Prophet's Tribe, Ahlal Bayt (Family) & Righteous Successors
Caliphs and people of knowledge (ulamah)
In the times when revelation descended on children of Israel, a prophet was succeeded by another prophet. With the arrival of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ prophethood came to its completion because there would be no prophets after him. Since prophethood is completed then those who will succeed the final prophet in this regards are two types of people: Caliphs and People of Knowledge (Ulama). The Prophet ﷺ said: “The Banu Israil (children of Israel) were ruled by the Prophets. When one Prophet died, another succeeded him. There will be no Prophet after me. Caliphs will come after me, and they will be many.” He also said: “Indeed the scholars are the heirs of the Prophets, and the Prophets do not leave behind dinar (gold coin) or dirham (silver coin). The only legacy of the scholars is knowledge, so whoever takes from it, then he has indeed taken the most able share.” These two ahadith tell us there are two offices that would replace a prophet’s authority among Muslims: the spiritual/religious and the political.
Traditionally speaking, the spiritual guidance has always been conducted by the religious authorities in Islam and the governmental matters have been conducted by the political authorities namely the Caliphs or Khaleefahs. Two prophetic hadith bear witness to the difference between these two designations and the majority of Muslims accepted these two for centuries. Since the prophetic heritage consists of spiritual knowledge many among the companions and their students were inspired to inherit that legacy and become heirs of the Prophet ﷺ especially members that have traditionally belonged to the four schools of Maliki, Sha’afi, Hanafi and Hanbali. They adopted the path of guidance and advisory to the political authorities if and when necessary. In fact the Imams who descended from the Prophet ﷺ such as Imam Mohammad Baqir, Imam Jafar as Sadiq, Imam Musa Kazim and Imam Ali Rida, all did not struggle for the political office. Their followers encouraged them to gain political office but they focused on spreading spiritual guidance. Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (r.a) did the same except for a minor period during the time of Abu Bakr (r.a) and Umar (r.a), the prophet's first two successors and caliphs. The importance of these two different authorities can be understood from another prophetic hadith that says: “Allah never sends a prophet or gives the Caliphate to a Caliph but that he (the prophet or the Caliph) has two groups of advisors: A group advising him to do good and exhorts him to do it, and the other group advising him to do evil and exhorts him to do it. But the protected person (against such evil advisors) is the one protected by Allah.” This hadith entails advisory role in Islam which is best suited for the people of knowledge and they advise those who are in political authority or Caliphs. The Quran also teaches that rulers should keep company with advisers who are trustworthy and honest in their advisory role as in the case of the King of Egypt who took Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) (alaihi salaam) in his company as an advisor: “And the King said: "Bring him to me, so that I may attach him to myself." And when he had spoken with him, [the King] said: "Behold, [from] this day you shall be of high standing with us, invested with all trust! (Ameen)" [Joseph] replied: "Place in my charge the storehouses of the land; behold, I shall be a good and knowing keeper (Hafeez un Aleem).” This teaches us that an adviser should be ameen i.e. worthy of trust, aleem i.e. one who has knowledge and well informed about what is happening around, hafeez i.e. guards well and does not allow encroachment what is handed as a trust. All three characteristics were carried by the personality of Yusuf (Joseph) (a.s) and his advisory was very effective to the point that he was able to ward off the great famine by helping them stock food which sustained them in that difficult time.
The Prophet ﷺ also warned us about severity in the absence of such advisory role by referring to the example of children of Israel whenever their scholars became lax in their advisory towards masses and rulers then Allah ﷻ punished all of them: “When the Children of Israel became sinful, their learned men prohibited them but they would not turn back. Yet, the learned men associated with them and ate and drank with them. Nay, by Allah, you either enjoin good and forbid evil and catch hold of the hand of the oppressor and persuade him to act justly and stick to the truth, or, Allah will involve the hearts of some of you with the hearts of others and will curse you as He had cursed them (Israelis).” The hearts of their learned became corrupt like the sinners. Due to this the Prophet ﷻ also once said the best jihad (struggle in Allah’s path) is to always speak a word of truth against tyrant rulers so that they may be guided. However this does not mean that the religious authorities can never take control of the political matters, they can if and when required to. But the main purpose of the scholars or people of knowledge (ulama) is to handle the religious/spiritual office and guide the Muslim nation and its leadership but not covet political power for themselves. Political power has much potential to corrupt its owner.
