Historical Significance of the Incident of Ghadeer: Two Contradictory Implications

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Historically, the incident of Ghadeer has been a subject of great deliberation in Islamic expressions and beliefs right from the beginning. What’s more, the issue has been highly sensitive vis-à-vis Imamate and Caliphate.

The appointment of Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) heir is the point of contention between the two major Muslim sects: the Shiites and the Sunnis.

The Shiites believe that the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) successor is a divine promise and is certainly appointed by Allah the Almighty only. This duty was not handed to the Muslim nation.

The Sunnis do not regard an Imam, appointed by the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.), as Allah’s official representative. On the contrary, they are of the view that after the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.a.), the sensitive issue of electing an Imam rested with the Muslims.

For that, a group amongst them believes that the discussion of Ghadeer and Caliphate is outdated. They keep the notion that in the present age there is no need to speak from the historical perspective on this subject because Islam or Muslims will not benefit from the deliberations.

Moreover, this group feels that discussion on these kinds of issues is the reason for the differences, groups and sectarianism within the Muslim nation.

In this journal, we want to – with the support of historical origins and reports – critically examine this ideology.

The Narrators of the Ahle Sunnah and Ghadeer

Even a cursory glance at the books of Sunni narrators and we will often, for sure, come across glimpses of traditions on Ghadeer.

Numerous accounts on Ghadeer and in relation to it, particularly, the historically important sermon delivered by Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) on the day of Ghadeer can be found in the books of Ahle Sunnah.

For instance, this tradition:

اَلَسْتُ اَوْلٰى بِكُمْ مِنْ اَنْفُسِكُمْ؟ …فَمَنْ كُنْتُ مَوْلاَهُ فَعَلِىٌّ مَوْلاَهُ، اَللّٰهُمَّ وَالِ مَنْ وَالاَهُ وَ عَادِ مَنْ عَادَاهُ…

Is there any other master from amongst you? …For whosoever I am his master, Ali is his master too. O Allah! Love him who loves him (Ali a.s.) and bear enmity with the one who bears enmity (with Ali a.s.)…”

According to the rules of science of traditions (Ilm al-Hadis), this tradition is a consecutive (mutawaatir) tradition. In fact, it is even more authentic than a consecutive tradition, with more than 110 companions of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) and 85 followers, narrating the events of Ghadeer[1].

Zia-ud-din Maqbooli (expired1108 AH), a reputed Sunni scholar says, “If we are not willing (regardless of all the perceptions and authenticity) to accept the tradition of Ghadeer as established and indisputable, then we’ll have to certainly believe that no other incident has ever transpired in Islam.”

(Al Ghadeer; vol. 1, page 307)

Similarly, Shams al-Deen al-Jazaaeri (expired 739 A.H.) considers the rejecters of tradition of Ghadeer amongst the unlettered and ignorant ones.

(Asnaa al-Mataalib, page 48)

On one hand, there are countless confirmations from the Holy Quran present in the transcript of the sermon that denote and make it evident that this tradition is about the succession of Imam Ali (a.s.) to the caliphate sans reservations.

On the other hand – it is evident from the verses revealed on this day [2] – Allah put down the condition of accepting the twenty-three (23) years of efforts and services by the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.) and his devoted companions only if he successfully established Ameeral Momineen Ali ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) to the rank of an Imam and Caliph and commanded the people to obey him (a.s.).

This means that Allah wants to have a religion, which is completed with Imam Ali (a.s.) as the guardian, with His own wish.

It is for this reason that Shiites do not view the incident of Ghadeer only as a matter of caliphate and rule or simply as a historical event. Instead, they view it in the light of categorical evidence from the Holy Quran that Islam without the Mastership of the infallible Imams (a.s.) is flawed and incomplete.

Just as all Muslims believe that only Islam – as a religion – will be accepted on the Day of Judgement, similarly, it is manifest from the verse of completion, that those who do not accept the Mastership of Imam Ali (a.s.), their Islam will be incomplete, flawed, a case of waste and unacceptable to Allah.

According to the Shiite creed, Imamate is not limited to governance and incumbency but they are only a part of it. Therefore, the necessity of Imamate is that the authoritative status of Ahle Bait (a.s.) be accepted under the belief that Ahle Bait (a.s.) are the rightful authorities of the knowledge and recognition of the Holy Quran and traditions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).

It implies that it’s only the Ahle Bait (a.s.) who know the Holy Quran and traditions of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) without adding or deleting anything and they educate others the way it ought to be.

Therefore, it is mandatory that everyone turn towards them and acquire the religion only from them. Rather, respect and obey them wholly.

However, when it comes to actions, we see many Muslims have not taken to the way of the Ahle Bait (a.s.), giving priority to the path of others rather than submitting and following the Ahle Bait (a.s.).

Attack on the House of Infallibility

Not acquiring Islam from the rightful sources but from other than Allah’s representatives has resulted in dark and depressing issues cropping up. By not following the traditions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), the nation finds itself entangled in various miseries and pitfalls of ignorance.

In truth, to forsake the Gate of the City of Knowledge, the treasures of Divine wisdom and the ones who unmistakably distinguish between truth and falsehood, and to obey those hungry for power and riches, the usurpers of caliphate – is the root cause of division amongst Muslims and their straying from the right path.

