Shattering the Mirage: A Response to ‘Abdul Hussain Sharaf al Din’s al Muraja’at: Letter 57 and 58

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Letter 57

 

Muharram 25, 1330

I. Interpreting Hadith al ­Ghadir

II. The Link

 

1) Believing in the truthfulness of the Sahabah requires interpreting hadith al­ Ghadir, whether it is consecutively reported or not. For this reason, Sunnis have claimed that “mawla” bears various meanings all of which have been applied in the Holy Qur’an. It may mean “the deserving,” as the Almighty says when He addresses the infidels: “Your resort is the Fire; it is your mawla,” meaning “You deserve the punishment of the Fire.”

Another meaning is “the supporter,” as Allah, praised be His Name, says: “It is so because Allah is the mawla of those who believe, and the infidels have no mawla.” It also means “the heir,” as in the statement of the Almighty: “For each We have assigned mawali [mawlas] from the inheritance of the parents and the relatives,” meaning heirs.

It also means “relatives,” as is clearly understood from the following verse of the Dear and Mighty One: “I fear the mawali after me,” meaning relatives. It also means “friend,” as the verse suggests: “On that Day, no mawla will be able to do any good to his mawla.” “Wali” also connotes the person who is most qualified to fare with someone else’s affairs, as we may say: “Mr. so and so is the wali of the minor.”

It also means “the supporter” and “the loved one.” Some have said: “The gist of the hadith could be ‘whoever I have supported, befriended, or loved;’ for ‘Ali was as such, and this meaning agrees with the prestige enjoyed by the good ancestors, and with the imamate of the three righteous caliphs, may Allah be pleased with them.

 

2) It is also possible that some people regarded this hadith to refer to ‘Ali simply because one of ‘Ali’s companions in Yemen noticed his uncompromising policy in executing the commandments of Allah; therefore, he spoke ill of him; for this reason, the Prophet, peace be upon him and his progeny, did not appreciate their attitude and stood up on the Ghadir Day, praised the Imam and lauded his contributions, attracting the attention to his prestige and defending his name against those who intended to chew it.

The pretext used by such a group of advocates is that in his sermon, the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam praised ‘Ali in particular, saying: “Whoever I have been his wali, ‘Ali is his wali,” and his Ahlul Bayt in general, saying: “I am leaving with you the Two Weighty Things: the Book of Allah and my progeny, my Ahlul Bayt;” so, he simply recommended that they should cherish ‘Ali in particular and his kin in general. They claim that such a statement neither commits Ali to be his successor, nor does it connote imamate for him, Wassalam.

 

Sincerely,

S

 
 

Letter 58

 

Muharram 27, 1330

 

I. Hadith al­ Ghadir Cannot be Interpreted

II. Pretext for its Interpretation is Speculative and Misleading

 

1) Somehow I have the feeling that your heart is not satisfied with what you yourself have stated, and your soul is not thereby pleased! You revere the Messenger of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and cherish his pristine wisdom, infallibility, conclusive Prophethood, believing that he is the master of the wise, and the seal of the prophets:

“He does not speak of his own inclination; it is but a revealed inspiration; he has been taught by one mighty in power (Qur’an, 53:3-5).”

Suppose a philosopher from another faith asks you about the Ghadir Day saying:

“Why did he salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam stop all those thousands of companions from proceeding, confining them in midday heat in such a sun­baked plain? Why did he make sure to call back whoever advanced, and wait for whoever lagged behind? Why did he camp with them in such a desolate place where neither water nor vegetation was available? Then why did he preach to them about Allah Almighty in that place and enjoined those who were present there to convey, upon dispersing, what they had heard to those who had not, and why did he start with a self­eulogizing sermon, saying: ‘It looks like my Lord’s Messenger [angel of death, Isra’il] is about to come to call me [to return to my Lord] and I will respond to the call; I am responsible, and so are you,’ and what message was the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam enjoined to convey and which the nation was enjoined to heed?

