Hadith of the Twelve Successors
The Hadith of the Twelve Successors is a famous hadith in Islam, in which the Islamic prophet Muhammad speaks about twelve Muslim rulers succeeding him. It is found in both Sunni and Shi'a hadith books.
- Narrated Jabir bin Samura: I heard Muhammad saying, "There will be twelve Muslim rulers." He then said a sentence which I did not hear. My father said, "All of them (those rulers) will be from Quraish." 
- Narrated Jabir bin Samura: I heard Muhammad saying, "The (Islamic) religion will continue until the Hour (day of resurrection), having twelve Caliphs for you, all of them will be from Quraysh."
- The Prophet said: "This religion remains standing until there are twelve vicegerents over you, all of them agreeable to the nation, all of them from Quraysh." 
- The Prophet said: "There will be after me twelve Amir (Prince/Ruler), all of them from Quraysh." 
- Masrooq rates that someone asked Abdullah Ibn Masood, "O Abaa Abd al-Rahmaan, did you ask the Messenger of Allah how many caliphs will rule this nation?". Abdullah Ibn Masood replied, "Yes, we did ask the Messenger of Allah and he replied, "Twelve, like the number of chiefs (nuqabaa) of Bani Israel"" 
Similar reports from Sunni and Shia texts
Muhammad was quoted as saying,
- Surely Islam will always remain mighty till there are twelve caliphs in it. All of them will be of the Quraish.
- There will be twelve caliphs after me, all of them will be from Quraish
- There will be twelve caliphs for this nation
- Surely this religion will always overcome its opponents and no enemy or deserter can ever harm it till there are twelve caliphs from my nation in it. All of them will be from Quraish
- This affair (Islam) shall always remain mighty impregnable and victorious against all its opponents till it is ruled by twelve, all of them will be from Quraish
- This affair shall always remain mighty and victorious over its opponents till there are twelve. All of them will be from Quraish
- This affair (Islam) shall always remain righteous till there are twelve chiefs. All of them will be from Quraish.
- This affair shall always remain closely united till there are twelve caliphs in it all of them will be from Quraish
- This affair will always survive till there are twelve chiefs in it. All of them will be from Quraish
- This affair (islam) shall always remain upright till there are twelve chiefs. All of them will be from Quraish
- This affair shall neither pass nor will come to an end till twelve caliphs pass in it. All of them will be from Quraish
- This religion shall survive till the Hour is established or there are twelve caliphs(ruling) upon you. All of them will be from Quraish
- There will be twelve strong supports for this nation. Whoever forsakes them will not harm them. All of them will be from Quraish
- This affair shall always overcome the one who opposes it. No enemy or opponent will harm it till there will be twelve caliphs from Quraish
- Surely this affair shall always remain dominant. No opponent can harm it till there are twelve chiefs. All of them will be from Quraish
- This affair of this nation (Islam) shall always be dominant till there are twelve chiefs or caliphs. They are all from Quraish
- The affair of this nation shall always remain straight and dominant over its enemy till there are twelve caliphs amongst them. All of them will be from the Quraish
- There will be twelve strong people from the Quraish. The one who bears enmity against them, his enemy will not harm them.
- Twelve (caliphs) will follow this affair (Islam). All of them will be from Quraish and their likes will not be seen
- Abdullah ibn Masood on being asked if he asked the Messenger about how many caliphs will rule this nation. He replied in affirmative and said that the Messenger replied, "Twelve, like the number of chiefs (nuqabaa) of Bani Israel"
- Your caliphs will be twelve equal to the number of chiefs of Bani Israel
- Know that the affair of my nation shall always be righteous till there are twelve caliphs in it. All of tem will be from the Quraish
- This religion shall always be upright till there are twelve from Quraish. When they are no more, the earth will be destroyed (swallowed) with all its inhabitants
"The Jewish man said, 'Name them.'
"The Prophet said, 'When Husayn leaves this world, his son, 'Ali, and after him, his child Muhammad and after Muhammad, his son Ja'far and after Ja'far, his son Musa and after Musa, his son 'Ali and after 'Ali, Muhammad. After Muhammad, his child, 'Ali and after 'Ali, Hasan and after Hasan, his child Muhammad al-Mahdi. These are the twelve Imams." (Yanabi' al-Muwadat, p. 431).
Shias see the 'Hadith of the Twelve Successors' as a basis for their belief in a succession of Imams. Shi'a argue that the "Twelve Successors" must have come in succession, arguing from the term "Successors" (Arabic: Caliph). Twelver Shiites in particular identify the "twelve rulers" with their twelve Imams from Ali to Muhammad al-Mahdi.
Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal : Don't try to find faults with ‘Alī, he is indeed from me and I am from him, he is your leader after me. He is from me and I am from him, he is your leader after me
Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal : When the āyah "And warn your relatives of nearest kin" (26:214) was revealed, the Prophet gathered his family around him and treated 30 of them to a meal and then said: "Who is willing to guarantee my debts and commitments so that he should be with me in paradise and should be my successor from among my family." A person whom Shurayk did not name, answered: O Messenger of Allah you are like a sea, who can take charge of this responsibility. The Prophet repeated his statement to his relatives, and (Imam) 'Alī [('a)] replied: "I will undertake this responsibility."
Sheikh Sulayman Balkhi Hanafi in his Yanabiu'l-Mawadda, ch.76, reports from Fara'idu's-Simtain of Hamwaini, who reports from Mujahid, who reports from Ibn Abbas : that a Jew named Na'thal came to Muhammad and asked him questions about Tawhid (Unity of Allah). Muhammad answered his questions and the Jew embraced Islam. Then he said: "O Holy Prophet, every prophet had a wasi (vicegerent). Our Prophet, Moses Bin Imran, made a will for Yusha Bin Nun. Please tell me who is your wasi?" The Holy Prophet said: "My vicegerent is Ali Bin Abi Talib; after him are Hasan, and Husain and after them are nine Imams, who are the successive descendants of Husain."
Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Tha'labi in his Manaqib and Tafsir, Ibn Maghazili Faqih Shafi'i in his Manaqib and Mir Seyyed Ali Hamadani in his Mawaddatu'l-Qurba (Mawadda VI) : narrate from the Second Rightly-Guided Caliph, Umar bin Khattab, who, when the Muhammed established fraternal and brotherly ties between the companions, said, 'This Ali is my brother in this world and in the hereafter. Among my descendants he is my caliph; he is my successor (vicegerent) in my community. He is the heir to my knowledge; he is the payer of my debt. What belongs to him belongs to me; what belongs to me belongs to him; his benefit is my benefit and his loss is my loss. He who is a friend of his is really a friend of mine and he who is an enemy of his is really an enemy of mine."
While there may be a difference of opinion amongst some Sunni scholars of the exact identity of the 'Twelve Successors', one cannot deny that some of the greatest Sufi scholars, the vast majority of whom were Sunni, are unanamous on the elect status of the 'Twelve Imams' of spirituality.
In the preface of his book 'The Ghadir Declaration', the well known Islamic scholar Professor Tahir-ul-Qadri quotes the following from Shah Wali Allah, one of the greatest Sunni scholars India ever produced:
“In this Ummah the first person to open the door of spiritual dominion is ‘Alī al-Murtadā. The secret of spiritual dominion of the leader permeated his progeny. Therefore, not a single saint is found in the Ummah who is not directly or indirectly indebted to the spiritual leadership of ‘Alī to attain spiritual leadership...Now in the Ummah anyone who is blessed with spiritual leadership by Allāh’s Messenger is indebted either to ‘Alī al-Murtadā or to the Chief Helper Abdul Qadir Jīlānī. No one can reach the status of wilāyah without this (indebted-ness)”. 
Another prominent Indian Sunni scholar, Shāh Ismā‘īl Dahlawī held the following view:
“Alī al-Murtadā has also an edge over Abū Bakr as-Siddīq and ‘Umar Fārūq and this edge lies because of the greater number of his followers and all the highest spiritual and saintly activity, from his days to the end of the world, has to be mediated through him, and he has a say in the kingdom of the kings and the leadership of the leaders and this is not hidden from those who are familiar with the world of sovereignty… Most spiritual chains are directly derived from ‘Alī al-Murtadā. So, on the Day of Judgment, ‘Alī’s army including followers of high status and great reputation, will outnumber and outshine others to be a source of wonder for all the spectators.”
Finally, another Islamic scholar of India,Imam Rabbani Mujjadid Alf Thani Ahmad Sirhindi, a Master of the Naqshbandi Sufi Order, appropriately highlight the Sunni belief regarding the Twelve Imams in his Maktubaat:
“And there is another way close to the spiritual sovereignty and this is the way of the saints and the general friends of Allāh, and this way is marked by its characteristic passion and it carries the guarantee of mediation and the leader and chieftain of the saints of this way is ‘Alī al-Murtadā. And this grand office is reserved for him. On this way, the feet of the Holy Prophet are on ‘Alī’s head and Fatima and Hasan and Husayn are included with him. I believe that he enjoyed this position even before his physical birth, as he did after it, and whosoever has received the divine blessing and guidance, has received it through him, because he is closest to the last point on this way and the centre of this spot belongs to him. And when his period ended, the grand office passed on to Hasan and Husayn and then on to each one of the Twelve Imams, individually and elaborately. And whosoever received guidance in their life and after their death, received it through these saints. And the refuge and place of shelter of the saints of high ranks are these saints, (because they are the centre of all spiritual activity) and the sides tend to converge on the centre” (Maktubat al-Rabbani, 9:173#123).
