In the Name of Allah, the All-Beneficent, the All-Merciful.
May Allah bless Muhammad and his Family and damn their enemies.
The chain of the Hadīth
A number of our companions have narrated from Aḥmad, son of Muḥammad al-Barqī from Abī Hāshim Dāwud, son of al-Qāsim al-Ja‘farī from Abū Ja‘far al-Thānī who has said the following.
The content of the Hadīth
Once the Commander of the Believers, Ali, came, with al-Hassan, son of Ali (peace be upon them) and he was holding the hand of Salman for support. (Note: We can alternatively translate this as leaning or relying on Imam Ali (peace be upon him) and ‘Yad’ does not necessarily mean his hand but could be another part of the body.)
He entered the Sacred Mosque (in Makka) and sat down. Then a handsome and well-dressed man came. He offered the greeting of peace to the Commander of the Believers, Ali, (peace be upon him), who answered his greetings likewise and he sat down. He then said, ‘I will ask you, O Commander of the Believers, three questions. If you answer them I then acknowledge that the people who have acted against you in the matters of leadership after the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his family) have acted against their own selves. Their actions have taken away peace from them in this world as well in the next life. Otherwise (if you cannot answer) you and those people will be the same.
The Commander of the Believers, Ali, (peace be upon him) said, ‘Ask whatever you like.’ He said, ‘Tell me about the man who sleeps. Where does his spirit go? Tell me about the man, how he remembers and forgets? Tell me about the man, how do his children become similar to the aunts and uncles?
The Commander of the Believers, Ali, turned to al-Hassan (peace be upon them) and said, ‘O Abu Muhammad, answer him.’ Al-Hassan (peace be upon him) answered his questions. The man then said, ‘I testify that no one deserves to be worshipped and obeyed besides Allah and I continue to testify to this fact. I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah and I continue to testify to this fact. I testify that you are the executor of the will of the Messenger of Allah and that you are the person in charge of this task (Leadership with Divine Authority) with His authorisation.’ He pointed out to the Commander of the Believers (peace be upon him) with his hand. He then said, ‘I continue to testify to this fact. I testify that you are the executor of his will (that of the Commander of the Believers) and the person in charge of this task (Leadership with Divine Authority) by His authorisation after him (the Commander of the Believers, peace be upon him).
He pointed out with his hand to al-Hassan (peace be upon him). Then he said, ‘I continue to testify to this fact. I testify that al-Husayn, son of Ali, (peace be upon him), will be the executor of the will of his brother and the person in charge of this task (Leadership with Divine Authority) with His authorization after him. I testify in support of Ali, son of al-Husayn, (peace be upon him) that he will be the person in charge of the task of al-Husayn, (peace be upon him), after him. I testify that Muhammad, son of Ali will be the person in charge of the task of Ali, son of al-Husayn, (peace be upon him), after him. I testify that Ja‘far, son of Muhammad, (peace be upon him), will be the person in charge of the task of Muhammad, son of Ali. I testify that Musa, son of Ja’far, (peace be upon him), will be the person in charge of the task of Ja‘far, son of Muhammad after him. I testify that Ali, son of Musa (peace be upon him), will be the person in charge of the task of Musa, son of Ja‘far, (peace be upon him). I testify that Muhammad, son of Ali, (peace be upon him), will be the person in charge of the task of Ali, son of Musa, (peace be upon him). I testify that Ali, son of Muhammad, (peace be upon him), will be the person in charge of the task of Muhammad, son of Ali, (peace be upon him), after him. I testify that al-Hassan, son of Ali, (peace be upon him), will be the person in charge of the task of Ali, son of Muhammad, (peace be upon him), after him. I testify in support of a man from the children of al-Hassan, (peace be upon him), who will not be mentioned by his nickname (father or son of so and so) or his name until he will rise with Divine Authority and power to fill the earth with justice after it has been filled with injustice.