 Riyad us-saliheen Book 1, Hadith 656 – Sunnah.com
 Jami at-Tirmidhi 2682 – Sunnah.com
 Sahih al-Bukhari 7198 – Sunnah.com
 Al Quran 12:54-55
 Riyad us-saliheen Book 1, Hadith 196 – Sunnah.com
Shahwaliullah Dehlavi (1703 – 1762 CE) a renowned Islamic figure from Mughal era India mentions that there are two types of leadership in Islam and both are necessary for functioning of the Muslim state. He gives an interesting explanation of the purpose of two types of leadership and how did they succeeded the blessed Prophet ﷺ . Sheikh Irshaad Soofi of South Africa shares this thought of Shahwaliullah thought in one of his works:
“Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlavi said that two types of leaderships appeared; one was the ‘apparent succession’ (khilafate zahiri) and the other ‘hidden succession’ (khilafate baatini). The first Caliph from The Righteous Caliphs (al-Khulafa’u r-Rashidun) inherited the ‘apparent caliphate’ (khilafate zahiri); this, the manifest caliphate is the political office of the religion of Islam, established for improving the administration of the earth. The direct caliphate of Hazrath Abu Bakr as-Siddique was established with the consensus of the people and is categorically proved by the evidence of history and its blessings filtered down to the righteous and just rulers. This model of administration, and call to Islam (dawah) will prevail till the Day of Judgment due to the efforts of the Companions especially Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddique (r.a) and the righteous caliphs that followed him. Shah Waliullah said that the second type of caliphate that emanated from the Prophet Muhammad was the spiritual legacy of ‘internal (hidden) sovereignty’ or khilaafate or imaamate baatini. This spiritual legacy of the Prophet was known as wilaya (spiritual sovereignty) and imamah (spiritual leadership). The hidden caliphate is exclusively a spiritual office, being not an elective and consultative issue but a selective act, selected by Allah, therefore the declaration of the first Imam of spiritual sovereignty — Hazrath Ali — required neither anybody’s proposal nor support, for it is Allah’s selection. Therefore, the Prophet declared it at Ghadir Al-Khumm Pond of Khumm.”
This explanation of the two types of leadership founds evidence in an incident in which both successors of the Prophet ﷺ namely Abu Bakr (r.a) and Ali (r.a) played their roles of temporal and spiritual leaders. It is a fact that the Prophet ﷺ designated Abu Bakr (r.a) as his representative and Amir Al Hajj (leader of the great pilgrimage) in the in the year 631 CE. This was the first hajj of Muslims after conquest of Makkah in which the Prophet ﷺ did not participate, where leader of the Muslims was Abu Bakr (r.a). He had left Madinah for Makkah with a group of three hundred men. When first verses of Surah Taubah (Chapter 9) were revealed, the Prophet ﷺ declared Ali (r.a) to go and announce these to all Muslims on the day of sacrifice when they were assembled at Mina. It is related that when the revelation came, someone suggested to the Prophet ﷺ that he should send news of it to Abu Bakr (r.a) for announcement. At that moment, he said, “It is not right for anyone to convey this except a man among my family.” The question that arises here is that since Abu Bakr (r.a) is the leader of the hajj and representing the Prophet ﷺ then why a man from his family should announce. This is an echo of the prophetic hadith when he declared in his last hajj “I am leaving behind two weighty things. The first being the Book of Allah, Secondly, (I leave among you) my family (ahlal bayt).” By Ali (r.a) announcing the Surah Tauba verses, the Prophet ﷺ reminded us of the connection between these two. Mind you that at this point Ali (r.a) his not replacing Abu Bakr (r.a) but has informed every one of his own status and place. At this point Abu Bakr (r.a) position is the office of administration and Ali (r.a) holds the spiritual office.
 A renown Islamic scholar, reformer, philosopher, theologian of Indo-Pak subcontinent (1703–1762 CE)
 Chishti, Irshad Soofi Siddiqui. 2010. Madinah to Karbala Holy Blood on Unholy Hands Volume One. Abd al-Qadir Soofi Publications - (Chishti 2010)
 Pilgrim camps.
