There is no difference of opinion between the two schools of thought, the Shi’ites and the Sunnis, in the belief of the need of a caliph after the Messenger of Allah (S). Indeed, the difference is whether the caliph is appointed by Allah, the Exalted, or by the people?
The Sunnis believe that Allah does not need to appoint him; rather, he can be nominated by the people. The Shi’ites, on the other hand, believe that he must be appointed and stipulated by Allah, the Blessed and Exalted, through the Prophet (S).
The arbitration in this dispute is with the intellect, the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
We will suffice with only three precepts:
Take, for example that an inventor founds a factory which manufactures the most expensive ornaments, and his aim is to continue his manufacturing and not have it stop in his presence or absence, in his life or after his death. The factory contains complicated and intricate machinery, which no one can understand until and unless the inventor teaches him their specifics and how they work.
Is it possible that we accept that the intelligent and heedful inventor announces to the people that he will die in this year, but still does not appoint anyone, who knows the equipment and has the power to use it and manufacture it to manage the factory? In fact, the inventor leaves it to the people, who do not understand the equipement, its complicatedness and complexity to choose the manager and engineer of the factory.
Are the complications and elegance of the features, practices and divine rulings for all scopes of life, which are the equipments of the factory of Allah’s religion, any less than that factory?
The products of this factory, which are the most valuable treasures of existence, that is, the perfection of humanity to know and serve Allah, the Exalted, any less valuable than the ornaments of that factory? The products of this factory are to balance the faculty of human desire to chastity, the faculty of anger to courageousness, the faculty of thinking to wisdom and to establish a virtuous town on the basis of justice and fairness.
Allah described the Book, which He sent to His Messenger, as:
And We have revealed the Book to you explaining clearly everything, and a guidance and mercy.1
He also said about it:
(This is) a Book which We have revealed to you that you may bring forth men, by their Lord’s permission from utter darkness into light.2
And He said concerning it:
And We have not revealed to you the Book except that you may make clear to them that about which they differ.3
He has made it liable for the solution of all levels of disputes of the people and for the differentiation between right and wrong. Therefore, this Book requires an interpreter who derives from it what it intends to explain. It requires someone who should encompass the intellectual, ethical and practical darknesses, so that he can take them out of those darknesses and guide them to the light. He should explain to them the right and wrong in their disputes.
He should know the right and wrong in all that in which the people dispute in so that he can explain to them. His knowledge should include the intense arguments of the principles of faith from Divine Unity to the Return—which still occupy the minds of the most genius of scholars—to all those practical issues which people face, like the dispute of two women over a baby, each one claiming to be its mother.
Is it logical to say: The provisions of the Qur’an in guiding the people, training them, solving their problems and resolving their disputes has ended with the death of the Prophet (S)? Have Allah and His Messenger (S) left this Book that is responsible for all the needs of mankind, without appointing an interpreter and explainer?
In conclusion, the concept of the reality of the revelation of the Wise Qur’an from the All-Knowing, the All-Wise to the Prophet (S) necessitates the confirmation of a divine teacher and interpreter who has the knowledge of the Book which Allah has sent as an explanation for everything. Does any sane person accept that Allah and His Messenger (S) have delegated the appointment of the interpreter of His religion to the ones who are ignorant of the arts and secrets of the Qur’an and the laws of Islam and its purposes?
Indeed, the definition of divine leadership for mankind is Imamat and the leadership of the human intellect, because the topic of divine leadership is about who can be a divine leader for human beings. The humanity of a human being is due to his intellect and thinking:
The support of the human being is the intellect.4
Thus, in regards to the physical mechanisms, the human is in need of his powers and body parts for steering his senses. He is in need of his nerves for the function of his nervous system. However, it is the intellect that guides the senses and differentiates for them from accuracy and mistakes. The intellect has a limited perception and it is prone to mistakes and desires.
Thus, it is in need of a leadership of a complete intellect that encompasses the illness and cure, who covers the factors of perfection and deficiency. Furthermore, he must be protected from mistakes and desires, so that through his leadership the guidance of human intellect is guaranteed.
The path of understanding this perfect human, who is himself protected from mistakes and safeguards himself from mistake, is through the announcement of Allah, the Exalted.
As a result, the concept of the reality of divine leadership never separates from the verification that the appointment of the divine leader must be from Allah, the Exalted.
The purpose of divine leadership is to protect the divine laws, explain them and implement them. Indeed, the proof which leads to the necessity of infallibility in a prophet who delivers the religion and implements it, leads to the necessity of infallibility of his successor who protects, explains and implements the Book and the Practice [Sunnah].
Just as error and desire in a prophet nullify the purpose of his sending, likewise, error and desire in the protector, explainer and implementer would cause the people to go astray and will contradict the purpose of his sending. As it is impossible for the people to know the infallible, he must be introduced by Allah, the Exalted, and His Messenger.
For précis, we will mention only three verses:
And We made of them Imams to guide by Our command when they were patient, and they were certain of Our communications.5
Every tree is recognised through its roots, branches, seeds and fruits. In this verse of the Noble Qur’an, the root and stem of the pure tree of divine leadership is mentioned.
Therefore, the root of divine leadership is the high rank of intellectual perfection, which is the certainty in the constitutional and legislative signs of Allah, the Glorified, which is derived from the plural tense in the verse. The branches of divine leadership are the high ranks of intentional perfection, which are patience in holding back from every disliked by Allah and performing every liked by Allah. We derive this from the use of patience in its absolute form without any restriction to specfics. Thus, the two sentences in this holy verse explain the knowledge and infallibility of the Imam.
As for the fruit of this pure tree, it is the guidance with the command of Allah, which is not possible for anyone except the one who is a link between the world creation and command. This fruit is from that pure tree which keeps humanity alive with a life purified from ignorance and desire.
Evaluation of this noble verse clarifies the beginning and end of divine leadership. No one except Allah can plant the tree, the root of which is the certainty in Allah’s signs, the branches of which are the patience in Allah’s pleasure and the fruit of which is the guidance of Allah’s command. Thus, only Allah appoints the Imam. This is why He has said:
And We made of them Imams to guide by Our command when they were patient, and they were certain of Our communications.6
And when his Lord tried Ibrahim with certain words, he fulfilled them. He said: Surely I will make you an Imam of men. Ibrahim said: And of my offspring? My covenant does not include the unjust, said He.7
This verse indicates that divine leadership is for the generation of people who have great Godly status. The Prophet of Allah, Ibrahim (as), only attained divine leadership after completion of his trial with certain words. Among his trials was being cast in the fire of Nimrod, leaving his wife and son in the valley without water and plantation, and the slaughtering of his own son Isma’il.
When Ibrahim (as) attained the status of Prophethood, Messengership and Friendship of Allah, and when he was tried with certain words and he fulfilled them, Allah, the Exalted said: Surely I will make you an Imam of men. Due to the greatness of this status, Ibrahim (as) asked for it to continue in his generation. Allah, the Exalted, replied to him: My covenant does not include the unjust.
Allah, the Exalted, referred to divine leadership as ‘Allah’s Covenant’ which will not include any but the infallible. Indeed, Ibrahim did not ask for divine leadership for all his porgeny. It is impossible that Ibrahim, the Friend of Allah, (as) would ask the all-Just, the all-Wise, the Commander for Justice and Good, for divine leadership for those who are oppressors and evil-doers. Hence, his prayer was for the just ones of his progeny.
However, his prayer included all just ones even if they had been unjust previously. The answer meant that the just ones who were unjust in the past are not included in the acceptance of his prayer. Thus, the holy verse indicates that purification and absolute infallibility stipulate absolute divine leadership, both logically and Islamically. Hence, far is it from including the ones who worshipped the idols of Lat and ‘Uzza and associated others with Allah. The Glorified has said: Most surely polytheism is a grievous iniquity.8
..you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority from among you.9
In this verse the words those in authority are conjunct to the word the Messenger. Moreover, in Arabic grammar when two words are mentioned in conjunction with each other, the connecting verb is usually repeated. In this instance it would be the word obey. However, Allah did not repeat it, in order to emphasise that obedience of the ones in authority and the Messenger is of the same origin and has one reality. Like the obedience of the Messenger which is obligatory without any restrictions and conditions, the obedience of the ones in authority does not have any limit in its obligation.
The similarity in this obligation cannot exist if the ones in authority are not infallible, because obedience to anyone of the ones in authority is inevitably with the condition of their not disobeying Allah. Otherwise, it would necessitate disobeying God. When the command of the infallible, due to his infallibility, is in line with the command of Allah, then his obedience would be unrestricted.