The self-proclaimed first Caliph – apparently selected a motley group of power-hungry and authority-famished fiends – who ordered the household of Messenger (s.a.w.a.) to be attacked[3] and from atop Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) pulpit accuses his (s.a.w.a.) beloved daughter Janabe Fatema Zahra (s.a.) of lying.[4] The so-called Caliph, who is absolutely ignorant of the meaning of many a ruling in the Holy Quran; who indulges in the whimsical interpretation of the Book of Allah.[5]

Or the second Caliph -nominated by the first in a state of delirium- who descended on the revered house of Imam Ali (a.s.) accompanied by a mob of lump elements, displaying total callousness and utter disrespect for the sanctity and veneration of the dearly-loved daughter of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), setting her house ablaze and threatening to kill the Lion of God (a.s.), the Imam of the Pious (a.s.) – if he did not pay allegiance to the first Caliph.[6] He was the one who prohibited the narration of traditions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and practice of his customs on the pretext that people may forget the Holy Quran.[7] On these very premises, Abdullah ibn Masood and other honourable companions were imprisoned in Madinah during his reign: their only crime was the transmission of the traditions of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a).[8]

Or the third caliph – nominated by the biased and partisan council formed by his predecessor – who banished Janabe Abu Zar (r.a.) – the revered companion of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) -to Rabdha. His crime: Objection to the misuse of public wealth and inequitable distribution of the government treasury by the Caliph[9].

Fairly speaking, are these people worth comparing to the household of Infallibility and Purity? Or, justly, are their conduct and character deserving enough to become the guiding lights for the Muslims?[10]

Muawiyah’s Vow

Muawiyah had also vowed that he would wipe out the name of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) from the earth[11].

For that he summoned the concocters of traditions in his court. With their help, he wanted to distort the life history and traditions of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and at the same time fabricate traditions in praise of the usurpers of power[12]. It is based on their narrow mindedness and their apparent inexpressiveness towards religion that the righteous and the devout from the Sunni schools have fabricated traditions merely to appease Allah.[13].

Thus, numerous books on diverse subjects were based on forged reports.

Gradually, fabricated and concocted religions appeared one after the other. Muslims – who had drifted away from the right path – were split and every passing day, Muslims were divided into more and more sects, with Islamic unity and brotherhood being the greatest casualty.

Even as Holy Quran showed the way of attaining success that of fastening to the Strong Rope – which is bonding to Imam Ali (a.s.).

وَاعْتَصِمُوْا بِحَبْلِ اللهِ جَمِيْعًا وَ لاَ تَفَرَّقُوْا…

And hold fast to the rope of Allah together and do not get divided.[14]

Explaining this verse, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) says:

The Rope of Allah that has been ordered to hold on to is Ali and his Ahle Bait (a.s.).”[15]

We find in other places that Imam Ali (a.s.) asked from Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.),

“O Messenger of Allah! Which group will attain salvation (al-Firqah al-Naajiyah)?”

He (s.a.w.a.) replied:

The group which embraces your and your well-wishers’ path and morals and stays attached to it.”[16]

It is for this reason that the Shiites consider Ghadeer to be the completion of the Holy Quran, traditions of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and genuine Islam. As a matter of fact, till Islam remains and Muslims crave for guidance and leadership, the message of Ghadeer – which in itself is an invitation towards the right path and the only source and way to attain salvation – will continue to survive, notwithstanding the turbulence of the times and the turmoil of the eras.

[1] Abaqaat al-Anwaar, compiled by Mir Hamid Husain Hindi (r.a.); Al Ghadeer compiled by Allama Amini (r.a.)

[2] The verse of completion, Surah Maidah: Verse 3 and the verse of declaration Surah Maidah: Verse 67

[3] Tarikh-e-Abul Fidaa, volume 1, page 156, Al Eqdul Fareed, volume 2, page 253

[4] Sharh e Nahjul Balagah Ibne Abil Hadeed Motazeli, vol 4, page 80 (old edition)

[5] Sunan e Daaremi, vol 2, page 365; Sunan e Baihaqi, vol 2, page 223, Tafseer e Ibne Katheer, vol 1, page 460

[6] Tarikh-e-Abul Fidaa, vol 1, page 156; Al Imamah wa al-Siyaasah, vol. 1, page 12; Tarikhe Tabari, vol 3, page 198; Sharhe Nahjul Balagah, vol 1, page 134; Ansaabul Ashraafby Balaazari, vol. 1, page 586

[7] Sunan-e-Daaremi, vol 1, page 58, Mustadrak al-Saheehain,, vol. 1, page 102

[8] Mustadrak-e-Saheehain, vol. 1, page 110; Tazkiratul Khawaas, vol 1, page 7, Majma’ al- Zawaaed, vol. 1, page 149

[9] Saheeh-e-Bukhari, vol. 3, page 7; Kitab al-Zakaat ; Ansaab-al-Ashraaf, vol. 5, page 52-54, Fath al-Baari vol. 3, page 213; Al-Kaamil of Ibn Atheer, vol. 3, page 43

[10] In Kitab al Ghadeer from volumes 6-9, many Sunni books have been researched for the innovations and Allama Amini has critically analysed many traditions that have been fabricated in their praise.

[11] Muruj al- Zahab of Masoodi, vol. 2, pages 341-342; Al Akhbaar al Maufqiyaat, vol. 576, Al Ghadeer, vol. 10, page 283

[12] Sharhe Nahjul Balagah, vol. 1, page 358 (old edition), Al Ghadeer, vol. 1, page 73

[13] Saheeh-e-Muslim, vol. 1, page 13, Tarikh-e- Baghdad, vol. 2 page 98

[14] Aale Imaran, Ayat 130

[15] Sawaiqul Muharreqa, page 93

[16] Al Asbaat fi Tameez al-Ashaab, volume 2, page 174

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