Why did he ask them: ‘Do not you believe that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is His Servant and Messenger, that His Paradise is just and His Fire is just, that death is just and the life after death is just, that the Hour is undoubtedly approaching, that Allah will bring to life all those who are lying in their graves?’ and they responded in the affirmative? Why did he immediately take ‘Ali’s hand, lift it till the white hair in his arm­pit became visible, saying: ‘O people! Allah is my mawla, and I am the mawla of the believers;’ then why did he explain his statement ‘I am the mawla of the believers’ by asking them: ‘Do not I have more authority over your lives than you yourselves have?’

Then why did he say, having made such an explanation, ‘Whoever has accepted me as his mawla, this (‘Ali) is his mawla; O Lord! Befriend whosoever befriends him and be the enemy of whosoever antagonizes him; support whosoever supports him and betray whosoever betrays him,’ and why did he specifically choose him and pray for him in such a manner which is worthy only of just Imams and truthful successors?

And why did he require them to testify by asking them: ‘Do I not have more authority over you than you yourselves have?’ and they answered in the affirmative; then he said: ‘To whomsoever I have been a mawla, ‘Ali is his mawla,’ or ‘To whomsoever I have been a wali, ‘Ali is his wali, and why did he link the Qur’an to his progeny, thus making them the examples for the wise to follow till the day of Judgment?

Why so much concern from such a wise Prophet? What was the mission that necessitated all these introductions, and what was the aspired objective from such a memorable stand? What was the message which Allah Almighty ordered him to convey when He said:

‘O Messenger! Convey what has just been revealed unto you from your Lord, and if you do not do so, then you have not conveyed His Message (at all), and Allah will protect you from (evil) men (Qur’an, 5:67),’

and what mission required so much emphasis from Allah Who demanded, in a tone so close to threatening, to be conveyed? What was the affair regarding which the Prophet feared dissension if not conveyed by him, one the announcement of which required a profound protection from Allah against the harm of the hypocrites…?”

I ask you, in the name of your grandfather, if you are asked all these questions, will you answer them by saying that Allah, the Omniscient, the all­Powerful, simply wanted to explain to the Muslims how ‘Ali had been supporting them, and how friendly he was to them? I do not think that you would give such an answer, and I do not think that you would interpret Allah’s words, or the words of the master of the wise, the seal of messengers and prophets, as such.

You are above thinking that he salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would exhaust his means and resources in explaining something too clear, according to reason and common sense, to require such an explanation. There is no doubt that you look at the actions and statements of the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in a better light, one which is not derided by the discreet, nor criticized by philosophers or sages. There is no doubt that you appreciate the value of his statements and actions and render them to wisdom and infallibility.

Allah the Almighty has said:

“He is a blessed Messenger endowed with strength from the One with the Throne, obeyed, able, and trustworthy; certainly your fellow is not possessed (Qur’an, 81:19-22).”

You are above accusing him of clarifying what is already clear, or expounding upon what is already common knowledge, or bringing unusual introductions for such clarifications, or introductions having no bearing over nor correlation thereto. Allah and His Messenger are above that. You, may Allah support the truth through your person, know that what suits such measures, undertaken in the midday heat of that place, ones that are conducive to his actions and statements on the Ghadir Day, is nothing less than the conveying of the divine Message, and the appointment of his vicegerent.

Logical proofs and rational explanations unequivocally prove that what he intended to do on that day was nothing other than the appointment of ‘Ali as his vicegerent and successor. This hadith, supported by proofs, is an explicit text regarding ‘Ali’s caliphate, one which does not even require an interpretation, and there is no way to understand it otherwise. This is quite clear for anyone who is

“… with a sound mind, attentive, and a witness (Qur’an, 50:37).”

