(This write-up is prepared by the Hadith Cell of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi)
According to Ahmad ibn Hanbal No. 23479, Hudhayfah (rta) is reported to have said:
يا أيها الناس ألا تسألوني فإن الناس كانوا يسألون رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم عن الخير وكنت أسأله عن الشر أن الله بعث نبيه عليه الصلاة والسلام فدعا الناس من الكفر إلى الإيمان ومن الضلالة إلى الهدى فاستجاب من استجاب فحي من الحق ما كان ميتا ومات من الباطل ما كان حيا ثم ذهبت النبوة فكانت الخلافة على منهاج النبوة.
O people, why do you not ask me about things? People used to ask the Prophet (sws) about good things, while I used to ask him about evil because God had sent His Prophet (sws) to call people towards belief bringing them out of disbelief and towards the right path preventing them from going astray. Those who answered his call, answered his call and, thus, those who were dead in the darkness of falsehood were given a new life with the Truth and those were alive were put to death because of the falsehood that they preferred. Then, after this, prophethood was removed and then there was a rule on the style of prophethood.
This narrative is reported on the authority of Abū Bakkār, who is reporting from Khallād ibn 'Abd al-Rahmān, who, in turn, is reporting from 'Āmir ibn Wāthilah, Abū al-Tufayl. According to most of the books on the science of narrators, Abū Bakkār is Al-Hakam ibn Farrūkh al-Ghazzāl. According to these books on the science of narrators, Khallād ibn 'Abd al-Rahmān is not included among people who have reported from 'Āmir ibn Wāthilah and neither is Abū Bakkār included among those who have reported from Khallād ibn 'Abd al-Rahmān. In view of this fact, this chain of narration seems to be broken and cannot be seen as continuous.
In another narrative recorded by Ahmad ibn Hanbal, there is a slightly different version of the same narrative. According to this version, the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:
تكون النبوة فيكم ما شاء الله ان تكون ثم يرفعها إذا شاء ان يرفعها ثم تكون خلافة على منهاج النبوة فتكون ما شاء الله ان تكون ثم يرفعها إذا شاء الله أن يرفعها ثم تكون ملكا عاضا فيكون ما شاء الله ان يكون ثم يرفعها إذا شاء أن يرفعها ثم تكون ملكا جبرية فتكون ما شاء الله ان تكون ثم يرفعها إذا شاء ان يرفعها ثم تكون خلافة على منهاج النبوة ثم سكت.
Prophethood will remain in you for as long as God decides for it to remain and then God will remove it when He decides to remove it. After prophethood, there will be a rule on the style of prophethood and it will exist for as long as God decides for it to exist, then He will remove it when He decides to remove it. Then there will be a kingdom in which people will face trials and tribulations and it will continue to exist for as long as God decides for it to exist. Then He will remove it, when He decides to remove it. After this, there will be an oppressive kingdom and it will continue to exist for as long as God decides for it to exist. Then He will remove it, when He decides to remove it. Then there will once again be a rule on the style of prophethood. After saying this, the Prophet (sws) was silent.
This narrative is reported on the authority of Hudhayfah ibn al-Yamān – al-Nu'mān ibn Bashīr – Habīb ibn Sālim – Dā'ūd ibn Ibrāhīm al-Wāsitī – Sulaymān ibn Dā'ūd al-Tiyālisī.
In his book al-Tarīkh al-Kabīr,al-Bukhārī writes that he has some reservations regarding the reports of Habīb ibn Sālim (فيه النظر). Abū Ahmad ibn 'Adī is reported to have said that there is no problem with the text of the narratives reported by Habīb ibn Sālim, however he confuses the chain of narrators through whom he is reporting. In view of such comments of the experts, one cannot be absolutely certain regarding the authenticity of this report.
A slightly different version of this narrative is reported in Bayhaqī. According to this version, the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:
إن الله بدأ هذا الأمر نبوة ورحمة وكائنا خلافة ورحمة وكائنا ملكا عضوضا وكائنا عتوة وجبرية وفسادا في الأمة يستحلون الفروج والخمور والحرير وينصرون على ذلك ويرزقون أبدا حتى يلقوا الله عز وجل.
