Imam Ali (PBUH): Did you expect me to leave the Prophet’s body without ablution and shroud and fight for the succession?
The Grand Prophet of Islam passed away on Monday 28th of Safar in the eleventh year after Hijra. After the announcement of the Prophet’s passage (PBUH), a group of Ansar (The Helpers) got together in Saqifah bani Saedeh immediately and decided to appoint Saad Ibn Ebadeh (their chief) as the Caliph and successor of the Prophet. In this meeting, Saad Ibn Ebadeh first made a speech and mentioned the record and superiority of Ansar and their efforts and dedication for the religion, and explained this prompted them to take the caliphate. Then some negotiations about the future of the affairs were held.
The news about Ansar’s gathering at Saqifah and their negotiations reached Omar Ibn Khattab. Omar immediately went to the prophet’s house and informed Abu-Bakr. These two figures that apparently had some plans about the caliphate for a long time with the accompaniment of Abu-Obeydeh Jarrah went to Saqifah.
At the time these three entered Saqifah, the atmosphere of the meeting changed and the audience realized that they had gone there to take the caliphate. Omar wanted to speak first but Abu-Bakr prevented him and started to talk. He started his speech by praising God and then admired Moharjeran (the Immigrants) and mentioned their faith and persistency against the torment of the pagans. Then by concluding that the Immigrants were the relatives of the prophet proved that they were merit to take the caliphate and announced that disapproving of this would be a kind of injustice.
In his speech Abu-Bakr undermined Ansar’s incentives to some extent, and to quell their feelings and in order to establish caliphate for his side said:” O the Immigrants we will be responsible for the ruling of the Ummah (nation) and you will be responsible for the administration, we will consult you and nothing will be done without observing your viewpoints”.
With his (Abu-Bakr’s) speech, there arouse disagreement among the Ansar, some of them backed Abu-Bakr and the Immigrants and some of them backed (Saad Ibn Ebadeh) and finally the Ansar front weakened due to dispute and conflict. Abu Bakr cherished the moment and said to the audience: “O people choose between this (Omar) and that (Abu Obeydeh), shake hands (a sign of showing allegiance) with one of them whomever you wish and appoint him as the successor of the prophet”. However, those two said: “O Abu Bakr you are the fittest person for caliphate and it is not fit if someone ranks higher than you since you were the prophet’s company in the cave.” They grabbed the attention of the audience by counting his virtues in order to make them ready to accept his allegiance. In the meantime one of the Ansars who felt jealous (toward Saad Ibn Ebadeh) stood up and to prevent Saad’s possible caliphate, put his hand on Abu Bakr’s hands and shook hands with him as the successor of the prophet. After him another person from the elites of Aws (who was afraid of the possible ruling of the Khazrajis) shook hands with Abu Bakr.
This way the caliphate of Abu Bakr was formed while many of the prophet’s great companions such as Amir Al-Momenin Ali (PBUH), Abdullah bin Abbas, Salman, Abuzar and others were not present in that meeting and Amir Al-Momenin Ali (PBUH) and other companions were dealing with a far more important issue, i.e. shrouding and the act of ablution of the Grand Prophet (PBUH).
The incentives for the formation of Saqifah
Although apparently and historically speaking, Ansar were the originators of Saqifah, but the Immigrants took the leadership merely by being present at the nick of the time and introduced themselves as the main directors of the Saqifah. For this, in the discussion about the motivations for the emergence of the Saqifah, we analyze the both fronts’ incentives for attending the Saqifah bani Saedeh.
- Ansar held that they turned to the prophet under a very hard circumstance and housed the Immigrants and they supported Islam with their wealth and lives and sacrificed themselves in battles; therefore after the passage of the Prophet they were entitled to have the caliphate. Saad ibn Ebadeh in his speech emphasized this fact and said: “O the Ansars! You have a background in converting to Islam which none of the Arab tribes have such one.” He continued:
Muhammad (PBUH), ten and some other years invited his nation to worship Allah and discard the idols but very few people believed in him and could not defend the prophet nor give dignity to his religion. Until God wished to give you a superiority and bestowed upon you his particular bounties and bestowed on you the belief in Himself and his Prophet and put the responsibility of defending the Prophet and his companions on your shoulders… and you were the most unrelenting people against his enemies either from your front or other ones until the Arabs willingly or unwillingly obeyed Allah… it was for your swords that they (the Arabs) surrendered. And God took his Prophet’s life while he was content with you… Pick up the caliphate because it belongs to you and not to others.
