The Day of Saqeefa
Source: Al-Nass Wal-Ijtihad, Text and Interpretation
By: Allama Abdul Husayn Sharafuddin al-Musawi
When Abu Bakr stretched his hand to be paid homage as the caliph after the Prophet (S), some people paid him homage willingly and others - later on - paid homage unwillingly although they knew well that the Prophet (S) had entrusted his brother and cousin Ali bin Abu Talib (S) with the caliphate after him. They had seen the Prophet (S) and heard him mentioning this matter many times since the beginning of his prophethood until the end of his blessed life. The Prophet (S) had mentioned this tradition in different ways and all of them were clear in declaring that ‘Ali (as) would be the caliph after him.
Whoever wants to know more details about this subject, let him refer to our book “al-Muraja’at”, in which we have mentioned a full research on these traditions and all what have been said about them by the two sects; the Shia and the Sunni. We have exchanged deliberations with the sheikh of Islam and the teacher of the ulama Sheikh Saleem al-Bishri al-Maliki, the sheikh of al-Jami’ al-Azhar (al-Azhar University) at that time when I have been studying there.1 He was then the sheikh (dean) of al-Azhar University. He took much care of me as he always did to his students.
Arguments and written deliberations began between us about the caliphate after the Prophet (S) and the traditions concerning it. We tried our best to go deep in research and to be fair to the truth and because of the good soul of Sheikh al-Bishri, the result was the useful book “al-Muraja’at”, in which guidance shone in its brightest signs. Praise be to Allah for this success.2
I hope that you scrutinize into the aims and the intents of the Prophet’s sayings and doings, which are the point of deliberation between us (the Shia) and the Sunni. Let passion not overcome your minds like those, who have dealt with the clear texts like their dealing with general or ambiguous sayings without caring for their (the texts’) rightness and clearness. Allah says: “Most surely it is the Word of an honored messenger. The processor of strength, having an honorable place with the Lord of the Dominion. One (to be) obeyed and faithful in trust. And your companion is not gone mad” (Qur’an 81:19-22); then whereto do you go, O you the Muslims! “It is naught but revelation that is revealed. The Lord of Mighty Power has taught him” (Qur’an, 53:4-5).
I have not seen clear and recurrent traditions more than the traditions talking about the caliphate but they have been confiscated by the most of the Ummah while the wound has not recovered yet and the Prophet (S) has not been buried yet.
The life of the Prophet (S) after his prophethood was full of traditions that had talked about the caliphate of Imam ‘Ali (as) clearly since the (day of the warning)3 in Abu Talib’s house and throughout the days after that until he had lain in the bed of death whereas his room was crowded with people when he said: “O people, I am about to die and to be taken hastily. I have informed you. I have left among you the Book of Allah and my progeny”.
Then he raised Ali’s hand and said: “This is Ali. He is with the Qur'an and the Qur'an is with him. They will never separate until they will come to me at the pond (in Paradise)”. The traditions of thaqalayn (two weighty things) are enough to be the judge between the two sects; the Shia and the Sunni.
“Most surely there is a reminder in this for him who has a heart or he gives ear with full intelligence”.(Qur’an, 50:37).
They (the companions) had appropriated the matter (the caliphate) to themselves on the day of Saqeefa4 interpreting some prophetic traditions according to their own opinions without caring for anything else.
They had determined their matter among them without informing anyone of the Hashemites5 or any of their followers; the Hashemites, who were the family of the Prophet (S), the place of the divine mission, the descendance of the angels and the descendance of Gabriel and revelation. As if they had forgotten that the Hashemites were the weighty thing the Prophet (S) had left, the equal of the Book of Allah,6 the protection of the Ummah from separation,7 the ship of rescue for the Ummah from deviation8 and the gate of repentance for the Ummah.9
It was as if they had forgotten that the Prophet’s family was to the Ummah as the head to the body and as the two eyes to the head.10 In fact they were as they had been meant by the saying of the poet: The matter is determined when Taym11 is absent And they12 are not asked permission when they are present.
Yes! The matter had been determined in the Saqeefa13 while the Prophet (S) was lying between his family and his close companions for three days. They were around him mourning bitterly and their hearts were about to be cut into pieces with sorrow that might tear the livers and with fear that might move the mountains. The world, with all its wideness, had become too narrow before them.
