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The succession to Muhammad is the central issue that split the Muslim community into several divisions in the first century of Muslim history, forming the Shia and Sunni branches of Islam. Shia Islam holds that the Islamic prophet Muhammad designated Ali ibn Abi Talib as his successor at Ghadir Khumm.[1] Sunni Islam holds Abu Bakr to be the first leader of the community after the Prophet on the basis of the election at Saqifah.

After the deaths of Abu Bakr and his successors Umar and Uthman, many of the Muslims went to Ali for political leadership. After Ali died, his son Hasan ibn Ali succeeded him politically and, according to Shias, religiously. After approximately six months, however, he made a peace treaty with Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan that stipulated that Muawiya would have political power as long as he did not choose his own successor. Muawiya broke the treaty and named his son Yazid ibn Muawiya his successor,[2] beginning the Umayyad dynasty. While this was going on, Hasan and his brother and successor Husain ibn Ali remained the religious leaders, according to the Shia. According to Sunnis, whoever held political power was considered the successor to Muhammad, while according to Shias, the twelve Imams (Ali, Hasan, Husain, and Husain's descendants) were the successors to Muhammad, whether or not they held political power.

In addition to these two main branches, many other opinions also formed regarding succession to Muhammad.



Most of Islamic history was transmitted orally until after the rise of the Abbasid Caliphate.[3] Historical works of later Muslim writers include the traditional biographies of Muhammad and quotations attributed to him—the sira and hadith literature—which provide further information on Muhammad's life.[4] The earliest surviving written sira (biographies and quotes attributed to Muhammad) is Sirah Rasul Allah (Life of God's Messenger) by Ibn Ishaq (d. 761 or 767 CE).[5] Although the original work is lost, portions of it survive in the recensions of Ibn Hisham (d. 833) and Al-Tabari (d. 923).[6] Many scholars accept these biographies although their accuracy is uncertain.[7] Studies by J. Schacht and Ignác Goldziher have led scholars to distinguish between legal and historical traditions. According to William Montgomery Watt, although legal traditions could have been invented, historical material may have been primarily subject to "tendential shaping" rather than being invented.[8] Modern Western scholars approach the classic Islamic histories with circumspection and are less likely than Sunni Islamic scholars to trust the work of the Abbasid historians.

Hadith compilations are records of the traditions or sayings of Muhammad; his biography is perpetuated by community memory for its guidance. The development of hadith is a crucial element of the first three centuries of Islamic history.[9] Early Western scholars mistrusted the later narrations and reports, regarding them as fabrications. Leone Caetani considered the attribution of historical reports to `Abd Allah ibn `Abbas and Aisha as mostly fictitious, preferring accounts reported without isnad by early historians such as Ibn Ishaq. Wilferd Madelung has rejected the indiscriminate dismissal of everything not included in "early sources", instead judging later narratives in the context of history and compatibility with events and figures.[10]

The only contemporaneous source is The Book of Sulaym ibn Qays (Kitab al-Saqifah) by Sulaym ibn Qays (died 75-95 AH or 694-714 CE). This collection of hadith and historical reports from the first century of the Islamic calendar narrates in detail events relating to the succession.[11] However, there have been doubts regarding the reliability of the collection, with some beliefs that it was a later creation given that the earliest mention of the text only appears in the 11th century.[12]


Feast of Dhul AsheeraEdit

In the fourth year of Islam, Muhammad held a banquet to which he invited 40 members of Banu Hashim. At the banquet, Muhammad was about to invite his guests to Islam when Abu Lahab interrupted him, after which everyone left the banquet. The Prophet ordered Ali to invite the 40 people again. The second time, he announced Islam to them and invited them to join.[13] He said to them:

I offer thanks to Allah for His mercies. I praise Allah, and I seek His guidance. I believe in Him and I put my trust in Him. I bear witness that there is no god except Allah; He has no partners; and I am His messenger. Allah has commanded me to invite you to His religion by saying: And warn thy nearest kinsfolk. I, therefore, warn you, and call upon you to testify that there is no god but Allah, and that I am His messenger. O ye sons of Abdul Muttalib, no one ever came to you before with anything better than what I have brought to you. By accepting it, your welfare will be assured in this world and in the Hereafter. Who among you will support me in carrying out this momentous duty? Who will share the burden of this work with me? Who will respond to my call? Who will become my vicegerent, my deputy and my wazir?[14]

