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Succession to Muhammad

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Title: Succession to Muhammad  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Imamah (Shia doctrine), The Twelve Imams, Islamic schools and branches, Shia view of Abu Bakr, The Fourteen Infallibles
Collection: 632 Elections, Abu Bakr, Ali, Muhammad, Schisms in Islam, Shia–sunni Relations
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Succession to Muhammad

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The Succession to Muhammad concerns the varying aspects of successorship of Muhammad after his death, comprising who might be considered as his successor to lead the Muslims, how that person should be elected, the conditions of legitimacy, and the role of successor. Different answers to these questions have led to several divisions in the Muslim community since the first century of Muslim history—most notably giving rise to Sunnis, Shias and Kharijites.

From a historic viewpoint as recorded, with Muhammad's death in AD 632, disagreement broke out over who should succeed him as leader of the Muslim community. None of Muhammad's sons survived into adulthood, therefore direct hereditary succession was never an option. Umar (Umar ibn al-Khattab), a prominent companion of Muhammad, nominated Abu Bakr. Others added their support and Abu Bakr was made the first caliph. This choice was disputed by some of Muhammad's companions, who held that Ali (Ali ibn Abi Talib), his cousin and son-in-law, had been designated his successor.[1] Later, during the First Fitna and the Second Fitna the community divided into several sects and groups, each of which had its own idea about successorship. After the Rashidun caliphate turned into Monarchies and Sultanates, Sunnis held power in most areas of Muslim history. Shias have emerged as their opposition.

From a religious viewpoint, Muslims later split into two groups, Sunni and Shia. Sunnis assert that even though Muhammad never appointed a successor, Abu Bakr was elected first caliph by the Muslim community. The Sunnis recognize the first four caliphs as Muhammad's rightful successors. Shias believe that Muhammad explicitly named his successor Ali at Ghadir Khumm and Muslim leadership belonged to him who had been determined by divine order.[2][3]

The two groups also disagree on Ali's attitude towards Abu Bakr, and the two caliphs who succeeded him: Umar and Uthman ibn Affan. Sunnis and the Zaydis tend to stress Ali's acceptance and support of their rule, while the Twelver Shia claim that he distanced himself from them, and that he was being kept from fulfilling the religious duty that Muhammad had appointed to him. Sunnis maintain that if Ali was the rightful successor as ordained by God, then it would have been his duty as leader of the Muslim nation to make war with these people (Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman) until Ali established the decree. The Twelver Shias contend that Ali did not fight Abu Bakr, Umar or Uthman, because he was foretold by Muhammad about how the political tide will turn against Ali after his demise and was advised not to wage war against them. The Twelver Shia also say that he did not have the military strength nor the willingness to wage a civil war amongst the Muslims.[4] The Twelver Shia say Ali also believed that he could fulfil his role of Imamate without this fighting.[5]

Zaydis do not agree with the Twelver Shia. After the death of Abu Bakr, Ali raised Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr. Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr was the son of Abu Bakr and was raised by Ali.[6] When Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr was killed by the Ummayads,[6] Aisha, the wife of Muhammad—also a renowned scholar of her time—raised and taught her nephew Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr.

Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr's mother was from Ali's family and Qasim's daughter Farwah bint al-Qasim was married to Muhammad al-Baqir and was the mother of Jafar al-Sadiq. Therefore, Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr was the grandson of Abu Bakr the first caliph and the grandfather of Jafar al-Sadiq.Zaydis, the largest group amongst the Shia before the Safavid Dynasty and currently the second largest group, believe that on the last hour of Zayd ibn Ali (the uncle of Jafar al-Sadiq), he was betrayed by the people in Kufa who said to him: "May God have mercy on you! What do you have to say on the matter of Abu Bakr and Umar ibn al-Khattab?" Zayd ibn Ali said, "I have not heard anyone in my family renouncing them both nor saying anything but good about them...when they were entrusted with government they behaved justly with the people and acted according to the Qur'an and the Sunnah"[7][8]

The differences between the Sunni and Shia amplified after the Safavid invasion of Persia and the subsequent Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni (864- 941), Ibn Babawayh (923-991), and Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (1201-1274) as the law.[10][11] After the demise of the Safavid dynasty, the new ruler of Persia, Nader Shah (1698 to 1747) himself a Sunni attempted to improve relations with Sunni nations by propagating the integration of Shiism by calling it Jaafari Madh'hab.[12] Since Jafar al-Sadiq himself disapproved of people who disapproved of his great grand father Abu Bakr the first caliph. Jafar al-Sadiq himself gave priority to the Qur'an and the Hadith and felt that Islam was completed during the time of Muhammad and wanted people to refer to the Quran therefore Jafar al-Sadiq (702-765) did not write any books. Since Jafar al-Sadiq and Zayd ibn Ali did not them selves write any books. But they worked closely with imam Abu Hanifa and imam Malik ibn Anas the oldest branch of the Shia, the Zaydis to this day and originally the Fatamids, use the Hanafi jurisprudence, as do most Sunnis.[13][14][15]


