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Hadith al-Manzila

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Imam 'Ali (a)
First Imam of Shi'a

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Ḥadīth al-Manzila (Arabic: حدیث المنزلة) is among the most famous hadiths narrated from the Prophet (s) which has been agreed upon by both Shi'a and Sunni scholars. This hadith introduces the position of Imam 'Ali (a), with regards to the Prophet (s) and his primacy over other companions. It is a frequently-narrated hadiths (mutawatir) in the view of Shi'a scholars and among the proofs for Imam 'Ali's (a) right to the caliphate after the noble Prophet (s).

This hadith has been narrated from the Prophet (s) in different occasions, the most important of which has been in the Battle of Tabuk. One of the most famous versions of its narration is that the noble Prophet (s) addressed 'Ali (a) and said, "To me, you are like Aaron to Moses, except for there is no prophet after me."

Cases of Narration of the Hadith

This hadith has been narrated from the Prophet (s) in different times and places and with different wordings, such as on the day of the first pact of brotherhood (before immigration to Medina), the day of the second pact of brotherhood (five months after immigration to Medina), in the house of Umm Salama, at the time of appointing a guardian for Hamza's daughter, in the event of Sadd al-Abwab (closing doors of companions' houses to Masjid al-Nabi)[1] and most famously in the Battle of Tabuk.[2]

There are different versions of the hadith al-Manzila, yet they all share the common message of Imam 'Ali's (a) position relative to the Prophet (s) and how it is the same as Aaron's position with regards to Moses. The few differences in these versions are due to its repetition in different occasions and the fact that some narrators have reported the meaning of the narration and not its exact words.

Sources among Shi'a and Sunni

This hadith has been mentioned in different historical, traditional, and theological sources.[3] Shi'a scholars have written monographs about it, including Mir Hamid Husayn (d. 1306/1889) who dedicated one volume of 'Abaqat al-anwar specifically to this hadith. Hakim Haskani narrated from his teacher, Abu Hazim Hafiz 'Abdaway, that he recorded narration of the hadith of Manzila from 5000 references.[4] In another report, 88 of the most famous hadith narrators have narrated this hadith[5]. Other scholars including Ibn Taymiyya[6], 'Abd al-Haqq Dihlawi, al-Ganji al-Shafi'i, Abu l-Qasim 'Ali b. al-Muhassin al-Tanukhi, and al-Suyuti have acknowledged the authenticity, strength and popularity of this hadith.[7] This hadith has also been mentioned in Sahih al-Bukhari[8], Sahih Muslim[9] and other Sunni hadith references[10].

Authenticity in Sunni Viewpoint

Hadith al-Manzila, written in Mu'alla, a script variety of Islamic calligraphy

Sunni scholar Ibn Abi l-Hadid[11] considers this hadith as generally agreed upon by all Islamic sects, and Ibn 'Abd al-Barr recognizes it as among the most correct and authentic hadiths.[12] Different sources do narrate the hadith differently[13]. Al-Hakim al-Nisaburi has considered this hadith as Sahih (correct)[14] and in Talkhis al-mustadrak, Hafiz al-Dhahabi has stressed its authenticity.[15] Even enemies of Imam 'Ali (a) could not dispute this hadith and must accept its legitimacy. At times they have unintentionally narrated it. According to al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik admitted the original text of this hadith; however he changed the name Aaron to Qarun.[16] It has been recorded that when debating with scholars of jurisprudence, al-Ma'mun al-'Abbasi referred to this hadith[17]. According to al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, 'Umar referred to this hadith and called the person who insulted 'Ali (a) as a hypocrite[18].

Mu'awiya did not reject this hadith and when he asked Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas (one of the enemies of 'Ali (a)), "Why don't you curse 'Ali (a)?" Sa'd answered, "Because of the three merits the Prophet (s) mentioned for 'Ali (a)." Then he related those three merits and the first merit was the hadith al-Manzila, and Mu'awiya stopped forcing Sa'd to curse 'Ali (a)[19].

Zayd b. Arqam is among the companions who narrated this hadith and has said that when the Prophet (s) appointed 'Ali (a) in his place in Medina, some people thought that the Prophet (s) was upset about 'Ali (a). When 'Ali (a) heard about that, he told the Prophet (s) about it and the Prophet (s) said the hadith al-Manzila[20].

