The commentary of the word of Allah, the High:

وَأَنذِرْ عَشِيرَتَكَ الْأَقْرَبِينَ

“And warn your nearest relations.”[1]

Abu Ali al-Tabarsi (r.a.) writes in Majma’ al-Bayaan, “Both, Shias as well as the Sunnis, have recorded a tradition from al-Boraa Ibn Aazeb who narrates, ‘When this verse was revealed, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) gathered the sons of Abd al-Muttalib — then they were forty in number. Each one of them ate one full leg portion and drank a can full of curds. Then he (s.a.w.a.) ordered Ali (a.s.) to prepare a leg of the sheep for the meal and enrich it with condiments. Then he (s.a.w.a.) said to them, ‘Come near, in the name of Allah.’ The people came in groups of ten. They ate till they left. Then he (s.a.w.a.) ordered for a can of milk, drank one sip from it and said to them, ‘Drink.’ They drank till they were satiated. To which Abu Lahab reacted strongly, ‘This man has enchanted you (with his magic).’ The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) kept silent and did not speak. He (s.a.w.a.) called them again the next day for the same kind of food and drink. Then, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) warned them as follows, ‘O children of Abd al-Muttalib! Verily, I am a warner to you from Allah — Mighty and Majestic be He — and a giver of glad tidings. Then submit and obey so that you receive guidance.’ Then, he (s.a.w.a.) declared, ‘Whoever takes me as a brother and supports me in this matter will be under my tutelage, my successor after me, my representative in my family and will repay my debts.’ The people were silent. He (s.a.w.a.) repeated this thrice and each time, there was a stunned silence around when Ali (a.s.) said, ‘I’. For the third time, (when nobody responded except Ali), the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) said to him, ‘It’s you.’ The people stood up while they were saying to Abu Taalib (a.s.), ‘Obey your son for he has been imposed upon you.’

Tha’labi has brought the above tradition in his Tafseer.

This incident has also been narrated on the authority of Abu Raafe’: “He (s.a.w.a.) gathered them in an assembly. One man prepared for them a sheep which they ate till they were satiated and gave them milk to drink which they did till they were quenched. Then he (s.a.w.a.) said, ‘Surely, Allah — the High — has ordered me, ‘Warn your nearest relatives’. You are my relatives and my family. Allah did not raise a Prophet except that He has appointed for him a brother, a vizier, a heir, a successor and a caliph from his family. Then who amongst you will stand up and pledge allegiance that he is my brother, my heir, my minister, my successor and be unto me as Haaroon was to Moosa (a.s.) but that there is no Prophet after me?’ Everybody was silent. He (s.a.w.a.) said again, ‘Let somebody from you stand up or if somebody other than you will do so, you will regret later.’ He (s.a.w.a.) repeated these sentences thrice. When he (s.a.w.a.) said for the fourth time, Ali (a.s.) stood up and responded to his call. He (s.a.w.a.) said, ‘Come near me!’ He (a.s.) went near him (s.a.w.a.). The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) opened his mouth and put some saliva of his own mouth into that of Ali’s (a.s.) and applied some of it between his shoulders and his chest. On seeing this, Abu Lahab remarked, ‘What a bad gift have you given to your cousin! He responds to your call and you fill his mouth and face with spit?’ The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) retorted, ‘I have filled him with wisdom and knowledge.’

In the recitation of Abdullah Ibn Masood, this verse is as follows, ‘And warn your nearest relations’ and your sincere family members from amongst them.

The same has also been narrated on the authority of Imam Sadeq (a.s.).[2]

Traditions conveying the above concept abound from both the sects.[3]

Know that the aforementioned traditions are evidences establishing the Imamate, mastership, caliphate, successorship, and ministership of our master Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) is clear and apparent.

Objection: The above traditions only prove that he (a.s.) was a caliph of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) amongst his family members but there is no evidence of his caliphate for the entire Ummah, leave alone his Imamate and absolute mastership.

Answer: This caliphate — considering the context of conditions — is actually referring to the position of Prophethood and Messengership. And the successor of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) vis-à-vis Messengership is not but an Imam.

Explanation: The condition stipulated by his (s.a.w.a.) statement, ‘Whoever takes me as a brother and supports me in this affair’ is clear and explicit concerning brotherhood and ministership in the affairs of warning and messengership. There is no other indication besides this. Thereafter, the consequence of the condition laid by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), ‘He will be under my tutelage, my successor after me, my caliph in my family and will repay my debts’ also refers to caliphate and successorship with regards to the levels of messengership and warning. Caliphate vis-à-vis messengership is not but chieftainship, a fact that is extremely clear. The proof that his (s.a.w.a.) words also established chieftainship and Imamate for his caliph in all its clarity lies in the mocking of the people present at the saying of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and making fun of Abu Taalib (a.s.), ‘Obey your son, for he has been imposed upon you.’ Chieftainship and Imamate with regards to his family, who are the children of Abd al-Muttalib, automatically necessitates Imamate vis-à-vis others. For, it is not permissible that he is an Imam for one group and for another group; there will be another Imam, as is clear. Also, the second caliph has acknowledged this fact while answering the Helpers (انصار) who were claiming equal rights to chieftainship, he said, ‘Two swords cannot be placed in one sheath.’[4]

The secret in the distinction of his (s.a.w.a.) representation before his family is that on that particular day, he (s.a.w.a.) was ordered to warn his (s.a.w.a.) closest family members. Also, his distinction amongst his family members is far more distinguished than before the other people of the Ummah and his caliphate upon the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) family vis-à-vis the position of his Prophethood and Messengership is the cause of caliphate and Imamate upon his entire Ummah in a greater way.

It has become clear for you that successorship and caliphate here denotes Imamate due to his (s.a.w.a.) saying, ‘He will repay my debts’ after his (s.a.w.a.) saying, ‘And my caliph amongst my family members’. For, the covenant of repaying the debts of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) is a pre-requisite of the position of Messengership which refers to the mastership of Imamate and has two facets, i.e. benefits of the spoils of war and losses suffered.

The (simple) representation of a dead person but not from the aspect of Imamate requires nothing but receipt of wealth of the deceased. The repayment of his debts only depends on the contractual obligations, if any, that he has left behind.  In fact, the consequence of the conditional statement, ‘He will be successor and my caliph in my family’ clearly talks about Imamate. The implication of ‘my successor from my side’ is also not unclear. It is also understood from the second tradition brought by Tha’labi in his exegesis that the caliph of every Prophet (a.s.) is from his family.

The traditions explaining the above Quranic verse establish the caliphate of our master Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) and his Imamate and the turning away of the majority of the people from the sayings of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.). Finally, allegiance made to other than him (a.s.) is not the cause of the nullification of the divine texts or the abrogation of the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) order, as is apparent.

[1] Surah Shoaraa (26): Verse 214.

[2] Majma’ al-Bayaan, vol. 7, p. 206.

[3] Refer Ghaayah al-Maraam, pp. 320-323.

[4] Sharh-o-Nahj al-Balaaghah of Ibn Abi al-Hadeed, vol. 2, p. 38.