When Power and Piety Collide: A Critical Analysis of Early Caliphate in Islam, Understanding the Present by Knowing the Past

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When Power and Piety Collide: A Critical Analysis of Early Caliphate in Islam, Understanding the Present by Knowing the Past

Author: Sayyid Moustafa Al-Qazwini
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When Power and Piety Collide: A Critical Analysis of Early Caliphate in Islam, Understanding the Present by Knowing the Past
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When Power and Piety Collide: A Critical Analysis of Early Caliphate in Islam, Understanding the Present by Knowing the Past

When Power and Piety Collide: A Critical Analysis of Early Caliphate in Islam, Understanding the Present by Knowing the Past

Publisher: www.al-islam.org


When Power and Piety Collide

A Critical Analysis of Early Caliphate in Islam, Understanding the Present by Knowing the Past

Author(s): Sayyid Moustafa Al-Qazwini


An in-depth study and analysis of the early Islamic history and caliphate and personalities of the first three caliphs based on Sunni sources in order to understand the difference between Shi’a and Sunni schools of thought.


This version is published on behalf of www.alhassanain.org/english

The composing errors are not corrected.

Table of Contents

Prologue 8

Acknowledgement 12

Dedication 13

Chapter 1: Smashing the Idols of Tribalism 14

Chapter 2: Quraysh Group 17

Development of the Quraysh Group 17

Objective of the Quraysh Group 17

Emergence of the Quraysh Group 18

Quraysh Group Appears on the Scene 19

“Calamity of Thursday” 19

Chapter 3: The Saqifah Union 21

Chronicles of Saqifah 21

Chapter 4: Political Policies of Quraysh 27

Political Practices of the Quraysh Group 27

Selection of the First Six Caliphs 28

Dialogue between Abdullah Ibn al-Abbas and ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab 30

Chapter 5: Backlash 32

Attempt to Burn the House of Fatima al-Zahra 32

Regret for the Actions Taken Against Fatima 34

Usurping the Land of Fadak 35

Story of Fadak 36

Stand Against Imam ‘Ali 41

Chapter 6: Transition of the Group 43

The Cursed Tree 43

Chapter 7: Prohibition of Transcribing the Hadith 45

Chapter 8: Legacy of the Quraysh on the Hadith 50

Hadith of the “Ten People Guaranteed Paradise” 51

‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab 52

Fabrications Involving the Qur’an 55

Hadith of the Twelve Successors 56

Where Did the Hadith Fictions Come From? 57

Chapter 9: Arduous Truth 59

Defining Sahabah 59

How the Sahabahs Define “Companionship” 60

(1) Al-Firqa al-Kamiliyah and the Ghulat 60

(2) Adalat al-Sahabah, Integrity of the Companions 60

(3) The Qur’an, the Prophet, and the Ahlul Bayt 60

Hadith of “the Stars” 61

Flaws found in the Companions in the Established Hadith 61

Participation of the Companions in the Battles 62

Battle of Uhud 62

Battle of Badr 63

Battle of Khaybar 63

Battle of Hunayn 64

Conquests of the First Three Caliphs 64

A Brief Introduction to the Prophet’s Companions 65

Abu Bakr (Ibn Abi Quhafah) 65

‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab Ibn Nafeel Ibn Uday Ibn Ka’ab 65

