You Are to Me Like Aaron to Moses

The Hadith of the Analogy
"You Are to Me Like Aaron to Moses"

We have mentioned that the Messenger declared on the day of his conference with his close relatives in front of 30-40 men from the children of Abdul-Muttalib and the Muttalibites that he "brothered" Alī and appointed him his successor and executor.

This was a Divine reward to Alī for his genuine promise to the Messenger to be his minister in his mission.

This event took place 3 years after the commencement of the Prophethood of Muhammad and 10 years before the Hijrah.

It was made clear that the Messenger at his conference with the members of his clan wanted to follow the method of Moses

of which the Holy Quran informs us that when the Almighty commanded Moses to go to Fera, Moses prayed to the Lord saying:

"And give me a minister from my family: Aaron my brother. Add to my strength through him and make him share my task that we may celebrate Thy praise without stint..."

/The Holy Qur'an Ch. 20 verses 25-31./

The Holy Prophet made his first declaration about Alī at the First Islamic Conference in front of 30-40 men from the Hashemites.

After 19 years from the day of the conference the Holy Prophet made a similar declaration in front of thousands of Muslims when he was heading the Islamic army to Tabuk (on the borders of Jordan):

During the month of Rajab of the 9th lunar year after the Hijrah, the Holy Prophet departed from Medina heading an army of 25 thousands of his followers aiming at the borders of Jordan leaving Alī to take his place in Medina.

This saddened Alī because he did not want to be away from the Messenger.

It is reported also that some hypocrites circulated a rumour that the Messenger left him behind because he did not like to accompany him.

Whatever was the reason Alī followed the Messenger and reached him while he was still near Medina.

A dialogue between the Prophet and Alī took place.

The Prophet concluded the dialogue with a very important declaration, which was recorded in the most authentic and highly considered books of hadith and history:

Al-Bukhārī recorded that Saad Ibn Abi Waqqas reported the following:

"The Messenger of God took a journey to Tabuk and he appointed Alī to succeed him in Medina.

Alī said to the Prophet: 'Do you leave me with the children and the women?'

The Messenger replied: 'Are you not satisfied to be to me like Aaron to Moses except that there shall be no Prophet after me?'"1

Al-Bukhārī also reported that Saad said:

"The Prophet said to Alī: Are you not satisfied to be to me like Aaron to Moses?''2

Imam Ahmad in his Musnad3 and Al-Hakim in his Al- Mustadrak4 recorded that Ibn Abbas said in a hadith the following:

"The Messenger and the people departed for military operations in Tabuk.

Alī said to him: I will depart with you.
The Prophet said to him: No.
Alī became sad. The Messenger said to him:

Are you not satisfied to be to me like Aaron to Moses except that you are not a prophet? It would not be proper that I leave unless you are my successor."

Muhammad Ibn Sa'd in his book Al-Tabaqat recorded that Zayd Ibn Arqam and Al-Bara Ibn Azib reported concerning the military journey of Tabuk the following:

"The Messenger said to Alī:
It would be necessary that I stay or you stay (in Medina).
So he left him in Medina.

When the Messenger departed some people said:
He left Alī behind him only for something he hated about him.

When this word reached Alī he followed the Messenger (and informed the Messenger about what people were saying).

The Messenger laughed and said:

Alī are you not satisfied to be to me like Aaron was to Moses except that you are not a prophet?

Alī said: Yes Messenger of God.

The Messenger said: It is as I told you."5

"Ibn Hisham recorded in his Biography of the Prophet that the Prophet said to Alī on that day:

"Alī are you not satisfied to be to me like Aaron was to Moses except that there shall be no prophet after me?"6

Muslim in his Ṣaḥīḥ through channels to Saad Ibn Abi Waqqas recorded that the Messenger said to Alī on that day:

"Are you not satisfied that you are to me like Aaron to Moses except that there shall be no Prophethood after me?"7

Imam Ahmad reported this hadith through 4 channels to Saad Ibn Abi Waqqas.8

Muhammad Ibn Mājah in his Sunan reported the hadith of Saad.9

Al-Tirmidhi also reported it in his Sunan.10

Imam Ahmad recorded that this hadith also was reported by Asmā bint Umays.11

Al-Hakim in Al-Mustadrak recorded the hadith of Sa'd.12

Ibn Abd-Al-Barr, in his book "Al-Isti'ab fi ma'rifat al-aṣḥāb”, recorded the following:

"And the Prophet said to Alī:

"You are to me like Aaron to Moses except that there shall be no Prophet after me."

