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Mastership and Leadership of the Ahlul Bayt (A.S.)

Islam means submission.

(Al-Kaafi, vol. 2, p. 45, Tr. No. 1)


That is, we must submit before the commands of Allah and His Messenger (s.a.w.a.). In other words, not to possess our own opinion and view in front of their orders, desires, likes and dislikes. We must consider their likes as our likes and their dislikes as ours.
Allah’s divinity is not confined to any one part of life. Rather, it covers all the facets of human existence, body, soul, thoughts, actions, ethics, individual, social, etc. His divinity demands that man should obey His commands in all aspects.
Similarly, the Messengership and Prophethood of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) is not specific to any single facet of our existence. While the Almighty Allah is the “Lord of the Worlds”, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) is a “Mercy for the Worlds”. 

Submission is the Demand of Belief
Explaining the authority of His Messenger (s.a.w.a.), Allah the Almighty declares,
 “When Allah and His Messenger have decided upon an affair, neither a believing man nor a believing woman has any right of choice in it. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, then indeed he has strayed into manifest error.”

Surah Ahzaab (33): Verse 36


In another verse, the Holy Quran describes the level of submission before the authority of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.),
“By your Lord! They shall not believe till they appoint you (O Messenger) as a judge in their disputes. Thereafter, they don’t find any doubt in their hearts of what you have judged and submit a (complete) submission.”

Surah Nisaa (4): Verse 65


Later, this meaning was given a wider application in the following verse,
 “And whatever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatever he prohibits you from, keep away from it.”

Surah Hashr (59): Verse 7


A little deliberation on the above verses amply establishes that Islam asks of humans to submit absolutely before the commands of Allah and His Messenger (s.a.w.a.). Whatever they decide about any aspect of his life, one should accept their decision from the depth of his heart and not feel any doubt or scepticism or grudge regarding it. Moreover, one must receive whatever the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) offers and abstain from whatever he (s.a.w.a.) restrains.
So, if one does not follow the above directions, or, gives preference to his own self over Allah and His Messenger (s.a.w.a.), or perhaps, he does not openly disobey Allah and the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) but bears some opposition to their ruling in his heart; in all of the above cases, he is in manifest error and clear deviation. And as per the verse of Surah Hashr, he will be subjected to a severe chastisement. This was on one hand.
Now, what is the disposition of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) vis-à-vis the problems of the Muslim Ummah. The Holy Quran has mentioned it in the following manner:

Distressed Prophet (s.a.w.a.)
 “Verily, there has come unto you a Messenger from amongst yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty. He is covetous about your (guidance); for the believers full of pity, kind and merciful.”

Surah Taubah (9): Verse 128


This verse is explicit about the pain and distress the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) bears in his heart for the Muslims. He (s.a.w.a.) is grieved by their afflictions. Their tribulations are truly wearing him (s.a.w.a.) down. Moreover, he (s.a.w.a.) is also obsessed with the guidance of the people. That is, he (s.a.w.a.) is so concerned about their guidance that the Holy Quran has termed it as ‘covetous’ or ‘anxious’. He is extremely worried; all the time, the only thought that concerns him is about the guidance of the people. Moreover, kindness and merciful are two attributes of Allah the Almighty. These two qualities have been used to described Allah,
 “Surely, He is Kind, Merciful unto them.”

Surah Taubah (9): Verse 117


Apart from the above, on numerous other occasions, these attributes have been used to qualify Allah the Almighty. These very attributes have used to describe the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) in the verse under discussion, which establishes in no uncertain terms that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) is the manifestation of his Lord’s attributes in this world. Like Allah, he (s.a.w.a.) is extremely kind, loving and compassionate to the creatures of Allah.
None of Allah’s commands are oppressive towards His servants. On the contrary, the betterment, improvement, success and fortune of the people lie in complying with these commands and laws, and the disobedience and defiance of these injunctions is the cause of their deviation and a painful chastisement.  Similarly, every decision of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) is nothing but sheer goodness for the believers. {Of course, it should be borne in mind that none of his (s.a.w.a.) decisions are devoid of Allah’s sanction. In the light of the verses,
‘He does not speak anything from his own desire. It is only a revelation revealed.”

