Why did allegiance for the caliphate take place before the burial of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)?

The Details of the Question

- Was caliphate more important than the burial of the Prophet (pbuh) after his death? Why did allegiance for caliphate take place before the burial of the Prophet (pbuh)?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

As soon as the Prophet (pbuh) died, Ansar gathered under the shade of Banu Saida for the election of the caliph, and they decided to elect Sa’d b. Ubada as the caliph. The election of Sa’d b. Ubada from Ansar as the caliph was going to disturb the Quraysh tribe and they were not going to pay allegiance to Sa’d b. Ubada because Quraysh was the most honorable tribe of Arabs and the administration of Arabs was always under the control of the Quraysh tribe.

When Hz. Abu Bakr and Hz. Umar he heard about it, they went to the shade of Banu Saida to settle this issue, which concerned the future of the Muslims, thinking that the preparation of the funeral would be made by Hz. Ali and Hz. Abbas. After a long meeting, the Companions paid allegiance to Hz. Abu Bakr following the first allegiance by Hz. Umar.

It is not appropriate to evaluate this issue as “the Companions’ ambition for rank and position”. It is very inappropriate to use this expression for Hz. Abu Bakr and Hz. Umar, in particular, who devoted their lives to the way of serving Islam, who were two distinguished Companions and who had the honor of being the closest friends of the Prophet (pbuh). They saw that the vacuum of administration that might occur after the death of the Prophet (pbuh) would harm Islam greatly and that even the Islamic society might face the danger of division; therefore, they intervened in the situation quickly. If they had not intervened, the fire of mischief would have been fueled and seeds of division would have been sown among the Muslims.

On the other hand, it is known based on many narrations that the Prophet (pbuh) was aware of the events that would take place after his death and the things that would happen to some individuals; therefore, he indicated the people who would become the caliphs after him, both with their names and their special characteristics.

In that case, it can be said that Hz. Abu Bakr and Hz. Umar followed this advice of the Prophet (pbuh) with their attitude.

The general or concrete evaluations of the Prophet (pbuh) about who would be his successors after him can be regarded like that too:

1. In one of them, the Prophet said to his Companions, “I do not know how long more I will be among you.” Then, pointing to Hz. Abu Bakr and Hz. Umar, he said, “Obey these two after me. Follow the path taken by Ammar. Trust in every hadith narrated by Ibn Mas’ud.” (1)  

2. According to another narration, while the Prophet (pbuh) was working in the construction of a mosque, he brought a stone and placed it; then, Hz. Abu Bakr, Hz. Umar and Hz. Uthman placed a stone each respectively. Then, the Prophet (pbuh) said, “These are the rulers after me.”

Dhahabi regarded the hadith above narrated by Hakim an-Nisaburi as “sound” (3).

3. In another narration, the Prophet (pbuh) gave information about how the caliphate periods of the first two rulers to come after him would pass. He narrated a dream he saw:

“… The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: While I was drawing water from a well it (in my dream), Abu Bakr and Umar came near me. Abu Bakr took the bucket and drew about one or two buckets of water. There was some weakness in his drawing. May Allah forgive him! Then Khattab’s son took the bucket from Abu Bakr’s hand. The bucket was transformed into a big bucket in his hands. I could not see a perfect person among people who could do what Umar did. Finally, people made that well a drinking place for camels and a resting place.” (4)

According to hadith commentators such as Nawawi, Ibn Battal, Ibn Hajar and Ayni, the narration indicates the caliphate of Abu Bakr and Umar. In fact, Nawawi attributes this view to the majority of scholars. (5)

4. While the Prophet (pbuh) was on Mount Uhud with Hz. Abu Bakr, Hz. Umar and Hz. Uthman, a tremor occurred. Thereupon, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “Calm down, Uhud! There is a prophet, a siddiq (veracious person) and two martyrs on you.” (6)

5. In another example regarding the issue, the Prophet (pbuh) told his Companions that he saw Hz. Abu Bakr holding on to him, Hz. Umar holding on to Hz. Abu Bakr, and Hz. Uthman holding on to Hz. Umar in his dream. Jabir said that when they left the presence of the Prophet, they interpreted the dream as Hz. Abu Bakr, Hz. Umar and Hz. Uthman’s being rulers after the Prophet (pbuh). (7)

In our opinion, when the examples above are evaluated together, it can be concluded that the Prophet (pbuh) knew who would be the caliphs after him in the near future, and he clearly expressed it among his Companions.