Al-Hakim al-Nisaburi considered this hadith authentic with regards to its sources and has quoted from Ibn 'Abbas that the Prophet (s) said this hadith in the Battle of Tabuk. Ibn 'Abbas has also narrated that the noble Prophet (s) addressed 'Ali (a) by saying, "It would not be appropriate that I go, except you would be my vicegerent here," and then said, "After me, you are the guardian of every believing man and woman."[21]

Indication of the Hadith to Imam Ali's Virtues and His Succession to the Prophet (s)

  • In addition to proving a great merit for Imam 'Ali (a), this hadith also proves his right for caliphate and infallibility, since the Prophet (s) has elevated Imam 'Ali (a) to Aaron and all of his virtues, except prophethood. According to Quranic verses, prophet Moses asked God to choose Aaron as his deputy to help the former in his mission[22]. God accepted Moses' request[23] and Aaron became Moses' vicegerent in his absence[24]. Therefore, Aaron had all the positions of Moses as well, and if Aaron remained alive after Moses, he would have served as his successor (according to Jews, Aaron passed away forty years before Moses.)
  • Aaron had a great position in the eyes of Moses and thus Imam 'Ali's (a) position and rightfulness for caliphate after the Prophet (s) can be understood. Based on the story of Aaron and Moses in the Qur'an, Aaron was Moses' deputy in his mission, thus 'Ali (a) was also the Prophet's (s) deputy in his leadership and guardianship, except in his role as a prophet.
  • Aaron was the second man after Moses among Bani Israel, thus 'Ali (a) was the same in the Prophet's (s) ummah.
  • Aaron was Moses' brother, and 'Ali (a) was also noted as the Prophet's (s) brother based on the frequently narrated Hadith al-Mu'akhat which has been mentioned in both Shi'a and Sunni references.
  • Aaron was the best of Moses' people before God, as 'Ali (a) was during the time of the Prophet.[25]
  • Aaron was Moses' vicegerent in his absence with full authority, and the Prophet gave that very right to 'Ali (a), as documented in the narration where the Prophet (s) said, "It would not be appropriate that I go to the Battle of Tabuk, except you would be my vicegerent here".
  • Aaron was the most knowledgeable person among the people of Moses and so was 'Ali (a) as stressed by the Prophet (s). Obeying Aaron was incumbent upon both Joshua b. Nun (Moses' deputy) and his people. Obeying 'Ali (a) was also a necessity, even with the assumption of the deputyship of Abu Bakr, 'Umar, 'Uthman or anyone else.[26]
  • Aaron was the most beloved person before God and Moses, so was 'Ali (a). God supported Moses by his brother Aaron and did the same about the Prophet (s) by 'Ali (a). Aaron was infallible regarding any error or ignorance, and so was 'Ali (a).[27]

Doubt in the Authenticity of the Hadith

Some Sunni scholars have questioned the source of this hadith and have consider as scarcely recorded (akhbar al-ahad)[28].

Shi'a scholars have responded by gathering the various documentations of this hadith. According to scholars with a specialty in hadiths, this particular hadith is among "most authentic of the Prophet's traditions and most established sources." Al-Dhahabi, a great Sunni scholar, has approved this hadith in his Talkhis al-mustadrak.[29] If this hadith were not authentic, it would not be mentioned in Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. Moreover, Mu'awiya who was a fierce enemy of Imam 'Ali (a) who had ordered others to insult and curse Imam 'Ali (a), as well as create fictitious hadiths against him, has not only accepted this hadith but also narrated it.[30]

Claim that the Succession was Limited to the Battle of Tabuk

Some Sunnis have said 'Ali's (a) role as an authority only applied during the time of the Battle of Tabuk[31] while others limited his role even more and said that the Prophet (s) appointed 'Ali (a) as his deputy only in Medina and only among his own family[32]. They have said that accepting this hadith does not mean that all the Prophet's (s) positions and merits except prophethood could also apply to 'Ali (a), and the appearance of this hadith can only mean that 'Ali (a) was the Prophet's (s) deputy only in the absence of the Prophet (s) at the time of the Battle of Tabuk and just about his family affairs like Aaron was his deputy in his absence.

