Looking at the ups and the downs encountered by the history of Islam, one is compelled to ask whether the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) was aware that after him the nation would fall in a perpetual abyss of disagreement and conflict. A conflict, which will not be limited to caliphate, but shall cast its evil shadow on every law of Islam. Everyone will act as per his whims and fancies deeming himself to be the savior of Islam. Was he (s.a.w.a.) totally unaware of the events that will unfold after him? If he (s.a.w.a.) was not and surely he (s.a.w.a.) was not, what steps did he (s.a.w.a.) take to prevent his ignorant nation from such evil plans? How did he (s.a.w.a.) ensure that the lamp of guidance, which he (s.a.w.a.) lit with his hands does not lose its shine and people continue to be steadfast on the right path under its light? This article shall address such questions and it is for the readers to decide whether it has satiated their quest for answers?

The Holy Quran and Prophecies

The Holy Quran has clearly mentioned that the knowledge of the unseen exclusively belongs to Allah, for example it says:

“And with Him are the keys of the unseen treasures– none knows them but He; and He knows what is in the land and the sea, and there falls not a leaf but He knows it, nor a grain in the darkness of the earth, nor anything green nor dry but (it is all) in a clear book.”
(Surah An’aam: Verse 59)

At another place it says:

“And Allah’s is the unseen of the heavens and the earth; and the matter of the hour is but as the twinkling of an eye or it is higher still; surely Allah has power over all things.”
(Surah Nahl: Verse 77)

It also mentions in Surah Naml: Verse 65

“Say: No one in the heavens and the earth knows the unseen but Allah; and they do not know when they shall be raised.”

However, the 26th and 27th verse of Surah Jinn mentions that where Allah is the sole owner of the knowledge of the unseen with all its variants, He has granted it to whomsoever He pleased. Also, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) was well aware of the discord that would erupt after him.

“(He is) the Knower of the unseen! So, He does not reveal His secrets to any, except to him whom He chooses as a messenger; for surely He makes a guard to march before him and after him”

Traditions and Prophecies

By reading the traditions of both sects, one can easily deduce that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) was well aware of the discord that shall raise its evil head after him. He was also aware that this discord would not be limited to his successorship but would also extend to every law of Islam. We shall present some of these traditions for the insight of the readers.

Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) said:

“My nation shall soon divide into seventy three sects one of which will enter paradise while the rest shall be the inhabitants of fire.”
(Sunan Ibn Maajah, vol. 3 p. 1332 tradition 3992,
Sunan Tirmidhi vol. 4 p. 134 tradition 2778)

This tradition has been narrated by several companions like Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s), Anas Ibn Maalik, Saad Ibn Abi Waqqaas, Saadi Ibn Ajlaan, Abdullah Ibn Abbas, Abdullah Ibn Umar, Abdullah Ibn Amr Ibn Aas, Amr Ibn Auf Mazaani, Auf Ibn Maalik al-Ashja’ee, Uwaymir Ibn Maalik and Muawiyah Ibn Abi Sufyan amongst others.

Several scholars of the Ahle Tasannun have considered the above tradition as correct or widely transmitted. For instance, al-Nawawi in Faiz al-Qadeer, Haakim Nishapuri in al-Mustadrak and Dhahabi in Talkhees al-Mustadrak, Mashabati in Etesmaam, Safaareeni in Lawami’ al- Anwaar and Naasiruddin Albaani in Silsilah al-Ahadees al-Sahiha.

The number seventy-three can be taken in its literal or metaphorical sense as to mean numerous sects. We are aware that Imamat is the fundamental reason for this discord and dissension.

