Is King Talout similar to the Shia Imams?


The Shia look for random verses to try and make a link between their beliefs and Islam. From these attempts is the story of Talout in Surat al-Baqarah, the Shia will claim that he was appointed yet he wasn’t a prophet therefore he must be what they consider a Shia Imam.

Before we begin dear reader, we must clarify that the word Imam according to the Arabs means “One who is followed.” Thus Arabs would refer to those in positions of authority as Imams whether they be messengers, prophets, kings or even the man leading the prayer. The Shia however, whenever they utter the word Imam they usually refer to a very special case linked to their own beliefs, Imams according to them are successors of prophets, they are immune to error, they are divinely appointed by religious text, they have complete knowledge of all religious rulings, they are from a chosen progeny, they are tasked with guiding humanity, they have absolute authority over all mankind, they are greater than prophets, they can do miracles, etc…

So from the start we notice that the word Imam according to the Arabs has a famous usage whereas for the Shia the word Imam means something completely different. The purpose of this article is to find out whether King Talout whom the Shia use as an excuse to prove their beliefs is an Imam according to their own understanding of that term or not, if he isn’t then the whole argument falls apart.

In the name of Allah we begin,

The first difference is that unlike the Shia Imams, Talout was only chosen because the people from banu Isra’eel asked their prophet Shamu’eel (as) to ask Allah to appoint a man to lead them into battle. They would refer to their leaders as kings and each tribe had a king and so the kings were by the dozens and they would lead their people to battle.

{Have you not considered the assembly of the Children of Israel after [the time of] Moses when they said to a prophet of theirs, “Send to us a king, and we will fight in the way of Allah “? He said, “Would you perhaps refrain from fighting if fighting was prescribed for you?” They said, “And why should we not fight in the cause of Allah when we have been driven out from our homes and from our children?”} [2:246]

Allah didn’t appoint him to guide humanity, if the people never asked for a military leader he wouldn’t have been appointed. Similarly, our Prophet (saw) would appoint many military leaders during his life, such as `Amr ibn al-`Aas, Khalid ibn al-Waleed and `Umar ibn al-Khattab.

The second difference is, Nowhere was it reported that Talout succeeded the prophet of his time, he simply led people into that single battle during the Prophet-hood of another man, then Dawoud (as) became a prophet and the king of banu Isra’eel during that same battle when he killed Jalout so Talout was never heard from again.

{So they defeated them by permission of Allah, and David killed Goliath, and Allah gave him the kingship and prophethood and taught him from that which He willed.} [2:251]

As we can see, Talout was not succeeded by his son as the Shia claim for their own Imams.

Thirdly, as is known to all Muslims, prophets are higher than kings, since kings (politicians) must follow the example of the prophets. The prophet is the Imam of every king in his time and not the other way around because the Shia claim that Imamah is greater than prophet-hood. This was why Talout was simply following the instructions of the prophet of his time as opposed to Shia beliefs. We read in their own books that it was narrated by al-Sadiq in al-`Ayyashi and al-Majma` that in their time the king was the one whose job was to lead the armies while the Prophet would give him legitimacy and prophesy to him and reveal to him whatever came from his Lord:

المجمع والعياشي عن الصادق عليه السلام قال كان الملك في ذلك الزمان هو الذي يسير بالجنود والنبي يقيم له أمره وينبئه بالخبر من عند ربه

Fourthly, Banu Isra’eel had two famous households and we read in the Shia book Tafseer al-Qummi:

عن أبي بصير عن أبي جعفر عليه السلام إن بني إسرائيل بعد موسى عليه السلام عملوا المعاصي وغيروا دين الله وعتوا عن أمر ربهم، وكان فيهم نبي يأمرهم وينهاهم فلم يطيعوه، وروي أنه أرميا النبي، فسلط الله عليهم جالوت، وهو من القبط فأذلهم وقتل رجالهم وأخرجهم من ديارهم وأموالهم واستعبد نساء‌هم، ففزعوا إلى نبيهم وقالوا سل الله أن يبعث لنا ملكاً نقاتل في سبيل الله، وكانت النبوة في بني إسرائيل في بيت والملك والسلطان في بيت آخر لم يجمع الله لهم الملك والنبوة في بيت واحد

[From abi Baseer from abu Ja`far (as): After Musa (as), Banu Isra’eel committed sins and changed Allah’s religion. They had a prophet who was prohibiting them and teaching them but they disobeyed him so Allah punished them through Jalout a Qubt who disgraced them and killed their men and chased them out of their homes and enslaved their women. They then sought aid from their prophet and told him: “Ask God to send us a king that we may fight in Allah’s cause.” In that time the prophethood was in one household and the kingdom was in another, Allah did not gather for Banu Isra’eel the kingdom and prophethood in one household.]

