Declaration of Imam Ali (a) as Vicegerent

SHAFAQNA - “It is generally supposed that the Holy Prophet (s) had not expressly designated anyone as his successor in the spiritual and temporal government, but this notion is framed on an incorrect comprehension of fact, for there is abundant evidence that many a time the Prophet had openly indicated Imam Ali for Vicegerency.” (The Spirit of Islam, p. 292)

The First Occasion was when the Holy Prophet was ordered by Allah to invite his kith and kin to Islam openly. This occasion is called Da’wat Zul Ashira (propagation of the religion amongst the relatives). In the words of Rev: Sale, the Holy Prophet said: “God had commanded me to call you unto Him; who therefore, among you will be assisting me herein and become my brother and my vicegerent? All of them, hesitating and declining the matter, Ali at length rose up, and declared that he would be his assistant and threatened those who should oppose him. Muhammad upon this embraced Ali with great demonstration of affection, and desired all those present to hear him and to obey him as his Deputy.”

Thus at this occasion of the introduction of Islam as a religion, Imam Ali (AS was declared by the Holy Prophet (s) as his Deputy. The value of Ali’s support to the Holy Prophet and his designation as a vicegerent at this stage is fairly well assessed by theologians, historians and thinkers.

The Second Occasion was that at the time of Ali’s conquest of Khaybar. The words of the Holy Prophet (s) quite clearly, positively and expressively give out his opinion about Imam Ali and his desire to leave him as the guardian and the propagator of this mission. He said, “You are from me and I am from you, you will inherit me….. You are to me what Aaron was to Moses…. You will be nearest to me on the Day of Judgement and next to me on the fountain of Kauthar, enmity against you is enmity against me, a war against you is a war against me…. You have as much faith in Allah as I have.. You are door to me”. What more can one say? Can there by anything more forceful, more eloquent, more poignant with clear indications and more categorical than the words which the Holy Prophet (s) has used? Do they leave any shadow of doubt?? Has the Prophet (s) ever used such words for anybody else?

The Battle of Tabuk: The Third instance was the event of the occasion of Tabuk. To understand the occasion and the cause of remarks of the Prophet (s) it is necessary to know the historical background of the incident. It was the summer of 9 A.H. and the Holy Prophet (s) had received the information that the Roman King who was mobilizing his forces to invade the Islamic State and many Arab tribes were gathering around him. He decided to face them in their own land and not to allow them to trample the Muslim State so that they might not destroy the lands through which they pass.

The situation had become very critical because there was famine in Hijaz, Ta’if and Yemen. The Munafiqin (the hypocrites) were carrying on intensive propaganda campaign and trying to make the people believe that the famine was the sign that Allah was displeased with Muslims and wants to exterminate them with the worst form of death (cannibalism). And in case of a defeat against the Roman armies there was eminent danger of revolt. It was imperative that the State should be left in the hands of a faithful and powerful guardian otherwise there was every possibility of being crushed between the two enemies. The Prophet therefore decided that Imam Ali should act as a regent in his place and the people might also realize that in the opinion of the Holy Prophet (s), none could look after the temporal as well as spiritual welfare of the Muslims during his absence, except Ali (a). He called Ali and told him that he would have to act as the last line of defence for him and Islam, saying “O Ali! Nobody could guard the Muslim State but you or I”.

Imam Ali’s stay at Medina disappointed the hypocrites and as they constituted the majority of those left behind by the Holy Prophet (s) they started a cold war. They started their propaganda by saying that the Holy Prophet (s) had lost faith in Imam Ali (a) and had therefore left him behind and that it was certain that the Prophet (s) was going to suffer a defeat. Imam Ali naturally felt anxious for the Prophet and annoyed at aspersions against him. He left Medina immediately, met the Prophet at the place of Juraf and told him all that was said in his absence. Thereupon, the Holy Prophet (s) said: “Ali! They are lying against you as they have lied against me, they have called me an epileptic, a magician, a sorcerer and a necromancer, and have always styled me as a liar. I have appointed you as my vicegerent and successor over all which I have left behind. Are you not satisfied to realize that you are to me what Aaron was to Moses.”

Ghadir Khum: The Fourth time was — “Notably the occasion of the return journey from the performance of the “Farewell Pilgrimage”, during a halt at a place called Khum, he had convoked an assembly of the people accompanying him, and used the words which could leave no doubt as to his intentions regarding a successor. “Ali,” said the Prophet, “is to me what Aaron was to Moses. The Almighty Allah be a friend to his friends and a foe to his foes; help those who help him and frustrate those who betray him.”

