Insight into the 'Hadith of Thaqalayn'

Reportedly Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said either one of the following hadiths or all of them, supposedly during his farewell sermons (or before his demise).

1- Although agreeable to both Sunnis and Shiites the following version is favoured by the Shiah in particular since it seemingly conforms to their sectarian worldview.

It is claimed that Yazid bin Haiyan reported:

I went along with Husain bin Sabrah and 'Amr bin Muslim to Zaid bin Arqam (May Allah be pleased with them) and, as we sat by his side, Husain said to him, "Zaid, you acquired great merits, you saw Messenger of Allah (), listened to him talking, fought by his side in (different) battles, and offered Salat (prayer) behind him. Zaid, you have indeed earned great merits. Could you narrate to us what you heard from Messenger of Allah ()?" Zaid said, "By Allah! I have grown old and have almost spent up my age and I have forgotten some of the things which I remembered in connection with Messenger of Allah (), so accept what I narrate to you, do not compel me to narrate what I fail to narrate". He then said, "One day Messenger of Allah () stood up to deliver a Khutbah at a watering place known as Khumm between Makkah and Al-Madinah. He praised Allah, extolled Him, and exhorted (us) and said, 'Amma Ba'du. O people, I am a human being. I am about to receive a messenger (the angel of death) from my Rubb and I will respond to Allah's Call, but I am leaving with you two weighty things: the first is the Book of Allah, in which there is right guidance and light, so hold fast to the Book of Allah and adhere to it.' He exhorted (us to hold fast) to the Book of Allah and then said, 'The second is the members of my household, I remind you (to be kind) to the members of my family. I remind you (to be kind) to the members of my family. Husain said to Zaid, "Who are the members of his household, O Zaid? Aren't his wives the members of his family?" Thereupon Zaid said, "His wives are the members of his family. (But here) the members of his family are those for whom Zakat is forbidden". He asked, "Who are they?" Zaid said, "Ali and the offspring of 'Ali, 'Aqil and the offspring of 'Aqil and the offspring of Ja'far and the offspring of 'Abbas." Husain asked, "For all of them the acceptance of Zakat is forbidden?" Zaid (May Allah be pleased with him) said, "Yes". [Muslim].

Another narration is: Messenger of Allah () said, "I am leaving behind me two weighty things. One of them is the Book of Allah; that is the strong rope of Allah. Whosoever holds firmly to it, will be the guided, and whosoever leaves it goes astray".[1]

According to the Sunni interpretation there is no command to follow the Prophet's family but only to treat them with honour, respect and love. The Shiah contest this interpretation by citing that the Prophet left “two weighty matters” in regards to guidance.


2- The second version seemingly conforms to the Sunni sectarian worldview.

 Yahya related to me from Malik that he heard that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "I have left two matters with you. As long as you hold to them, you will not go the wrong way. They are the Book of Allah and the Sunna of His Prophet."[2]

Both Sunnis and the Shiites agree that the “Sunna” refers to extraneous sources besides the Quran. However, they differ on these extraneous sources (Hadith corpses) leading to differences in their interpretations.

3- Finally the third version although seldom known amongst the laity is also found in the (Sunni) hadith corpus.

In a lengthy hadith it is claimed Jabir ibn Abd Allah narrated details of Muhammad's pilgrimage and reported the following words of his sermon:

Verily your blood, your property are as sacred and inviolable as the sacredness of this day of yours, in this month of yours, in this town of yours. Behold! Everything pertaining to the Days of Ignorance is under my feet completely abolished. Abolished are also the blood-revenges of the Days of Ignorance. The first claim of ours on blood-revenge which I abolish is that of the son of Rabi'a b. al-Harith, who was nursed among the tribe of Sa'd and killed by Hudhail. And the usury of the pre-Islamic period is abolished, and the first of our usury I abolish is that of 'Abbas b. 'Abd al-Muttalib, for it is all abolished. Fear Allah concerning women! Verily you have taken them on the security of Allah, and intercourse with them has been made lawful unto you by words of Allah. You too have right over them, and that they should not allow anyone to sit on your bed whom you do not like. But if they do that, you can chastise them but not severely. Their rights upon you are that you should provide them with food and clothing in a fitting manner. I have left among you the Book of Allah, and if you hold fast to it, you would never go astray. And you would be asked about me (on the Day of Resurrection), (now tell me) what would you say? They (the audience) said: We will bear witness that you have conveyed (the message), discharged (the ministry of Prophet-hood) and given wise (sincere) counsel. He (the narrator) said: He (the Holy Prophet) then raised his forefinger towards the sky and pointing it at the people (said): "O Allah, be witness. O Allah, be witness," saying it thrice.[3]

Inactuality both Shiites and Sunnis have some reservations in practice regarding the meaning of this hadith (although deemed authentic by Sunnis). Both sects claim that the Quran contains general principles and does not explain its injunctions in detail – thus it needs someone to explain and interpret its verses. However, both will differ on their sources for interpretation.

Nevertheless, it can be verified from the Quran that the Prophet (peace be upon him) instructed the believers to follow the Qur’an.

And this is a Book which We have revealed as a blessing:   so follow it (Arabic: fa-ittabi'uhu) and fear (God) / be righteous so that you may receive mercy (6.155)

[Say], ‘Shall I seek any judge other than God, when it is He who has sent down for you [people] the Scripture, clearly explained?’ Those to whom We gave the Scripture know that this [Quran] is revealed by your Lord [Prophet] with the truth, so do not be one of those who doubt. [6:114]

The Prophet himself (peace be upon him) was ordered to follow strictly the revelation.

But when Our clear verses (Arabic: Ayatina) are rehearsed unto them, those who rest not their hope on their meeting with Us, Say: "Bring us a reading other than this, or change this,” Say: "It is not for me, of my own accord, to change it: I follow naught but what is revealed unto me: if I were to disobey my Lord, I should myself fear the penalty of a Great Day (to come). (10.15).

Thus, for mankind's timeless Divine guidance, the Quran remained the only revelation that was received by the Prophet for this appointed mission.*

Say: "What thing is most weighty in evidence?" Say: "God is witness between me and you; This Quran has been revealed to me by inspiration, that I may warn you and all whom it reaches. Can you possibly bear witness that besides God there is another God?" Say: "Nay! I cannot bear witness!" Say: "But in truth He is the one God, and I truly am innocent of (your blasphemy of) joining others with Him” (6:19)

And when you bring not a verse for them they say: Why have you not chosen it?  Say: I follow only that which is inspired in me from my Lord. This (Quran) is insight from your Lord, and a guidance and a mercy for a people that believe.   When the Quran is read, listen to it with attention, and hold your peace: that ye may receive Mercy” (7.203-4)

Each of us, on an individual basis free from sectarian bias, needs to compare these contrasting arguments, objectively, and determine which of these interpretations of the evidences and assertions is following the best thereof.

Who listen to speech and follow the best of it. Those are the ones Allah has guided, and those are people of understanding. [39:18]




 And Allah knows best.

[1]Arabic/English book reference: Book 1, Hadith 346


[2]USC-MSA web (English) reference: Book 46, Hadith 3 Arabic reference: Book 46, Hadith 1628




* Please visit for Quran centric articles by Joseph A Islam.