Unlike the Sunni view, the Twelver Shias are in complete agreement as to who the twelve caliphs are. Ironically, their agreement does not suggest any strength, but rather, implies a stubbornness that goes against logic.
The twelve caliphs according to Twelvers are: Ali, Al-Hasan, Al-Hussain, Ali bin Al-Hussain, Mohammad bin Ali, Ja’afar bin Mohammad, Musa bin Ja’afar, Ali bin Musa, Mohammad bin Ali, Ali bin Mohammad, Al-Hasan bin Ali, and Mohammad bin Al-Hasan Al-Askari, the awaited Mahdi.
There are plenty of problems with this view.
Firstly, out of the twelve men, only two were caliphs. Thus, the Twelvers have immediately gone against the apparent meaning of the Hadith to a metaphorical one from the get go.
Furthermore, even if for the sake of the argument, the narration was about twelve Imams and not twelve caliphs, we would run into another problem. The narration clearly states that Islam will stay in a state of glory until the passing of twelve caliphs. Yet, according to the Shia interpretation, Islam was not in a state of glory during the reigns of Ali or any of his children. They believe it was a time of tyranny and oppression to the extent that the Shiites were in constant hiding to escape the grip of the government and corrupt scholars.
In other words, the Sunni opinion fits in with the Hadith, which suggests that Islam will see glory days until the passing of twelve caliphs. While the Shias hold the view that Islam was disgraced during the reign of Ali, Al-Hasan, Al-Hussain, and then his children, and will continue to be in a state of disgrace until the rise of the 12th Imam. This interpretation totally contradicts the meaning of the Hadith.
However, if we were to discuss this matter with a Shi’ee today, we simply have to ask: Is Islam in a state of glory or disgrace?
If the answer is “disgrace”, then that contradicts the Hadith since it states that Islam will be in a state of glory until the passing of twelve caliphs.
If the answer is “glory”, then that contradicts the Shia view who believes that the world will be filled with injustice before the rise of Al-Mahdi. How can such a world be considered a glorious one?
Why do Shias have such a Hard Time Accepting the Sunni Position?
There are two answers to this question. The first is that Shias cannot stomach any possible praise for the shaikhain and the Umayyad caliphs like Mu’awiyah and Yazeed. However, this should not be an obstacle since the narration does not contain praise for any of these individuals, but rather, only speaks of the state of Islam as one of glory. The justness of a caliph would be a plus, but it is not necessary for a glorious empire and the piety of society.
The second reason to reject the Sunni opinion is because this narration is the only authentic Sunni narration that refers to twelve men in power. The number twelve is extremely significant to Twelvers and this narration, as discussed in the original article, is their ultimately proof against other Shia sects that differed in the number of Imams. If this evidence was deemed as worthless, the claim made by Twelvers would be on equal footing with other Imami sects like the Seveners or Niners.
However, clinging onto this Hadith is ultimately a lost cause in the light of what we have explained above.
…and Allah guides whomever He wills.
Discuss this article at http://forum.twelvershia.net/imamah-ghaybah/who-are-the-12-caliphs/