By: Seyyed Ali Shahbaz
“O you who have faith, obey Allah and obey the Prophet and those vested with authority among you! And if you dispute concerning anything, refer it to Allah and the Prophet, if you have faith in Allah and the Last Day. That is better and more favourable in outcome.” (Holy Qur’an 4:59)
This Ayah draws our attention to the issue of not just God-oriented leadership in Islam after the Seal of Messengers, but also of Divinely-designated leadership, since Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) was chosen by Allah to guide humanity with the universal message of Islam.
It means his Vicegerent ought to be vested with authority by the Lord Most High Himself, or else any claim to the caliphate, whether through elections by the masses, selection by a committee, nomination by a predecessor, and usurpation by the sword, is deemed illegal and un-Islamic.
So vital is this issue that the Almighty Creator Who never leaves people without guidance, has specified the importance of leadership several times in the holy Qur’an, such as the following two Ayahs of Surah al-Mae’dah (5:55-56):
“Your guardian is only Allah, His Prophet, and the faithful who maintain the prayer and give the zakāt while in genuflection.”
“Whoever takes for his guardians Allah, His Prophet and the faithful [should know that] the Allah’s Party (Hezbollah) is indeed the victorious.”
Exegetes of the holy Qur’an are unanimous that these Ayahs were revealed when the Prophet’s dearest cousin and son-in-law, Imam Ali (AS), regarding whom the Mercy unto the creation used to say “I and you have been created of the same light”, and “Your position to me is that of Aaron to Moses”, gave away his ring as alms while in the state of genuflection during the ritual prayer, by pointing his ring-finger towards a beggar who happened to call for alms in the mosque.
No wonder, it was Divine Providence that the spotlessly pure Ali (AS) be brought up since childhood by the Prophet and entrusted with important tasks, to indicate his succession to the Prophethood, such as the express errand to overtake Abu Bakr and take charge from him for recitation of the opening Ayahs of Surah Towba at the holy Ka’ba in Mecca, following God’s commandment through Archangel Gabriel that either the Prophet should personally proceed to Mecca to recite these Ayahs or delegate them to the person who is like himself.
For the sceptics and the weak of faith, who allow themselves to be duped by the devil and make the self-destructive blunder of following the “Salaf” (literally ‘progenitors’ a term erroneously used by some for the Prophet’s neo-Muslim companions who had spent the greater part of their life in idolatry, sins, and oppression), the 24th of Zi’l-Hijjah, comes as a reminder every year and opens the eyes of the conscientious to the peerless position of the Prophet’s spotlessly pure Ahl al-Bayt.
It was the year 9 AH. The place was Medina and the Day of Mubahela or invoking Divine curse on the liars. It happened when a delegation of Christian priests from Najran in Yemen (currently under Saudi occupation) after three days of debate regarding the nature of Prophet Jesus (AS), continued to deny the proofs presented by the Prophet by irrationally insisting that the virgin-born Messiah was godson, the Almighty revealed the following Ayahs to the Seal of Messengers:
“Indeed the case of Jesus with God is like the case of Adam: He created him from dust then said to him, “Be”, and he was.
“This is the truth from your Lord so do not be among the doubters.
“Should anyone argue with you concerning him after the knowledge that has come to you, say: Come let us call our sons and your sons, our women and your women, our souls and your souls, then let us invoke and call down Allah’s curse upon the liars.” (3:59, 60, 61)
That night Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) supplicated to God after assembling under his cloak, his only daughter the Immaculate Fatema Zahra (SA), his son-in-law the Infallible Imam Ali (AS), and his two little grandsons the Impeccable Imam Hasan (AS) and Imam Husain (AS), saying: O Lord these are my Ahl al-Bayt, my dearest and nearest ones; grant them (the certificate of) purity.
When Omm-e Salama, a wife of the Prophet asked permission to join them, she was politely refused, saying that although she is on the right path, the Ahl al-Bayt are an exclusive group, exalted by God over the rest of the humanity and does not include the spouses and companions.
As all Muslims, including our Sunni brethren, agree, Archangel Gabriel descended with part of Ayah 33 of Surah al-Ahzaab, which in contrast to the preceding and following parts, is in masculine form since except for Hazrat Fatema Zahra (AS), the rest of the Ahl al-Bayt are male. It reads:
“Allah desires to keep away all uncleanness from you Ahl al-Bayt and preserve you thoroughly purified.”
The next day, as the Christians with their men, women, and youngsters, assembled at the rendezvous outside Medina for the novel challenge of invoking the wrath of the All-Merciful on the liars, the Prophet entered the scene. None of his companions were with him and neither any of the nine wives he had married out of social necessity in the last few years of his life in order to break the taboo of the customs of the Age of Ignorance, following the passing away in Mecca, of his loyal wife of 25 long years, Hazrat Khadija (SA) – Omm al-Momineen or Mother of all true believers.
To the astonishment of the Christian priests, Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) calmly and confidently strode to the appointed place along with his only daughter (our women), Fatema Zahra (SA), son-in-law (our souls) Imam Ali (AS), and grandsons (our sons) Imam Hassan (AS) and Imam Husain (AS).
The Christians were astonished to behold enlightened visages which they had never seen before. They realized that the truth was with Islam and backed off from the challenge to invoke Divine curse on the liars, since in the words of the chief bishop of Najran: “I see such virtuous faces that if they raise their hands to invoke Divine wrath, mountains would move from their places, and the Christians would be wiped out.”
Thus, this day is indeed a glorious event in not just the history of Islam that saw triumph in a peaceful parley, but is also manifestation of the status of the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt or immediate family, for whom love, affection, respect, obedience, and leadership is obligatory for all Muslims.
The event of Mubahela is yet another firm proof of God’s appointment of Imam Ali (AS) as the Prophet’s Vicegerent that was formally proclaimed the next year (10 AH) on 18th Zi’l-Hijjah at the historic assembly of Ghadeer-Khom on revelation of Ayah 67 of Surah al-Mae’dah, while the Prophet was returning from his Farewell Hajj Pilgrimage.