Aafiyah Ibn Aamir narrates from Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a):

“Surely on the Day of Judgment I shall be ahead of and a witness over you. By Allah I can see the pond of Kausar. I have been given the keys of the earth. I do not fear that you shall return to idolatry after me, but concerning the dispute regarding caliphate.”
(Sahih Bukhari vol. 4p. 174)

Ibn Abbas narrates from Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a):

“On the day of Judgment my companions shall be driven towards hell. I will cry out! My Lord! (They are) My companions! My companions! I will be answered that they are those who returned to paganism after you and became apostates.”
(Sahih Bukhari vol. 4, p. 110, Faizul Qadeer vol. 2, p. 21,
Mustadrak vol.1, p. 128,
Lawaami’ al-Anwaar, vol. 1 p. 93, Silsila al-Ahaadees al-Sahihah, vol. 1 p. 32)

One can find similar traditions in the Sihah books of Ahle Sunnah that have been narrated by companions like Anas ibn Malik, Abu Hurairah, Abu Bakr, Abu Saeed Khuzri, Asma bint Abu Bakr, Ayesha and Umm Salamah.

Shaikh Mahmood narrates from Abu Rayya Muqbili in Ilm Shafe that this tradition is widely narrated with respect to its meaning. However, we cannot apply it to those companions from the Muslims that turned to polytheism and idolatry after Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) because Aafiyah Ibn Aamir narrates from Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a),

“By Allah, I do not fear of you becoming polytheists after me. Rather I fear that after me you shall create difference and disputes”

Therefore the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) would say in his traditions,

“Fire be for the one, fire be for the one who changes (the religion) after me.”
(Sahih Bukhari vol. 7 p. 207, Sahih Muslim vol. 7 p. 66)

We know that innovation in religion is different from polytheism.

Abu Alqamah narrates:

It has been narrated in Mawaahib by Tabari Shafei that he told Ibn Ibaad:

“Why did you not, like other people, pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr when others inclined to him?” He took me closer to himself and said, “By Allah I heard Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) saying,

“After I shall depart from this world the carnal desires of people shall overcome them and cause them to return to paganism. Then the truth will be with Ali and the book of Allah shall be in his hands. Do not pledge allegiance at the hands of anyone except that of his.”
(Ihqaaq al Haqq vol 2 p. 296)
Khaarazmi narrates from Abu Ya’ala in Hanafi Manaqib that Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) said:

“Soon a discord shall arise after me. Then hold fast unto Ali, because he is the criterion between truth and falsehood.”
(Manaaqib of al-Khaarazmi, p. 105)

Ibn Asaakir, vide correct chain of narrators, narrates from Ibn Abbas:

“We were passing with Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) and Ali (a.s.) through the streets of Madinah when we came across a beautiful garden. Ali (a.s.) remarked as to how beautiful the garden is. Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) informed that your garden in paradise is more beautiful than this. After this he hinted at the head and the face of Ali (a.s.) and wept profusely. Ali (a.s.) asked, “What is making you weep so profusely?” He (s.a.w.a.) replied:

“This nation is harboring a jealousy in their hearts (against you) which they shall make evident after me.”
(Taarikh Ibn Asaakir, 834)

Abu Muayyah, the servant of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) says:

“Once on a particular night the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) woke me from sleep and asked me to accompany him to the graveyard of Baqee so that he (s.a.w.a) asks forgiveness for those resting therein. On reaching Baqee, he (s.a.w.a) saluted its people and said:

“Corruption is heading towards you like the dark nights.”

He then sought forgiveness for the people of Baqeeh and returned to his bed and left this world in a few days.
(Al Kaamil Ibn Aseer vol 2 p. 318)

Muhammad Baaqir as Sadr, the martyr, while explaining the above points says:

This is the same dissension that Janabe Zahra (s.a) has hinted at in her sermon wherein she said:

“You feared dissension but were trapped into it. This is the same dissension but rather the root of all conflicts.”

O beloved daughter of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.)! What has aggrieved your heart that you are unmasking the reality and informing about the dark future of your father’s nation?

Surely the government at the peak of its power then, is the root of all conflicts. Umar also remarked that the caliphate of Abu Bakr was an accident, from the evil of which Allah protected the Muslims.
(Tareekh Tabari, vol. 2 p. 235, Fadak in History by Shaheed S. Baqir al-Sadr (r.a.))

Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) had three alternatives before him. It is well established that he (s.a.w.a) was aware before hand of the impending conflict. The question is whether Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) took any precautionary steps to preempt this dissension. Any one of the following three possibilities can take place.

