The Awaited Imam

Preface

Today is 18 Dhul-hijjah, the day when the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) stayed at Ghadīr Khum after his return from Hajjat-ul-wadā‘ to Medina. Surrounded by the Companions (رضی اللہ عنھم), he declared while raising the hand of ‘Alī al-Murtadā (RA):

مَنْ كُنْتُ مَولاهُ فَعَلِيٌّ مَولاهُ.

Whoever has me as his master ‘Alī is his master.

This was the declaration of ‘Alī’s spiritual sovereignty and its unconditional acceptance is binding on believers till the Day of Judgement. It clearly proves that anyone who denies ‘Alī’s spiritual sovereignty in fact denies the Prophet’s spiritual sovereignty. This most humble follower of the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) felt that some people deny this reality partly out of ignorance and partly out of prejudice, which is spreading unnecessary tension and disunity in the Muslim community. Under the circumstances I thought it necessary to write two pamphlets on the issue of sovereignty and leadership: one titled as The Ghadīr Declaration and the other titled The Awaited Imām Mahdī (D). The former is designed to clarify the status of ‘Alī (علیہ السلام) as the opener of the spiritual sovereignty and the latter is designed to describe the status of Imām Mahdī (علیہ السلام), the seal of spiritual sovereignty. The main purpose is to remove the doubts that have gathered around the issue and to make the Muslims aware of the reality. The spiritual sovereignty of ‘Alī and Mahdī (عليهما السلام) are proved by the authentic hadīth-books of Ahl-us-Sunnah wal-Jamā‘ah, in the form of continuous traditions, (that is, there is uninterrupted evidence to endorse the soundness of the traditions). In the first pamphlet I have included 51 traditions which are full authenticated and referenced. The reason for this number is that this year I have completed 51 years of my life. Therefore, in order to gain blessings I have humbly used this relationship as wasīlah (intermediation) in the presence of ‘Alī (RA), so that this meagre effort is accepted. (Āmīn)

In this preface I want to clarify the three types of legacy (inheritance) handed down by the Holy Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم):

  1. The spiritual inheritance of ‘unapparent succession’ (spiritual khilāfah).
  2. The political inheritance of ‘external caliphate.’
  3. The general inheritance of ‘religious caliphate.’
  • The first form of inheritance was given to the members of the Prophet’s family.
  • The second form of inheritance was given to the rightly-guided caliphs.
  • The third form of inheritance was given to other Companions and the Successors (رضی اللہ عنھم).

The ‘unapparent succession’ is that fountainhead of Prophet Muhammad’s succession which not only safeguarded spiritual achievements and hidden blessings of Islam, but also introduced the Ummah to spiritual sovereignty, saintly rank of qutb and reformation through which the Ummah benefited spiritually.

The ‘external caliphate’ is that fountainhead of Prophet Muhammad’s succession which led to the practical dominance of Islam as well as its establishment as a practical system. This lead to governance and stability of the Prophet’s dīn. It paved the way for the creation of different Islamic states and practically introduced the sharī‘ah of Prophet Muhammad (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) as a world system.

The ‘general caliphate’ is the fountainhead of Prophet Muhammad’s succession which promoted the Islamic teachings and proved the importance of righteous deeds in the Muslim community. It not only helped in the preservation of knowledge and piety among the Ummah but also in the spread and propagation of Islamic morality. The three types of caliphate may be summed up as:

  1. Succession of spiritual sovereignty.
  2. Caliphate of governance.
  3. Caliphate of guidance.

Shāh Walī Allāh (رحمة الله تعالى عليه), a great scholar of the Indian Subcontinent, has commented on this division of Prophet’s inheritance in the following words:

پس وارث آنحضرت هم بسه قسم منقسم اند، فوراثه الذين أخذوا الحكمة و العصمة و القطبية الباطنية، هم أهل بيته و خاصته، و وراثه الذين أخذوا الحفظ و التلقين و القطبية الظاهرة الإرشادية، هم أصحابه الكبار كالخلفاء الأربعة و سائر العشرة، و وراثه الذين أخذوا العنايات الجزئية و التقوى و العلم، هم أصحابه الذين لحقوا بإحسان كأنس و أبي هريرة و غيرهم من المتأخرين، فهذه ثلاثة مراتب متفرعة من كمال خاتم الرسل صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم.