God initiated this affair [of your collectivity] with prophethood and with His great mercy. Then there will be a great rule and a great mercy, succeeding it; then there will be a kingdom in which people will be subjected to trials and tribulations; then there will be an oppressive kingdom and a great disorder among the Muslims, people will take to unchaste behavior and will be drowned in intoxicants and silk (i.e., lavishness). They will, however, be helped even in this situation and they will always be provided for, till the time that they meet the Almighty.
This narrative is reported on the authority of Abū Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrāh and Mu'ādh ibn Jabal – Abū Tha'labah al-Khashnī – 'Abd al-Rahmān ibn Thābit – Layth ibn Abū Sulaym – Jarīr ibn Hāzim – Abū Dā'ūd – Yūnus ibn Habīb – 'Abdullā ibn Ja'far – Abū Bakr ibn Fūrak. Among these narrators, Layth ibn Abū Sulaym is strongly criticized for his poor memory, due to which he is held to mix up narratives. In view of his weakness, Layth's narratives are generally not held to be acceptable.
The same text is also reported in Abū Ya'lā's. However, being reported by the same chain, it entails the same weakness, as is given above.
Sunan al-Dāarimī reports a slightly varied version of this narrative as under:
أول دينكم نبوة ورحمة ثم ملك ورحمة ثم ملك أعفر ثم ملك وجبروت يستحل فيها الخمر والحرير.
The beginning of your religion was through prophethood and mercy, then there would be a worthless kingdom, then there would be an oppressive kingdom during which people would render intoxicants and silk (i.e., lavish living) lawful for themselves.
This narrative is reported on the authority of Abu Tha'labah al-Khashnī through Makhūl. However, the experts on the lives of narrators believe that Makhūl did not meet most of the companions of the Prophet (sws) to whom he has ascribed his reports. The book Jāmi' al-Tahsīlspecifically reports that most likely Makhūl has ascribed his narrative to Abū Tha'labah al-Khashnī, without directly hearing from him. In view of this break in the chain of this narrative, it becomes unreliable to be ascribed to the Prophet (sws).
In a narratives in al-Tirmidhī No. 2226, the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:
الخلافة في أمتي ثلاثون سنة ثم ملك بعد ذلك.
There shall remain a pious rule among my followers for thirty years. Then there will be a kingdom after that.
After recording this narrative, al-Tirmidhī has himself categorized it as hasan, which is a category below Sahīh. Tirmidhī also writes that this narrative is only reported through Sa'īd ibn Jumhān. The scholars of the science of narrators have a mixed opinion about Sa'īd ibn Jumhān. Some consider him to be reliable while others do not.The same narrative, with minor differences, also reported to Sa'īd ibn Jumhān, has been reported in: Ibn Hibbān Nos. 6657 and 6943, Abū Dā'ūd Nos. 4646 and 4647, al-Nasā'ī al-Sunan al-Kubrā No. 8155, and Ahmad ibn Hanbal Nos. 21969, 21973 and 21978.
In Abū Dā'ūd No. 4635, the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:
خلافة نبوة ثم يؤتي الله الملك من يشاء.
There will be a prophetic rule and then God will grant the rule to whom He pleases.
This narrative is also reported in Ahmad ibn Hanbal Nos. 20463, 20522 and 20524, and Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah No. 30482.
This narrative is reported through a chain which includes 'Alī ibn Zayd ibn Jud'ān. He is considered to be a weak narrator and is considered to raise the chains of sayings ascribed to the Prophet (sws) falsely and is also blamed for changing the chains of narratives ascribed to the Prophet (sws).
It is clear from the foregoing analysis that there is not a single chain of narrators of this narration which may be considered as sufficiently reliable to allow us to safely ascribe this saying to the Prophet (sws). In view of this fact, it does not seem prudent to hold this to be a saying of the Prophet (sws).