‘Uthman Ibn al-Affan 70

Innovations of ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab 71

Changes During ‘Umar’s Reign 71

Other Actions performed by ‘Umar 73

‘Uthman Ibn al-Affan 74

Al-Waleed Ibn Uqbah 75

‘Uthman’s Innovations 76

An Analysis of ‘Uthman’s Motivations 79

Chapter 10: The Ummah Fractures 80

When did Shiaism Come About? 80

Why the Focus on Ahlul Bayt? 82

Qur’anic Verse on those who Possess Knowledge 82

The Verse of Purity (Ayat al-Tatheerah) 82

The Verse of Malediction (Ayat al-Mubahilah) 83

Status of the Ahlul Bayt 84

Sanctity of the Ahlul Bayt 84

Ahlul Bayt - According to the Prophet 84

Rafidah (The Rejecters) 85

How “Shi’a Islam” Originated 85

Abdullah Ibn Saba: Myth or Reality? 85

Four Schools of Thought 87

Hanafi School (Al-Madhab al-Hanafi) 87

Maliki School of Thought (Al-Madhab al-Maliki) 89

Shafi’i School of Thought (Al-Madhab al-Shafi’i) 90

Hanbali School of Thought (Al-Madhab al-Hanbali) 90

Conclusion 92

Glossary 96

A 96

B 96

D 96

F 96

G 96

H 96

I 97

J 97

K 97

M 97

N 98

Q 98

R 98

S 98

T 98

U 98

W 98

Y 98

Notes 100


بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ

وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمُ ٱتَّبِعُوا مَآ أَنزَلَ ٱللَّهُ قَالُواْ بَلْ نَتَّبِعُ مَآ أَلْفَيْنَا عَلَيْهِ آبَآءَنَآ أَوَلَوْ كَانَ آبَاؤُهُمْ لاَ يَعْقِلُونَ شَيْئاً وَلاَ يَهْتَدُونَ

When it is said to them: ‘Follow what Allah hath revealed,’ they say: ‘Nay! We shall follow the ways of our fathers.’ What! Even though their fathers were void of wisdom and guidance? (Holy Qur’an, 2:170)

In our present era, it is most disturbing for many Muslims and non-Muslims alike to witness the escalating rise in sectarian violence between the Shi’a and Sunni followers of Islam, particularly in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Some people, including Muslims, ask why the Shi’a and Sunni are violently murdering each other; is there something in the history of the Muslims that continues to spark such hatred and violence today; why does one sect accuse the other of heresy; and why is one sect of the Muslims considered as“mainstream,” while the other wing is branded unconventional and literally pacified?

Unquestionably, seeded in the history of Islam is the answer - in particular, the political course that was taken following the death of the Holy Prophet and the way in which the early history of Islam was written. They say that history is bound to repeat itself and this is much more apparent today because the remnants and unconsciousness of Muslims in regards to their own history is affecting Muslims today.

The account of the Muslims is not the classical historical case of not knowing their past, but rather, it is of not knowing thetruth of its past. Thus, a closer examination into the past political and historical accounts of Islam is needed.

As a Muslim scholar, I get numerous questions from Muslims, both of the Shi’a and Sunni following (but mainly from Sunni parishioners), as to the differences between the Shi’a and Sunni communities. The answer does not lie in a simple stated sentence or two, but rather, it requires an honest, detailed account and interpretive explanation of the past.

Hence, a truthful and comprehensive contemporary account must be told in order for sincere seekers to understand what happened to the Muslims, and why, in particular, some refer to themselves as being Shi’a.

Over fourteen hundred years have passed since Prophet Muhammad bonded rival tribes, united neighbors, and partnered others to form one community - the Muslim ummah. However, from the moment that Prophet Muhammad publicly declared his prophethood and message until now, the internal relationship of the Muslim ummah has yet to synthesize fully because of the Shi’a-Sunni division.

This is not to say that there is an internal rift within Islam, far from that! Muslims are united in the same God, they recite the same Holy Qur’an, face the same qiblah (direction of prayer), fast the same month (of Ramadhan), and perform the pilgrimage to the same House (Ka’abah).

Nonetheless, there is a domestic struggle and this strain is embedded in the historical and political account of Islam; in particular, the caliphates1 of Abu Bakr,2 ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab,3 and ‘Uthman Ibn al-Affan.4

For many Muslims, the first three caliphs are highly revered and the unquestioning belief in the righteousness of them as the“rightly guided” caliphs lies at the heart of many Muslims’ faith. Nonetheless, the stark realization that these caliphs made severe misjudgments may surprise some, perhaps even bewilder or shatter their belief. Uncovering the truthful facts of the first three caliphs may seem disrespectful for some; however, this is actually a respectful attempt to restore Islam to its pristine, original form brought by Prophet Muhammad.