  • Historiography 1
  • Succession to Muhammad from historical viewpoint 2
    • Election of Abu Bakr 2.1
  • The Sunni view of the succession 3
    • Ghadir Khumm 3.1
    • Muhammad's last illness 3.2
    • The events at Saqifah 3.3
    • Ali's attitude towards Abu Bakr and Umar 3.4
    • Sunni attitude towards Ali 3.5
  • The Twelver Shia view of the succession 4
    • Life of Ali 4.1
    • The Qur'an 4.2
    • Hadith 4.3
      • Ghadir Khumm 4.3.1
      • Hadith al-Thaqalayn 4.3.2
      • Da‘wat dhul-‘Ashīrah - Summoning the Family 4.3.3
      • Hadith al-Manzila 4.3.4
      • Hadith al-Safina 4.3.5
      • Hadith Aman al-Umma 4.3.6
    • Muhammad's last illness 4.4
    • The events at Saqifah 4.5
    • Shī‘at of ‘Alī 4.6
    • Ali gives allegiance to Abu Bakr 4.7
  • Western academic views 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
    • Footnotes 7.1
    • Academic books 7.2
    • Shia books 7.3
    • Sunni books 7.4
  • External links 8
    • Sunni Perspective 8.1
    • Shia perspective 8.2


Most of Islamic history seems to have been primarily transmitted orally until after the rise of the Abbasid Caliphate.[16]

The historical works of later Muslim writers include the traditional Muslim biographies of Muhammad and quotes attributed to him (the sira and hadith literature), which provide further information on Muhammad's life.[17] The earliest surviving written sira (biographies of Muhammad and quotes attributed to him) is Sirah Rasul Allah(Life of God's Messenger) by Ibn Ishaq (d. 761 or 767 CE[18]). Although the original work is lost, portions of it survive in the recensions of Ibn Hisham (d. 833 CE) and Al-Tabari (d. 923 CE).[19] Many, but not all, scholars accept the accuracy of these biographies, though their accuracy is unascertainable.[20] Studies by J. Schacht and Goldziher has led scholars to distinguish between the traditions touching legal matters and the purely historical ones. According to William Montgomery Watt, in the legal sphere it would seem that sheer invention could have very well happened. In the historical sphere however, aside from exceptional cases, the material may have been subject to "tendential shaping" rather than being made out of whole cloth.[21]

Modern Western scholars are much less likely than Sunni Islamic scholars to trust the work of the Abbasid historians. Western historians approach the classic Islamic histories with varying degrees of circumspection.

Hadith compilations are records of the traditions or sayings of Muhammad. These might be defined as the biography of Muhammad perpetuated by the long memory of his community for their exemplification and obedience. The development of hadith is a vital element during the first three centuries of Islamic history.[22] There had been a common tendency among earlier western scholars against these narrations and reports gathered in later periods; such scholars regarding them as later fabrications. Leone Caetani considered the attribution of historical reports to `Abd Allah ibn `Abbas and Aisha as mostly fictitious while proffering accounts reported without isnad by the early compilers of history like Ibn Ishaq. Wilferd Madelung has rejected the stance of indiscriminately dismissing everything not included in "early sources" and in this approach tendentious alone is no evidence for late origin. He does not reject the narrations which have been complied in later periods; trying to judge them in the context of history and on the basis of their compatibility with the events and figures.[23]

The only contemporary source is The Book of Sulaym ibn Qays or Kitab al-Saqifah which was written by Sulaym ibn Qays (death: 75-95 AH (694-714)). This is a collection of hadith and historical reports from 1st century of the Islamic calendar and narrates the events which relate to the succession in detail.[24]

Succession to Muhammad from historical viewpoint

Election of Abu Bakr

After uniting the Arabian tribes into a single Muslim religious polity in the last years of his life, Muhammad's death in 632 was followed by disagreement over who would succeed him as leader of the Muslim community.[25] At a gathering attended by a small group of Muslims at Saqifah a companion of Muhammad named Abu Bakr was nominated for the leadership of the community. Others added their support and Abu Bakr was made the first caliph. The choice of Abu Bakr was disputed by some of Muhammad's companions, who held that Ali had been designated his successor by Muhammad himself.[3][26] However Sunnis allege that Ali accepted the subsequent leadership of Abu Bakr, Omar and Uthman.[27]

According to Wilferd Madelung following his election to the caliphate, Abu Bakr and Umar with a few other companions headed to Fatimah's house to obtain homage from Ali and his supporters who had gathered there. Then "Umar saying that he will set the house on fire unless they came out" Zubayr came out with his sword drawn, but fell off and lost it, and as a result Umar's men jumped upon him and carried him off. There is some evidence that the house of Fatima was searched. Ali is reported to have later repeatedly said that had there been forty men with him he would have resisted. Abu Bakr isolated the Banu Hashim who according to Al-Zuhri, refused to swear allegiance for six months.[28] There is disagreement among the sources about what happened next. According to Lesley Hazleton, Umar decided not to follow through on his threat -burning Fatima's house with everyone in it- and instead break into it. He took a running leap and threw his whole weight against the door.[29] Twelver Shi'ite sources narrate that Umar set fire to the door of Fatima's house and then kicked the door open, crushing Fatima who was standing behind the door trying to keep the door shut. This crushing blow caused Mohsin, the son Fatima was pregnant with, to die in her womb and broke her ribs (the same blow later caused Fatima's death as well). This is disputed by Sunni Muslims who believe no such conflict ever occurred. The Twelver Shia say Ali, who was under Muhammad's orders not to fight back had to be patient to avoid bloodshed and was captured in chains. The Twelver Shia say when Abu Bakr's selection to the caliphate was presented as a fait accompli, Ali withheld his oaths of allegiance until after the death of Fatimah. The Twelver Shia say that Ali did not actively assert his own right because he did not want to throw the nascent Muslim community into strife.[30]

