Who are the twelve imams?

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Who are the twelve imams?
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The Traditions on the Twelve Imams


There are repeated Traditions in the Sunni and Shi’ite books in our hands today which speak about caliphate of the twelve imams and caliphs after the Holy Prophet.
These can be found in many of the famous Traditions of the Sunnis, like Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Tarmadi, Muslim Sahih Abu Dawoud and Musnad Ahmad.
In the book Muntakhib al-A thar, there are 271 Traditions in this area which have been recorded and a large part of them are from Sunni scholars.
As an example, the Sahih Bukhari, the most famous book of the Sunnis says, “Jabir ibn Samarah says, ‘I heard the Prophet say,

“There will be twelve leaders after me.”


Then he said,

‘I heard that my father said he heard Prophet say, “They will be from the Quraysh..” [1]


In Sahih Muslim, this same Tradition has been recorded in this way that Jabir says, “I heard the Prophet Say

‘Islam will always be dear until twelve caliphs and successors.”

In some, all of them (Twelve Imams) are mentioned as being of the Bani Hashim. However, it be, this Tradition does not conform to any sect except the Shi’ite because its explanation is very clear according to Shi’ism, where the ulama of the Sunnis are at an impasse trying to explain it.

Then he said something which I did not understand.
I asked my father and he said, ‘The Prophet said, “They are all from the Quraysh.” [2]
In Musnad Ahmad it has been recorded from Abdallah ibn Mas’ud, a famous companion, that he asked the Prophet about his vicegerents. He said,

“They are twelve people like the Israeli tribes who were twelve people.”[3]


The Meaning of this Tradition


In some books of the Traditions, the power of Islam is referred to as being a pawn in the twelve caliphs and in others, the survival and life of religion are in the hands of a group of them until the Day of Resurrection and all are from the Quraysh.
In some, all of them are mentioned as being of the Bani Hashim. However, it be, this Tradition does not conform to any sect except the Shi’ite because its explanation is very clear according to Shi’ism where the ulama of the Sunnis are at an impasse trying to explain it.

Does it refer to the first four caliphs and then the Umayyid and Abbasid caliphs?


Whereas we know that the number of the first caliphs were twelve, but they did not end with the Umayyids or the Abbasids and the number twelve does not conform to anything.
In addition, among the Umayyid there are people like Yazid and among the Abbasids, people like Mansur Dawaniqi, Harun al-Rashid, the oppression, arrogance and crimes of whom no one can deny and it is not possible that they be considered to be the caliphs of the Prophet and among the honor of Islam. No matter how much we simplify the criteria, they clearly do not include them.
And beyond these, the number twelve only can apply to the Shi’ites.

In addition, among the Umayyid there are people like Yazid and among the Abbasids, people like Mansur Dawaniqi, Harun al-Rashid, the oppression, arrogance and crimes of whom no one can deny and it is not possible that they be considered to be the caliphs of the Prophet and among the honor of Islam. No matter how much we simplify the criteria, they clearly do not include them

The Imams by Name


It should be noted that in some of the Traditions which have reached us from the Sunnis, the names of the twelve Imams have clearly appeared and their names specified!
Shaykh Sulayman Qanduzi, a famous Sunni scholar, in the book, Yanabi’ al-Muwarjdah says, “A Jewish man named Na’thal, went to the Prophet and among the questions he asked who would succeed him. The Prophet said, specifying them,

“After me, ‘Ali ibn Abi Tahib and then my two Sons, Hasan and Husayn and after Husayn, nine Imams will follow from his children.”

The Jewish man said, ‘Name them.’

The Prophet said,

‘When Hussayn 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.” [4]
 

[1] (Bukhari, part 9, Kitab al-Maqadam, p. 100).
[2] (Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-amanah, bab al-mal tih ‘1-quraysh).
[3] (Musnad Ahmad , vol. 1, p. 398).
[4] (Yanabi ‘al-Muwadat, p. 431).

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لا يكونُ أخوكَ أقوى مِنكَ على مَودّتِهِ.
Do not let your brother be stronger than you are in your amity for him.