As difficult as it may be, we (Muslims) must be able to objectively examine the history of these three caliphs, re-examine and filter out our hadith sources, and then make sound judgment based on facts.

Since the“split” of the Muslims (Shi’a and Sunni) can be summoned to have intensified during the administration of the first three caliphs, and much of today’s estrangement of the Muslims can be traced back to their government, consequently, this book will outline the character, actions, qualifications, and consequences of these three individuals.

The reports are based solely on the historical accounts of Sunni sources, such as the respected texts:Sahih al-Bukhari andSahih al-Muslim , and other renowned Sunni scholars. Thus, no claim can be argued that the author is vindictively judging the three caliphs from outside sources. Furthermore, the readings will also cover the view of the Shi’a and shed some light as to why the Shi’a have been marginalized throughout the Muslim history.

As a scholar of Islam and a member of the Muslim ummah, this writing is not intended to be derogatory, or as an attempt to maliciously blame some, or as a means to jostle the past of the Muslims; nor is it an opportunity by the author to insult or expose the weaknesses of some companions.

Rather this work is an attempt to shed light and present an unbiased account of their actions and the subsequent results on the ummah, such as their plans to dominate the Muslim leadership, the need to develop the science of Hadith (Prophetic traditions), discordant ideological interpretations, and the emergence of the schools of thought.

Furthermore, this work is not meant to stir sectarian conflict or to cause a deeper fissure amongst the schools either. I am well aware and sensitive to the fact that this is a delicate issue and I take to practice every means possible to express my sentiments and academic knowledge respectfully and rationally.

Throughout the years of humbly serving my faith, I have maintained an open venue to foster intrafaith engagements and reconciliation. The time has come for Muslim scholars to set aside their differences and rise to the occasion and challenges by addressing their internal division in an honest, academic, and composed fashion.

All provocations and polemics must desist on both fronts and a deep knowledge of being acquainted first-hand about each other’s history,

ideology, and stance are critical ingredients for any plausible discussions or solutions to arise.

For many years, it has been rumored that the Shi’a do not favor the companions of the Prophet; however, the reality is that the Shi’a have always revered, respected, and acknowledged many of the companions. Over 100,000 companions lived during the time of the Prophet - most were sincere, but not all of them and even the Holy Qur’an attest to this (al-Qur’an, c. 635 & c. 9:1016 ).

We recognize and pay tribute to those who sincerely serviced, sacrificed, and gave their lives for the sake of Islam and the Prophet.7 The Shi’a are highly recognized for paying their respect to many companions of the Prophet who were martyred to advance Islam. We make yearly pilgrimages to their places of burial - their mausoleums and even to the battlegrounds where they lost their lives. Despite the love we have for the faithful martyrs of Islam, still we are continuously branded as those who dislike the companions.

The Shi’a have primarily been the most misunderstood of the Muslim schools of thought. It has been the case throughout Muslim history and until now that the Shi’a ideology and its followers are persecuted and ridiculed. In recent times, it is been more accelerated politically after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The Muslim world then witnessed an increasing attack against Shi’a Islam and its followers. A tsunami effect of ignorance and prejudice batters the Shi’a.

Unsubstantially described as“interpreting their own form of Islam,” the Shi’a have been hammered with radical accusations as being“renegades” and“rebellious” by those who believe that the Shi’a doctrine is some form of a“cult” or that it is at“odds” with mainstream Muslims.

Some known and well-respected Sunni scholars, from the past until the present, have from time to time labeled the Shi’a followers as“innovators,” some even going as far as calling them“heretics.” Such labeled biases spread doubt and fear amongst the ummah, and even worse, mistrust.

