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Summary of 9.6 "Imamite Concept I"

We touched on the minority, Shiite, view which represents roughly 10% of Muslims that Ali the cousin and son in law of the Prophet was the only legitimate heir of the Prophet and that the Prophet actually appointed him as the ruler after him and that all descendants should be restricted to the descendants or progeny of Ali.  We discussed briefly why the other 90% of Muslims do not share this view with their Shiite brothers.  We gave reasons for why the rest of the Muslims believe that a ruler should be chosen freely by the people. It should be added here that the assumption that the Prophet (PBUH) before his death explicitly appointed Ali to be his sole legitimate heir and successor reflects negatively on the closest companion of the Prophet and on the Prophet himself.


9.7 Imamite Concept II


Host:  Why does this assumption reflect negatively on the other companions of the Prophet?

Jamal Badawi:

After the death of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) there was virtual unanimity among the Muslims to choose the closest of his companions, Abu Bakr to succeed him both as a ruler and religious leader because Islam doesn’t make a distinction between these two functions.  If it were true that the Prophet publicly appointed Ali to be his first successor then the implication is obvious here that the greatest of all the companions of the Prophet which include the first three Caliphs who succeeded the Prophet before Ali became the Caliph deliberately disobeyed the Prophet and disregarded his instruction because they chose Ali as the fourth instead of the first and they chose people who do not belong to the immediate household of the Prophet.  This assumption is totally untenable of Muslims.


Host:  Could it be assumed that it was oversight or forgetfulness on the part of the companions of the Prophet by choosing Abu Bakr?

Jamal Badawi:

This is an impossible assumption because on the day when Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) died there were sufficient discussions that went on in which several suggestions were made as to who should succeed the Prophet.  These discussions ended by nominating Abu Bakr to be his successor.  Even though the nomination of Abu Bakr did not take long to arrive at because of his status and everyone’s respect of him the actual oath of Bia’a did not take place till the second day in the Mosque, in the presence of other Muslims which is where Abu Bakr was officially installed as the successor to the Prophet.  This provided ample time for the companions to remember the instructions of the Prophet and if it were true that the Prophet appointed Ali somebody would have remembered that or reminded the others especially since it is said by the Shia brothers that the Prophet made this appointment shortly before his death which would have been to fresh to be forgotten.


Host:  Could it have been human error with good intention?

Jamal Badawi:

This is an assumption that doesn’t fully explain what actually happened.  The most important evidence or indicator of good intention is if one makes a mistake or an innocent error I would have to correct it as soon as the truth is revieled to me.  We know that historically speaking the companions of the Prophet including such important figures as the first three Caliphs who preceded Ali for almost a quarter of a century were all chosen while Ali was still there.  For a span of 25 years to pass before Ali was chosen shows that if it were true that the Prophet gave such instruction there is persistence in not implementing those instructions.  If this were true this would not be a small error but a major sin.


Host:  Why would it be considered to be a major sin?

Jamal Badawi:

In numerous verses in the Quran it warrens against disobedience to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).  What he utter, ordained or forbids is the will of God.  The Quran makes it clear that obedience to the Prophet is like obedience to God, disobedience to the Prophet is like disobedience to God.  In verse (4:13) indicates that whoever disobeys Allah and His messenger, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), will be sent to Hell Fire.  This is not a small error to commit.  There is also another particularly important point is that according to the Shiite interpretation “alImama min usul al deen” which means successions by appointment after the Prophet is a matter which is of the fundamentals of the faith not as Sunni muslims view it to be a matter of discretionary decision by the people.  In this case the failure to accept that particular method of succession means that the person is rejecting one of the fundamentals of the faith.  If one rejects one of the fundamentals of faith it is quite a serious matter, not just a small error.  The assumption of the appoint Ali seems to imply that the most pious of the companions of the Prophet including such towering figures as Abu Bakr, Omar and Othman were in fact committing this major sin and were intentionally disobeying the Prophet.  This is a matter that not only reflects negatively on these great and pious figures but would even reflect negatively on the Prophet himself.


Host:  How could this reflect negatively on the Prophet?

Jamal Badawi:

If these are his closest companions and the most loved by him then certainly this implies that (God forbid) the Prophet was poor in his judgement of people and who to choose as his closest associate and companion which we know is not true.  Second, it implies (God forbid) that the mission of the Prophet was a failure because after 23 years of recruitment, selection, training, educating, inculcating Islamic values in his closest companions would lead to their deliberately disobey him minutes after his death.  This of course is an untenable assumption because after all these companions were known to sacrifice their lives to protect the Prophet and to guard the faith.  Many people would say if these are the kinds of close companions he had what kind of man was he?  It is obvious for anyone who is familiar with Islamic history, with the personality of the Prophet and the great companions that this assumption is simply an impossible one and contrary to lots of evidence.


