Zayd ibn Arqam has recounted that the Prophet said, “It seems that God has called me unto Himself and I must obey His call. But I leave two great and precious things among you: the Book of God and My Household. Be careful as to how you behave toward them. These two will never be separated from each other until they encounter me at Kawthar (in Paradise.)” 1 Hadith Thaqalayn is one of the most strongly established Hadiths, and has been transmitted through many chains of transmission and in different versions. Shi’ites and Sunnis agree concerning its authenticity. Several important points can be deduced from this hadith and its like: (1) In the same way that the Holy Qur’an will remain until the Day of Judgment, the progeny of the Holy Prophet will also remain. No period of time will be without the existence of the figure which calls the Imam, the real leader and guide of men. (2) Through these two great trusts (am?nat), the Prophet has provided for all the religious and intellectual needs of the Muslims. He has introduced his Household to Muslims as authorities in knowledge and has pronounced their words and deeds to be worthy and authoritative. (3) One must not separate the Holy Qur’an from the Household of the Prophet. No Muslim has a right to reject “sciences” of the members of the Household of the Prophet and remove himself from under their direction and guidance. (4) If people obey the members of the Household and follow their words, they will never be led astray. God will always be with them. (5) The answers to the intellectual and religious needs of men are to be found in the hands of the members of the Household of the Prophet. Whoever follows them will not fall into error and will reach true felicity; that is, the members of the Household are free from error and sin and are inerrant. From this, it can be concluded that by “Members of the Household” and “progeny” is not meant all the descendants and relatives of the Prophet. Rather, specific individuals are meant who are perfect in the religious sciences and are protected against error and sin so that they are qualified to guide and lead men. For Shi’ism, these individuals consist of ‘Ali ibn Abi-T?lib and his eleven descendants who were chosen to the Imamate one after another. This interpretation is also confirmed by the Shiite traditions. For example, Ibn ‘Abbas has said, “I said to the Prophet, ‘Who are your descendant whose love is obligatory [upon Muslims]?’ He said, ”All, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn.'” 2 Jabir has transmitted that the Prophet has said, “God placed the children of all prophets in their ‘backbone’ but placed my children in the backbone of ‘Ali.” 3
1 Al-Bid?yah wa ‘l-Nihayah, vol. V, pp. 209; Dhakha’ir al-‘Uqba pp. 16; al-Fusul al-Muhimmah, pp. 22; Khasa’s, pp. 30; al-Saw?’iq al-alMuhriqah, pp. 147. In Ghayat al-Maram, thirty nine versions of this hadith have been recorded from Sunni sources and eighty two from Shi’ite sources.
2 Yanabi’ al-Mawaddah of Sulayman ibn Ibrahim al-Qunduzi, Tehran, 1308, pp. 311.
3 Yan?bi’ al-Mawaddah, pp. 318.
Adapted from: “Shi’ah” by: “Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba’i”