’iq al-ḥaqā’iq that Imām ‘Alī said, “I am Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, assuming different forms, however I will. He who has seen me has seen them all” (7:43). In another tradition related by Jābir al-Jūfī, Imām ‘Alī proclaims that: “I am the Messiah, who heals the blind and the leper, who created the birds and dispersed the storm clouds. I am he, and he is I...Jesus the Son of Mary is part of me, and I am part of him. He is the supreme Word of Allāh. He is the witness testifying to the mysteries and I am that to which he testifies” (Yaman 8-9). The Messenger of Allāh is reported to have said, “I am all the prophets” (Majlisī) a tradition widely quoted by the Bahā‘ī. The statements quoted from Ma‘ṣūm ‘Alī and Jūfī, however, would not be accepted by mainstream Shī‘ah Ithnā-‘Ashariyyah scholars as they sound, at face value, very similar to the ideas of the ghulāt.
- 16. Editor’s Note: The tradition ends with the Messenger of Allāh imploring: “O Allāh, love those who love ‘Alī and hate those who hate him.”
- 17. Editor’s Note: The Messenger of Allāh said, “I was a Prophet while Adam was still between the water and the clay” (Moosa 61); “I was the first man in the creation and the last one in the Resurrection” (54); “The first thing which Allāh created was my soul (60);” “My soul was the Primal Element” (46); “Myself and ‘Alī were created from one light, and we ascribed glory to Allāh on the right side of the empyrean two thousand years before Allāh formed Adam” (Majlisī, Ḥayāt al-qulūb 4). For more on the pre-existence of the Muḥammadan Logos, see Moosa 54-59.
- 18. Editor’s Note: As Imām al-Ṣādiq has said “Allāh does not accept to appoint to it [the Imāmate] two brothers after al-Ḥasan and al-Ḥusayn” (Kulaynī 1:2, 341: ḥadīth 753). As Imām al-Ṣādiq explains in another tradition, “The Imāmate will never be diverted between two brothers after al-Ḥasan and al-Ḥusayn; it proceeds from ‘Alī ibn al-Ḥusayn… There was no one after ‘Alī ibn al-Ḥusayn except that it went to the next descendant or the next descendant of the next descendant” (340: ḥadīth 752).
- 19. Editor’s Note: According to ‘Allāmah Ṣadūq,
Our belief concerning the prophets [anbiyyā’], messengers [rusul], Imāms and angels is that they are infallible [ma‘ṣūm]; purified from all defilement [danas], and that they do not commit any sin whether it be minor [saghīrah] or major [kabīrah]. They do not disobey Allāh in what He has commanded them; they act in accordance with His behests. He who denies infallibility to them in any matter appertaining to their status is ignorant of them, and such a one is a kāfir [unbeliever].
Our belief concerning them is that they are infallible and possess the attributes of perfection, completeness and knowledge, from the beginning to the ends of their careers. Defects [naqṣ] cannot be attributed to them, nor disobedience [‘iṣyān], nor ignorance [jahl], in any of their actions [aḥwāl]. (140-141)
As Imām Khumaynī explains, “The quality of ‘iṣmah that exists in the prophets is the result of belief. Once one truly believes, it is impossible for one to sin” (Islām and Revolution 374). The Shī‘ite belief in the sinlessness of the Prophets and Imāms is uniquely Shī‘ite and without a trace of Jewish or Christian influence (Donaldson 330-38). The‘iṣmah of the prophets is accepted by Sunnis to a limited extent and was developed under Shī‘ite influence (Fyzee 99). The Zaydis do not accept the concept of ‘iṣmah (Moosa 98).
