12 Chieftains of Bani Israel = Proof for 12 ‘Infallible Imams’ – A Shia fallacy Debunked

In the Qur’an, the position of Chieftains (nuqaba`) of the Israelites (Bani Israel) is not clearly mentioned. In the Qur’an, it is only mentioned that they were ordered to guard the covenant they were entrusted by God, Allah, Almighty:

۞ وَلَقَدۡ اَخَذَ اللّٰهُ مِيۡثَاقَ بَنِىۡۤ اِسۡرآءِيۡلَ​ۚ وَبَعَثۡنَا مِنۡهُمُ اثۡنَىۡ عَشَرَ نَقِيۡبًا​ ؕ وَقَالَ اللّٰهُ اِنِّىۡ مَعَكُمۡ​ؕ لَٮِٕنۡ اَقَمۡتُمُ الصَّلٰوةَ وَاٰتَيۡتُمُ الزَّكٰوةَ وَاٰمَنۡتُمۡ بِرُسُلِىۡ وَعَزَّرۡتُمُوۡهُمۡ وَاَقۡرَضۡتُمُ اللّٰهَ قَرۡضًا حَسَنًا لَّاُكَفِّرَنَّ عَنۡكُمۡ سَيِّاٰتِكُمۡ وَلَاُدۡخِلَـنَّكُمۡ جَنّٰتٍ تَجۡرِىۡ مِنۡ تَحۡتِهَا الۡاَنۡهٰرُ​ۚ فَمَنۡ كَفَرَ بَعۡدَ ذٰ لِكَ مِنۡكُمۡ فَقَدۡ ضَلَّ سَوَآءَ السَّبِيۡلِ‏ ١٢

{“And Allah had already taken a covenant from the Children of Israel, and We delegated from among them twelve leaders. And Allah said, “I am with you. If you establish prayer and give zakāh and believe in My messengers and support them and loan Allah a goodly loan, I will surely remove from you your misdeeds and admit you to gardens beneath which rivers flow. But whoever of you disbelieves after that has certainly strayed from the soundness of the way.” } [Qur’an, Surah 5:12]

WikiShia says:

Chieftains of Banu Israel or Nuqabā of Banū Israel (Arabic: نقباء بني إسرائیل) were from the twelve Asbat (tribes) of Banu Israel, i.e. children of Banu Israel. Prophet Moses (a) delivered the order of God and one representative was chosen from each of Asbat for their own tribes. In the Qur’an 5:12, this issue is mentioned without details.

The Twelver Shia Imamites do not just liken the twelve ‘infallible Imams’ with the twelve leaders of Bani Israel, in fact, they go as far as to argue that this verse proves the very foundation of their belief in twelve so-called divinely chosen infallible Imams after the completion of Islam and Khatm al-Nubuwwah (finality of Prophethood).

It is really the same game that the Imamites play with other verses of the Qur’an: They take a verse that says no word about their beliefs/speaks about the appointment of Prophets, etc. and then superimpose their favourite set of Imams on it. This desperate method stems from the bitter fact that their belief in twelve prophet-like (in fact superior to prophets!) guides after the completion of Islam cannot be found and proven in the Qur’an except with distortions such as decontextualization of verses, batini (esoteric ‘interpretations’) and other trickery.

As for the twelve leaders of Bani Israel (Israel is another name of Prophet Ya’qoob): they were chieftains for the twelve Israelite tribes. Those twelve leaders were not ‘infallible guides’, they were companions (Sahabah) of Musa (peace be upon him) who were inferior to the companions of the final Messenger (ﷺ) as authentic sources prove. Other than some obscure and weak reports that claim that the twelve chieftains later became prophets, no reliable evidence exists proving that they were infallible guides, let alone infallible prophets.

The Israelites after Pharaoh’s Defeat

In spite of Pharaoh’s death and the victory of a noble Prophet like Musa (Moses), sent to them by Allah, the children of Israel (Israelites/Bani Israel) had an inclination to polytheism and paganism and were jealous of the other people and their idols, and they desired the same. They missed the ancient idolatry with which they had lived during the reign of the transgressing and tyrannical pagan Pharaoh.

Allah had directed Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) to lead the Israelites (Bani Israel) to the Promised Land (Palestine) which had been promised to Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) as a land in which the pious of his offspring would live and uphold Allah’s law. The children of Israel were an ungrateful people. In spite of all of Allah’s favors, they could not stay away from evil and continued to reject Allah’s laws. When Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) ordered them to conquer the town of the Canaanites and Hittites (their enemies who had hounded them), the children of Israel were cowardly and made excuses.