1. The negative way: That is the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) was careless about his duties.

2. The constructive way: That is he (s.a.w.a) consulted the people and acted accordingly.

3. The positive way with appointment: That is he (s.a.w.a) appointed someone to prevent and subdue this conflict.

The Proponents of First School of Thought

The first person to spread the rumor that Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) left this world without making a will is Ayesha. She narrates that the head of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) was in my lap when he breathed his last and did not make a will.
(Sahih Bukhari vol. 2 p. 16)

Abu Bakr too in his last moments said:

“I wanted to ask the messenger of Allah about the caliphate in his last moments so that none disputes in it.”
(Tabari vol. 5 p. 53)

At another place he says that Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) left the people on themselves so that they choose the one they think is good for them.
(Tabari vol. 5 p. 53)

When Umar ibn Khattab was told by his son not to leave his cattle unattended he replied:

“If I do so (leave my flock unattended) I shall tread the path of the Messenger of Allah, otherwise that of Abu Bakr.”
(Hilyah al-Awliyaa, vol. 1 p. 44)

Objections against the First Opinion

The thought that Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) did not shoulder his responsibility properly leads to following objections:

1. This would mean that Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) ignored the needs of Islam and the Muslims. We believe that Islam is a comprehensive religion that takes into consideration all human needs. How was it possible to ignore such an important duty?

2. This is against the conduct of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) because he always, in his absence, even for a short duration, appointed a successor.

3. This thought is against the instructions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) because he himself said:

“One who spends a morning and is not concerned for the affairs of the Muslims is not from us”
(Usool-e-Kaafi)

4. This thought is against the conduct of the caliphs because all of them were concerned and appointed a successor for future.

5. This conduct is against that of the past Prophets (a.s.) because all of them appointed a successor and Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) certainly was no exception to this.

Objections against the Second Thought

1. If Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) had adopted this way then it was necessary to lay down the conditions and the procedure to make such a selection, when in reality he did not do so.

2. Also people did not have the willingness and ability to carry out such a task. The people had at several times proved their disunity as in the case of Hajar-e- Aswad and the battle with Bani Mustaliq. Last but not the least, the events of Saqifah is clearer than broad daylight.

3. It is very evident from the Holy Quran and traditions that the role of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) was not limited to receiving and conveying revelation. Muslims are in need of such a person who would fill the vacuum after the departure of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a).

When Ali (a.s) was asked the reason, he narrates the maximum traditions from Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) than anyone else, he replied:

“Whenever I asked him a question he replied and when I remained silent, he narrated traditions for me.”
(Sahih Bukhari vol.8 p. 44, Tabaqaat Ibn Saad vol. 2 p. 101)

At many occasions Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) said:

“I am the house of wisdom and Ali is its door.”

At another place he (s.a.w.a) said:

“I am the city of knowledge and Ali is its gate. Whoever wishes to acquire knowledge should approach its door.”

Therefore, the first two alternatives are pre-empted and we are left with no choice but to accept the third one i.e. Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) on divine command appointed a successor after him, the fact which is also proven from Hadees-e-Saqalain, Hadees-e-Tayr, Hadees-e-Manzilat which are acknowledged by both the sects and also several verses of the Holy Quran like the Verse of Conveyance (5: 67), the Verse of Guardianship (5: 3), the Verse wherein a person sought divine punishment (70: 1-3) and numerous other verses that he (s.a.w.a.) appointed Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s) as his immediate successor. In some of the books of the Ahle Tasannun, the names of the twelve Imams (a.s.) have been mentioned with their titles by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) leaving no room for any doubt whatsoever1 . However their hearts, eyes and ears have been sealed by Allah.

We plead to Allah to keep us firm on the right path, hasten the reappearance of Imam-e-Asr (a.t.f.s) and include us among the slaves of Ahle Bait (a.s).


1. Readers can refer to the book Mesbaah al-Hedaayah Fi Isbaat al-Imaamah wa al-Welaayah by Sayed Muhammad Ali Musawi al-Bahbahaani (r.a.). The soft copy is also available on www.seratonline.com under the caption 40 verses…