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Monday, May 5, 2014

WHAT HAPPENED AT SAQEEFAH



Today we resume our discussion on Sheikh Turi’s piece ‘Did The Prophet (S) Really Certify His Successor Before Demise?’ as published in LEADERSHIP FRIDAY of November 1, 2013; and in which, under the third subtopic titled THE PROPHETIC DEMISE AND ITS AFTERMATH, Sheikh Turi said:
Seventy days exactly after the episode of Ghadeer, the prophet (s) returned to the mercy of His lord and before the ritual birth and funeral, some companions from Muhajiruun and Ansar went to the Saqifatu Bani Sa’idah where they chose Abu Bakr as the caliph on what they referred to as popular agreement. This remains questionable however, because how could that be when most of the prominent companions, Ali bn Abi Talib, Abbas bn Abd al-Mutallab, Usama bn Zayd, Zubair, Salman al-Farisy, Abu Dharr, Miqdad bn al-Aswad, Ammar bn Yassir, Hudhaifa bn al-Yamany, Khuzaima bn Thabit, Barra’ bn Azib, Abu Kaab, Abu Ayyub al-Ansary and Jabir bn Saad, among others were absent? Imam Ali said on the acclamation: By Allah, ibn Abi Quhafa has got it! And he knows that my position regarding the caliphate is like that of the pole in relation to the millstone! The torrent flows from me, and the bird will never reach me! Saad ibn Ubada, a prominent companion from Medina attacked Abu Bakr and Umar on the day of Saqifa, trying hard to keep them away from the caliphate, but could not succeed being very sick. After witnessing some of his friends paying homage to the latter he said to him “By Allah, I shall never pay homage to you until I cast my last arrow at you and pierce you with my lance, and attack you with my sword, with all the power in my hand, and fight you with and all the members of my family and clan. By Allah even if all the jinns (invisible beings) and the human beings gathered to support you, I will never acclaim you until I meet my Lord”. He never prayed with them, never sat in their company, never performed pilgrimage with them until he died in Syria during the caliphate of Umar. Everything is documented regarding the incident, including its contradictory and paradoxical nature.”
Intellectual honesty dictates that a writer should state historical events truthfully, and give reference of his sources, where controversial issues are involved. These two ingredients of honest narrative are absent in the above subtopic of Sheikh Turi’s article.  
Saqeefatu Bani Saa’idah was an old assembly hall, a courtyard in Madeenah where the people used to discuss and resolve their crucial problems. Thus, after the Messenger (SAW) ‘returned to the mercy of His’ Lord, ‘some companions from’ the Ansar converged in this assembly hall with the intention of electing Sa’ad ibn Ubadah, and declaring war on any tribe which rejected their leader, and some of the Ansar were even ready to wage war on the Muhajirs. But Sheikh Turi made it appear as if there was a conspiracy hatched among ‘some companions from Muhajiruun and Ansar’ to delude other more ‘prominent companions’ by choosing ‘Abu Bakr as the caliph on what they referred to as popular agreement.’ No, the meeting was meant to be for the Ansar, at the peak of the confusion that befell the Ummah due to the demise of Allah’s Apostle (SAW); they gathered for the declaration of their own Caliphate, which, if they had succeeded, would have led every other tribe to choose its own leader. The prevalence of contending claimants to the Caliphate would have meant the resurrection of continual strife and civil wars of the time of ignorance.
Moreover, the Ansar went as far as saying that: “In the event that they refuse to accept our Caliph, we shall drive them out from Al-Madeenah at the point of our swords.” However, the few Muhajirs in the assembly protested against this attitude, and this led to a dispute and pandemonium of a serious nature and a war between the Muhajirs and Ansar seemed possible.
That was what the meeting at Saqeefah would have been but for the timely intervention of Abu Bakr and Umar (RA).
 “O Son of Khattab” a man called on Umar (RA), “pray step out for a moment.”
Umar (RA) told him to leave them alone and go away as they were busy in arranging for the burial of the Prophet (SAW). The man insisted that an incident had occurred: the Ansar were gathering in force at Saqeefatu Bani Saa’idah, and – as the situation was grave – it was necessary that he (Umar) should go and look into the matter lest the Ansar should do something that would lead to a (civil) war. On this, Umar said to Abu Bakr, “Let us go.”
Imam at-Tabary, yes, the same scholar that Sheikh Turi said ‘was considered the chief interpreter of the noble Qur’an’, has captured this incident in The History of at-Tabary, Vol.10, p.3, where he said:
“Umar learned of this (i.e. the gathering of the Ansar at Saqeefah) and went to the Prophet’s house and sent (a message) to Abu Bakr, who was in the building… [Umar] sent a message to Abu Bakr to come to him. Abu Bakr sent back (a message) that he was occupied (i.e. with caring for the Prophet’s body), but Umar sent him another message, saying: “Something (terrible) has happened that you must attend to personally.” So he (Abu Bakr) came out to him…”
Therefore, Abu Bakr and Umar (RA) had to go. This was an important and urgent matter, an emergency, a national crisis. They took along with them Abu Ubaidah (RA), another Muhajir. Needless to say that these three were among the ten companions enlisted for admission into Paradise by the Messenger of Allah (SAW). Of course, the intervention of such influential personages was certain to douse the flames of civil war and dissension.
It is plain from the above that Abu Bakr and those with him went to Saqeefah as peacekeepers, and not as a band planning to grab the Caliphate for themselves. Their mission was to caution the Ansar on the dangers of exposing the nascent Ummah to internal quarrels and civil war. If Abu Bakr were preparing himself for the Caliphate, surely he would have gone to that meeting with more than two people. It is absurd to ascribe political motive to the mission of these three Muhajirs to a flood of belligerent Ansars who had contrived to make one of them their leader.  That would be a political suicide. They were clearly outnumbered. How was it possible for Abu Bakr with only two supporters stand against Sa’ad ibn Ubadah who had a whole assembly of Ansar as his supporters?
Sheikh Turi’s ‘prominent companions’ were not there because Abu Bakr did not go to Saqeefah entertaining the hope of becoming the Caliph; otherwise, he would have gone with many of his supporters to bolster his chances. His mission was to counsel the Ansar, and to save the Ummah from disintegration.
Ali (RA) was absent for the same reason that Abu Bakr refused answering Umar’s initial invitation – namely caring, and preparing the Prophet’s funeral rites; and for the fact that no election was envisaged in the whole affair of Saqeefah. Their purpose was to avert the impending disaster of civil war from befalling the Muslim community emanating from Ansar’s announcement of pledging the oath of allegiance to a leader of their own.
The History of al-Tabari, Vol.10, p.2 reported the following speech by Sa’ad ibn Ubadah during the Saqeefah meeting:
“Company of the Ansar! You have precedence in religion and merit in Islam that no other tribe of the Arabs can claim. Muhammad remained ten-odd years in his tribe, calling them to worship the Merciful and to cast off idols and graven images, but only a few men of his tribe believed in him, and they were able neither to protect the Apostle of Allah, nor to render his religion strong, nor to divert from themselves the oppression that befell them all.

