Caliphate is nothing but Successorship of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.)

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Qualifications of the Position

If there exists a vacancy for a post in any college or university, then it is not just the position which is called out but its qualifications and criteria are also specified. If the vacancy is in the Department of History, then experts of the subject and those who have completed a formal education in it will be required. A scientist will take up a position in the Department of Science. He cannot occupy the position of a history professor. Hence, apart from the position, the credentials and qualifications are also specified well in advance. A scientist’s application for the post of a Professor of History will be rejected by the selection committee. Only eligible candidates, who fit the criteria, will be interviewed. If a scientist actually occupies the position of a Professor of History or vice versa, then we can all image the state of the university.


Responsibilities of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.)

Prior to appointing anyone as a successor to the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) it is critical to understand the various responsibilities of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Selecting an appropriate person for this position completely depends on how well are the responsibilities understood.


The Holy Quran has outlined the duties of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), a few of them being:

  1. Conveying the Revelation

The Holy Quran declares in the second verse of Surah Jum’a (62):

“He it is Who raised among the inhabitants of Mecca an Apostle from among themselves, who recites to them His communications and purifies them, and teaches them the Book and the Wisdom, although they were before certainly in clear error.”


Allah sent for the people of the ‘chief of towns’ a Messenger from among themselves who would:

  1. Recite for them the Divine Communications
  2. Purify their souls
  3. Teach them the knowledge of the Book and Wisdom

Although the people were in manifest error prior to this! Divine communications refers to the verses of the Holy Quran which Allah had revealed for the guidance of people. The responsibility here was to convey Allah’s Message to them by reciting those verses.


Infallibility – A Prerequisite

Infallibility was essential in order to convey the divine verses fittingly. If a Prophet or a Messenger is fallible and even if there is a slightest possibility of any error or forgetfulness then the message would lose its credibility. There would be lingering doubts – what is the guarantee that the message is complete or that there are no additions or deletions to it? If there is no credibility then the purpose of sending the message will be nullified. Hence, in order to convey the verses appropriately, a Prophet and a Messenger has to be infallible.


  1. Teaching and narrating the revelation

Another important responsibility of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.a.) which is mentioned in the verse of Surah Jum’a is “and teaches them the Book and the Wisdom”. It means that mere recitation of the verses is not sufficient. Rather, the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) also had to explain and elucidate their interpretation. Imparting knowledge of the entire Quran implies that the giver of knowledge should himself be completely well-versed with all its concepts. Since the Holy Quran contains the knowledge of all moist and dry things and it explains everything clearly, the knowledge of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) should encompass all of it. Rather, the one who knows more than the book will only be able to explain everything from it eloquently. His recitation of the Holy Quran itself proves that the Almighty Allah had revealed much more upon the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). It is mentioned in verse 44 of Surah Nahl (16):

“…and We have revealed to you the Reminder that you may make clear to men what has been revealed to them”


It means that Allah revealed the ‘Reminder’ (Zikr) separately upon the Messenger (s.a.w.a.) in order to explain the revealed message.


The Holy Quran only contains the general principles. The details were clarified by the Noble Messenger (s.a.w.a.). Quran talks about prayers, fasting, pilgrimage, etc. but the specifics like the rules of prayers, pre-conditions, Azaan, Iqamah among others, were clarified by the Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Perhaps Allah established this system so that the people don’t become independent of the messengers. Since the Holy Quran is an eternal message and it is to last forever, the need for Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) or someone like him will always exist in order to expound its concepts.


Infallibility in order to explain the Holy Quran

Just as infallibility is necessary to covey the verses of the Holy Quran, it is also important while teaching and expounding the verses. Before getting into details it is important to understand that the message of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in relation to the explanation of Quran is not like that of the exegetists (mufassirreen). The scholarly and minute interpretations of all the mufassirreen of the Noble Quran are limited to their knowledge and understanding of the Quran. None of them claim that their interpretation is the most accurate version of what Allah intended to convey and other interpretations must be rejected.


Whereas, every narration of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) about the Quran is the clarification of Allah’s aim i.e. it is Allah’s message in the words of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Hence, along with the Quran, the words of the Messenger (s.a.w.a.) are also a binding proof.


Hence, it becomes evident that even while narrating any tradition a Prophet should intend to convey Allah’s aim behind it and as a result he should be infallible else there would always be a possibility that Allah’s objective and the Prophet’s words might be incompatible. Every word of the Prophet, therefore, is an interpretation of Allah’s wish.


  1. Mastership in the Tashreei’ World

The Almighty Allah raised the Noble Messenger (s.a.w.a.) as a “Master of Authority”. The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) enjoys complete authority and mastership over the entire creation and every particle, from the depth of the earth to the highest point in the heavens, is subservient to his command. Simultaneously, Allah has made the Prophet an authority in the Shariah as well. It implies that the obedience to the Prophet is obligatory upon everyone unconditionally. Let us analyze a few verses of the Holy Quran under this discussion:


  1. “And whatever the Messenger gives you, accept it, and from whatever he forbids you, keep back” (Surah Hashr (59): 7)


Here the two parts “And whatever the Messenger gives you” and “from whatever he forbids you”, is a command and a prohibition respectively. Implying that it is necessary to do whatever the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) commands and to stay away from whatever he (s.a.w.a.) prohibits. This verse highlights the absoluteness and unconditionally of the obedience to the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) orders. No one has the right to question him.


