Hadith Man Mat

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Hadith Man Mat
SubjectKnowing the Imam
Issued byProphet Muhammad (s)
Validity of the chain of transmissionIt has been claimed that it is Mutawatir
Shi'a sourcesAl-KafiKamal al-din wa tamam al-ni'maKifayat al-athar fi l-nass 'ala l-a'immat al-ithna 'ashar
Sunni sourcesSahih MuslimMusnad Ahmad b. HanbalMusnad Abi Dawud al-TayalisiMusnad al-Shamiyyin

Ḥadīth Man Māt (Arabic: حَدیث مَنْ مات) is a well-known hadith from the Prophet Muhammad (s) according to which: "if a man dies while he does not know the Imam of his time, he will die a death of Jahiliyya (Ignorance Era)". The hadith is cited in Shi'a and Sunni sources with different wordings. The Shi'as take it to be concerned with the problem of imamate, implying the obligation of knowing and obeying the Imams. Sunni scholars take it to be concerned with the relationship between people and a Muslim ruler and the obligation of pledging their allegiance to him.


النبي الاعظم ص

مَنْ ماتَ وَ لَمْ يَعْرِفْ إمامَ زَمانِهِ مَاتَ مِيتَةً جَاهِلِيَّة

If a man dies while he does not know the Imam of his time,

he will die a death of ignorance

Ibn Shahrashub, al-Manaqib, vol.1 p.246

There are some hadiths in Islamic sources beginning with the phrase, "man mat" (if a man dies).[1] By "Hadith Man Mat" is meant the Prophet's (s) well-known remark according to which everyone must know imam of his time and if he does not know him he will die a death of ignorance.[2]

Ibn Abi Ya'fur asked Imam al-Sadiq (a) about the Prophet's hadith according to which, "if a man dies while he does not know the Imam of his time, he will die a death of ignorance": is it the death as an unbeliever? He replied: "it is the death as a misguided person". He then asked: "if a man dies at this time without a leader, will he die a death of ignorance?" He replied: "Yes".[3]

Hadith Man Mat is cited with slight differences in Sunni sources as well. The Prophet (s) said: "if a man dies without an Imam, he will die a death of ignorance";[4] or "if a man withdraws from obedience, he will meet God on Dooms Day without a plea, and if a man dies without having pledged an allegiance, he will die a death of ignorance".[5] Sunni scholars take this hadith to be reliable[6] and good[7].

Some Shi'a scholars considered this hadith to be mutawatir in Shi'a and Sunni sources.[8]

In Theological Issues

The Shi'as have appealed to the hadith in their discussions of the problem of imamate to argue that it is an obligation to known and obey the Imams. According to the Shi'a, the "imam" in this hadith refers to Ahl al-Bayt (a) and Infallible Imams (a), and at present, it refers to Imam al-Mahdi (a).[9]

However, Sunni scholars have provided a different interpretation of this hadith. In his Sahih, Muslim b. Hajjaj cited this hadith under a section entitled as "the section concerning the obligation of accompanying the group [i.e. majority of Muslims] at the time of riots and avoiding people who call to infidelity".[10] Some Sunni sources have interpreted the hadith in terms of another hadith from the Prophet (s) according to which, "if a man dies while parting with the group [i.e. majority of Muslims], he will die a death of ignorance".[11]

Sunni Muslims take the "imam" in this hadith to refer to the ruler of the Islamic community who should be obeyed and to whom people should pledge their allegiance in order to keep the majority. The obligation of obeying the Islamic ruler include all Muslim rulers, regardless of whether they are just, sinners, or whatever. In his interpretation of this hadith, Ibn Taymiyya held that the Sahaba and Tabi'un were obliged to obey and pledge their allegiance to Yazid b. Mu'awiya.[12]

Some Sunni sources have taken the "imam" in this hadith to refer to the Prophet (s) himself, holding that people are obliged to believe in him, because he is the leader of people in this world.[13]


  1. e.g. C: Barqi, al-Mahasin , vol.1, p.88.
  2. Sayyid b. Tawus, Iqbal al-a'mal ,vol.2 , p.252; Shaykh al-Saduq, Kamal al-din wa tamam al-ni'ma , vol.2, p.410.
  3. Kulayni, al-Kafi vol.1, p.376.
  4. Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad Ahmad b. Hanbal, vol.28, p.88; Abu Dawud, Musnad, vol.3, p.425; Tabarani, Musnad al-Shamiyyen, vol.2, p.437.
  5. Muslim, Sahih al-Muslim, vol.3, p.1478.
  6. Abu Na'im Isbahani, Hilya al-'awliya' wa tabaqat al-'asfiya' , vol.3, p.224.
  7. Ibn Abi 'Asim, al-Sunna, vol.2, p.503.
  8. Allama al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol.8, p.368.
  9. Allama al-Majlisi, Mir'at al-'uqul, vol.4, p.27.
  10. Muslim, Sahih al-Muslim, vol.3, p.1475.
  11. al-Halimi, al-Minhaj fi shu'ab al-iman, vol.3, p.181.
  12. 'Abd Allah al-Ghiniman,Mukhtasar minhaj al-sunna, vol.1, p.49.
  13. Ibn Hibban, Sahih b.Hibban, vol.10, p.434.


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