What is the meaning of the hadith according to which three men were to fight for a treasure, each of them the son of a caliph?


Someone wrote a letter to Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa and quoted the following hadith in it, as narrated by Hazrat Thaubanra

“Allah’s Messengersa said, ‘Three individuals shall fight one another for one of your treasures (and shall be killed), each one of them the son of a caliph (ruler), but none of them shall gain that treasure. Then, black flags shall appear from the east. They shall kill you in an unprecedented manner.’ Then, he mentioned something that I do not remember, and then he said, ‘When you see him (the Mahdi), pledge your allegiance to him even if you have to crawl over snow, for he is al-Mahdi, the Caliph of Allah [Khalifatullah Al-Mahdi].” 

The person then interpreted a part of the hadith and asked Huzooraa for his opinion of it. Moreover, he requested further explanation of another part of the hadith. 

In a letter dated 30 May 2020, Huzooraa gave the following reply to this question: 

“You have quoted this hadith from Al-Bahr Al-Zakhkhar, whereas it has also been recorded in Kitab al-Fitan, Bab Khurooj Al-Mahdi of Sunan Ibn Majah which is one of the Authentic Six [al-Sahih al-Sittah]. The interpretation you have done of the treasure [kanz] and the sons of the caliphs, mentioned in the hadith, is merely your personal point of view. 

“In my view, in this hadith, the Holy Prophetsa is informing of various events that were to occur in the Muslim ummah in the future, some of which relate to worldly and others to spiritual matters. Although many scholars have applied the word kanz to the treasure of the Ka‘bah, that treasure has fallen into the hands of many rulers. Therefore, the treasure mentioned in the hadith cannot mean the treasure of the Ka‘bah because the Holy Prophetsa is saying in the hadith that none of them shall get that treasure.

“Therefore, it refers to the spiritual treasure, of which the Holy Prophetsa had given the glad tidings in the form of the establishment of Khilafat ala Minhaj al-Nubuwwah, the Khilafat on the precepts of Prophethood after him. Since the foremost condition for obtaining this treasure, according to the Holy Quran, is faith and righteous deeds, which had ceased to exist among those worldly rulers, they fought numerous wars to obtain it, but that spiritual treasure did not get into anyone’s hands.

“That is why in this hadith, the Holy Prophetsa has merely used the words ‘Ibnu khalifa’ for those who fought for a [physical] treasure. That is, they will be caliphs in the sense of heirs, but they will not be caliphs established by Allah the Exalted or subject to the caliphate based on prophethood. However, in the same hadith, the Holy Prophetsa has used the words ‘Khalifatullah al-Mahdi’ for the person who was to receive the spiritual treasure of Khilafat ala Minhaj al-Nubuwwah – the Khilafat on the precepts of Prophethood.

“You have expressed your opinion regarding the mention of the killing of Muslims in this hadith, that it would take place through the Mahdi, which is not correct in my view.

“If it is interpreted to mean physical killing and bloodshed, then that could not be carried out by the Mahdi at all; rather, it would refer to the bloodshed in the wars fought among Muslims during the two periods mentioned in the prophetic statement in another hadith of the Holy Prophetsa (recorded in Mishkat al-Masabih) in the words: ‘مُلْكًا‭ ‬عَاضًّا [tyrannical monarchy]’ and ‘مُلْكًا‭ ‬جَبْرِيَّةً [monarchical despotism]’. Moreover, it would also refer to the massacre of Muslims by the Mongols in the thirteenth century.

“One of the proofs as to why this massacre was not to be carried out by the Khalifatullah al-Mahdi is that the Holy Prophetsa has mentioned ‘يَضَعُ‭ ‬الْحَرْب’ i.e. ‘He will put an end to wars and bloodshed’ (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitabul Anbiaa, Bab Nuzooli ’Isa) as a hallmark of the coming Mahdi. Thus, how can it be that on the one hand the Holy Prophetsa is declaring the coming Mahdi as a standard-bearer of peace and reconciliation, and on the other hand, he is informing of such bloodshed of the people of the ummah of Muhammadsa as never carried out by anyone in the past? 

“Then, the narrator’s statement in this hadith that ‘After that, the Holy Prophetsa said some other things which I do not remember’ deserves special attention and it is quite possible that those matters were related to the appearance of the Dajjal, the Antichrist, because there are numerous traditions in the books of hadith in which the Holy Prophetsa described the trial of Dajjal as the greatest trial and gave the glad tiding to his ummah of the coming of the Promised Messiah to counter that [trial]. According to the narrator, after these words, the Holy Prophetsa mentioned the arrival of Hazrat Imam Mahdias and, while making it obligatory to pledge allegiance to him, he stressed that even if one had to crawl over glaciers on one’s knees, one ought to swear allegiance to him, because he is the Khalifatullah al-Mahdi.

“Therefore, the Holy Prophetsa has mentioned three distinct periods of time in this hadith: 

1. The period of time when the blessed era of the Holy Prophetsa and the Rightly-Guided Khilafat was to come to an end according to God’s will and after that, the Muslims were to fight among themselves and were to shed blood of their own people after having subjugated them. At that time, they were to lose their spiritual treasure. 

2. The second is the period of time when Muslims were to be subjected to bloodshed by their non-Muslim opponents due to their material weakness too. 

3. Then there is the third time when, according to the prophecies of the Holy Prophetsa, the Imam Mahdi, the Muhammadan Messiah was to appear and the part of the Muhammadan ummah which was to embrace this ardent devotee and spiritual son of the Holy Prophetsa by pledging their allegiance to him, was to experience, once again, a time of prosperity which was once witnessed by the Muhammadan ummah during the blessed era of its Master and Guide, the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, the Chosen One. The glad tiding of ‘صحابهؓ‭ ‬سے‭ ‬ملا‭ ‬جب‭ ‬مجھ ‬كو‭ ‬پايا’ [He meets the Companionsra when he finds me] was to be fulfilled for fortunate souls at that time.

“If the murder and destruction mentioned in the hadith is taken metaphorically, then its meaning will be as follows: Just as the true meaning of the phrase ‘فَيَكْسِرَ‭ ‬الصَّلِيبَ‭ ‬وَيَقْتُلَ‭ ‬الْخِنْزِيرَ’ [He shall break the cross and kill the swine], as mentioned in the hadith about postponing warfare [يَضَع‭ ‬الْحَرْب] in Sahih al-Bukhari is not the [physical] breaking of crosses and killing of swine; rather, it is the counterblast to the objections raised against Islam by Christianity, likewise, the killing of Muslims by the Imam Mahdi refers to the eradication of false beliefs that have found their way into Muslims, and it refers to establishing the faith across the world in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Prophetsa, after having revived the faith. 

“So, in my view, if this hadith is taken in this way, it becomes a more befitting interpretation and the qitaal [killing] can also be explained in this way.”

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