Ali was the only one to answer Muhammad's call. Muhammad told him to sit down, saying, "Wait! Perhaps someone older than you might respond to my call." Muhammad then asked the members of Banu Hashim a second time. Again, Ali was the only one to respond and again Muhammad told him to wait. Muhammad then asked the members of Banu Hashim a third time. Ali was still the only volunteer. This time, Muhammad accepted Ali's offer and "drew [Ali] close, pressed him to his heart, and said to the assembly: 'This is my wazir, my successor and my vicegerent. Listen to him and obey his commands.'"[15] In another narration, when Muhammad accepted Ali's eager offer, Muhammad "threw up his arms around the generous youth, and pressed him to his bosom" and said, "Behold my brother, my vizir, my vicegerent ... let all listen to his words, and obey him."[16] British 19th-century ethnologist Richard Francis Burton wrote about the banquet, saying, "It won for [Muhammad] a proselyte worth a thousand sabers in the person of Ali, son of Abu Talib".[17]

Event of Ghadir KhummEdit

Shortly before his death, Muhammad called the Muslims who had accompanied him on the Farewell Pilgrimage to gather at Ghadir Khumm. Muhammad delivered a long sermon; at one point in the sermon, he raised Ali's arm and asked his audience, "Who has more priority over you than yourself?". The Muslims responded, "Allah and His messenger".[18] According to Ahmad al-Tabarsi's transcript of the sermon, Muhammad then states:

Behold! Whosoever I am his master, this Ali is his master. O Allah! Stay firm in supporting those who stay firm in following him, be hostile to those who are hostile to him, help those who help him, and forsake those who forsake him. O people! This Ali is my brother, the executor of my [affairs], the container of my knowledge, my successor over my nation, and over the interpretation the Book of Allah, the mighty and the majestic, and the true inviter to its [implications]. He is the one who acts according to what pleases Him, fights His enemies, causes to adhere to His obedience, and advises against His disobedience. Surely, He is the successor of the Messenger of Allah, the commander of the believers, the guiding Imam, and the killer of the oath breakers, the transgressors, and the apostates. I speak by the authority of Allah. The word with me shall not be changed.[19]

Later in the sermon, the following verse of the Quran was revealed: "This day I have perfected your religion for you: Completed my favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion". This was the last verse of the Quran to be revealed. Several sources state that towards the end of the sermon, Muhammad instructed the Muslims to pledge allegiance to Ali, with reports that Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman were among them.[20][21][22] Belief in the exact nature of these events tend to be split along sectarian lines between Shia and Sunni denominations. Muhammad's designation of Ali is usually disputed by the latter, who instead believe that Muhammad had merely reminded his companions of the high regard with which he holds Ali and urging them to show him the appropriate level of respect.[23]

Expedition of Usama bin ZaydEdit

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 of the companions except for his family to go to Syria with Usama to avenge the Muslims' defeat at the Battle of Mu'tah.[24] Muhammad gave Usama the banner of Islam on the 18th day of Safar in the year 11 A.H. Abu Bakr and Umar were among those that Muhammad commanded to join Usama's army.[25][26] Abu Bakr and Umar, however, resisted going under the command of Usama because they thought he, who was between 18 and 20 years old, was too young to lead an army,[27] despite Muhammad's teachings that age and standing in society did not necessarily correspond with being a good general.[28][29]

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."[30]

Whenever Muhammad felt relief from his fatal sickness, he would ask whether Usama's army had yet left for Syria and continued urging his companions to do so.[30] Muhammad reportedly said, "Usama's army must leave at once. May Allah curse those men who do not go with him."[31][32][33] (In Islam, someone's "curse" means that God's mercy is removed from them.)[34] While a few companions were ready to join Usama's army, many others, including Abu Bakr and Umar, disobeyed Muhammad's orders. This was the only battle expedition where Muhammad urged his companions to go the battle unconditionally; for other battles, he would allow those who could not go to fight stay at home. With his death impending,[35] Muhammad ordered his companions but not his family to leave Medina; this is put forward as proof he did not intend his companions to decide his succession.[36]