What is more is that intellectual and moderate Muslim leaders have largely ignored the incredulous accusations and labeling. The silence by those religious leaders has engendered more ignorance and division amongst the Shi’a-Sunni schools and their followers.

The fallacy about Shi’a Islam needs to end and this is where my duty and obligation lies, for Allah says in the Holy Qur’an:

“To make it known and clear to mankind and not to hide it.” (3:187)

I stand to defend any dehumanizing portrayal of the Shi’a by adversaries, and it is my duty to expunge the rumors that have beleaguered us (Shi’a) for many centuries.

An honest and unabashed work is far overdue on this subject. I have no secret agenda, nor the need to practice the license of taqiyyah,8 and I stand free of any association to proselytize the Shi’a school of thought.

These are far from my objective; rather, my aim is to put forward the historical truth objectively about what some of the companions did systematically during the life of the Prophet and following his death, and to allow the reader to make his or her own sound conclusion.

Every Muslim, in fact, every human being bears the moral responsibility of seeking out the truth. For those who are sincerely searching for the truth, they must put aside any personal opinion and approach this work without pretense or prejudice views.

Although the history of Islam has hitherto led a tenuous path, the damage is not irreparable, for Allah says in the Noble Qur’an:

“Allah does not change the condition of the people until they change what is within them.” (c. 13:11)

The Muslims have freedom of choice and the Muslims still have the opportunity to liberate themselves and go forward as an ummah, united in submission to Allah.

I welcome any contributing comments provided they are based and structured academically and rationally, mutually accepted amongst the various Muslim scholars, and free of personal rhetoric.

Sayed Moustafa al-Qazwini

January 2009: Muharram 1430

Orange County, California



This publication of this book would not have been possible without the effort, sacrifice, and sincere dedication of a few people that the Almighty has graced me with.

First, my gratitude must be expressed to Sister Fatma Saleh, her imprint on this book is unspoken. Second, much appreciation goes to Shaykh Saleem Bhimji for the typesetting and cover design; and his wife, Sister Arifa Hudda for the editing of this work. Publication of this book was made possible by the Ahlul Bayt Society (www.12imams.com).


This book is dedicated to my honorable father and mother. My father who taught me the ways of Islam, in its humbleness and reasoning, and nurtured me in the love for Allah, Glorified and Exalted is He, the Prophet, and his immaculate Household. Moreover, for my mother, for her unconditional love and patience in raising me into the person that I am today. To them both I am eternally grateful.


It is customary in Islam that when the name of Allah, Prophet Muhammad, the other prophets, or imams (descendants and successors of Prophet Muhammad) is enunciated, the following phrases are mentioned:

Allah - “Glorified and Exalted is He” (Subhannah wa-tallah).

Prophet Muhammad-“Peace be upon him and his family.”

After the names of prophets, imams from the family of Prophet Muhammad and his daughter -“Peace be upon him/her.”

With great respect, admiration, recognition, and praise, I have omitted the mentioned phrases for the sake of continuity.

Chapter 1: Smashing the Idols of Tribalism

وَجَعَلُوا لِلَّهِ أَندَاداً لِّيُضِلُّوا عَنْ سَبِيلِهِ قُلْ تَمَتَّعُوا فَإِنَّ مَصِيرَكُمْ إِلَى ٱلنَّارِ

And they set up (idols) as equal to Allah, to mislead (men) from His Path! Say, ‘Enjoy [for a while], for indeed your destination is towards the Fire!’ (Holy Qur’an, 14:30)

As befits the final Messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad was born into the noblest Arab family of his region, the tribe of Bani Hashim in Arabia, in the sixth century. His prestigious lineage stretched back to Prophet Ibrahim, and his ancestors distinguished themselves through integrity, (belief in) monotheism, and bravery.

His virtues were visible amongst the Quraysh tribes who entitled him as “Muhammad, the Truthful and the Trustworthy One(As-Sadiq al-Ameen) .” When Allah called upon Prophet Muhammad to publicly declare his prophethood, these virtues assisted him to bring forth the message of Islam.