People who have received the Prophet’s inheritance are of three kinds: ‘The first kind is of those who received wisdom, piety and inner enlightenment from him. These are the members of his family and other specific personalities. The second group is of those who received the inheritance of external enlightenment from him in the form of virtuousness, and guidance. These are his senior Companions, eg the four caliphs and the ten Companions who received the great news (of paradise from the Prophet Muhammad (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم)). The third group is of those who received individual blessings from him in the form of knowledge and piety. These are the people who were steeped in the virtue of īhsān (selflessness), like Anas and Abū Hurayrah (رضي الله تعالى عنهما), and the people who came later.’ The three forms of inheritance owe their origin to the finality of messengership.

It may be noted that this division is based on convenience and special status whereas each category of inheritance shares the qualities of other inheritances of the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم). Each category has, in some shape or form, a relationship with the other.

  • In governance, Abū Bakr as-Siddīq (RA) was the immediate deputy of the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم).
  • In spirituality and sainthood ‘Alī al-Murtadā (RA) was his directly appointed deputy.
  • In guidance all of his Companions and Caliphs (رضی اللہ عنھم) were his immediate deputies.

As a result, after the finality of prophethood, three horizons were set up in order to facilitate the eternal continuity of the Prophet’s (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) blessing:

  1. The first horizon is for the political inheritance of the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم).
  2. The second horizon is for the spiritual inheritance of the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم).
  3. The third horizon is for the educational and practical inheritance of the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم).
  • The political inheritance of the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) was known as khilāfah rāshidah (the rightly-guided caliphate).
  • The spiritual inheritance of the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) was known as wilāyah (spiritual sovereignty) and imāmah (spiritual leadership).
  • The educational and practical inheritance of the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) came to be known as guidance and honesty.

Therefore, the first recipient of political inheritance was Abū Bakr as-Siddīq (RA), the first recipient of spiritual inheritance was ‘Alī al-Murtadā (RA), and the first recipients of educational and practical inheritance were the Companions (رضی اللہ عنھم). So all of them were immediate caliphs (heads of their particular categories). There is no form of contradiction or rivalry between the three.

The second important point to be noted is that the true status of the three differs with regards to various issues, such as:

  1.  ‘External caliphate’ is the political office of Islam.
    The ‘unapparent caliphate’ is exclusively a spiritual office.
  2. The ‘external caliphate’ is an elective and consultative process.
    The ‘unapparent caliphate’ is an inherent and selective act.
  3. The ‘external’ caliph is elected by the people.
    The ‘unapparent’ caliph is selected by God.
  4. The political caliph is elected.
    The spiritual caliph is selected.
  5. This is the reason that the first caliph Abū Bakr as-Siddīq (RA) was elected on the basis of ‘Umar Fārūq’s (RA) proposal and the consensus of the majority of the public. But the election of the first Imām of spiritual sovereignty — ‘Alī al-Murtadā (RA) — required neither anybody’s proposal nor a consensus.
  6. Democracy was to be derived from the caliphate, which is why the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) did not announce who will be the caliph after him. Spiritual leadership was an act of assignment; therefore, the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) declared it in the valley of Ghadīr Khum.
  7. The Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) left the election of the caliph to the will of the people, but the spiritual leader (walī) was selected by himself by the will of Allāh.
  8. External caliphate is established to perfect the worldly system.
    Spiritual leadership is established to beautify it with the heavenly charm and grace.
  9. Caliphate makes men just.
    Spiritual leadership makes them perfect.
  10. Caliphate is confined to the floor (earth).
    Spiritual leadership extends to the Throne (of Allāh).
  11. Caliphate is ineffective without officially taking office.
    Spiritual leadership is effective even without taking office.
  12. This is probably the reason why caliphate was entrusted to the Ummah, and
    Spiritual leadership was entrusted to the family of the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم).