 

2) As regarding the pretext they claim, it is nothing but a speculation and an adulteration. It is the sophistry of confusion and embellishment. The Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam dispatched ‘Ali to Yemen twice, the first took place in 8 A.H. It was then that scandal­mongers spread rumours about him, and some people complained about him to the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam upon their return to Medina. It was then that he resented their complaints,1 and they saw the sparkle of anger on his face; yet they did not refrain from trying again.

The second time took place in 10 A.H. It was then that the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam tied a knot on ‘Ali’s standard, fixed his head­wear with his own hands, and said: “Proceed, and do not be distracted;” whereupon ‘Ali ‘alayh al Salam proceeded to his destination as the divinely guided leader of the rest till he discharged the responsibility entrusted to him by the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his progeny.

Then he participated in the Prophet’s Farewell Pilgrimage. It was then that the Prophet welcomed him very warmly and even shared with him his own offering. It was then that no scandal­monger dared to open his mouth, nor did any unfair person charge him with anything; so, how can this hadith be necessitated by the objections of those in the opposition party? Or how could it be only an answer to their charges, as some people claim?

Yet mere antagonism to ‘Ali is not sufficient for the Prophet to pile praises on him in the way which he has done from a pulpit of camel saddles on the Ghadir Day except, Allah forbid, that he risks his own deeds and statements, responsibilities and mission, just to please ‘Ali. His divine wisdom is way above that, for Allah, praised be His Name, says: “It is the saying of a glorious Messenger; it is not the speech of a poet; little do you believe; nor is it the speech of a monk; little do you remember; it is but revelation from the Lord of the Worlds.” (69:40-43)

Had he desired to just show ‘Ali’s contributions, and to rebut those who bore grudge against him, he salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would simply have said: “This is my cousin, my son­in­law, the father of my descendants, the master of my household; therefore, do not harm him,” or something like this to show mere admission of status and dignity.

But the way this hadith is worded gives no impression other than what we have suggested. It points out rational and deductive proofs. Let the reason be whatever it may be, the statements quite obviously bear explicit meanings which demand no inquiry into their causes.

As regarding his reference to his household in hadith al ­Ghadir, it is only to support the same meaning which we have suggested, since he correlated them to the Glorious Book of Allah, setting them as examples for all the wise, saying: “I am leaving with you these which, as long as you adhere to, shall never let you stray: the Book of Allah, and my progeny, my household.” He did not do that only so that the nation might realize that it had none to refer to, nor rely upon, after the Prophet, other than both of them.

Suffices you for a testimony regarding the Imams from the Prophet’s purified progeny ‘alayh al Salam is that they are correlated to Allah’s Book which no wrong can approach from front nor from back. Just as it is not possible to refer to any book which differs in its judgment from the Book of Allah, the Praised One, the Sublime, it is not possible likewise to refer to an Imam who opposes in his judgment the Imams from the purified progeny ‘alayh al Salam.

Consider his statement, peace be upon him and his progeny, “They shall never separate till they join me at the Pool;” it is a proof that the earth shall never be without an Imam from his loins who is equivalent to the Book. Anyone who scrutinizes this hadith will find it restricting the caliphate to the Imams from the purified progeny of the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.

This is supported by the hadith reported by Zaid ibn Thabit and quoted by Ahmed in his Musnad at the beginning of page 122, Vol. 5. It states that the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him and his progeny, has said: “I am leaving you with two successors: the Book of Allah, like a rope extending from heavens to earth, and my household, for they both shall never part from each other till they join me at the Pool.”

Such a statement is indeed indicative of assigning the caliphate to the Imams from the purified progeny, peace be upon them. You know that the text which emphasizes following the Prophet’s progeny implies following ‘Ali’s leadership, since ‘Ali, after the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is the undisputed master, and the obeyed Imam of his household. On one hand, hadith al­ Ghadir and others like it imply that ‘Ali is the Imam of the Prophet’s household whose status, according to Allah and His Messenger, is equal to that of the Holy Qur’an. On the other hand, it gives credit to his own great personality because of which he became the wali of all those whose wali is none other than the Messenger of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, Wassalam.