Also in the Sahih in al-Kafi 8/316:

مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ يَحْيَى عَنْ أَحْمَدَ بْنِ مُحَمَّدٍ عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ خَالِدٍ وَ الْحُسَيْنِ بْنِ سَعِيدٍ عَنِ النَّضْرِ بْنِ سُوَيْدٍ عَنْ يَحْيَى الْحَلَبِيِّ عَنْ هَارُونَ بْنِ خَارِجَةَ عَنْ أَبِي بَصِيرٍ عَنْ أَبِي جَعْفَرٍ ( عليه السلام ) فِي قَوْلِ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَدْ بَعَثَ لَكُمْ طالُوتَ مَلِكاً قالُوا أَنَّى يَكُونُ لَهُ الْمُلْكُ عَلَيْنا وَ نَحْنُ أَحَقُّ بِالْمُلْكِ مِنْهُ قَالَ لَمْ يَكُنْ مِنْ سِبْطِ النُّبُوَّةِ وَ لَا مِنْ سِبْطِ الْمَمْلَكَةِ

[abi Ja`far (as) said: He was neither from the progeny of prophets nor from the progeny of kings]

When Talout was chosen the people were shocked because he was neither from the family of Prophets (Musa’s lineage) nor from the family of kings.

{They said, “How can he have kingship over us while we are more worthy of kingship than him and he has not been given any measure of wealth?”}[2:247]

In Tafseer al-Tabari we read:

أتت عظماء بنـي إسرائيـل نبـيهم وقالوا له: ما شأن طالوت يـملك علـينا ولـيس فـي بـيت النبوّة ولا الـمـملكة

[The masters of banu Isra’eel came to their prophet and said: “Why is Talout appointed over us when he is not from a house of prophets nor a house of kings!?”]

In Tafseer al-Qummi:

وكان طالوت من ولد بن يامين أخي يوسف لأمه لم يكن من بيت النبوة ولا من بيت المملكة

[And Talout was from the children of Bin Yameen the maternal brother of Yusuf, he was not from a household of prophets or a household of kingdom.]

Furthermore, the sign that was sent to Banu Isra’eel in the following verse was not a miracle by Talout, it was a miracle by their prophet Shamu’eel (as) to prove his truthfulness about Talout being chosen by Allah when the people rejected him.

{And their prophet said to them, “Indeed, a sign of his kingship is that the chest will come to you in which is assurance from your Lord and a remnant of what the family of Moses and the family of Aaron had left, carried by the angels. Indeed in that is a sign for you, if you are believers.”}[2:248]

Even the instructions Talout gave to his soldiers in the following verse:

{And when Talout went forth with the soldiers, he said, “Indeed, Allah will be testing you with a river. So whoever drinks from it is not of me, and whoever does not taste it is indeed of me, excepting one who takes [from it] in the hollow of his hand.”} [2:249]

There is no evidence that Talout was talking to angels and receiving revelation, it is obviously a prophesy by prophet Shamu’eel (as) who must have told Talout that he will come across such and such river on his journey and thus to test his soldiers’ faith he instructed him to say what he said.

In addition, Talout wasn’t even infallible since he became jealous of Dawoud (as) and attempted to kill him. We read in Tafseer al-Tabari that Talout promised anyone who defeats Jalout the kingdom and the hand of his daughter, so when Dawoud (as) brought him the giant’s head, Talout turned back on his words:

فلـم يجد طالوت بدّا من أن يزوّجه. ثم أدركته الندامة، فأراد قتل داود حتـى هرب منه إلـى الـجبل، فنهض إلـيه طالوت فحاصره

[Talout found no other option than to grant him his daughter in marriage so he regretted making that promise, then he attempted to kill Dawoud (as) but he escaped from him to a mountain, so Talout went in pursuit and surrounded him]

This story also proves that the Shia Imams were not chosen by Allah since we see in the story that if Allah decides to appoint a man as king then He will support him with miracles and grant him success until he reaches that status. Whereas, only the first two Shia Imams ruled and the ten others sat at home doing nothing. It also proves that the position of king is not necessary, since Allah never forced them to be ruled by a king, they were the ones who asked for it so Allah simply chose the man’s identity. We observe that Islam can thrive under any political system as long as it respects God’s laws and we are not bound only to kingdoms and monarchies.

As for those who claim the need of an invisible king today (12th hidden Imam), ask yourself this question, what do we need him for? The Shia can live and thrive without him as we can see, they can print and publish books without him, they can teach their children and spread the narrations of their Imams without him, they can build strong economies and advanced armies without him and so on and so forth so what’s the need of this hidden king you bind yourselves to?

In conclusion, the example of Talout has proven to be completely un-related to the Shia belief of Imamah and it differs from it greatly so ponder if you understand.


  1. If king is what u define here, then Imam Ali was appointed to be “king” numerous occasions. Battle of khaybar, one of the many instances.

    • That makes tons of other Sahabah “kings” according to you since the Prophet (saw) appointed maybe around a hundred different men on various occasions to be in charge of armies, cities, pilgrimage, judicial matters etc…

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