While the Muslim community is divided on the caliph / successor of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) after him, they have ignored an equally important issue – the caliph / successor of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in his lifetime.
Muslims selected a ‘caliph’ / successor to govern them after the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). But were these so-called caliphs ever considered worthy to govern or lead the Muslims in the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) lifetime. If this ‘caliph’ selected by the Muslims was unfit to lead the Muslims in the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) lifetime, how did he become a worthy candidate overnight after the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) martyrdom.
The best person to succeed the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) as caliph / successor is the one who performed this role in the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) lifetime.
There are many verses of the Holy Quran and reliable reports from the Sunnah that point to a caliph / guide / Imam in the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.). And this person is none other than Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.).
- For every nation there is a guide
Ali (a.s.) was the guide of Muslims in the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). This is clear from the saying of Allah
اِنَّمَا اَنْتَ مُنْذِرٌ وَ لِكُلِّ قَوْمٍ هَادٍ
You are only a warner and for every nation there is a guide. (Surah Raad (13): 7)
It is recorded by Muslim scholars that this verse was revealed in favour of our master Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) and the infallible Imams (a.s.) and that for every nation there was a guide followed by another guide from the progeny of Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) and the earth will not be devoid of them.
- Al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 191; Basair al-Darajaat p 29
- Manaqib Aal-e-Abi Talib (a.s.) v 3 p 83
- Tafseer al-Ayyashi v 2 p 203
- Ghayah al-Maram, p. 235 from Faraid al-Simtain
So, while the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was only a warner, Ali (a.s.) was the guide of the Muslims in the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) as also after him.
Skeptics say that Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is both the warner and guide.
This goes against the apparent of the Quranic verse and explanatory traditions related to it. Allah has emphasized on Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) being only a warner through the word اِنَّمَا. If Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was both warner and guide then اِنَّمَا serves no purpose. The verse would have read – You are a warner and a guide for every nation without ‘only’ or اِنَّمَا
Hence, it follows that the guide is other than the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and this guide i.e. Ali (a.s.) was in his lifetime and there is a guide in every era.
- Position of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) with Ali (a.s.) was like Moosa with Haroon (peace be upon them)
All Muslims agree that the Hadith-e-Manzelat is a reliable narration that equates the relation between Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Ali (a.s.) with Moosa (a.s.) and Haroon (a.s.) as presented here:
Allah’s Messenger (s.a.w.a.) set out for Tabuk. appointing Ali (a.s.) as his deputy (in Medina). Ali (a.s.) said: Do you want to leave me with the children and women? The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) said: Will you not be pleased that you will be to me like Haroon to Moosa, but there will be no prophet after me.
- Sahih al-Bukhari trad 3,706, 4,416
- Sahih al-Muslim trad 2,404e, 2,404b
Haroon (a.s.) was the successor of Moosa (a.s.) in his lifetime as this verse shows:
وَقَالَ مُوسَى لأَخِيهِ هَارُونَ اخْلُفْنِي فِي قَوْمِي وَأَصْلِحْ وَلاَ تَتَّبِعْ سَبِيلَ الْمُفْسِدِينَ
Moosa said to his brother Haroon: Take my place among my people, and act well and do not follow the way of the mischief-makers. (Surah Aaraf (7): 143)
Rather, Haroon (a.s.) was an associate in the prophethood of Moosa (a.s.) as supplicated by Moosa (a.s.) to Allah:
وَاجْعَل لِّي وَزِيرًا مِّنْ أَهْلِي هَارُونَ أَخِي اشْدُدْ بِهِ أَزْرِي وَأَشْرِكْهُ فِي أَمْرِي
And give to me an aider from my family: Haroun, my brother, strengthen my back by him, and associate him (with me) in my affair… (Surah Taha (20): 29-32)
Which Allah answered:
He said: You are indeed granted your petition, O Moosa! (Surah Taha (20): 36)
In fact, Haroon (a.s.) was a mercy for Moosa (a.s.)
وَوَهَبْنَا لَهُ مِن رَّحْمَتِنَا أَخَاهُ هَارُونَ نَبِيًّا
And We gave to him out of Our mercy his brother Haroun a prophet. (Surah Maryam (19): 53)
So, Haroon was the caliph, vizier, associate in prophethood, a mercy for Moosa (a.s.) in his lifetime.
According to the Hadith-e-Manzelat, Ali (a.s.) held the same position for the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) as vizier, associate in prophethood, a mercy in the lifetime of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
In fact, when Ali (a.s.) was left behind in Medina as the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) deputy during the Tabuk expedition, tongues of the hypocrites began wagging to the effect that there were differences between the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Ali (a.s.) as earlier Ali (a.s.) always accompanied the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) consoled Ali (a.s.) by comparing him to Haroon (a.s.) who likewise was deputed by Moosa (a.s.) in the Bani Israil, during the appointment with His Lord. This is the background for the Hadith-e-Manzelat, as reported earlier.
Skeptics maintain that Haroon died in the lifetime of Moosa (a.s.), so if at all, Ali’s (a.s.) successorship was for a limited period.