 

Sincerely

Sh


Footnotes

  1. We have clarified the same in our Letter No. 36; so, refer to it and do not overlook our comment in this regard.
 

 

Discussions

There is not much to discuss under this round of correspondence since much of what he has mentioned he is merely a repetition of what he mentioned earlier in his writings. He has not brought any academic argument. Instead he employed a very emotive tone to give a new veneer to his older arguments.

His claim that the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam camped at a desolate place where neither water nor vegetation was available is at odds with reality. The name, Ghadir, suggests that it was a place of water. This is mentioned expressly in some versions of the Hadith.[1]

He alleges that the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam stood up to give a sermon in the unbearable extreme heat in order to instate ‘Ali as the khalifah. It’s counter-intuitive to state that standing in the heat to deliver a speech was the underlying sign of ‘Ali’s appointment.It would be more sensible if the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam gave a specific instruction for everyone to gather at Ghadir Khumm before announcing ‘Ali’s appointment. However, reality paints quite a different picture. No announcement was made for the people to gather at Ghadir Khumm. Instead the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam waited until his return from the Farewell Hajj, and when he stopped for water and rest at Ghadir Khumm he addressed those who were present with him.

This tells us that the reason for addressing the Companions at this point was never to announce ‘Ali’s Caliphate because if that were the case he would have mentioned it during the Farewell Hajj, wherein he delivered numerous sermons about the most important matters for the entire Ummah to know. However, because this was not something to be conveyed to the people he did not mention it. After delivering those sermons he said, “Have I conveyed? O Allah, be my witness!”

This reinforces the view that says that the word Mawla was not used with the intention of Caliphate. Why wait until after Hajj to appoint the Khalifah, after the majority of Muslims have returned to their respective destinations?

  • We have discussed the Hadith of Ghadir at length under numerous letter so it is most appropriate that we ask a few questions of our own:
  • Why did the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam appoint Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu to lead the prayer during his final illness?
  • Why did the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, who could barely walk, ascend the pulpit, his head bandaged, only to state that he was at his end and that he has repaid the kindness of everyone besides Abu Bakr, and that he was was most indebted to Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu for his service to Islam? In that sermon he insisted that all doors leading to Masjid be closed, and that only the door of Abu Bakr ought to lead directly into the Masjid; why?

What caused him to smile when he saw his Companions for the last time; at the time of Fajr, in prayer behind Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu?

Anas radiya Llahu ‘anhu, the Companion who served the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam for over ten years, narrates:

 

عن الزهري قال أخبرني أنس بن مالك الأنصاري ـ وكان تبع النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم وخدمه وصحبه أن أبا بكر كان يصلي لهم في وجع النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم الذي توفي فيه حتى إذا كان يوم الاثنين وهم صفوف في الصلاة، فكشف النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم ستر الحجرة ينظر إلينا وهو قائم كأن وجهه ورقة مصحف ثم تبسم يضحك فهممنا أن نفتتن من الفرح برؤية النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم، فنكص أبو بكر على عقبيه ليصل الصف وظن أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم خارج إلى الصلاة، فأشار إلينا النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أن أتموا صلاتكم وأرخى الستر فتوفي من يومه‏.‏

The last glimpse I had of the Messenger of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was at the time of his last illness, on the Monday morning when he lifted the curtain of his house (to take a look at his ummah praying). His face was radiant and shining as if it was a page of the Mushaf. His face was lit with a smile of joy. The people were performing the (fajr) prayer behind Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu and began moving back (in happiness after seeing him, thinking that he would come to join them). The Messenger of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam made a sign to them to remain in their places. The Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam passed away on that day.[2]

 

 


[1] See our discussions on Letter 36

[2] Sahih al Bukhari, Kitab al Adhan, Hadith no: 680; Sahih Muslim, Kitab al Salah, Hadith no: 419