Therefore, there is no escaping (room for the denial of) political leadership (khilāfah; caliphate) nor of spiritual sovereignty (wilāyah). The direct caliphate of Abū Bakr as-Siddīq (RA) was established with the consensus of the Companions (رضی اللہ عنھم) and is categorically proven by history. The direct spiritual sovereignty of ‘Alī al-Murtadā (RA) was announced by the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) himself and is categorically proven by mutawātir (unbroken chain of) traditions. The proof of the caliphate is the consensus of the Companions (رضی اللہ عنھم) and the proof of spiritual sovereignty (wilāyah) is the declaration of the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم). One who denies the caliphate in fact denies history and consensus, and one who denies the spiritual sovereignty (wilāyah) denies the Prophet’s declaration. Therefore, both the caliphate and the spiritual leadership are inescapable realities. What is urgently needed is a clear understanding of the reality of the two institutions in order to present conformity rather than difference (clash) between the two.

It should be understood that just as the external caliphate started with the rightly-guided caliphs and its blessings were passed on to the righteous and just rulers, similarly the unapparent caliphate (spiritual sovereignty) started with ‘Alī al-Murtadā (RA) and its blessings were passed on to the members of the Prophet’s family and perfected saints of the Ummah. By means of the declaration — مَنْ كُنْتُ مَولاهُ فَعَلِيٌّ مَولاهُ (whoever has me as his master ‘Alī is his master) — and — عليّ وليكم من بعدي (‘Alī is your spiritual leader after me) — the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) publicly declared ‘Alī (RA) as the opener of spiritual sovereignty.

Shāh Walī Allāh (رحمة الله تعالى عليه) in the chapter of wilāyah says:

1. و فاتحِ اَوّل اَزين اُمت مرحومه حضرت على مرتضى است كرم الله تعالى وجهه.

In this Ummah the first person to open the door of spiritual sovereignty (wilāyah) is ‘Alī al-Murtadā (كرم الله تعالى وجهه).

2. و سِر حضرت اَمير كرم الله وجهه در اولاد كرام ايشان رضي الله عنهم سرايت كرد.

The secret of the spiritual sovereignty (wilāyah) of the Leader (‘Alī كرم الله تعالى وجهه) was passed down to his children.

3. چنانكه كسى اَز اولياء امت نيست الا بخاندانِ مرتضى رضي الله عنه مرتبط است بوجهى اَز وجوه.

Therefore, there is not a single saint in the Ummah who is not directly or indirectly linked to the family of ‘Alī (RA) (to attain spiritual leadership).

4. و اَز اُمت آنحضرت صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم اَوّل كسيكه فاتح باب جذب شده است، و دران جا قدم نهاده است حضرت امير المؤمنين على كرم الله وجهه، و لهذا سلاسل طرق بدان جانب راجع ميشوند.

The first person in the Prophet’s Ummah who opened the gate of self-denial in (the most superior and powerful category of) spiritual sovereignty and who took the first step on to this elevated spot is ‘Alī (كرم الله وجهه). That is why different orders (salāsil) of spirituality return to him.

5. Shāh Walī Allāh (رحمة الله تعالى عليه) writes:

“Now whosoever receives wilāyah (spiritual sovereignty) from the Holy Prophet Muhammad (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم), it is either received through a relationship with ‘Alī al-Murtadā (RA) or a relationship with the Chief Helper (Ghawth-ul-A‘zam) Jīlanī (رحمة الله تعالى عليه). No one can gain wilāyah (spiritual sovereignty) by bypassing this process.”

It should be noted that the relationship with the Chief Helper (Ghawth-ul-A‘zam) is in fact a chapter and a ray of the relationship with ‘Alī al-Murtadā (RA).