Links to the Bible
Various Muslim authors link the 'Hadith of the Twelve Successors' to verses in the Biblical Book of Genesis, which relates God speaking to Abraham:
- Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, "Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?" And Abraham said to God, "If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!"
- Then God said, "Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year." Genesis 17:17-21
- These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. These were the sons of Ishmael, and these are the names of the twelve tribal rulers according to their settlements and camps. Genesis 25:13-16
The Shi'a draw a further distinction, arguing that God is not in interested in secular power and refers to the religious authority of prophets or Imams when using the words "rulers" or "kings". According to this argument, the Biblical authors refer to kings or others with secular power when using the same words. Proponents of this view identify the words "great nation" with the Muslim community and not with kingdom. Note however that Twelver Shias consider the Imams not only as religious leaders but also as princes and the rulers.
Muslims identify the "twelve rulers" mentioned in Genesis with the Twelve Successors of the Hadith. For instance, the 14th century Sunni scholar Ibn Kathir stated :
- We see the following prophecy in the Taurat which is in the hands of the Jews and the Christians: "Indeed Allah, the Exalted, has given Ibrahim (a.s.) the glad tidings of Isma'il, and he has bestowed a favour and multiplied it and placed in his progeny twelve mighty (personalities)." ...
- Ibn Taymiyya said: "And these are the same, regarding whom the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) has given the glad tidings in the tradition of Jabir ibn Samurah and stated their number; indeed this is with regard to the Imams and the Hour will not come till they last."
A quote from the Shia Imam Muhammad al-Baqir refers to Abraham's prayer narrated above:
- "We are the remnant of progeny. And that was the prayer of Ibrahim (a.s.) regarding us." 
- "Twelve Caliphs, (like) the number of the Chiefs of Bani Israel." 
- "There will be Caliphs after me, whose number is like those of the companions of Musa."
- Sahih Bukhari 89.329
- Sahih Muslim : Book 020: Number 4477, 4478, 4480, 4481, 4482, 4483
- Sunan Abu Dawood : Book 36: Number 4266
- Sunan al-Tirmidhi (Arabic) Chapter of Fitan,
2:45 (India) and 4:501 Tradition # 2225 (Egypt)
Hadith #2149 (numbering of al-'Alamiyyah)
- Musnad-e-Ahmad, vol 1, pg 398
- Musnad-e-Tayalesi, vol 3, pg 105 Tr. No 767 and vol 6, pg 180 Tr. No 1278, published at Hyderabad, India in 1321 A.H
- Al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, vol 2, pg 258, Tr. No. 1964
- Al-Fetan, vol. 1, pg 39, Chap 7, Tr. No. 2
- Al-Malaahem wa al-Fetan pg 32, chap 29
- Musnad-e-Ahmad, vol 5, pg 93
- Sunan Abi Dawood, Kitab al-Mahdi
- Taarikh-e-Baghdad, vol 12, pg 126, No. 516
- Al-Bidaaya wa al-Nihaayah, vol 1, pg 18
- Al-Mojam Al-Kabeer, vol 2, pg 214, Tr. No. 1792 and 1793
- Musnad-e-Ahmad, vol 5, pg 92
- Kanz al-Ummaal, vol 12, pg 33, Tr. no 33860 narrating from Tabraani and Tr. No. 33803, narrating from Tirmidhi
- Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Kitab al-Fetan, Chap 46, Tr. No. 2223
- Tarikh-e-Baghdad vol 14, pg 353, No. 7673
- Al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, vol 2, pg 236. Tr. No. 1875 and pg 248, tr. No. 1923 and pg 251, Tr. No 1936 and pg. 283 Tr. No. 2063 and vol 2, pg 215, Tr. No 1799.