 Jami Tirmidhi Vol. 5, Book 44, Hadith 3090 – Sunnah.com
 Sahih Muslim 2408 a – Sunnah.com
In one of his sermons Prophet Muhammad said, “I admonish you to fear Allah, to listen and obey even if an Abyssinian slave is appointed as your leader. Because whosoever among you shall live after me, will see much discord. So hold fast to my Sunnah and the examples of the rightly guided caliphs who will come after me. Adhere to them and hold to it fast. Beware of new things (in religion) because every bidah (innovation) is a misguidance.” In Islam there is no strict criteria that the leadership should only remain with prophet's descendants as taught by the Prophet ﷺ himself. However there is no doubt that the all Muslims would accept if the pious leader is also his descendant. We see that why the Prophet’s descendants who had more right to rule over Muslims than anyone else were not encouraged by the Prophet ﷺ to do so. He once mentioned how Allah ﷻ had chosen hereafter instead of the world for his descendants and that this worldly leadership is not for them as the leadership of the hereafter is already preserved for them: “Whilst we were with the Prophet ﷺ, some young men from Banu Hashim approached us. When the Prophet ﷺ saw them, his eyes filled with tears and the colour of his face changed. I said, 'We can see something has changed in your face, and it upsets us.' The Prophet ﷺ said, 'We the people of a Household for whom Allah has chosen the hereafter rather than this world. The people of my Household (ahl al-bayt) will suffer a great deal after my death….” Because Allah ﷻ chose hereafter for the Prophet’s descendants is why the Prophet ﷺ gave good news of Imam Hassan and Imam Hussain’s leadership in paradise and said: “Al-Hasan and al-Husain are the chiefs (syeds) of the youth of Paradise.” Imam Hassan (a.s) had received the worldly leadership however Allah ﷻ guided him to give up for the sake of uniting the Muslims. On the other hand Imam Hussain (a.s) fought against the tyrant Yazid ibn Muawiya who was not worthy to become a Muslim leader. Imam Hussain (a.s) sacrificed himself while protecting the honorable path of leadership in the footsteps of the Prophet ﷺ. Therefore due to their sacrifices they are blessed with eternal leadership in paradise.
Sheikh Al Nursi Bediuzzaman explains the prophetic statement – "we the people of a Household for whom Allah has chosen the hereafter rather than this world" – that the world is deceptive and the sovereignty of the world and its riches makes the hearts of those who rule deviate from the path of guidance therefore Allah ﷻ protected the descendants of the Prophet ﷺ from worldly influences so they may continue to fulfill the duty of what they were chosen for, which is spiritual leadership of the Muslims and continue to guide them by means of two sources of knowledge: Quran and Sunnah. This was the meaning of Prophet saying to hold two things after he departs from this physical existence: “I am leaving two things in your midst if you hold fast to it you will not go astray. They are The Book of Allah (Quran) and the Sunnah (example and words) of His Messenger.” “I am leaving two important things in your midst which exceed each other in importance: One (is) Allah’s Book and the other (is) my progeny.” The ignorant finds contradiction in these two pieces of advice to hold two different things and the wise would understand that by saying such Prophet ﷺ connected the path of guidance with his descendants who have been given this great burden of carrying over their shoulders to guide others through knowledge of Allah’s book and His Sunnah. Al Nursi also interestingly mentions that how the descendants of the Prophet ﷺ, if and whenever got the opportunity to gain political leadership were corrupted such as the case of the Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt, Safawi rulership in Iran and the Almohads (Hasani descendants) in North Africa. This corruption deprived the Muslims from having guides from within the Prophet’s descendants who would spread the light of prophetic guidance. While connecting the path of guidance with his descendants the Prophet ﷺ also made it clear that there was no relationship of his with such descendants who are unrighteous: “...there is the trial of As-Saraa (much wealth, safety, luxury and ease) caused by a man from the people of my ahlal bayt (household) who claims that he is my son (or direct descendent) but he is not from me; indeed my awliyaa (those who are near to me) are only those who are the muttaqoon (those who fear Allah and are righteous).”
Nevertheless, many descendants continued this Prophet’s legacy and heeded his advice of not fighting for political power, they did so only when it was necessary like Imam Hussain (a.s) and gave up what was their own for the sake of Allah like Imam Hassan (a.s). To name a few of the descendants of the Prophet who spread the lights of Islam and history bears witness to up till today are: Imam Ahmed Ar-Rifai (Hassani descendant) Imam Ahmed Al Badawi (Hussaini decendant) Imam Ibrahim El Desouki (Hassani descendant) Imam Abdul Qadir Gilani (Hassani descendant). Similar descendants of Imam Hussain like Imam Zaynul Abideen and Imam Jafar and the later sufi saints heeded the Prophetic advice of keeping people’s hearts attached to the way of the Prophet and Allah blessed and assisted them. Therefore the Caliph is more of a worldly ruler and rules over people’s lives while the descendant of the Prophet are supposed to rule spiritually over the hearts.