The saying of the Prophet to Alī:

You are to me like Aaron to Moses was reported by many companions and it is one of the best hadiths and most authentic.

It was reported by Saad Ibn Abi Waqqas...

Also it was reported by Ibn Abbas, Abu Sa’īd al-Khudri, Umm Salama (wife of the Prophet) Asmā Bint Umays, Jabir Ibn Abdullah and numerous others."13

There might be some that argue about the authenticity of the hadith of the conference of the Prophet with the members of his clan,

 but we don’t know of anyone from the Muslim scholars who argues about the authenticity of this Hadith of Analogy between Alī and Aaron.

The authenticity of this hadith supports the authenticity of the Hadith of the Conference because the 2 hadiths accord with each other and express the same meaning.

The Hadith of the Analogy between Alī and Aaron gives Alī all the offices of Aaron except the Prophethood.

Aaron was a brother of Moses and his minister.

The Holy Qur'an states that Moses prayed to the Almighty saying:

"And give me a minister from my family: Aaron my brother. Add to my strength through him."

/The Holy Qur'an Ch. 20 verses 24-31./

Aaron was a deputy of Moses and the one who used to take his place and the Holy Qur'an testifies to that:

"And We appointed for Moses 30 nights and completed (the period) with 10 (more): Thus the term of communion was completed with his Lord 40 nights.

And Moses had charged his brother Aaron before he went up: "Succeed me amongst my people; do right and follow not the way of those who do mischief."

/The Holy Qur'an Ch. 7 verse 142./

Aaron like Moses was a leader of all the Israelites and was given from God an authority similar to that of Moses and the Holy Qur'an declares that:

God said to Moses:

"We will certainly strengthen thy arm through thy brother and invest you both with authority so they shall not be able to touch you;

with Our evidence shall ye triumph both of you as well as those who follow you."

/The Holy Qur'an Ch. 28 verse 35./

The phrase "with Our evidence shall ye triumph both of you as well as those who follow you" indicates clearly that all those who believed in Moses were followers of Aaron as they were followers of Moses.

The verse also declares that God has given both of them authority and immunity so the unbelievers cannot harm them and that Moses and Aaron along with their followers were destined to triumph over their opponents.

Alī according to the statement of the Holy Prophet has all these offices:

He is the brother of the Messenger and God has strengthened the Messenger Muhammad () through him

though there is a difference between the brotherhood of Aaron to Moses and the brotherhood of Alī to Muhammad ().

The brotherhood between Aaron and Moses was through birth and was not earned through any effort on the part of either one.

The brotherhood between Muhammad () and Alī is more significant because it did not come to Alī through birth. It was bestowed upon Alī as a reward to him for his great endeavour.

He was also his minister. He was also the deputy of the Messenger to represent and succeed him. He was like the Messenger leader of all the Muslims. What does the Caliphate mean more than that?

Thus the Messenger through this far-reaching statement has actually declared that his minister and deputy and the one who like the Holy Prophet is supposed to be followed and obeyed by all the Muslims was only Alī son of Abu Tālib.

All these ranks which are implied in the Hadith of Analogy between Alī and Aaron were clearly mentioned in the declaration of the conference where the Holy Prophet said:

"This is my brother executor and successor. Listen to him and obey him."

We remember the verse which declared that God had given Moses and Aaron authority and immunity that the unbelievers cannot harm them that they and those who followed them are the triumphant:

The similarity in this aspect between Moses and Aaron on one hand and between Muhammad () and Alī on the other hand is obvious.

The Almighty strengthened Muhammad () through Alī:

Alī's bravery was the wonder of the ages. Muhammad () and Alī were given from God authority and immunity against the enemies of Islam.

Thus the unbelievers in spite of their overwhelming numbers compared to the small number of the Muslims in those days were unable to reach the Messenger or Alī with any serious harm. The Messenger and Alī and those who followed them were triumphant.

The Messenger was faced with situations in which the Muslims were outnumbered and many of them thought that defeat is the destiny of the camp of the Oneness of God.

Yet through the firmness of the Messenger and the heroism of Alī the Islamic camp was triumphant.

The Muslims in more than one battle were defeated but the Messenger and Alī remained at the battlefield alone. God protected them and they prevailed against the opposing forces.

