A group of Muslims believe that the great Prophet (PBUH&HP) had never selected a successor for himself and left the topic of Caliphate for people to decide. The possibility of the Prophet (PBUH&HP) not feeling responsible about the successor after him has a number problems:
1. The result of this possibility would be ignoring one of the fundamentals of Islam and Muslims. All Muslims believe that Islam is a comprehensive religion that has covered the various angles of human life, which will eventually lead them towards eternal salvation. Leading the Islamic society with the aim of protecting the religion from weakening and resolving matters among Muslims are amongst the most important fundamentals. How can the Messenger of Allah not have paid enough attention to this critical matter of choosing a successor, leaving his people in uncertainty?! Especially while, as according to history, even the caliphs that ruled the Islamic nation after the Prophet (PBUH&HP) thought about the future of the nation, and selected a successor for themselves.
2. Furthermore, this possibility is in conflict with the Prophet’ tradition (PBUH&HP). Those who have read the history of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) are aware of his immense efforts to develop Islam and gain respect and honor for the Muslims throughout twenty three years. He was a man, whom even in his sickness that led to his demise, sent an army to protect the Islamic borders, and had those seeking trouble (fitna) withdraw from Medina, and ordered people to join the army.1 In order to prevent people from going astray, he requested paper and pen so he can say his final words, so people would not go astray if they practiced them.2 Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was a man, whom whenever he left Medina for participation in a war, he would leave someone in charge to take care of people’s affairs3. Now, when the Prophet (PBUH&HP) did not leave without a representative for a few days, how could one accept that he did not leave someone in charge, for when he departs without a return? Did he not care about the future of the Islamic nation?
In a discussion Ibn Abil Hadid had with Naqib Alavi on the topic of Caliphate and the issue of Saqifa & Shura (consultation), he said: “My heart is unwilling to accept what the companions of the Prophet did against the Prophet’s (PBUH&HP) command, as they sinned and ignored the clear text of Ghadeer.” Naqib in his response said: “My heart is also unwilling to accept that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HP) ignored his responsibility and left the Islamic nation to itself without choosing a successor to lead after him; especially since whenever he would leave Medina, while still alive and not too far from Medina, he would choose a successor. So how could he not choose a successor for the Muslims after his death? Nothing can compensate what takes place after death.”5
3. This possibility is against the commands of the Prophet (PBUH&HP) as he had ordered the Muslims: “He who wakes up in the morning and does not think of the affairs of the Muslims is not one of us.”6 Considering this narration, can anyone say that the Prophet (PBUH&HP) himself did not think about the future of Muslims?
One might say that the Prophet (PBUH&HP) left the issue of Caliphate to the Shura (consultation), so that upon agreement people would choose a caliph. If this was really what the Prophet (PBUH&HP) had intended for leadership, then he should have clarified this matter with the Muslims, mentioning a few criteria for the selected person to succeed him or identifying those who can select the successor for the Prophet (PBUH&HP). Obviously this did not occur.
These are some of the problems that one can pose to the claim that the Prophet (PBUH&HP) did not choose a successor. This claim poses other problems as well, one of which it is in conflict with the tradition of other Messengers for selection of a successor, and another is the sensitivity of the overall situation of Muslims during those times, with respect to foreign neighbors …7 It is therefore, not acceptable that the great Prophet (PBUH&HP) intentionally ignored the selection of a successor. History has witnessed that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) did indeed complete his duty and select a successor. From the start of his prophethood, the Holy Prophet introduced Imam Ali (PBUH) as his successor on many occasions, the height of which took place on the Day of Ghadir Khum. (PBUH&HP)
(Selection taken from the book The Necessity of Ghadir by Ali Asghar Rezvani, with minor changes)
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On the 18th of Dhil Hijjah, the Greater Eid
Day of Completion of Religion, and the Announcement of Imam Amir al-Mu’minin, Ali’s (PBUH) as the Master and Leader of the believers
1. History of the Caliphs by Suyuti, pg. 82 – Tarikh al-Islam al-kabir. (Major History of Islam) by al- Dhahabi, vol, 3, pg. 9.
2. Sahih Bukhari, vol 1, Kitab al’Elm, Baab 39, narration #4 – Sahih Muslim, vol. 3, Kitab alwasiyah, Baab 5, narration #6.
3. Tafsir al-Qurtobi, vol. 1, pg. 268.
4. Abajafar Yahya bin Muhammad al-‘Alavi was a scholar in Basrah, Iraq. Ibn Abi alHadid had a number of discussion and debates with him about the beliefs of Shia which has been comprehensively authored in Ibn Abi al-Hadid’s book. He recognizes ‘Alavi as a fair and knowledgeable scholar. Comments on Peak of Eloquence, vol. 9, pg. 248.
5. Comments on Peak of Eloquence, vol. 9, pg. 248.
6. Mu’jam al-Owsat Tabarani, vol 7, pg. 270, narration #7473 — Usool Kaafi, vol. 2, pg. 131.
7. For more on this topic you may refer to “Zarurat GHadeer” by Ali Ridhwani or “Fourty Questions about Caliphate and Imamate” by Dr. Muhammad Hossein Ghazvini.