For more info please read my post: The descendants of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
 Sunan ibn Majah Vol. 1, Book 1, Hadith 42 – Sunnah.com
 Dimashqi, Al-Hafiz ibn Katheer. 2006. Al Nihaya Fi al Fitan Wa al Malahim (Book of the End: Great Trials and Tribulations). Riyadh: Maktaba Darussalam - (Dimashqi 2006)
 Jami Tirmidhi Vol. 1, Book 46, Hadith 3768 – Sunnah.com
 Muwatta Imam Malik – Narrated by Malik Ibn Anas (r.a), Chapter 46 Decree - Ahadith.co.uk.
 Sahih Muslim 2408 a – Sunnah.com
 Dimashqi, Al-Hafiz ibn Katheer. 2006. Al Nihaya Fi al Fitan Wa al Malahim (Book of the End: Great Trials and Tribulations). Riyadh: Maktaba Darussalam - (Dimashqi 2006)
Why the first successor caliphs called the Rightly Guided & were they chosen by Allah?
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ predicted the rightly guided era of the first four (or five) successors who would rule after his death. The prediction is found as recorded in one of his hadith: “Prophethood will last among you for as long as Allah wills, then Allah will take it away. Then it will be (followed by) a rightly guided caliphate (khilafah rashida) on the pattern of the Prophethood. It will remain for as long as Allah wills, then Allah will take it away. Afterwards there will be a hereditary leadership which will remain for as long as Allah wills, then He will lift it if He wishes. Afterwards, there will be biting oppression, and it will last for as long as Allah wishes, then He will lift it if He wishes. Then there will be a rightly guided caliphate (khilafahe rashida) according to the ways of the Prophethood.’ Then he kept silent.”
Prophethood lasted till the death of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ as he was the final one to be sent by Allah ﷻ for humankind before the Day of Judgment. There will be no prophet or messenger after him. Then it was followed by the rule of his successors namely Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali (May Allah be pleased with them), and six months of rule of Imam Hassan (r.a) son of Ali (r.a). These caliphs ruled according to the teachings of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and lived exemplary lives. Their period lasted for about thirty years in which leadership was chosen through a process of shura (consultation) among the early Muslims i.e. the Prophet's companions and the chosen ones were known for their piety. The Quran advises Muslims to follow this process: “and who (conduct) their affairs by mutual consultation (baynahuma shura).” When Imam Hassan (r.a) gave up his caliphate in favor of Muawiya ibn Abu Sufyan, the rebel governor of Syria, the process of mutual consent ended. Imam Hassan (r.a) was forced to hand over the rulership for the sake of ending ongoing civil war. Therefore with Muawiya’s rule began the ‘heriditary leadership’ or in some traditions, the word is translated as ‘government by force.’ He was more of a Caliph that came in to power through politics and force rather than chosen for his pious character and the mutual consent. With this came the end of the rightly guided era hence all successors of the Prophet ﷺ that ruled till Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan were considered as rightly guided.
Another important point to mention here is that the prophet's immediate successors were not chosen by Allah simply because He advised Muslims to decide their political affairs through mutual consultation. There are many matters which Allah has left for the believers to decide for themselves and the process of Caliph selection is one of them, as agreed upon by majority of Muslims throughout the Islamic history. The following is part of the inaugural address by Abu Bakr (r.a), the first successor of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ on the first day when he presided over the caliphate seat:
Additionally Abu Bakr (r.a) never posed as a direct representative of Allah ﷻ in his communications with the Muslims and non-Muslim world. For instance he wrote a letter to the Christians of Najaran in which he mentioned himself as a representative of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and not a representative of Allah ﷻ:
“In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. This is the written statement of Abdullah Abu Bakr, the Khalifa (Caliph) of Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him), the Prophet and Messenger of Allah. He affirms for you the rights of a protected neighbor in your selves, in your lands, your religious community, your wealth, retainers, and servants, those of you who are present or aboard, your bishops, monks, and monasteries, and all that you own be it great or small. You shall not be deprived of any of it, and shall have full control…”
The covenant letter clarifies that Abu Bakr (r.a) was not ruling directly on behalf of Allah ﷻ, he was ruling the people on guidance given to him by the Messenger of Allah. This explains his appointment was not sanctioned as a divine decree. However there is a verse in the Quran where Allah ﷻ says that He gives power and authority to whomever He wills and takes it from whomever He wills: “Say: O Allah, Master of the Kingdom! You give the kingdom to whomsoever You please.” This verse means that even though people chose the rulers yet ultimately the decision rests with Allah ﷻ to give the authority to whomsoever He knows deserves better. Even though it is men’s actions that decide the course of events yet ultimate decision maker for all affairs is none but Allah ﷻ, as He says: “And you cannot will unless Allah wills. Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Wise.” Allah ﷻ chose Abu Bakr (r.a) as prophet’s first successor not directly but indirectly through the people's choice.