Surah Najm (53): Verse 3, 4


it becomes very clear that all of his judgments are in consonance with divine will}. Success and fortune lies in his (s.a.w.a.) obedience and compliance with his (s.a.w.a.) commands. Likewise, disobeying or defying him (s.a.w.a.) leads to nothing but deviation and a tormenting punishment.
Is it possible that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) does not appoint his successor?
Keeping the aforementioned talks in consideration, is it possible that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) ignores the most important issue of the Ummah? Let us elucidate the issue with an illustration. A person possessing ordinary wisdom and intelligence sets up a factory for production of high-priced goods. None is aware of its production secret except he himself. The majority of the laborers working in the factory are not aware of the deep and complete knowledge of its production. Now, will he leave the affairs of this factory in the hands of the ignorant workers to manage in his absence or after his demise, and that they should select from among themselves the leader of their choice? Despite the presence of an individual who has been trained by the owner right from the inception of the factory, taught him all the secrets and made him aware of each and everything in the setup, and he, in all respects and truly, is like the owner himself? Will this owner, who is caring, wise and worried about the future, leave everything, without bothering to explain the solutions to problems likely to arise after him? Will he leave the future at the mercy of the majority? Will he not appoint in his lifetime the person who is like him, is aware of everything and is well informed of all the secrets and classified information?
An ordinary intellect will judge that the owner will make all the arrangements before his departure. Now, will the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.), who vis-à-vis the believers, like Allah, is kind and compassionate, after being sure of his impending death and the scientific and practical state of affairs of his Ummah, depart from among his people without appointing his representative, successor and caliphate?

Appointment of Caliph: A Divine Prerogative
Significantly, the Kind and Compassionate Lord has not given the option to the people to select a leader and prophet for themselves for their guidance, of their own will and choice.  And that He accepts the prophet chosen or elected by them. Rather, Allah has appointed the Prophet from His side for the guidance of the people and it is the duty of the people to accept and obey the Prophet appointed by Allah, not to appoint a prophet.
The same principle applies for Imamate and Caliphate. The Ummah does not have the right to appoint an Imam or Caliph; their duty is to simply acknowledge and accept the Imam or Caliph appointed by the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) as his representative and successor. From the invitation of Zul Asheerah (Surah Shuara (26): Verse 214) till Ghadeer-e-Khumm, every now and then, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) introduced Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) and his eleven infallible descendants (a.s.) as his successors and absolute caliphs of his nation. At Ghadeer, by declaring, ‘Of whosoever I am his master, this Ali is his master too’, he sealed this announcement and by taking allegiance from one and all, he (s.a.w.a.) has completed the argument till the Day of Judgement.

Prophethood and Imamat: The Door of Allah
The discussion of Imamat and Caliphate is not just a historical one. A Prophet is not the one whose only task is to relate divine laws. Rather, it is through the Prophet that one can gain access to the Lord’s presence. Whosoever intends to present himself before his Lord, it is essential for him that he acknowledges the Messengership/Prophethood of the Messenger/Prophet so that his worship becomes acceptable before Allah.
The Holy Quran has talked about this reality in the following words,
 “Say (O Prophet): If you love Allah, then follow me, Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

Surah Aale Imraan (3): Verse 31


Thus, if anybody strives to love Allah, ignoring the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.), his efforts will certainly come to naught. The way to Allah’s love is the obedience of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). In other words, without the belief in Prophethood and obedience of His Messenger (s.a.w.a.), it is impossible to gain access to Allah. But if someone approaches Allah through His Messenger (s.a.w.a.), he will gain His love and his sins will be pardoned as well. Kindly pay attention to the following verse,

The Medium of Salvation
 “If they, when they had been unjust to themselves, come to you (O Prophet) and sought forgiveness from Allah and the Messenger sought forgiveness for them, indeed, they would have verily found Allah Oft-turning, Most Merciful.”

Surah Nisaa (4): Verse 64


The above verse is crystal-clear that if man desires to be forgiven and pardoned by Allah the Almighty for his sins and misdeeds, the right way would be to first present himself in the service of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) and request forgiveness from Allah in his (s.a.w.a.) presence. Thereafter, he (s.a.w.a.) will seek pardon on the petitioner’s behalf and only then will Allah grant him amnesty from his sins.
It is imperative to come to the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) to gain proximity to Allah and seek forgiveness. That is, he (s.a.w.a.) is the door to gain access to Allah’s court. If anybody tries to reach Allah through any other means or ways, he can never succeed.