Incident of the pen and paperEdit

Shortly before his death, Muhammad asked for writing materials so as to issue a statement that would prevent the Muslim nation from "going astray forever".[37][38] However, those in the room began to quarrel about whether to obey this request, with concerns being raised that Muhammad may be suffering from delirium. When the argument grew heated, Muhammad ordered the group to leave and subsequently did not write anything.[39]

Many details regarding the event are disputed, including the nature of Muhammad's planned statement. Though what he had intended to write is unknown, theologians and writers have offered their suggestions, with many believing that he had wished to establish his succession. Shia writers, such as Al-Shaykh Al-Mufid suggest that it would have been a direct appointment of Ali as the new leader, while Sunnis such as Al-Baladhuri states that it was to designate Abu Bakr.[39]


A modern view of the approximate area where the gathering at Saqifah occurred

During Muhammad's life, the Muslims in Medina were composed of the Muhajirun, who had converted to Islam in Mecca and migrated to Medina with Muhammad, and the Ansar, who were originally from Medina and had invited Muhammad to rule their city. They were satisfied during Muhammad's leadership in Medina and were glad when he announced that Ali would be his successor at the event of Ghadir Khumm,[40] because they knew Ali would continue Muhammad's fair policies towards them. Ali was the only Muhajir whom the Ansar were willing to accept to rule over them after Muhammad.[41] When some of the Muhajirun refused to obey some of Muhammad's orders, however, the Ansar knew some of the Muhajirun were trying to take power upon his death.[42] They were worried the rule of a Muhajirun other than Muhammad or Ali over them would lead to their eventual oppression. When they saw some of the Muhajirun planning to take power upon Muhammad's death, they thought they would be equally good candidates for power as the Muhajirun. When Muhammad died, some of the Ansar went to Saqifah and nominated Sa'd ibn Ubadah as the leader.

According to one version of events, Ansar informants told Umar about events at Saqifah. Umar, desperate to prevent the Ansar from declaring Saad ibn Ubada the caliph, offered to pledge allegiance to Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah despite his previous pledge of allegiance to Ali. Abu Ubaidah refused, believing Abu Bakr, who was in Sunh with his new wife, was better suited for leadership than he was.[43] Umar proclaimed Muhammad was alive and threatened to kill anyone who said otherwise. Abu Bakr arrived in Medina and confirmed that Muhammad was dead.[44] Abu Bakr, Umar, and Abu Ubaidah then went to Saqifah.[45][46] According to another version, after Abu Bakr persuaded Umar that Muhammad had died, Abu Bakr, Umar, and Abu Ubaidah went to Abu Ubaidah's house, where they discussed the issue of leadership. Upon hearing of the Ansar's gathering at Saqifah, they left to go to the meeting.[47] The Muslims did not choose Abu Bakr, Umar, and Abu Ubaydah al-Jarrah to represent them; they left to go to Saqifa on their own.[48]

At Saqifa, the Ansar and the three Muhajirun—Abu Bakr, Umar, and Abu Ubaidah—debated who was more qualified for leadership. The Ansar suggested having two leaders, one from each sect.[49] Abu Bakr stated the Muhajirun should be the leaders and the Ansar their ministers. Debate continued until Bashir ibn Sa'ad 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 pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr, and Abu Ubaidah and Bashir followed. Hubab ibn al-Mandhir then called Bashir a traitor.[50]

After a group of Bedouin tribesmen arrived and saw the three pledges of allegiance to Abu Bakr. As they were opponents of the Ansar, they also pledged allegiance to him.[51] A violent and possibly bloody debate between the Ansar and the three Muhajirun followed.[52][53][54]

The debates between the Ansar and the three Muhajirun at Saqifa were violent and possibly bloody; Al-Tabari reported that it was "truly a scene from the period of Jahiliya (the pre-Islamic era)".[55][56][57] The gathering at Saqifah, which was reportedly attended by 14 people[58], took place while Ali was conducting Muhammad's funeral and has been labelled as a coup.[59]