 Hassan, Professor Masudul. 1988. Khalifa Abu Bakr - Successor to the Holy Prophet - History of Islam volumes 1 & 2 . Lahore: Islamic Publications
 First battle between the pagan army of Quraysh and Muslims outside Madinah where Quraysh suffered a major defeat despite the fact of their large numbers and superior artillery.
 Al Quran 8:68
 Al-Ayed, Saleh Hussain. 2002. The Rights of Non-Muslims in the Islamic World. Riyadh: Dar Eshbelia.
Al Quran 3:26
 Al Quran 76:30
Originally written on September 9, 2019 on Quora - Why is Abu Bakr called Siddiq?
After hearing the unbelievable experience of Prophet’s Isra Wa’al Mir’aj (night journey & ascension), many pagans of Quraysh increased in their disbelief. In fact they also took this as an opportunity to persuade some of the Prophet’s followers to disbelief. Unfortunately they succeeded in creating doubts in hearts of such of his followers who had weak faith. These weakhearted ones also began to think that the Prophet ﷺ was exaggerating. On the other hand majority of the Prophet's followers who were convinced in the message of Islam became stronger in their faith. This was a test that Allah ﷻ tested the believers with and separated the truthful ones from those who were in doubt. He reminds us about the test: (Al Quran 17:60) “We appointed not the vision (during night journey and ascension) which we showed you but as a test for mankind.” Allah ﷻ says that He tests because: (Al Quran 29:03) "most certainly will God mark out those who prove themselves true (sadaqu), and most certainly will He mark out those who are lying."
Abu Bakr (r.a) was the foremost among those who bore witness to the Prophet’s description of his journey and passed this test with the highest marks among all listeners when he said “As for me I bear witness that he spoke the truth (ana ashhadu annahu sadiqun).” As-Siddiq means "the one who bears witness to the truth" and this title was given to him when he bore witness to an unbelievable experience. The following incident recorded expresses three types of reactions shared by the audience after hearing the Prophet’s experience:
Abu Jahl, the Prophet’s enemy, said: “Tell your people what you just told me.” Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said: “I was enraptured last night.” They said: “To where?” The Prophet ﷺ replied: “To the Hallowed House.” They said: “Then you woke up here among us?” He replied: “Yes.” There was no one left except he clapped his hands, or held his head in amazement, or clamored and considered it an enormity. Al-Mutim ibn Adi (he died a disbeliever) said: “All of your affair before today was bearable, until what you said today. I bear witness that you are a liar (ana ashhadu annaka kadhibun). We strike the flanks of the she-camels for one month to reach the Hallowed House, then for another month to come back, and you claim that you went there in one night! By al-Lat, by al-Uzza (idols worshiped by pagans)! I do not believe you.” Abu Bakr (r.a) said: “O Mutim, what an evil thing you said to the son of your brother when you faced him thus and declared him a liar! As for me I bear witness that he spoke the truth (ana ashhadu annahu sadiqun).” The people said: “O Muhammad, describe the Hallowed House for us. How is it built, what does it look like, how near is it to the mountain.” There were some among them who had traveled there. He began to describe it for them: “Its structure is like this, its appearance like this, its proximity to the mountain is such-and-such,” and he did not stop describing it to them until he began to have doubt about the description. He was seized with an anxiety he had not felt before (was shown a vision), whereupon he was immediately brought to the mosque itself (in Jerusalem) and saw it in front of him. He was placed outside the gate of Aqil or Iqal. The people said: “How many gates does the mosque have?” He had not counted them before. He looked at the gates and began to count them one by one and to inform them. All the while Abu Bakr (r.a) was saying: “You have spoken the truth. You have spoken the truth. I bear witness that you are the Messenger of Allah (sadaqta sadaqta ashhadu annaka rasulullah).” The people said: “As for the description, then, by Allah, he is correct.” They turned to Abu Bakr (r.a) and said: “But do you believe what he said, that he went last night to the Hallowed House and came back before morning?” He replied: “Yes, and I do believe him regarding what is farther than that. I believe the news of heaven he brings, whether in the space of a morning or in that of an evening journey (na`am inni la usaddiquhu fima huwa ab`adu min dhalika usaddiqu bi khabari al-sama’i fi ghudwatin aw rawhatin).”
Because of this Abu Bakr (r.a) was named al-Siddiq: the Most Truthful, Loyal, the One Who Never Lies, Devoted. Hence his support of the Prophet ﷺ from early Islam gave him this title and he carried all these characteristics.
The Night Journey & Ascension - When Allah ﷻ Tested the Believers & the Disbelievers