A Quick Glance at the “Tradition of the Bird”

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Ghadeer-e-Khum is such a page in history, which even if the malicious conspire to erase, will not be able to. 18th Zilhajj, 10 A.H., the day when the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) declared openly and for the last time about his departure for the heavenly abode and introduced his 12 successors to the entire Muslim nation. On that day everyone was reciting poems in praise of the immediate Caliphate and Coronation of Ali (a.s.) and his appointment to the position of Imamat. While some stepped forwarded to say “Congratulations” in no uncertain terms, others like the famous poet of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) Hassaan b. Saabit recited impromptu couplets in praise of Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.). The declaration “Of whomsoever I am the Master, this Ali is his Master” had just disrupted the evil plans of the hypocrites.

Ghadeer is a reality recorded by prominent and distinguished Muslim scholars in their books. It was the day when the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) answered the questions raised about the sequence of guidance and Imamat after him on divine orders and appointed Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) as the Imam, Guide and the Leader of the people. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had appointed Ali (a.s.) as the Imam after him on many previous occasions. The proof of the Imamat and mastership of Ali (a.s.) are available in numerous Quranic verses and Prophetic traditions. More than 500 verses of the Holy Quran have been revealed in the praise of Ali (a.s.). No other topic is found in the books of traditions for which traditions have been written and narrated in such excessive numbers.

Some people opine that if the verses and traditions which the Shias cite pertaining to the mastership and Imamat of Ali (a.s.) are true, then why did Ali (a.s.) not present the proofs of his succession to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) after his demise and in turn prove his rightfulness to the position of caliphate. Hence, this proves that either these traditions were of no importance to Ali (a.s.) or he was satisfied with the selection of Abu Bakr to the position of caliphate. In reply to this, it is only appropriate that this topic is thoroughly researched and we refer to those traditions, which Ali (a.s.) presented as evidences to prove his Imamat after the demise of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and these traditions are mentioned in the books of Ahle Sunnat as well.

The Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) will to Ameerul Momineen (a.s.)

In his last days, when the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was bedridden due to his illness, he narrated the virtues of his daughter J. Fatima Zahra (s.a.) and the Ahle Bait (a.s.) to her and then addressed Ali (a.s.) thus:

“My dear brother, indeed after me, you will be subjected to continuous tortures at the hand of the Quraish such that they shall oppress you. If you find helpers then fight those who oppose you with the help of those who support you. If you do not find helpers and supporters, then be patient and refrain your hands (from fighting) and do not allow yourself to be destroyed, because your position near me is like the position of Haroon (a.s.) near Moosa (a.s.) and you have an excellent example in Haroon (a.s.) when he said to his brother Moosa (a.s.), “Surely the people reckoned me weak and had very nearly slain me.” [Surah A’raaf: Verse 150]
[Book of Sulaim b. Qais: tradition 1,
Bihar-ul-Anwar: vol.. 28 p. 54]

Acting upon this will, Ameerul Momineen Ali (a.s.) put forth his right in front of the people in various ways after the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). He supported his arguments with all those verses and arguments, which Allah had revealed in his praise and the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had narrated. These arguments of Ali (a.s.) are a proof of the fact that he tried his level best to prove his rightfulness to the position of Imamat and Caliphate because as per Allah and the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), after the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), it was only Ali (a.s.) who deserved to be the guide and leader for mankind. But apart from a few trusted companions, everyone ignored his arguments. In one such argument, Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) quoted “The tradition of the bird”

Tradition of the Bird (حديث الطير)

It is narrated from Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) that he put forth the following argument in front of the people:

“I swear by Allah! Is there anyone among you who is more beloved to Allah and His Messenger (s.a.w.a.) than me? ….on the day of the bird, when the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) said, “O Allah! Send your most beloved creature near me who can eat this bird along with me” and then I entered.” Then Ali (a.s.) said, “O Allah, near Your Messenger (s.a.w.a.), is there anyone apart from me?” Then everyone replied, “Certainly not””
[Taareekh-e-Damishq, vol. 42, p. 432,
Manaaqib by Khwarazmi, p. 314,
This tradition can be found in other books of Ahle Tasannun like
Faraaid al-Simtain, vol.. 1 p. 209-215]

In another tradition regarding this incident Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) says,

“A bird called Habaari was gifted to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and was placed in his hands. At that time Anas b. Maalik was his doorkeeper. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) raised his hands in front of Allah and prayed, “O Allah! Send Your most beloved creature who can share this bird’s meat with me.” At this juncture, Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) came and sought permission to enter. But Anas b. Maalik said, “Surely the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) is busy right now.” Hearing this Ali (a.s.) left. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) prayed for the second time and Ali (a.s.) came and sought permission. Anas b. Maalik again said, “Surely the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) is busy right now” and Ali (a.s.) returned. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) prayed for the third time and Ali (a.s.) came and sought permission. This time Anas allowed him to enter. When the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) saw Ali (a.s.), he (s.a.w.a.) said, “By Allah, come near me.” Then Ali (a.s.) ate from it along with the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). When the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) finished eating the bird, Ali (a.s.) left. Anas says, “I followed Ali (a.s.) and said to him, “O Abal Hasan, please forgive me for I have sinned against you but I have a glad tiding for you.” Then Anas narrated whatever Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) repeated thrice. Ali (a.s.) praised Allah, sought forgiveness for him and was satisfied with him for I had gone to him with the glad tiding.”
[Taareekh-e-Demeshq: vol. 42 p. 245]

This tradition not only proves the fact that Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) is the dearest and most beloved near Allah and His Messenger (s.a.w.a.), rather Ali (a.s.) seeking forgiveness from Allah for Anas b. Maalik indicates that if anyone doubts the proximity of Ali (a.s.) to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) or even unintentionally tries to separate them from each other has invited the wrath of Allah. Had it not been so, Ali (a.s.) would not have sought forgiveness for Anas.

There are numerous such traditions based on which it is an established fact that none was closer to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) than Ameerul Momineen (a.s.). After the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), he (a.s.) invited the people to his Imamat and Caliphate on the authority of this proximity and attachment to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). But people did not accept the truth and refused to pay allegiance to Ali (a.s.). People even ignored the command of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in which he (s.a.w.a.) had ordered that after him, Ali (a.s.) would be the Imam, leader and guide for the people. Ibne Abi Laila al-Ghaffari has narrated that he heard the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) say,

“Certainly, soon after me there will be chaos. When this happens, then cling on to Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) because he was the first to believe in me and will be the first to shake hands with me on the Day of Judgment. He is Siddeeq-ul-Akbar (the Greatest Truthful person) and the Faarooq-e-A’zam (distinguisher of truth from falsehood) of this nation. He is the leader of the believers and wealth is the leader of the hypocrites.”
[Al-Isaabah, vol. 1 part 1 p. 167]

Praise be to the One who included us among those who hold fast unto the mastership of Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) and the Imams (a.s.) after him!

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