And those people were away from the ordeal for three days being busy preparing their determinations to seize his (the Prophet’s) authority and to plunder his rule. They did not pay any attention to any affair of him until they had determined their matter without caring for anything else.
As soon as they finished burying him, they surprised his guardians and lovers with asking them either to pay homage or to be burned with their houses. 14
The poet of the Nile, Hafidh Ibraheem had said in a famous poem: And a saying to Ali said by Umar, Honored is the listener and great is the sayer I burn your house and let you not alive longer in it If you do not pay homage Even if the daughter of al-Mustafa15 is in it.
No one save Abu Hafs16 that has said it Before the knight and protector of Adnan17
If it has been supposed that there was no clear tradition showing that the caliphate was to be for one of the Prophet’s family and if it has been supposed that no one of them had good ancestry, rank, morals, knowledge, favors, jihad, faith, sincerity or excellent virtue but they were just like the rest of the Prophet’s companions, then was there any legal, rational or traditional excuse that prevented the companions from putting off their homage until the funerals of the Prophet (S) would finish??? Even if they would have ordered the army to control the situation temporarily until the matter of the caliphate would be settled???
Would it be not better for them to be somehow kind to the Prophet’s family, who were distressed with the great loss, if they had waited a little? The Prophet’s family was his deposit and his leftover among the Muslims. Allah has said: “Certainly a Messenger has come to you from among yourselves; grievous to him is your falling into distress, excessively solicitous respecting you; to the believers (he is) compassionate”(Qur’an 9:128).
Had this Prophet, who became so grievous when his Ummah fell in distress, who strove for its prosperity and who was so kind to his people, not had a right on them that his family would not be constrained or surprised with what it had faced while the wound was not yet healed and the Prophet (S) was not yet buried?!
It was enough for his progeny, then, to worry, to pillow on insomnia, to suffer griefs, to chat with the stars, to bear pangs and to struggle against agonies. Waiting a little would have been worthier to console the Prophet’s progeny, to regard the Prophet’s dignity, to unite the Ummah and would have been nearer to wisdom. But the people had determined to turn the caliphate away from the Prophet’s family at any cost. They feared that waiting a little might lead them to other than what they had determined because if Muhammad’s family had attended the deliberations, their evidences and proofs would prevail; therefore they had hastened to carry out the homage and seized the opportunity when the Hashemites were busy with their ordeal and with the ceremonies of the funeral.
What helped those people in achieving their plan was the astonishment of the Muslims and their fear and confusion besides the meeting of the most of the Ansar18 in the Saqeefa to nominate Sa’d bin Obada, the chief of al-Khazraj,19 for the caliphate but his cousin Basheer bin Sa’d bin Tha’laba and Osayd bin al-Khudhayr, the chief of al-Owss,20 competed with him for the rule. They envied him and feared that he might be the caliph. They agreed among themselves to turn the caliphate away from him with all means.
Owaym bin Sa’ida al-Owssi and Ma’an bin Adiy, who were from the Ansar, agreed with them on that. These two men had been planned secretly with Abu Bakr and Umar and their party to act so. They had been from among the followers of Abu Bakr during the time of the Prophet (S) besides that they had had grudge against Sa’d bin Obada. Owaym hastened towards Abu Bakr and Umar inciting them to oppose Sa’d. He hastened with them, Abu Obayda, Salim the freed slave of Hudhayfa and then followed by others from their party of the Muhajireen21 to the Saqeefa.
The dispute flared up between the Muhajireen and the Ansar. The quarrel became serious and their shouts loudened until sedition was about to happen. Abu Bakr made a speech, in which he praised the Ansar and acknowledged their favors softly and leniently. Then he protested against them saying that the Muhajireen were the people of the Prophet (S) and the result of his efforts. He told them that they would be the viziers if the Muhajireen became the rulers.
Then he held Umar and Abu Obayda’s hands and ordered the attendants to pay homage to one of them. As soon as he said so, Umar and Basheer hastened to pay homage to Abu Bakr himself. Then he was paid homage by Osayd bin al-Khudhayr, Owaym bin Sa’ida, Ma’an bin Adiy, Abu Obayda bin al-Jarrah, Salim and Khalid bin al-Waleed and then these men tried their best to force the people to pay homage.