Attack on Muhammad's familyEdit

After the gathering at Saqifah, Abu Bakr allegedly ordered Umar to obtain allegiance from Ali.[60] Umar and his supporters went to the house of Fatimah—Muhammad's daughter and Ali's wife—where Ali, his family, and some of his supporters were present.[61] Umar went to the door and threatened to burn down the house unless its occupants pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr.[62] Zubayr ibn al-Awam, who had been in Ali's house, came out of the house with his sword drawn but reportedly tripped on something, after which Umar's supporters attacked him.[63][64]

Umar ibn al-Khattab came to the house of Ali. Talhah and Zubayr and some of the immigrants were also in the house. Umar cried out: "By God, either you come out to render the oath of allegiance, or I will set the house on fire."

Al-Tabari, History of the Prophets and Kings

According to one version of the story, Umar asked for wood. Umar was then informed that Fatimah was inside the house, to which he responded that he did not care.[65][66]

It is reported that when Fatimah heard the voices of Umar and his supporters threatening to attack the house, she cried out, "O father, O Messenger of Allah, how are Umar ibn al-Khattab and Abu Bakr ibn Abi Quhafah treating us after you and how do they meet us".[67] The house was then attacked. Umar and his supporters burned the door, crushed Fatimah between the door and the wall, killed her unborn child Muhsin ibn Ali, and then forced Ali out of the house against his will.[68][69] According to some versions, a rope was tied around Ali's neck.[70] According to the Mu'tazilite thelogoian Ibrahim al-Nazzam, "Umar hit Fatimah (sa) on the stomach such that child in her womb died".[71]

Umar and his companions dragged Ali away. Fatimah urged them to stop. Umar then ordered Qunfuz to whip Fatimah. According to some versions of the story, Qunfuz whipped her back and her arms;[72] according to another, he struck her face.[73] This incident is said to be the cause of Fatimah's miscarriage of Muhsin[74][75] and Fatimah's death shortly after.[76]

These events have been the subject of dispute between various accounts. The historian Al-Baladhuri states that the altercation never became violent and ended with Ali's compliance.[77] Several early historical sources also narrate that Fatimah's child Muhsin had died in early childhood. Al-Baladhuri, along with Al-Ya'qubi and Al-Masudi all list Muhsin among the children of Fatimah, but without any mention of a miscarriage. Similarly, the Shia theologian Al-Shaykh Al-Mufid, when writing his Kitab al-Irshad, makes no mention of violence in relation to Muhsin's death. The earliest known reference of the miscarriage during the altercation only appears in the 10th century, in Ibn Qulawayh Al-Qummi's Kamil al-ziyarat.[78] Other sources also add that Fatimah and Abu Bakr had ultimately reconciled,[79] and that Ali later willingly offered him his oath of allegiance and gave a praise-filled oration during Abu Bakr's funeral.[80] Professor Coeli Fitzpatrick surmises that the story of the altercation reflects the political agendas of the period and should therefore be treated with caution.[81]

Shia viewEdit

Ambigram in which "Muhammad" (محمد in Arabic script) reads "Ali" (علي) when rotated 180°

Shias believe that just as a prophet is appointed by God, only God can appoint his successor. Some cite Quranic verses such as 38:26[82] and 2:124[83] in which Allah assigned his successor on earth. Shia believe Moses did not ask his people to conduct a shura and assign his successor; Allah selected Aron to succeed Moses for his 40-night absence. Shia scholars refer to hadiths such as the Hadith of the pond of Khumm, Hadith of Position and Hadith of the Twelve Successors to prove that God, through Muhammad, chose Ali as successor. When the chief of Banu Amir asked Muhammad for a share of leadership in return for defeating Muhammad's enemy, Muhammad replied: "That is for God to decide; He will entrust leadership to whomever He will"; community leadership was not decided by the people.[84]