Fatima was buried in the night by Ali without any of Abu Bakr's supporters present and the location of her grave is still disputed.

The Twelver Shia say Ali himself was firmly convinced of the legitimacy of his claim to the caliphate based on his close kinship with Muhammad, his intimate association and his knowledge of Islam and his merits in serving its cause. The Twelver Shia say that he told Abu Bakr that his delay in pledging allegiance (bay'ah) to Abu Bakr as caliph was based on his belief in his own prior title. The Twelver Shia say that Ali did not change his mind when he finally pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr and then to Umar and to Uthman but had done so for the sake of the unity of Islam, at a time when it was clear that the Muslims had turned away from him.[3][31]

The Sunni view of the succession

Sunni Muslims relate various hadith, or oral traditions, in which Muhammad is said to have recommended shura, elections or consultation, as the best method for making community decisions. In this view of the succession, he did not nominate a successor because he expected that the community themselves would choose the new leader — as was the custom in Arabia at the time. Some Sunnis argue that Muhammad had indicated his reliance upon Abu Bakr as second in command in many ways; he had called upon Abu Bakr to lead prayers and to make rulings in his (Muhammad's) absence. There are some hadiths asserting that Muhammad said that some would be desirous of power but he knew that God (and the Muslims) would make Abu Bakr the next leader. Sunnis point to the fact that the majority of the people accepted Abu-Bakr as their leader as proof that his selection was wise and just.

Sunni Muslims believe that Muhammad made no "official" appointment of a successor, but left plenty of signs that Abu Bakr was to succeed him as his Khalifa. Citing the following hadiths:

A woman came to the Prophet and he ordered her to come back later. When she said: “What if I come don't find you? (Indicating his death).” He said: "If you don't find me, then go to Abu Bakr.” [Saheeh Bukharee][32]

“Allah's Messenger said to me in his final illness: "Call Abu Bakr and his brother so I can write an official document for I fear that some desirous one may follow his desires and say: I am more appropriate. And Allah and the believers reject all but Abu Bakr." [Saheeh Muslim][33]

Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyyah said:

I said to my father: Which of the people after the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) is best? He replied: Abu Bakr. I then asked: Who comes next? He said: ‘Umar. I was then afraid of asking him who came next, and he might mention ‘Uthman, so I said: You came next, O my father? He said: I am only a man among the Muslims. Ali ibn Abi Talib was also very much aware of this and bore witness to it as we see in this narration from his son, which is found in Saheeh Al-Bukharee also: “I said to my father: ‘Who is the best of the people after Allah's Messenger?’ He said: “Abu Bakr”. I said: “And then who?” He said: “And then Umar ibn Al-Khattab.” I was afraid that he would say Uthman next, so I said: “And then you?” To which he answered: “I am nothing but a man among the Muslims.” [34]

A narration by Mousa Ibn 'Aoqbah in the book Siyar a`lam al-nubala (Arabic: سير أعلام النبلاء‎) by Al-Dhahabi:[35]

...Then Ali and Al-Zobair said: we see that Abu Bakr is more worthier to be the rightful successor of the prophet than anyone else...

Ghadir Khumm

There is one hadith in the collection known as the Musnad which affirms that Muhammad made a speech at Ghadir Khumm, in which he said, "Of whomsoever I am the mawla, Ali is his mawla".

The word 'mawla' has many meanings in Arabic. While the Shi'ites take the meaning 'master' or 'ruler' and believe that Muhammad did not make 120000 people wait in the desert for three days to merely tell them they should befriend Ali, some Sunni scholars say that Muhammad was merely saying that anyone who was his friend should also befriend Ali. This was a response to some Yemeni soldiers who had complained about Ali.[36] A similar incident is described in Ibn Ishaq's Sirah; there Muhammad is reputed to have said, "Do not blame Ali, for he is too scrupulous in the things of God, or the way of God, to be blamed." (Guillaume p. 650). The Sunnis argue that it is a mistake to interpret an expression of friendship and support as the appointment of a successor. The fact that there even was a dispute over the leadership after Muhammad's death is sufficient proof that no one had interpreted his words as a binding appointment.

Other believe that the term "mawla" indeed meant "master" when the Prophet used the word to describe Ali at Ghadir Khumm, but that this was an expression of Ali's spiritual superiority among the Muslims, not a decision by Muhammad regarding succession. These Sunnis also reject as unreasonable the interpretation of the word "mawla" in this instance simply to mean "friend."