The Messenger and his deputy Alī had lived while surrounded by dangers for 23 years but the enemies of Islam were not able to harm them.

Unlimited Deputization

It may be said that the Hadith of Analogy between Alī and Aaron came on a specific occasion namely:

The deputization of Alī by the Messenger took place to replace him during his journey to Tabuk.

Aaron also was deputized by Moses during his absence when he went for the appointed time with the Lord.

This means that the hadith does not indicate that Alī was the permanent deputy of the Messenger.

Of course a person with a sole objective of disproving the Prophet's permanent deputization of Alī can say that.

Yet a neutral minded person can see in the hadith a clear indication that the Prophet had given Alī an unlimited deputization:

Had the Holy Prophet meant only to deputize Alī at a particular occasion

his deputization would be like that of any other companion whom the Prophet appointed as temporary successor when he used to leave Medina.

- But the Prophet never likened any of them to Aaron.

The scholars who take this attitude have forgotten that the Messenger appointed temporary successors during the following campaigns:

Abu Lubaba to succeed him in Medina when he left to the Battle of Badr.

Ibn Arfatah when the Prophet left to Dumat al-Jandal.

Ibn Umm-Maktum during the military operations against Banu Qurayza and Banu Lahyan.

Abu Dharr when he left to Banu Al-Mustaliq.

Numeila during the time of Khaybar.

Ibn Al-Adbat during Umrat al-Qada.

Abu Raham during the time of his military journey to Mecca.

Abu Dujana during the Valedictory Pilgrimage.14

The Holy Prophet never said to any one of these temporary deputies what he said to Alī: "You are to me like Aaron to Moses... “

He said that only to Alī because he was not a temporary successor like these companions.

Furthermore by excluding only the Prophethood in the Hadith of Analogy the Prophet had clearly indicated that all the ranks of Aaron are bestowed on Alī.

And none of Aaron's ranks (the ministry the leadership the Prophethood-or the brotherhood) was temporary.

Thus the deputization and successorship were permanent and not occasional.

The fact is that the Messenger used that occasion as a pulpit to declare the distinction of Alī his leadership of the nation his general deputization of him and that he was his only deputy.

The exception of the Prophethood clearly indicates that Alī to the Holy Prophet is like Aaron to Moses in everything except the Prophethood.

The Holy Prophet in fact was saying to Alī that his position from him is like the position of Aaron to Moses in brotherhood, ministry, successorship, his leadership of the nation and every rank other than the Prophethood.

By saying "Except that there shall be no Prophethood after me" the Prophet actually had informed the Muslims that Alī was deprived of the Prophethood not because he was not qualified for it but only because Muhammad () is the Final of the Prophets.

Had the Prophet not been the Final of all the Prophets Alī would have been a Prophet like Aaron.

The Imam Alī in one of his sermons reported that the Holy Prophet told him during the period of the commencement of his Prophethood:

"Alī you hear what I hear and you see what I see but you are not a prophet and you are on the right path."

The successorship of Aaron to his brother Moses, when Moses went to the appointed time with his Lord, never was a temporary mission:

He succeeded Moses, when he went to the mountain for 40 nights, only because of his superior position among the Israelites as Moses' permanent deputy.

And when the head of a nation is absent his deputy takes his place as a matter of course and as an exercise of his general function.

We have already advanced that the Holy Quran declares that Aaron was like Moses, a leader of all the Israelites.

God said to Moses:

"We shall strengthen you through your brother and give you both authority that they will not reach you. With our evidence both of you along with those who follow you shall triumph."

Since Alī's position was similar to that of Aaron he would be like the Prophet Muhammad () a leader of all the Muslims.

His deputization from the Prophet at the time of his absence would be a matter of course and an exercise of his general function because he is the deputy of the head of the State.

This is some of what the Holy Messenger meant in his declaration.

You have already read in the hadith of Ibn Abbas, which was reported by Al-Hakim and Imam Ahmad, that the Prophet told Alī:

"Are you not satisfied that you are to me like Aaron to Moses except that you are not a prophet? It would be improper that I leave unless you are my successor."

Some people may wonder why many Muslim scholars did not understand from the Hadith of Analogy with its clear indication that the Prophet was trying to inform the Muslims that Alī is his successor:

The negative attitude of these scholars is due to the fact that they lived in societies predominantly subscribing to the theory that the Messenger of God died without appointing a successor after him.