I offer you my greeting of peace, O Commander of the Believers, and pray to Allah to grant you blessings and holiness.’ He then stood up and left. The Commander of the Believers, (peace be upon him), said, ‘O Abu Muhammad, (peace be upon him), follow him to look where he went.’ Al-Hassan, son of Ali, (peace be upon him), went outside to find out (and came back) and said, ‘As soon as he stepped out of the Mosque I could not figure out in which direction of the land of Allah did he disappear. Thus I have returned to the Commander of the Believers, (peace be upon him), and informed him (what I saw).’ He said, ‘O Abu Muhammad, do you know him?’ I (al-Hassan, son of Ali, (peace be upon him) said, ‘Allah, the Messenger of Allah and the Commander of the Believers, (peace be upon him), know best.’ He said, ‘He was al-Khidr, peace be upon him.
Al-Kulayni, 2013, p499-500
The Type of Narration
The type of narration is classed as a Khabar al-Wāḥid (solitary report) which means that it is not a mutawātir tradition that has to be narrated by a great number of truthful narrators thus denoting the narration’s certitude by its own virtue and not needing any external evidence (Al-Faḍlī, 2011, p.80).
The books that this narration is found in
The above-mentioned narration is found in the first volume of Al-Kāfī which is one of the four major ḥadīth books for the Shia school of thought (Brockopp, 2010, p92). This is the only major Shia book that it is located in. The narration can be found in the 126th chapter of the Arabic version of Al- Kāfī volume one (Al-Kulaynī, 2007, p337-338).
When we look at the grading of this particular ḥadīth, it is regarded to be a ṣaḥīḥ (authentic) ḥadīth by the well-known Safavid era Shia scholar Allāmah-tul Majlisī. This can be found in his book of Mirāt ul-Uqool which is a commentary on the major Shia ḥadīth collection of Al-Kāfī (Al-Majlisi, 1950, p.203). This means that according to the Shia view for a ḥadīth to be authentic, all the narrators in the sanad must be truthful Shia Imāmī individuals who have continuously narrated the tradition to one another; also, the ḥadīth should be linked directly to one of the 14 infallibles without a break within the chain (Al-Faḍlī, 2011, p.10).
This ḥadīth can also be found in two other Shia sources where the content is very similar with a few minor variations in the Arabic text (Al-Qummi, 2011, p.16-19; Al- Nu’māni, 2003, p.65-68).
For example, we see that in the version of Al-Kāfī, it shows that Imām Ḥassan answered the three questions of the man; whereas in the version of Kamāl al-dīn and in the version of Kitāb Al-Ghaybah of Al-Nu’māni, it shows the specific answers he gave on the soul, a man forgetting, and a child (One can see this narration in the footnotes). We also find that the chains have a few similarities and variations when it comes to the narrators. For example, some of the narrators exist in chains of both Kulaynī and Sheikh al-Sadūq, because Al–Hillī (2009, p.430) says that “a number of companions” that Kulaynī mentions, are the following four people:
- Alī, son of Ibrāhīm al-Qummī
- Alī, son of Mohammad, son of Abdullāh, son of Uzaina
- Aḥmad, son of Abdullāh from his father
- Alī, son of Al-Ḥassan
Therefore the above four people have narrated it for Kulaynī from al-Barqī, and the following four people have narrated it for the father of Sadūq and Mohammad, son of al-Ḥassan, son of al-Walīd for Sadūq from al-Barqī:
- Sa’d, son of Abdullāh
- Aḥmad, son of Idrīs
- Abdullāh, son of Ja’far Al-Himyarī
- Mohammad, son of Yaḥyā Al- Al-aṭār
The context and significance of the narration
By first reading the narration, we find that it was during the life of Imām Alī, son of Ṭālib and his son Imām Ḥassan, son of Alī (peace be upon them). The narration states that they were in Masjid al-harām which would clearly indicate that they were in the city of Makkah. We also find that they were accompanied by the companion Salmān, and this was most likely Salmān al–Farsī who was known to be a close companion of Imām Alī (Frye, 1975, p.446). The narration also shows how Imām Ḥassan was addressed as ‘Abu Muhammad’ which is a nickname name used by Arabs to refer to a father of their eldest child (Steed, 2014, p.111). For example, Abū for a man followed by the eldest child’s name, or Umm for a mother followed by the eldest child’s name (ibid). Now it is possible to say that Imām Ḥassan could have been an adult during this incident due to him being referred to by the nickname title, however, when we look in Kitāb al Irshād, we do not find him having a son called Muhammad (Mufid, 2007, pp. 289-300). One should note that it is not uncommon for an individual to still possess a nickname without having an offspring. We also find within this narration that Imām Alī was leaning on his companion Salmān which leads us to get an image of close friendship or the reason could have been due to an injury.
