Inventing the Shura to nominate the Caliph
Source: Al-Nass Wal-Ijtihad, Text and Interpretation
By: Allama Abdul Husayn Sharafuddin al-Musawi
When Umar was about to die, he invented the Shura to choose the caliph after him. He appointed a committee of six persons pretending that Ali, the Prophet’s brother and guardian, was one of them.
Ali, who was the best of the human beings after the Prophet, who was the very self of the Prophet (S).
Muhammad and Ali were the two eyes of the world; one was the right and the other was the left.
Muhammad was the city of knowledge and Ali was its gate and whoever wanted to come to the city, had to enter it from its gate.
O my Lord! What was the Shura invented for?! Had he (Ali) been compared with the first one (Abu Bakr) so that he would be compared with these ones and their likes?! Certainly not! But “…a man (Sa’d) listened to his rage and the other (Abdurrahman) sided with his kin (Othman) for this and that. 253
This Shura had many bad consequences and evil results that had caused great harm to Islam. Umar had in this Shura contradictories that he would have better not done!
When he (Umar) was stabbed 254 and he became desperate of remaining alive, he was asked: “Would that you have appointed the caliph after you!” He said: “If Abu Ubayda was alive, I would appoint him a caliph because he was the trustee of this umma 255 and if Salim, the mawla of Huthayfa was alive, I would appointed him a caliph because he was too sincere in his love to Allah.” 256
His son Abdullah was mentioned to him but he refused to appoint him as the caliph. The companions went out and then they came back to him saying: “O Ameerul Mo'mineen, Would that you have determined a decree!” He said: “I have decided, after my first saying, to entrust your affair with a man, who is the best among you to lead you to the truth” meaning Ali (S). They said to him: “What prevents you from that then?” he said: “I cannot bear it (the caliphate) alive and dead.”
Then he said: “You are to keep to these ones; Ali, Othman, Abdurrahman, Sa’d, az-Zubayr and Talha. They should consult to choose one from among them. If they choose that one as the caliph, then they have to support and assist him.” Then he sent for those six men and said to them: “When I die, Suhayb should lead the people in offering the prayer. You have to deliberate for three days and when the fourth day comes you must have an emir from among you.”
Then he ordered Abu Talha al-Ansari to select fifty men from the Ansar with their weapons to supervise these six men until they should choose one from among them within three days after Umar’s death. He ordered Suhayb to lead the prayers during that time. He ordered the six men to be inside a house under the supervision of Abu Talha with his sword and his armed men.
He said to Abu Talha: “When five men agree on one opinion and the sixth one objects to them, you should split his head with your sword and when four of them agree and two refuse, you should behead them both and if each three of them had an opinion, the caliph should be from the group of Abdurrahman and then you should kill those three if they would refuse to submit but if the three days elapsed while they have not agreed on one yet, you should kill all the six 257 and let the matter of the caliphate to the Muslims to elect whoever they liked.” This is the summary of the covenant of the Shura. 258
If Umar was unwilling to undertake the caliphate as he pretended, then why did he insert himself in what he had fled from and arrange in the worst and most harmful and dangerous way?! He chose six men out of the whole umma and described them with what prevented them from being chosen as caliphs that we have not mentioned here! 259
Then he arranged the matter in a way that it would lead to choose Othman as the caliph in any way and without a bit of doubt! 260 Which bearing (that Umar pretended to refrain from) was more than this?! What was the difference between appointing Othman openly and limiting the matter in a way that would lead to him alone and would kill the rejecters?
Would he have appointed Othman or any one else and not put the slave Suhayb over their heads with Abu Talha and his men with their drawn swords to kill them (Ali and the others) if they opposed that critical plan which Umar had planned to them!
If he had entrusted the caliphate to anyone he liked, the umma would not have seen him slight their (these six men’s) bloods and be indifferent to shedding their bloods 261 nor would have the umma seen him despise them by preferring the slave Suhayb to them in offering the prayer of his (Umar’s) funerals and the five daily prayers.
As if he was not satisfied with despising and disgracing them when he said: “If Abu Ubayda was alive, I would appoint him a caliph and if Salim was alive, I would appoint him a caliph” preferring them to these six men, among whom was the Prophet’s brother, guardian and heir, Aaron of the umma, the judge, the gate of the house of wisdom, the gate of the city of knowledge and the one who had had the knowledge of the Book; Imam ‘Ali (as).