  1. “And it behoves not a believing man and a believing woman that they should have any choice

in their matter when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter; and whoever disobeys

Allah and His Messenger, he surely strays off a manifest straying.” (Surah Ahzab (33): 36)


In this verse the words “that they should have any choice” rejects the possibility of any other option for a believer even in his personal affairs after Allah and the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) have taken a decision. He has absolutely no right to give his own opinion against that of Allah and the Prophet (s.a.w.a.).


Additionally the words “when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter” emphasize that it can be any issue. The authority of Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is not limited in any way and encompasses the entire life of a believer. Their authority extends to all aspects of one’s life, be it personal, social, economical, worldly or religious.


“ Allah and His Messenger”. The unconditional mention of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) after the mention of Allah indicates the fact that in commands and prohibitions Allah has granted an independent status and authority to the personality of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Along with His own commands and prohibitions Allah has declared those of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) to be equally binding and compulsory. The orders of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) thus have been given a distinct and independent status. Just as it is prohibited to disobey Allah, it is also prohibited to disobey him (s.a.w.a.).


It is clear that such authority is compatible only with infallibility. Just as the commands and prohibitions of Allah are free from error, fault or omission, so it is also true for the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).


  1. “The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) has a greater claim on the faithful than they have on themselves” (Surah Ahzab (33): 6)


The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) has more authority on a believer’s life, wealth and all his affairs than he himself. It is imperative for a believer to give precedence to the likes and dislikes of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) over his own likes and dislikes. The “greater claim” mentioned in this verse is generic in nature and does not refer to any peculiar situation.


  1. “O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger “ (Surah Nisa(4):59)


Even this verse makes a distinct mention of obedience to the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) along with obedience to Allah. The distinctness of the commands of the Prophet (s.a.w.a) from that of Allah is thus established. However it should be noted that this distinctness is granted by Allah. He has promulgated an independent obedience to the Prophet (s.a.w.a.). This is granted by Allah and does not contend with His authority. Hence if someone rejects this independent authority of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), he is in fact rejecting the rights and authority granted by Allah Himself.


Quran only addresses the beleiver


In all these verses the addressee is the believer. Allah has trusted only a believer for obedience to the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), for submitting his own will to that of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and for giving precedence to the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) over his own wealth and life. Absolute obedience to the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is the sign of a true believer. If anyone denies his commands or even entertains a difference of opinion with him then according to the Holy Quran, “he surely strays off a manifest straying.”


Who will represent the Prophet (s.a.w.a.)?


The responsibilities of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) are:

  1. Promulgating the divine laws.
  2. Teaching of knowledge and wisdom
  3. Legal authority


The demise of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) formally ended the job of promulgating the divine laws. During his lifetime itself the religion was completed and there is no need to promulgate any new divine laws. Since religion was complete during the life of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), there is no situation of reciting verses or a new religious ruling but the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) himself performed these responsibilities. Apart from this, the explanation of the rulings and the teachings of the book and wisdom will remain till the Day of Judgement and the one who has the knowledge of the book and wisdom will only be eligible for this responsibility.


Now the question is – who should be the successor of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)?


The answer is clear. Only that person can be the successor of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) who has the complete knowledge of the Quran like the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and teaches the book and wisdom like him (s.a.w.a.). Whose knowledge is divinely gifted like the prophet (s.a.w.a.) and has not sought knowledge in this world rather the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) has taught him on the order of God.


The Propagation of Surah-e-Baraat


The initial verses of Surah-e-Baraat in which Allah had addressed the polytheists and expressed His and the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) dislike for them needed to be recited in their midst in Mecca. The dislike for the polytheists needed to be expressed in their own centre and stronghold.


Sunni scholars have narrated this incident from Abdullah b. Umar as follows:

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) sent Abu Bakr and Umar to Mecca but the letter with the verses written on it was handed to Abu Bakr. Both took the letter and left for Mecca. They had not gone far when they saw a person approaching them on a camel. On asking, the person replied – I am Ali and O Abu Bakr, give me the letter. Abu Bakr asked if there was any development. Ali (a.s.) replied – I am not aware about it. Ali (a.s.) took the letter from them and went to Mecca. Umar and Abu Bakr returned to Medina and asked the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), “Was anything special revealed concerning us. Did any incident take place”? The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) replied in the negative but said that “I have been told that none can deliver these verses from your side except either you or someone from you” (Mustadrak of Haakim Nishapuri vol 3 pg 51)


Other Sunni scholars have narrated this incident quoting Ali (a.s.) in which it is clear that someone has informed the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) to replace Abu Bakr.


