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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Had Ali accepted the legitimacy of Caliphs’ Government?

A wrong interpretation of Letter No. 6 of Ali (a.s.) in Nahjul Balagha addressed to Muawiyah has led to creation of a conjecture in propagating the legitimacy of Caliphate of Saqifah besides separating Imamate from Caliphate. Thus they allege:
“If people had selected a person of authority in consultation with Imam[1] he would have administered better under Imam’s guidance.[2] There would neither have been civil wars nor any differences resulting in separation of the Ummah. After the Prophet’s passing away Ali was, during the three Caliphs’ rule, a pivot of Islam and its revolution…”[3]

Ustad Ja’far Subhani in reply to this conjecture writes:

“Imam Ali (a.s.) was the only Caliph elected by one and all. Muhajireen and Ansaar (Helper) both sides equally agreed on this. In the history of Caliphate, such unanimity was unprecedented. Such a thing never happened again.
In the meantime, Muawiyah had founded his empire in Syria. He had a hidden enmity that was deeply rooted. He was very much upset and worried with Ahle Bayt (a.s.) of the Prophet. When he learned that Muhajireen and Ansaar had chosen Ali to be the Caliph he refused to acknowledge Ali’s authority and instead accused him of Uthman’s murder and his support to murderers of Uthman.
Imam Ali (a.s.), to silence Muawiyah and close all doors of excuse wrote to him: The same persons who had paid allegiance to Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman have acknowledged my authority and me. Since the Ansaar’s and Muhajireen’s opinion was acceptable to you, they have paid allegiance to me now.
This is the text of Imam’s letter:

[1] The interesting point is that these people forget their own claims that after the passing away of the Prophet they selected Abu Bakr as Caliph without consulting Ali (a.s.) – Refer: Mashal-e-Ittehad, Pg. 20
[2] [Which of the three Caliphs was selected on the choice of the people? Abu Bakr got the Bayyat of just five of his associates in Saqifah, Umar was appointed by Abu Bakr and Uthman was chosen through the trick of Shura.]
[3] Abdul Kareem Bi-Aazaar Shirazi: Seemai Imam-e-Muttaqeen, (Portrait of the Imam of the Pious), Vol. 7, Pg. 18


‘Verily, those who took the oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman have sworn allegiance to me. Now those who were present at the election have no right to go back against their oaths of allegiance and those who were not present on the occasion have no right to oppose me. And so far as Shura was concerned it was supposed to be limited to Muhajirs and Ansars and it was also supposed that whomsoever they selected, became caliph as per approval and pleasure of Allah.’[1]
The motive of Ali was to exhaust argument on Muawiyah. Imam wanted to wipe out all grounds of mischief from and before Muawiyah.
Muawiyah was Umar’s governor in Syria. Then he maintained his post in the same office in Uthman’s Caliphate. He maintained them in the public as Caliphs of the Prophet of God and himself as their representative.
Imam Ali (a.s.) reminded him because Ansaar and Muhajireen had chosen the past Caliphs. So in his own case also happened the same without any deficiency. Therefore there was no ground to honor their opinion in one case and reject it in another.
Ali adopted the way of argument as Quran also enjoins that. He proceeded with the argument thus:
Those who had given Bay’at to Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman have given Bay’at to me. So why then did you not pay allegiance to my Caliphate? The reality of argument is not other than this. The opposite side should be convinced on its own terms. What it thinks sacred should be brought against it.
Anyway, the letter does not mean that Ali preferred the method of Islamic government on the basis of consultation. Or he preferred the appointment of Caliph by way of elections. The inner belief of Ali was that the Caliph must be elected by absolute majority or public unanimity. But the issue of Imamate is not of election but by divine appointment.
This cannot be Ali’s view. Had it been so he should have not started his letter from the past three Caliphs in this way:
Muhajireen and Ansaar have paid allegiance to me. Whomever they paid allegiance to will be the leader of Muslims.
Imam Ali (a.s.) in his subsequent sentences says: And they gathered around a man and named him Imam. In it is God’s pleasure. This is a protest against the belief of opposite side. The word ‘Allah’ does not exist  

[1] Nahjul Balagha (Abduh), Letter 6


in the original texts of Nahjul Balagha. This discrepancy creates doubt.
In fact, Imam’s opinion seems to be this: Whenever Muslims agree for a man to be their leader, it attains satisfaction and acceptance. Therefore such a thing has taken place in my case too. Why you remain stubborn?
The first to argue this statement of Imam Ali (a.s.) from a Sunni angle is Ibne Abil Hadeed. He has ignored the letter and other speeches of the Imam to establish it as a fixed opinion of Imam.[1]
Whenever Shia scholars have considered this speech and its interpretation they too have raised our point.”[2]

The text of the Imam’s letter to Muawiyah copied from Waqatus Siffeen

“Another attestation to prove that the letter was a protest is existence of sentences, which Sayyid Razi has deleted. But those sentences exist in other books. The method of Sayyid Razi is that he has deleted text or any part, which he deems not serious or sensitive. He mostly pays attention to the elegance of sentences. In other words, the literary aspect enchants him more.
The letter in question is mentioned by Nasr bin Muzahim Minqari (d. 412) that is 147 years before the birth of Sayyid Razi[3]in his famous book, Waqatus Siffeen page 48. We refer to some of its deleted parts:
1 – Ali starts the letter like this:
“They paid allegiance to me in Medina. You are in Syria. I have completed and exhausted my argument on you. The absent has no right to object to the decision of the present ones.”
2 – In the end of the letter is this text:
“Talha and Zubair paid allegiance to me but afterwards they both reneged and broke their oath. By so doing, they returned to their initial status and I waged a holy war against them. This did not hurt my Caliphate. Anyway, the truth appeared and rested at its place. God’s command succeeded while they were not pleased. So you too enter where Muslims have entered.”