The extremist among them was Umar and then Usayd, Khalid and Qunfith bin Umayr bin Jad’an at-Tameemi.22 As soon as Abu Bakr was paid homage, the group that paid him homage came escorting him towards the Prophet’s mosque as in a wedding procession23 whereas the Prophet (S) was still lain down among his pure lovers. Imam ‘Ali (as) then could not but to recite this verse of one of the poets: Some people began saying whatever they like And tyrannized when Zayd was afflicted with calamities24
Imam ‘Ali (as) knew well that people had determined to turn the caliphate away from him and that if he had asked for his right (the caliphate) they would have disputed against him and if he had fought them they would have fought him and that would lead to a sedition in the religion and would bring dangers over the Ummah; therefore he chose to retire preferring the general welfare and preferring the most important thing to the important thing in order to keep Islam safe from any danger. It was a covenant from the Prophet (S).
Ameerul Mo’mineen25 became patient unwillingly and restrained himself from carrying out the covenant.26 Yes! He remained at home. He was discontented with what they had done until they took him out by force.27
He protested against those, who had extorted his right, and how eloquent his protest was when he said to Abu Bakr: If you protested against your opponents with kinship, The others were worthier of the Prophet and closer than you And if you ruled them by the shura, How is that while the people of the shura were absent?28
Their homage was a slip that Allah had saved the Muslims from its evil as they had pretended but its cost was on the expense of Ameerul Mo’mineen when he became patient before harm, silent before injustice and when he sacrificed his right for the sake of Islam. Allah may reward him for his favors on Islam and the Muslims with the best of His reward.
1. In the year 1329 A.H. and later after we have returned from the hawza of holy Najaf.
2. The deliberations (muraja’at) were one hundred and twelve ones.
3. The Prophet (S) had invited his close relatives to warn them. The last of his speech to them was that when he held Ali’s hand and said: “This is my brother, my vizier, my guardian and my caliph among you. Listen to him and obey him!” Refer to muraja’a no. 20 and the one after it in the book “al-Muraja’at”.
4. Saqeefa means a shed. They (most of the Prophet’s companions) have gathered in the shed of Bani Sa’ida on that day to determine that caliphate after the Prophet (S).
5. Hashem was the Prophet’s ancestor.
6. With reference to the clear traditions mentioned in the reliable books of traditions; those traditions that have made the Prophet’s progeny as the equal of the Qur'an to be the example that must be followed by the men of understanding. Refer to Muslim’s Sahih (book of Hadith), at-Tarmithi’s Sahih, an-Nassa’iy’s Sahih, Ahmad’s Musnad, at-Tabarani in his al-Kabeer, al-Hakim’s Mustadrak, ath-Thahabi’s Talkhees al-Mustadrak, Ibn Abu Shayba’s Sunan, Abu Ya’la’s Sunan, Ibn Sa’d’s Tabaqat and many others. For details refer to muraja’a no.8 in our book “al-Muraja’at”.
7. Referring to the Prophet’s saying: “My family is security for my Ummah from being separated. If a tribe of the Arabs objects to them, it will separate and then become the party of Iblis”. Refer to al-Hakim’s Mustadrak, vol.3 p.149.
8. Referring to the Prophet’s saying: “The example of my progeny among you is like the Ark of Prophet Noah. Whoever rides on it will be saved and whoever lags behind it, will drown”. Refer to al-Hakim’s Mustadrak, vol.3 p.151.
9. Referring to the Prophet saying: “The example of my progeny is like the Ark of Prophet Noah. Whoever rides on it will be saved and whoever lags behind will drown. The example of my progeny among you is like the gate of repentance of the Israelites. Whoever enters into it will be forgiven”. Mentioned by at-Tabarani in his al-Awsat.
10. Imam as-Sabban in his book Is’af ar-Raghibeen and Sheikh Yousuf an-Nabhani in his book ash-Sharaf al-Mu’ayyad and others mentioned that Abu Dharr had narrated the Prophet’s saying: “Make my family among you as the head to the body and as the two eyes to the head. The head is not rightly guided without the eyes”. For details refer to our book al-Muraja’at, muraja’a no.6 -13.
