Shattering the Mirage: A Response to ‘Abdul Hussain Sharaf al Din’s al Muraja’at: Letter 23 and 24

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Letter 23

 

Thul-Hijjah 14, 1329

 

I. Convinced of the Authenticity of this Hadith

II. Unreliability Based on Non-Sequential Narration

III. Its Reference to Restricted Succession

IV. Its Rebuttal

 

1) I have, indeed, read this hadith on page 111 of Volume One of Ahmed’s Musnad and ascertained the reliability of his sources and found them to be the most reliable authorities. Then I researched his avenues in narrating this hadith, and I found them to be sequential: each one of them supports the other; therefore, I have contented myself to believe in its contents.

 

2) But you do not rely on an authentic hadith that deals with the issue of succession unless it is sequentially narrated [mutawatir], for succession, according to your Shi’a philosophy, is one of the roots of religion, and this hadith cannot be considered as “mutawatir” (consecutively reported) and, therefore, it cannot be relied upon.

 

3) It may be said that ‘Ali is the successor of the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in his own Household alone; so, where is the text that testifies to his succession among the general public?

 

4) This hadith may even be revoked, since the Prophet has refrained from publicly supporting the gist thereof. Because of this, the companions found no reason why they should not swear the oath of allegiance to the three righteous caliphs, may Allah be pleased with them.

 

Sincerely,

S

 

Letter 24

 

Thul-Hijjah 15, 1329

 

I. Why Relying on this Hadith

II. Restricted Succession is Unanimously Rejected

III. Revocation is Impossible

 

1) Sunnis rely on every correct hadith to confirm their concept of succession, be it mutawatir or not. We rely on the authenticity of this hadith in our argument against theirs simply because they themselves testify to its authenticity, thus binding themselves to what they have considered to be binding. Our own proof regarding succession from our viewpoint depends on its tawatur from our own sources, as is obvious to everyone.

 

2) The claim that ‘Ali is the successor of the Messenger of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam only in his household is rejected due to the fact that whoever believes that ‘Ali is the successor of the Messenger of Allah in his household also believes that he is his successor among the public as well, and whoever denies his succession over the public also denies his succession among his family. There is no way to separate one from the other; so, why bring up a philosophy which runs contrary to the consensus of all Muslims?

 

3) I cannot overlook your statement that this hadith is revoked, which contradicts both reason and Shari’a, since in order to abrogate, a statement has to be made before the effect of its precedent becomes manifest, as is clear to everyone. The only pretext for abrogation here is the allegation that the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam supposedly refrained from [publicly] expounding on the gist of this hadith.

The hadith itself proves that he, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and his progeny, did not refrain from doing so; rather, texts in this meaning are consecutive, supporting one another. If we suppose that there is no text in the same meaning after this one, then how can it be proven that the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had changed his mind or refrained from its enforcement?

“They follow nothing other than their own whims and desires, after guidance from their Lord has already come unto them (Qur’an, 53:23)”

 

And peace be with you.

 

Sincerely,

Sh

 
 
 

Discussions

 

Authenticity of the narrations

In our previous discussion we have demonstrated why the narrations cited by ‘Abdul Hussain are unreliable. ‘Abdul Hussain seems to have anticipated the possible questions and objections that his readers would have in mind. In order to dispel any doubts about what the narrations meant, his interlocutor had to accept the reliability of these narrations.

 

Interpreting the narration

The interpretation of the Hadith would only be warranted if it were proven that the Hadith met the criteria of accaptance, which we have already proven not otbe the case. The supplementary narrations from Musnad Ahmed do not even indicate successorship over the entire Ummah, even if one were to concede their reliability.

