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The Manner of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) in inviting His Kinsfolk

By: Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani
The manner of the Prophet's invitation to his kinsfolk was very attractive, and the secrets of this manner of invitation become more clear later when the reality became manifest. While commenting on the verse "Admonish your nearest kinsfolk" almost all the exegetes and historians write that the Almighty Allah ordered him to invite his nearest kinsfolk to his faith. After necessary circumspection the Prophet ordered Ali, son of Abu Talib, whose age did not then exceed fifteen years, to procure food and also to arrange for milk along with it. Then he invited forty five elders from amongst Bani Hashim and also decided to divulge the hidden secret on that occasion.
Unfortunately, however, when the meal was over one of his uncles (Abu Lahab) said some privolous and baseless things and made the atmosphere uncongenial for the presentation of the subject of prophetic mission. The Holy Prophet, therefore, considered it expedient to defer the matter till the following day. On the next day he again arranged a feast. After the meal was over he turned to the elders of his family and began his talk by praising Allah and announcing His Oneness. Thereafter he said: "Indeed, the guide of a community never lies to his people, I swear by Allah, besides whom there is no god, that I have been sent by Him as His Messenger, especially towards you and generally towards all the inhabitants of the world.
Yes! O my kinsmen! You will die as if you were going to sleep and sometime thereafter you will be brought to life again and will receive a recompense according to your deeds. This recompense is the eternal Paradise of Allah (for the righteous) and His perpetual Hell (for the evil-doers)".
Then he added: "No human being has ever brought a better thing for his people than that which I have brought for you. I have brought for you the blessings of this world as well as of the Hereafter. My Lord has ordered me to invite you towards Him. Which one of you will be my supporter so that he may become my brother, wasi (vicegerent) and successor amongst you?"
When the speech of the Prophet reached this point, perfect silence had prevailed over the whole gathering and every one of those present was reflecting upon the greatness of the target and of his own fate in the long run. All of a sudden Ali, who was then a fifteen year old young man, broke the silence prevailing in the assembly. He stood up and said in a forceful tone: "O Prophet of Allah! I am prepared to support you." The Prophet ordered him to sit down. He repeated the aforesaid words thrice but none except the same fifteen year old young man gave him the same reply. He then turned to his kinsmen and said "People! This young man is my brother, vicegerent and successor amongst you. Listen to his words and follow him".
At this stage the meeting came to an end and those present turned to Abu Talib with smiling faces and said: "Muhammad has directed you to follow your son and to take orders from him and has declared him to be your elder".[1]
What has been written above is the gist of the detailed version quoted by most of the exegetes and historians in different words except for Ibn Taymiyah, who holds specific views about the members of the Prophet's family, none has doubted the authenticity of this tradition and all consider it to be admittedly a historical fact.

Distortion and misrepresentation of facts and concealment of realities is a clear case of crime and breach of trust; and during the course of Islamic history there has been a group of biased writers who have treaded this path and reduced the worth of their treatises on account of misrepresentations. The course of history and evolution of knowledge has, however, exposed them. Here is a specimen of misrepresentation of this type:
1- As has been observed by the readers, Muhammad bin Jarir Tabari (died 310 A.H.) has narrated the incident of invitation to the kinsfolk in detail in his history. In his Tafsir [2] however, while commenting on the verse "Admonish your nearest kinsfolk" he mentions what he has written in his history along with the text and authority, but when he reaches the sentence: "Ali is my brother, vicegerent and successor" he alters the sentence and says: "Ali is my brother, and this and that". And there is no doubt about the fact that to omit the words "my vicegerent and successor" and to substitute for them the word "etc.'' is nothing short of breach of trust.
He has not contented himself with this alone and has not only altered the interrogative remark of the Holy Prophet, but has also altered the sentence which the Prophet himself uttered about Ali (This is my brother and vicegerent and successor) and has again used the very word "etc.".
A historian should be free and unbiased in recording facts and should write that which he has assessed and found correct, with unmatched bravery and candour. It goes without saying that the thing which prompted Tabari to omit these two words and to substitute two allusive words for them is the very religious bias of his, because he did not consider Ali to be the vicegerent and immediate successor of the Prophet. And as these two words clearly indicated that Ali was the wasi and the immediate successor, Tabari considered it necessary to defend his own religious attitude also, while commenting on the occasion of the revelation of the verse.
2- Ibn Kathir Shami, who died in the year 732 A.H. has also treaded the same path in his history [3] which was treaded earlier by Tabari in his Tafsir. We cannot excuse Ibn Kathir on any account, because Tarikh-i Tabari itself forms the foundation of his history and he has clearly referred to Tarikh-i Tabari in arranging this portion of his book, but, in spite of this, he has failed to quote this matter from the said history and has, contrary to expectations, mentioned the event according to Tafsir-i Tabari.
3- And then we come across the crime which has been committed by Dr Haykal, the former Education Minister of Egypt and the writer of "Hayat-i Muhammad" who has opened the path for the new generation for resorting to distortion of facts. It is rather strange that whereas in the preface of his book he has used very harsh words for the orientalists and accused them of distortion of facts and forgery, he himself commits the same thing, rather goes a step forward, because:
Firstly: In the first edition of the said book he quoted the incident in a mutilated manner and, out of the two essential sentences, recorded only one (viz. the Prophet turned to the elders and said: "Who amongst you will be my supporter in this task so that he may be my brother, wasi and successor) but totally omitted the other sentence which the Prophet uttered about Ali after expression of support by him, and did not at all mention that the Holy Prophet said about him: "This young man is my brother, vicegerent and successor."
Secondly: In the second and third editions he went one step forward and omitted both the sentences from the two places and thus struck an irreparable blow to his own position as well as to that of his book.

The proclamation of the successorship (imamate) of Ali in the early days of the Prophethood of Muhammad goes to show that these two offices are not separated from each other, and when the Prophet of Allah was introduced to the people, his successor was also appointed and introduced on the same day and this shows by itself that prophethood and imamate are linked together and there is no distance between them.
This event clearly proves the spiritual heroism and bravery of Imam Ali, the Commander of the Faithful. For, in an assembly in which experienced and aged persons were drowned in reflection and astonishment, he pronounced his support and devotion with perfect boldness and expressed his enmity with the enemies of the Holy Prophet without treading the path of self-seeking politicians. Although at that time he was the youngest amongst those present so far as age was concerned, but this association with the Holy Prophet for a long time in the past had prepared his mind for the acceptance of the realities which the elders of the nation were reluctant to accept.
Abu Ja'far Askafi has been very eloquent about this event. Readers may refer in this connection to Sharh-i Nahjul Balaghah. [4]
[1] Tarikh-i Tabari, vol. II, pp. 62-63; Tarikh-i Kamil, vol. II, pp. 40-41; Musnad Ahmad, vol. I, page 111 and Sharh-i Nahjul Balaghah by Ibn Abil Hadid, vol. XIII, pp. 210-221.
[2] Tafsir-i Tabari, vol. XIX, page 74.
[3] al-Bidayah wan Nihayah, vol. III, page 40.
[4] Ibn Abil Hadid (Egyptian edition, vol. XIII, pp.215 onward).

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