For that environment, the revolutionary message of Islam shattered tribal, ethnic, and imperial barriers. In a society where ancestry dictated respect and exclusiveness, the Prophet proclaimed the opposite, he said,“Anyone who has an atom’s weight of prejudice in his heart will not enter Paradise.” 9 In stark contrast to the highly stratified society to which Islam came, the Prophet paralleled the rich with the poor, the desert nomads with the urban dwellers, and the rulers with the ruled, side by side in prayer to Allah at the Holy Ka’abah.

Their monotheism came at a time when the Ka’abah, initially reconstructed by Prophet Ibrahim had been usurped for idol worshipping, and members of the Prophet’s extended tribe, the Quraysh relied upon the revenue from the pilgrims who flocked to the House of Idols. Needless to say, the majority of the Quraysh were less than pleased with the idea of destroying the statues and lucrative income for the sake of restoring the foundation of monotheism.

Understandably then, despite his noble roots, the tribal relation with the Prophet became chafe as he rapidly spread the messages of unity, equality, and monotheism. Accustomed to their status as the highest of the high, the Quraysh were less than thrilled with the proclamation from God that read:

ياَ أَيُّهَا ٱلنَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنْثىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوباً وَقَبَآئِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوۤا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ ٱللهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ ٱللهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ

O Mankind! We created you from a male and a female and then made you into nations and tribes only that you might recognize each other; verily, the most honoured of you before Allah is the most righteous. (49:13)

While the sincere people, such as the Prophet’s cousin, ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the Prophet’s wife, Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, ‘Ali’s father who was also the uncle of the Prophet, Abu Talib, and the Prophet’s uncle, Hamzah Ibn Abdul Muttalib immediately recognized the truth and devoted their lives to it, the majority of the Prophet’s tribe (Quraysh) threw all of their might and fury against the Prophet. War, sanctions, murder, and exile were the welcome that they gave their kinsman in return for his dedication towards

Allah and for many years, they proved to be the staunchest enemies of Islam.

Since the early Muslims were few, the Quraysh were secure in their ridicule of the Prophet, whom they considered as an insane maniac. However, Allah states otherwise,

“And you are not, by the grace of your Lord, possessed.” (68:2)

However, his movement progressed from a diminutive posture to a fast growing threat against the powerful figures of the Quraysh. Increasingly, the Prophet and his mounting followers became incessantly persecuted. The Prophet saw no choice but to leave his beloved birthplace of Mecca and take up the invitation by the people of Madinah10 to foster Islam.

The move to Madinah became a decisive maneuver. Nothing could have aided Islam more because the inhabitants of Madinah were ready and willing to join the cause of Islam and bring forth Islam from the inner-personal to the public sphere. Even military oppositions by the Quraysh could not stop the exploding spread of the message of Islam. After nine years of exile, at the command of Allah, the Muslims were prepared to retake the seat of monotheism and restore Mecca to the rule of the Prophet, rather than the rule of idolaters.

Even after the final conquest of Mecca by the Muslims, most of the Quraysh still vehemently opposed the message of Islam. Thus, two options faced those who opposed Islam - either merge with the Muslims or become marginalized.

Many of the harshest enemies of Islam who had hitherto, at the least, thrown trash and stones at the Holy Prophet, artificially converted to Islam. Swiftly some of his formidable foes became his closest companions. Commanders who had staunchly fought against him for many years now feigned to his side, such as Abu Sufyan from the clan of the Bani Umayyah and Khalid Ibn al-Waleed. Since they could not defeat the Prophet, his enemies saw no other choice but to superficially join him.

