Chapter 2: Why Shi‘a Consider Themselves As Al-Firqah Al-Najiyah

As mentioned, all Muslim sects believe in their legitimacy and consider themselves as al-firqah al-najiyah, and basically, if they did not consider themselves right, they would no longer be independent sects and would follow another sect. However, what we are trying to express here is the reason why the Imami Shi‘ism asserts its right to be al-firqah al-najiyah. In this section, we will point out some of the most important of these arguments.

A. Death Without Knowing Imam Is The Death Of Ignorance

One the most important narrations to prove the beliefs of the Shi‘a is the well-known hadith of “man mata”, quoted in al-Sahis by Muslim which is the most authentic Sunni source after al-Sahih by al-Bukhari. According to Muslim b. Hajjaj Nayshaburi, the Prophet Muhammad (S) said:

وَمَنْ مَاتَ وَلَيْسَ فِي عُنُقِهِ بَيْعَةٌ مَاتَ مِيتَةً جَاهِلِيَّةً.

He who dies without paying allegiance [to an imam] dies the death of ignorance.1

Also, Ahmad b. Hanbal, the founder of Hanbali school of jurisprudence, has quoted a similar version in his al-Musnad:

من مات بغير إمام مات ميتة جاهلية

He who dies without having an imam dies the death of ignorance.2

According to these narrations, it is the duty of every Muslim to know and follow the true Imam of his time, and among the Islamic sects, it is only the Shi‘a that clearly consider knowing and following the Imam of the time appointed by God as a necessary condition for faith.

B. The Caliphs Of The Prophet Are Exclusively Twelve

According to a famous hadith in Sunni collections of hadith, the number of the Caliphs after the Prophet Muhammad (S) is twelve. Shi‘a are the only Islamic denomination which not only insists on this exclusiveness, but also has their names and characteristics in their books of hadith and history.

This narration has been narrated by several Sunni scholars of hadith, including Muslim in his al-Sahih:

عن جَابِرِ بْنِ سَمُرَةَ، قَالَ دَخَلْتُ مَعَ أَبِي عَلَى النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَسَمِعْتُهُ يَقُولُ إِنَّ هَذَا الأَمْرَ لاَ يَنْقَضِي حَتَّى يَمْضِيَ فِيهِمُ اثْنَا عَشَرَ خَلِيفَةً . قَالَ ثُمَّ تَكَلَّمَ بِكَلاَم خَفِيَ عَلَىَّ - قَالَ - فَقُلْتُ لأَبِي مَا قَالَ؟ قَالَ: كُلُّهُمْ مِنْ قُرَيْش.

Jabir b. Samura narrates: Together with my father, I went to the Prophet Muhammad (S) who said: "This matter (life) will not end, until it is passed by twelve Caliphs." He then whispered a sentence. I asked my father what the Prophet said. He said that the Prophet added: "All of them will be from Quraysh."3

In yet another narration, he (S) is quoted as saying:

لا يزال الأسلام عزيزاً الي اثني عشر خليفة.

"Islam will continue to be triumphant through twelve Caliphs.”4

According to Ahmad b. Hanbal, the Prophet Muhammad (S) added:

لا يضُرُّه من فارقه أو خالفه.

“Those who separate from or oppose them will not harm them.”5

According to some versions, these twelve Caliphs are from Banu Hashim, a clan in Quraysh [all Shi‘a Imams are from Banu Hashim]:

كلّهم من بني هاشم

“All of them belong to Banu Hashim.”6

While Shi‘a have no problem in applying these narrations to their twelve Imams, Sunni scholars have great difficulty in this regard and were not able to explain them in accordance with historical facts, since the number of the caliphs who claimed to be true successors of the Prophet (OBUH) is by far more than twelve. So Sunni scholars have not been able to show this exclusiveness by referring to certain twelve caliphs. This confusion is manifested by the following statement by ibn Hajar ‘Asqalani, a great Sunni scholar, quoting from Ibn al-Jawzi:

قال ابن حجر: قال ابن الجوزي: قد أطلت البحث عنه و تطلّبت مظانّه و سألت عنه، فما رأيت أحدا وقع على المقصود به.

Ibn Hajar narrates that Ibn al-Jawzi said: I discussed a lot about this narration and studied and asked about different possibilities for its commentary but I did not find anyone who could understand the meaning of this narration.7

C. The Shi‘a Of Imam Ali Are Felicitous

Al-Shawkani, a great Sunni scholar, narrates:

أشار النبي إلي علي: و الذي نفسي بيده إنّ هذا وشيعَتَه لَهُمُ الفائزون يومَ القيامة.

The Prophet (S) referred to Ali and said: “I swear by God in Whose hand is my life, verily this man [i.e. Ali] and his Shi‘a are felicitous on the Day of Judgment.”8

Is there any such explicit narration about the followers of other Islamic denominations?

  • 1. Sahih Muslim, vol. 3, p. 1478, hadith no. 1851.
  • 2. Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, vol. 4, p. 96.
  • 3. Sahih Muslim, vol. 6, p. 3, hadith no. 4598.
  • 4. Sahih Muslim, vol. 3, p. 1452, hadith no. 1821.
  • 5. Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, vol. 5, p. 96. This is an authentic narration according to Albani in Silsilat al-Ahadith al-Sahihah, vol. 1, p. 651.
  • 6. Al-Qunduzi, Yanabi‘ al-Mawaddah li-Dhawi al-Qurba, vol. 3, p. 290.
  • 7. Ibn Hajar ‘Asqalani, Fath al-Bari, vol. 13, p. 181.
  • 8. Al-Shawkani, Fath al-Qadir, vol. 5, p. 640.