- 20. Editor’s Note: This tradition seems to be an echo of Revelation 22:13: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” It resembles Khuṭbat al-bayān, the Manifestation Speech, in which to ‘Alī allegedly says, “I am the Face and the Side of Allāh, I am the Beginning and the End, I am the Outward [ẓāhir] and the Inward [bāṭin]” (al-Amulī 1348, fols 5a). The speech, however, is spurious. In his Kashf al-ẓunūn, Ḥajjī Khalīfah refers to the seventy phrases reportedly used by ‘Alī to describe his excellence as “seventy words of falsehood” (Moosa 180). The speech is not even recorded in Shī‘ite books of ḥadīth (179). Ayātullāh al-Uẓmā Sayyid Abū al-Qāsim al-Khu‘ī was asked: “What is your opinion about Khuṭbat al-bayān that is attributed to Imām ‘Alī?” He responded that: “It has no foundation”(http://www.shiachat.com/forum/index.php?s=cb55e2e5549c0973a0f 18ad1288a88f0&showtopic= 25980).
Despite the fact that, from the point of view of chains of narration, the Sermon of Manifestation is spurious, some Shī‘ite mystics accept it as authentic from a philosophical and spiritual sense. According to some scholars, it is not ‘Alī who is speaking the Manifestation Speech but al-insān al-kāmil, the Perfect Person. According to others, including Massignon, the Manifestation Speech is actually a ḥadīth qudsī [sacred saying] and it is Almighty Allāh who is speaking. For more on the Perfect Person, see chapter five of our Arabic, Islām, and the Allāh Lexicon, a version of which appears in the journal Ṣūfī.
The spiritual status and authority of the Imāms is expressed in the following trustworthy traditions:
When the pledge of allegiance was made to ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib, the Commander of the Faithful, for the Caliphate, he went out to the mosque wearing the turban and cloak of the Messenger of Allāh, and giving admonition and warning, he sat down confidently, knitted his fingers together and placed them on his stomach. He then said,
Question me before you lose me. Question me, for I have the knowledge of those who came earlier and those who will come later. If the cushion [on which a judge sits] was folded for me [to sit on], I could give judgement to the people of the Torah by their Torah, to the people of the Gospel by their Gospel, to the people of the Psalms by their Psalms and to the people of the Furqān [ie. Qur’ān] by their Furqān, so that each one of these books will be fulfilled and will declare, ‘O Lord, indeed ‘Alī has given judgement according to Your decree.’ By Allāh, I know the Qur’ān and its interpretation [better] than anyone who claims knowledge of it. If it were not for one verse in the Book of Allāh, Most High, I would be able to inform you of what will be until the Day of Resurrection.
Then he said,
Question me before you lose me, for by Him Who split the seed and brought the soul into being, if you questioned me about [it] verse by verse, I would tell you of the time of its revelation and why it was revealed, I would inform of the abrogating [verse] and the abrogated, of the specific and general, the clearly defined and the ambiguous, of the Meccan and the Medinan. By Allāh, there is not a party who can lead astray or guide until the Day of Resurrection, without me knowing its leader, the one who drives it forward and the one who urges it on. (Mufīd 21-22; Kulaynī)
Imām Ja‘far al-Ṣādiq used to say,
Our knowledge is of what will be [ghābir], of what is past [mazbūr], of what is marked in hearts [naksh fī al-qulūb], and what is tapped into ears [naqr fí al-asmā‘]. We have the red case [jafr], the white case, and the scroll of Fāṭimah, peace be upon her, and we have [the document called] al-jāmi‘ah in which is everything that people need.