Undoubtedly, many of these conversions were sincere and the Qur’an testifies to this,

“And as to the foremost from among the Muhajireen (Immigrants from Mecca) and Ansar (Helpers from Madinah) and those who followed them in goodness, Allah is well pleased with them and they are well pleased with Him…” ( 9:100)

In fact, Muslims today owe a great deal of gratitude to those who initially fought for and supported Islam. Their sacrifices led to the success of Islam’s survival and continuous drive. Nonetheless, as evincedby Surah al-Munafiqun (The Hypocrites - c. 63) andSurah al-Taubah (The Repentance - c. 9) faith did not enter all of their hearts:

إِذَا جَآءَكَ الْمُنَافِقُونَ قَالُوا نَشْهَدُ إِنَّكَ لَرَسُولُ الله وَاللهُ يَعْلَمُ إِنَّكَ لَرَسُولُهُ وَاللهُ يَشْهَدُ إِنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ لَكَاذِبُون

When the hypocrites come to you, they say, ‘We bear witness that you are indeed the Messenger of Allah.’ Surely, Allah knows that you are indeed His messenger, and Allah bears witness that the hypocrites are indeed liars. (63:1)

وَمِمَّنْ حَوْلَكُمْ مِّنَ ٱلأَعْرَابِ مُنَافِقُونَ وَمِنْ أَهْلِ ٱلْمَدِينَةِ مَرَدُواْ عَلىٰ ٱلنِّفَاقِ لاَ تَعْلَمُهُمْ نَحْنُ نَعْلَمُهُمْ سَنُعَذِّبُهُم مَّرَّتَيْنِ ثُمَّ يُرَدُّونَ إِلَىٰ عَذَابٍ عَظِيمٍ

Round about you [Muhammad and his community] and among you in Madinah are hypocrites and they are obstinate in hypocrisy. You do not know them, We know them, twice shall We punish them and in addition they shall be sent to a grievous penalty. (9:101)

Chapter 2: Quraysh Group

مَّا أَصَابَكَ مِنْ حَسَنَةٍ فَمِنَ اللهِ وَمَا أَصَابَكَ مِن سَيِّئَةٍ فَمِنْ نَّفْسِكَ وَأَرْسَلْنَاكَ لِلنَّاسِ رَسُولاً وَكَفَى بِاللهِ شَهِيدًا

Whatever good happens to you is from Allah. But whatever evil (calamities) happens to you is from your (own) soul. And We have sent you as an apostle to (instruct) humankind. And enough is Allah as a witness. (Holy Qur’an, 4:79)

Development of the Quraysh Group

While some of the Quraysh truly believed in and supported the message of Islam and the Messenger of God without any self-ambition, others also believed but aspired for more. They saw an opportunity on the horizon for future power and that path was through political means.

Thus, a group formed that consisted of several companions who belonged mainly to the Quraysh tribe. Amongst those who were at the forefront of this power group were some of the most prominent companions, such as Abu Bakr Abdullah Ibn Abi Quhafah, ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab, ‘Uthman Ibn al-Affan, Al-Mugheerah Ibn Shu’bah, Abu Musa al-Ashari, Salim Mawla Abi Hudayfah, Husayd Ibn Hudayr, Basheer Ibn Sa’d, Muhammad Ibn Muslim, Ma’adh Ibn Jabal, and Zayd Ibn Thabit.

This Quraysh group began its development at a time when the Prophet was setting roots in Madinah. In the span of a few years, the Prophet had revolutionized, empowered, and united dissident tribes to form an Islamic nation. His word was the word of God and the faithful flocked to his calling.

All the same, he was still a mortal human being whose mortal life would eventually come to an end. The Quraysh group, who sought future ambition, knew that their power was limited, that is as long as the Prophet was alive. Aware that the Prophet was mortal, hence they bided their time and craftily considered the future structure of the Muslim leadership that would come after the death of the Prophet and what their role would be.

Objective of the Quraysh Group

Having lost their past influence as the keepers to the House of Idols, the Quraysh group foresaw an even greater opportunity to master an entire nation and its sizable wealth upon the death of the Prophet. Thus, they patiently waited to seize control of the leadership after the death of the Prophet, and they succeeded in their plans, for they held the first three caliphates and spawned the first Muslim dynasty - the Bani Umayyah.