Since all Muslims accept the fact that divine leadership is succession to the Prophet (S) in implementing the religion and protecting the existence of the Ummah, and that divine leader must be obeyed by all the Ummah,10 then it implies that the divine leader must be infallible. Thus, the Word of Allah states:
Surely Allah enjoins the doing of justice and the doing of good,11
(The Prophet) enjoins them good and forbids them evil.12
Otherwise, the command to absolute obedience of the one in authority would necessitate commanding oppression and evil and prohibiting justice and good. Exalted and Glorifed is Allah from that.
From another perspective, if the divine leader is not infallible then his command may oppose the command of Allah and His Messenger. In this case, the command to obey Allah and His Messenger and the command to obey the one in authority would be a command for two opposite things, which is impossible. Therefore, on the basis of logical and textual proofs, the one in authority has to be absolutely infallible.
In conclusion, the command of Allah, the Glorified, to obey the ones in authority without any restriction and condition, is proof that they will not oppose the command of Allah and His Messenger (S). Thus, this is proof of their infallibility. Appointment of the infallible is not possible for anyone but the Knower of the Secrets and Hidden Things.
Here we refer to the traditions from the Sunnis for divine leadership of the Commander of the Faithful (as) as a completion of proof and argument in the best way. Otherwise, the criteria established from the Qur’an and the intellect regarding divine leadership is adequate to prove it for him (as). These continuously transmitted traditions are sufficient to be applied to Imam ‘Ali’s (as) divine leadership.
The traditions from the Sunni sources to which we will refer to as authentic are authentic according to their criteria. As for the traditions from the Shi’ite sources, when we refer to them as authentic, it implies that they are authentic according to us and them.
Undoubtedly, following the Way of the Prophet (S) is obligatory according to intellectual perception, which demands us to follow the infallibles and obey their commands. The Qur’an also commands the same:
Whatever the Messenger gives you, accept it, and from whatever he forbids you, keep back.13
We will suffice by mentioning the continuously transmitted traditions from the Prophet (S) and what the learned, the commentators of the Qur’an, the traditionists, the historians and the experts of literature have unanimously agreed upon. These are the traditions that are well-known by the young and old. Ibn Abu al-Hadid says: Sufyan al-Thawri reports on the authority of ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Qasim, on the authority of ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-Ghaffar that when Abu Hurayrah came to Kufah with Mu’awiyya, he used to sit at the door called Kinda at nightfall and the people would sit with him. A young man of Kufah came to him, sat with him and said, “O Abu Hurayrah, may Allah adjure you! Did you hear the Messenger of Allah (S) saying for ‘Ali ibn Abu Talib (as): O Allah support the one who supports ‘Ali and oppose the one who opposes ‘Ali.” Abu Hurayrah replied, “Of course, I did (hear that).” The young man responded, “Then I take Allah as my witness that you have most surely supported His enemy and opposed His beloved.” The young man then left Abu Hurayrah.14
Ibn Hajar al-’Isqilani says in his commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari: As for the tradition ‘whoever I am the master of then ‘Ali is his master’, al-Tirmidhi and al-Nisa’i have transmitted it, and it has very many chains of transmission. Ibn ‘Uqdah has one complete book on its study; many of its transmissions are authentic and good…15
We will mention one from their authentic traditions, which Zayd ibn Arqam has transmitted saying: When the Messenger of Allah (S) was returning from the final pilgrimage, he stopped at the pond [Ghadir] of Khumm and commanded us to make a platform; thus we made it. He (S) then said:
I have been called back (by Allah) and I have accepted. I am leaving behind two weighty things between you; one of them is greater than the other, the Book of Allah and my Progeny. See what you do to them after me. They will not part from one another until they meet me on the Pool (of Kawthar).
He (S) then added: Indeed Allah, the Mighty and High, is my Master and I am the Master of every believer. Then he took ‘Ali (as) by his hand and said: Whoever I am the Master of this is his Master. O Allah support the one who supports him and oppose the one who opposes him…16 He mentioned the tradition in full.
The leadership of the Ummah after his departure was so important to him (S) that not only did he stress it during the last pilgrimage, but he had also emphasised it on numerous occasions both before and after the final pilgrimage. One of those occasions was on his deathbed when the companions were present before him; he made a will to them using different expressions regarding the Qur’an and the Progeny.
Sometimes he (S) used the words: I have left [taraktu] behind two weighty things [thaqlayn].17
At other times he (S) said: I am leaving [tarik] behind two Caliphs [khalifatayn] (Qur’an and Ahlul Bayt).18
In addition, he (S) said: I am leaving [tarik] behind two weighty things.19
Furthermore, he (S) stated: They will not separate.20
At some places he (S) has said: They will not disunite.21
I other places he (S) stated: Do not lead them otherwise you will perish. Do not teach them for they are more learned than you.22
Also he (S) said: I am leaving behind two commands. You will never go astray if you follow them.23
It is not possible to elucidate all the profound points that are implied in the Prophet’s (S) statements; thus, we will suffice by indicating some:
The sentence, I have left indicates that the Book and the Progeny are the legacy of the Prophet (S) for the Ummah, because the relation of the Prophet (S) to the Ummah is like that of the father to the son. The human being is composed of body and soul. The relationship between the soul and the body is like that of the meaning to the word and the core to the crust.
The physical father is the cause of physical and bodily strengths, while the spiritual father is the cause of spiritual strengths like correct beliefs, noble ethics and good deeds. The cause of spiritual behaviour and mental state cannot be compared with the cause of material state and physical appearance, just as the core cannot be compared with the crust, the meaning with the word or the pearl with the shell.
This great father of the Ummah informed the people about his death and that his Lord, the Exalted, will call Him and he will answer the call and leave the people. (I have been called back and I have accepted.) He (S) emphasised that my legacy between you, the result of my life and the fruit of my existence, are two things the Book of Allah and my Progeny.
The Book is the link of the Ummah to their Lord and the Progeny is the link between the Ummah and the Prophet (S). Thus, the disconnection of the Ummah from the Qur’an is disconnecting from Allah, the Exalted, and the disconnection from the Progeny is disconnecting from the Prophet (S). Evenmore, the disconnection from the Prophet (S) is also disconnecting from Allah, the Exalted.
To explain the greatness of the Qur’an and the Progeny, it is sufficient to say that they both are connected to Allah, the Exalted, and His Messenger (S), because the connected one obtains its value from the one it is connected to. What is more, he (S) described them as the two weighty things, to indicate their substantial value and weightiness. Hence, the worth of the Noble Qur’an and its spiritual value is beyond comprehension, because the Qur’an is a manifestation of the Creator for the creation. To perceive its greatness, ponder in the following verses:
Ya Sin. I swear by the Qur’an full of wisdom;24
Qaf. I swear by the glorious Qur’an.25
Most surely it is an honoured Qur’an, in a book that is protected; none shall touch it save the purified ones.26
Had We sent down this Qur’an on a mountain, you would certainly have seen it falling down, splitting asunder because of the fear of Allah, and We set forth these parables to men that they may reflect.27
By describing the Progeny with the same words with which he (S) described the Qur’an, he shows that the Progeny is equal to the Qur’an and shares the revelation. In the speech of the Prophet (S), which is on the scale of reality, it is not possible that the Progeny may be equal to the Qur’an except when they share the knowledge of the Qur’an, as described by the Book itself:
Explaining clearly everything.28
The Progeny should also share infallibility with the Qur’an:
Falsehood shall not come to it from before it nor from behind it.29
The word of the Prophet (S): They will not disunite indicates that the Qur’an and the Progeny are forever inseparable, as they will not split from each other. The Noble Qur’an is a book that was revealed for all of mankind, taking into consideration their various abilities. Thus, its words are for the public, its hints are for the learned, its subtleties are for the Divine Guardians and its realities are for the Prophets (as).
It is a book that enlightens with the light of its guidance the lowest of mankind, who cares only about materialistic matters. At the same time, it guides the best of mankind, whose spiritual disarray only come to rest with the remembrance of Allah, the Exalted. They are always in search of the Best Names (of Allah), lofty examples and the ability to bear the Greatest Name of Allah.
The Qur’an is indeed like the sun. Those who are ill due to the cold cure themselves by its heat. The farmer needs the sun to grow his plantation. The naturalist investigates the effects of its rays on living beings, the plants and the minerals. The religious scholar researches the effects of the sun on the earth and whatever it contains, its laws that systematise its proximity and distance from the earth and its rising and setting. Thus, he finds his lost treasure, the Creator and the Planner of the sun.
Such a Book that has come for all members of mankind, and a Book that is responsible for all the needs of humanity in this world, the purgatory and the hereafter, must have a teacher whose knowledge encompasses all of that. Undoubtedly, medicine without a doctor and science without a teacher is insufficient. Hence, the divine law, on which rely all of the affairs of this life and the hereafter, is insufficient and incompatible without an explainer, as states the Word of the Exalted:
Today I have perfected for you your religion.30
The purpose of sending the Book would be nullified and contradicted by the Word of Allah:
And We have revealed the Book to you explaining clearly everything.31
It is impossible that the Absolute Wise would send down an insufficient religion or contradict the purpose for which it had been sent. Thus, the Prophet (S) said: They will not disunite.
