The Objection of Imam Ali to the Decision of the Companions 1

Some people ask why at the meeting held in the Saqifah 'Ali, peace be upon him, did not raise the issue of his appointment at Ghadir Khumm by the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him and his family, to be his successor. Why, they ask, did he not tell the Migrants and the Helpers that he had been appointed by the Prophet so that nobody had the right to contest the succession with him or to claim the caliphate? Had the thousands of people who had been present at Ghadir Khumm forgotten what they had witnessed?

The answer is that the Imam did indeed raise the issue of Ghadir Khumm whenever he deemed it appropriate in order to prove the justice of his claim to the successorship and to object to the decision that had been taken at the Saqifah, thus reminding people of what had happened. For example, historians relate the following:

"When Fatimah, the daughter of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him and his family, together with 'Ali, peace be upon him, sought aid from the Companions, they answered, O daughter of the Messenger of God! We have given our allegiance to Abu Bakr. If 'Ali had come to us before this, we would certainly not have abandoned him.' 'Ali, peace be upon him, them said, 'Was it fitting that we should wrangle over the caliphate even before the Prophet was buried?'(1)

Similarly, on the day that the six-man council was convened and 'Abd al-Rahman b. 'Awf made plain his inclination that 'Uthman be appointed caliph, the Imam said: "I will set before you an undeniable truth. By God, is there any among you concerning whom the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him and his family, said, 'For whomsoever I was until now the master, henceforth 'Ali is the master; O Lord, love whoever loves 'Ali and help whoever helps 'Ali,' ordering this to be conveyed to those who were absent?" All the members of the council confirmed the truth of the words he had spoken, saying, "none can lay claim to any of this."(2)

It is an indisputable historical fact that thirty of the Companions testified at the congregational mosque in Rahbah to what they had witnessed at Ghadir Khumm. The historians relate that one day 'Ali, peace be upon him, said in the course of a sermon he was delivering at this mosque, "O Muslims, I adjure you by God: is there among you any who witnessed what transpired at Ghadir Khumm, who heard the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him and his family, proclaiming me to be his successor, and who observed the people paying allegiance to me? Stand up and give witness!"

At this point thirty men out of those present stood up and in a loud voice testified to what they had seen at Ghadir Khumm.

Another telling of this same incident relates: "Many people stood up to give witness."(3)

This testimony to what had transpired at Ghadir Khumm was given at the mosque in Rahbah during the caliphate of 'Ali, peace be upon him, in the thirty-fifth years of the Hijrah, while the proclamation of 'Ali's successorship at Ghadir Khumm in the course of the Farewell Pilgrimage had taken place in the tenth year of the Hijrah, i.e., twenty five years earlier.(4)

Taking into consideration the fact that many elderly Companions must have died during this quarter century, that many casualties had been incurred during the wars that took place during the rule of the first three caliphs, and that many surviving Companions were not present in Kufah, being scattered in other cities, the significance of this historic testimony to what had happened at Ghadir Khumm is obvious. Ahmad b. Hanbal writes: "Only three men did not rise to their feet, although they too had been present at Ghadir Khumm. 'Ali, peace be upon him, cursed them and they were afflicted."(5)

Abu al-Tufayl says: "When I left the mosque at Rahbah I asked myself how the majority of the ummah had failed to act in accordance with the hadith of Ghadir Khumm. I met Zayd b. Arqam to discuss the matter with him and told him, 'I heard 'Ali, peace be upon him, say such-and-such.' Zayd replied, 'The truth of what he says is undeniable; I too heard it from the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him and his family."(6)

'Ali, peace be upon him, adduced the hadith of Ghadir Khumm in support of his claims on numerous other occasions. He cited it as proof of his Imamate during the Battle of the Camel, at Siffin and in Kufah, as well as in the Mosque of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him and his family, in Medina on an occasion when two hundred leading persons from among the Migrants and Companions were present.(7)

Continue in the next article: ( The Objection of Imam Ali to the Decision of the Companions 2 )



1. Ibn Qutaybah, al-Imamah wa al-Siyasah, Vol. I, pp. 12-13; Ibn Abi al-Hadid, Sharh; Vol. II, p.5.

2. al-Khwarazmi, al-Manaqib, p. 217.

3. al-Muhibb al-Tabari, Riyad al-Nadirah, Vol. II, p. 162; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah, Vol. V, p. 212; Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, Vol. I, pp. 118-19.

4. Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, Vol. IV, p. 370; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah, Vol. V, p. 212.

5. Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, Vol. IV, p. 370. See also Ibn Qutaybah, Kitab al-Ma'arif, p. 194.

6. Ibn Majah, al-Sunan, Vol. IV, p. 370.

7. al-Hamawini, Fara'id al-simtayn, Chapter 58.