Host:  If it was not forgetfulness, error or deliberate disobedience what then is the explanation of the Sunni and Shia in the succession of rulers?

Jamal Badawi:

In my humble understanding one of the major differences between the majority and minority on this issue of succession to the Prophet comes from the understanding of some of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in praise of Ali and his household and commending people to be respectful of them and follow their guidance.  As we mentioned in the previous program not only are there sayings that are attributed to the Prophet in Shiite which do not have parallels in Sunni references but what is even more important are that even the sayings that are in both Sunni and Shia references the wording is sometimes not the same.  In the Shiite versions there are additions which signify different concepts that are all together different from the usual flow of the sayings of the Prophet.  The most important reason is the way that the sayings of the Prophet are interpreted because there are so many of them that appear with virtually the same wording in both Shiite and Sunni references of Prophetic sayings.  The way they are interpreted is usually different.  In the Shiite understanding some of those sayings praising Ali were taken and a whole theory of Prophetic succession and exclusive hereditary succession is based on the concept of Wilia or general guardianship.


Host:  Are the praises that Prophet Muhammad gives Ali rejected by Sunni Muslims?

Jamal Badawi:

Not at all.  In the Sunni references there are plenty of these sayings but they have to be taken in context because there are numerous similar or even higher praises that the Prophet made towards other companions including the first three successors to the Prophet.  There is no question about the praises of Ali, he was there and he was one of the best and closest companions of the Prophet.  Like I said before it is a question of interpreting those sayings within the context of praises of other companions, in the context of the text of the Quran, in the context of other sayings relating to the topic and within the overall spirit and teaching of Islam.  This is why the majority of Muslims, Sunni, believe that Shura or mutual consultation and freedom of choice of their ruler is clearly inshrined in the Quran and Prophetic tradition.  It is a principle which is very essential in the life of Muslims in general and more particularly in political succession.  In fact there is evidence that even Ali himself and his descendants believed in the same principles that the majority of Sunnis accept.


Host:  Can you elaborate on the fact that Ali believed this also?

Jamal Badawi:

It is a historical fact that Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, accepted the leadership of the first three Caliphs.  He did not say that he was appointed.  He made Bia’a to these three Caliphs.  Bia’a or oath of fealty is not only to accept them as rulers but not an Imam or leader in religious matters because Islam doesn’t make a separation.  Abu Bakr lead the prayer during the sickness of the Prophet.  Leadership is more inclusive in Islamic understanding.  Ali also served under the first Caliphs and was quite helpful to them, they praised him as he was very cooperative with them.  This is a clear admission on his part as to the correctness of the way they were chosen by Shura and the freedom of choice of the people.

A second indicator is that one of the children of Ali known as Muhamad Ibn Alhanafia reported, as narrated in Bukhari the most important authority on Prophetic Tradition, “I asked my father, Ali, who among all the people is the best after the Messenger of God and Ali replied “Abu Bakr.”  I asked him who is next and he said “Omar.””  So Ali himself admitted that Abu bAkr and Omar were ahead of him in terms of closeness to the Prophet and in terms of the eligibility for succeeding the Prophet.  One of the grandchildren of Ali, who was Hassan the son of Al Hassan son of Ali once was approached by some people who believed that Ali was the exclusive heir of the Prophet and only his descendants should rule and asked “Didn’t the Prophet of God say: Whomever I am the patron of, Ali is also his patron.”  Hassan replied “Yes he said that, but by the name of God, the Messenger of God did not mean by that authority and government.  If he meant that he would have said “Oh people this is your guardian and the ruler chosen to rule after I die so listen to him and obey.”  He continued “In the name of God if God and his Messenger chose Ali and appointed him to be the successor of the Prophet, and Ali did not make it happen, then Ali would have been the first one to disobey God and his Messenger.”  This shows that even Ali and his successors did not believe in the concept of Imamites which has been attributed to them.

The most important difficulty that we find with the theory of the hereditary succession of the Prophet through one segment of his family is something which is inconsistent with the status of the companions of the Prophet, in general, and the great deal of praise that mentioned about the in the Quran and Prophetic Tradition.


Host:  What are some examples of praise given to other companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)?

