Shia and their claims about Hz. Ali’s caliphate...

After the martyrdom of Hz. Uthman, great turmoil occurred in the Islamic world. Muawiya, the governor of Damascus, said that he would not pay allegiance to Hz. Ali until the murderers of Hz. Uthman were found. As a result of a chain of incidents, the wars of Jamal and Siffin took place between the Muslims. Thousands of Muslims died in those wars.

Those who supported Hz. Ali during that turmoil and mischief were called “shia” meaning “supporters”. These first Shiites (Shia al-ula) did not reject Hz. Abu Bakr and Hz. Umar. However, Shiism assumed a new dimension afterwards and looked like an independent sect, even sects, separate from Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah. Some of those sects went too far and declared Ali as the prophet and even god. They are called ghulat ash-shia.

Shia of Imamiyya accept the view, “Imamate occurs based on nass (verses of the Quran and hadiths).” According to them, Hz. Ali should have been the first caliph. However, his right had been usurped from him. Today’s Shiites mostly belong to this group.

Zaydiyya is the most moderate of the Shiite sects. They say that Hz. Ali should have been the first caliph but they do not reject the caliphate of the other three caliphs. They say “The imamate of the mafdul (less superior) is permissible when the afdal (superior) exists.” Zaydiyya, the Shiite sect that is the closest to the Ahl as-Sunnah, exists in Yemen today. (1)

According to Shia, “Imamate is not a minor issue of interest to be transferred to people; it is an issue of methodology and a pillar of the religion. It is not permissible for the Prophet to neglect such an issue or to refer it to the ummah. Therefore, the caliph to replace the Prophet after him is certain and definite based on nass.” (2)

Most of the Islamic scholars say that there is no nass regarding the issue. Some accept that there is nass (hidden or obvious) about Abu Bakr and regard it as a sign that the Prophet (pbuh) made Hz. Abu Bakr the imam to lead the prayer before his death. Undoubtedly, if there had been clear nass on this great issue, it would have been famous and it would have been known by the Companions who were close to the Prophet (pbuh). In that case, they would not have had any hesitation regarding the issue and they would not have disagreed. (3)

Claiming that Hz. Ali should have been the first caliph, Shia use some nass as evidence for it. For example:

1. “O Messenger. Proclaim the (message) which hath been sent to thee from thy Lord. If thou didst not, thou wouldst not have fulfilled and proclaimed His mission. And Allah will defend thee from men (who mean mischief).” (4)

There is nothing related to Hz. Ali’s caliphate in the verse. As Shawkani states, the verse is general. (5) As a matter of fact, Hz. Aisha said, “If anyone said that Muhammad hid something from what was revealed to him, he would be lying” and recited the verse above. (6)

However, based on some weak and fabricated narrations, (7) Shia state that the verse above declares Hz. Ali’s caliphate. Thus, they accuse the Prophet of not fulfilling his duty properly with those claims. If the verse is as they understand it, it means that the Prophet died without conveying it.

2. When the Prophet set off for an expedition (to Tabuk according to the narration of Suyuti), the Prophet (pbuh) left Hz. Ali in Madinah as his deputy. Hz. Ali said, “Are you leaving me with women and children?” The Prophet replied as follows: “Do you not want to be like the Prophet Musa (Moses) and Harun (Aaron) with me? However, there is no prophet after me.” (8)

The answer of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) indicates the Prophet Musa’s going to Mount Sinai. Musa went to Mount Sinai by leaving his brother Harun as his deputy. Harun is a prophet like his brother Musa.

It is perfectly reasonable to deduce Hz. Ali’s virtue from the above narration and nobody objects to it. However, it is a strained interpretation to conclude from the narration that “the first caliph should have been Hz. Ali”. When the Prophet went on other expeditions, he left others as his deputy. Abdullah b. Umm Maktum, who was visually impaired, was one of them. (8)

3. Bara b. Azib narrates: “We stopped at Ghadir Khum on an expedition. Call to prayer was announced. After the prayer, the Prophet held the hand of Hz. Ali and said, ‘If I am someone’s mawla, Ali is his mawla too. O Allah! Be a friend of his friend and an enemy of his enemy.’” (9)

Even if the narration is accepted as sound, it is not possible to understand the necessity of Hz. Ali’s being the first caliph. (10) For, Hz. Ali is truly one of the most distinguished one among Muslims. He has the title of the Lion of Allah due to his courage. He has the rank of the leadership of saints. He has been the master of all Muslims throughout history due to the distinguished features like them. As Alusi states, if the Prophet had wanted Hz. Ali to become the caliph after him, he would have said, “O people! He is your ruler and your commander after me. Listen to him and obey him.” (11) Such an order would have definitely been fulfilled. It is definitely unthinkable for the Companions, who said, “May my parents be sacrificed for you!” to the Prophet (pbuh) not to obey the Prophet’s order related to such a serious issue. As a matter of fact, When Hz. Abu Bakr said, “I advise Umar after me”, his request was fulfilled; the Muslims paid allegiance to Hz. Umar. (12)