The response to this question would be:

  1. In their recordings, many Sunni scholars did not limit this hadith to the Battle of Tabuk and believe that the Prophet (s) shared this hadith in other occasions too. In approving the deputyship of Imam 'Ali (a), Ibn Abi l-Hadid[33] referred to the Qur'an and different hadiths applying the merits and positions of Aaron to 'Ali (a) and if the Prophet (s) was not the Last of Prophets, 'Ali (a) would even be his successor in prophethood. The Prophet (s) named 'Ali's (a) sons the same as Aaron's sons and said, "I named them Shubbar and Shubayr after Aaron's sons.[34]"
  2. Companions themselves understood a general sense of the hadith regarding 'Ali's (a) positions. For example, when Jabir b. 'Abd Allah al-Ansari was asked about the meaning of the hadith of Manzila, he answered that in this hadith, the Prophet (s) appointed 'Ali (a) as his deputy among his ummah, in his life and after his demise and made his obedience incumbent upon you[35].

The Claim that the Succession is restricted to Lifetime of the Prophet (s)

Aaron had the position of caliphate and other merits when Moses was alive, thus 'Ali (a) might have had Aaron's positions and merits while the Prophet (s) was alive; therefore, Hadith of Manzila cannot be considered a rule for caliphate after the Prophet (s)[36].


  1. The word "except" in the hadith ("Illa annahu la nabiyya ba'di"), ["except for there is no prophet after me."]) clarifies the generality of the hadith and the mentioned positions and merits are approved for 'Ali (a) after the death of the Prophet (s), otherwise there would be no need for the exception. According to al-Tabarsi, hadith scholars generally agree that the Prophet (s) appointed 'Ali (a) as his deputy in Medina in the Battle of Tabuk and did not dismiss him following the events, leaving this position valid for Imam 'Ali (a).[37]
  2. Based on the assumption of the question, Aaron was not alive to be the caliph. If Aaron was alive after Moses, he absolutely would be the caliph since he was appointed for caliphate. Similarly according to the Hadith of Manzila, Imam 'Ali (a) received the merits of the Prophet's (s) caliphate and hence if he would be living while the Prophet (s) would not be in life, then Imam 'Ali (a) would be his caliph and deputy.[citation needed]

A Delicate Similarity

Aaron became Moses' caliph in his absence; however, people were deceived by Zimri b. Salu and they became calf-worshiper. Aaron opposed them but no one helped Aaron and thus he chose to tolerate them. Hadith of Manzila interprets all such events for Imam 'Ali (a) as well. In the absence of the Prophet (s), 'Ali (a) was his caliph and the similarities with Aaron is not limited to the time before or after demise of the Prophet (s).[citation needed]