The word mawla is discussed in a non-Muslim fashion in a book edited by Monique Bernards and John Nawas called "Patronate and Patronage in Early and Classical Islam".[37] This book sheds light on the word mawla.

On page 25 of Patronate And Patronage in Early And Classical Islam By Monique Bernards, John Nawas [9]

Monique Bernards and John Nawas translate it as follows:

"Mawla may refer to a client, a patron, an agnate (brother, son, father's brother, father' brothers son), an affined kinsman, (brother-in-law, son-in-law), a friend, a supporter, a follower, a drinking companion, a partner, a newly-converted Muslim attached to a Muslim and last but not least an ally. Most of these categories have legal implication. Mawla is commonly translated as "a client".

Muhammad's last illness

Muhammad asked permission from his wives to spend his last days with Aisha. According to Sunnis, before he died, Muhammad made a gesture of enormous trust in Abubakr by asking him to lead the prayers in the mosque as Imam — a highly visible role virtually always undertaken, when possible, by Muhammad himself. Historically, the Imam of a mosque has always been a leader in his local Muslim community.[38]

The events at Saqifah

The original Medinan Muslims, the Ansar, held a meeting to discuss choosing a new leader among themselves, to rule their part of the community. When the news of the meeting spread, Abu Bakr, Umar, and Abu Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah rushed to the scene. Abu Bakr argued that if the Ansar chose a leader, to lead the Ansar only, the Muslim community would split. The new leader must come from the Quraysh, Muhammad's clan; any other choice would destroy the community. Sa'd ibn Ubadah agreed to this. Abu Bakr suggested to the gathering that the people should choose either Umar or Abu Ubayda, as both were capable men of the Quraysh. Umar immediately grabbed Abu Bakr's hand and gave him bay'ah (declared his allegiance; an Arabian custom) causing the rest of the men at the gathering to also give their bay'ah. Umar later described this process as a falta, a rushed and hasty decision. However, this decision would not have been binding upon the rest of the Muslims unless they themselves chose to give their bay'ah, which all save the supporters of Ali did. According to the Sunni, this is the proof that the decision was the right one.

Ali's attitude towards Abu Bakr and Umar

Sunni accounts say that after a period during which he withdrew from public affairs, Ali eventually decided to cooperate with Abu Bakr and give his public submission. One version of the story is found in an oral tradition collected by Muhammad al-Bukhari.[39] Ali's cooperation is evident from the fact that he assisted all his three predecessors in making official decisions.

Zaydis do not agree with the Twelver Shia. After the death of Abu Bakr, Ali raised Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr. Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr was the son of Abu Bakr and was raised by Ali.[6] When Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr was killed by the Ummayads[6] Aisha the wife of Muhammad, also a renowned scholar of her time, raised and taught her nephew Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr.

Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakrs mother was from Alis family and Qasims daughter Farwah bint al-Qasim was married to Muhammad al-Baqir and was the mother of Jafar al-Sadiq. Therefore, Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr was the grand son of Abu Bakr the first caliph and the grand father of Jafar al-Sadiq. Jafar al-Sadiq disapproved of people who said anything bad about his great grand father Abu Bakr the first caliph. Zaydis, the largest group amongst the Shia before the Safavid Dynasty and currently the second largest group, believe that on the last hour of Zayd ibn Ali (the uncle of Jafar al-Sadiq), he was betrayed by the people in Kufa who said to him: "May God have mercy on you! What do you have to say on the matter of Abu Bakr and Umar ibn al-Khattab?" Zayd ibn Ali said, "I have not heard anyone in my family renouncing them both nor saying anything but good about them...when they were entrusted with government they behaved justly with the people and acted according to the Qur'an and the Sunnah"[7][8]

Sunni attitude towards Ali

Sunni Muslims consider Ali as one of the prominent companions of Muhammad, among the ten, including Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman, who were informed with the gift of paradise. They also consider Ali among the righteous caliphs and accept the hadiths narrated by him. They reject the Shia view that Ali considered Abu Bakr's succession undeserved.

The Twelver Shia view of the succession

A modern ambigram where the name Muhammad محمد in Arabic script is read as `Ali علي when rotated through 180°, and vice versa.

The Twelver Shia believe that just as a prophet is appointed by God alone, only God has the prerogative to appoint the successor to his prophet. To testify the validity of their claims, some of them refer to the Quranic verses such as [38:26] and [2:124] in which it is shown that Allah has assigned his successor on the earth. Shia continue that Moses did not asked people to make shura and assign his successor when he had planned to leave for miqaat and it was Allah who selected Aron as the successor of Moses for his 40 nights of absence among the people. Shia scholars refer to hadiths such as Hadith of the pond of Khumm, Hadith of position and Hadith of the Twelve Successors to testify that God chose Ali to be the successor, infallible and divinely chosen. Thus they say that Muhammad, before his death, appointed Ali as his successor. There are also historical records for this claim as When the chief of Banu Amir came to the prophet that instead of defeating the prophet's enemy to have a share in the leadership of the community, the prophet replied that "That is for God to decide; He will entrust leadership to whomever He will." It is clear that if the leadership of the community was the choice of the people, the prophet would have pointed to it.[40]

