Shi'as claim that Sayyiduna Ali was the rightful Caliph.

<QUESTION>

Dear scholar, is the event of Ghadir Khum true or it’s a false tradition made the by Shi’as? And if it is true, what’s the Sunni interpretation of this event?

<ANSWER>
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

One of the fundamental differences between the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah and Shi’a is the Khilafah of Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with him). The Shi’as believe that he was directly rightful to be the successor of the blessed Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give peace), whereas the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah, having full love and respect for Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with him) are of the view that the first rightful Caliph after the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give peace) was Sayyiduna Abu Bakr, then Sayyiduna Umar ibn al-Khattab, then Sayyiduna Uthman ibn Affan and then Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with them all).

This is one of the many major differences between the rightful Ahl al-Sunnah Wa al-Jama’ah and the deviated Shi’as. This also leads to other differences such as the Shi’a’s belief regarding the twelve Imams and having enmity for the great Companions of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace).

The evidences usually presented by the Shi’as are of three types. They present certain verses of the Qur’an in order to support their view that Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with him) was actually the rightful direct Caliph. These Qur’anic verses do not even have a slight hint of the issue of Khilafah, but Shi’a writers normally present, in order to explain these verses, their own fabricated narrations that are nowhere to be found in the authentic compilations of Hadith.

The second type of evidences presented by Shi’a authors are narrations that are not in the authentic books of Hadith, rather they are found to be in the books of Shi’as. Thirdly, the evidences used by Shi’as in order to support their view are those authentic narrations that mention the virtues and qualities (manaqib) of Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with him) and they are found in the authentic books of Hadith compilations.

In summary, there are three types of evidences they generally use:

1) Qur’anic verses explained with their own fabricated narrations;

2) Fabricated narrations found in their own books;

3) Authentic Ahadith that mention only the virtues of Sayyiduna Ali;

Now, if one was to look at the above three types of evidences with a open mind, it would become crystal clear that none of these can be used in order to prove that Sayyiduna Ali (Radhi Allah Anh) was the direct Caliph after the Messenger (Allah bless him & give him peace). The Qur’anic verses, because they don’t even hint to the issue of Khilafah, rather if one was to look into the reliable Tafsir compilations, it would become clear that the verses have nothing whatsoever to do with that which the Shi’as claim. Also, fabricated narrations mentioned in their books are no source of evidence, and the narrations recorded in the reliable books of Hadith merely mention the virtues of Sayyiduna Ali, of which even the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah are in agreement. Thus, none of the evidences support the claim of the Shi’as.

The aim in this brief answer is of course not to analyze all these evidences, but to only concentrate on one, which has been asked in the question and is also the main evidence used by the Shi’as in order to substantiate their view.

The Hadith used by the Shi’as is known as the incident of Ghadir. Ghadir is an Arabic word which means a ‘pool’. This pool was situated in a place between Makkah al-Mukarramah and Madina al-Munawwarah in a place known as Juhfa.

In the last year of the Messenger of Allah’s (Allah bless him & give him peace) life he performed a Hajj known as Hajj al-Wada’. It is narrated from authentic sources such as Sunan Tirmidhi, Sunan Nasa’i, Musnad Ahmad and others that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) on his return from this auspicious journey of Hajj camped at Ghadir Khum.

Some of the Companions had complained to the Messenger of Allah regarding Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with him) that they disliked certain things of his that he practised whilst they were sent to Yeman. Due to this, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) on his return from Madina, gave a sermon at this place of Gadir Khum and mentioned the qualities and virtues of Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with him). He said the following:

“Verily Ali is from me and I am from him. He is the beloved (wali) of every believer.” (Sunan Tirmidhi)

“To whoever I am beloved (mawla), Ali is also beloved to him.” (Tirmidhi).

“O Allah! Love the one who loves Ali and dislike the one who dislikes Ali.” (Sunan ibn Majah).

“Verily Ali is from me and I am from him, and he is the beloved of every believer after me” (Sunan al-Kubra of Nasa’i).

If one was to look in these narrations, the predominant words used in all these narrations are derived from the root word ‘Muwalat’. The Shi’as claim that it refers to the Khilafah of Sayyiduna Ali (Karram Allah Wajhah) and that it proves he was the rightful Caliph after the demise of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), the position which was wrongfully not given to him.

However, by looking at the word ‘Muwalat’ from a linguistic point of view, it becomes crystal clear that this has nothing to do with Khilafah. The word is repeatedly used in various verses of the Qur’an and Hadith and has never been used for Khilafah. Rather, it has always been used for love and nearness.

This is the reason why none of the Companions (Allah be pleased with them all) including Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with him) regarded these statements of the Messenger of Allah to be in relation to the Khilafah.

After the demise of the Messenger of Allah (Allah belss him & give him peace) and when the Companions gathered in the Saqifah of Banu Sa’idah, not one Companion even mentioned these statements of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace). It is reported from Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with him) that he was reluctant to ask the Messenger of Allah regarding the issue of Khilafah, as he feared of it not being given to him (Sahih al-Bukhari). If the statements of the Messenger of Allah at Ghadir Khum were sufficient for him to be the rightful Khalifah, he would never have been reluctant.

This is the reason why all the Companions (including Sayyiduna Ali) rightfully handed the Khilafah over to Sayyiduna Abu Bakr and then Sayyiduna Umar and then Sayyiduna Uthman (Allah be pleased with them all).

In conclusion, the incident of Ghadir Khum merely mentions the virtues of Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with him), and as mentioned previously, the Shi’as normally in order to support their claims use those narrations that mention merely the Virtues of Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with him).

This is just a brief mention of the issue. For more details, one may refer to the Arabic works such as al-Awasim min al-Qawasim of Qadhi Abu Bakr ibn al-Arabi, Minhaj al-Sunnah by Ibn Taymiyya, al-Sawaiq al-Muhraqa by Ibn Hajr al-Haytami and others.

And Allah Knows Best

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Darul Iftaa
Leicester , UK