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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Role of Umar before and In Saqifa

Umar apprehended that if the news of the death of the Prophet (s) reached the Ansar, they would rush and swear allegiance to Imam Ali (s) where they knew well that he had been nominated by the Prophet  (s). He was also aware that the Ansar were in favour of Ali (a.s) to succeed the Prophet (s). He realized that once Ali (a.s) completed the funeral rites, the entire Muslim community would swear their allegiance and make Ali (a.s) the caliph as wanted by the Prophet (s). He had to somehow gain time and defer the question of succession. It is for this reason that we find Umar standing near the Prophet’s body with his sword unsheathed, imputing a sort of immortality to the Prophet (s), and threatening that anyone who said that the Prophet (s) had died, would be immediately beheaded.[1] Having created the desired confusion, Umar left the dead body of the Prophet (s) to be buried by Ali (a.s) and he hastened to the Saqifa. Abu Bakr, who came after some time on his return from Suk, joined Umar at Saqifa, where he was immediately declared as the Caliph.[2] On their return from Saqifa, Abu Bakr recited verses from the Qur’an to show that after all Umar was wrong and the Prophet (s), like any ordinary human being, had died.[3] The confusion created by Umar’s assertion gave enough breathing time to put into effect their plan of usurping the Caliphate.

The initial assertion of immortality and later contradicting it by Qur’anic verses was cleverly used to prove that the Prophet (s) was as much a mortal as any other. The crux of the matter was to remove any possible doubt as to the Prophet (s) to be anything other than a mere mortal, and thus attempting to establish that, if on occasions, the Prophet’s actions appeared to be favorable to Ali (a.s), all such actions should be discounted and dismissed as the fancies of the wandering mind of an ordinary man, who was naturally interested in seeing his son-in-law and cousin becoming the leader of the Muslims.

Thus, all those innumerable occasions when the Prophet (s) declared Imam Ali (a.s) as his successor, they argued, should be presumed to be the impulsive acts of Muhammad (s), the mortal man, who was impelled by the desire to perpetuate a family rule. All such sayings of the Prophet (s) regarding Ali (a.s), they argued, should therefore be discarded as the whims and fancies of an ordinary human mind. What was so long whispered as a theory was now to be put into practical use.
[1] Ibn Khaldun, vol.2, p.63, Shibli’s al Faruq, Part 1, p.65, The Caliphate, p.230, 232.
[2] Al-Bukhari, Bab Fada’il As~haab an-Nabi, vol.2, p.193, ibn Khaldun, vol.2, Supp. P. 63, Tabaqat of ibn Sa’d, Vol. 2, Part 2, p. 55.
[3] The Caliphate by M.S. Mirza, p.220-221, ibn Hisham, vol. 4, p.334-335, Musnad of Ahmed bin Hanbal, vol. 1, p.334, Al-Bukhari, Bab Fada’il As~haab an Nabi, vol.2, p.193, ibn Khaldun, vol.2, Supp. P. 63, Tabaqat of ibn Sa’d, Vol. 2, Part 2, p. 55; ibn Hajar al-Makki’s As-Sawa’iq, p.5.


The Ansar were witnesses to the nomination of Imam Ali (a.s) by the Prophet (s) on several occasions. They acknowledged Ali’s superiority in all respects over the entire Muslim community. They all knew that as a matter of fact Ali (a.s) would have to become the successor of the Prophet (s) and hence they were eager and ready to accept him as the Caliph.[4] They had none among them who could even remotely compete against Ali (a.s).

But, the open opposition shown to the ailing Prophet (s), in his last days, was noted by the Ansar. Now, the Ansar realized that already plans were afoot to forestall Ali’s succession and that some other unknown person was likely to pre-empt Ali (a.s) as well as the Ansar in order to usurp the Caliphate. The Ansar argued that if it was going to be any person other than Ali (a.s), they had an equal, if not a better claim to the Caliphate, as the people who gave a place and protection first to the Muslims and later to the Prophet (s) himself. They hurried to the Saqifa of the Bani Sa’ida which was their old hideout where all urgent and important matters were discussed and decided. Sa’d bin Ubada was a well-known, powerful, and ambitious man among the Ansar. The Ansar decided that if any person other than Ali (a.s) attempted to become the Caliph, Sa’d Bin Ibada should stake the claim for the Caliphate.[5]

The Ansar themselves were a divided lot on account of long-standing enmity between the two major tribes of al-Aws and al-Khazraj.[6] Both of the tribes had traitors who passed on the information to the Muhajirin. Umar had, as his close friends and informers, Uwaim, Mu’in ibn Adiy, and his brother Aasim from among the Ansar. These men were jealous of and opposed to Sa’d bin Ibada and his tribe. When they saw that Sa’d bin Ibada was likely to be put up as a candidate of the Ansar to the Caliphate, Aasim hurried in search of Umar. He found him at the Prophet’s house and from behind a wall, called out to him. Aasim and Mu’in bin Adiy informed Umar that the Ansar had gathered at Saqifa and were about to choose Sa’d bin Ibada as the Caliph.[7]
[4] At-Tabari, vol.3, p.198, al-Kamil of ibnul Athir, vol. 2,p.124, Ibn Abil Hadid al-Mo’tazili , vol. 2, p. 7-8, 411.
[5] Ibn Abil Hadid, Vol. 2, p. 10.
[6] Ibn Qutaiba, Kitabul Imamah, p.9; The Caliphate, p.227, Khilafa, p.48.
[7] Ibn Abil Hadid, vol. 2,p. 3.
Aasim urged Umar to hurry to Saqifa. Umar could not locate Abu Bakr, who was then a short distance away at Suk with his newly wedded wife. Instead, he found Abu Ubaida ibn al-Jarrah and offered the caliphate to him. Abu Ubaida refused, saying that he dared not do so as long as seniors like Abu Bakr and Umar were present. On the way, Abu Bakr met them and all three of them hurried towards Saqifa, leaving behind the body of the Prophet (s) to be buried by his family members and close companions.[8]