Some phrases of the tradition of the Two Weighty Things state: If you follow both of them then you will not go astray. The guidance of mankind, from the perspective of their specific creation, results in their eternal privilege and their misguidance results in their eternal adversity. Mankind, as we previously mentioned, is the finest of all the creations of the world. They are a creation that belongs to this world, the purgatory, the hereafter, the human sovereignty and the realm of the angels. Man is connected to both the world of creation as well as the world of command. He is created for eternal life, not for temporary life.
The guidance that is required for such a creation is a special guidance, which cannot be facilitated but with education and training from divine revelation. That holy light is far from darkness:
Indeed, there has come to you light and a clear Book from Allah.32
Based on the law of harmony and originality, the teacher of mankind must be linked to revelation. For, the Glorified has said:
This Book, there is no doubt in it.33
nor does he speak out of desire. It is naught but revelation that is revealed.34
In addition, he must be infallible from mistakes and desires.
The Prophet (S) said: If you follow both of them then you will not go astray, because following the Book, which speaks the truth, guarantees man security from intellectual, moral and practical misguidance.
To explain the words of the Prophet (S): Do not teach them for they are more learned than you, we will suffice with what Ibn Hajar, a very prejudiced Sunni scholar, stated when describing the family of the Prophet (as), “They are distinctive from the rest of the learned ones, because Allah has kept away the uncleanness from them and purified them a thorough purification… the most deserving to be adhered amongst them is their leader and the most learned ‘Ali ibn Abu Talib, Allah made his face honourable.
Indeed he (as) has more knowledge and his deriving of the religious teachings are more accurate. For this reason, Abu Bakr said: ‘Ali is from the Progeny of the Messenger of Allah (S), i.e. the ones to whom everyone should adhere. The Prophet (S) specified him with what we have said, and he also distinguished him with what he said in the plains of Ghadir.”35
By admitting that ‘Ali (as) is distinguished from all other scholars of the Ummah due to the verse of the purification, they indicate that he (as) is pure from all types of uncleanliness. They have also admitted that the Prophet (S) stipulated that ‘Ali (as) is the most learned of the Ummah. Bear in mind that both the Qur’an and logic make it incumbent to follow the most learned:
Say: Are those who know and those who do not know alike? Only the men of understanding are mindful.36
Also the Word of the Exalted states:
Is He then who guides to the truth more worthy to be followed, or he who himself does not go aright unless he is guided? What then is the matter with you; how do you judge?37
They have also admitted to the command of the Prophet (S) saying: I am leaving behind two commands. You will never go astray if you follow them; they are the Book of Allah and my Household, my Progeny.
The conclusion is that this proves that ‘Ali (as) should be obeyed by the whole Ummah, without any exception. It also proves that the whole Ummah is commanded to follow ‘Ali (as) for their salvation.
Say: Then Allah’s is the conclusive argument.38
After explaining that he is leaving behind the Book and the Progeny for safeguarding the Ummah from misguidance, the Prophet (S) clarified the implication of the Progeny. He (S) made known that the Qur’an will not separate from the Progeny and the Progeny will not separate from the Qur’an. So that no doubt would remain for anyone from the Ummah, he (S) took ‘Ali (as) by the hand and said: Whoever I am the guardian of this is his guardian. O Allah, befriend the one who befriends Ali and oppose the one who opposes ‘Ali.
The proof was complete with the first argument, as it confirmed ‘Ali (as) due to his knowledge and infallibility by a witness from the Qur’an and the traditions. Nevertheless, the Prophet (S) still insisted in proving ‘Ali’s guardianship over all the believers so that no one leaves the circle of general guidance and ‘Ali’s absolute guardianship. Hence, he (S) said: Indeed, Allah, the Mighty and High, is my Guardian and I am the guardian of every believer. He thus explained the Word of the Exalted:
Only Allah is your Guardian and His Messenger and those who believe, those who keep up prayers and pay the poor-rate while they bow.39
Although the proofs from logic, the Qur’an and the traditions about general leadership elucidate the subject of specific leadership, the necessary qualities for a divine leader do not assimilate in anyone but the infallible Imams (as), as described in the tradition of the Two Weighty Things. However, for the completion of the proof we will transmit some traditions for the divine leadership of the Commander of the Faithful and the Master of the Successors ‘Ali (as). These traditions are regarded as authentic by the experts of the field:
Abu Dharr (ra) has been reported as saying: The Messenger of Allah (S) said: Whoever obeys me has obeyed Allah and whoever disobeys me has disobeyed Allah. Whoever obeys ‘Ali has obeyed me and whoever disobeys him has disobeyed me.40
This tradition has been authenticated by the most important scholars of the Sunnis and it indicates that the Prophet (S), for whom the Qur’an and intellect bear witness that he does not speak of his desires, ruled that obeying ‘Ali (as) is obeying the Prophet (S) and disobeying him is disobeying the Prophet (S). Thus, obedience or disobedience to the Prophet (S) is obedience and disobedience to Allah. Allah, the Exalted, says:
Whoever obeys the Messenger, he indeed obeys Allah.41
Since obedience and disobedience are with the commandment to do or not to do, the source of the commandments to do or not to do is like or dislike. Thus, it is not possible that ‘Ali’s obedience or disobedience would be Allah’s obedience or His disobedience, unless ‘Ali’s like and dislike is a manifestation of Allah’s like and dislike.
The one whose like and dislike manifests Allah’s like and dislike has certainly reached the status of infallibility where his pleasure and anger is the pleasure and anger of Allah.
The word ‘whoever’ conforms to generality. Thus, it declares that all those who are in the circle of obedience to Allah and His Messenger (S) must obey ‘Ali (as). Otherwise, they would be disobeying Allah and His Messenger (S):
And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he surely strays off a manifest straying,42
and whoever disobeys Allah and His Apostle surely he shall have the fire of Hell to abide therein forever.43
Whoever obeys him has obeyed Allah and the Messenger (S):
And whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger, He will cause him to enter gardens beneath which rivers flow,44
and whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger, he indeed achieves a mighty success,45
and whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger, these are with those upon whom Allah has bestowed favours.46
The Messenger of Allah (S) was leaving for (the Battle of) Tabuk and left ‘Ali (as) behind as his successor. So, ‘Ali (as) said: Are you leaving me behind with women and children? The Prophet (S) answered: Are you not pleased that you are to me like Harun was to Musa except there is no prophet after me.47
This tradition is unanimously accepted by both Shi’ites and Sunnis. The compilers of Sihah48 and authentic Masanid49 (tradition) Sunni books have transmitted it. Many of their great scholars have claimed consensus over its authenticity, for they state that this tradition is unanimously accepted as authentic.
The pioneers of great memorisers have transmitted it, like Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Bukhari in his Sahih, Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj in his Sahih, Abu Dawud in his Sunan, Abu ‘Isa al-Tirmidhi in his Jami’, Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Nisa’i in his Sunan and Ibn Majah al-Qazwini in his Sunan. All of them have unanimously accepted this tradition as authentic and have consensus over it. Al-Hakim al-Naysaburi has said: This tradition has reached the level of continuous transmission [tawatur].50
The commonality of the word ‘status’ in this blessed tradition denotes that every status that is proven for Harun from Musa is also proven for ‘Ali (as) from the Prophet (S), with the only exception of prophethood. This similarity is emphasised.
Allah, the Exalted, has said about the relationship of Harun with Musa (as):
And give to me an aider from my family: Harun, my brother, strengthen my back by him, and associate him (with me) in my affair.51 Musa said to his brother Harun: Take my place among my people, and act well and do not follow the way of the mischief-makers.52
This status can be summarised in a number of places
‘Ali (as) is the vicegerent of the Prophet (S) and the vicegerent is the one who bears all responsibilities on behalf of the one he represents. He executes these responsiblities with the command of the one he represents. This tradition is unambiguous in proving this status for ‘Ali (as).
However, the proof of his vicegerency is not restricted to this tradition alone. The Prophet (S) has expressed other traditions regarding this matter on numerous occasions, as recorded in the books of traditions and commentaries from both Sunnis and Shi’ahs.53
‘Ali (as) is the brother of the Prophet (S) and Harun (as) was the blood-brother of Musa (as). The Prophet (S) gave the same position to ‘Ali (as) by making the brotherhood contract [‘aqd al-ukhuwwah]. There are numerous traditions regarding this topic that have been transmitted in Shi’ah and Sunni sources, one of which we will describe.