Important Question
In the light of the above discussion, an important question arises, which was relevant at all times, but is even more so today. And that is, who did the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) appoint as a door to Allah after him? Or did this door close after the martyrdom of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.)?
If we regard as our leader somebody who is not appointed by Allah and His Messenger (s.a.w.a.), his love and obedience will definitely not take us to our Lord. Contrarily, it will take us even more far from Him.
History and consecutive traditions are testimony to the fact that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.), on divine command, appointed Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) as the door to Allah and nominated him (a.s.) as the heir to revelation and as his caliph. During the historical sermon, which the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) delivered at Ghadeer-e-Khumm before a massive congregation, he (s.a.w.a.) has introduced his caliphs (a.s.) at every step. Before the entire assemblage, he (s.a.w.a.) presented Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) as the first of this pure chain of guidance and even took allegiance from them. He (s.a.w.a.) took all these steps because he (s.a.w.a.) was extremely bothered about the guidance and salvation of his Ummah and hence, wanted to make all preparations from his side for the same. He wanted to close all doors of deviation and misguidance. Had the nation accepted the Imams and Caliphs designated by Allah, Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) and his eleven descendants (a.s.), it would have never have fallen into the cesspool of deviation it finds itself in today.
In Ghadeer-e-Khumm, through the declaration, “Of whosoever I am his master, this Ali is his master too”, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) announced the Caliphate and mastership of Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) unequivocally. But those who had predetermined to deprive Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) of his right to mastership and caliphate, tried their best to interpret the word ‘Maula’ in a way that would give all meanings except its true implications i.e. mastership and caliphate. Thus, these cunning and wily conspirators not only deprived Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) and his eleven infallible descendants (a.s.) of their right to mastership and caliphate, they even digressed the masses from the door, the only access to reach Allah the Almighty.
How articulate and expressive are the following sentences of the Ziyaarat-e-Jaameah!
“Whoever reaches to Allah begins with you (Ahle Bait (a.s.)). Whoever confesses to His Oneness has learnt monotheism from you (a.s.) and whoever intends to approach Allah turns towards you (a.s.).
Whoever disobeys you (a.s.), his abode is the hell-fire. Whoever denies you (a.s.) (your mastership and caliphate) is an unbeliever. Whoever wages a war against you (a.s.) is a polytheist. Whoever refutes your talks will be in the lowest pit of hell.”
These statements evidently establish that it’s impossible to reach Allah without the mastership and caliphate of the Ahle Bait (a.s.). While, reaching to Allah is the essence and spirit of Islamic teachings. Without the mastership and caliphate of the Ahle Bait (a.s.), Islam is rendered soulless. If we desire to get to Allah and attain the real concept of ‘seeking proximity to Allah’ in each and every act of worship that we perform, we must necessarily and essentially believe in the mastership and leadership of the Ahle Bait (a.s.). Of which, the first link is Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) and the last is Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.). This is the pure and holy chain of guidance after the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.). We shall bring our discussion to a close with the following quote from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.),
“Whoever desires to live like me, die like me, live in the paradise that my Lord has provided for, must necessarily regard Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) as his master after me. He should befriend his (a.s.) friends and follow the infallible Imams (a.s.) after me. Surely, they (a.s.) are my progeny. They are created from my soil (teenat) and have been granted knowledge and understanding. If anybody from my Ummah denies them, for him is the hell-fire. They too will be thrown into hell who cut off relations with them. Allah will not grant them my intercession.”
(Sharh-o-Nahj al-Balagha by Ibn Hadeed al-Motazeli, while explaining Sermon 154 of Nahj al-Balagh)
Congratulating the last of the chain of Imamat, Hazrat Hujjat Ibn al-Hasan al-Askari (a.s.), on the auspicious occasion of the greatest Eid of the Muslims, Eid-e-Ghadeer, we plead that for the sake of his holy ancestors (a.s.), he (a.t.f.s.) provide us the opportunity to fasten to his mastership till the last breaths of our lives. Aameen!

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