I would be doing a great disservice to the cause of truth and to the history of Islam if I do not sketch an outline of this incident because more than 50,000 people had gathered on the occasion of Ghadir Khum and many of them narrated all that took place there, among those narrators, we find such luminaries as Caliph Abu Bakr, Caliph Umar, Caliph Uthman, Zubair ibn Awam, Abdullah ibn Umar, Abdullah ibn Abbas, Ummul Momineen Ayesha, Hassan ibn Thabir. From these narrators, about 153 historians, biographers, collectors of the Prophet’s traditions and authors of Seeras, Mu’jums and Masanid from the First Century A.H. right upto 1300 A.H. have narrated the whole incident in details and have drawn practically the same inference as the author of “The Spirit of Islam”.

The Holy Prophet (s) was returning from the Farewell Pilgrimage and had reached the place of Khum, (which in the words of ibn Khallakan, the famous historian and geographer, is a valley lying between Mecca and Medina and in the vicinity of Ju’fa). It contains a pond (Ghadir) near which the Prophet pronounced his invocation. This took place on the 18th of Zil Hijjah and on this day, the anniversary of Ghadir (Eidul Ghadir) is celebrated every year by the Muslims.

At Ghadir Khum, the Holy Prophet (s) suddenly made his camel stop and said that just then a message of Allah was revealed to him which must be immediately conveyed to the Muslims. He dispatched messengers towards those who had gone ahead and those who were following him gradually to join him at once. When all of them were gathered he performed the Noon-prayers in that blazing hot summer sun. Then a pulpit was erected for him and from this eminence, he delivered a sermon which is considered as a masterpiece of Arabic literature and a brief survey of what the Holy Prophet (s) had taught and achieved for the Muslims.

There he said that he had just then received the revelation which said:

“O Prophet! Proclaim the message which has been sent down to you from your Lord, for if you fail to convey it, it would be as if you have not at all performed the duty of Prophethood. Allah will protect you, (your mission) from evil persons. Indeed Allah does not guide the unbelievers.” (Surah Maida, 5:67)

The Holy Prophet was standing there to convey that message to the Muslims and to perform the duty he was ordered to perform. Continuing the sermon, he said:

“O people! Shortly I shall be called (to the Heaven) and if I go back, I shall have to give an account as to how I have conveyed His Message to you and you (in your turn) will also be asked as to how you have accepted and carried my teachings. Now tell me what you will say”. Thereupon all the people with one voice declared, “O Prophet of Allah! We testify and declare that you have conveyed the message of Allah in details, you have strived your utmost to guide us to the right path and taught us to follow it. You were most kind to us and you never wished for us but good. May Allah repay you for all that”.

Thereupon he asked the gathering, “Do you not testify that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad is His creature, His servant and His Prophet, that there is Paradise and Hell, that death will overtake everyone of you, that you will be brought back from your graves, that the Day of Resurrection will surely dawn and human beings will be resurrected from their graves to account for their deeds?” The people declared, “We believe and testify to all of this”. Hearing this declaration he said:

“I am leaving amongst you two most important things worthy of obedience, the Quran and my progeny (the Chosen descendants). Take care how you treat them, they will not separate from each other till they reach me on the Fountain of Kauthar”.

Then he added, “The Almighty Allah is my Lord (Maula) and I am the guardian of all the Muslims and have more right and power on their lives than their ownselves; do you believe in this assertion of mine?” They all in one voice replied, “Yes O Prophet of Allah!” Thrice he asked the same question and thrice he received the same reply. On this solemn affirmation he said: “Hear and remember that of whomsoever I am the guardian, Ali too is his guardian. He is to me what Aaron was to Moses. Oh Allah! Be a friend to his friends and a foe to his foes, help those who help him and frustrate those who betray him”, while saying this he raised Imam Ali so that people may have a look at him, He will be the master and guardian of those who believe the Holy Prophet to be their master and guardian. Thereupon the Prophet (s) received the revelation:

“On this day, I have perfected your religion, completed My favours to you and have chosen Islam as your religion.” (Surah Maida, 5:5)

After performing this ceremony and receiving the above revelation, the Holy Prophet (s) came down the pulpit, prostrated before Allah in prayers and ordered to pitch a tent. In this tent Imam Ali (a) was made to take his seat and people were ordered to pay homage to him and to address him as “Ameerul Momineen” (The Commander of the Faithful). The first person to congratulate and address him as such was Umar ibn Khattab who said, “I congratulate you, O Ali! Today you have become my master and commander of every Muslim man and woman”.


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