It has been transmitted from ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Umar that: When the Messenger of Allah (S) entered Madina, he made all the companions brothers of one another. Thus, ‘Ali (as) came with tears in his eyes saying: O Messenger of Allah (S), you made all the companions brothers of each other, but you did not make me the brother of anyone? The Messenger of Allah (S) replied: O ‘Ali, you are my brother in this world and the hereafter.54
This brotherhood proves that ‘Ali (as) is superior to all the believers. When this verse was revealed: The believers are but brethren,55 the Prophet (S) made the believers brothers of each other according to their status. He (S) made Abu Bakr the brother of ‘Umar, ‘Uthman the brother of ‘Abd al-Rahman and Abu ‘Ubaydah was made the brother of Sa’d ibn Mu’adh.56 For himself, the Prophet (S) chose ‘Ali (as). Thus, why should he not be better than all the children of Adam? The Prophet (S) has certainly specified him with his brotherhood for both the worlds.
It is thus proved that ‘Ali (as) was on a similar level of intellect, knowledge, character and practice as the best of creation, the Prophet (S):
And all have degrees according to what they do.57
The ranks in the hereafter are based on what is earned and acquired:
And We will set up a just balance on the Day of Resurrection, so no soul shall be dealt with unjustly in the least.58
Allah knows best how much he has truly struggled in Allah’s way to reach the position in the Eternal Abode. The Glorified has said about him:
Maybe your Lord will raise you to a position of great glory.59
Thus, it is not possible to describe ‘Ali’s (as) rank except as the Prophet (S) has described: You are my brother in this world and the hereafter. ‘Ali’s (as) pride in this brotherhood was second only to his pride of being the servant of Allah. Hence, he (as) used to say: I am the servant of Allah and the brother of His Messenger.60 On the day of the Counsel [shura], he (as) said: Is there anyone amongst you other than me, who the Messenger of Allah (S) made his brother?61
There are other traditions that indicate that the Prophet (S) asked Allah, the Exalted, to assist him. Thus, Allah accepted his call.62
Undoubtedly, no one can carry the weight of the Final Messengership, which is the greatest responsibility that Allah, the Glorified, bestowed upon the Holy Prophet (S), except for the assistant of the Messenger of Allah (S) who is the assistant of the prophets and messengers (as).
After carrying the burden Allah, the Exalted, entrusted him with, he prayed to his Lord to assist him and strengthen him through ‘Ali (as). Hence, his Lord answered his prayer as He did for Musa (as), as the Glorified says:
We will strengthen your arm with your brother.63
The prayer from the Messenger and the acceptance from Allah is proof that the execution of the command of the Final Message could not occur except through his tongue, with the Wisdom of Allah, and through his empowering hand, with the Power of Allah.
Is it logical that someone who did not assist the Messenger (S) assists his Ummah or that the Ummah seeks assistance from someone other than the assistant of the Messenger (S)?
And Musa said to his brother Harun: Take my place among my people, and restore.64
Harun was the restorer of Musa’s people and his deputy in restoration for his people; similarly, this status is for ‘Ali (as) in the Ummah of the Messenger (S). Restoration in its absolute form is the quality of the one attributed with absolute good, not with general goodness. Thus, Allah described Yahya as such:
honourable and chaste and a prophet from among the good ones,65
and ‘Isa (as) as:
And he shall speak to the people when in the cradle and when of old age, and (he shall be) one of the good ones.66
Harun (as) shared the command and work of Musa (as). In conformity with this tradition, ‘Ali (as) shares all the work of the Prophet (S) with the exception of the Prophethood.
Among the commands of the Prophet (S) is to teach the Book which is the explanation of everything; for, it is the wisdom about which Allah, the Exalted, has said:
He grants wisdom to whom He pleases, and whoever is granted wisdom, he indeed is given a great good.67
And Allah has revealed to you the Book and the wisdom, and He has taught you what you did not know, and Allah’s grace on you is very great.68
Without any doubt, what Allah revealed to him of the Book and wisdom, is what He revealed to all the prophets and messengers altogether. In addition to the general prophethood, Allah bestowed upon him the Last Message, the leadership of all the prophets (as) and the mastery over all but Allah.
Among the commands of the Prophet (S) is to clarify for the people everything in which they differ:
So that He might make manifest to them that about which they differ.69
Also among his commands is to judge between people:
Surely We have revealed the Book to you with the truth that you may judge between people by means of that which Allah has taught you.70
Furthermore, among the commands of the Prophet (S) is that he has more priority over the believers than they themselves. Thus, ‘Ali (as) shares the command over all things constitutionally and legislatively.
Harun (as) was the successor of Musa (as) to his people. Likewise, ‘Ali (as) is the immediate successor of the Prophet (S) over his people after him.
The successor, as we will discuss later, is the deputy of the one he succeeds, who covers the vacuum in his absence or occultation. The deputation of the Seal of the Prophets (S) is incomparable with the position of any of the other prophets (as).
In fact, the successor of the Last Prophet (S) cannot be compared with all the prophets (as) combined, because the successor of the Last Prophet (S) is someone beneath whose banner will be all the prophets (as), starting with Adam. Hence, how can the shadow of the empyrean be compared with the shadow of all that is other than the empyrean?
Therefore, Harun (as) is the successor of Musa (as) and the deputy of the one for whom Allah, the Glorified has said:
And We called to him from the blessed side of the mountain, and We made him draw nigh.71
‘Ali (as) is the successor of the Seal of the Prophets (S) and the deputy of the one for whom the Glorified has said:
Then he drew near, then he bowed, so he was the measure of two bows or closer still.72
In an authentic tradition on the authority of Aban al-Ahmar from al-Sadiq (as) saying: O Aban, how do the people reject the word of the Commander of the Faithful (as) when he said, “If I wanted I would raise my foot and hit it in the chest of the son of Abu Sufyan in Syria and I would pull him off his throne.” Yet, they do not reject that Asif the successor of Sulayman (as) reached the throne of Bilqis and brought it to Sulayman (as) before the blinking of an eye. Is our Prophet (S) not the best of the prophets and is his successor not the best of the successors? Do they not even give him the position of the successor of Sulayman (as)? May Allah judge between us and the ones who refuse our right and reject our virtues?73
Thus, ‘Ali’s ministry to the Greatest Prophet (S), his assistance, the sharing of the command, his brotherhood of the Prophet (S), his restoration of his people and his succession of the Prophet (S) is not comparable with anyone from Adam (as) to ‘Isa (as), other than the Prophet (S) himself, who is the holder of all of these positions.
Whoever ponders upon the tradition of the relationship, and is blessed with an in-depth understanding of the Book (Qur’an) and the Sunnah, will recognise that the gap in succession between the Messenger of Allah (S) and the one who he (S) appointed within his lifetime is against the law of intellect, the Book and the Sunnah.
It is found in a widely authentic tradition on the authority of Bukayr ibn Mismar: I heard ‘Amir ibn Sa’d saying: Mu’awiyyah said to Sa’d ibn Abu Waqqas, “What stops you from swearing at the son of Abu Talib?”
He replied, “I do not swear at him when I remember three things the Messenger of Allah (S) said for him. If I had even one of those three, it would be more beloved to me than any precious thing.”
Mu’awiyyah said to him, “What are those, O Abu Ishaq?”
He answered, “I will not swear at him so long as I remember that when the revelation came to the Prophet (S), he took ‘Ali and his two sons and Fatima and placed them under his cloak and said: O Lord, certainly these are my household. I will not swear at him so long as I remember when the Messenger of Allah (S) left him behind in the Battle of Tabuk. So ‘Ali said to him: Are you leaving me behind with women and children? The Prophet (S) answered: Are you not pleased that you are to me like Harun was to Musa except there is no prophet after me. I will not swear at him so long as I remember the Day of Khaybar when the Prophet (S) had said: I will surely give this banner tomorrow to a man who loves Allah and His Messenger. Allah will grant victory by his hands. Hence, we were all longing for the Messenger of Allah (S) when he said: Where is ‘Ali? All replied: He is sore-eyed. The Prophet (S) said: Call him. Hence, they called him. The Prophet (S) applied his saliva to his eyes and gave him the banner. Allah gave victory by his hands.” He adds: By Allah, Mu’awiyyah did not talk to him for the duration he remained in Medinah.74
Al-Hakim has said, “Both (al-Bukhari and Muslim) have agreed upon the transmission of the traditions of brotherhood and the banner.”75
It has come in al-Bukhari that Sahal ibn Sa’d said: On the Day of Khaybar the Prophet (S) said: Indeed tomorrow I will give the banner to a man by whose hands Allah will grant victory. He loves Allah and His Messenger and Allah and His Messenger love him. The reporter says: The people spent the night in suspense about who will be given the banner. When morning dawned, they all came to the Messenger of Allah (S) desiring to be given the banner. However, the Prophet (S) said: Where is ‘Ali ibn Abu Talib? Thus, it was said to him: O Messenger of Allah, he has a problem with his eyes. He (S) then said: Call him! So they called him (as). The Messenger of Allah (S) applied his saliva to his eyes and prayed for him. As a result, he was cured as if he did not have any illness. Then he (S) gave him (as) the banner. ‘Ali (as) then said: O Messenger of Allah, I will fight them until they become (believers) like us. The Prophet (S) replied: Penetrate gently until you enter their ground. Then call them towards Islam. Inform them of their obligations towards Allah. By Allah, if Allah guides a single person through you it would be better for you than the most precious treasure.76
The Prophet’s (S) word that: Indeed I will give the banner to a man, who loves Allah and His Messenger and Allah and His Messenger love him, clearly reveals that amongst his companions there was no one who could be described with this attribute other than ‘Ali (as). Otherwise, it would mean specification without the specified. The Prophet (S) is above all that is void by logic or by Islamic law.
