Shiite say that the Prophet was informed about the caliphate of Ali (ra) in a place called Ghadir Khumm and that it was the order of Allah. What is the truth about this issue?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Shiite try to show various things as proofs when they claim that it was Ali’s right to become the first caliph. One of them is the incident of Ghadir Khumm: While returning from Farewell Hajj, the Prophet and the Companions with him stopped in a place called Ghadir Khumm. The Prophet rested for a while, led the noon prayer and addressed his Companions as follows

“Whoever’s friend I am, Ali is also his friend. O Allah, be a friend to him who is friendly to him; be hostile to the enemy. Help the one who helped him.” 1

Shiite present this hadith in a wrong way and interpret it differently. “Walayah” the Prophet (pbuh) mentioned in Ghadir Khumm does not mean caliphate, as Shiite mean, but friendship. As a matter of fact, Hasan al-Muthanna, the grandson of Ali (ra), states the following regarding the issue:

“The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) did not mean caliphate or sultanate with it. If he had meant so, he would have stated it clearly. For, the Messenger of Allah was the most fluent and clear speaker among the Muslims.” 2

When Ali (ra) was asked in Basra, “Is there a promise and authority given to you by the Messenger of Allah about caliphate or are you acting based on your own view?”, he gave the following answer:

“No, there is no promise. By Allah, I am the first person to approve and believe in the Messenger of Allah; I cannot be the first person to tell a lie on behalf of him. If there had been a promise of the Messenger of Allah to me about the caliphate, I would have never allowed Abu Bakr and Umar to ascend to his pulpit. I would have struggled against them with my hands if I had had no power.”

One of the claims of Shiite is that Ali (ra) paid allegiance to Abu Bakr (ra) and Umar (ra) and helped them because he was afraid of them; thus, they accuse him of hypocrisy. Badiuzzaman Said Nursi states the following regarding the issue in his book called Lem’alar (Flashes):

“As for the Caliphate Shi‘a, they can claim no rights before the Sunnis other than shame. For although they say they have tremendous love for ‘Ali (May God be pleased with him), they disparage him, and their creed necessitates accusing him of immorality. For they say that although Abu Bakr the Veracious and ‘Umar were acting unjustly, ‘Ali feigned approval for them; according to Shi’i terminology, he dissimulated. That is, he was frightened of them and behaved hypocritically. But it is not love to hold that someone who was such a hero of Islam, won the title ‘Lion of Allah’, and was the commander and guide of the faithful, was simulating love for people he did not love out of fear and deception, and was feigning approval for them in fear for more than twenty years, and was following wrongdoers. ‘Ali (May God be pleased with him) would disclaim love that sort.

Thus, the people of truth’s creed in no way disparages ‘Ali, nor levels accusations of immorality at him. It does not attribute cowardice where there was such remarkable courage, but says that if ‘Ali had not considered the Rightly-Guided Caliphs to be right, he would not have recognized them for a minute, nor obeyed them. It means that since he thought them right and preferable, he made over his courage and striving to the way of justice.” 3

As it is understood from the explanations above, the Prophet did not express a will to Ali (ra), and Ali paid allegiance to the caliphs before him not because he feared them but because he regarded Abu Bakr (ra) and Umar (ra) to be worthier of the caliphate more than him and because he promised Uthman (ra) that he would obey him. Ali (ra) loved those three caliphs before him very much and he did not hesitate to express it anywhere. 

Some of those who did not pay allegiance to Abu Bakr (ra) wanted to pay allegiance to Ali (ra). However, Ali struggled for the unity of the Muslims throughout his life. He never opened the door to mischief. For instance, one of those who wanted to pay allegiance to Ali was Sufyan. He answered Sufyan as follows:

“We regard Abu Bakr sufficient for the caliphate and worthy of it. We left him as the caliph. We did not intervene.”4

Ali (ra) was one of the greatest assistants of Abu Bakr (ra) during his caliphate. When Abu Bakr (ra) died, he made the following speech:

“You were like a mountain which stands firm in the face of hard blows of dashing winds and waves. You truly were as the Messenger of Allah said weak in your body, but strong in the religion of Allah, humble in your heart, but lofty in your ranking with Allah and well-esteemed in the eyes of people and in the world. Nobody nurtured a grudge against you. You had no characteristic that people regarded worthless. The strong were weak in your presence until the weak got their rights. The weak were strong until they got their rights. May Allah not deprive us of from your thawabs! May He not allow us to go astray after you.” 5

Ali (ra) never allowed anyone to speak against Abu Bakr (ra) and Umar (ra) during his caliphate. Once, he spoke as follows:

I hear that some people regard me to be superior to Abu Bakr and Umar. If I had said something about this issue before, I would punish those who speak like that now. I do not do anything to them now because I have not said anything about it before. Anybody who speaks like that from now on is a slanderer. The best person after the Messenger of Allah among people is Abu Bakr and then Umar. May Allah be pleased with both of them!

I swear by Allah who greens dry seeds and gives life to non-living things that only virtuous believers love Abu Bakr and Umar and only sinners criticize them and treat them as enemy.”6

Ali married his daughter Umm Kulthum off to Umar due to his love toward him. 7 When Umar (ra) died, Ali (ra) approached his dead body and said,

“O Umar! I want to enter into the presence of Allah with a deed that you like. There is nobody else whose deeds I envy.” 8

Ali (ra) paid allegiance at once to Uthman (ra), who was chosen by a consultation committee that was formed after the martyrdom of Umar (ra). Ali (ra) loved Uthman (ra) as he loved Abu Bakr (ra) and Umar (ra). He was Uthman’s greatest assistant during his caliphate. He defended Uthman (ra) against mischief-makers. He rejected the offer of those who wanted to unseat Uthman (ra) and to pay allegiance to him. He did not accept the allegiance of mischief-makers after the martyrdom of Uthman (ra) either. He said, 

“I take refuge in Allah from accepting the allegiance of the murderers of Uthman.” 9

Footnotes:

1. Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, IV, p. 368.
2. İsmail Mutlu, Dört Halife Devri, p. 333.
3. Lem’alar (Flashes), p. 31.
4. Dört Halife Devri, p. 340.
5. ibid, p. 341.
6. Hayatus-Sahaba, III, pp. 348, 349.
7. H. İbrahim Hasan, İslam Tarihi, p. 317; Dört Halife Devri, p. 343.
8. Dört Halife Devri, p. 343.
9. ibid, p. 345.

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