We read in the tafsir of Ibn Kathir:
﴿وَلَقَدْ أَخَذَ اللَّهُ مِيثَـقَ بَنِى إِسْرَءِيلَ وَبَعَثْنَا مِنهُمُ اثْنَىْ عَشَرَ نَقِيباً﴾


(“Indeed Allah took the covenant from the Children of Israel and We appointed twelve leaders among them.”) These twelve people were leaders who gave the pledge to Allah to listen and obey Allah, His Messenger and His Book on behalf of their tribes. Muhammad bin Ishaq and Ibn `Abbas said that this occurred when Musa went to fight the mighty enemy (in Palestine), and Allah commanded him to choose a leader from every tribe.

These twelve people were leaders who gave the pledge to Allah to listen and obey Allah and His Messenger (Prophet Musa) on behalf of their tribes. Muhammad bin Ishaq and Ibn Abbas said that this occurred when Prophet Musa went to fight the transgressing pagan enemies (in Palestine), and Allah commanded him to choose a leader from every tribe.
The verse doesn’t describe the twelve leaders as infallible leaders, in fact, it says that for them and the rest of Bani Israel to succeed they need to follow infallible leaders i.e. the Messengers of Allah! Another issue is that these twelve leaders were all leaders at the same time which opposes the Shia concept where each so-called infallible Imam rules separately until his death.
To add further points: Ibn Kathir also mentions what our Prophet (ﷺ) did:
The Leaders of Ansar on the Night of `Aqabah

Likewise, when the Messenger of Allah took the pledge from the Ansar in the `Aqabah area, there were twelve leaders from the Ansar. There were three men from the tribe of Aws: Usayd bin Al-Hudayr, Sa`d bin Khaythamah and Rifa`ah bin `Abdul-Mundhir, or Abu Al-Haytham bin At-Tayhan. There were nine people from the tribe of Khazraj: Abu Umamah As`ad bin Zurarah, Sa`d bin Ar-Rabi`, `Abdullah bin Rawahah, Rafi` bin Malik bin Al-`Ajlan, Al-Bara’ bin Ma`rur, `Ubadah bin As-Samit, Sa`d bin `Ubadah, `Abdullah bin `Amr bin Haram and Al-Mundhir bin `Umar bin Khunays. Ka`b bin Malik mentioned these men in his poem, as recorded by Ibn Ishaq. On that night, these men were the leaders or representatives of their tribes by the command of the Prophet. [Tafsir Ibn Kathir]

So the final Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) did what Musa (peace be upon him) did; he appointed twelve fallible leaders from amongst his beloved Sahabah (may Allah be pleased with them). Nowhere did he link this verse to the so-called 12 infallible Imams, he rather linked it to his Sahabah by his very action.

The cowardice and disobedience of the twelve leaders!

Sunni source:

{ وَلَقَدْ أخَذَ اللّهُ مِيثاقَ بَنِـي إسْرَائِيـلَ وَبَعَثْنا مِنْهُمُ اثْنَـيْ عَشَرَ نَقِـيبـاً }

حدثنـي مـحمد بن عمرو، قال: ثنا أبو عاصم، قال: ثنا عيسى، عن ابن أبـي نـجيح، عن مـجاهد فـي قول الله: { اثْنَـيْ عَشَرَ نَقِـيبـاً } من كلّ سبط من بنـي إسرائيـل رجل أرسلهم موسى إلـى الـجبـارين، فوجدوهم يدخـل فـي كمّ أحدهم اثنان منهم يـلفونهم لفًّـا، ولا يحمل عنقود عنبهم إلا خمسة أنفس بـينهم فـي خشبة، ويدخـل فـي شطر الرمانة إذا نزع حبها خمسة أنفس أو أربع. فرجع النقبـاء كلّ منهم ينهي سبطه عن قتالهم إلا يُوشَع بن نون وكالب بن يوقنا يأمران الأسبـاط بقتال الـجبـابرة وبجهادهم، فعصوا هذين وأطاعوا الأخرين

[تفسير جامع البيان في تفسير القرآن/ الطبري (ت 310 هـ)]

(Summary): The twelve chieftains/leaders (nuqaba`) of Bani Israel were heads of their respective tribes sent by the Messenger of Allah Musa (peace be upon him) to fight the transgressing pagans. All but two of the twelve chieftains/leaders (due to their cowardice) returned and even discouraged their people from waging jihad against the pagan transgressors in the promised land (Palestine). The two steadfast chieftains were Yusha’ b. Noon (Joshua son of Nun) and Kalib b. Yuqanna (Caleb son of Jephunneh). They ordered their people to fight the pagan transgressors but their people disobeyed them.

Twelver Shia source:
A bronze statue of Shia cleric Mohsen Fayz Kashani (died c. 1680 ᴄᴇ). One of the many statues (!) of the Shia clergy that litter the landscape of the ‘Islamic Republic of Iran’.