Position of Ali before Prophet's deathEdit

Ali, the only person to have been born in the Kaaba—the holiest site in Islam—lived with Muhammad since he was five years old. He was the first male to accept Islam after Muhammad stated he had received revelations. When Muhammad migrated from Mecca to Medina, Ali risked his life by sleeping in Muhammad's bed so Muhammad could leave Mecca safely; when the polytheists of Mecca went to Muhammad's room with the aim of killing him, they found Ali in his bed. Muhammad then did not enter Medina until Ali and some of his other family members arrived; Muhammad waited at Quba, on the outskirts of Medina. Once Ali and their other family members arrived from Mecca, they proceeded to enter Medina.[85]

In Medina, Muhammad assigned each of the Muhajirun (emigrants from Mecca) to be a "brother" to one of the Ansar (natives of Medina). It is widely reported that he chose Ali to be his own brother.[86]

Ali was a leader in many of the battles of Islam. In the Battle of Badr, he killed between 20 and 35 enemy soldiers while all of the other Muslims killed approximately 27 enemy soldiers between them.[87] while all the other Muslims combined killed another twenty-seven.[88] In the Battle of Uhud[89] and the Battle of Hunayn,[90] Ali was one of the few who stayed to defend Muhammad when most of the Muslims fled. Ali was also the husband of Muhammad's daughter Fatimah and the father of his grandchildren Hasan, Husayn, Zaynab, Umm Kulthum, and Muhsin.

Ali in the QuranEdit

While the majority of Islamic commentators do not believe Ali ibn Abi Talib is explicitly mentioned in the Quran, there are many verses of the Quran that are widely regarded as referring to him; these include:

  • Chapter 5, Verse 3: This day have those who reject faith given up all hope of your religion: yet fear them not but fear Me. This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. This verse was revealed after Muhammad's sermon at Ghadir Khumm.[91][92][93]
  • Chapter 5, Verse 55: Only Allah is Waliyyukum (Arabic: وَلِـيُّـكُـم‎, "your Walī" (masculine, plural tense)) and His Messenger and those who believe, those who keep up prayers and pay az-Zakāh (Arabic: اٱلـزّكَـاة‎, the Poor-rate) while they bow. Shi'ite scholars, along with Sunni ones such as Tabari,[a] Al-Suyuti[b] and Razi,[c] recorded[d] that one day, when Ali was performing ritual prayers in the Mosque, a beggar began to ask for alms. Ali extended his finger and the beggar removed his ring.[94][95] Then Muhammad observed this, and a passage of the Quran was sent down upon him. According to Shi'ites, in this verse, "obedience is absolute and conjoined with obedience to God and his messenger", so the person identified as Wali must be infallible.[96]
  • Chapter 5, Verse 67: O Messenger! deliver what has been revealed to you from your Rabb (Arabic: رَبّ‎, Lord); and if you do it not, then you have not delivered His message, and Allah will protect you from the people; surely Allah will not guide the unbelieving people. This verse tells Muhammad to announce Ali as his successor at the event of Ghadir Khumm.
  • Chapter 33, Verse 33: And stay in your houses and do not display your finery like the displaying of the Ignorance of yore; and keep up the Salah, and pay the Zakah, and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, Ahlal-Bayt (Arabic: أَهْـلَ ٱلْـبَـيْـت‎, People of the House), and purify you a (thorough) purifying. Shi'ite commentators and some Sunni ones wrote that the people of the house in this verse are the Ahl al-Kisā' (Arabic: أَهْـلَ ٱلْـكِـسَـاء‎, People of the Mantle): Muhammad, Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn.[97][98][99][full citation needed][96][96][100][101][102][103][e] According to Wilferd Madelung, "the great majority of the reports quoted by al-Tabari in his commentary on this verse support this interpretation".[f][g]
  • Chapter 42, Verse 23: That is of which Allah gives the good news to His servants, (to) those who believe and do good deeds. Say: I do not ask of you any reward for it but al-mawaddah fil-qurbā (Arabic: ٱلْـمَـوَدَّة فِي ٱلْـقُـرْبَى‎, the love for the near relatives), and whoever earns good, We give him more of good therein; surely Allah is Forgiving, Grateful. Shi'ite commentators and some Sunni ones like Baydawi[h] and Razi[i] agree that the near relatives in question are Ali, Fatimah, Hasan, and Husayn.[106]