When he (S) gave the banner and said: Allah will give victory by his hands, he explains the tradition of the relationship, i.e. it is through ‘Ali (as) that Allah strengthened His Messenger’s arm.
His (S) statement: Allah will give victory by his hands, is also proof that Allah’s action was executed with his hands just as it was executed with the hands of the Prophet (S) in the Word of the Exalted:
And you did not smite when you smote, but it was Allah Who smote.77
Also, look at the word of ‘Ali (as): By Allah, I did not pull out the door of Khaybar with physical power.78
He, by whose hands Allah conquers Khaybar, is the hand of Allah. Then will Allah strengthen the arm of His best creation by someone other than him?
Most surely there is a reminder in this for him who has a heart or he gives ear and is a witness.79
This tradition has been transmitted by both Shi’ahs and Sunnis. We will suffice with what al-Hakim al-Naysaburi has transmitted in his al-Mustadrak80 and al-Dhahabi in his al-Talkhis81 on the authority of Burayda saying, “I was with ‘Ali (as) to carry out a military expedition in Yemen. I fell in disagreement with him. When I returned to the Messenger of Allah (S), I remembered ‘Ali (as) with ill words. At that time I saw the face of the Messenger of Allah (S) change. Thus, he (S) said: O Burayda, do I not have priority over all the believers more than they have on themselves? I replied: Of course, O Messenger of Allah. He (S) responded: Whoever I am the master of then ‘Ali is his master…”
The Prophet (S) said these exact words in the sermon of al-Ghadir. The event of Ghadir Khumm and the Prophet’s (S) sermon are famous. The greatest of the experts in the science of traditions, historians and the commentators82 of the Qur’an have mentioned it in the event of the final pilgrimage. The greatest linguists have explained it.
In Jamhurat al-Lughah, Ibn Durayd says, “Khumm is a famous pool. It is the place where the Messenger of Allah (S) completed the virtues of the Commander of the Faithful ‘Ali ibn Abu Talib.”83
While explaining the word al-wali in Taj al-’Urus, al-Zubaydi says, “The one that follows your command… and of this is the tradition: Whoever I am the master of then ‘Ali is his master.”
Under the explanation of the word wali in al-Nihayah, Ibn Athir says, “And the speech of ‘Umar with ‘Ali: You have become the Mawla of every believer, i.e. the master of every believer.”
Although its numerous transmissions make the discussion of its authenticity unnecessary, the tradition of al-Ghadir has been transmitted with authentication in the Sunnis. In Yanabi’ al-Mawaddah, al-Hafidh al-Qanduzi says, “Al-’Allamah ‘Ali ibn Musa and ‘Ali ibn Muhammad Abu al-Ma’ali al-Juwayni, who was known as the Imam of the two shrines, and the teacher of Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (ra), gave an astonishing account: At a bookbinder’s in Baghdad, I saw a volume from a set of books that contained traditions about Ghadir Khumm, titled volume number 28 on the transmissions of the tradition of the Prophet (S): Whoever I am the master of then ‘Ali is his master… volume number 29 follows.”84
In Tahdhib al-Tahdhib, after transmitting the tradition of Ghadir from Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr on the authority of Abu Hurayra, al-Barra’ ibn ‘Azib and Zayd ibn Arqam, under ‘Ali’s (as) biography, Ibn Hajar says, “Ibn Jarir al-Tabari has compiled in his book many more transmissions about this and has authenticated them. Abu al-’Abbas ibn ‘Uqdah has especially endeavoured in compiling its transmissions. Thus, he has transmitted it from seventy or more companions.”85
This tradition clearly indicates the authority of ‘Ali (as) over the Ummah and his succession of the Prophet (S) without gap, due to the use of the word mawla. Although it has been used in many different meanings, circumstantial and syntactical evidence stipulate its intent, which is guardianship over all people. Here are a few proofs:
Before the Prophet (S) announced the guardianship of ‘Ali (as), he (S) informed the people that he (S) will be departing to his Lord and he (S) made a will to them about the Book and the Progeny. He (S) also emphasised that the two will not part each other. Then he (S) brought ‘Ali forward announcing: Whoever I am the master of then ‘Ali is his master. Hence, his purpose was to define to the people upon whom, alongwith the Qur’an, devotion is obligatory so the two would safeguard them from deviation.
It does not befit the wisdom of the Prophet (S) that he (S) would issue an order to hold up thousands of people comprised of pilgrims in a desert in the midday heat. Furthermore, why would he order them to make him a pulpit from rocks and camel sedans just to announce that ‘Ali is their mawla in the meaning of their friend and helper. Without a doubt, he had an important matter to announce, which was none other than explaining the guardianship and authority after him.
Al-Wahidi has reported on the authority of Abu Sa’id al-Khudri in Asbab al-Nuzul saying, “This verse: O Messenger! Deliver what bas been revealed to you from your Lord; and if you do it not, then you have not delivered His message, and Allah will protect you from the people,86 was revealed on the Day of Ghadir Khumm for ‘Ali ibn Abu Talib.”87
From this noble verse we can conclude that the one for whom the Messenger (S) was ordered to deliver this verse had two dimensions:
The matter which the Prophet (S) had to stop and convey to the people was of such great significance for them, so much so that if he (S) had not conveyed it then he (S) would not have conveyed the Messengership of Allah. Thus, it cannot be anything but the Guardianship of the Ummah.
The promise of Allah that He will protect the Prophet (S) from the people is proof that the delivering of what he was ordered to deliver would result in the deception of the hypocrites. The hypocrites had already heard from the people of the Book about the coming of the Last Prophet (S) and the establishing of a state. Thus, they feigned to be believers and accompanied him out of greed for the government after him. In conclusion, the only meaning of wilayah which is implied here is the guardianship.
Al-Khatib has reported on the authority of Abu Hurayra saying: Whoever fasts on the 18th of Dhul Hijja, will be rewarded for fasting for sixty months. That is the day of Ghadir Khumm, when the Prophet (S) took ‘Ali ibn Abu Talib by the hand and said: Am I not the Master of the Believers? The people all said: Of course, O Messenger of Allah. Then he (S) said: Whoever I am the master of then ‘Ali is his master. At that point, ‘Umar ibn Khattab said, “Congratulations to you, O son of Abu Talib. You have become my master and the master of every Muslim.” And then Allah revealed this verse:
Today I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favour on you and chosen for you Islam as a religion.88
The perfection of religion and completion of favour over the Muslims cannot be imagined without the stipulation of a person who would explain Islam and execute it after the Prophet (S).
In Nur al-Absar, al-Shablanji says, “Al-Imam Abu Ishaq al-Tha’labi (ra) has reported in his Commentary (of the Qur’an) that Sufyan ibn ‘Ayinah, may Allah have mercy on him, was asked about the Word of the Exalted:
The demander demanded the chastisement which must befall,89
who was it revealed for? He replied to the questioner: You have asked me an issue which no one asked me prior to you. My father related to me on the authority of Ja’far ibn Muhammad, on the authority of his forefathers (ra) that when the Messenger of Allah (S) was at Ghadir Khumm, he called the people so they assembled. Then he (S) took ‘Ali (ra) by the hand and said: Whoever I am the master of then ‘Ali is his master. This became famous and spread throughout the towns. Hence, it reached al-Harith ibn Nu’man al-Fihrii, so he came to the Messenger of Allah (S) riding a she-camel. He made his camel kneel, he dismounted, and said: O Muhammad! You ordered us from Allah, the Mighty and High, to bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that you are the Messenger of Allah.
Therefore, we accepted it from you. You then ordered us to pray five times. Hence, we accepted it from you. You ordered us to pay the poor-rate. We accepted that as well. You ordered us to fast the complete month of Ramadan. We accepted it. You ordered us to perform Hajj. We accepted that as well. However, you were not pleased with that until you raised your cousin over us like a hyena and declared: Whoever I am the master of then ‘Ali is his master. Is this from you or from Allah, the Mighty and High?
