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

The Details of the Question

Shiite say that the Prophet was informed about the caliphate of Hz. Ali 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 evidences when they claim that it was Hz. 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:  

“If I am someone’s mawla, Ali is his mawla too. O Allah! Love those who love him, and be hostile to those who are hostile to him.”1

Shiite reflect 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 Hz. Ali 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.”

When Hz. Ali was asked in Basra,“Is there a promise and authority given to you by the Messenger of Allah about caliphate or are you acting 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 Hz. Ali paid allegiance to Hz. Abubakr and Hz. Umar 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 Allah 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 Allah 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.”2

As it is understood from the explanations above, the Prophet did not express a will to Hz. Ali, and Hz. Ali paid allegiance to the caliphs before him not because he feared them but because he regarded Hz. Abubakar and Hz. Umar to be worthier of the caliphate more than him and because he promised Hz. Uthman that he would obey him. Hz. Ali 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 Hz. Abubakr wanted to pay allegiance to Hz. Ali. However, Hz. 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 Hz. Ali was Sufyan. He answered Sufyan as follows:

“We regard Abubakr sufficient for the caliphate and worthy of it. We left him as the caliph. We did not intervene.”3

Hz. Ali was one of the greatest assistants of Hz.Abubakr during his caliphate. When Hz.Abubakr 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!”4

Hz. Ali never allowed anyone to speak against Hz.Abubakr and Hz. Umar during his caliphate. Once, he spoke as follows:

“I hear that some people regard me to be superior to Abubakr and Umar. If I had said something about this issue before, I would punish those who speak like that. 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 Abubakr 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 Abubakr and Umar and only sinners criticize them and treat them as enemy.”5

Hz. Ali married his daughter Umm Kulthum off to Hz. Umar due to his love toward him.7 When Hz. Umar died, Hz. Ali 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.”6

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

“I take refuge in Allah from accepting the allegiance of the murderers of Uthman.”7


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



It is the name of a place between Makkah and Madinah, near Juhfa. (Mu'jamul-Buldan, VI, 268). It is a boggy place about 2-3 miles away from Juhfa; the bog is surrounded by a dense wood. The most important issue related to the emergence of Shia is the incident of Ghadir Khumm.

According to Shiite resources, it was determined in Ghadir Khumm that Hz. Ali had the most rights to be the caliph. When we look at the books of Shia scholars, it is possible to find the following information:

Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) stopped in Ghadir Khumm while returning from Hajj. He gathered the groups before they returned to their towns and addressed them. The reason he gathered them was to announce them the following verse, which was sent down there: "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). For Allah guideth not those who reject Faith." (al-Maida, 5/67) According to Shiite writers, this verse was sent down about Hz. Ali. The only thing to be proclaimed by the verse was the caliphate of Hz. Ali. Hz. Prophet concealed certain things from his wife Hz. Aisha and hence Allah Almighty warned him. (Wahidi, Asbab an-Nuzul,115; Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 20; Ibn Majah, Muqaddima, II; H. Nisaburi, al-Mustadrak, III,109; Kulayni, al-Kafi, II, 72)

After proclaiming that verse in Ghadir, the Prophet stated the following:

"Jibril brought me the following order from my Lord: Ali b. Abi Talib is my brother, guardian and caliph; he is the imam after me. O people! Allah appointed him as the guardian and imam for you. Anyone who opposes him will be cursed and anyone who respects him will be shown mercy. Listen and obey! Allah is your mawla and Ali is your imam. The imamate will continue until Doomsday from his progeny." (Wahidi, Asbab an-Nuzul, 115) According to Shiite, the Messenger of Allah also declared the following there:

1) He stated that he left two heavy things (thaqalayn) to Muslims. One of them is the book of Allah; one side of it is in the hand of Allah and the other side is in the hand of Muslims. The second is the Sunnah of the Prophet.

2) He lifted Hz. Ali's hand and said, "Ali is the mawla of a person whom I am a mawla of."