‘When Abu Bakr and Umar asked the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) that whether there was anything revealed about us regarding this, he (s.a.w.a.) said, ‘No, but Jibrail informed me – No one can deliver this message except you or someone from you’

(Musnad-e-Ahmad vol 1 pg 101, Sunan-e-Tirmizi vol 4 pg 339, Allama Amini has mentioned this incident in Al-Ghadeer vol 6 pg 338-350 from 70 Sunni scholars)


It is evident from this incident that among the responsibilities of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was recitation and propagation of Quranic verses and none can be his successor in this except Ali (a.s.). Moreover withdrawing this responsibility from other companions is also a clear sign in the matter of caliphate for those who understand.


Teaching and the Explanation of Revelation

In the 43rd verse of Surah-e-Raad (13), Allah says, “Those who disbelieved say that you are not a prophet. Say, indeed Allah is enough as witness between you and me and the one who has the knowledge of the book.”


This fact has also been pointed at in Surah-e-Hood, verse 17 that this witness is from the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) family.


The verse reads: “One who has a clear proof from the side of his Lord and the one who has a witness from himself.”


It has already been mentioned that the witness is from his own family and from himself.


The message which Jibrail delivered with regards to the propagation of the verse of Surah-e-Baraat was that either you yourself perform this duty or someone from you. History is witness that “someone from you” implies Ali (a.s.) and also “witness from himself” refers to Ali (a.s.) because the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) said, “Surely Ali is from me and I am from Ali”. Therefore the witness referred to Surah-e-Raad who has the knowledge of the entire book is none other than Ali (a.s.). Following are two more traditions regarding the same:


  1. Abu Saeed-e-Khudri narrates that I asked the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) that who does the verse “And the one who has the knowledge of the book” refer to. He (s.a.w.a.) replied, “He is my brother Ali b. Abi Talib”

(Shawaahidut Tanzeel of Haskaani, vol 1 pg 40 tr 422, Yanaabi al-Mawaddah vol 1 pg 307 chap 30 trad 7)


  1. A renowned Sunni scholar, interpreter and historian Jalaaluddeen Suyuti records the following tradition in his famous exegesis Al-Durr Al-Mansoor vol 3 pg 324 under the interpretation of Surah-e-Hud, verse 17:

Ibne Abi Haatim, Ibne Mardviyyah and Abu Nuaim have narrated from Ali (a.s.) in Al-Maarifah. He (a.s.) says, “There are verses revealed regarding every man from the Quraish” One person asked, “Which verse is revealed regarding you?” He (a.s.) replied, “Have you not read Surah-e-Hud? – ‘Is he then who has with him clear proof from his Lord, and a witness from Him recites it’. According to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) witness refers to me.


Hence it become absolutely clear that that one who has the knowledge of the entire book i.e. the knowledge of the entire Quran, the knowledge of the entire universe and the knowledge of the first and the last, is none other than Ali (a.s.). And apart from this, we have the tradition of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) which is famous and authentic:


  1. “I am the city of knowledge and Ali is it’s gate” (Behaar al-Anwaar vol 40 pg 201 trad 4)
  2. In another tradition, Ali (a.s.) says, “O people, ask me about whatever you want before you are deprived of me. This is the saliva of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) that he has fed me.” (Tauheed-e-Sadooq pg 298)


  1. Imam Sadiq (a.s.) says in a tradition, “The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) taught Ali (a.s.) a letter through which a thousand letters were opened and from them another thousand letters.” (Behaar al-Anwar vol 26 pg 30 trad 39)

Now it is extremely clear that only Ali (a.s.) can replace the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in the teaching and explanation of revelation. In the entire Muslim nation, there is none who has more knowledge of the Book than Ali (a.s.), rather he (a.s.) is more knowledgeable than anyone else in any type of knowledge.


If caliphate is the successorship of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), and successorship demands the successor to possess certain characteristics, then only Ali (a.s.) possesses those characteristics.


Successorship in the world of actions (tashree’i)

When the successorship of Ali (a.s.) is established in the propagation and in the teaching and explanation of the revelation, then even in the world of actions, he (a.s.) is the successor. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) announced this on 18th Zilhajj before a huge gathering of companions in the planes of Ghadeer thus – “Of whomsoever I am the master this Ali is his master”


That is, he bears the same right of rulership and mastership just as me and has more authority on yourselves than you yourselves do. My obedience is obligatory upon everyone and opposing me is forbidden. And all these things are applicable for Ali (a.s.) after me.


To summarise, if caliphate is the successorship of the prophet (s.a.w.a.), then Ali (a.s.) possesses all the characteristics of successorship and only he (a.s.) is the successor of the prophet (s.a.w.a.). And if caliphate is someone else’s successorship, then we have nothing to do with it.


‘And nothing devolves on us but a clear deliverance (of the message).’

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