Shāh Ismā‘īl Dihlawī has clarified this point:

“‘Alī al-Murtadā (RA) also has superiority in a single dimension over Abū Bakr as-Siddīq (RA) and ‘Umar Fārūq (RA). This superiority lies, firstly, in the greater number of his followers. Secondly, all categories of wilāyah (spiritual sovereignty) from his day till the end of time are only possible through him. 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 angels… Most spiritual chains are directly derived from ‘Alī al-Murtadā (RA). So, on the Day of Judgement, ‘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.”

‘Spiritual sovereignty’ (wilāyah), within the Prophet Muhammad’s (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) Ummah, whose fountainhead is ‘Alī al-Murtadā (RA), is directly shared by Fātimah, Hassan and Hussein (علیھما السلام) and then through them it was passed down to the twelve Imāms (spiritual leaders), the last leader being Imām Mahdī (علیہ السلام). Just as ‘Alī al-Murtadā (علیہ السلام) is the opener of spiritual sovereignty, Imām Mahdī (علیہ السلام) is the seal of spiritual sovereignty.

The words of Shaykh Mujaddid Alf Thānī Ahmad Sarhandī (رحمة الله تعالى عليه) appropriately highlight the point:

وراهى است كه بقرب ولايت تعلق دارد: اقطاب و اوتاد و بدلاء و نجباء و عامه اولياء الله، به همين راه واصل اند وراه سلوك عبارت ازين راه است بلكه جذبه متعارفه، نيز داخل همين است و توسط و حيلولت درين راه كائن است و پيشواى و اصلان اين راه و سرگروه اينها و منبع فيض اين بزرگواران: حضرت على مرتضى است كرم الله تعالى وجهه الكريم، و اين منصب عظيم الشان بايشان تعلق دارد درينمقام گوئيا هر دو قدم مبارك آنسرور عليه و على آله الصلوة و السلام بر فرق مبارك اوست كرم الله تعالى وجهه وحضرت فاطمه و حضرات حسنين رضي الله تعالى عنهم درينمقام با ايشان شريك اند، اﻧﮔارم كه حضرت امير قبل از نشأ عنصرى نيز ملاذ وملجاء اين مقام بوده اند، چنانچه بعد از نشأ عنصرى و هر كرا فيض و هدايت ازين راه ميرسيد بتوسط ايشان ميرسيد چه ايشان نزد نقطه منتهائى اين راه اند و مركز اين مقام بايشان تعلق دارد، و چون دوره حضرت امير تمام شد اين منصب عظيم القدر بحضرات حسنين ترتيبا مفوض و مسلم گشت، و بعد از ايشان همان منصب بهريكى از ائمه اثنا عشر على الترتيب و التفصيل قرار گفت و در اعصاراين بزرگواران و همچنين بعد از ارتحال ايشان هر كرا فيض و هدايت ميرسيد بتوسط اين بزرگواران بوده و بخيلولة ايشانان هر چند اقطاب و نجباى وقت بوده باشند، و ملاذ و ملجاء همه ايشان بوده اند چه اطراف را غير از لحوق بمركز چاره نيست.

And there is another way close to spiritual sovereignty and this is the way of all categories of saints of all levels. The path of mysticism (tasawwuf) springs from this path and it also involves the status of self-denial. Intermediation is proven in this process because ‘Alī al-Murtadā (RA) is the fountainhead of from which the Shaykhs of those on this path gain all their blessings. And this grand office is reserved for him. On this path, the feet of the Holy Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) are on ‘Alī’s head whereas Fātimah, Hassan and Hussein (علیھما السلام) share this status with him. I believe that he enjoyed this position even before his physical birth, as he did after it. Whosoever has received the divine blessings and guidance on this path, has received it through him, because he is closest to the last point on this path and the centre of this spot belongs to him. And when ‘Alī’s period ended, the grand office was passed down to Hassan and Hussein (رضي الله تعالى عنهما). Then it was passed down to the twelve Imāms in the correct order one by one, the last of whom will be Imām Mahdī (D). Whosoever received guidance in their life and after their death, received it through these saints. These Imāms are the source of all blessing for even the high ranking saints (such as qutubs and nujabā’ because they are the centre of all spiritual activity) and no one can survive without a link with the headquarters.