3) The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) prayed as follows: "O Allah! Help those who help Ali! Be an enemy of a person who is an enemy of Ali!"

4) He also said, "O Allah! Turn the truth toward Ali from the place where it turns!"

Ahl as-Sunnah views the narrations put forward by Shiite scholars related to the incident of Ghadir Khumm as follows:

According to the claim of Shiite, the number of the sincere Muslims after the death of the Prophet is no more than ten. However, more than one hundred thousand Companions listened to the sermon in Ghadir. The meaning of this claim is as follows: "More than one hundred Companions did not keep their promise and collaborated to deprive Hz. Ali of the caliphate." This alliance is impossible to happen logically. What can be the use and benefit of it?

On the other hand, the sermon of Ghadir Khumm was delivered on Dhulhijjah 18, in the tenth year of the Migration while the Prophet was returning from Farewell Hajj. The verse "This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion" (al-Maida, 5/3) was sent down on Dhulhijjah 9, the day of Arafah of the same year. Is it possible for this verse to have been sent down before verse 67 of the chapter of al-Maida, which orders Hz. Muhammad to proclaim his prophethood and whose translation was given above? The verse stating that the religion was completed was sent down and it was announced to more than one hundred thousand hajjis. The great majority of the Islamic scholars determined that verse 67 of the chapter of al-Maida was sent down before the Conquest of Makkah and the Battle of Khaybar. (Said Ismail, Haqiqatul-Khilaf Bayna Ulamaish-Shia wa Jumhuri Ulaemail-Muslimin, Carbondale 1983, 25, 26)

There are some writers who deny the incident of Ghadir Khumm and there are also some Sunni scholars who do not deny it but who do not express it clearly. There are praises about Hz. Ali in their writings but there is no statement about the appointment of Hz. Ali as the caliph.

Nasai includes this incident in his book about the virtues of Ali b. Abi Talib. In this narration reported from Zayd b. Arqam, the hadith of “Ghadir” and the hadith of “Thaqalayn” are combined and it is stated that both of them were uttered on the day of Ghadir. Ibn Majah includes the hadith about Ghadir in his Sunan but he does not mention where it was uttered. (Nasai, Khasais,16; Ibn Majah, Sunan, Muqaddima, II)

The hadith of Ghadir reported by Zayd b. Arqam (D. 66/689) is as follows: "Once, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) delivered a sermon to us in a watery place called Khumm between Makkah and Madinah. In this sermon, he first praised Allah and gave us some advice. He mentioned Allah and addressed us as follows: "O people! Know that I am only a human being and the messenger of my Lord, Azrael, will soon come to me. I will respond to his call. I am leaving behind two weighty things (thaqalayn) among you. The first of the two is the Book of Allah. In it is guidance and light. So get hold of the Book of Allah and adhere to it.” Thus, he encouraged us to read the book of Allah and advised it to us. Then, he continued as follows: “The second is my Ahl al-Bayt (family). I urge you to remember Allah regarding my Ahl al-Bayt.” He repeated the last sentence three times. (Nasai, Khasais, 15; Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, II,114, IV, 367; Darimi, Fadailul-Quran,1). Ibn Kathir mentions almost all narrations of the khadith of Khumm and points out the reliable and weak narrators. (Ibn Kathir, as-Siratun-Nabawiyya, IV, 414)

After Zayd b. Arqam reported this hadith, he was asked, "Who is included in Ahl al-Bayt of the Prophet? Are his wives regarded among Ahl al-Bayt?" Zayd said, "The wives of the Prophet are also from Ahl al-Bayt but his real Ahl al-Bayt are those for whom it is haram to accept sadaqah after him." He listed them as follows: "The family of Ali, the family of Aqil, the families of Ja'far and Abbas." (Muslim, Fadailus-Sahaba, 36)