Mohsen Fayz Kashani (died c. 1680 ᴄᴇ), a highly revered Shia exegete of the Qur’an wrote in his tafsir that the twelve chieftains of the Israelites (Bani Israel) were heads of their respective tribes, each one was charged with taking care of their people and representing them and were all appointed at the same time. When they were dispatched by Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) to scout out the Land of Canaan and to spy on their enemy, Musa (peace be upon him) ordered them to keep what they saw as secret but ten of those twelve disobeyed except Yusha’ b. Noon (Joshua son of Nun) and Kalib b. Yuqanna (Caleb son of Jephunneh).

كفيلا أمينا شاهدا من كل سبط ينقب عن أحوال قومه ويفتش عنها ويعرف مناقبهم وقال الله إني معكم بالنصرة لئن أقمتم الصلاة وآتيتم الزكاة وآمنتم برسلي وصدقتموهم وعزرتموهم ونصرتموهم وقويتموهم وأقرضتم الله قرضا حسنا بالانفاق في سبيله لأكفرن عنكم سيئاتكم ولأدخلنكم جنات تجري من تحتها الأنهار فمن كفر منكم فقد ضل سواء السبيل قيل أمر الله بني إسرائيل بعد هلاك فرعون بمصر بأن يسيروا إلى أريحا من أرض الشام وكان يسكنها الجبابرة وقال إني كتبتها لكم قرارا وأمر موسى (عليه السلام) بأن يأخذ من كل سبط نقيبا يكون كفيلا على قومه بالوفاء بما أمروا به من الخروج إلى الجبابرة والجهاد وقائدا ورئيسا لهم فاختار النقباء وأخذ الميثاق على بني إسرائيل وتكفل لهم به وسار بهم فلما دنا من أرضهم بعث النقباءيتجسسون فرأوا اجراما عظاما وقوة فرجعوا وأخبروا موسى بذلك فأمرهم أن يكتموا ذلك فحدثوا بذلك قومهم الا كالب بن يوفنا من سبط يهودا ويوشع بن نون من سبط افرائيم بن يوسف وكانا من النقباء – الصافي في تفسير كلام الله الوافي

And here is the icing:

“It was narrated that ‘Ali b. Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever breaks the covenant of a Muslim, upon him be the curse of Allah, the angels and all the people, and Allah will not accept any obligatory or nafilah act of worship from him.” [Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1870; Muslim, 1370]

There you go: no succession, no infallibility, no leadership over humanity, and even worse: the Imamites compare their twelve ‘infallible Imams’ to disobedient (according to Sunni and Shia tafsir!) cursed Israelite leaders who (except for two) broke their oath and disobeyed Allah and His Messenger (Musa)! Those cowards and disobedient Israelites are whom the Twelvers compare their twelve Imams to in their ignorance. Their fixation on the number twelve and their incapability to provide a single clear-cut verse in support of their belief in Imamah has made them clutch unto straws.

The only reason the Twelver Imamites (mis)use this verse is due to their obsession with the number twelve and the bitter fact that the Qur’an doesn’t support their most important pillar i.e. Wilayah/Imamah. They resort to (flawed) analogies (that are ironically strongly condemned according to what they have attributed to Imam Ja’far b. Muhammad) in the matters of deen which they try to make binding on others.

Their belief in ‘infallible guiding Imams’ is impractical, not useful, and has no value for any intelligent being. In fact, the Imamite leaders themselves know how unpractical their Imamah belief is, this is why they invented ‘Wilyatul-Faqih’ where a council/shura consisting of a bunch of fallible ‘Ayatollahs’ (o the irony…) who can’t even read a Fatihah with semi-correct Tajwid, elect (!) the fallible leader of Iran and the Ummah (in their delusion). But that’s all fine, the supreme leader is ‘just’ the ‘representative’ of the hidden Imam, the idle one, he has all his authority until he comes ‘back’ (how convenient).

Shura halal for Rawafid but haram for the Sahabah….

The last ‘hidden infallible Imam’ can go into ultra-hibernation and leave the world without an actual infallible guide (but no worries, the fallible Iranian ‘Ayatollahs’ are his representatives in the meantime)…

Khomeini can leave his nation without appointing a leader (he trusted his students as he’s famously quoted)…

However, the Messenger of Allah () who raised the best students and trusted them and knew they will gather around the best i.e. al-Siddiq Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him), somehow cannot leave the world without appointing his cousin (and his descendants from a Persian Majoosi princess) as his successors, like as if Islam came to introduce a Sasanian-Majoosi-esque hereditary lineage cult with twelve Persianised demigod (Izads) Imams (one of the flaws of most Muslim dynasties – except for the rightly guided caliphs – was that their rule was a hereditary, monarchic system often marginally shrouded in religious piety)…

The truth is, infallibility has stopped with the seal of Prophethood, the greatest of all infallible, Muhammad, the Apostle of Allah (ﷺ), and whether they like it or not, practically speaking, even the Imamites have accepted that their impractical belief that is the claim that mankind is always in need of an infallible guide is nothing but a romanticised theory that opposes the history of mankind, that includes the history of the Shia who practically speaking have been lead by fallible men for over a 1000 year just.

