Imam Ali (A.S.) and the Caliphate (1)

Imam Ali (A.S.) and the Caliphate (1)

The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) passed away with his head on the lap of Imam Ali (A.S.). He departed to his Lord, the Most High, while still worried about the future of the Mission and nation In the last hour of his life he asked for an inkpot and a sheet of paper to write on to the nation about that which would protect them from going astray after him. He continuously used to stress the necessity of adherence to his holy family No sooner had the soul of the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) separated from his pure body, and had Imam Ali (A.S.) and the house folk of the Messenger started for the funeral, then the Helpers (Ansars) held a meeting in "Saqifa Bani Sa'idah" to appoint a successor to lead the Muslims after the Prophet (S.A.W.).

Some of the Immigrants (Muhajirin) hurried to attend the meeting, and after sharp and long arguments, under a climate of tension, anxiety, violence and dispute, Umar bin Khattab hastened to give pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr as the caliph after the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.). He (Umar) demanded from those present to do as he did. Therefore, some of them gave pledge of allegiance, while others refused to do so. Imam Ali (A.S.) and the Prophet's household were still busy in funeral arrangements for the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.), whose pure body remained three days, so that the Muslims could pay their last respects to him before his burial.

As Imam Ali (A.S.) was not convinced by what had happened, and was firmly believing in his own right to the caliphate, he withdrew from the society and kept away from the people and their affairs for six months, during which time his voice could not be heard in the so-called "Apostasy Wars" nor elsewhere. Then certain grave incidents happened endangering Islam and threatening its very existence, such as the appearance of fake prophets after the passing away of the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) and their danger became severe in the Arabian Peninsula. Their appearance was a real threat to the Islamic state. At the same time, the hypocrites became stronger and their power grew in Madinah. The Romans and the Persians were also laying ambush for the Muslims. Furthermore, diverse political groups began to appear in the Islamic society as a result of the Saqifa allegiance.

Imam Ali (A.S.), in dealing with the caliphate, was in accordance with the interests of Islam, to protect it and its unity against being torn to pieces and lost, and to realize the high Islamic objectives for which he had fought. In a letter, Imam Ali (A.S.) recalls these times in this respect: "...I therefore withheld my hand till I saw many people were reverting from Islam and trying to destroy the religion of Muhammad (may Allah bless him and his descendants). I then feared that if I did not protect Islam and its people and there occurred in it a breach or destruction, it would mean a greater blow to me than the loss of power over you which was, in any case, to last for a few days of which everything would pass away as the mirage passes away, or as the cloud dispersed. Therefore, in these happenings I rose till wrong was destroyed and disappeared, and religion attained peace and safety".

However, Imam Ali's (A.S.) voice was heard when he was consulted and his opinion was sought. He tried, in this respect, to direct Islamic life in accordance with the teachings of the Message of Allah, the Most High, in the fields of legislation, execution, and judiciary. Through this period of the departure of the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) till his succession of the caliphate, Imam Ali (A.S.) undertook great responsibilities during the caliph's periods. He was ready to do this because of his loyalty to the Prophet's mission, to keep Islamic unity and to protect the advancement of Islam against deviation.

Therefore, an historical researcher of that period would find that there were so many situations, events, and issues that could find no one other than Imam Ali (A.S.) who acted as a savior, a cure or a judge regarding the order of legislations, explaining Allah's laws and safeguarding the Prophet's tradition. The Imam and the Caliphate: After the death of Uthman bin Affan, the nation unanimously turned to Imam Ali (A.S.) and gave him the pledge of allegiance as caliph. They were overwhelmed with a wave of affection towards him. However, Imam Ali (A.S.) rejected them saying: "Let me alone, and go in search of someone else."

Furthermore, Imam Ali (A.S.) was not of those who could be induced by post and position and thus, be responsive to the people as soon as they rushed to him. The whole caliphate did not have the worth of the wing a mosquito to him. Actually, the entire earthly world, in his sight, equaled not more than "a goat's sneeze", as he put it. Leadership is worthless if it does enable one to establish right and abolish wrong.

At last, finding the people still persisting in pledging their allegiance to him, he accepted the caliphate on certain conditions, which had to be wholeheartedly agreed to. Verily, he (A.S.) announced his declaration which contains his conditions: "You should know that if I respond to you I would lead you as I know and would not care about whatever one may say or abuse."

Indeed Imam Ali (A.S.) means, in the above mentioned saying that he would lead them according to what he understood of Islam, not according to others' low desires and interests. In this respect, he (A.S.) said: "...When the caliphate came to me, I kept the Book of Allah in my view and all that Allah had put therein of us, and all that according to which He has commanded us to take decisions; and I followed it, and also acted on whatever the Prophet - may Allah bless him and his descendants - had laid down as his sunna ...". The whole nation responded by hurrying to announce their submission to his conditions, extending their hands, and pledging their allegiance and obedience to him. So, the Imam (A.S.) agreed to face, fully, his responsibilities of leading the Islamic nation, thought, and practice.

Indeed, the Imam (A.S.) clarified the reasons of his acceptance for people, saying : "...O my Allah! You know what we did was not seek power nor to acquire anything from the vanities of the world. We, rather, wanted to restore signs of Your religion and to usher prosperity into Your cities so that the oppressed among Your creatures might be safe and Your forsaken commands might be reestablished...". The first task was to remove all forms of deviation which had grown into Islamic life, and to bring the nation back to the original Divine course. To attain this he had to act according to a strict and comprehensive program, and to have others act correctly when implementing it. It was a task where his government had many problems to confront, especially in the following fields:

Continue in the next article: ( Imam Ali (A.S.) and the Caliphate (2) )