Life of Ali

Ali was a leader in battle, and often entrusted with command. He was left in charge of the community at Medina when Muhammad led the Battle of Tabouk. Ali was also his cousin, and the husband of his daughter Fatimah, and the father of his beloved grandchildren Hasan and Husayn. Ali's father was Abu Talib ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib, Muhammad's uncle, foster father, and powerful protector. As a member of Abu Talib's family, Muhammad had in fact played the role of an elder brother and guardian to Ali — and Ali had, as a youth, been among the first to accept Islam. He was now a charismatic defender of the faith in his own right, and it was perhaps inevitable that some in the Muslim community assumed that Ali would claim a leadership position following Muhammad's death. In the end, however, it was Abu Bakr who assumed control of the Muslim community.

The Qur'an

The Shia refer to three verses from sura Al-Ma'ida to make their argument on Qur'anic grounds: 5:55,[41] 5:3,[42] 5:67.[43] They say that the verses refer to Ali, and the last two verses were revealed at Ghadir Khumm.[44]


The Shia point to a number of hadith that, they believe, show that Muhammad had left specific instructions as to his successor. These hadith have been given names: the pond of Khumm, Safinah, Thaqalayn, Haqq, position, warning, and others.

There are many different versions of these hadith.

The following two hadith are most often referred to by the Shia, when arguing for the explicit appointment of Ali by Muhammad.

Ghadir Khumm

In 632 CE, Muhammad made his last pilgrimage to the Kaaba in Mecca. Some early accounts say that after finishing his pilgrimage, on his return to Medina, he and his followers stopped at a spring and waypoint called Ghadir Khumm. Muhammad delivered a speech to his assembled followers, in which the traditions state that Muhammad said:

...for whoever I am his mawla, Ali is his mawla...

The use of Mawla as friend occurs many times in the hadith [45] like :

...(وَقَالَ لِزَيْدٍ " أَنْتَ أَخُونَا وَمَوْلاَنَا) Prophet said to Zaid, "You are our brother (in faith) and our freed slave(Mawla)." [46]

Hadith al-Thaqalayn

This hadith which is mutawatir narrates from the prophet that: "Verily, I am leaving with you two precious things, the Book of God and my progeny, my ahl al-bayt; for as long as you cling to these two, you will never go astray; and truly they will not be parted from each other until they join me at al-Kawthar."[47]

Da‘wat dhul-‘Ashīrah - Summoning the Family

Islam began when Muhammad became forty years old. Initially, the mission was kept a secret. Then three years after the advent of Islam, he was ordered to commence the open declaration of his message. This was the occasion when God revealed the verse "And warn your nearest relations,".[48]

When this verse was revealed, Muhammad organized a feast that is known in history as "Summoning the Family — Da‘wat dhul-‘Ashīra". He invited around forty men from the Banu Hashim and asked Ali to make arrangements for the dinner. After having served his guests with food and drinks, when he wanted to speak to them about Islam, Abu Lahab ibn 'Abdul Muttalib forestalled him and said, "Your host has long since bewitched you." All the guests dispersed before Muhammad could present his message to them.

Muhammad then invited them the next day. After the feast, he spoke to them, saying:

O Sons of ‘Abdul-Muttalib! By Allāh, I do not know of any person among the Arabs who has come to his people with better than what I have brought to you. I have brought to you the good of this world and the next, and I have been commanded by the Lord to call you unto Him. Therefore, who amongst you will support me in this matter so that he may be my brother (akhhī), my successor (wasiyyī) and my caliph (khalifatī) among you?[49]

This was the first time that Muhammad openly and publicly called the relations to accept him as the Messenger and Prophet of God, as well as being the first time that he called for a person who would aid him in his mission. At the time, no one but the youngest of them — Ali, stood up and said, "I will be your helper, O Prophet of God."[49]

Muhammad then put his hand on the back of Ali's neck and said:

Inna hadhã akhhí wa wasiyyí wa khalífatí fíkum, fasma‘û lahu wa atí‘û — Verily this is my brother, my successor, and my caliph amongst you; therefore, listen to him and obey.[49]

Hadith al-Manzila

The prophet several times indicated that the station and rank of Ali to the prphet is like the relation of Aaron to Muses except that Ali is not prophet.According to the Quran Aaron had the rank of the prophet, heir and the minister; so Ali had the rank of heir and minister.[50]

Hadith al-Safina

The prophet likened his ahl al-Bayt to the ark of Noah: "Is not the likeness of my ahl al-bayt among you like the ark of Noah among his folk? Whoever takes refuge therein is saved and whoever opposes it is drowned." As the ark of Noah was the sole salvation for the people, ahl al-Bayt are the only salvation for the people of their time.[47]

Hadith Aman al-Umma

The prophet said: "Just as the stars are a means of securing the people of the earth against drowning, my ahl al-bayt is a means of securing my community from division." That is they are a means of unity among the community.[47]

Muhammad's last illness

Soon after returning from the Farewell Pilgrimage, Muhammad fell ill. He was nursed in the apartment of his wife Aisha, the daughter of Abu Bakr.