As for Salim, he was neither from Quraysh nor was he an Arab. He was a foreigner from Istakhr or Karmad. He was a slave owned by Abu Huthayfa bin Utba’s wife, whose name was Thubayta bint Ya’ar bin Zayd bin Ubayd bin Zayd al-Ansari al-Ousi. 262 The umma had agreed unanimously due to the legal verdicts that imamate would not be permissible for one like Salim, 263 then how did Umar say: “If Salim was alive, I would appoint him a caliph?” 264
This Shura had caused competition and sedition between these six men that led to separation and disagreement among the Muslims for each one of these six men found himself as well-qualified for the caliphate and equal to the others whereas before the Shura (of Umar) they did not think in this way. In fact Abdurrahman was a follower of Othman, Sa’d was a follower of Abdurrahman and az-Zubayr was one of Imam Ali’s followers, who had supported him on the day of the Saqeefa.
It was him (az-Zubayr) who had drawn his sword 265 defending Imam ‘Ali (as) and it was him who was among the few ones who had escorted Fatima (sa) to her tomb and offered the prayer for her where she had been buried under the darkness of night 266 according to the will of Fatima (sa) herself and it was him who had said during the reign of Umar: “By Allah, if Umar dies, I will pay homage to Ali” 267 but the Shura made him look forward to the caliphate and so he parted with ‘Ali (as) as the others did. He went to fight against Imam ‘Ali (as) in the battle of al-Jamal (the camel).
Abdurrahman bin Ouff himself regretted his doing when he had preferred Othman to himself in the matter of the caliphate and then he parted with him and tried his best to depose him from the caliphate but he did not succeed. And people knew well what Talha and az-Zubayr had done to incite people against Othman and then Aa’isha joined them assisting Talha and hoping that the caliphate might come back to Taym. 268 She often said: “Kill Na’thal (meaning Othman) for he has disbelieved!” 269
These ones and their followers activated their opposition against Othman until they encouraged the people of Medina and the other countries to revolt against him and then to kill him. When Othman was killed and the people paid homage to Imam ‘Ali (as) to be the caliph, Talha and az-Zubayr were the first ones who had paid the homage but their position in the Shura raised their greediness to the caliphate and made them break their homage to Imam ‘Ali (as) and then to wage a war against him. They (Talha and az-Zubayr) revolted against Imam ‘Ali (as) and Aa’isha joined them hoping that Talha might be the caliph.
Blood was shed in Basra (the battle of al-Jama), Siffeen and an-Nahrawan, fatal seditions spread here and there and bloody wars were waged; all those horrible events were the consequences of Umar’s Shura, which made opponents to Imam ‘Ali (as) competing with him in his right and fighting him to extort this right from him. Moreover, it was this Shura that had incited Mo’awiya to stretch his neck towards the caliphate. 270 Then Mo’awiya and each one of the men of the Shura became impassable obstacles in the way of Imam ‘Ali (as), who had intended to show the truth and to restore what had been corrupted.
The Shura of Umar had incited the umma against Othman 271 and planted seeds that took roots and grew after the killing of Othman that was an opportunity seized by the people who had fought Imam ‘Ali (as) in al-Jamal, Siffeen and an-Nahrawan.
How odd and wonderful the order of Umar was! He ordered the six men, whom he had nominated for the Shura so that one of them should be elected as the caliph after him, to be killed if they would not achieve his order before the end of the third day after his death!!!
Woe! Could we believe that it was permissible for him (Umar) to kill these six men or any one of them just because of delaying carrying out his order after the third day of his death?!
But indeed he had ordered to kill them while he was comfortable and tranquil with that. He had ordered Abu Talha al-Ansari and his men with this order and stressed on them and on Suhayb to execute it.
The Muslims saw and heard, But none denied or felt pain!
This was the utmost persistence of Umar. He went on his exaggeration to the farthest point! He knew well the position of these six men more than any other one of the companions and he witnessed then that the Prophet (S) died while he had been pleased with them.
Among the six there was one, who was the brother of the Prophet (S) and who was to the Prophet (S) as Aaron was to Moses but he was not a prophet. He was the vizier and the guardian of the Prophet (S). He was the father of the two grandsons of the Prophet (S). He was the hero of Badr, Uhud and Hunayn and he was the one who had the knowledge of the Book.