  1. Ibn Maghāzilī, Manāqib Imām ʿAlī (a), pp. 255-257
  2. Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal, Musnad, vol. 1, p. 277; vol. 3, p. 417; vol. 7, p. 513, p. 591. Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, vol. 5, p. 129. Muslim b. al-Ḥajjāj, Saḥiḥ Muslim, vol. 2, pp. 1870-1871. Tirmidhī, Sunan, vol. 5, p. 638, pp. 640-641. Nasāʾī, Sunan, p. 50-61. Nīshābūrī, al-Mustadrak, vol. 3, pp. 133-134. Ṭabarī, al-Rīyāḍ al-naḍra, vol. 3, pp. 117-119. Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāya wa l-nihāya, vol. 5, pp. 7-8. Haythamī, Majmaʿ al-zawāʾid, vol. 9, p. 110. ʿAynī, ʿUmdat al-Qārī, vol. 16, p. 301. Suyūṭī, Tārīkh khulafāʾ, p. 168. Suyūṭī, al-Durr al-manthūr, vol. 3, p. 236, 291. Muttaqī, Kanz al-ʿummāl, vol. 13, p. 163, 171-172. Mīr Ḥāmid Ḥusayn, ʿAbaqāt al-anwār, vol. 2, pp. 29-59. Sharaf al-Dīn, al-Murājiʿāt, p. 130. Ḥusaynī Mīlānī, Nafahāt al-azhār, vol. 18, pp. 363-411.
  3. Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal, Musnad, vol. 1, p. 277; vol. 3, p. 417; Bukhārī, Șaḥīḥ, vol. 5, p. 129; Tirmidhī, Sunan, vol. 5, p. 638; Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 8, pp. 106-7; Baqillānī, Tamhīd al-awāʾil, p. 457; Qāḍī ʿAbd al-Jabbār, al-Mughnī, vol. 10, chapter 1, p. 158; Khațīb al-Baghdādī, Tārīkh Baghdād, vol. 4, p. 465; Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, al-Barāhīn, vol. 2, p. 257; Taftāzānī, Sharḥ al-maqāsid, vol. 5, p. 296
  4. Hākim al-Hasakānī, Shawāhid al-tanzīl li-qawāʿid al-tafdīl, vol. 1, p. 195
  5. Husayni Milani, Nafaḥāt al-azhār, vol. 17, pp. 23-28
  6. Ibn Taymīyya, Minhāj al-sunnat al-nabawīyya, vol. 7, p. 326
  7. Mīr Ḥāmid Ḥusayn, ʿAbaqāt al-anwār, vol. 2, book 1, pp. 204-206. Ḥusaynī Mīlānī, Nafaḥāt al-azhār, vol. 17, pp. 151-162
  8. Al-Bukharī, vol. 4, p. 208; vol. 5, p. 129: حَدَّثَنِی مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ بَشَّارٍ، حَدَّثَنَا غُنْدَرٌ، حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ، عَنْ سَعْدٍ، قَالَ: سَمِعْتُ إِبْرَاهِیمَ بْنَ سَعْدٍ، عَنْ أَبِیهِ، قَالَ: قَالَ النَّبِی صَلَّی اللهُ عَلَیهِ وَسَلَّمَ لِعَلِی: «أَمَا تَرْضَی أَنْ تَکونَ مِنِّی بِمَنْزِلَةِ هَارُونَ مِنْ مُوسَی»
  9. Muslim, vol. 7, p. 119: حَدَّثَنَا یحْیی بْنُ یحْیی التَّمِیمِی وَأَبُو جَعْفَرٍ مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ الصَّبَّاحِ وَعُبَیدُ اللَّهِ الْقَوَارِیرِی وَسُرَیجُ بْنُ یونُسَ کلُّهُمْ عَنْ یوسُفَ الْمَاجِشُونِ - وَاللَّفْظُ لاِبْنِ الصَّبَّاحِ - حَدَّثَنَا یوسُفُ أَبُو سَلَمَةَ الْمَاجِشُونُ حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ الْمُنْکدِرِ عَنْ سَعِیدِ بْنِ الْمُسَیبِ عَنْ عَامِرِ بْنِ سَعْدِ بْنِ أَبِی وَقَّاصٍ عَنْ أَبِیهِ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلی الله علیه وسلم- لِعَلِی «أَنْتَ مِنِّی بِمَنْزِلَةِ هَارُونَ مِنْ مُوسَی إِلاَّ أَنَّهُ لاَ نَبِی بَعْدِی ». قَالَ سَعِیدٌ فَأَحْبَبْتُ أَنْ أُشَافِهَ بِهَا سَعْدًا فَلَقِیتُ سَعْدًا فَحَدَّثْتُهُ بِمَا حَدَّثَنِی عَامِرٌ فَقَالَ أَنَا سَمِعْتُه. فَقُلْتُ آنْتَ سَمِعْتَهُ فَوَضَعَ إِصْبَعَیهِ عَلَی أُذُنَیهِ فَقَالَ نَعَمْ وَإِلاَّ فَاسْتَکتَا.
