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