Umar had better avoid exposing this great man and the rest of the six to this danger and to this meanness and disgrace! He could entrust the matter with no one and he would let the Muslims choose whomsoever they liked and then he would be truthful in his saying: “I cannot bear it alive and dead.”
Or he could appoint Othman as the caliph openly as Abu Bakr had appointed him (Umar) before and so he would be frank in what he had intended to do with no deceit or trickery for he had arranged the matter of the Shura in a way that it must lead to the caliphate of Othman definitely. Umar had not preferred Abdurrahman to the other five ones, unless he knew that this would affect the matter and he knew that Sa’d would not object to Abdurrahman at all.
People knew this trick of Umar even if he thought that he had blinded the matter and said: “I do not bear it alive and dead.”
What did the Muslims think if the Prophet (S) heard Umar ordering Abu Talha by saying to him: “When five men agreed on one opinion and the sixth one objected to them, you should split his head with your sword and when four of them agreed and two refused, you should behead them both and if each three of them had an opinion, the caliph should be from the group of Abdurrahman and then you should kill those three if they would refuse to submit but if the three days elapsed while they have not agreed on one yet, you should kill all the six”? O Muslims, be liberal in your opinions and say what you think! We are Allah’s and to Him we shall return!
253. Referring to horrible event that Imam ‘Ali (as) disliked to mention openly.
254. On Wednesday, four days before the end of Thul Hijja, 23 A.H. and he died three days after that and then he was buried on Sunday.
255. If Abu Ubayda was the trustee of this umma, then Imam ‘Ali (as) was worthier of the umma than itself as they had known well. Umar himself had congratulated him of that on the day of al-Ghadeer.
256. I do not think that he has forgotten his coming back with the banner after the coming back of his friend (Abu Bakr) from Khaybar defeated and sorrowful and I do not think that he has forgotten the good news of the Prophet (S) to Imam ‘Ali (as), who has obtained the great victory, nor has he forgotten the saying of the Prophet (S) on that day: “By Allah, I will give the banner tomorrow to a man, whom Allah will grant victory. He loves Allah and His Messenger and Allah and His Messenger love him.”
257. Umar’s slighting the bloods of these men might encourage the killers of Othman to slight his blood and might encourage the Kharijites to slight the bloods of Imam ‘Ali (as) and his companions on the days of al-Jamal, al-Basra, an-Nahrawan and Siffeen when fighting him and killing him later on and encouraged Yazeed to slight the blood of the master of the martyrs Imam Husayn (as) in Kerbala for Umar was the example especially for those people with no doubt!
258. Umar’s covenant of Shura in this way as we have summarized is proved by the recurrent traditions that have been mentioned by all the historians and scholars of Hadith. Refer to al-Kamil by Ibn al-Atheer, vol.3, the events of the year 23 of hijra, Tareekh al-Umam wel Mulook by by Ibn Jareer, the events of 23 A.H., Sharh Nahjul Balagha, vol. 1 p.62 and the rest of the books of history.
259. To see how Umar has described them, refer to Sharh Nahjul Balagha, vol.1 p.72 and you will find wonders!
260. Therefore Imam ‘Ali (as) said: “It (the caliphate) gone away from us.” His uncle al-Abbas said - as in al-Kamil by Ibn al-Atheer and Tareekh al-Umam wel Mulook by Ibn Jareer: “…how did you know?” Imam ‘Ali (as) said: “Othman has been compared to me…they are with the majority; if two men will choose a man and the other two men will choose a man, then they will be with the group of Abdurrahman and Sa’d will never object to his uncle Abdurrahman at all and Abdurrahman is the kin of Othman; they will never disagree at all. Even if the other two are with me, they will not avail me.”
261. In spite of that Allah has strongly prohibited shedding blood in the clear verses of the Qur'an and it has been prohibited by the prophetic traditions and by the consensus of the umma.
262. Al-Istee’ab by Ibn Abdul Birr, biography of Salim.
263. Many scholars have declared the consensus on this matter such as an-Nawawi in his book Sharh Sahih Muslim, chap. of Imamate.
264. They justified that by saying that Umar had said that as an ijtihad by him due to his own opinion. Among those who have mentioned this excuse was Ibn Abdul Birr in his book al-Istee’ab. Refer to that to see that they were indifferent to the legal verdicts and the clear texts of Allah and His Messenger.
