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The Role of the Quraysh in the Event of Saqifah

By: Ghulam-Husayn Muharrami
In spite of the event in Ghadir Khumm and the efforts of the Prophet (S) for the succession of Ali (a), the gathering in Saqifah took place. The command of God was not executed and the family of the Prophet (S) was confined at home. In this event, the role of the Quraysh must be pointed out. It is because the Quraysh were the people who wanted and succeeded in trampling upon the right of the Prophets (S) progeny.
On many occasions, the Commander of the Faithful Ali (a) emphasizes the acts of oppression and injustice of the Quraysh and their endeavors in gaining access to the caliphate.1 In one of his correspondence with Muawiyah, Imam al-Hasan (a) also described in detail the role of the Quraysh in the Saqifah event, saying: After the demise of the Prophet (S), the Quraysh considered themselves as the tribe and the most nearest to him, and with this proof, they sidetracked the other Arabs and took hold of the affair of caliphate. When we, the Ahl al-Bayt of Muhammad (S), advanced the proposition to them, they did not behave justly with us and they deprived us of our right.2
Imam al-Baqir (a) thus also says to one of his companions: What should we say about the oppression and injustice of the Quraysh against us, and our Shiah and supporters? The Messenger of Allah (S) passed away while the people were asked, Who are the most preeminent of people? Yet, the Quraysh turned away from us to such an extent that they changed the course of caliphate. They utilized our argument against the Ansar and assumed the caliphate one after the other. When it was returned to us, they broke their oath of allegiance and waged war against us3
Yes, the Quraysh had behaved this way since long time ago, so much so that the people knew they would take possession of the caliphate. For this reason, the Ansar rushed to the Saqifah so as to prevent the Quraysh from obtaining power because they were a monopolistic people.

The Reasons behind the Qurayshs Enmity toward the Family of the Prophet (S)
Now, this question is posed: Why did the Quraysh have enmity toward the family of the Prophet (S)? Did they not owe their religion and the worldly life to this family? Was it not through the blessings of this family that they had attained salvation from perdition? In answering these questions, we shall indicate some points:

1. The Qurayshs Ambition for Leadership
During the period of jahiliyyah {pre-Islamic ignorance} the Quraysh had an excellent position among the Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula. In this regard, Abul-Faraj al-Isfahani says: The Arab tribes used to consider the Quraysh as superior in everything except poetry.4 This status was attained through two means:

a. Economic Clout
From the time of Hashim, the great grandfather of the Prophet (S), Quraysh had already started trading with neighboring lands such as Yemen, Sham, Palestine, Iraq, and Abyssinia. The Quraysh nobles had amassed legendary wealth under the aegis of this trade.5 God, the Exalted, described this commerce as the source of the Qurayshs welfare and comfort, saying:

﴿ ٭ ٭ ٭ ﴾

{In gratitude} for solidarity among Quraysh, their solidarity during winter and summer journeys, let them worship the Lord of this House, who has fed them {and saved them} from hunger, and secured them from fear.6

b. Spiritual Position
Due to the existence of the Kabah, the pilgrimage site of the Arab tribes in their territory, the Quraysh occupied a special spiritual position among the Arabs. Especially after the event of the Companions of the Elephant and the defeat of Abrahah7 the honor of the Quraysh, the custodians of the Kabah, was further enhanced and this event turned to be in their favor.
They called themselves as Al Allah {Family of Allah}, Jiran Allah {Neighbors of Allah} and Sakkan Haram Allah {Residents of the House of Allah} and in doing so, they consolidated their religious position.8
As such, on account of sense of power, the Quraysh were inclined to exclusivity and they tried to prove their superiority. Since Mecca was a sort of capital for the Arabs, owing to the presence of the Kabah, and most of the denizens of the Arabian Peninsula used to come and go there, the Quraysh imposed their customs and traditions to those who came to Mecca.
One example regards the garment used when circumambulating the Kabah {tawaf}, which the pilgrims were required to purchased from them.9 Therefore, whenever they sensed, during the advent of the Most Noble Messenger (S), that teachings of Islam are not compatible with their sense of exclusivity and superiority, they refrained from accepting the teachings vehemently opposing these precepts with all their might and utilizing all their power to annihilate Islam.
But the will of God was something else, and in the end, He made His prophet (S) prevail over them. From the 8th year after hijrah, a number of the Quraysh nobles went to Medina and joined the ranks of Muslims, but they did not desist from their hostility.
For instance, Hakam ibn Abil-As used to ridicule the Prophet (S) and on account of which the Messenger of Allah (S) exiled him to Taif.10 As the Quraysh were not able to confront the Prophet (S), they conceived a new plot and that was to confront his successor.
Time and again, Umar said to Abbas: The Arabs did not want prophethood {nubuwwah} and caliphate {khilafah} to be confined to the Banu Hashim.11
The Quraysh also said: If anyone from the Banu Hashim took the reign of caliphate, caliphate will never slip out of this family and it will never be relinquished to us. But if a non-member of the Banu Hashim assumed it, it will move around us and be assigned to all of us.12
The people at that time were also aware of this mentality of the Quraysh. As narrated by Bara ibn Azib, I was sympathetic toward the Banu Hashim. When the Holy Prophet (S) passed away, I was afraid that the Quraysh was thinking of taking the caliphate out of the Banu Hashim and I was at a loss to understand.13
The Qurayshs approval of the caliphate of Abubakr and Umar was motivated by their own benefits. For, at the time of his death, Abubakr said a number of Quraysh who have come to his support: I know that each of you imagines that the caliphate shall belong to him, but I chose the best among you.14
Ibn Abil-Hadid says: Quraysh was displeased by the prolongation of the caliphate of Umar, and Umar was aware of this issue and he was not permitting them to go out of Medina.15