As they took this theory for granted,

it was necessary for them to overlook the indication of any hadith that the Prophet had appointed Alī as successor in order to save the no-appointment-by-the-Prophet theory.

Had Abu Bakr been the subject of this declaration instead of Alī, the negative attitude of many scholars would have been reversed.

Had the Messenger said to Abu Bakr:

"Are you not satisfied to be to me like Aaron to Moses except that there shall be no Prophet after me

- the Muslim scholars of the majority would have found in the declaration a clear evidence that the Messenger had appointed Abu Bakr as his successor.

It is worthy to mention that the Messenger uttered the statement of analogy between Alī and Aaron on occasions other than the occasion of Tabuk.

Umm Salīm, wife of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari whom the Holy Prophet used to respect and visit reported that the Messenger told her:

"Umm Salīm the flesh of Alī is from my flesh and his blood is from my blood and he is to me like Aaron to Moses.''15

Al-Tabari recorded that Ibn Abbas reported that the Messenger said to Alī on the day of brotherhood (this was 8 years before the occasion of Tabuk):

"... Alī were you angry with me when I made brotherhoods between the Meccans and the Medinites and I did not make a brotherhood between you and any of them?

Are you not satisfied to be to me like Aaron to Moses except that there shall be no Prophet after me?"16

Asmā Bint Umays (wife of Jafar At-Tayyār) said:

"I heard the Messenger of God saying to Alī: You are to me like Aaron to Moses except that there shall be no Prophet after me."17

Of course Asmā was not in the army of Tabuk. So she heard the statement from the Messenger on a different occasion.

The Imam Al-Nasā'ī in his Khasais-e-Alī (the distinctions of Alī) reported

that when Jafar Ibn Abu Tālib and Zayd Ibn Harithah and Imam Alī disputed each other about the guardianship of the orphan of Hamzah the Prince of Martyrs (Hamza ibn Abdul-Muttalib) the Messenger said:

"Alī you are to me like Aaron to Moses..."18

These hadiths and others indicate clearly that Alī was to the Holy Prophet like Aaron to Moses and that he had all offices of Aaron except the Prophethood.

He was his permanent deputy and he was like the Prophet leader of all Muslims and the one whom they should follow.

This leadership which was given to him was only by the revelation from God to His great Messenger.

The Messenger spoke of the analogy between the position of Alī and Aaron several times and on several occasions. The last occasion was during his journey to Tabuk during the month of Rajab of the 9th year after the Hijrah.

  • 1. Al-Bukhārī in his Ṣaḥīḥ part 6 p. 3.
  • 2. Al-Bukhārī his Ṣaḥīḥ part 5 p. 24.
  • 3. Imam Ahmad Al-Musnad part 1 p. 131
  • 4. Al-Hakim Al-Mustadrak part 3 p. 133.
  • 5. Ibn Sa’d Al-Tabaqat part 15 p. 176.
  • 6. Ibn Hisham al-Sīrah an-Nabawiyyah part 2 p. 172.
  • 7. Muslim his Ṣaḥīḥ part 15 p. 176.
  • 8. Imam Ahmad Al-Musnad part 1 pp. 175-177-179-182.
  • 9. Ibn Mājah his authentic Sunan part 1 p. 45.
  • 10. Al-Tirmidhi his authentic Sunan part 5 p. 302.
  • 11. Imam Ahmad Al-Musnad part 6 p. 3-23.
  • 12. Al-Hakim Al-Mustadrak part p.
  • 13. Muhammad Ibn Abd Al-Barr Al-Isti'ab fi ma'rifat al-aṣḥāb part 3 p. 1 097.
  • 14. Ibn Hisham Biography of the Prophet. Look at the record of the journeys of the Prophet.
  • 15. Ali ibn Abd-al-Malik al-Hindi Kanz al-Ummal (printed on the margin of Musnad part 5 pp. 31-32)
  • 16. Conveyed by Sayyid Sharaf al-Din Al-Muraja'at p. 179.
  • 17. Ibn Abd Al-Barr Al-Isti'ab fi ma'rifat al-aṣḥāb part 3 p. 1 098.
  • 18. Al-Nasā'ī The Distinctions of Alī p. 19 (conveyed by Al-Fairouzabadi Fadha-Il Al-Khamsah part 1 p. 307)