Consequently, this group resolved to complete rule of the Muslim ummah to be in their hands. They might have begun some internal conflicts had some not agreed amongst themselves to allow three subdivisions of the Quraysh to hold power successively: the tribe of Taym, the tribe of Uday, and the tribe of Fihr.

Initially, they planned to first allow Abu Bakr to represent his tribe of Taym; then ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab would represent his tribe of Uday, and then Abu Ubaydah Ibn al-Jarrah would represent his tribe of Fihr; however, as it happened, ‘Uthman Ibn al-Affan (from the Umayyah tribe) later

replaced Abu Ubaydah Ibn al-Jarrah. Finally, after the tribe of Fihr had completed its turn, the tribe of Taym would then take control again and the cycle would continue. They felt that this rotating agreement would ensure harmony within the Quraysh group and preserve the stability of their order.

However, the group excluded one vital section of Quraysh, namely the Bani Hashim tribe, the one to which the Prophet belonged. They did so overtly, under the pretext that Bani Hashim was already too powerful since the Prophet sprang from them. As ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab explained, “The reason we did not want Bani Hashim to assume power after the death of the Prophet was that Quraysh disliked seeing both prophethood and leadership (imamah ) vested in the family of Bani Hashim.”11

This is precisely where the start of the problem began for Muslims. Initially it did not stem from Islamic ideology, or interpretation of the revelations, or the sunnah, but rather, from the old Arab rivalry that was deeply entrenched and seeded into the jealous veins of some of the branches of the Quraysh tribes. Just as ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab said, they“disliked” seeing another family invested with so much interest.

Emergence of the Quraysh Group

During the early developing stages of the Islamic state, the Quraysh group had yet to crystallize. It was not until the departure of the Holy Prophet that the group fully emerged onto the scene. Two factors hastened its assembly and emergence: the first was the news of the Prophet’s impending death; and second was the Prophet’s repeated orders that ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib was to succeed him in leading the Muslim ummah.12

In the tenth year of the Hijrah (632 CE), the day came when the Prophet stunned the ummah by indicating that he would soon leave the world while returning from his first and last pilgrimage, forever known as the“Farewell Pilgrimage.” Surrounded by over 100,000 hujjaj (pilgrims) in the blazing heat, near the oasis pond of Ghadir Khum,13 the Prophet was intercepted with a revelation that forced him to stop the pilgrims in their track to hear a new revelation from Allah. The revelation was as follows:

يَا أَيُّهَا الرَّسُولُ بَلِّغْ مَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِنْ رَّبِّكَ وَإِنْ لَّمْ تَفْعَلْ فَمَا بَلَّغْتَ رِسَالَتَهُ وَاللهُ يَعْصِمُكَ مِنَ النَّاسِ إِنَّ اللهَ لاَ يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْكَافِرِينَ

O Messenger! Convey what had been revealed to you from your Lord; if you do not do so, then [it would be as if] you have not conveyed His message [at all]. Allah will protect you from the people. (5:67)

After revealing this verse, the Prophet then gave his famous last sermon known asKhutbatul Widah (The Farewell Sermon).

After praising God, the Prophet openly spoke to the pilgrims that the Angel Gabriel had reviewed the Holy Qur’an with him twice that year instead of once, and this was a sign that his time of death was near.14

Then the critical question was at hand, the Prophet asked the pilgrims if he had more authority (wilayah ) over the believers than they had over themselves, to which they all replied,“yes.” Then the Prophet raised the hand of ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib and said, “Whosoever’s master (mawla ) I am, this ‘Ali is also his master (man kuntu mawlahu fa hadha Aliyun mawlahu ).”