The Prophet (S) answered: By the One there is no god but He, this is indeed from Allah, the Mighty and High.
Al-Harith ibn Nu’man turned towards his camel saying: O Allah, if what Muhammad is saying is true then send down on us a stone from the heavens or send us a severe chastisement. He had not reached his camel when Allah, the Mighty and High, sent down a stone which dropped on his head and came out the other end, killing him. Allah, the Exalted, revealed: The demander demanded the chastisement which must befall. The unbelievers—there is none to avert it—from Allah, the Lord of the ways of Ascent.90
Undeniably, the traditions of the Prophet (S) about the virtues of ‘Ali (as) had reached all Muslims. The tradition which the likes of al-Harith ibn Nu’man al-Fihrii and Jabir ibn al-Nadr did not know was most certainly about the guardianship of ‘Ali over all the people after the Prophet (S). Thus, it was difficult for them to swallow and that is why they objected to it.
Amongst the clear evidence regarding the meaning of mawla as guardian after the Prophet (S) is that the Muslims understood that meaning from the sermon of the Prophet (S) and thus congratulated ‘Ali (as) for it. Ahmad has reported it in his Musnad,91 al-Khatib in his Tarikh Baghdad92 and al-Razi in his Commentary.93 We will suffice with what has come in the Musnad of Ahmad:
Al-Barra’ ibn ‘Azib reports saying: We were with the Messenger of Allah (S) on a journey. We camped at Ghadir Khumm. The call for congregational prayer was made for us. The area under two trees was cleaned up for the Messenger of Allah (S). He (S) led the noon prayer, then took ‘Ali (ra) by the hand and said: Do you all not know that I have priority over the Believers than they have on themselves? They all said: Of course you do. Then he (S) said: Do you all not know that I have priority over every believer than he has on himself?
They all said: Of course you do.
The reporter says: He then took ‘Ali by the hand and announced: Whoever I am the master of then ‘Ali is his master. O Allah, love the one who loves him and envy the one who envies him!
The reporter says: ‘Umar met him after that and said to him: Congratulations! O son of Abu Talib. You have become the master of every believing man and woman.94
Congratulation from a person like ‘Umar was not possible if the Prophet (S) had praised ‘Ali with something that was common between him and others. Clearly, it must be for something which the Prophet (S) has specified for ‘Ali, which can be nothing except ‘Ali’s guardianship and the leadership of the Ummah.
Another evident proof regarding the fact that the word mawla means the guardian of the Ummah, is the protest of Ali (as) with the sermon of Ghadir. A great number of Sunni scholars have mentioned his protest, like Ibn Hajar in al-Isabah95 and Ibn al-Athir in Usd al-Ghabbah.96 We will suffice with what Ibn Kathir has mentioned: Abu Ishaq said: Countless sources have related to me that ‘Ali magnanimously asked the people if they had heard the announcement of the Messenger of Allah (S): Whoever I am the master of then ‘Ali is his master. O Allah, love the one who loves him and envy the one who envies him! Many people stood up and bore witness that they had heard that from the Messenger of Allah (S), while others were concealing it. Thus, the ones concealing it did not leave this world until they became blind or another clamity befell them. Among these were Yazid ibn Wadi’ah and ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Mudlaj.
It is obvious that when the Commander of the Faithful (as) used to quote this tradition to the companions (of the Prophet (S)) and asked them to bear witness over it, it was to ascertain his succession to the Prophet (S). It is a clear evidence for stipulating the word wali in the meaning of the guardianship of the affairs of all Muslims.
Also amongst the evidence that the word wilayah in the tradition is used in the meaning of guardianship of all affairs is that the Prophet (S) initiated the guardianship of ‘Ali (as) with the Guardianship of Allah, the Exalted, and said: Allah is my Master. Indisputably, no one has guardianship over the Prophet (S) except Allah, the Blessed and Exalted. Then he (S) said: And I am the Master of every believer. Hence, he conveyed that guardianship is established for him over the believers. It is then that he said: Whoever I am the master of then ‘Ali is his master. Therefore, he established that after himself (S) guardianship is for ‘Ali. It is thus apparent that this wilayah is nothing but the guardianship of the affairs of all Muslims.
A final proof that the Prophet (S) eliminated obscurity and doubt, and closed the path for the ones who intend to change the announced guardianship of Ali (as), was his reminding them of the Word of Allah, the Exalted:
The Prophet has a greater claim on the faithful than they have on themselves.97
He first took a confirmation of his own guardianship and priority over them by saying: Do I not have priority over the believers than they have on themselves? They all said: Yes, you do. Then he (S) laid that guardianship and priority for ‘Ali (as) by saying: Whoever I am the master of then ‘Ali is his master. Thus, there remains no doubt that the meaning of the word mawla is the guardian of the affairs of all Muslims.
Al-Bukhari and other great experts in the science of traditions have transmitted the word of the Prophet (S) for ‘Ali (as): You are from me and I am from you.98
There is no doubt that the perfection of the world is through wisdom, knowledge, service, obedience and free-will. These are the characteristics which resulted in the creation of mankind, for they distinguish him in his creation in wisdom and free-will. The perfection of mankind lies in reaching the status of connection with the unseen world and enlightening his wisdom with the light of revelation, which is the status of Prophethood.
The perfection of this status is through sending him as a representative from the Creator to the creation for enlightening their wisdom through the light of Divine Wisdom. Thus is the status of the Messengership.
The perfection of this status is to reach the status of the five high-ranking Prophets of the covenant, who are sent with new law. Moreover, the perfection of this status is to reach the status of the Seal of the Prophets, which is the status of eternal divine law, and that is the extent of all extents. The possessor of this status is the first creation and the last to remain. He is the Seal for the ones before him and the opener of the ones after him. He is the greatest name and the highest example.
‘Ali (as) reached such a status that the personality for whom Allah has said:
Nor does he speak out of desire;99
says for ‘Ali: ‘Ali is from me, revealing that ‘Ali the part of the most precious gem of possible beings. More specifically, he is the holy being who is the ultimate reason for the creation of this world and the sending of Adam. However, the Prophet (S) did not suffice with that, but added: And I am from him. This statement is due to the fact that the purpose of the existence of the Prophet (S) and the purpose of his sending is the guidance to the True Religion and the Right Path. However, any of this could not have happened without ‘Ali (as) and his infallible sons (as). Thus, is it possible to have a gap between the Prophet (S) and ‘Ali’s (as) succession?
The Prophet (S) said: ‘Ali is with the Qur’an and the Qur’an is with ‘Ali. They will not part from each other until they meet me on the Pool.100 The greatest of the experts of the science of tradition from both Sunnis and Shi’ahs have admitted to the authenticity of this tradition.
The implication of this tradition is clear like the previous one, because among the divine books there is no book like the Qur’an.
Allah has revealed the best announcement, a conformable book.101
Surely this Qur’an guides to that which is most upright.102
Allah has described the Qur’an with attributes which portray its greatness. These qualities are such that the pen is incapable of writing them and the tongue is expressionless when explaining them. Just as the Exalted has said:
And certainly We have given you seven of the oft-repeated and the grand Qur’an.105
Ya Sin. I swear by the Qur’an full of wisdom.106
He has described Himself as the Teacher of this Book:
The Beneficent taught the Qur’an.107
He has pointed to the manifestation of His Might in this Book by His Word:
Had We sent down this Qur’an on a mountain, you would certainly have seen it falling down, splitting asunder because of the fear of Allah.108
He has indicated the manifestation of His Omnipotence in the secrets of His verses by His Word:
And even if there were a Qur’an with which the mountains were made to pass away, or the earth were travelled over with it, or the dead were made to speak thereby.109
This Book is the manifestation of His Knowledge and Wisdom:
And most surely you are made to receive the Qur’an from the Wise, the Knowing.110
And We have revealed the Book to you explaining clearly everything, and a guidance and mercy.111
He praised Himself upon the revelation of this Book:
All praise is due to Allah, Who revealed the Book to His servant and did not make in it any crookedness.112
It is the Book for which the Messenger of Allah (S) has instructed to cling onto: When trials surround you like the dark night then upon you is the Qur’an. Indeed, it intercedes and its intercession is accepted. Whatever it decodes is true. Whoever makes it his leader, it guides him to Paradise. Whoever turns his back to it, it drives him to Hell. The Qur’an is a guide, which leads to the best path. It is a Book, which contains elaboration, explanation and attainment. It is the decision and not a jest. It contains the apparent and the secret. Its apparent is judgment and its secret is knowledge. Its apparent is elegant and its secret is profound. It has boundaries and its boundaries have further boundaries. Its remarkable things are countless. Its wonders do not decline. In it are the lights of guidance and the heights of wisdom. It is a guide to the righteous for whoever recognises it.113
This is the Book which Allah has manifested for His creation. The One who revealed it has introduced it with what He has mentioned in the verses. The one to whom it was revealed has praised it with such words. Then what must be the position of the one who the Prophet (S) has described as being with this Book!
