Almighty Allah has instructed the Holy Prophet (S) to guide his people to the rites of the ritual Hajj after he had guided them to the ritual prayer, fasting and zakat. That was just before starting the Farewell Hajj. He, the Exalted, also instructed his Prophet (S) to show them publicly the next leader. Throughout the history of humankind, the Almighty did the same thing with all of His Prophets who had departed this world only after they had perfected the religion and delivered the divine Mission to their nominated heirs whom they must have designated publicly.
The Holy Prophet (S) carried the Lord’s instruction when he summoned people to participate in that final Hajj so that he would teach them the rites and would nominate Imam `Ali as his vicegerent and people’s leader. Nevertheless, he anticipated that people of Quraysh would object to such a nomination for they had already born envy and malice to the Hashimites. He also expected that they would criticize his divine Prophethood and accuse him of establishing a monarchy for his household similar to these of Khosrow (king of Persia) or Caesar (king of the Romans). If that happened, it would create a movement of apostasy among Muslims. At any rate, the Holy Prophet (S) performed the Farewell Hajj and addressed five sermons in Makkah, `Arafat and Mina in which he guided people to the rites and regulations of the religion, foretold about the coming Twelve Imams out of his progeny and emphasized that people would not be saved against deviation unless they would hold fast to the two weighty things; the Qur’an and the Ahl al-Bayt. He also warned against the devious leaders and against [some of] his companions who would avert and, as a result, the Lord should deprive them of joining the Holy Prophet (S) at the Divine Pool on the Resurrection Day.
Because of people of Quraysh’s irritable situation, the Holy Prophet (S) did not emphasize on the coming leadership of his progeny officially. He tried to pass up ordering them to pay homage to `Ali during the ceremonies of the Farewell Hajj.
During the journey back to al-Madinah, Archangel Gabriel carried to the Holy Prophet (S) Almighty Allah’s saying,
“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; surely Allah will not guide the unbelieving people.” [Surah al-Ma`idah 5:67]
Immediately, the Holy Prophet (S) ordered the caravans to halt at Ghadir Khumm and delivered the Lord’s message. He raised `Ali to the minbarlike height made of saddles, took him up from the arm and declared him as the next leader. He also ordered to establish a tent in which `Ali would sit and Muslims would congratulate him on this leading position. The attendant Muslims offered congratulations and paid him homage. On that occasion, Almighty Allah revealed,
“This day have I perfected for you your religion and completed My favor on you and chosen for you Islam as a religion.” [Surah al-Ma`idah 5:3]
That was on the eighteenth of Dhu’l-Hijjah.
Before and after his arrival at al-Madinah, people of Quraysh and the hypocrites started their activities against the Holy Prophet (S). All of their plots were foiled by the Lord Who protected His Messenger against any movement of mutiny or apostasy during his lifetime. Various means were used for this purpose. One of these was the heavenly chastisement inflicted upon those who objected and protested against him. Jabir ibn al-Nadr ibn al-Harith al-`Abdari whose father was the chief of the [tribe of] `Abd al-Dar and the commander of the polytheists’ army against Muslims during the Battle of Badr was one of those objectors:
Abu-`Ubayd al-Harawi, in Gharib al-Qur’an, records the following:
After the Holy Prophet (S)’s conveyance of the Lord’s commission in Ghadir Khumm had been widely known, al-Harith ibn al-Nu`man al-Fihri (or Jabir ibn al-Nadr ibn al-Harith ibn Kildah al-`Abdari, according to Abu-`Ubayd’s report) came to the Holy Prophet (S) and said, “O Muhammad! You have ordered us, on behalf of Allah, to declare that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad being the Messenger of Allah, perform the prayers, observe fasting in the month of Ramadan, undertake the [obligatory] Hajj and defray the zakat; and we have admitted. Nevertheless, all these have not sufficed you until you raised your cousin from the arm and preceded him to us saying, ‘`Ali will now be the master of him whosever master was me.’ Is this your own directive or is it due to Allah’s?” The Holy Prophet (S) answered, “By Allah there is no god but Whom I take the oath, it is surely Almighty Allah’s directive.” Jabir turned his face towards his riding animal saying, “O Allah! If Muhammad’s words are true, then rain us with a heavenly stone or inflict a painful chastisement upon us.” Before Jabir could reach his animal, the Lord rained him with a stone that fell on the head and went out from the anus. Hence, he was killed and, consequently, Allah revealed,
“One demanding, demanded the chastisement which must befall.” [Surah al-Maarij 70:1]
Despite the fact that a good number of Sunni reference books of Tafsir and Hadith have adopted the same exegeses of the three Verses revealed for the event of Ghadir Khumm, others have adopted other opinions most of which are contradictory.
The following discussions are introduced as preliminary introductions to the exegesis of the three Verses of Ghadir.