Even during the lifetime of the Prophet (s), Abu Bakr and Umar kept their link with Abu Sufyan, Marwan, Mu’awiya, and other Umayyads. In the heat of the Battle of Uhud, assuming that the Prophet (s) was killed, Umar, Talha, and a few Muhajirin and Ansar fled to the mountains.[9] When Anas ibn an-Nadhr, came upon them and inquired as to why they deserted the Prophet (s) at such a crucial moment, Umar lamented that since he was told that the Prophet (s) was killed, he wished that someone could go to the hypocrite Abdullah ibn Ubay and request him to intercede and get an amnesty from Abu Sufyan who was the commander of the infidel army.[10] Umar and Abu Bakr, when they assumed the Caliphate, doubly renewed their friendship with the Banu Umayya, the clan to which Uthman belonged.

At the Saqifa, after much disputation, initially a sort of compromise formula was proposed that in recognition of the undeniable protection and services rendered by the Ansar to Muslims, one man from the Ansar and one man from the Muhajirin should become Caliphs. Umar vehemently objected saying that two swords could not be sheathed in one scabbard. It is to be noted that at the Saqifa, there were only three persons; Abu Bakr, Umar, and Abu Ubaida and nobody else from the Muhajirin.[11] S.M. Suhufi gives a total number of fourteen persons who had gathered at Saqifa.[12] 

[8] Al-Bukhari, Bab Fada’il As~hab an-Nabi, vol.2, p.193, at-Tabari, vol. 3, p.208, Muhibbuddin at-Tabari’s ar-Riydun Nadira, Part 1, Ch.2, Section 13, p. 15, 165.
[9] As-Suyuti’s ad-Durrul Manthur, vol.2, supp. P. 88.
[10] At-Tabari’s Tarikh, vol.3, p.19-20; Kitabul Maghazi, vol. 3, p. 45.
[11] Al-Bukhari, Bab Fada’il As~hab an Nabi, vol. 2, p.193, at-Tabari, Vol. 3, p.208.
[12] Stories From the Qur’an by Suhufi, Eng. Tr. By Mohammad Fazal Haq, P. 312 Islamic Seminary Publications [2003].


At the Saqifa, there was no any discussion between the Muhajirin and the Ansar regarding the merits of their respective candidates. The only contention of Abu Bakr and Umar was that they belonged to the tribe of Quraysh, who accepted Islam long before the Ansar and that they were relatives of the Prophet (s). On this ground, the people of Quraysh contended that they had a better and superior right over the Ansar. The details of what transpired at the Saqifa does not concern us here. The entire incident and the manner in which Abu Bakr became the first Caliphate is recorded in detail by all the historians as well as reporters of traditions. The arguments between the two contestants are set out in detail supported by authoritative references by Agha M.S. Mirza in his book ‘The Caliphate’.[13] Suffice it to say that there were wordy duels followed by exchange of blows and bloodshed. At-Tabari records that it was “truly a scene from the period of Jahiliya (the pre-Islamic era).[14]

A vast number of the Hashemites, Muhajirin, such as Salman, al-Miqdad, Ammar, Huthaifa, Abu Tharr, and the Ansar such as Abu Ayyub al Ansari, Jabir ibn Abdullah…etc., refused to acknowledge Abu Bakr as their Caliph. The Banu Umayya headed by Abu Sufyan also initially refused to acknowledge Abu Bakr’s Caliphate.[15]

As to how, by offering wealth, property, and lucrative posts, and where these did not work, by threats of annihilation and actual use of force, the dissidents, except the Banu Hashim, were subdued by the Caliph, is recorded in detail by Ahmed ibn Hanbal in his Musnad, Ibn Sa’d in his Tabaqat, Ibn Qutaiba in his Kitabul Imamah wes-Siyasah, al-Hakim in his Mustadrak, Abu Dawud in his Musnad, Shah Abdul Haq in his al-Ashi’atul Lami’a, al-Balatheri in his Futuhul Buldan, in addition to the books of Abul Fida, at-Tabari, al-Mas’udi, ibn Abil Hadid al-Mo’tazili…etc.[16]

Abu Sufyan ostensibly became a Muslim, but remained a pagan at heart, for he was highly pleased when Umar and other Muslims  deserted the Prophet (s) and ran away in the battle of Hunain.[17]
[13] The Caliphate, Its Conception and Consequences, p. 222 – 242.
[14] At-Tabari, vol. 3, p. 208-210, ibn Khaldun, vol. 2,supp. P. 63.
[15] Habib al-Sayyar, vol. 1, Part 4, p. 2, Abul Fida, vol. 1,p. 156, at-Tabari, vol. 3, p.202, al-Mas’udi, vol. 2,p.194, ibn Abil Hadid, vol. 1, p. 134.
[16] Ibn Sa’d’s at-Tabaqatul Kubra, Part 1, Vol. 3, p.129, ibn Qutaiba’s Kitabul Imama wes-Siyasah, vol.1, p.15, ibn Abil Hadid, vol. 1, p.133, vol. 2, p.3.
[17] Al-Bukhari, Kitabul Maghazi, vol. 3, p.45.
He gloated:“This day we have seen the last of the witchcraft of Muhammad. This headlong flight of the Muslims will be stopped only by the sea.”[18]

[18] At-Tabari, vol. 3, p. 128, Ibnul Athir, vol. 2,p.100, Abul Fida, vol. 1, 146, ibn Kathir’s Tarikh, vol. 4,p.327, Margoliouth’s ‘Muhammad’, p. 394-402.

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