[1] Sharh Nahjul Balagha, Ibne Abil Hadeed, Vol. 14, Pg. 36
[2] Ustad Ja’far Subhani: Rahbari-e-Ummat (Leadership of the nation), Pgs. 64-66
[3] Sayyid Razi was born in 359 A.H. and passed away in year 406 A.H.


3 – Note the following sentence also:
“And you much said about murderers of Uthman. As Muslims have entered, you too do the same. I guide you and them to the Book of God. But the thing you want is a trick by which a milk feeding baby is deceived.”
What did Muawiyah want from the Imam?
Muawiyah wanted that Imam should surrender the murderers of Uthman. According to Sulaym bin Qays in his book Asl[1]Muawiyah wanted the Imam to take revenge from Uthman’s murderers and then he will pay allegiance to Ali with his followers. On the other hand Ali was seeing a plot and a trick in Muawiyah’s proposal.
The letter from its beginning to the end clearly seems to be a letter of protest against a stubborn party. Imam knew that his adversary is not a man of truth. He was a tricky person. Therefore Imam must base his letter on reason and logic not on what he himself believes. This letter does not reflect the real belief of Imam.”[2]
However keeping aside Shia belief and attachment to Imamate and Wilayat of Ali, we dwell on the letter itself as it is claimed:
“Liberty of people in choosing Imam and leader of God’s command is acceptable. This makes compulsory on all to obey.” ![3]
“Consultation is the right of Muhajireen and Ansaar. God is pleased with this if they collectively give their opinion to one as their Imam.” ![4]
“In the foregone statement, consultation and consensus with a majority of opinion of competent men who were Muhajireen and Ansaar in those days give legitimacy to their choice.”! [5]
“In this letter, Imam agrees to the legality of Muhajireen and Ansaar.”![6]

[1] These letters exchanged between Imam (a.s.) and Muawiyah are quoted in Asl Sulaym bin Qais, Najaf, Pgs. 159-176
[2] Ustad Ja’far Subhani: Article ‘Mushawera Dar Quran O Nahjul Balagha’ quoted in the book Kawish Dar Nahjul Balagha, Pgs. 195-197
[3] Abdul Ali Bazargan: Shura O Bayyat, Pg. 71
[4] Ibid. Shura O Bayyat, Pg. 86
[5] Ibid. Shura O Bayyat, Pg. 88
[6] Muhammad Waizzaada Khorasani: Interview with Nahjul Balagha Magazine, Issue No. 4-5 Pg. 177


According to what is said above there remains no doubt that Imam Ali (a.s.) referred to the acknowledgment of Muhajireen and Ansaar to silence his staunch enemy and a strong opponent, Muawiyah and to oblige him to surrender to the Alawi government. We refer to another letter of Ali to Muawiyah to enable the readers to understand the case deeply and thoroughly. Allamah Majlisi in volume 33 of Biharul Anwar has opened an independent chapter under the title: ‘His letter to Muawiyah, his protestations and addresses to him and his companions.’ He mentions beneath it under No. 421. In the battle of Siffeen, Muawiyah called for Abu Darda and Abu Huraira. He sent them to Ali with a letter which the Imam read and replied. Some of his statements in reply are as follows:
“The first thing necessary for Muslims is to choose one to be their Imam to administer their affairs. They have to obey him and follow him. In case if it be their right to choose an Imam.
However in this case – to choose an Imam – be a divine right and the right of His Prophet, then the choice of the people is enough. God has ordered them to follow the Imam.
After the assassination of Uthman, Muhajireen and Ansaar after consultations that lasted three days paid allegiance to me. These same had earlier paid allegiance to Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman; and had confirmed their leadership. The people of Badr and those of the advance rows have paid allegiance to me – among Muhajireen and Ansaar. Earlier they had paid allegiance to Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman without public consensus. However in my case, they paid allegiance to me with a public consensus.
If God has deposited to the people the right of choosing an Imam for themselves, then they have paid allegiance to guidance. Their Imam is for them an obligation to obey and support. So it is they who have chosen me. They have done so at a consensus and chosen me as their Imam.
If this were only the divine right to appoint an Imam then God has chosen me to be the Imam of the Ummah. He has appointed me as their Caliph. He had enjoined them in His Book to obey me. Traditions of the Prophet also ordered them to obey and support me. This is the strongest proof for my Caliphate. It clearly reflects my right upon the people.”[1]

[1] Allamah Majlisi: Biharul Anwar, Vol. 33, Pg. 144


This message of Ali confirms Shia outlook about Imamate being a divine office and its appointment directly by God Himself. In this respect, people have no part to play. If people take this matter in their hands, it creates several questions and loses its glitter of originality and falls short of legitimacy that embraces dispute in each and every age as seen in history. Divine Authority needs no human consultation or plot. Muawiyah was confused and confounded and stood in a quandary. He had no way but to surrender to reality and resign to truth.
He had no answer to Ali’s argument that it is the people who have chosen him if God be disputable to Muawiyah. Again on the ground of Quran and traditions, Ali was the Caliph; so each of the two is irrefutable.[1] What excuse remains for Muawiyah except obduracy?

[1] Muawiyah considered himself to be appointed by the past Caliphs as the governor of Syria and therefore could not object to the validity of their Caliphate.



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