Shaykh Ahmad Sarhandī (رحمة الله تعالى عليه) believes that Imām Mahdī (علیہ السلام) will share spiritual sovereignty (wilāyah) with ‘Alī al-Murtadā (RA).

The gist of the discussion is that the Prophet’s declaration at Ghadīr Khum proved forever that ‘Alī’s spiritual sovereignty is in fact the Prophet Muhammad’s spiritual sovereignty. As the door of prophethood was closed after the Holy Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم), Allāh (SWT) has opened new avenues for the continuation of the Prophet’s blessings till the Day of Judgement. Some were blessed by an external status whilst others by an internal status. The hidden avenue is known as spiritual sovereignty and ‘Alī al-Murtadā (RA) was its first Imām. Then this chain of sovereignty was passed down to the Prophet’s family and finally to the twelve Imāms. Besides the twelve Imāms there are thousands of other pious individuals who reached the status of sainthood. They have held high ranks of sainthood (such as ghawth, qutub) and have enlightened the lives of millions of people through the internal light of wilāyah, taking them out of ignorance and astray. Yet all of them gained their spiritual status from the spiritual sovereignty of ‘Alī al-Murtadā (RA), be it directly or indirectly. No one was self-sufficient and independent from the wilāyah of ‘Alī al-Murtadā (RA) and this chain will continue up to the Day of Judgement until the appearance of the last Imām (spiritual leader) and the centre of spiritual leadership. He will be Imām Muhammad Mahdī (علیہ السلام), the twelfth Imām and the last caliph. In his person, the external and the unapparent caliphates which ran parallel to each other will come together. He will be the spiritual as well as the political inheritor, and he will be the last person to hold the offices of khilāfah and wilāyah. Anyone who denies Imām Mahdī (علیہ السلام) will deny both the external and unapparent forms of Islam.

This will be the climax of the exposure and disclosure of the Prophet Muhammad’s blessing. This is due to the fact that, he will be named Muhammad and he will also resemble the Holy Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) in moral excellence. So the world should know that this Imām is the recipient of both the external and internal inheritance of the Prophet’s blessings. That is why the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) said, “Anyone who denies Mahdī will be a disbeliever.”

At that time, he will be the focus of all saints on earth, and, being the leader of Prophet Muhammad’s Ummah, prophet ‘Īsā (علیہ السلام) will offer his prayer behind him and in this way, he will announce his leadership to the whole world.

So we should realize that ‘Alī al-Murtadā (علیہ السلام) and Mahdī (علیہ السلام) of the earth and heavens — the father and the son — are both Allāh’s friends and the Prophet’s inheritors. It is therefore compulsory on every believer to acknowledge their exceptional status.

May Allāh (SWT) give us the ability to gain blessings from these fountainheads of wilāyah. (Āmīn! with the intermediation of the Leader of the Prophets (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم)).

Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri
One of the servants of Prophet’s (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) Family


  • the twelfth month in the Islamic calendar, and the month of the pilgrimage to Makkah
  • the last or farewell pilgrimage of the Prophet Muhammad (صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم) the year (10AH/632AD) before he left for his eternal home.
  • Shāh Walī Allāh, at-Tafhīmāt-ul-ilāhiyyah (2:8).
  • Shāh Walī Allāh, at-Tafhīmāt-ul-ilāhiyyah (1:103).
  • Shāh Walī Allāh, at-Tafhīmāt-ul-ilāhiyyah (1:103).
  • Shāh Walī Allāh, at-Tafhīmāt-ul-ilāhiyyah (1:104).
  • Shāh Walī Allāh, Hama‘āt (p.60).
  • Shāh Walī Allāh, Hama‘āt (p.62).
  • Shāh Ismā‘īl Dihlawī, Sirāt mustaqīm (p.67).
  • Shaykh Ahmad Sarhandī, Maktūbāt (9:173#123).

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