4. One of the narrations Shia rely on is as follows: “When the Prophet’s illness deteriorated before his death, he said, ‘Bring me a pen and paper, I will dictate my will so that you will not go astray after me.’ When Hz. Umar said, “The Prophet’s illness deteriorated. Allah’s Book is sufficient for us”, people started to argue. The Prophet said, “Go away from me. It does not fit you to argue in my presence.” (13)

According to the claim of the Shia, the Prophet wanted to dictate Hz. Ali’s name as his caliph but Hz. Umar prevented it. (14) However, there is no indication of it in the narration mentioned above. Evaluating the narration in that way is a strained interpretation.

5. “No reward do I ask of you for this except the love of those near of kin.” (15)

According to a narration, when the verse above was revealed, the Prophet was asked, “O Messenger of Allah! Who are your relatives that are necessary for us to love?” He said, “Ali, Fatima and their sons.” (16)

This verse above is mentioned by Shia as proof of love for Ahl al-Bayt. Although it is possible to accept it as an implied meaning, there is no indication of it in the clear meaning of the verse.

Ibn Abbas was asked about that verse. Before he answered, Said b. Jubayr, who was there, said “Aal-i Muhammad” Ibn Abbas said, “You have hurried up; Quraysh has no family with which the Prophet did not have any kinship. The meaning of the verse is “Take care of the right of kinship at least.” (17)

Ibn Kathir attracts attention to the following meaning in the interpretation of the verse: “If you do not help me, do not harass me because of the kinship between us at least.” (18)

The following comment of Ibn Kathir is worth mentioning:

The narration “What is meant by the verse is ‘Hz. Ali, Fatima and their sons’” has a weak chain of narrators. Besides, it is in a chapter that was revealed in Makkah. Fatima had no children in Makkah. She married Hz. Ali in the second year of the Migration after the Battle of Badr. However, not accepting the narration does not mean not loving Aal-i Muhammad. They came from a clean offspring, from the most honorable house in the world in terms of honor and lineage. (19)

Fakhruddin Razi attracts attention to the narrations “My Ahl al-Bayt is like Noah’s Ark. The one who embarks it will be saved” and “My Companions are like stars. You will attain guidance if you follow any of them” (20) and makes the following comment:

“Now we are in the sea of ​​responsibility. Waves of doubt and lust are hitting us. Those who travel in the sea need two things:

1) A sound ship.
2) Luminous stars.

So, those who embark such a ship and look at the stars have a great hope of salvation. Ahl as-Sunnah have embarked the ship of Ahl al-Bayt love and have been sailing by looking at the stars of the Companions.” (21)

Ahl as-Sunnah does not have a problem of not loving Ahl al-Bayt. We pray for them in tashahhud of each prayer and we love them truly. (22) Names such as “Ali, Hasan, Husayn, Fatima...” are very common among Ahl as-Sunnah.

Imam Shafii states the following in one of his couplets: “If loving Aal-i Muhammad is regarded as Rafidite (an extreme branch of Shia), let all humans and jinn know that I am a Rafidi.” (23)

However, as Alusi points out, most people go to extreme ends about Ahl al-Bayt. The middle way is sirat al-mustaqim (straight path). (24)

Ahl al-Bayt is a term used about the family members of the Prophet and it means members of the family. That term is mentioned in two verses in the Quran: One of them is related to the family of the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). (25) The second one comes after the verses addressing the wives of the Prophet and is as follows:  

“And stay quietly in your houses, and make not a dazzling display, like that of the former Times of Ignorance; and establish regular Prayer, and give regular Charity; and obey Allah and His Messenger. And Allah only wishes to remove all abomination from you, ye members of the Family, and to make you pure and spotless.” (26)

Hamdi Yazır attracts attention to an extreme attitude of Shia while explaining the verse as follows:

“Shia did not even take into account azwaj tahirat (the wives of the Prophet), which is the topic of the verse above, and wanted to insist that Ahl al-Bayt consisted of the Prophet himself, Hz. Ali, Hasan, Husayn and Fatima; therefore, they caused a lot of fuss in the history of Islam. Although Salman al-Farisi is regarded among Ahl al-Bayt with the special expression of the hadith ‘Salman is from me, he is from my Ahl al-Bayt’ (27), it is a strange fanaticism not to accept the Prophet’s wives, who went to bed with him, as members of Ahl al-Bayt.” (28)