He was asked to explain these words and he said,
Ghābir is knowledge of what will be; mazbūr is knowledge of what was; what is marked in the hearts [naksh fí al-qulūb] is inspiration; and what is tapped into the ears [naqr fí al-asmā‘] are words of angels; we hear their speech but we do not see their forms. The red case [jafr] is a vessel in which are the weapons of the Messenger of Allāh, may Allāh bless him and his Family. It will never leave us until the one [destined] among us Members of the House [ahl al-bayt ] to arise [qā’im], arises. The white case [jafr] is a vessel in which are the Torah of Moses, the Gospel of Jesus, the Psalms of David and the [other] Books of Allāh. The scroll of Fāṭimah, peace be upon her, has in it every event which will take place and the names of all the rulers until the [last] hour comes. [The document called] al-jāmi‘ah is a scroll seventy yards long which the Messenger of Allāh, may Allāh bless him and his Family, dictated from his own mouth and ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib, peace be upon him, wrote in his own handwriting. By Allāh, in it is everything which people need until the end of time, including even the blood-wit for wounding, and whether a [full] flogging or half a flogging [is due]. (Mufīd 414; Kulaynī)
The Prophet said of ‘Alī: “You can hear what I hear and see what I see, but you are not a prophet; you are a vizier and you are well off” (Nahj al-balāghah, ed. ‘Abd al-Ḥamīd 2: 182-83)
Imām Ja‘far al-Ṣādiq used to say,
My traditions are my father’s traditions; my father’s traditions are my grandfather’s traditions; my grandfather’s traditions are the traditions of ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib, the Commander of the Faithful; the traditions of ‘Alī, the Commander of the Faithful, are the traditions of the Messenger of Allāh, may Allāh bless him and his Family; and the traditions of the Messenger of Allāh, may Allāh bless him and his Family, are the word of Allāh, the Mighty and High. (Mufīd 414; Kulaynī)
Imām Ja'far al-Ṣādiq said, “We have the tablets of Moses, peace be upon him, and we have the rod of Moses, peace be upon him. We are the heirs of prophets” (Mufīd 414-15; Kulaynī).
Imām Ja‘far al-Ṣādiq said,
I have the sword of the Messenger of Allāh, may Allāh bless him and his Family. I have the standard of the Messenger of Allāh, may Allāh bless him and his Family, and his breast-plate, his armor and his helmet... Indeed the victorious standard of the Messenger of Allāh is with me, as are the tablets and rod of Moses. I have the ring of Solomon, the son of David, and the tray on which Moses used to offer sacrifice and I have [knowledge] of the [greatest] name [of Allāh] which when the Messenger of Allāh, may Allāh bless him and his Family, used to put it between the Muslims and the polytheists no arrow of the polytheists could reach the Muslims. I have the same as what the angels brought. We have the weapons in the same way that the Banū Isrā‘īl had the ark of the covenant. Prophethood was brought to any house in which the Ark of the Covenant was present; the Imāmate will be brought to which every one of us receives the weapons. My father dressed in the armor of the Messenger of Allāh, may Allāh bless him and grant him peace, and it made marks on the ground. I put it on and it was [like] it was [for my father]. The one [destined] to rise up [qā’im] from among us, will fill it [so that it fits him exactly] when he puts it on, if Allāh wishes. (Mufīd 415-416)
Imām Ja‘far al-Ṣādiq was asked about what the people were saying that Umm Salamah, the mercy of Allāh be on her, had been handed a sealed scroll. He said, “When the Messenger of Allāh, may Allāh bless him and grant him peace, died, ‘Alī, peace be upon him, inherited his knowledge, his weapons and what there was. Then that went to al-Ḥasan, peace be upon him, then to al-Ḥusayn, peace be upon him.” “Did it go to ‘Alī ibn al-Ḥusayn, peace be upon them, after that, then to his son and now has it come to you?” he was asked. “Yes,” he replied (Mufīd 416).
- 21. Editor’s Note: The author alludes to the tradition where the Messenger of Allāh said to ‘Alī: “You are to me as Aaron was to Moses, but there will be no prophet after me” (Bukhārī, Muslim, Hākim, Ṣadūq, Mufīd, Kulaynī).
- 22. Editor’s Note: As we read in the Qur’ān, Ibrāhīm was also an Imām: “And remember that Abraham was tried by his Lord with certain commands, which he fulfilled: He said, ‘I will make thee an Imām to the Nations.’ He pleaded: ‘And also [Imāms] from my offspring!’ He answered: ‘But My Promise is not within the reach of evil-doers’” (2:124).