Imams of the Gaps


An “argument from ignorance” is a logical fallacy where a proposition is assumed to be valid simply due to the lack of evidence to the contrary of that conclusion. This fallacy essentially embodies an attempt to shift the burden of proof from the positive claimant onto the negative claimant (the individual arguing against the positive claimant’s conclusion.)

Bo Bennet lists a good example of this fallacy on his website:

Although we have proven that the moon is not made of spare ribs, we have not proven that its core cannot be filled with them; therefore, the moon’s core is filled with spare ribs.

In this example, we observe a positive claimant arguing that the moon’s core is filled with spare ribs. Since we cannot empirically disprove this claim (as we still cannot access the moon’s core), the positive claimant asserts that his conclusion is therefore valid. Instead of actually substantiating his claim, the claimant simply appeals to his opponent’s ignorance to assert his conclusion. Thus, he attempts to shift the burden of proof onto his opponent.

How is this fallacy relevant to Sunni-Shia polemics?

Twelver polemicists are infatuated with the authentically reported Sunni tradition on the “twelve caliphs”. On various occasions, we have demonstrated how Shi’ite appeals to this hadith all stem from a misunderstanding of the report. Nevertheless, Twelver appeal to the hadith of the “twelve caliphs” is also grounded in an argument from ignorance.

In this context, the Twelver will usually cite the report of Jabir b. Samurah:

“This matter/religion/Islam will stay in a state of glory until the passing of twelve caliphs.”

Jabir then said: He – peace be upon him – said something that I didn’t understand, so I asked my father about it.

He said: “They are all from Quraish.”

The Twelver will then pretentiously ask the Sunni: “Who are these twelve caliphs?” In this appeal, the Twelver attempts to argue that his twelve alleged imams are the individuals being discussed in this hadith. The Twelver, however, cannot actually substantiate his claim that his Imams are the twelve individuals mentioned in the hadith without appealing to later Twelver hadith sources.

Thus, the Twelver essentially shifts his argument to an appeal to ignorance. He simply asks the Sunni: “Who are these Twelve individuals mentioned in the hadith?” The reality of the matter is that the Sunni does not have to answer that question because it is entirely irrelevant. The burden of proof is upon the Shi’ite to to make his case, and the Twelver can ONLY make his case by appealing to Twelver polemical hadith sources.

Perhaps Twelvers are infatuated with the hadith because it contains the number “twelve,” but that’s not gonna cut it. There is a significant possibility that later Twelver historical sources arbitrarily concocted the list of Imams in accordance with the number mentioned in this hadith. Similarly, various (extant and extinct) Shi’ite sects, such as the:

  • Zaydis
  • Isma’ilis
  • Waqifis
  • Kaysanis
  • Faṭḥis

and many others did not understand the hadith as the Twelver sect did. Thus, the number of Imams in each of these non-Twelver Shi’ite sects is not limited to twelve!


Twelver appeal to the hadith on the “twelve caliphs” is fundamentally grounded in:

  1. A misunderstanding of the hadith
  2. An argument from ignorance based on that misunderstanding of the hadith

After these various fallacious appeals, the Twelver cannot even argue for his doctrine without appealing to Twelver hadith sources, which are plagued with various historical defects as we have pointed out on various occasions.

The Imams of the Twelver sect simply are the “Imams of the Gaps:” A list of Imams arbitrarily concocted to fill an imaginary gap that is based on a misunderstanding of a hadith.

And Allah is the Witness of Abu Al-Abbas

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