2. Tribal Rivalry and Envy
One of the dire spin-offs of the tribal structure was intense struggle among the tribes, and God, the Exalted, points to this issue in some surahs of the Quran such as Surah at-Takathur16 and Surah as-Saba.17
Since the period of jahiliyyah, there had been a power struggle between the Banu Hashim and the rest of Quraysh tribes. On the event of digging the Zamzam well by Abd al-Muttalib, the entire Quraysh tribes rallied together against the Banu Hashim and they were not ready to allow the honor of digging the Zamzam well to go to Abd al-Muttalib alone.18 Therefore, Abu Jahl used to say: We used to compete with the Banu Hashim over the possession of nobility. They fed people; we fed them too. They gave riding animals to people; we also gave. They gave money; we also gave. It was to such an extent that we closely competed with each other, and we became like two racing horses. Then, they said: There emerged from among us a prophet who receives revelation from heaven. Now, how could we compete with him? By God! We shall never believe in him or recognize him.19
Umayyah ibn Abis-Salt, one of the nobles and great men of Taif and one of the Hunafa,20 did not embrace Islam for the same reason. For many years, he had been waiting for the promised prophet to come. But he had been waiting as such so as to acquire this position himself. After becoming aware of the beginning of the Prophets (S) mission, he refrained from following him identifying the reason for this as shame of the women of Thaqif, saying: For a long time, I was telling them: I shall be the promised prophet. Now, how could I bear for them to see me following a youngster of Banu Abd al-Manaf (referring to the Prophet (S))?21
Yet, despite their will and envy, God lead His Prophet (S) to triumph crushing their pomp. After the 8th year hijrah, when most Quraysh nobles had emigrated to Medina, their irritation and envy toward the family of the Prophet (S) were mostly the result of instigation of these new Muslims.
Ibn Sad has narrated thus: One of the Muhajirun said many times to Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib: Your father Abd al-Muttalib and Ghaytalah, Banu Sahms female fortune-teller, were both in the fire. Finally, Abbas was infuriated and slapped him. As a result, his nose bled. That person came to the Prophet (S) and made a complaint against Abbas. The Messenger of Allah (S) asked his uncle Abbas to explain and Abbas complied. Thereafter, the Prophet (S) said to that man: Why are you annoying Abbas?22
Due to his special position, Ali (a) was the most envied by them. Imam al-Baqir (a) says: Whenever the Holy Prophet (S) mentioned the virtues of Ali (a) or recited a verse of the Quran which was revealed concerning him, some of those who were in the assembly would stand up and leave.23
As such, the Holy Prophet (S) has been reported many times to have said: He who is envious of Ali is envious of me and he who is envious of me is an infidel {kafir}.24
Even during the time of the Prophet (S), some would even express their envy and would actively annoy and disturb Ali (a). Along this line, Sad ibn Abi Waqqas has thus narrated: Another person and I were in the mosque and we were abusing Ali. While furious, the Prophet came to us and said: Why do you annoy me? He who annoys Ali annoys me.25