- Ansar’s other incentive was the fact that since they had overwhelmed the Quraysh and other proud Arab tribes in battles and therefore they had overwhelmed their glory, they were afraid that in the case that Quraysh would take the caliphate; they would seek revenge and would tease them. This was quite evident in Habab Ibn Monzar’s (one of the chief figures of the Ansar) speech where he said: “We are afraid of those whose fathers and brothers were killed by us and one day may take responsibility and seek revenge.” After accepting Abu-Bakr’s allegiance he also addressed Ansar: “I swear to God that I see a day when your children beg at the door of their (the Qurayshis) houses and they don’t even give them any water!”
The Immigrants’ incentives:
- The first incentive of the Immigrants was presidential. The people in charge of the Saqifah meeting well knew that caliphate is the right from Allah bestowed to Amir Al-Momenin (PBUH) and in Qadir Khum (a place) they themselves had accepted Ali’s (PBUH) allegiance and shook hands with him but at the same time they organized the meeting of Saqifah and to justify this and to deviate public views they came up with this excuse that they were afraid of the fact that in case Ali (PBUH) would become the caliph, because he was young Arab tribes would not obey him and Islam would disappear.
- Their other incentive was personal hatred and jealousy they felt toward Amir Al-Momenin, accordingly they tried to disparage him saying: “He is young and the Arabs are his enemies since their relatives had been killed in the wars and they would seek ransom and how come caliphate and prophetic mission be accumulated in one family? Finally they devised a Hadith quoted from the prophet that he said:
«اِنَّ آلَ اَبى طالِبٍ لَيْسُوا لى بِاَوْلِياءَ انّما وَلِيِّى اللّهُ وصالِحُ الْمُؤْمِنينَ؛
Meaning that the family of Abi-Taleb are not my friends, my friends are just Allah and the virtuous believers.” They pretended in a way that the great prophet (PBUH) was discontent with Ali (PBUH) and this Hadith violated another one (مَنْ كُنْتُ مَوْلاهُ فَهذا علىُّ مَوْلاه).
Amir Al-Momenin Ali’s (PBUH) stance toward Saqifeh
Amir Al-Momenin (PBUH) who was at the Prophet’s (PBUH) house performing the ablution and shrouding and therefore not present at the meeting, voiced his stance and ideas after receiving the news of the meeting. Here we deal with three stances expressed by him about the Saqifah:
- When it had been told to Amir Al-Momenin Ali’s (PBUH) that the Immigrants in the presence of the Ansar reasoned that they are the relatives of the Prophet and the caliph should be from Quraysh and the branches of prophetic mission, he said: اِحْتَجُّوا بِالشَّجَرَةِ وَاَصناعُوا الثَّمَرَةَ it means they just contended to the tree but wasted the fruit.”
- Amir Al-Momenin (PBUH) went to the mosque after the funeral ceremony of the Grand Prophet and addressed Abu-Bakr bitterly: “You ruined the affairs and you abused our right.”
In addition to that the people who were preparing the caliphate of Abu-Bakr, surrounded Amir Al-Momenin (PBUH) and some of Bani-Hashem Family and said: “Accept the allegiance of Abu-Bakr otherwise we arbitrate about you with our swords.” Imam Ali (PBUH) replied:
I am more suitable for this allegiance, you should accept my allegiance, you took away caliphate from Ansar due to the familial relationship you had with the Grand Prophet (PBUH), and they surrendered this right to you, now I reason the same way as you did, I was the closest person to the Prophet both during his life and at the verge of his passage. I am the heir, minister and the bearer of his knowledge… I am the most familiar with the Book of Allah and the Prophet’s (PBUH) traditions, I know the affairs the best of you all and I am the most persistence, then what do you fight for?
Omar to answer back Amir Al-Momenin (PBUH) said: “We will not let you go, unless willingly or unwillingly you accept our allegiance. Amir Al-Momenin (PBUH) revealed Omar’s intentions and said: “You scratch his back and he will scratch yours later, you establish caliphate for him today and he (Abu-Bakr) will bestow it to you tomorrow.”
- Amir Al-Momenin addressed a speech in the presence of the Immigrants and expressed his discontent about the Saqifah: “I swear to Allah, o the immigrants we are the fittest people for the caliphate since we are the family of the Prophet, Do not you want a person who has a high command on Quranic notions, the principles and the ancillaries of the faith and the traditions of the Prophet (PBUH) and manages the Islamic community well? I swear to Allah that such a person exists among us not among you. Do not follow the Self’s temptations and do not get away from what is right…
As an ultimatum accompanying his wife Fatimah Zahra (PBUH) they went to the Ansar’s homes and asked help from them to counter the people who organized the Saqifah but the answer which the Ansar said to the daughter of the Prophet (PBUH) was: “We have accepted this man’s (Abu-Bakr’s) allegiance at the moment and if your husband had come to us earlier we would have accepted his!”
And Amir Al-Momenin (PBUH) replied: “Did you expect me to leave the Prophet’s body without ablution and shroud and fight for the succession?”