The Shia claim that most of the prominent men among the Muslims, expecting Muhammad's death and an ensuing struggle for power, disobeyed his orders to join a military expedition bound for Syria. They stayed in Medina, waiting for Muhammad's death and their chance to seize power.

According to `Abd Allah ibn `Abbas (cousin of Muhammad) Book 13 Hadith No. 4016, the dying Muhammad said that he wished to write a letter — or wished to have a letter written — detailing his wishes for his community. According to Sahih Muslim ibn `Abbas narrated that:

Ibn Abbas reported: When Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) was about to leave this world, there were persons (around him) in his house, 'Umar b. al-Kbattab being one of them. Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) said: Come, I may write for you a document; you would not go astray after that. Thereupon Umar said: Verily Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) is deeply afflicted with pain. You have the Qur'an with you. The Book of Allah is sufficient for us. Those who were present in the house differed. Some of them said: Bring him (the writing material) so that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) may write a document for you and you would never go astray after him And some among them said what 'Umar had (already) said. When they indulged in nonsense and began to dispute in the presence of Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him), he said: Get up (and go away) 'Ubaidullah said: Ibn Abbas used to say: There was a heavy loss, indeed a heavy loss, that, due to their dispute and noise. Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) could not write (or dictate) the document for them.
— Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj, Sahih Muslim[51]

When Muhammad died, Umar denied his death stating rather that he would return back, and threatening to behead anyone who acceded to his death. Abu Bakr, upon his return to Medina, spoke to Umar and only then Umar did admit that Muhammad had died, this all was perceived by the Shia as a ploy on Umar's part to delay the funeral and thus give Abu Bakr (who was outside the city) time to return to Medina.

The events at Saqifah

When Muhammad died, his closest relatives, Ali and Fatimah, took charge of the body. While they were engaged in washing the body and preparing it for burial which is a role carried out by the family of the deceased in Islam, a secret meeting, of which Ali and the Muhajirun weren't told, was taking place at Saqifah, which ended with Abu Bakr being chosen as the new leader.

Shī‘at of ‘Alī

According to Wilferd Madelung just as Ali had refused to give his allegiance (bay'ah) to Abu Bakr, many of the Muslims of Medina had also refused, thus they were known as: "Shī‘at ‘Alī" (the "Party of Ali"). According to Wilferd Madelung it took six months of threat and pressure to force the refusers to submit to Abu Bakr.[52] However, upon his refusal to give allegiance, Ali had his house surrounded by an armed force led by Abu Bakr and Umar.[53]

According to Wilferd Madelung

In Madinah, Umar took charge of securing the pledge of allegiance of all residents. He dominated the streets with the help first of the Aslam and then the Abd Al-Ashhal of Aws, who in contrast to the majority of Khazraj, quickly became vigorous champions of the new regime. The sources mention the actual use of force only with respect to Companion Al-Zubayr who had been together with some others of the Muhajirun in the house of Fatimah. Supposedly, Umar threatened to set the house on fire unless they came out and swore allegiance to Abu Bakr.[54]

According to the Twelver Shia, Umar pushed his way into the house; Fatimah, who was pregnant, was crushed behind the door. She miscarried her unborn son, whom the Shia mourn as Muhsin ibn Ali. She had been injured by Umar and soon died. Ali buried her at night, secretly, as he did not wish Abu Bakr or Umar, whom he blamed for her death, to attend her funeral. The Shia thus blame Abu Bakr and Umar for the death of Muhammad's daughter and grandson.[55]

Ali gives allegiance to Abu Bakr

Ali gave his allegiance, his bay'ah, to Abu Bakr six months after the latter became the Caliph. He is narrated to have said he would resist if he had 40 men with him.[56]

Western academic views

Western historians largely reject Shi'ite claim that Muhammad appointed Ali as his successor.[57] Wilferd Madelung suggests that the succession of Abu Bakr was not as unproblematic as modern historians have supposed, and that Ali may indeed have expected to assume leadership on the death of Muhammad.[57] According to Madelung:

In the Qur’an, the descendants and close kin of the prophets are their heirs also in respect to kingship (mulk), rule (hukm), wisdom (hikma), the book and the imamate. The Sunnite concept of the true caliphate itself defines it as a succession of the prophet in every respect except his prophethood. Why should Muhammad not be succeeded in it by any of his family like the earlier prophets? If God really wanted to indicate that he should not be succeeded by any of them why did He not let his grandsons and other kin die like his sons? There is thus a good reason to doubt that Muhammad failed to appoint a successor because he realized that the divine design excluded hereditary succession of his family and that he wanted the Muslims to choose their head by Shura. The Qur’an advises the faithful to settle some matters by consultation, but not the succession to prophets. That, according to the Qur’an, is settled by divine election, God usually chooses their successors, whether they become prophets or not from their own kin[58]

Madelung writes on the basis of the hadith of the pond of Khumm Ali later insisted on his religious authority superior to that of Abu Bakr and Umar.[59]