It is he who is with the apparent of the Qur’an in its wisdom and with the secret of the Qur’an in its knowledge. He is also with the remarkable things of the Qur’an, which are countless, and its wonders which do not decline. Hence, with this relation, he has all that Allah revealed to all of His Prophets (as) of the Book and the wisdom. Allah has taught him His knowledge of His immense affairs and the mysteries of His secrets.
Indeed, the one that had partial knowledge of the Book was able to bring the throne of (Queen) Bilqis before the blinking of Sulayman’s eye. Then how elevated must the status be of the one who is with the Book and all that is in it!
He is the Retaining Ear in the Word of the Exalted: The retaining ear might retain it,114 based on what the experts of the commentary and traditions115 have reported. He it is who said: Ask me anything. By Allah, you will not ask me about anything upto the Day of Judgment except that I will tell you. Ask me about the Book of Allah. By Allah, there is not a single verse about which I do not know if it was revealed at night or day, in plain land or a mountain.116
Then how great must be the status of the person the Prophet (S) has described as the Qur’an being with him. Furthermore, the relationship is two-sided. The Prophet (S) did not suffice with: ‘Ali is with the Qur’an, he (S) added in his explanation of ‘Ali’s greatness, that no one but the wise can understand, his word: And the Qur’an is with ‘Ali.
In the first sentence, he began the sentence with ‘Ali and ended with the Qur’an. Yet, in the second sentence, he began with the Qur’an and ended with ‘Ali. The sequence of this speech is most eloquent from the one who is the most eloquent of the ones that uttered.117 Hence, the beginning and the end are both with ‘Ali, due to subtleties which cannot be mentioned here.
To summarise, there is no one superior than the Holy Prophet (S) amongst all the ones that Allah has sent. When ‘Ali (as) is from him (S) and he (S) is from ‘Ali (as), then ‘Ali is subsequent to the best of Allah’s creation. Also, there is no better revelation from Allah than the Qur’an. When ‘Ali is with the Qur’an and the Qur’an is with him, then his heart is the treasure of all the guidance, light, the Book and the wisdom that Allah has revealed.
Does any doubt remain that ‘Ali (as) should be the successor of the Holy Prophet (S) and the explainer of the Noble Qur’an? Does any doubt remain that he is the master of all those who believe in Allah, Who has said:
Whatever the Messenger gives you, accept it.118
Nothing rests on the Messenger but clear delivering (of the message).119
The Sunni experts of traditions and biographers of the narrators have admitted to the authenticity of the following tradition. ‘Amr ibn Maymun said: I was sitting with Ibn ‘Abbas when a group of nine people came to him and said: O son of ‘Abbas, you either come with us or ask these people to leave us alone with you. The reporter says: Ibn ‘Abbas said: I will come with you. He adds: Ibn ‘Abbas had not become blind yet.
He says: They started talking, but we did not know what they said. Ibn ‘Abbas returned, shaking the dust off his clothes. He was expressing anger and was saying: They began quarrelling about a man who has ten virtues that no other person has. They began quarrelling about a man for whom the Prophet (S) said (in the Battle of Khaybar): I will certainly send a man who Allah will never dishonour. He loves Allah and His Messenger and Allah and His Messenger love him. Everyone started looking around, then he (S) said: Where is ‘Ali? They all replied: He is grinding a hand-mill. The reporter says: None of them were grinding. ‘Ali came with sore eyes. The Prophet (S) applied his saliva to ‘Ali’s eyes. He then waved the flag three times and gave it to ‘Ali.
Ibn ‘Abbas continues: The Messenger of Allah (S) sent so and so with the chapter of Repentence. Then he sent ‘Ali after him to take it from him, saying: None can take this chapter except for a man who is from me and I am from him.
Ibn ‘Abbas then adds: The Prophet (S) said to his cousins when ‘Ali was present: Which one of you will succeed me in this world and the hereafter? The Messenger of Allah (S) asked each one of them: Which one of you will succeed me in this world and the hereafter? They all refused. Thus, he (S) said to ‘Ali: You are my successor in this world and the hereafter.
Ibn ‘Abbas then said: ‘Ali was the first person to belive after Khadija (ra).
He added: The Messenger of Allah (S) placed his cloak over ‘Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husayn and said:
Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, O people of the House! And to keep you purified a (thorough) purifying.120
Ibn ‘Abbas continued: ‘Ali bought his own self when he wore the dress of the Prophet and slept in his place. The pagan Arabs were throwing stones at ‘Ali like they used to at the Prophet of Allah (S). He was writhing with pain, but he covered his head with the sheet and did not come out until morning. Then the sheet was removed from his head. They said to him: You tricked us. Your Prophet did not writhe when we threw stones at him, while you did, but we denied ourselves.
Ibn ‘Abbas then said: The Messenger of Allah (S) went out for the Battle of Tabuk and the people went out with him. ‘Ali said to the Prophet (S): Shall I come with you? The Prophet (S) replied: No. ‘Ali cried. Thus, the Prophet (S) said: Are you not pleased that you are to me like Harun was to Musa except there is no prophet after me. It is a must that when I go you are my successor.
Ibn ‘Abbas then added: The Messenger of Allah (S) said to ‘Ali: You are the guardian of every believing man and woman after me.
Ibn ‘Abbas says: The Apostle of Allah (S) shut all the doors to the mosque except for ‘Ali’s door. He used to enter the mosque as he pleased. That was his way and there was no other way.
Ibn ‘Abbas then said: The Messenger of Allah (S) said: Whoever I am the master of then his master is ‘Ali.121
After the Prophet (S) specified him with the banner of victory, does any doubt still remain that ‘Ali is the successor of the Prophet (S) without gap? What about the stipulation about him over all his companions that he is the beloved of Allah and the Messenger? Or, the fact that the Prophet (S) had sent the chapter of Repentence with someone else to the people of Mecca, but then Allah ordered him to take it away from that person and give it to ‘Ali. It is thus not permissible for anyone to deliver it except for the Prophet (S), or the one who is from him and that is ‘Ali.
Is there any doubt after the explicit declaration of the Prophet (S) that the relationship between them is that of Harun (as) and Musa (as)? Also, that he cannot leave Medina until ‘Ali is his successor.
Is there still any doubt after the stipulation on his absolute guardianship over all the believers in the declaration of the Prophet (S): You are the guardian of every believing man and woman after me?
How can any doubt remain for a just person after all of these traditions and the likes of these which are compiled in the Sunni sources and are agreed upon as authentic by them? These stipulate that ‘Ali (as) is the successor of the Prophet (S) without gap.
Nevertheless, these are only a small part of the vast amount of verses from Allah, the Exalted and traditions of the Messenger of Allah (S) regarding this topic, of which this concise book cannot accommodate a thorough examination. Al-Hakim al-Haskani, a great Sunni scholar of the fifth century, has reported from Mujahid that he said, “Indeed, ‘Ali has seventy virtues which none of the companions of the Prophet (S) have like it, and there is not a single virtue of any one of the companions except that ‘Ali shares it with them.”122
It is reported that Ibn ‘Abbas said, “There is not a single verse in the Qur’an that says: The ones who believe and do good, except that ‘Ali is its leader and is distinguished in it. There is not a single companion of Muhammad (S) that Allah has not criticised. However, He has always mentioned ‘Ali with good.”123
He has also said, “‘Ali ibn Abu Talib (as) has eighteen such virtues, that even if he had only one, it would be sufficient for his salvation. He had thirteen virtues that no one has in this Ummah.”124
Ibn Abu al-Hadid says in his commentary of Nahj al-Balagha, “When a questioner asked our scholar Abu al-Hadhil: Who is superior before Allah, ‘Ali or Abu Bakr? He replied: O my child, by Allah, ‘Ali’s one combat against ‘Amr in the Battle of Khandaq equals all the deeds and actions of the migrants of Mecca and the helpers of Medina. In fact, it exceeds them all combined let alone Abu Bakr by himself.”125
As reported in al-Mustadrak by al-Hakim, Ahmad bin Hanbal has said, “What has come in the virtues of Ali ibn Abu Talib has not come for anyone of the companions of the Messenger of Allah (S).”126
It was said to al-Khalil ibn Ahmad, the master of literature and the founder of the science of prosody [‘ilm al-’arud], “What is the proof that ‘Ali is the leader of everyone in everything?”
He replied, “Everyone needs ‘Ali but he is needless of everyone.”
It was also said to him, “What do you say about ‘Ali ibn Abu Talib?”