- Al-Ghaibah of No'mani, pg 123 chap 6, Tr. No 14, and pg 120, Chap 6, Tr. No. 8
- Kifaayaa al-Asar, pg 50, Chap 6, Tr. No. 2
- Nihaayah al-bidaayah wa al-Nihaayah vol 1, pg 17
- Yanaabi al-Mawaddah, Chap 77, pg 445
- Al-Mawaddah al-Qurbah, pg 215
- Kashf al-Yaqeen, chap 2, pg 71
- Al-Ghaibah by No'maani pg 120, Chap 6, Tr. No. 8
- Kifaayah al-Asar, pg 27, Chap 2, Tr. No 5 and pg 76, Chap 8, Tr. no. 6 and pg 77, Chap 8, Tr. No. 7 and pg 78, Chap 8, Tr. No. 9
- Behaar al-Anwwar, vol 36, chap 41, pg 282, Tr. No 103 and vol 36, Chap 41, pg 255, Tr. No. 72 and vol 36, pg 311, Chap 41, Tr. No. 153-156
- Al-Insaaf, Tr. No. 129 and pg 292, Tr. No. 264 and Tr. No. 127
- Kamaal al-Deen, vol 1, pg 279, Chap 24, Tr. No. 26
- Musnad-e-Ahmad, vol 5, pg 106
- Musnad-e-Ahmad, vol 5, pg 87
- Musnad-e-Ahmad, vol 5, pg 93, 96, 98
- Al-Ghaibah by No'maani, pg 116, chap 6, Tr. No. 17
- Sahih Muslim, Kitaab al-Imaarah
- Kanz al-Ummaal, vol 12, pg 32, Tr. No. 33850
- Al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, vol 2, pg 213, Tr. No 1791 and vol 2, pg 214, Tr. No 1795
- Tarikh al-Khulafaa, The chapter of the duration of the Caliphs, pg 7
- Musnad-e-Ahmad, vol 5, pg 97
- al-Malaahem by Ibn al-Munaadi, pg 113
- Musnad-e-Ahmad, vol 5, pg 107
- Musnad-e-Ahmad, vol 5, pg. 97
- Sahih al-Muslim, Kitab al-Imaarah
- Al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, vol 2, pg 228, Tr. No. 1849, and Tr. No. 1850 and Tr. No. 1851
- al-Malaahim by ibn Munaadi, pg 112
- Firdaus al-Akhbaar, vol 5, pg 7705
- Musnad-e-Ahmad, vol 5, pg 86
- al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, vol 2, pg 218, Tr. No. 1808
- Lawaame' al-Uqool, vol 5, pg 150
- al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, vol 2, pg 215, Tr. No. 1798
- Sahih al-Muslim, Kitab al-Imaarah
- Al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, vol 2, pg 285, Tr. No. 2068 and 2069
- Kefaayah al-Asar, pg 51, Chap 6, Tr. No. 3
- Behaar al-Anwaar, vol 36
- Al-Taraaef, pg 168-172
- Al-Khesaal, pg 469-473. Tr. No 12-30
- Al-Umdah by Ibn Bitreeq
- E'laam al-Waraa by Tabarsi
- Sahih al-Muslim, Kitab al-Imaarah
- Mukhtasar al-sahih al-Muslim by Tirmidhi, Tr. No. 1196
- Musnad-e-Ahmad, vol 5, pg 89
- Musnad-e-Abi Ya'laa, vol 13, pg 456, Tr. No. 23(7463)
- al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, vol 2, pg 218. Tr. No. 1809 and vol 2, pg 216. Tr. No. 1801
- Kanz al-Ummaal vol 12, pg 32, Tr. No. 33855
- al-Ghaibah by No'mani, pg 120, part 6, Tr No. 9 and pg 119, Chap 6, Tr. no. 6
- Behaar al-Anwaar vol 36, pg 281, Chap 41, Tr. No. 102
- al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, vol 2, pg 214. Tr. No. 1794
- al-mo'jam al-Awsat, vol 3, pg 437, Tr. No. 2943
- Kanz al-Ummaal vol 12, pg 33, Tr. No. 33858
- al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, vol 2, pg 215. Tr. No. 1796
- Kanz al-Ummaal vol 12, pg 33, Tr. No. 33852
- Lawaame al-Uqool, vol 5, pg 151
- al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, vol 2, pg 238. Tr. No. 1883
- al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, vol 2, pg 215. Tr. No. 1797 and vol 2, pg 226, Tr. No. 1841
- Kanz al-Ummaal vol 12, pg 33, Tr. No. 33853
- Al-Mustadrak alaa al-Sahihain, Kitaab-o-Ma'refat al-Sahaabaa, vol 3, pg 317-617
- al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, vol 2, pg 282. Tr. No. 2059
- Kanz al-Ummaal vol 12, pg 32, Tr. No. 33848
- al-Bidaaya wa al-Nihaaya, vol 1, pg 17
- al-Ghaibah of No'maani, pg 119, Chap 6, Tr No. 7
- al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, vol 2, pg 286. Tr. No. 2073
- Majmaa az-Zawaaed, vol 5, pg 191, Chapter, 'The Caliphs are Twelve'. The author of Muntakhab al Asar says, "Tabraani in his al-Mo'jam al-Kabeer, vol 2, has brought this tradition of Jaabir from thirty-seven chain of narrators. It is clear that Jaabir has heard the tradition concerning the twelve caliphs on more than one occasion from the Messenger of Allah lke the eve of the stoning of Al-Aslami, in the last pilgrimage at Arafaah, when he went to the Prophet along with his father and when he heard the Prophet delivering a sermon in the mosque.