The Prophet states the following in one of his statements about his Ahl al-Bayt: “I have left with you two things. As long as you hold fast onto them, you will never go astray: the Book of Allah and my Ahl al-Bayt.” (29)

Said Nursi states that what is meant by Ahl al-Bayt in terms of the duty of prophethood is the Sunnah of the Prophet. “So, no one who abandoned his practices could truly be a member of Ahl al-Bayt, nor could such a person be a true friend to Ahl al-Bayt.” (30)

We should not forget that the Prophet said to his daughter, Fatima, “O Fatima! Save yourself from the fire with your deeds. Otherwise, I cannot save you from the fire.” (31) As a matter of fact, the wives of the Prophet Nuh (Noah) and Lut (Lot) could not be saved since they did not believe. (32) Similarly, when one of the sons the Prophet Nuh did not believe, he was drowned in the Deluge. God Almighty said to the Prophet Nuh, “He is not of thy family.” (33) It is in terms of belief, not lineage. Since being the wife and son of a prophet is not enough to attain salvation, it cannot be claimed that people will attain salvation just because of being from Ahl al-Bayt.


1. see Ashari, Abul- Hasan, Maqalatul-Islamiyyin, Maktabatul-Asriyya, Beirut, 1990, I, 65-66, 88-89 and 131; Abdülhamid, İrfan, İslamda İtikadi Mezhepler ve Akaid Esasları, Transl. M. Saim Yeprem, Marifet Yay. İst. 1981, pp. 16-57; Kılavuz, Saim, İslam Akaidi ve Kelama Giriş, Ensar Neş. İst. 1993, pp. 308-311.
2. Shahristani, Muhammad b. Abdulkarim, Al-Milal wan-Nihal, Tashih wa Taliq: Ahmad Fahmi Muhammad, Darul-Kutubil- Ilmiyya, Beirut, 1992, pp. 144-145.
3. Taftazani, Saduddin, Sharhul-Maqasid, Alamul-Kutub, Beirut, 1989, V, 258-259.
4. Al-Maida, 67.
5. Shawkani, Muhammad, Fathul-Qadir, Daru Ihyait-Turathil-Arabi, Beirut, nd. II, 59. See also Qurtubi, VI, 157.
6. Bukhari, Tafsir, 5/7; Shawkani, II, 59.
7. see Shawkani, II, 59-60.
8. Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 20; Suyuti, Jalaluddin, Tarihul-Khulafa, Darul-Kutubil-Ilmiyya, Beirut, 1988, p. 133.
9. see Hamidullah, Muhammad, İslamın Hukuk İlmine Yardımları, İst. 1962, pp. 142-143.
10. Ibnu Hanbal, IV, 281; Suyuti, Tarikhul-Hulafa, p. 134; Alusi, VI, 192-193.
11. see Onat, Hasan, Emeviler Devri Şii Hareketleri ve Günümüz Şiiliği, TDV. Yay. Ankara, 1993, p. 24.
12. Alusi, Abul-Fadl, Ruhul-Maani, Daru Ihyait-Turathil-Arabi, Beirut, 1985, VI, 195.
13. Suyuti, Tarikhul-Khulafa, p. 62-64.
14. Bukhari, Marda, 17; Muslim, Wasaya, 22; Ibn Hanbal, I, 325.
15. Naim, Ahmet, Tecrid-i Sarih Tercemesi ve Şerhi, Diyanet Yay. Ankara, 1982, I, 108. Ahmet Naim analyzes the narrations regarding the issue very well in this work. You can refer to it for more information.
16. ash-Shura, 23.
17. Baydawi, Qadi, Anwarut-Tanzil wa Asrarut-Tawil, Darul-Kutubil-Ilmiyya, Beirut, 1988, II, 362.
18. Qurtubi, XVI, 15-16; Ibnu Kathir, VII, 187; Suyuti, Durrul-Mansur, Darul-Maktabil- Ilmiyya, Beirut, 1990, V, 699.
19. Ibnu Kathir, VII, 187.
20. ibid. VII, 189.
21. Ajluni, I, 132.
22. Razi, XXVII, 167.
23. Razi, XXVII, 166.
24: Alusi, XXV, 32.
25. Hud, 73.
26. al-Ahzab, 33.
27. Ibnu Hisham, Siratun-Nabawiyya, Daru Ihyait-Turathil-Arabi, Beirut, 1971, III, 224; Hakim, Abu Abdullah (Nisaburi) Mustadrak, Matbaatul-Islamiyya, Beirut, II, 416.
28. Yazır, Hamdi, Hak Dini Kuran Dili, VI, 3892.
29. Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 31; Ibn Hanbal, III, 14, 17.
30. Nursi, Lemalar, Sözler Yay. İst. 1990, p. 22.
31. Muslim, Iman, 348.
32. at-Tahrim, 10.
33. Hud, 45-46.

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