There are major points that hold a great significance within this narration that I will mention. In the narration, it shows that when the man wanted to ask some questions, Imām Alī replied by saying: ‘Ask whatever you like’. This shows the level of knowledge that Imām Alī (peace be upon him) had, and the Imam also shows that his son Imām al-Ḥassan, is just as knowledgeable and worthy. This is because instead of Imām Alī answering the questions, he instead chose Imām Ḥassan (peace be upon him) to answer. This shows us how the Imams (peace be upon him) have divinely inherited knowledge of the Prophet Muhammad and previous Imams (peace be upon them all). This narration also plays an important role of the Shia Twelver theology due to Shias believing in the divine leadership of all the 12 infallible Imāms after the Prophet Mohammad’s demise (Haidar, 2006, p.94). We find that in the narration when the man was satisfied with his answers from Imām Ḥassan, he testified to the leadership of all the 12 Imāms explicitly by name.
One may raise the question that if this theology of there being Twelve Imams was truly solidified since the time of the previous Imams before Imam Jawad – since he is the one who narrates the hadith in discussion – then why is it that the previous companions of the Imams (peace be upon them) didn’t know who the next Imam would be? One of the answers to this question is that the names were concealed due to Taqiya to protect the Divine Imamate. The names of the Imams were secret for a long period of time to the extent that even the Shias didn’t know them all. For example, we have the narration where the righteous companion Jabir, son of Abdullah Al-Ansari, was told by the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him and his family) that those within authority mentioned in 4:60 of the Quran, are the 12 imams and he named them. But at the end of this narration, the Prophet Mohammad told Jabir that this was a secret. Therefore the names were known from the beginning but not publicised due to Taqiyyah. This is why disputes came up such as when some assumed that Isma’il the son of Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him), would be the next Imam as opposed to Imam Kadhim (peace be upon him). If the Umayyads or the Abbasids had known who the next Imam was, then they would have killed them. The Shia at one point also had narrations prohibiting for the name of Imam Mahdi to be mentioned!
Towards the end of this narration, it shows how the man who was well dressed, was Khiḍr (peace be upon him) who is regarded by some Muslim exegetes as a Prophet in Islam; however, he is not mentioned by name in the Quran (Noegel & Wheeler, 2002, p185). Khiḍr was also the teacher of Prophet Mūsa and he is still alive until this day (ibid) which also means that his age is longer than that the 12th Imām al-Mahdī who Shias believe went into occultation and is still currently alive (Rizvi, 2002). So from the ḥadīth, we understand that although Khiḍr had been in occultation for many years, he still was well dressed and good looking whereas someone who has lived for so long may be imagined as very old looking. This may likewise make us ponder as to whether the 12th Imām would have a similar appearance. We observe that although Khiḍr taught Prophet Mūsa (peace be upon him) as previously mentioned, he was trying to acquire knowledge from Imām Alī which again shows the Imām’s level of knowledge to be even higher of previous Prophets. One may refer to the narrations which state that the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon) inherit the knowledge of the Prophet Mohammad as well as the previous Prophets. And because previous laws are abrogated, we see Khiḍr testifying in the Imāmate of the 12 Imāms showing how he was following the successor of Prophet Mohammad and final religion.
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