See also



  1. ^ See:
    • Holt 1977, p. 57
    • Lapidus 2002, p. 32
    • Madelung 1997, p. 43
    • Tabatabae 1979, pp. 30–50
  2. ^ "Sunnite". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 2007-04-11. 
  3. ^ a b c Diana, Steigerwald. "Ali ibn Abi Talib". Encyclopaedia of Islam and the Muslim world; vol.1. MacMillan.  
  4. ^ Sahih Bukhari 5.57.50
  5. ^ Chirri 1982
  6. ^ a b c d Nahj al-Balagha Sermon 71, Letter 27, Letter 34, Letter 35
  7. ^ a b The waning of the Umayyad caliphate by Tabarī, Carole Hillenbrand, 1989, p37, p38
  8. ^ a b The Encyclopedia of Religion Vol.16, Mircea Eliade, Charles J. Adams, Macmillan, 1987, p243. "They were called "Rafida by the followers of Zayd"
  9. ^ The Heirs Of The Prophet Muhammad: And The Roots Of The Sunni-Shia Schism By Barnaby Rogerson [10]
  10. ^ Connections: The Quarterly Journal - Volume 5 - Page 64 An important Shia manual is Al-kafifi 'ilm al-din by Muhammad ibn-Ta'qub al-Kulayni. Other important manuals were written by ibn-Babawayh (Man la-yahdurhu al-faqih) and al-Tusi (Tahdhib al-ahkam)[11]
  11. ^ Encyclopedia of Islam By Juan Eduardo Campo Page 654
  12. ^ Nadir Shah and the Ja 'fari Madhhab Reconsidered, Ernest Tucker, Iranian Studies, Vol. 27, No. 1/4, Religion and Society in Islamic Iran during the Pre-Modern Era (1994), pp. 163-179, Published by: International Society for Iranian Studies [12]
  13. ^ Islamic Finance: Law, Economics, and Practice By Mahmoud A. El-Gamal Page 122 [13]
  14. ^ The Encyclopedia of the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A Political, Social and Military History edited by Spencer C. Tucker, Priscilla Mary Roberts Page 917 [14]
  15. ^ The Iraq Effect: The Middle East After the Iraq War By Frederic M. Wehrey Page 91 [15]
  16. ^ A consideration of oral transmissions in general with some specific early Islamic reference is given in Jan Vansina's Oral Tradition as History.
  17. ^ Reeves 2003, pp. 6–7
  18. ^ Robinson 2003, p. xv
  19. ^ Donner 1998, p. 132
  20. ^ Nigosian 2004, p. 6
  21. ^ Watt 1953, p. xv
  22. ^  
  23. ^ Madelung 1997, p. xi, 19, and 20
  24. ^ See:
    • Sachedina 1981, pp. 54–55
    • Landolt & Lawson 2005, p. 59
    • Modarressi 2003, pp. 82–88
    • Dakake 2007, p. 270
  25. ^ Lapidus 2002, pp. 31–32
  26. ^ See:
    • Holt 1977, p. 57
    • Madelung 1997, pp. 23–27, 30–43, and 356–360
  27. ^ See:
    • explanation of Nahj al-Balagha, Mohammed Abdah, 3/ 07.
    • the biography of the Imam Ali, 139 - 144.
    • explanation of An-Nawawi, Kitab al-Ḥodod 11\216.
  28. ^ Madelung 1997, p. 43
  29. ^ After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam By Lesley Hazleton, pp. 71-73
  30. ^ "Ali ibn Abitalib". Encyclopedia Iranica. Retrieved 2007-10-25. 
  31. ^ See:
    • Madelung 1997, p. 141 and 270
    • Ashraf 2004, pp. 99–100 (2005)
  32. ^ "Bukhari". Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  33. ^ "Sahih Muslim". Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  34. ^ "sahih abu dawood". Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  35. ^ Siyar a`lam al-nubala
  36. ^ The Event of Ghadir Khumm in the Qur'an, Hadith, History By Mohammad Manzoor Nomani
  37. ^ Brill 2005 ISBN 978-9004144804
  38. ^
  39. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 5:59:546
  40. ^ Sobhani, Jaʻfar.; Shah-Kazemi, Reza (2001). Doctrines of Shiʻi Islam : a compendium of Imami beliefs and practices ([Online-Ausg.] ed.). London: I.B. Tauris [u.a.] p. 108.  
  41. ^ Quran 5:55
  42. ^ Quran 5:3
  43. ^ Quran 5:67
  44. ^ Chapter VII On the Knowledge of the Imam (Imamology) (part-1):The Meaning of Imam
  45. ^
  46. ^ [16]
  47. ^ a b c Sobhani, JA'afar; Shah-Kazemi, Reza (2001). Doctrines of Shiʻi Islam : a compendium of Imami beliefs and practices ([Online-Ausg.] ed.). London: I.B. Tauris [u.a.] p. 103.  
  48. ^ Quran 26:214
  49. ^ a b c Sunni sources:
    • at-Tabari, at-Ta’ríkh, vol. 1 (Leiden, 1980 offset of the 1789 edition) pp. 171-173.
    • Ibn al-Athír, al-Kãmil, vol. 5 (Beirut, 1965) pp. 62-63.
    • Abu ’l-Fidã’, al-Mukhtasar fi Ta’ríkhi ’l-Bashar, vol. 1 (Beirut, n.d.) pp. 116-117.
    • al-Khãzin, at-Tafsír, vol. 4 (Cairo, 1955) p. 127.
    • al-Baghawi, at-Tafsír (Ma‘ãlimu ’t-Tanzíl), vol. 6 (Riyadh: Dar Tayyiba, 1993) p. 131.
    • al-Bayhaqi, Dalã’ilu ’n-Nubuwwa, vol. 1 (Cairo, 1969) pp. 428-430.
    • as-Suyuti, ad-Durru ’l-Manthûr, vol. 5 (Beirut, n.d.) p. 97.
    • Muttaqi al-Hindi, Kanzu ’l-‘Ummãl, vol. 15 (Hyderabad, 1968) pp. 100, 113, 115.
    Shia sources:
    • ‘Abdu ’l-Husayn al-Aminí, al-Ghadír, vol. 2 (Beirut, 1967) pp. 278-289.
  50. ^ Sobhani, JA'afar; Shah-Kazemi, Reza (2001). Doctrines of Shiʻi Islam : a compendium of Imami beliefs and practices ([Online-Ausg.] ed.). London: I.B. Tauris [u.a.] p. 102.  
  51. ^ Sahih Muslim, 13:4016
  52. ^ Madelung 1997, p. 43, Tabari, I, 1825
  53. ^ Ansab Ashraf, by al-Baladhuri in his , v1, pp 582-586; Tarikh Ya'qubi, v2, p116; al-Imamah wal-Siyasah, by Ibn Qutaybah, v1, pp 19-20)
  54. ^ Madelung 1997, p. 43. Tabari, I p 1818.
  55. ^ Shi'ite Encyclopedia, Chapter 4
  56. ^ Madelung، Wilferd. The Succession to Muhammad. Cambridge University Press، 1997. 43-44
  57. ^ a b Valerie Jon Hoffman, The Essentials of Ibadi Islam, pp. 6-7. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2012. ISBN 9780815650843
  58. ^ Madelung 1997, p. 17
  59. ^ Madelung 1997, p. 253