He responded, “What can I say in respect of one whose virtues were hidden by his followers due to fear, and by his enemies due to jealousy. Even then so many virtues have appeared that they have filled the East and West.”127
If there was no envy of the enemies and fear of the friends, and the dark eras of the Umayyad and the ‘Abbasid governments did not cover the sun of guardianship and divine leadership, then the lights of the virtues of this complete moon would have excelled on the sky of Islam and would have spread in the souls and the horizons.
We will end this discussion with two verses that were revealed concerning ‘Ali (as):
Only Allah is your Wali and His Messenger and those who believe, who keep up prayers and pay the poor-rate while they bow.128
Great Sunni scholars have admitted that this verse was revealed concerning ‘Ali (as). We will suffice with what al-Fakhr al-Razi has transmitted in his commentary of the Qur’an, “It is reported from Abu Dharr (ra) that he said: One day I prayed noon prayers with the Messenger of Allah (S). A beggar asked in the mosque, but no one granted him anything. The beggar then raised his hands to the heavens and said: O Allah, be my witness that I asked in the mosque of the Messenger of Allah (S), but no one gave me anything. ‘Ali (as) was bowing down at the time. Thus, he (as) pointed with the little finger of his right hand, which had a ring. The beggar came to him and took the ring while the Prophet (S) was watching.
Hence, the Prophet (S) said: O Allah, certainly my brother Musa asked you:
O my Lord! Expand my breast for me, and make my affair easy for me, and loosen the knot from my tongue, (that) they may understand my word; And give to me an aider from my family: Harun, my brother. Strengthen my back by him, and associate him (with me) in my affair.129
Thus, You revealed the verses:
We will strengthen your arm with your brother, and We will give you both an authority.130
O Allah, I am Muhammad, Your Prophet and Your sincere friend. Expand my breast for me and make my affair easy to me; and give to me an aider from my family, ‘Ali. Strengthen my back by him!
Abu Dharr says: By Allah, the Messenger of Allah had not completed these words when Jibra’il came down and said: O Muhammad, read: Only Allah is your Wali and His Messenger and those who believe, who keep up prayers and pay the poor-rate while they bow.”131
The revealation of the verse after the prayer of the Prophet (S) indicates the acceptance of his prayer. Allah, the Mighty and High, has made ‘Ali to the Prophet (S) like He had made Harun to Musa (as).
We can derive from the conformity of the conjunction in this verse that the guardianship of Allah is confirmed for the Messenger (S), and his is confirmed for Ali (as).
The holy verse, in conformity with the use of the definite particle, endorses that the wilayah confirmed for Allah, His Messenger and ‘Ali is a wilayah restricted to them. This wilayah is none but the absolute guardianship.
But whoever disputes with you in this matter after what has come to you of knowledge, then say: Come let us call our sons and your sons and our women and your women and our souls and your souls, then let us be earnest in prayer, and pray for the curse of Allah on the liars.132
Experts can elucidate many points in this verse. We will however suffice with only three of these:
The invitation of the Prophet (S) to earnest prayer is proof of the truthfulness of his Messengership and the righteousness of his religion. The refusal of the Christians is their admittance of the invalidation of their religion.
The word ‘our souls’ is proof of the succession of the Commander of the Faithful (as) without gap, because he is the soul of the Prophet (S), based on the stipulation of the Qur’an. He is the continuation of the essence of the Prophet (S). It is illogical that another person should replace him.
The experts of the commentaries (of the Qur’an) have unanimously agreed that ‘our sons’ in the verse refers to al-Hasan and al-Husayn (as), ‘our women’ indicates Fatima (as), and ‘our souls’ signifies ‘Ali (as).133
Here we will mention only one tradition which al-Fakhr al-Razi has transmitted in his commentary of the Qur’an:
Second issue: It has been reported that when the Prophet (S) reasoned with the Christians of Najran, but when they insisted on their ignorance, he said: Surely, Allah has ordered me that if you do not accept my proof then I should earnest in prayer against you. They replied, “O Abu al-Qasim, we will return and see the matter and will come back to you.” When they returned, they said to al-’Aqib, who was their scholar, “O servant of Christ, what do you say in this matter?” He replied, “By God, O Christians, you have come to know that Muhammad is a divine Messenger. He has brought you the truth about Jesus. By Allah, no nation has ever gone to earnest in prayer against a Messenger except that their young and old have not lived after that. If you do it then God will eliminate you all. However, if you refrain from it and wish to continue on your own religion, then leave it and return to your towns.”
The Messenger of Allah (S) came out wearing a black cloak. He was holding Al-Husayn (as) in his arms and was holding Al-Hasan (as) by the hand. Fatima (as) was walking behind him and ‘Ali (as) was walking behind her. The Prophet (S) was saying: When I pray then say amen.
The archbishop of Najran said, “O group of Christians, I am indeed seeing faces that if they asked God to move a mountain from its place then God would do it. Thus, do not earnest in prayer or you will be destroyed and not a single Christian will remain on the surface of the Earth till the Day of Judgment.”
They all said, “O Abu al-Qasim, we have all decided that we will not earnest in prayer with you and that we shall acknowledge your religion.”
The Prophet (S) responded: If you refuse to earnest in prayer then become Muslims. All will have all that the Muslims have and all that is forbidden on the Muslims will be forbidden upon you. They all refused. Thus, he (S) said: I set a penalty for you to battle. They said, “We do not have the strength to fight the Arabs. However, we will make a settlement with you that you will not fight us and that you will not refuse us our religion…”
Thus, the Prophet (S) made peace with them and said: I swear by the one is whose hand is my life, indeed ruin was very close to the people of Najran. Had they cursed us, they would have turned into monkeys and pigs. This valley would have turned into fire for them. Allah would eliminate Najran and its inhabitants, even the birds above them in the trees. All Christians would have perished within a year.
It is reported that when the Prophet (S) came out wearing a black cloak, then Al-Hasan (ra) came and he placed him in the cloak. Then came Al-Husayn (ra) and he placed him in it. Then Fatima (ra) came and then ‘Ali (ra). Then he (S) said:
Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, O people of the House! And to keep you purified a (thorough) purifying.134
Beware that this tradition is unanimously accepted as authentic amongst the experts of commentary and the traditions.135
Since we cannot fully explain this noble verse and honourable tradition, we will elucidate a few points:
Surely the Prophet (S) gathered ‘Ali, Fatima, Al-Hasan and Al-Husayn, and covered them with the cloak then read the verse: Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, O people of the House! And to keep you purified a (thorough) purifying, to prove that the prayer which will overturn the laws of nature, roam its causes and will be granted instantly by the intent of Allah, the Exalted. It must ascend to the Creator of the Universe from a soul pure of all kinds of filths. To Him do ascend the good words;136 this purification is confirmed for these five personalities (as) with the Intent of Allah, the Exalted.
Certainly, Allah, Glory be to Him, has made the prayer of the Prophet (S) an absolute cause for acceptance. However, in this instance, in conformity with Allah’s command, it is combined with the four other people present at the event. The conditional sentence in the speech of the Prophet (S): When I pray then say amen, implies the necessity between the condition, which is his prayer, and the final clause in a conditional sentence, which is their amen.
Allah, the Glorified and Exalted, made the amen of these four part of the condition of acceptance to make the status of ‘Ali, Fatima, Al-Hasan and Al-Husayn (as) apparent for the people. Also, to make it known that their prayers are always answered by Allah and that they have a prestigious position before Allah. Prayers are granted for them and the needs of the people are not rejected if they are through them, an honour solely for these five on the surface of the Earth.
The challenge of the earnest in prayer of the Prophet (S) with the Christians [mubahalah] would have resulted in their cursing. The assured acceptance of such a great prayer would have transformed the humans into animals and the earth into fire, and Najran and its inhabitants would have been eliminated from the surface of the Earth.
This is not possible except with the intent which is directly connected with the command that is
indeed His command, when He intends anything, is only to say to it: Be, so it is.137
This is the status of a perfect human being, whose pleasure and anger is the manifestation of the pleasure and anger of Allah. This is the status of the Seal of the Prophets (S) and his successor (as).
The only woman who shares this status is the greatest truthful lady Fatima al-Zahra’ (as), revealing that the spirit of the general guardianship and the common leadership, which is the absolute infallibility, is confirmed in her. May the blessings of Allah be upon her, her father, her husband and her children!
Our statement is endorsed by the tradition that both Sunnis and Shi’ahs have transmitted, and have admitted to its authenticity, that the Messenger of Allah (S) said: Fatima is a part of me, whoever angers her has angered me.138
Logically speaking, the Qur’an and the Sunnah all indicate that the anger of the Prophet (S) is the anger of Allah, the Exalted. However, the Sunni scholars have transmitted that the Prophet (S) has further said: Surely, Allah is angered by your anger and pleased with your pleasure.139
If Allah is pleased with someone’s pleasure and angered by her anger regardless of any restriction and condition, then his pleasure and anger must be above error and desire. Hence, it is the greatest level of infallibility.