Did Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) deliberately delay in conveying the Mastership of Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) in Ghadeer?


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It is mentioned in few historical and traditional sources that the verse of conveying the Wilaayah (Mastership) of Ameerul Momineen Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) was revealed three times upon the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) during his last Hajj. However, the actual announcement was not done after the first two revelations and the divine order was finally implemented after the third revelation at Ghadeer Khum. The opponents and hypocrites cite this as a reason to target the Shias that we falsely accuse the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) of acting with indecision and denying conveying the divine command.

Reply

There are two manifest defects in this objection –

  1. Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) never ever denied the conveying of any divine command. This is purely a false allegation against the Prophetic office and we seek refuge in Allah the High from ascribing such a thing to the best creation of Allah.
  2. Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) also never hesitated regarding anything because hesitation is firstly a defect and secondly a condition which occurs when a person is confused between two important options and is unable to choose the more appropriate of the two. This condition is also does not apply for the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).

Now let us come to the response to the question of why did the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) delay the conveying of the mastership of Imam Ali (a.s.) and finally delivered the divine message only after the third or fourth revelation, as the case was. If we look at the verse which was revealed i.e. Surah Maedah (5): Verse 67, the baselessness of the question will be evident. The objection, though, can be responded to in the following ways:

One of a kind Divine Command

If we look at the verse in question, we will find that Allah the Almighty has addressed His Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in an unprecedented manner. The verse says that “if you do not do so then you would have not conveyed His message (at all)”. After this is the even more interesting part wherein the Almighty Allah says “and Allah shall protect you from the people”. Both of these aspects specifically indicate towards the fact that the message to be delivered is uncommon, dangerous and difficult.

The command that not delivering this message will render all the previous efforts of Prophethood null and void speaks volumes. It means on one hand is the entire life of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) wherein despite all odds and under extreme duress and hardship, he still conveyed the divine message for 23 consecutive years, while on the other hand was delivering this one message. This clearly explains the importance and significance of the message.

The other part of the verse wherein Allah states that He would protect you from the people also indicated the danger of the people not accepting it and rebelling against this divine message. Looking at the criticality and severity of the message, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) did not deny delivering it to the people. His only concern was that the people in front of whom he had to convey the message regarding the mastership of Imam Ali (a.s.), they should not revert to their days of paganism and ignorance and become apostates. But later when Allah guaranteed His protection, that is when the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) announced in Ghadeer Khum that ‘Of whomsoever I am the master, this Ali is his master too.

Unreliable Companions or ‘Hypocrites’

Now if a question arises that why was the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) concerned about the people? After all, the people with him were his own companions and why would they defy his message? The point here is among the Muslims at that time, there were a large number of hypocrites. Of them, some were from Makkah and after migration their count just multiplied. Hence, it was quite possible that if any announcement regarding the mastership of Imam Ali (a.s.) was done during the journey, then those so-called companions might resort to violence and influence the other new Muslims to revert to their previous religion. These so-called companions were infamous and notorious of defying the orders of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). All those stories behind the companions being very obedient and brave are all myths. Majority of them weren’t so. There were only a handful of companions who remained true to the commands of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). One reason for this misconception is a halo that has been created that anyone who saw the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) while he was a Muslim is a companion; rather, they have been elevated to an angelic status. The reality though was quite different. We recite in Surah Jumua (62): Verse 11 that

وَ إِذا رَأَوْا تِجارَةً أَوْ لَهْواً انْفَضُّوا إِلَيْها وَ تَرَكُوكَ قائِماً قُلْ ما عِنْدَ اللَّهِ خَيْرٌ مِنَ اللَّهْوِ وَ مِنَ التِّجارَةِ وَ اللَّهُ خَيْرُ الرَّازِقينَ

“And when they saw merchandise or idle-sport, they disperse for it and leave you standing; Say: Whatever is with Allah is better than idle-sport and from merchandise, and Allah is the best of the Sustainers.”

This proves that the hypocrites used to abandon the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and pursue their desires. There were also other vices found among them such as drinking alcohol which they tried to justify by calling it ‘Nabeedh’ which was nothing but wine. Although they liked being addressed as brave warriors, when it came to defending the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in battles such as Ohod, Hunain and combating the enemies in Khaiber, history has not recorded any meaningful contributions by the so-called companions in such battles. What’s more, a simple instruction by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) wherein he asked for pen and paper in his last moments was not followed.

If those hypocrites could not be trusted with such basic things like reciting prayers or actively participating in battles, how could they bear the mantle of the successorship of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)? We should also remember that this message was about accepting the Wilaayah of the same Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) who was in the forefront of killing the disbelieving ancestors of some of these hypocrites. Those Arabs who were famous for years of fighting over petty issues like killing of their animals, how could they forget that it was Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) who had brought down their ancestors when they came to fight the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). They always had the hatred of Imam Ali (a.s.) in their hearts and by no means they would readily accept this divine command.

History is replete with incidents of friends turning foes for the sake of power and authority. Politics and propaganda are a clear proof for it. It was no different even for those hypocrites. This is evident from the incidents that occurred later. The concern of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) turned into a reality when, after his martyrdom, most of the people refused the accept the order of Allah, defied the open declaration at Ghadeer Khum and did not accept Imam Ali (a.s.) as their master and the first caliph.

However, the assurance given by Allah the High in the latter part of the verse that ‘Allah will save you from the people’ is what gave the strength to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) to go ahead and make the announcement.

Conclusion

The matter of the mastership of Ameerul Momineen Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) is such that even those who believe in him are skeptical about taking his name and spreading the true message fearing for their lives. A life with difficulties faced in believing in the mastership of Imam Ali (a.s.) is certainly better than a life of comfort. We all know that the remembrance of Imam Ali (a.s.) is worship but how many of us are actually involved in this worship regularly?!

The assurance given by Allah was not just to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) during Ghadeer but the guarantee of protection is for us also. Anyone who spreads the message of Ghadeer and propagates the mastership of Ameerul Momineen Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) should rest assure that although this path is difficult and Satan will try to deviate us from this path, but ultimately, success in the hereafter will only be attained by treading this path.


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