The failed and impractical Shia concept of divine Grace (Lutf) and Imamah

The belief in twelve so-called infallible Imams has been a curse upon this Ummah, it is the mother of all Shia exaggerations and extremism, including mass-takfir on the Sahabah. The bulk of the Sahabah, the heads of the Ansar and Muhajirun in particular have been doomed to hell in Twelver Shia books and by their scholars for disbelieving in something unbelievable and vague, a superstition based on number games and other distortions, the falsehood that they call divine Imamah.

The irony is that Allah has clearly instructed us to follow righteous fallible people who aren’t necessarily appointed:

{And the first forerunners [in the faith] among the Muhajireen and the Ansar and those who followed them with good conduct – Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him, and He has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever. That is the great attainment.}[Qur’an, 9:100]


{And whoever opposes the Messenger after guidance has become clear to him and follows other than the way of the believers – We will give him what he has taken and drive him into Hell, and evil it is as a destination.} [Qur’an, 4:115]

Yes, Allah commanded us to follow the believers, the Sahabah (the Ahl al-Bayt are included in the Sahabah), the companions in good (i.e. not their mistakes), as they – despite all their shortcomings – were the best of all creation after the prophets and messengers. No such verses, not even half a verse exists about ‘twelve infallible guides’ whom Allah is pleased with and with those who followed them.
The name of the twelve ‘Shia’ imams covering Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Madinah. Some Twelvers in their desperation cite this as proof for the validity of their false sect. What they don’t realise in their ignorance: 1. These designs date from the Ottoman period (probably in opposition to the Rafidi Safavids of Iran who claimed the Ahl al-Bayt). You will find similar desings in modern-day Turkish mosques, especially in reference to the four caliphs and Ahl al-Kisa`. 2. The ‘Wahabis’ do not hate the Imams of Ahl al-Bayt. The likes of Ibn Taymiyyah, al-Dhahabi, and others praised them and declared them free from the Rafidah. As for the Mahdi: that’s in reference to the Muslim Mahdi, not a ‘hidden imam’ whose birth can’t be established by Sunni, Zaydi, and even strict Twelver standards. Apart from that, such ornaments should be avoided in mosques as the Sunnah is to keep mosques simple.

As for the number-game of the Twelver Shi’ites: This is the religion of Allah, not the DaVinci code. The Qur’an is God’s/Allah’ss clear book. The number twelve was only mentioned in God’s book with regards to the twelve tribes of Israel, then for each tribe, there was a captain and they were given twelve rivers for sustenance. Obviously also the twelve months in a year (that in some Shia tafsir books are cited as proofs for twelve Imams! Batini tafsir just like other heretics). So the number twelve was mainly used because the tribes happened to be twelve, if they were thirteen they’d need an equal number of leaders with thirteen rivers to live off, that doesn’t necessitate that we must be ruled by twelve succeeding leaders.

Besides, these number games are often not accurate. The Shia claim that the word ‘imam’ has been mentioned twelve times in the Qur’an, what they don’t tell you is that it was mentioned in various forms, such as singular and plural, and what makes it worse: imams of kufr (!) are mentioned in the Qur’an. The word ‘imam’ has no sect-specific connotation but the Twelver superimpose their sectarian narrative on numbers and the word imam and on the Qur’an in general.

Besides, there’s more emphasis on other numbers, for instance, the number seven. And we know there’s a sevener Shia sect (Isma`ilis) and their main arguments were esoteric and numerical similar to the Twelver Shia and other batinis and those influenced by them (like some Sufis who used 786 or the Imamites who use 110 for ‘Ya Ali madad’). These are all from the Qur’an:

{I saw in a vision seven fatted cows being devoured by seven lean ones; and seven green ears of corn and seven others withered.}

{He willed to the heaven, and leveled them seven heavens}

{a grain of corn that sprouts seven ears}

{He replied: ‘You shall sow for seven years as is your way}

{Thereafter, seven hard years will come upon you}

{It has seven gates, and through each gate, a portion of them belong}

{And We have certainly given you, [O Muhammad], seven of the often-repeated [verses] and the great Qur’an.}

{It is Allah who has created seven heavens and of the earth [seven] the like of them}

{Which Allah imposed upon them for seven nights and eight days in succession}

Based on these and many others, the Seveners have a greater claim. For us, the use of these numbers in such a misguided way is ignorance and only illustrates how intellectually and religiously bankrupt sects such as Twelver Shi’ism are.

Al-hamdulillah for Islam and Ahl al-Sunnah.