Ibn Taymiyya states the following regarding the narrations of Ghadir Khumm: "Let alone being mutawatir, this fabricated incident has no sound chain of narrators. Was it not necessary for at least one Companion to mention this incident on the day of Saqifa, when Hz. Umar died, when the consultation committee of six people was established and on the days when the caliphate of Hz. Ali was discussed after the martyrdom of Hz. Uthman? As it is seen, it is one of the fabrications of Rafizis." (Ibn Taymiyya, Minhajus-Sunnah, IV, 118)

Goldziher, the orientalist, writes the following regarding the issue: "Therefore Ali adherents were concerned with inventing and authorizing traditions which prove Ali's installation by the direct order of the Prophet. The most widely-known tradition (the authority of which is not denied even by orthodox authorities though they deprive it of its intention by a different interpretation) is the tradition of Khum, which came into being for this purpose and is one of the firmest foundations of the theses of the Ali party." (Goldziher, Muslim Studies)

That the hadith of Ghadir, which is put forward as the evidence for the claim that Hz. Ali was worthy of the caliphate more than the others, was not reported even by only one narrator during the period of the Rightly Guided Caliphs brings about serious doubts about its existence. It is understood that Shiite invented a reason for the emergence of this hadith, which they later spread as the hadith of Ghadir. Even Hz. Ali himself did not mention such a narration when it was needed very much. For instance, during the illness of the Prophet, when Ali b. Abi Talib came out after visiting the Messenger of Allah, people asked him, "O Abu Hasan! How is the Messenger of Allah?" He said, "Alhamdulillah, he is fine." The narrator said,“Thereupon, Abbas held Ali by the hand and said, ‘By Allah, within three days, you will be the slave of the stick. By Allah, I think that the Messenger of Allah will die from his present ailment, for I know the signs of death on the faces of the Sons of Abdulmuttalib. So, let us go to the Messenger of Allah and ask him whether the caliphate belongs to us or not. If it belongs to us, we will know it; and if it is not, tell him to recommend us.’ Hz. Ali said, "By Allah, I cannot do it. If we ask the Prophet for it and if he refuses, people will never give it to us. ‘" (Bukhari, Isti'dhan, 29; For detailed information, see Cemal Sofuoğlu, Gadîri Hum Meselesi-Ankara Ü. İlâhiyat Fakültesi Dergisi, Ankara 1983, Vol. XXVI, p. 461-470).

If it had been announced that Hz. Ali would be the imam/caliph after the Prophet in Ghadir Khumm and if Muslims had been ordered to obey it as Shiite claim, all of the Companions including Hz. Abbas would have known this will, which is claimed to have been announced in front of more than one hundred thousand Companions. On the other hand, the conversation between Hz. Ali and Abbas mentioned above would have been meaningless. However, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) delivered a sermon in Ghadir as it is included in the resources of Ahl as-Sunnah. Some statements about Hz. Ali were uttered there and the Prophet asked Muslims to treat Ahl al-Bayt well. However, Sunni scholars interpret the statement "If I am someone’s mawla, Ali is his mawla too" more differently from Shiite. Ibn Qutayba states the following regarding the issue: “Hz. Prophet is the mawla of all Muslims. Walayah is both between the Prophet and the believers and also among Muslims. The relationship of the Prophet with Hz. Ali is like that. ‘The Believers, men and women, are protectors (awliya) one of another.’(at-Tawba, 9/71) There is no difference between the words wali (singular form of awliya) and mawla. This does not give Hz. Ali a privilege.” There are many verses regarding the issue (at-Tahrim, 66/4 at-Tawba, 9/71; al-Baqara, 2/257; Yunus, 10/62). Hz. Prophet said similar things for great Companions like Hz.Abubakr and Hz. Umar. He said the following for Abu Ubayda b. al-Jarrah: "He is the trustworthy one (amin) of this ummah. According to the view accepted by Ahl as-Sunnah, it is fard for Muslims to like Hz. Ali as it is fard to like the Prophet; it is haram to be an enemy of Hz. Ali as it is haram to be an enemy of the Prophet. This is also in compatible with the view of Ahl al-Bayt. (Abdulaziz Dahlawi, Muhtasaru Tuhfatil-Ithna Ashariyya, 161)


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