‘Abdul Hussain has reversed the purport of these narrations saying that there is no basis for seperating the major succession (authority over the entire Ummah) from minor succession (authority over the Prophet’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam blessed family). The entire argument is built on no foundation; there is no textual evidence to prove that ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu was nominated for leadership after the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and the concensus which ‘And al Hussain refers to exists only in his mind. Temporal and restricted leadership has many precedents in the Prophet’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam Sirah. Abu Bakr’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu appointment to lead the Hajj demonstrates both temporal and limited leadership. How then could anyone claim that there is Ijma’ on this issue, or that there is no record of any minor successorship?

 

Tawatur

The argument that ‘Abdul Hussain raises — with the pen of his debater — is that mass-transmission [Tawatur] is necessary in order to establish the position of leadership. His counter argument is that the Ahus Sunnah believe that Tawatur is not essential to establish the Caliphate. This is where he conflates the doctrine of Imamah with the concept of Caliphate.

Everyone agrees that the Ummah requires leadership after the Prophet’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam departure. The difference between the Ahus Sunnah and the Twelver Shia on this issue is whether the decision to nominate the leader after the Prophet’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam demise was the responsibility of the Ummah, or whether there was divine nomination. The Twelver Shia believe that ‘Ali’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu appointment after the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is a fundamental of faith and that his appointment was by divine decree.[1] The first among the Shia to promote this belief was the Jew, ‘Abdullah ibn Saba’.[2]

Since the nomination of the leaders is by divine appointment, and Imamah forms part of the essentials of the Twelver Shia belief structure, it is necessary to provide unquestionable evidence to support any nomination. It appears that the only evidence of why the Imams are to be accepted as Imams is because the Imams ‘have said so’. ‘Abdul Hussain would not be able to provide Hadith from the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam that reaches the level of Tawatur that supports the doctrine of Imamah; even if he tried.

 

Abrogation

In order for something to be abrogated it would have to be legislated first. If it cannot be proven that the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam nominated ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu to begin with, what use is there in arguing that it had been repealed.

The Ahus Sunnah have, however, entertained the argument with the Shia that even if the reports were reliable they are inadmissible as evidence for the claim that ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu was divinely appointed. That is where the argument of Naskh [Abrogation] comes in. Instead of arguing with incidents which the Shia might object to, it would be more prudent to argue in light of the narrations that they are willing to accept.

Among the famous narrations that they cite is the Hadith of Ghadir. If the nomination at Ghadir were to be seen as Prophetic appointment, that undersmines the entire argument that has grown out of these narrations. Similarly, if the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam wanted to write something on the Thursday prior to his demise, often refered to as the Tragedy of Thursday, it undermines both the purport of this narration as well as the narration of Ghadir Khumm.

It is clear for anyone to see the inconsistensies in the line of reasoning the Shia have adopted in intrepreting these narrations; ignoring whether they are authentic or not.

As far as the Ahus Sunnah is concerned the nomination of their leader after the Prophet’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam demise was the collective responsibility of the Ummah, and that the decision in appointment would lay with the people of counsel. The Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did, however, suggest whom his prefered candidate was.

Qasim ibn Muhammad, the grandfather of Imam al Baqir, reports from Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha:

 

The Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “Indeed, I was on the verge of calling Abu Bakr and his son, and entrust leadership to him for fear that people might speak or aspire to things. But Allah and the Believers refuse to have anyone but Abu Bakr.”[3]

 

‘Urwah narrates that Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha said:

 

The Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said to me, “Call Abu Bakr and your brother for me so that I may write a letter. Indeed I fear that some aspiring person might say I am more deserving, but Allah and the Believers refuse to have anyone but Abu Bakr.”[4]

 

Jubayr ibn Mut’im said:

 

A woman came to the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and he instructed her to return to him later. She said, “What should I do if I return and I do not find you?” It was as if she was implying death.

He replied, “If you do not find me then go to Abu Bakr.”[5]

 

Abu Bakrah radiya Llahu ‘anhu relates:

 

The Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said one day, “Who amongst you had a dream?”