It is quite understandable that the Prophet, who mentioned what would happen to Chosroes and Caesar, the Persian and Greek kings, that their wealth would be distributed in the way of Allah and that those two systems would no longer be able to continue, (8) informed people about what his ummah would experience and who would lead them. As a matter of fact, the Prophet (pbuh) did not make an explicit appointment, but it can be said that he directed his companions toward a certain level of opinion.

In this context, the following statement of Hz. Aisha is an important datum: “The Prophet passed away without appointing anyone (directly) as the caliph. However, if he had appointed the caliph, he would have appointed Abu Bakr or Umar.” (9).

This approach of Hz. Aisha can be mentioned even in the context of a concrete determination about the caliphs to be followed in the sunnah because it is clear that she made that evaluation based on the concrete information he received from the Prophet (pbuh) or his indirect expressions.

On the other hand, the meeting organized by Ansar of the Companions under the shade of Banu Saida on the day the Messenger of Allah died in order to choose one of them as the caliph can be evaluated in the same framework. At the beginning of the meeting, Ansar agreed that Sa’d b. Ubada, the chief of the Khazraj tribe, would be the caliph. However, at the end of the meeting, they paid allegiance to Hz. Abu Bakr after the intervention of Hz. Umar and Hz. Abu Bakr. (10)

It can be explained by the influence of the previous suggestions of the Prophet (pbuh) that such an issue that caused Ansar and Muhajirs to face off ended smoothly without any serious and fearful incidents and in a very short time in such a critical and tense period following the death of the Prophet (pbuh) with Hz. Abu Bakr’s being chosen as the caliphate.

Footnotes:

1) Tirmidhi, “Manaqib”, 105; Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, 38/ 309-10; Ibn Abi Shayba, Musannaf, 7/ 433; Ibn Hibban, Sahih, 15/ 328.
2) see Hakim, Mustadrak, 3/ 14.
3) Dhahabi, Abu Abdillah Shamsuddin Muhammad b. Ahmad, Talkhisul-Mustadrak, I-IV, 1st Impression, Darul-Kutubil-Ilmiyya, Beirut, 1990. 3/ 14. (with al-Mustadrak of Hakim an-Nisaburi)
4) Bukhari, “Ashabun-Nabiyy”, 5.
5) see an-Nawawi, Abu Zakariyya Muhyiddin, al-Minhaj (Sharhu Sahihi Muslim), I-IVIII, 4th Impression, Darul-Ma’rifa, Beirut, 1997, 15/ 161; Ibn Battal, Sharhu Sahihil-Bukhari, I-X, 2nd Impression, thq. Abu Tamim Yasir b. Ibrahim, Maktabatur-Rushd, Riyad, 2003, 9/ 541; Ibn Hajar, Fathul-Bari, 7/ 39; al-Ayni, Umdatul-Qari Sharhu Sahihil-Bukhari, I-XXV, Daru Ihyait-Turathil-Arabi, Beirut, 2002, 16/ 159.
6) Bukhari, “Ashabun-Nabiyy”, 5.
7)  أري الليلة رجل صالح كأن أبا بكر نيط برسول اهلل صلى اهلل عليه وسلم ونيط عمر بأبي بكر ونيط عثمان بعمر« قال جابر:  فلما قمنا من عند رسول اهلل صلى اهلل عليه وسلم قلنا: أما الرجل الصالح فرسول اهلل وأما نوط بعضهم ببعض فهم والة األمر الذي بعث اهلل به نبيه صلى اهلل عليه وسلم. Abu Dawud, Sunnah, 9; Musnad, 23/ 124; Hakim, al-Mustadrak, 3/ 75. Dhahabi states that this hadith is sound. See Dhahabi, Talkhisul-Mustadrak, 3/ 75.
8) see Bukhari, “Fardul-Khumus”, 7; Muslim, “Fitan”, 18.
9) Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, 40/404.
10) see Mustafa Sabri Küçükaşcı, “Saqifatu Bani Saida”, TDV İslâm Ansiklopedisi (DİA), XXXVI, 11-12; Kahraman H., Başaran S. “Raşid Halifelerin Sünneti” Kavramı ve Nebevî Sünnet ile İlişkisi, Uludağ Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi Dergisi, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp. 19-50, 2017.

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