11. One of the great families of the Quraysh.
12. The people of Taym.
13. Saqeefa means shed.
14. They had threatened Imam ‘Ali (as) to be burned unless he would pay homage. Refer to Abu Bakr Ahmad bin Abdul Aziz al-Jawhari in his book as-Saqeefa, p. 130, Sharh Nahjul Balagha, vol. 1, p. 134, Ibn Jareer at-Tabari in his book Tareekh al-Umam wel Mulook, Ibn Qutayba in his book al-Imama was-Siyasa, Ibn Abd Rabbih al-Maliki, in al-Iqd al-Fareed, vol.2, al-Mas’oodi in Murooj ath-Thahab, Ibn ash-Shuhna in Rawdhatul Manadhir, Abul Fida’ in al-Mukhtasar fee Akhbar al-Bashar, ash-Shahristani in al-Milal wan-Nihal, Allama al-Hilli in Nahj as-Sidq quoted from al-Mahasin wa Anfas al-Jawahir, Ibn Khanzabah in al-Ghurar and Abu Makhnaf in a detailed book talking about the homage of the Saqeefa.
15. One of the Prophet’s surnames.
16. It is the surname of Umar bin al-Khattab.
17. Adnan is the ancestor of the Hashemites.
18. Ansar means helpers: the people of Medina, who had assisted (and believed in) the Prophet (S) and his companions when had emigrated from Mecca.
19. One of the greatest tribes in Medina.
20. The other greatest tribe in Medina.
21. Muhajireen means the emigrants: the first Muslims, who had emigrated from Mecca to Medina.
22. These persons were among the ones, who had broken into the house of Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter (S), when intending to set fire to it. Refer to Sharh Nahjul Balagha, vol. 2 p.19. Ahmad bin Abdul Aziz al-Jawhari narrated, as mentioned in Sharh Nahjul Balagha, vol. 1 p.130, that: “When Abu Bakr had been paid homage, Az-Zubayr, al-Miqdad and some other people often visited Ali in the house of Fatima (sa). Umar went to Fatima and said: “O daughter of the messenger of Allah, none of the people in the world has ever been more beloved to us than your father and than you after your father. By Allah, this will not prevent me, if these people meet here in your house, from ordering to burn the house over them...”
23. Mentioned by az-Zubayr bin Bukar in his book al-Muwaffaqiyyat. Refer to Sharh Nahjul Balagha, vol. 2 p.8.
24. Mentioned by Abu Bakr Ahmad bin Abdul Aziz al-Jawhary in his book as-Saqeefa. Refer to Sharh Nahjul Balagha, vol. 2 p.5.
25. “Ameerul Mo’mineen” means the commander of the believers. It is the title of Imam ‘Ali (as).
26. For details refer to our thesis Falsafatul Meethaq wal-Wilaya (The Philosophy of the Covenant and guardianship) and refer to al-Muraja’at, muraja’a no.82, 84, and refer to chap.8 in our book al-Fusool al-Muhimma.
27. Abu Bakr al-Jawhari mentioned in his book as-Saqeefa - as in Sharh Nahjul Balagha, vol. 2 p.19 - a tradition narrated by ash-Shi’bi saying: “Umar and Khalid bin al-Waleed went to Fatima’s house. Umar came into and Khalid stayed at the door. Umar said to az-Zubayr: “What is this sword for?” He said: “I have prepared it to pay homage to Ali.” There were many people in the house. Among them were al-Miqdad and some of the Hashemites. Umar snatched the sword from az-Zubayr, struck it against a rock and broke it. They took az-Zubayr out to Khalid and his companions. There were many people with Khalid. Abu Bakr had sent them to support Umar and Khalid. Then Umar said to Ali: “Get up and pay homage!” He lagged and hesitated. Umar caught his hand and said to him: “Get up!” He refused. They carried him by force and delivered him to Khalid as they did with az-Zubayr. Umar and his companions drove Ali and az-Zubayr violently. People gathered looking at the scene. The streets of Medina became full of people. When Fatima (sa) saw what Umar had done, she cried and shouted. Many women of the Hashemites and others gathered with her. She went out of her room and shouted: “O Abu Bakr, how hasty you attacked the Prophet’s family. By Allah, I will not talk with Umar until I meet Allah.”
