Why Imam Ali’s (A.S) leadership did not materialize immediately after the Prophet’s (PBUH) death?

It is sometimes asked why the Prophet’s companions ignored his clear designation of Imam Ali (AS) as his successor and the leader of the believers.

Why Imam Ali’s (A.S) leadership did not materialize immediately after the Prophet’s (PBUH) death?

After all, it was his companions who accompanied him on his preaching and military expeditions, and not long had passed between the Prophet’s (PBUH) speech at Ghadir and his death. In the present chapter, we will attempt to answer this question by studying history and seeing that the Companions did not always follow the Prophet’s commands; ignoring the proclamation of Ghadir was only one instance of their disobedience.

The Prophet (PBUH) appointed Ali (AS) as his successor because this was God’s Command and to prevent any contest for leadership of the community upon his death. In such a situation, one may wonder why the companions, who had made so many sacrifices for the sake of Islam, ignored the Prophet’s order concerning Imam Ali’s authority and bestowed leadership of the Muslims upon others.

An examination of the Prophet’s (PBUH) companions exposes the fact that, in spite of all the praise given them, many of them did not fully submit to Allah and sometimes would prefer their own personal decisions over God’s orders. Many instances of their disobedience can be found in both the verses of the Quran and in the ahadith, all of these have been recorded in Seyyed Sharaf Al-Din’s book, Al-Nass wa Al-Ijtihad. And some of the cases will be considered below.

Resistance to the Prophet’s (PBUH) Decisions and Judgments

A verse of Surah Al-Maʾida shows that some of the Prophet’s (PBUH) companions did not always accept his judgments fully:

“But no, by your Lord! They will not believe until they make you a judge in their disputes, then do not find within their hearts any dissent to your verdict and submit in full submission.” (Q4:65).
The Quran stresses that acceptance of the Prophet’s (PBUH) judgments is a sign of a person’s belief in God, while rejecting his judgments would make them into disbelievers. This warning assumes a lack of absolute obedience to the Prophet’s (PBUH) decisions and judgments.

Disobedience at the Battle of Badr

During the Battle of Badr, some Muslims took some disbelievers captive in order to ransom them for money, while this should not have been done until after the war was over. God criticized their action by revealing the following verse:

“Had it not been for a prior decree of Allah (SWT), surely there would have befallen you a great punishment for what you took” (Q8:68).
This verse applies to the Prophet’s Companions who took part in the Battle of Badr, some of whom were among Islam’s finest martyrs. If these Companions disobeyed God in this way, what could we say about the lesser companions?

Disobedience in the battle of Uhud

In the year 3/624, Abu Sufyan was preparing to attack Medina and encamped his forces at mount Uhud. The Prophet assembled an army to fight them and ordered fifty troops, led by Abd-Allah ibn Jubayr, to take up positions at a place called Jabal Aynayn to protect the Muslim army rear from attack. The Prophet (PBUH) insisted that they stay there no matter whether the Muslims were defeated or victorious. Notwithstanding the Prophet’s (PBUH) insistence, forty of the archers decided that their presence in that location was unnecessary and, seeing that the Muslims were about to defeat the enemy, abandoned their positions, against their commander’s advice, to collect booty. As a result, Khalid ibn Walid, leading the enemy cavalry, took the opportunity to attack the unprotected location and kill the remaining ten soldiers before attacking the Muslims’ army from behind and turning their victory into a defeat (Ibn Hisham, Sira 3/83).

Objections to the Treaty of Hudaybiyya

In the year 6/627, the Prophet (PBUH) set out for Mecca to perform the rites of Hajj along with some of his companions, but they were not equipped for warfare. When they reached a place called Hudaybiyya, which was on the edge of Mecca at that time, the disbelievers did not allow them to pass. For this reason, both sides agreed that no Hajj should be carried out that year but that the following year the Muslims would be allowed to perform their rituals. Umar ibn Khattab was displeased with the agreement and furiously asked, ‘Will not this agreement be a disgrace to us in our religion?’ (Ibn Hisham, Sira 2: 317). Umar and his like-minded friends were persuaded after talking to the Prophet, and the future events revealed that the agreement produced many benefits to the Muslims and Islam. Only two years after the agreement, Mecca was captured by the Muslims and Kaaba was cleared of idols.

The Army of Usama

When the Prophet lay on his deathbed, he decided to send an army to fight a Byzantine force which was threatening Medina. He gathered an army, made Usama bin Zayd their commander and ordered him to leave as soon as possible. He was so insistent about doing this that, in spite of his severe illness, he repeatedly said, “Prepare the army of Usama! God’s curse be upon those who stay behind!” This event divided the Muslims into two groups: those who insisted on leaving and those who insisted on staying. The latter group argued that the Prophet’s health was worsening and they could not tolerate being away from him. They wanted to stay until the Prophet’s (PBUH) situation became stable (Shahristani, Milal wa Nihal 1/29–30). Tabari, describing the events of 11/632, reports that some of the companions did not think Usama capable of leading the army and therefore refused to accompany him in the war. When the Prophet (PBUH) heard of this disobedience, he said: “He is worthy of commanding the army. You used to say the same things before while he was capable of commanding” (Tabari, Tarikh, 2/29).

The Calamity on Thursday

There is also another instance of the companions’ disobedience which concerns the last days of the Prophet’s (PBUH) life. According to Ibn Abbas, when the Prophet’s (PBUH) health was deteriorating in the last few days of his life, he bid those assembled: “Bring me ink and paper, so I can write something to prevent you from going astray!” Umar commented that the Prophet (PBUH) was extremely ill and that the Book of God was enough for them. Thus, a commotion erupted between those who insisted on bringing ink and paper and others who refused. The Prophet (PBUH) who was angry with the commotion and quarrel, ordered: “Stand up and go away! How could you quarrel before me?” Ibn Abbas adds: ‘All troubles started on this day when they did not let the Prophet (PBUH) write his letter’ (Bukhari, Kitab al-ʿIlm, tradition no. 114).

The above cases were a number of the Prophet’s (PBUH) companions’ clear disobedience of his decisions, orders and judgments, all of which reveal that ignoring the Prophet’s (PBUH) orders was not an uncommon occurrence among his companions and they could easily disagree with the Prophet’s (PBUH) designation of Ali (AS) as his successor. With the length of time separating us from the Prophet’s (PBUH) days, we might wrongly believe that his companions always submitted to God and the Prophet’s (PBUH) orders while, in fact, they were originally disbelievers who had converted to Islam. Some of them simply submitted to the divine orders and some of them were usually thinking of their own personal gain and interests. At least, we may say that not all those companions were innocent or infallible.

Source: en.shafaqna.com

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