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Saqīfah (Arabic: السقيفة‎), also known as Saqīfah Banī Sā'idah (Arabic: سقيفة بني ساعدة‎), was a roofed building used by a tribe called Banu Sa'idah, a faction of the Banu Khazraj tribe of the city of Medina in Hejaz, western Arabia. Saqifah is significant for being the site where, after the Islamic prophet Muhammad died, some of Muhammad's companions gathered and pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr. No one from Muhammad's family was present at the event, and Ali ibn Abi Talib, had been declared the successor to Muhammad at the event of Ghadir Khumm, was performing Muhammad's funeral rites when the event occurred.



Shortly before his death, Muhammad called all the Muslims who had accompanied him on the final Hajj (pilgrimage) to gather around at a place known as Ghadir Khumm. Muhammad gave a long sermon, part of which states:

O people! Reflect on the Quran and comprehend its verses. Look into its clear verses and do not follow its ambiguous parts, for by Allah, none shall be able to explain to you its warnings and its mysteries, nor shall anyone clarify its interpretation, other than the one that I have grasped his hand, brought up beside myself,(and lifted his arm), the one about whom I inform you that whomever I am his Mawla, this Ali is his Mawla; and he is Ali Ibn Abi Talib, my brother, the executor of my will (Wasiyyi), whose appointment as your guardian and leader has been sent down to me from Allah, the mighty and the majestic.[1]

This event has been narrated by both Shia and Sunni sources. Further, after the sermon, Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman are all said to have given their allegiance to Ali, a fact that is also reported by both Shia and Sunni sources.[2][3][4]

In Medina, after the Farewell Pilgrimage and the event of Ghadir Khumm, Muhammad ordered an army under the command of Usama bin Zayd. He commanded all the companions, except for his family, to go with Usama to Syria to avenge the Muslims’ defeat at the Battle of Mu'tah.[5] Muhammad gave Usama the banner of Islam on the 18th day of the Islamic month of Safar in the year 11 A.H. Abu Bakr and Umar were among those that Muhammad commanded to join Usama’s army.[6][7]

However, Abu Bakr and Umar resisted going under the command of Usama because they thought that he, who was 18 or 20 at the time, was too young to lead an army,[8] despite Muhammad’s teachings that age and standing in society did not necessarily correspond to being a good general.[9][10]

In response to these worries, the Prophet said: "O Arabs! You are miserable because I have appointed Usama as your general, and you are raising questions if he is qualified to lead you in war. I know you are the same people who had raised the same question about his father. By God, Usama is qualified to be your general just as his father was qualified to be a general. Now obey his orders and go."[11] Whenever Muhammad felt any relief from his fatal sickness, he would inquire as to whether Usama’s army had left for Syria yet, and would continue urging his companions to leave for Syria.[11] Muhammad even said, "Usama's army must leave at once. May Allah curse those men who do not go with him."[12][13][14] However, while a few companions were ready to join Usama’s army, many other companions, including Abu Bakr and Umar, disobeyed Muhammad’s orders. It is also noted that this was the only battle expedition where Muhammad urged his companions to go to the battle no matter what; for other battles, if someone was unable to go to the fight, Muhammad would let them stay at home. It has been pointed out in history that the fact that Muhammad ordered his companions, but not his family, to leave Medina right before he knew he was about to die[15] is proof that he did not intend for his companions to decide on his succession.[16] This has served as an indication that, as Muhammad did not want his companions to be in Medina when he died, he did not want his companions to decide among themselves who would be his successor. That matter had already been decided at Ghadir Khumm.

However, after Muhammad passed away, a group of Muslims left Ali and gathered at Saqifa. The ensuing event has been described as a coup d'état.[17]

Event of SaqifahEdit

During Muhammad's lifetime, the Muslims in Medina were divided into two groups: the Ansar, who were originally from Medina, and the Muhajirun, who had converted to Islam in Mecca and migrated to Medina with Muhammad. During Muhammad's rule in Medina, they were satisfied, and they were glad when Muhammad announced that Ali would be his successor at the event of Ghadir Khumm,[18] as they knew that Ali would continue Muhammad's fair policies towards them.

However, when some of the Muhajirun refused to obey Muhammad's orders to follow Usama bin Zayd to Syria or to give him pen and paper to make a will, the Ansar knew that some of the Muhajirun were trying to take power upon Muhammad's death.[19] They were worried that the rule of a Muhajirun (a foreigner, in their eyes), other than Muhammad or Ali, ruling over them would lead to their eventual oppression. Thus, when they saw some of the Muhajirun planning on taking power upon Muhammad's death, they thought they would be just as good candidates for power as the Muhajirun. Thus, when Muhammad died, some of the Ansar went to a place known as Saqifa, where they nominated Sa'd ibn Ubadah to be the leader.