- Kamaal al-Deen, vol 1, pg 272, Chap 24, Tr. No 21
- Musnad-e-Ahmad, vol 1, pg 398
- Kanz al-Ummaal, vol 12, pg 33, Tr. no. 33857
- Muntakhab Kanz al-Ummaal, vol 5, pg 312
- Taarikh al-Khulafaa, pg 7
- Majma al-Zawaaed, vol 5, pg 190 (The Chapter of Twelve)
- Al-Mataaleb al-Aaliyah, vol 2, pg 196. Tr. No. 2040-2041
- Al-Durr al-Manthoor by Jalaaluddin al-Suyuti under the Quranic verse, "And We raised amongst them twelve chiefs" (Surah Maaedah 5:12)
- Mutashaabehaat al-Quran vol 2, pg 53
- Yanaabi al-Mawaddah, pg 258
- Mustadrak al-Sahihain, vol 4, pg 501
- Musnad Abi Ya'laa, vol 8, pg 444, Tr. no 65 (5031), vol 9, pg 222, Tr. no 356 (5322)
- Mutazab al-Asar pg 3, Tr. No. 1
- Isbaat al-Hudaat (by Shaikh Hurr al-Aameli), vol 3, pg 196
- Al-Ghaibah of No'maani, pg 118, Tr. No 5
- Kefaayah al-Asar, pg 23, Chap 2, Tr. No. 2 and pg 25, Chap 2, Tr. No. 3
- Behaar al-Anwaar, vol 36, Chap 41, pg 229, Tr. No 8 narrating from al-Uyoon, al-Khesaal, kamaal al-Deen, al-Lawaame' al-Elaahiyyah, pg 286
- Al-Malaahem by Ibn Al-Munaadi, pg 113
- Mustadrak Alaa al-Sahihain, vol 3, pg 618
- Kanz al-Ummaal, vol 12, pg 33, Tr. No. 33849
- Majma al-Zawaaed, vol 5, pg 190
- Al-Intinsaar fi Naas Al-Aimmah al-Athaar, pg 25
- Akhbaar Isbahaan vol 2, pg 176 The Chapter of Meem
- Kanz al-Ummaal, vol 12, pg 34, Tr. No. 3386
- Kash al-Astaar, part 1, pg 99 narrating from al-Ebaanah
- E'laam al-Waraa pg 384
- Muqtazab al-Asar, pg 3-4
- Manaaqeb of ibn Shar Aashob, vol 1, pg 290
- Behaar al-Anwaar vol 36, pg 267, Chap 41, Tr. No. 87
- Al-Insaaf, pg 361
- Ibn Hanbal’s Musnad, vol. 5, 356, Matba‘ah al-Maymaniyyah
- Ahmad bin Hanbal, al-Musnad, annotated by Ahmad Muhammad Shākir in 15 volumes, Dār al-Ma‘ārif, Cairo, 1949-1958, hadith no. 883
- Muhammad in the Bible
- Tarikh ibn Kathir, volume 6, p. 249-250
- Tarikh ibn Kathir 250
- Twelve Successors
- Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal v1 p398 and p406; Mustadrak al-Hakim, 4:501; Al-Dhahabi, Talkhis al-Mustadrak 4:501. I; Ibn Hajar Asqalani, Fath al-Bari 16:339; #Ali ibn Abu Bakr al-Haythami, Majma al-Zawa'id 5:190; Ibn Hajar Al-Haythami, Al-Sawa'iq al-Muhriqa, vol 12; Suyuti, Tarikh al-Khulafa, Vol 10; Jami' al-Saghir 1:75; Kanz al-Ummal, 13:27
- Tarikh ibn Kathir, 6:248; Kanz al-Ummal, 13:27; Al-Haskani, Shawahid al-Tanzil, 1:455, Tradition No. 626.
[Source: Wikipedia. July 2012.]