1. An Exclusive “Merit”?

Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 H) says:

وكان إذا سافر عن المدينة استخلف من يستخلفه يصلي بالمسلمين كما استخلف ابن أم مكتوم تارة وعليا تارة في الصلاة واستخلف غيرهما تارة

فأما في حال غيبته ومرضه فلم يستخلف إلا أبا بكر لا عليا ولا غيره واستخلافه للصديق في الصلاة متواتر ثابت في الصحاح والسنن والمساند من غير وجه

Whenever he (the Prophet) left Madinah on a journey, he would appoint a khalifah (to govern the city on his behalf). Whoever he appointed as a khalifah would lead the Muslims in salat, as he once made Ibn Umm Maktum a khalifah, and also ‘Ali once, to lead the salat. He equally appointed others apart from them both as khalifahs at other times.

However, during his absence or illness, he never appointed anyone as khalifah except Abu Bakr – neither ‘Ali nor anyone else. And his appointment of al-Siddiq as khalifah to lead salat is mutawatir, and authentically narrated in the Sahih books, and the Sunan books, and the Musnad books through many routes.1

Basically, our Shaykh confesses to the following points:

1. Abu Bakr was NOT the first or the only to lead Muslims in salat in the mosque of the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alaihi wa alihi, in Madinah.

2. Amir al-Muminin ‘Ali, ‘alaihi al-salam, and Ibn Umm Maktum, raḍiyallahu ‘anhu, were among those Sahabah, raḍiyallahu ‘anhum, who also led the Muslims in salat in that mosque on the order of the Messenger of Allah.

But, our Shaykh then proceeds to make some garbled remarks:

i. Abu Bakr was the only one ever deputized to lead salat in the mosque of the Prophet during his absence from Madinah.

ii. He was also the only one ever commanded to lead the salat in that mosque during the Messenger’s illness.

Somehow, Ibn Taymiyyah thinks that these were “exclusive merits” of his first khalifah, Abu Bakr. But, when the Messenger of Allah appointed Imam ‘Ali, Ibn Umm Maktum and others as khalifahs over his Madinah, was he then not also “absent” from the city?! The Shaykh himself answers:

وكان إذا سافر عن المدينة استخلف من يستخلفه يصلي بالمسلمين

Whenever he (the Prophet) LEFT MADINAH on a journey, he would appoint a khalifah (to govern the city on his behalf). Whoever he appointed as a khalifah would lead the Muslims in Salat

With this admission, one wonders: on what basis then was Abu Bakr the only one ever appointed khalifah to lead salat in Madinah during the Prophet’s absence? How on earth did that submission of Ibn Taymiyyah even ever make any sense to him at all?! Why do these people suddenly lose their simple logic whenever discussions involving Amir al-Muminin ‘Ali b. Abi Talib come up?

As for our Shaykh’s insistence on the “uniqueness” of Abu Bakr’s khilafah in salat during the Prophet’s illness, then, there are two issues. One, as we will demonstrate in this book, there is NO reliable proof of it - to begin with! All that our Sunni brothers can muster together are nothing but a set of severely contradictory riwayat which only muddle up the entire picture. Such kinds of irreconcilable reports are never accepted as valid testimonies. Two, even if it is agreed, for the sake of argument, that Abu Bakr ever led the salat on the order of the Prophet, then there is very little “merit” in it for him, if any at all. He then would have been a khalifah in salat only, which was the weakest form of khilafah. He would have had no authority whatsoever to give commands to the Muslim soldiers, or to administer the Muslim society, or to pass judgments in disputes. Basically, he had no administrative, military or judicial authority in his alleged khilafah. By contrast, when Amir al-Muminin was made the khalifah of Madinah by the Messenger during the Battle of Tabuk, the former had full authority to lead Muslims in salat in the Prophet’s mosque, command the Muslim armed forces stationed with him in the city, administer the affairs of its inhabitants and give judgments in any disputes that arose among them! How can anyone rationally consider the largely empty khilafah of Abu Bakr as superior to that of ‘Ali? How do these people reason?

The issue of Abu Bakr’s alleged appointment as prayer-leader is usually raised by our brothers from the Ahl al-Sunnah in debates over khilafah. Their logic always is – since the Prophet deputized Abu Bakr to lead the salat in his mosque, then he was automatically declaring the latter, implicitly, as his khalifah after his death. However, even Ibn Taymiyyah is unable to completely ignore the fallacy of this mainstream Sunni premise:

ليس كل من يصلح للاستخلاف في الحياة على بعض الأمة يصلح إن يستخلف بعد الموت فإن النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم استخلف في حياته غير واحد و منهم من لا يصلح للخلافة بعد موته

Not all who are qualified to be appointed khalifahs during the lifetime (of the Muslim ruler) over part of the Ummah are equally qualified to be appointed as khalifahs after the death (of the ruler). The Prophet, peace be upon him, appointed during his lifetime many people as khalifahs, and among them were those who were not qualified for the khilafah after his death.2

  • 1. Abu al-‘Abbas Ahmad b. ‘Abd al-Halim b. Taymiyyah al-Harrani, Minhaj al-Sunnah al-Nabawiyyah (Muasassat Qurtubah; 1st edition, 1406 H) [annotator: Dr. Muhammad Rashad Salim], vol. 8, p. 558
  • 2. Abu al-‘Abbas Ahmad b. ‘Abd al-Halim b. Taymiyyah al-Harrani, Minhaj al-Sunnah al-Nabawiyyah (Muasassat Qurtubah; 1st edition, 1406 H) [annotator: Dr. Muhammad Rashad Salim], vol. 7, p. 339