Moosa (a.s.) had a vizier / aide / successor in his lifetime i.e. Haroon (a.s.) as also after him i.e. Yusha Ibn Noon (a.s.).
Just like there are traditions that compare Ali (a.s.) to Haroon (a.s.), there are reports placing Ali (a.s.) in same position as Yusha Ibn Noon (a.s.), one of which is documented here:
Abdullah bin Masud narrates:
I asked the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) – O Messenger of Allah! Who will perform your ghusl after your demise?
He (s.a.w.a.) replied – Every prophet is given ghusl by his successor.
I asked – Who is your successor O Prophet of Allah?
He (s.a.w.a.) replied – Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.).
I asked – How long will he live after you, O Prophet of Allah?
He (s.a.w.a.) said: He will live for thirty years. The successor of Prophet Moosa (a.s.) lived for thirty years after him and he was opposed by Safra bint Shoaib – the wife of Moosa (a.s.). She said – I am worthier than you in the matter (of leadership). Then he battled her and killed her warriors and imprisoned her in the best manner. Then the daughter of Abu Bakr will soon rebel against Ali (a.s.) in such and such place with a thousand Muslims. Then she will battle him, and then he will slay her warriors and imprison her with the best etiquette. And it is regarding her that Allah has revealed – And stay in your houses and do not display your finery like the displaying of the ignorance of yore (Surah Ahzab (33): 33) i.e. ignorance of yore of Safra bint Shoaib.
- Kamal al-Deen v 1 p 27
- Nahj al-Haqq p 368
- Tafseer al-Safi v 4 p 168 under (Surah Ahzab (33): 33)
- Tafseer al-Burhan v 4 p 442 (Surah Ahzab (33): 33
- Ali (a.s.) was Imam of all Muslims in Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) lifetime
All Muslims on death are questioned about their Lord, Prophet and the Imam. This is true even for those who died in the era of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) as this report indicates:
Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) relates in a lengthy report about Lady Fatima bint Asad’s (s.a.) funeral, an extract of which is presented here:
I bent myself over her body to dictate to her the answer to the questions that she would be asked. She was asked as to who her creator was.
She gave the right answer. She was asked as to who was the messenger from Allah. She gave the right answer.
She was then asked as to who was her Master (Wali) and Imam. She stuttered. I prompted her: Your son, your son!
- Al-Kafi v 1 p 453-454
- Ithbat al-Hodat v 3 p 15
- Behar al-Anwar v 6 p 241-242
- Mustadrak al-Wasail v 2 p 342
- Caliph / Proof in lifetime of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)
There are many reports like these that prove Ali (a.s.) was the caliph of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in his lifetime and after his death:
After addressing the Muslims on the importance of the blessed month of Ramazan, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) turned to Ameerul Momineen (a.s.):
O Ali, you are my successor, father of my children, husband of my daughter, caliph of my nation in my lifetime and after my death, your command is my command, your prohibition is my prohibition, I swear by the One who raised me with prophethood and made me the best of creation – you are Allah’s Proof over His Creation, His Trustee over His Secrets and His Caliph over His Servants.
- Fazail al-Ashhor al-Thalathah p 110
Likewise in another report, Allah informed Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in Meraj:
I ask you, even though I know better than you, tell me who have you appointed as your representative on the earth?
I replied: My cousin, Ali Ibne Abi Talib (a.s.) who has helped Your religion.
Allah: You are right, O Muhammad, I chose you with prophethood and raised you with messengership and tested Ali (a.s.) for conveying your messages to your nation and appointed him as My Proof on the earth, with you and after you. He is the light of my friends and the Guardian of those obedient to Me. He is the Word that I have made binding for the believers. I gave Fatima (s.a.) in marriage to him and made him your Wasi, your inheritor, your Vizier, organizer of your ceremonial bath (on death), your helper in religion. He will be killed in the way of My Sunnah and your Sunnah. The most wretched one of this nation will kill him.
- Al-Tarf p 445-446
- Behar al-Anwar v 18 p 395-396, v 36 p 162-163, v 37 p 319-321
- Tafseer al-Burhan v 5 p 198-199
The Quranic verses and reports of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) clearly show that Ali (a.s.) was the caliph / vizier / Imam in the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Allah and the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) made this elaborate arrangement so that it would be clear as daylight to all Muslims that Ali (a.s.) was the worthy successor of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) right from the lifetime of the Holy Prophet. So, there would be no question or doubt after the passing of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) as to who was the successor of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
Even then to eliminate even the slightest doubt and skepticism, Allah instructed Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) to announce Ali’s (a.s.) Imamat and successorship in Ghadeer. Even after the martyrdom of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), Ali (a.s.) was ordered to give ghusl to Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) so that it would be clear to the Muslims that he was the successor since only a successor can give ghusl to the prophet.
Unfortunately, the Muslims ignored the numerous signs and selected others for their (mis)guidance, after the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) martyrdom, while knowing fully well that Ali (a.s.) was already the caliph and Imam in the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) lifetime and beyond!