3. The Qurayshs Enmity toward Ali (a)
Finally, the most important reason for depriving Ali (a) was Qurayshs opposition and enmity toward him as they had suffered heavy losses from him, for, in battles during the time of the Prophet (a), Ali (a) had killed their unbelieving fathers, brothers and relatives. As Yaqubi writes concerning the events on the initial days of the caliphate of Ali (a): All the people paid allegiance to him except three persons from among the Quraysh: Marwan ibn al-Hakam, Said ibn al-As and Walid ibn Uqbah. On their behalf, Walid said to Commander of the Faithful (a): You have inflicted a blow to all of us. You slaughtered my father after (the Battle of) Badr. You killed the father of Said in the battle and as Marwans father returned to Medina,26 you complained to Uthman.27
Similarly, during Alis (a) caliphate Ubayd Allah ibn Umar requested Imam al-Hasan (a) to visit him and he has appointment with him. When Imam al-Hasan (a) paid him a visit he said: Your father has inflicted a blow to the first and last person of Quraysh and the people are hostile to him. Help me to depose of him and let you come in his stead.28
When Ibn al-Abbas was asked why the Quraysh are hostile to Ali (a), he said: It is because Ali sent the first among them to the fire {of hell} (by killing them in battles while in a state of unbelief {kufr}) and put to shame the last among them.29
The rivals of Ali (a) also kindled the fire of this displeasure of Quraysh toward him thus taking advantage of it. For instance, Umar ibn al-Khattab said to Sad ibn al-As: You are staring at me in such a manner as if I killed your father, but I did not. It is Ali ibn Abi Talib who has killed him!30
After receiving a fatal blow at Ibn al-Muljims hand, Ali (a) himself pointed out the magnitude of Qurayshs enmity toward him in a poetical line:

The Quraysh wished to kill me, but they did not succeed to do so.31

Lesson 6: Summary
The role of the Quraysh in the event of Saqifah cannot be overlooked. It is because the Quraysh were the only people who could appropriate from themselves the right of the Prophets (S) progeny. On many occasions, the Commander of the Faithful (a) points to the wrongdoings he experienced from Quraysh. Qurayshs enmity toward the family of the Prophet (S) was motivated by the following:
1. Qurayshs ambition for leadership which prompted them to refuse to accept his invitation as such an acceptance was inconsistent with their leadership.
2. The existence of rivalry between Banu Hashim and the rest of Quraysh tribes and the latters envy toward the former.
3. Qurayshs enmity toward Ali (a) for inflicting major blows to them.

Lesson 6: Questions
1. What was the role of the Quraysh in the event of Saqifah?
2. What were the reasons behind Qurayshs enmity toward the family of the Prophet (S)?
3. Explain the tribal rivalry and envy.
4. What was the nature of Qurayshs enmity toward Ali (a)?
1. For instance, in Sermon 170 of Nahj al-Balaghah, Imam Ali (a) says: O my Allah! I seek Thy succor against the Quraysh and those who are assisting them, because they are denying me (the rights of) kinship, have lowered my high position, and are united in opposing me in the matter (of the caliphate) which is my right, and then they said, Know that the rightful thing is that you have it and also that you may leave it. Nahj al-Balaghah (Faydh al-Islam), p. 555.
Similarly, in his reply to the letter of his brother Aqil, Imam Ali (a) says: Do not take to heart the behavior of Quraysh. To talk about their skepticism, their enmity of Islam, their revolt against the cause of Allah and their desire to bring harm to me are a waste of time. They now are as much bent upon doing me injustice and fighting against me, as they were unanimously against the Holy Prophet (S). May Allah punish them for their sins! They have not even paid any consideration to the relationship that existed between them and me. They have deprived me of the estate of my mothers son. Ibid., Letter 36, p. 974.
2. Abul-Faraj al-Isfahani, Maqatil at-Talibiyyin (Qum: Manshurat ash-Sharif ar-Radhi, 1416 AH), p. 65.
3. Kitab Salim ibn Qays al-Amiri (Beirut: Mansurat Dar al-Funun, 1400 AH), p. 108; As-Sayyid Ali Khan ash-Shirazi, Ad-Darajat ar-Rafiah fi Tabaqat ash-Shiah (Beirut: Muassasah al-Wafa, n.d.), p. 5.
4. Ali ibn al-Husayn Abul-Faraj al-Isfahani, Al-Aghani (Beirut: Dar Ihya at-Turath al-Arabi, n.d.), vol. 1, p. 74.
5. Mahdi Pishvai, Tarikh-e Islam az Jahiliyyat ta Hajjah al-Wida (1) (Arak: Islamic Azad University (Arak Branch), n.d.), pp. 50-51.
6. Surah al-Quraysh 106:1-4.
7. See Surah al-Fil 105 and its commentary. {Trans.}
8. Mahdi Pishvai, Tarikh-e Islam az Jahiliyyat ta Hajjah al-Wida (1), p. 52.
9. Muhammad Ibn Sad, At-Tabaqat al-Kubra (Beirut: Dar Sadir, 1405 AH) vol. 1, p. 72.
10. Izz ad-Din Abul-Hasan Ali ibn Muhammad Abil-Kiram Ibn Athir, Asad al-Ghabah fi Marifah as-Sahabah (Beirut: Dar Ihya at-Turath al-Arabi, n.d.), vol. 2, p. 34.
11. Ibn Abil-Hadid, Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah (Beirut: Dar Ihya at-Turath al-Arabi, 1378 AH), vol. 1, p. 194.
12. Ibid.
13. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 51.
14. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 310.
15. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 159.
16. Surah at-Takathur 102:1-2:
﴿ ٭ ﴾