“Until, when He intended excellence for you (O Ansar); He sent nobility to you and distinguished you with grace. Thus, Allah bestowed upon you faith in Him and in His Apostle, and protection for him and his companions, and strength for him and his faith, and Jihad against his enemies. You (O Ansar) were the most severe people against his enemies who were not from among you, so that the Arabs became upright in Allah’s Cause, willingly or unwillingly…through, you (O Ansar) Allah made great slaughter (of the infidels) in the earth for His Apostle, and by your swords (O Ansar) the Arabs were abased for him. When Allah took (the Prophet) to Himself, he was pleased with you (O Ansar) and consoled by you.

“So keep control of this matter (i.e. the Caliphate) to yourselves, to the exclusion of others, for it is yours and yours alone.”
Apparently, the above speech praised the Ansar, and demeaned the Muhajirs. Umar (RA) wanted to respond, but Abu Bakr (RA), knowing the fiery temper of the former, prevented him. There was enough tension in the hall; given his no-nonsense disposition, if allowed to speak, Umar would have made matters worse. Therefore, Abu Bakr addressed the gathering:
“O Ansar! You deserve all the qualities that you have attributed to yourselves, but this question (of Caliphate) is only for the Quraish” (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 82, Number 817)
Abu Bakr (RA) acknowledged Ansar’s contribution to the establishment of Islaam, and how they took in the Messenger of Allah (SAW) together with the believers along with him, helped them and gave them abode. But he also urged the Ansar to call to mind the fact that the Muhajirs were the first to profess faith in Allah, and to support His Messenger (SAW); that the Muhajirs suffered hunger, thirst, and rejection, while remaining firm with Allah’s Messenger through that tribulation and adversity; they did not alter in the least. When persecution and torture became more than flesh and blood could stand, they forsook all their worldly possessions and loved ones to immigrate with the Messenger of Allah (SAW). Abu Bakr also reminded the Ansar of the saying of Allah’s Messenger (SAW) that leadership is with the Quraish after him. Then he said:
“Allah is my witness that we are not pressing the claim of the Quraish because of any selfish interest. The proposal is prompted in the interest of the solidarity of Islam (i.e. to maintain unity and prevent civil war). To give you a proof of our sincerity, I declare before you that I do not covet the office. Here are Umar and Abu Ubaidah. You may choose any one of these.”
A counter-offer from the Ansar, “Oh Quraish!” they said, “There should be one ruler from us one from you.”
Of course, that was a precarious situation. Having two caliphs will only open the door for multiple leaders of the Ummah, as I have alluded to earlier. Nothing would have stopped other tribes from choosing their own caliph. When people’s voices grew loud and there was disputation, at the peak of this meeting, Umar perceived this danger, so he moved to pre-empt the pledging of allegiance by anybody, because if that happened, resolving this matter would have been impossible. Umar said to Ansar:
“Oh Ansar! Do you not know that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) commanded Abu Bakr to lead the people in prayer? Who among you would feel comfortable putting himself above Abu Bakr?”
The Ansar answered, “Allah forbid that we should put ourselves above Abu Bakr.”
Then Umar hastened to say to Abu Bakr, “Stretch forth your hand.”
So Abu Bakr stretched forth his hand and Umar swore allegiance to him, and the Muhajirs swore allegiance to him, then the Ansar also, did so.
The emergence of Abu Bakr as Caliph, therefore, was not as Sheikh Turi tried to portray, as something that ‘remains questionable’ and of “contradictory and paradoxical nature.
There was nothing questionable, contradictory or paradoxical, whatever that means, in what these honourable men had done. If anything, they should be adorned with garlands, and handsomely recompensed for saving this Ummah from the tribulation of disunity and civil strife!
