Shaykh Ibrahim on Prophet Muhammad’s succession | Translated by Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch

Shaikh Ibrāhīm Inyās, may God be pleased with him, on the Explanation of Why the Prophet, peace be upon him, Refrained from Clear Designation of His Khalīfa (Successor)

Regarding the Quranic statement, “And warn them that there is no god but so be conscious of Me , Shaikh Ibrāhīm Inyās, may God be pleased with him stated in Riyadh al Tafsir, Vol.3, commenting on Surah al-Nahl, pg. 275-76, the following:

‘and He creates that which you do not know.’ (16:8) For this reason the Messenger, peace be upon him, refrained from designating a khalīfa (successor after him). He didn’t appoint anyone as a khalīfa at the time of his death because he knew that there would be someone in his community who would receive knowledge from Allāh without an intermediary.

For this reason he said, ‘Allāh is my khalīfa in over every Muslim’. (Muslim) So, the Walī encounters knowledge from Allāh, be He blessed and exalted, just as the angel received it who consequently revealed it to the Messenger, peace be upon him and just as the Messenger, peace be upon him received it. The difference between the Khalīfa and these others is that he is not autonomous. Rather, he is a follower.

The task of the Walī is not to bring a new ruling for he is a follower of the Messenger, peace be upon him, before him. Rather, he takes from the same mine that the Prophet, peace be upon him, took from and from the mine that the angel who descended upon the Messenger, peace be upon him took from. Since the Messenger, peace be upon him, knew that this would occur in his community he refrained from appointing a khalīfa, ‘Allāh is my khalīfa over every Muslim’.

If he had not know that there would be one amongst us who would take from Allāh directly he wouldn’t have stated, ‘Allāh is my khalīfa over every Muslim. ‘And He creates what you don’t know’, after the annihilation of the slave and the continuity of the Truth, be He blessed and exalted from the sciences of witnessing and secrets that are only known to Allāh, be He blessed and exalted. ‘And He creates what you do not know’ (16:8), ‘rather they disbelieved in what they couldn’t comprehend of His knowledge’ (10:39) These two ‘whats’ (literally ‘what’ they do not know and ‘what’ they could not comprehend) is the knowledge that encompass all things.

Commentary:

Baye, may Allāh be pleased with him, explains why the outward appointment of a political/religious head after the Prophet, peace be upon him, wasn’t done. He states, ultimately, that it was already appointed before his death in the decree of Allāh. Discussing this point he mentions four elements: 1) Allāh 2) The Prophet, peace be upon him 3) The Wali 4) The Khalifa. He also places these elements in context to the point at hand. To summarize the above we can say that according to Shaikh Ibrāhīm, may Allāh be pleased with him that:

  • The Prophet, peace be upon him, refrained from assigning his Khalīfa as he knew that Allāh had already done so.
  • The Khalīfa of the Prophet, peace be upon him, is the Wali.
  • As the Wali is the Khalīfa of the Prophet, peace be upon him, then the Wali is the Khalīfa of the Prophet, peace be upon him, over every Muslim, as the Prophet, peace be upon him held such authority.
  • The Prophet, peace be upon him, said that Allāh is his khalīfa over every Muslim.

Question:

How can the Khalīfa and Allāh both be the khalīfa over every Muslim?

  • It has been stated that the Khalīfa of the Prophet, peace be upon him, is one chosen already for him in the decree of Allāh to represent Allah directly without intermediary in place of the Prophet, peace be upon him.
  • Thus the meaning of Allāh is my khalīfa over every Muslim is practically achieved through the Walī or Khalīfa who would manifest on the ground in place of the Prophet, peace be upon.
  • This is the meaning to, ‘Allah is my khalīfa over every Muslim’, and Allāh knows best.

Question: Then what did Baye mean in saying: ‘And He creates what you do not know’ (16:8), ‘rather they disbelieved in what they couldn’t comprehend of His knowledge’ (10:39) These two ‘whats’ (literally ‘what’ they do not know and ‘what’ they could not comprehend) is the knowledge that encompass all things’?

  • ‘And He creates what you don’t know’. What is not known, above, is the nature of the continuity of the Truth.
  • We know from the above that the Truth continues in the Khalīfa appointed by Allāh.
  • This Khalifa, as stated above, is charged with representing Allāh, Himself, directly and without the intermediary of a prophet or angel or anything else for that matter.
  • Thus this ‘what’ in the hadith is the Khalīfa whose nature is to be a clear window to Allāh.
  • Through him, we can see that Allah, Himself, is the Truth that encompasses all things in knowledge…’ As the Quran states, ‘and He knows all things.’ (57:3)

Translated by Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch

Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch converted to Islam at the age of 20 and has earned ijazas in Islamic Sciences including Quranic Sciences, Hadith, Maliki and Shafi’i Jurisprudence, Usul al-Fiqh, Seerah, Logic, and Arabic Grammar and Morphology under the tutelage of numerous scholars, including Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Shaykh Salik bin Siddina, Imam Zaid Shakir, Shaykh Abdur Rahman Taahir, Qari Umar Bellahi, Shaykh Abdullah Ali, and Shaykh Yahya Rhodus.

Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch co-founded the Lighthouse Mosque in Oakland, California where he served as the Imam for 3 years until he resigned in 2012 to focus on his graduate studies. In addition, he was a teacher and a program developer for Deen Intensive Foundation, Seekers Guidance and had assisted Zaytuna College’s Summer Arabic Intensive program for three years in a row.

Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch  has recently attained a Master’s degree in Philosophy from the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, a member of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.

Many thanks to Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch for contributing to this blog.

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