Shia Muslims believe there are a number of hadith (sayings) of Muhammad wherein he left specific instructions about his successor. Some hadith used by Shias to justify Ali's position as the successor of Muhammad are as follows:

  • The Hadith of the pond of Khumm, another name for Muhammad's speech at Ghadir Khumm, is perhaps the best-known appointment of Ali as Muhammad's successor. In the lengthy speech, Muhammad made the statement that is roughly translated as "Of whomsoever I had been Mawla, this Ali is his Mawla". In the sermon, Muhammad also describes Ali with the leadership titles Imam, Ameer, and Khalifah.[107] After the speech, the final verse of the Quran was revealed and the Muslims pledged allegiance to Ali.
  • In the Hadith of the two weighty things, Muhammad said, "Verily, I am leaving with you two precious things, the Book of God and my progeny, my ahl al-bayt; for as long as you cling to these two, you will never go astray; and truly they will not be parted from each other until they join me at al-Kawthar".[108]
  • In the Hadith of position, Muhammad compares Ali's relationship to him with Aaron's relationship to Moses. According to the Quran, Aaron was a prophet, heir, and minister; Ali was an heir and minister.[109]
  • In the Hadith of the Ark, Muhammad compares his ahl al-Bayt (family) to Noah's Ark, saying, "Is not the likeness of my ahl al-bayt among you like the ark of Noah among his folk? Whoever takes refuge therein is saved and whoever opposes it is drowned." As Noah's Ark was the sole salvation of his people, ahl al-Bayt was the only salvation for the people of that time.[108]
  • In the Hadith of warning, which occurred at the feast of Dhul Asheera, after Muhammad invited his family to Islam, he calls Ali his vicegerent and told the others in attendance to listen to and obey Ali.

All of these hadiths are present in both Shia and Sunni books, although their interpretation differs between the two sects.

Sunni viewEdit

Ghadir KhummEdit

According to a musnad (supported) hadith, Muhammad made a speech at Ghadir Khumm in which he said, "Of whomsoever I am the mawla, Ali is his mawla".[110] Mawla has a number of meanings in Arabic; although Shi'ites translate it as "master" or "ruler" and believe Muhammad did not make 120,000 people wait in the desert for three days only to tell them to support Ali, some Sunni scholars say Muhammad was saying his friends should befriend Ali; it was a response to Yemeni soldiers who had complained about Ali.[111] Sunnis believe interpreting an expression of friendship and support as the appointment of a successor is incorrect and that the leadership dispute after Muhammad's death proved his statement was not an appointment.

Others believe Muhammad meant "master" in his use of mawla to describe Ali at Ghadir Khumm; it was a description of Ali's spiritual superiority among the Muslims rather than a decision about succession. These Sunnis also reject the translation of mawla as "friend". The word is discussed in Patronate and Patronage in Early and Classical Islam, edited by Monique Bernards and John Nawas:

Mawla may refer to a client, a patron, an agnate (brother, son, father's brother, father' brothers son), an affined kinsman, (brother-in-law, son-in-law), a friend, a supporter, a follower, a drinking companion, a partner, a newly-converted Muslim attached to a Muslim and last but not least an ally. Most of these categories have legal implications ... Mawla is commonly translated as "a client".[112]

Despite this, it has been recorded in some Sunni histories that Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman were all among those who pledged allegiance to Ali at the event of Ghadir Khumm.[21][22][113]

Attitude towards AliEdit

Ali's birth in the Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam, has been mentioned in Sunni sources.[114][115] Sunni sources also acknowledge Ali's heroism in the battles of Islam, such as the Battle of Badr [116] and the Battle of the Trench.[117] Sunnis consider Ali a righteous caliph and accept his hadiths (sayings).