Actually I thought Sheikh Turi would prove that the Companions argued for ‘Ali (RA) because the Messenger of Allah had appointed him his heir apparent, as the Shi’ah claimed, in Ghadeer Khum. Alhamdu lillah, I have dealt with that issue, and established that there was no such pronouncement by Allah’s Messenger in favour of ‘Ali (RA). To my surprise, Sheikh Turi has not repeated that argument in this Saqeefah incident. He was content with what he described as ‘questionable’ and ‘contradictory’ process that saw Abu Bakr’s ascension to the Caliphate.
It did not make any sense that the companions forgot an issue that was mentioned by the Messenger of Allah on ‘Ali (RA) being the leader of Muslims after him; an issue that was witnessed, according to Sheikh Turi, by ‘no fewer than seventy thousand pilgrims’ who ‘had gathered from different places’ after the Farewell pilgrimage. This multitude should have been able to remember that the Caliphate was the exclusive right of ‘Ali (RA) due to the Prophet’s purported nomination of the former at Ghadeer Khum.
Sheikh Turi further said, “Imam Ali said on the acclamation: By Allah, ibn Abi Quhafa has got it! And he knows that my position regarding the caliphate is like that of the pole in relation to the millstone! The torrent flows from me, and the bird will never reach me!”
Sheikh Turi did not mention the source of the above incident, but a shi’ah website, www.al-islam.org informed me that this quotation of Ali (RA) was from shi’ah’s most authentic book, Nahj al-Balagha (Way of Eloquence), Sharh, Muhammad Abduh, vol 1 p 34; it contains sermons and letters of Ali (RA). But I found, within this book, other quotations credited to Ali (RA) which were not in agreement with Sheikh Turi’s point regarding Ali’s claim to the Caliphate. Let me site three examples:
1-    "By Allah, I had no liking for the caliphate nor any interest in government, but you yourselves invited me to it and prepared me for it." p.179
2-    "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 (limited franchise or selection) 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. If somebody goes against such decision, then he should be persuaded to adopt the course followed by others, and if he refuses to fall in line with others, then war is the only course left open to be adopted against him and as he has refused to follow the course followed by the Muslims, Allah will let him wander in the wilderness of his ignorance and schism."
3-    When people decided to Swear allegiance to Ali after the murder of `Uthman, he said: "Leave me and seek some one else. We are facing a matter which has (several) faces and colours, which neither hearts can stand nor intelligence can accept. Clouds are hovering over the sky, and faces are not discernible. You should know that if I respond to you I would lead you as I know and would not care about whatever one may say or abuse. If you leave me then I am the same as you are. It is possible I would listen to and obey whomever you make in charge of your affairs. I am better for you as a counsellor than as chief." p.91
The above words were not like those uttered by one who viewed himself as the sole heir to the Caliphate.
Sheikh Turi’s roll call on Saqeefah showed the conspicuous absence of “Ali bn Abi Talib, Abbas bn Abd al-Mutallab, Usama bn Zayd, Zubair, Salman al-Farisy, Abu Dharr, Miqdad bn al-Aswad, Ammar bn Yassir, Hudhaifa bn al-Yamany, Khuzaima bn Thabit, Barra’ bn Azib, Abu Kaab, Abu Ayyub al-Ansary and Jabir bn Saad”.
On these endless names of companions listed by Sheikh Turi as being absent during Abu Bakr emergence as Caliph, I keep wondering why a Shi’ah scholar will bother to use “non-Muslims” to support a position. According to Shi’ah, all but three companions became non-Muslims after the demise of Allah’s Messenger because they pledged allegiance, not to Ali but to Abu Bakr and company. Let me give two examples:
1-    “After the death of the Prophet (SAW), all his companions gave up Islam except three. These were Miqdaad, Abu Dharr and Salmaan.” (Furu’ al-Kaafi, vol. 2, p. 115)
2-    “After the death of the Prophet all of his companions became disbelievers except three. They were Miqdaad, Abu Dharr and Salmaan.” (Hayaat al-Qulub, vol. 2, p. 600)


After the meeting at Saqifah Banu Sa’idah…(and) the burial of the Prophet, Abu Bakr took the oath of allegiance from the general population and then rose to deliver his (inauguration) address…that was the day when 33,000 Companions pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr.


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