Some spies among the Ansar informed Umar, who had been in Medina at the time, about what was happening in Saqifa. Umar looked for Abu Bakr, but he was not in Medina at the time; he was in Suk with his new wife. Umar, desperate to prevent the Ansar declaring Saad ibn Ubada to be the caliph, offered to pledge allegiance to Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah (despite the previous pledges of allegiance of the Muslims, including Umar, to Ali). Abu Ubaidah refused, however, as he believed that Abu Bakr was more worthy than he was for leadership. Desperate to buy time, Umar proclaimed that Muhammad was not actually dead; he threatened to kill anyone who said otherwise. Abu Bakr then arrived in Medina and calmed Umar down, giving a convincing argument that Muhammad was dead.[20] Abu Bakr, Umar, and Abu Ubaidah, leaving the still-unburied body of Muhammad, then went to Saqifa.[21][22] The meeting in Saqifa, which is said to have been attended by fourteen people,[23] took place while Ali was performing Muhammad's funeral rites.

The Ansar and the three Muhajirun at Saqifa (Abu Bakr, Umar, and Abu Ubaidah) entered into a length debate about who was more qualified to have leadership. The Ansar suggested having two leaders, one from the Muhajirun and one from the Ansar, while Abu Bakr stated that the Muhajirun should be the leaders and the Ansar their ministers (which did not come to fruition). Debate continued until it reached a turn when Bashir ibn Sa'ad, an Ansar who was jealous of Saad ibn Ubada, gave a speech supporting Abu Bakr, Umar, and Abu Ubaidah. Abu Bakr then told the Ansar to pledge allegiance to either Umar or Abu Ubaidah. Umar refused and instead pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr; Abu Ubaidah and Bashir followed Umar in doing so.

Hubab ibn al-Mandhir then gave a short speech in which he called Bashir "a traitor to [his] own people."[24] After that, a group of Bedouin tribesmen arrived. They were opponents of the Ansar, and when they saw the three pledges of allegiance to Abu Bakr, they pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr as well.[25] The debates between the Ansar and the three Muhajirun at Saqifa was not peaceful, but rather contained violence and even bloodshed; Al-Tabari reported that it was "truly a scene from the period of Jahiliya (the pre-Islamic era)."[26][27][28]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The Last Sermon of Muhammad by Shia Accounts
  2. ^ "A Shi'ite Encyclopedia". Ahlul Bayt Digital Islamic Library Project. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  3. ^ Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Volume 4. p. 281.
  4. ^ al-Razi, Fakhr. Tafsir al-Kabir, Volume 12. pp. 49–50.
  5. ^ Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 283.
  6. ^ Haykal, Muhammad Husayn (1935). The Life of Muhammad. Cairo.
  7. ^ Muir, Sir William (1877). The Life of Mohammed. London.
  8. ^ "19 - The Life of Imam Ali: Prophet's (pbuh) Death - Dr. Sayed Ammar Nakshwani - Ramadhan 1435". YouTube. YouTube.
  9. ^ Bodley, R.V.C. (1946). The Messenger. New York.
  10. ^ Kelen, Betty. Muhammad, Messenger of God.
  11. ^ a b Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 286.
  12. ^ Shahristani. Kitab al-Milal wan-Nihal. p. 8.
  13. ^ Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 288.
  14. ^ "19 - The Life of Imam Ali: Prophet's (pbuh) Death - Dr. Sayed Ammar Nakshwani - Ramadhan 1435". YouTube. YouTube.
  15. ^ Tabari. History, Volume II. p. 435.
  16. ^ Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 289.
  17. ^ "Saqifah: A Sunni View". Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  18. ^ Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 356.
  19. ^ Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 380. The Ansar were watching the events. It occurred to them that the refusal of the Muhajireen to accompany the army of Usama to Syria; their refusal to give pen, paper and ink to the Prophet when he was on his deathbed and wanted to write his will; and now the denial of his death, were all parts of a grand strategy to take the caliphate out of his house. They were also convinced that the Muhajireen who were defying the Prophet in his lifetime, would never let Ali succeed him on the throne. They, therefore, decided to choose their own leader.
  20. ^ Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 379.
  21. ^ Al-Bukhari.
  22. ^ at-Tabari, Volume 3. p. 208.
  23. ^ Suhufi (2003). Stories from the Qur'an. Islamic Seminary Publications. p. 312.
  24. ^ Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 365.
  25. ^ Grunebaum, G. E. Von. Classical Islam - A History 600-1258.
  26. ^ Abdullah. "Role of Umar before and In Saqifa".
  27. ^ At-Tabari, Volume 3. pp. 208–210.
  28. ^ ibn Khaldun, Volume 2. p. 63.

Other referencesEdit

  • Guillaume, A. The Life of Muhammad, Oxford University Press, 1955
  • Madelung, W. The Succession to Muhammad, Cambridge University Press, 1997

External linksEdit

  • [1] Shia view of the matter
  • [2] Early Troubles