Rivalry {and vainglory} distracted you until you visited {even} the graves.
17. Surah as-Saba 34:35-37:
﴿ ٭ ٭ ﴾

And they say, We have greater wealth and more children, and we will not be punished! Say, Indeed my Lord expands the provision for whomever He wishes and He tightens it, but most people do not know. It is not your wealth, nor your children, that will bring you close to Us in nearness, except those who have faith and act righteously.
18. Ibn Hashim, As-Sirah an-Nabawiyyah (Beirut: Dar al-Marifah, n.d.), vol. 1, pp. 143-144.
19. Ibid.
20. Hunafa (sing. Hanif): those Arabs during the period of pre-Islamic ignorance {jahiliyyah} who were not worshipping idols. {Trans.}
21. Abu Muhammad Abd Allah ibn Muslim ibn al-Qutaybah, Al-Maarif, 1st edition (Qum: Manshurat ash-Sharif ar-Rida, 1415 AH), 60; Mahdi Pishvai, Tarikh-e Islam az Jahiliyyat ta Hajjah al-Wida (Arak: Islamic Azad University (Arak Branch), n.d.), p. 88.
22. Muhammad Ibn Sad, At-Tabaqat al-Kubra, vol. 4, p. 24.
23. Ibn Shahr Ashub Mazandarani, Manaqib Al Abi Talib (Qum: Muassasah Intisharat-e Allameh, n.d.), vol. 3, p. 214.
24. Ibid., pp. 213-214.
25. Ibid., p. 211.
26. Due to certain grave offenses, Marwans father, Hakam ibn al-As, was among the people of Banu Umayyah who were banished from Medina at the Prophets (S) orders. During the Uthmans caliphate, a relative of his, he was allowed to return to Medina and rally around him. For details, see inter alia Mustadrak al-Hakim, vol. 4, p. 481; Tafsir al-Qurtubi, vol. 16, p. 197; Tafsir al-Faiq Zamakhshari, vol. 2, p. 352; Tafsir Ibn Kathir, vol. 4, p. 159; Tafsir al-Kabir, vol. 7, p. 491; Asad al-Ghabah of Ibn Athir, vol. 2, p. 34, An-Nihayah of Ibn Athir (Egypt), vol. 3, p. 23; Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah, vol. 2, p. 55; Tafsir Nayshaburi on the marginal note of Tabari, vol. 26, p. 13, Sawaiq al-Muhriqah, p. 108. {Trans.}
27. Ahmad ibn Abi Yaqub ibn Wadhih, Tarikh al-Yaqubi, 1st edition (Qum: Manshurat ash-Sharif ar-Radi, 1414 AH), vol. 2, p. 178.
28. Ibn Abil-Hadid, Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah, vol. 1, p. 498.
29. Ibn Shahr Ashub Mazandarani, Manaqib Al Abi Talib, vol. 3, p. 220.
30. Muhammad Ibn Sad, At-Tabaqat al-Kubra, vol. 5, p. 31.
31. Ibn Shahr Ashub Mazandarani, Manaqib Al Abi Talib, vol. 3, p. 312.

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