Western academic viewsEdit

Wilferd Madelung, in his book The Succession to Muhammad, said the succession of Abu Bakr was problematic and that Ali may have expected to assume leadership at Muhammad's death.[118] According to Madelung:

In the Qur'an, the descendants and close kin of the prophets are their heirs also in respect to kingship (mulk), rule (hukm), wisdom (hikma), the book and the imamate. The Sunnite concept of the true caliphate itself defines it as a succession of the prophet in every respect except his prophethood. Why should Muhammad not be succeeded in it by any of his family like the earlier prophets? If God really wanted to indicate that he should not be succeeded by any of them why did He not let his grandsons and other kin die like his sons? There is thus a good reason to doubt that Muhammad failed to appoint a successor because he realized that the divine design excluded hereditary succession of his family and that he wanted the Muslims to choose their head by Shura. The Qur'an advises the faithful to settle some matters by consultation, but not the succession to prophets. That, according to the Qur'an, is settled by divine election, God usually chooses their successors, whether they become prophets or not from their own kin.[119]

Some early western scholars based their studies on the Sunni books of history because the Sunnis were in power at the time; some early books by western scholars may therefore include a Sunni bias.[120] This changed in books like God's Caliph: Religious Authority in the First Centuries of Islam by Patricia Crone and Martin Hinds, which challenges the established view that Shia Islam was deviant and instead argues that the Shia Imamate "[preserved] the concept of religious authority".[121] Edward Gibbon, in his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, takes a favorable view of Muhammad's family, writing about the Banu Umayya's rule; "The persecutors of Mohammed usurped the inheritance of his children; and the champions of idolatry became the supreme heads of his religion and empire".[122] In A Concise History of Sunnis and Shi'is, John McHugo writes that "the story of what happened at Ghadir Khumm ... can be interpreted to suggest that the Prophet had intended Ali to follow him as leader of the community after his death", before mentioning some of Ali's other merits.[123]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ See at-Tabari: at-Tarikh, vol.6, p.186
  2. ^ See as-Suyuti: Dur al-Manthur, vol.2, pp. 293–4
  3. ^ See ar-Razi: at-Tafsiru 'l Kabir, vol.12, p.26
  4. ^ See also az-Zamakhshari: at-Tafsir al-Kashshaf, vol.1, p.469; al-Jassas:Ahkamu 'l-Quran, vol.2, pp. 542–3; al-khazin: at-Tafsir, vol.2, p.68 Imamate: The vicegerency of the Holy Prophet By Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizv p24
  5. ^ see also al-Bahrani, Ghayat al-Marum, p. 126:al-Suyuti, al-Durr al-Manthur, Vol. V, p.199; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al Musnad, Vol. I, p.331; Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, al-Tafsir al-Kabir, Vol. I, p.783; Ibn Hajar, al-Sawa'iq p.85
  6. ^ See Tabari, Jarir XXII, 5–7.
  7. ^ Madelung writes "the verse addressed to the wives of the Prophet: 'Stay in your houses, and do not show yourselves in spectacular fashion like that of the former time of ignorance. Perform the prayer, give alms, and obey God and His Messenger. God desires only to remove defilement from you, o people of the house (ahl al-bayt)^ and to purify you (yutahhirakum) completely' (XXXIII 33). Who are the 'people of the house' here? The pronoun referring to them is in the masculine plural, while the preceding part of the verse is in the feminine plural. This change of gender has evidently contributed to the birth of various accounts of a legendary character, attaching the latter part of the verse to the five People of the Mantle ahl al-kisa: Muhammad, Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husayn."[104]
  8. ^ See Baydawi, Anwar at-Tanzil. Vol.5 p.53[105]
  9. ^ See Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb, vol. 7, pp. 273–5[105]


  1. ^ Olawuyi, Toyib (2014). On the Khilafah of Ali over Abu Bakr. p. 3. ISBN 978-1-4928-5884-3. Archived from the original on 22 April 2016.
  2. ^ Nassir, Sheikh Abdillahi Nassir. "Yazid was Never Amirul Muminin". Ahlul Bayt Digital Islamic Library Project. Archived from the original on 2019-04-01. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
  3. ^ A consideration of oral transmissions in general with some specific early Islamic reference is given in Jan Vansina's Oral Tradition as History.
  4. ^ Reeves 2003, pp. 6–7
  5. ^ Robinson 2003, p. xv
  6. ^ Donner 1998, p. 132
  7. ^ Nigosian 2004, p. 6
  8. ^ Watt 1953, p. xv
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