Whoever examines the events of those days will find the clear truth in Abu Bakr’s saying when he was about to die: “I wish I had not broken into Fatima’s house even if it would lead to war.” Abu Bakr al-Jawhari mentioned in his book as-Saqeefa another tradition narrated by Luhay’a from Abul Aswad: “Umar and his companions broke into the house while Fatima (sa) was crying and adjuring them before Allah. They took Ali and az-Zubayr out being driven by Umar”. Al-Jawhari mentioned too that: “Umar came to Fatima’s house with people of Ansar and some men of Muhajireen and said: “I swear by Him, in Whose hand my soul is, either you come out to pay homage or I shall burn the house over your heads.” Az-Zubayr came out drawing his sword but they gathered against him until his sword fell from his hand. Umar struck the sword against a rock and it broke and then he took them out of the house drawing them violently with their collars...” Refer to Sharh Nahjul Balagha, vol. 2 p.19.
28. These two verses are in Nahjul Balagha, the book, in which the speeches, the letters and the maxims of Imam ‘Ali (as) have been collected. Abdul Hameed bin Abul Hadeed and Sheikh Muhammad Abda had commented on these two verses in their books. It would be better to the researchers to refer to. I have mentioned them in al-Muaraja’at no. 80. Al-Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib once had protested against Abu Bakr with something that as if its meaning had been taken from these two verses. He said to Abu Bakr through an argument between them: “If you have pretended that the Prophet (S) is from you, then you have extorted our right and if you have evidenced with the believers, then we are the first and the best of the believers so if this matter (the caliphate) would not be legal to you unless with the agreement of the believers then it would not be legal while we were unwilling”. In another argument, as mentioned in Sharh Nahjul Balagha, vol. 2 p.1, he said to him: “As for your saying “we are the tree of the Prophet” you are its neighbors and we are its branches”.
This was the meaning of Imam Ali’s saying “You have argued about the tree but lost the fruit”. Al-Fadhl bin al-Abbas said, as narrated by az-Zubayr bin Bukar in his Muwaffaqiyyat and mentioned in Sharh Nahjul Balagha, vol. 2 p.8: “O people of Quraysh and especially you Bani Taym, you have taken the caliphate by means of the prophethood whereas we are its people rather than you but if we ask for this matter, which is our right, people will hate us more than to hate the others because of their envy and grudge towards us. We have known well that our man (Imam Ali) has a covenant that must be carried out.”
Otba bin Abu Lahab said, as mentioned in Mukhtasar of Abul Fida’ and in the last page of vol.2, Sharh Nahjul Balagha: I have not thought that the matter (caliphate) will be turned awayFrom Hashem (the Hashemites) and then from Abu Hasan (Ali) Was he not the first who had offered prayers toward your Qibla And the most aware of the Qur'an and the Sunna among all people, And the closest one to the Prophet and to Gabriel When helping him (Gabriel) in washing and preparing his coffin? He has had nothing to be doubted And none of them has had a bit of his virtues What made them deny him? Let us know It was injustice that no else was greater than Az-Zubayr bin Bukar, when mentioning these verses in his al-Muwaffaqiyyat, said: “…Ali sent for him (Otba bin Abu Lahab) and ordered him not to say such a thing again and said to him: “The safety of religion is more important for us than anything else”. Az-Zubayr also mentioned in al-Muwaffaqiyyat as in Sharh Nahjul Balagha, vol. 2 p.7 that once Abu Sufyan had passed by Ali’s house. He stopped before the house and recited: O Bani Hashem, do not let people deem you weak Especially Taym bin Murra and Adiy For the matter is just among you and for you No one deserves it save Abu Hasan Ali O Abu Hasan, be determined for it For you are the only well-qualified one for the hoped matter His speech had no any effect on Imam. Ali said: “The Messenger of Allah has promised me with something and I am still keeping to it”. Abu Sufyan left Ali and went to al-Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib in his house. He said to him: “O Abul Fadhl, you are the well-qualified one for it (the caliphate) and worthier of the heritage of your nephew (the Prophet). Give me your hand to pay homage to you!” Al-Abbas laughed and said: “Ali refuses it and al-Abbas asks for it, how far!!!” Abu Sufyan went out disappointedly”.