  10. Ḥākim al-Nīsabūrī, Mustadrak, vol. 3, pp. 133-4; Mufīd, al-Irshād, pp. 81-84. Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, al-Istīʿāb, vol. 3, pp. 1097-98. Ibn Athīr, al-Kāmil fī l-tārīkh, vol. 2, p. 278. Sibt b. al-Jawzī, Tadhkirat al-khawāṣṣ, pp. 27-28. Ibn Abī l-Ḥadīd, Sharḥ nahj al-balāgha, vol. 13, p. 211. Juwaynī al-Khurāsānī, Farāʾid al-simṭayn, vol. 1, p. 122. Haythamī, Majmaʿ al-zawāʾid, vol. 9, p. 111. Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī, al-Iṣāba, vol. 2, p. 509. Suyūṭī, Tārīkh al-khulafā, p. 168. Ḥalabī, al-Sira, vol. 3, pp. 187-88. Qundūzī, Yanābīʿ al-mawadda, vol. 1, pp. 111-12, 137. Ḥusaynī al-Fīrūzābādī, Fadā'il al-khamsa, vol. 1, pp. 347-64. Khiḍrī, Itmām al-wafā, p. 169
  11. Ibn Abī l-Ḥadīd, Sharḥ nahj al-balāgha, vol. 13, p. 211
  12. Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, al-Istīʿāb, vol. 3, p. 1097
  13. Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, al-Istīʿāb, vol. 3, p. 1097
  14. Ḥākim al-Nīsābūrī, Mustadrak, vol. 3, p. 134
  15. Ḥākim al-Nīsābūrī, Mustadrak, vol. 3, p. 134
  16. Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, Tarīkh Baghdād, vol. 8, p. 262
  17. Ibn ʿAbd Rabbih, vol. 5, pp. 357-58
  18. Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, Tarīkh Baghdād, vol. 8, p. 498
  19. Ibn Athīr, Usd al-ghāba, vol. 4, pp. 104-5. Qundūzī, Yanābīʿ al-mawadda, vol. 1, p. 161
  20. Haythamī, Majmaʿ al-zawāʾid, vol. 9, p. 111
  21. Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal, Musnad, vol. 1, p. 545. Ḥākim al-Nīsābūrī, vol. 3, p. 134; Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāya wa l-nihāya, vol. 7, p. 351
  22. Quran 20:29-32
  23. Quran 20:36
  24. Quran 7:142
  25. Mīr Ḥāmid Ḥusayn, ʿAbaqāt al-anwār, vol. 2, book 1, pp. 104-110
  26. Muttaqī, Kanz al-ʿummāl, vol. 11, p. 614. Mīr Ḥāmid Ḥusayn, ʿAbaqāt al-anwār, vol. 2, book 1, pp. 113-129
  27. Mīr Ḥāmid Ḥusayn, ʿAbaqāt al-anwār, vol. 2, book 1, pp. 100-104
  28. For example, see Āmidī, al-Imāma min abkār al-afkār fī usūl al-dīn, p. 167
  29. Ḥākīm al-Nīsabūrī, Mustadrak, vol. 3, p. 134.
  30. Ibn Ḥajar al-Haytamī, al-Sawāʿq al-muḥriqa, p. 179
  31. Ibn Taymīyya, Minhāj al-sunnat al-nabawīyya, vol. 7, p. 322
  32. Bāqillānī, Kitāb tamhīd al-awāʾil wa talkhīs al-dalāʾil, p. 457; Mīr Ḥāmid Ḥusayn, ʿAbaqāt al-anwār, vol. 2, book 1, pp. 74-6
  33. Ibn Abī l-Ḥadīd, Sharḥ nahj al-balāgha, vol. 13, p. 211
  34. Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal, Musnad, vol. 1, p. 158; Ḥākim al-Nīsābūrī, al-Mustadrak ʿalā l-ṣaḥīḥayn, vol. 3, p. 168; Muttaqī, Kanz al-ʿummāl, vol. 12, pp. 117-8; Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 101, pp. 110-2
  35. Ṣadūq, Maʿānī l-akhbār, p. 74
  36. Qādī ʿAbd al-Jabbār, al-Mughnī fī abwāb al-tawhīd wa al-ʿadl, vol. 10, Chap. 1, pp. 159-60; Jurjānī, Sharḥ al-mawāqif, p. 363; Mīr Ḥāmid Ḥusayn. ʿAbaqāt al-anwār, vol. 2, Chap. 1. p. 86
  37. Ṭabrisī, Asrār al-imāma, p. 252


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