265. Abu Bakr Ahmad bin Abdul Aziz al-Jawhari mentioned in his book Kitab as-Saqeefa a long tradition which also has been mentioned by Ibn Abul Hadeed in Sharh Nahjul Balagha, vol. 2, saying: “Umar with a gang, among whom were Usayd bin Khudhayr and Salama bin Aslam, went to the house of Fatima (sa). Umar said to them (to Ali and the companions who were with Ali inside the house): “Come out to pay homage.” They refused to do that and az-Zubayr came out to them with his sword. Umar said: “Arrest the dog!” Salama bin Aslam jumped to him (to az-Zubayr) and took the sword from his hand and threw it against the wall…”
266. Imam ‘Ali (as) had lead his few companions in offering the prayer of funerals for Fatima (sa) and Abu Bakr had not been allowed (or even informed) to offer the prayer for her. Refer to Sahih of al-Bukhari, vol.2 p.39 and Sahih of Muslim, vol.2 p.72.
267. Once Umar said from above the minbar in a long speech he made: “…I have been informed that someone of you has said: “by Allah, if Umar dies, I will pay homage to so-and-so.” Let no one be deceived to say such a thing. By Allah, the homage of Abu Bakr was a slip…but Allah has saved (the umma) from its evil…” Refer to Sahih of al-Bukhari, vol.4 p.119. Al-Qastalani said in his book Irshad as-Sari when explaining this tradition that az-Zubayr bin al-Awwam often said: “If Umar dies, I will pay homage to Ali. The homage of Abu Bakr was a slip but it was accomplished.” This saying reached Umar, who became very angry and then he made that speech. Such was what all the scholars, who had explained Sahih of al-Bukhari, mentioned in their books.
268. Taym was the tribe of Abu Bakr, the father of Aa’isha.
269. All the historians have mentioned that she had incited people against Othman. One of her coevals blamed her by reciting the following verses of poetry: The outset is from you and the vicissitudes of time is from you, Storm is from you and rain is from you.
You have ordered the emir to be killed, And said to us that he has disbelieved!
Refer to al-Kamil by Ibn al-Atheer, vol.3 p.8.
270. Abu Othman mentioned in the book of as-Sufyaniyya as in Sharh Nahjul Balagha, vol. 1 p.62 that Ma’mar bin Sulayman at-Tameemi narrated from his father from Sa’eed bin al-Musayyab that Ibn Abbas had said: “I have heard Umar saying to the men of the Shura: “If you cooperate, support each other and become loyal to each other, you will eat (obtain) it (the caliphate), you and your progeny but if you envy each other, disagree with each other and hate each other, then Mo’awiya bin Abu Sufyan is to be the caliph over you.” Mo’awiya was the emir of Sham, appointed by Umar, at that time. It is clear that this word has nominated Mo’awiya and encouraged him to ask for the caliphate with all his power and as possible as he could use deceit and trick. When the fate of the caliphate after Umar became in Othman’s hand, it meant that it would become in Mo’awiya’s hand after Othman; therefore Umar had arranged the Shura in a way that it would consequently drive the caliphate to Othman as we have said. In short, Othman, before facing his fate, he had made five persons compete with Imam ‘Ali (as) and fight him to extort his legal right. Othman was not satisfied with this until he incited Mo’awiya to stretch his neck towards the caliphate as it has been clear to the men of understanding.
271. On the day of the Shura, Umar had said to Othman: “As if I see that Quraysh has entrusted you with this matter (the caliphate) and then you will make Bani Umayya (the Umayyads) and Bani Ma’eet over the necks of people and will prefer them to the others with the wealth and then a group of the Arabs will come to you to slaughter you in your bed. By Allah, if they do, you will do, and if you do, they will do.” Then Umar grasped the forelock of Othman and said: “When that occurs, remember my saying. It will take place.” Ibn Abul Hadeed said in Sharh Nahjul Balagha, vol. 1 p.22 after mentioning this tradition: “Our Sheikh Abu Othman has mentioned this tradition in his book as-Sufyaniyya and it has been mentioned by others when talking about the insight of Umar.” This confirms our saying that Umar has intended, out of the caliphate of Othman, to pave the way for Mo’awiya because he knew that Othman would be killed and then the way would be opened for Mo’awiya to reach the caliphate. In fact the very caliphate of Othman would take Mo’awiya to the throne!
The outset is from you and the vicissitudes of time is from you, Storm is from you and rain is from you.
You have ordered the emir to be killed, and said to us that he has disbelieved!