A man replied, “I saw as if a scale descended from the heavens. Then you (the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and Abu Bakr were weighed, and you outweighed Abu Bakr. Then Abu Bakr and ‘Umar were weighed, and Abu Bakr outweighed ‘Umar. Then ‘Umar and ‘Uthman were weighed, and ‘Umar outweighed ‘Uthman. Then the scale was lifted.”

Abu Bakrah said, “This upset the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and he then said, ‘A Caliphate on the pattern of Prophethood, then Allah will give the kingdom to whomever he wills thereafter.’”[6]

 

The Messenger of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam sent Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu forward to lead the people in salah until he passed away. Abu Musa al Ash’ari radiya Llahu ‘anhu relates:

 

The Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was ill and when his illness intensified, He said, “Order Abu Bakr to lead the people in salah!”

Aisha then said, “Indeed, he is a soft-hearted man. When he stands in your place he will be unable to lead the people in salah.”

She then repeated herself and he said, “Order Abu Bakr to lead the salah! Indeed you are of the women of Yusuf.”

He then came to the Messenger and he led the people in salah during the life of the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.[7]

 

Why would the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam appoint Abu Bakr if ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu had been appointed already? As a matter of fact, in the Prophet’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam final moments he appeared pleased with the fact that Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu was leading them in salah, almost as if approving his candidacy for succession. Anas ibn Malik radiya Llahu ‘anhu narrates:

 

Abu Bakr used to lead them in salah during the illness of the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in which he passed away. On Monday while they were standing in their rows, the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam opened the curtain of the room and stood there gazing at us. As if his face was a page of the Qur’an. He smiled and we were tempted to break our prayer out of happiness at the sight of the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Abu Bakr stepped backwards to reach the row behind him thinking that the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had come out to the prayer. The Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam however, motioned to him to complete the prayer. He then lowered the screen and passed away later that day.[8]

 

Most importantly, even ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu did not know that he was appointed. If he was previously appointed the following conversation with his uncle ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhu would not have transpired:

‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhu said:

 

‘Ali ibn Abi Talib came out of the Messenger’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam home during his fatal illness.

The people asked, “O Abu al Hassan, how is the health of Allah’s Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam this morning?”

‘Ali replied, “He has recovered with the Grace of Allah.”

‘Abbas grabbed him by the hand and said to him, “In three days you will be ruled (by somebody else), and by Allah, I feel that Allah’s Messenger will not survive this ailment. I know the look of death on the faces of the offspring of ‘Abdul Muttalib. Let us go to the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and ask him who will take over the Caliphate. If it is given to us we will know, and if it is given to somebody else, we will inform him so that he may tell the new ruler to take care of us.”

‘Ali said, “By Allah, if we asked the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam for it (the Caliphate) and he denied us now, the people will never give it to us after that. By Allah, I will not ask Allah’s Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam for it.”[9]

 

After considering all these texts, the argument of Naskh [Abrogation] is not farfetched at all. It would account for the variance between the text. However, since there is no textual evidence to prove that ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu had been exclusively appointed, the entire discussion of possible interpretations and Naskh are merely theoretical and redundant as far as textual evidence goes.

 

NEXT⇒ Letter 25 and 26


[1] Fusul al Muhimmah Fi Usul al A’immah, pg. 142.

[2] Rijal al Kashshi, pg. 108-109, Firaq al Shia by al Nawbakhti, pg. 22.

[3]Sahih al Bukhari, The Book of Laws, 6:6791

[4] Sahih Muslim with the commentary, 15:2387

[5]Sahih al Bukhari, The Chapter on the Merits of the Sahabah, 3459; Sahih Muslim with its commentary, The Chapter on the Merits of the Sahabah, 15: 2386.

[6]Sunan Abu Dawood, The Chapter on the Sunnah, Hadith: 4635; Sunan al Tirmidhi, The Chapters of Dreams, Hadith: 2403.

[7]Sahih al Bukhari, The Book of Congregation, Hadith: 646.

[8]Sahih al Bukhari, Hadith: 648.

[9] Sahih al Bukhari, Kitab al Maghazi, Hadith: 4447.