Jamal Badawi:

The Quran which is accepted as the scripture and book of God by both the majority and the minority of Muslims who are both Sunni or Shia.  We find that there is conclusive and clear evidence of the high status of the companions.  First of all, in (48:29) “Muhammad is the apostle of Allah. and those who are with him are strong against Unbelievers, (but) compassionate amongst each other. Thou wilt see them bow and prostrate themselves (in prayer), seeking Grace from Allah and (His) Good Pleasure. On their faces are their marks, (being) the traces of their prostration. This is their similitude in the Taurat; and their similitude in the Gospel is: like a seed which sends forth its blade, then makes it strong; it then becomes thick, and it stands on its own stem, (filling) the sowers with wonder and delight. As a result, it fills the Unbelievers with rage at them. Allah has promised those among them who believe and do righteous deeds forgiveness, and a great Reward.”

In the Quran in (9:100) it speaks of the Migrants, who went from Mecca to Medina and the Ansar, the supporters who received them in Medina and it says “The vanguard (of Islam)- the first of those who forsook (their homes) and of those who gave them aid, and (also) those who follow them in (all) good deeds,- well- pleased is Allah with them, as are they with Him: for them hath He prepared gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein for ever: that is the supreme felicity.”  If Allah is pleased with these people and then we say that there are people who deliberately disobeyed the Prophet and did not appoint the person that he appointed to be his successor, is not consistent with the text of the Quran.

In (59:8-9) it describes the eligibility for help of those who were poor from among the Migrants and it praises the supporters from Medina who provided help for them and it ends by saying that they are indeed the successful.  This is God’s judgement not that of any human being.  In these two verses there is mention of the Migrants and Supporters which are the Muhajirene and Ansar who came to a virtually unanimous position that Abu Bakr was the eligable person to succeed the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).  In the Quran in (48:18) it says that God is pleased and accepted the oath of allegiance to the Prophet known as the Oath Under the Tree.  Again the Prophet confirms this praise as he was quoted in Muslim “No one who made this oath of allegiance to the Prophet Under the Tree, which occurred under very testing circumstances, will ever enter into Hell Fire.

In another saying of the Prophet narrated in Bukhari in which he says The strongest century of believers is from my century, then those who follow and then those who follow.  In various sayings the Prophet praised various segments of the Muslim community like the Ansar for example and he said that loving them is like loving God (because of their high quality and piety).  Any indication that these companions were struggling for power and authority and that they were trying to push Ali aside would be rather unfair.  In fact the Prophet made several warnings before his death not to abuse these great companions.  Maybe that was a prophesied that some people at later time would attribute something of which they are totally innocent.


Host:  Could you explain what the Prophet said about that?

Jamal Badawi:

In a saying of the Prophet which is narrated in Bukhari, Muslim and Ahmad which said “Don’t abuse my companions because, by the name of He in Whose Hand is my life, if one of you spends the equivalent of Mount Uhud in gold it would not reach a fraction of the status of those great companions.  In another saying it was narrated that the Prophet said “I asked my Lord about the differences that will take place between my companions?”  There is no question about the fact that there have been differences of opinion but with love and respect between the parties.  He said “I ask God in whatever my companions may differ therein after me and God revealed to me “Oh Muhammad your companions to Me are like stars in the Heavens, some of those stars are brighter than others and whoever follows the guidance of whichever of those stars is regarded by Me as guided.”

In Altabarani the Prophet says “Don’t abuse my companions because the curse of God will be on those who abuse my companions.”  In Altirmithi the Prophet says “Fear God, fear God in respect to my companions.  Don’t take them after me as an object (of attack) because whoever loves them loves them because of his love of me and whoever hates them hates them because of his hate of me.  Whoever hurst them hurts me and whoever hurts me is displeasing God, and whoever displeases God-God is about to give him severe punishment.  In a Hadith narrated by Anass Ibn Malik in Alshafi the Prophet said “In the latter days there will come some people who will belittle the companions, don’t marry from them, don’t give your daughters in marriage to them, don’t pray on them when they die the curse of Allah will be on them!”

These are very strong sayings of the Prophet, not only indicating what is going to happen on the part of some people who are mislead with intense emotional feelings but not really any rational or reasonable consideration of the entirety of the teachings of Islam.  The conclusion is that to belittle the companions of the Prophet or to accuse them of pushing Ali aside and trying to reach for power while others sat there without objecting to that is something with no logical evidence in view of the praise given in the Quran and in the Prophetic Tradition.  People of this quality are not the type who would deliberately and knowingly disobey God and His messenger.  It was mentioned before that being a ruler in those early days was not easy but was rather sacrificial and all of them accepted rather reluctantly.  Ali was also reluctant.  Abu Bakr was pushed into it as people almost appealed to him to cary the responsibility.  This type of role includes much more sacrifice than privilege.

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