Academic books

  • Ashraf, Shahid (1 January 2004), Holy Prophet and Companions (15 Vol Set), Anmol Publications Pvt. Ltd,  
  • Chirri, Mohamad Jawad (1982), The brother of the prophet Mohammad (the Imam Ali): a reconstruction of Islamic history and an extensive research of the Shi-ite Islamic school of thought, Islamic Center of Detroit, retrieved 3 January 2013 
  • Dakake, Maria Massi (2007), The Charismatic Community: Shiʻite Identity in Early Islam, SUNY Press,  
  • Donner, Fred McGraw (1998), Narratives of Islamic origins: the beginnings of Islamic historical writing, Darwin Press,  
  • Holt, P. M.;  
  • Landolt, Hermann; Lawson, Todd (2005), Reason and inspiration in Islam : theology, philosophy and mysticism in Muslim thought : essays in honour of Hermann Landolt, London ; New York: I.B. Tauris,  
  • Lapidus, Ira (2002), A History of Islamic Societies (2nd ed.), Cambridge University Press,  
  • Modarressi, Hossein (2003), Tradition and survival: a bibliographical survey of early Shī'ite literature, Oneworld,  
  • Nigosian, Solomon Alexander (1 January 2004), Islam: Its History, Teaching, and Practices, Indiana University Press,  
  • Reeves, Minou (2003), Muhammad in Europe: A Thousand Years of Western Myth-Making, NYU Press,  
  • Robinson, Chase F. (2003), Islamic Historiography, Cambridge University Press,  
  • Sachedina, Abdulaziz Abdulhussein (1981), Islamic messianism : the idea of Mahdī in twelver Shīʻis, Albany: State University of New York Press,  
  • Watt, William Montgomery (1953), Muhammad at Mecca, Clarendon Press, retrieved 3 January 2013 

Shia books

Sunni books

  • The Sealed Nectar by Saifur Rahman al-Mubarakpuri, 2002, Darussalam Publications.
  • Sahih Al-Bukhari Translated by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan, 1997, Darussalam Publications
  • Peshawar Nights the Art of Fictional-Narration by Abu Muhammad al-Afriqi
  • The Life of Muhammad by Muhammad Husayn Haykal

External links

Sunni Perspective

  • The Sealed Nectar by Saifur Rahman al-Mubarakpuri
  • The Life of Muhammad by Muhammad Husayn Haykal
  • The Prophet Mohammad and the First Muslim State by Dr. Mohammad Mahmoud Ghali
  • Abu Bakr As-Siddeeq by Muhammad Rajih Jad'an
  • Companions of the Prophet
  • Peshawar Nights the Art of Fictional-Narration by Abu Muhammad al-Afriqi

Shia perspective

  • by Sultanu'l Wa'izin Shirazi, 2001Peshawar Nights
  • Ghadir
  • Succession to Muhammad
  • Shī‘a Islam
  • Muhammad's successor
  • Complete Sermon at Ghadir Khumm. English Version
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