The order was sealed and ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib became the Prophet’s successor by Divine order. At this point, the Prophet publicly took the oaths from those present, including Abu Bakr, ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab,15 Ammar Ibn Yasir, Abu Dharr al-Ghifari, Salman al-Farsi, al-Miqdaad Ibn al-Aswad, and Abdullah Ibn al-Abbas. Some even approached ‘Ali to congratulate him personally, like ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab, who said, “Congratulations Ibn Abi Talib! Today you became the leader (mawla ) of all believing men and women.”16

An excerpt of the Prophet’s farewell sermon:

It is probable that I will be called soon and I will respond. So I leave behind me among you two weighty [very worthy and important] things: the Book of Allah, which is a rope stretched between the heavens and the Earth; and my progeny [Ahlul Bayt]. For verily Allah, the Merciful, the Aware informed me that these two would never become separated from each other until they meet at the Fount of Abundance.17 Therefore, be careful how you will treat these two in my absence.

This was not the first time that the Holy Prophet had named ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib as his successor (aside from referring to the designated members of his Ahlul Bayt that were to succeed him) on numerous occasions, such as in the“Feast of the Clan” (al-Indhar ).18 Moreover, portions of the Holy Qur’an refer to ‘Ali Ibn Talib’s successionship.19

Quraysh Group Appears on the Scene

Prior to the Prophet’s departure, the Quraysh group had been quiescent. The time was nearing and they sensed it. The first wave of the emergence began when the group distinguished itself from the population by refusing the Prophet’s orders to join the dispatch of Usama Ibn Zayd to combat the Romans, which was one of the last military maneuvers during the Prophet’s lifetime.

Although critically ill and approaching his final days, the Prophet repeatedly ordered them to join the dispatch of Usama, but they (the first three-caliphs and other companions who were present) declined to do so. Sensing that the Prophet would soon depart, the elite members of the group wanted to be in Madinah for the moment of the Prophet’s death in order to assume power, quite possibly, the precise reason why the Prophet wanted them to be away.

The situation escalated to the point where the Prophet strongly warned them by saying,“May the curse of Allah be upon the one who stays behind and does not join the army of Usama.” 20 Aside from that, they still refused and the imminent time of the death of the Prophet was drawing near.

“Calamity of Thursday”

Three days later, after refusing to join the dispatch of Usama, was when that mournful day came and the Quraysh group was ready. As the Prophet was on his deathbed, they made their most decisive move that would ensure their transitory success - a shift that would eventually divert the course of Islamic history forever. This act later became known as the“Calamity of Thursday.” This event is recorded inSahih al-Bukhari , which is considered to be the most authentic book after the Holy Qur’an in the Sunni tradition.

Gravely ill, and surrounded by some of the companions, the Prophet requested a pen and paper to narrate his will, a hadith he said that would guard the nation from misguidance.21 Sensing that the Prophet again wanted to name his successor (‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib) one last time, the companion, ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab spearheaded the Quraysh group by interceding and declaring,“We have the book of Allah, and it suffices for us.” He then accused the Prophet of Islam of hallucinating (yahjor) because of his illness.22 An argument ensued over ‘Umar’s comment and the Prophet angrily requested them to leave.23 &24

The power ambition was too much to let pass, because long afterwards and during his reign, ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab said regarding that day,“I knew the Prophet was going to mention the name of ‘Ali as his successor, so I objected to that and refused.” 25

After challenging the will of the Prophet, it is not surprising to witness centuries of unsettling political and ideological differences within the ummah. Perhaps, during the eras of the first four caliphs, Islam was still a spiritually inclined faith and united and bonded by primarily one following - one ummah - but the aspirations of some permitted the way of division. The institute of the khalifah was reduced to a mere political acquisition and many Muslims began their slow turn away from what Islam had intended. Corruption and greed earmarked the powerhouses of government and institutes that later sprung up during the Bani Umayyah and Bani Abbas dynasties. It can be said that the era of corruption by these dynasties had been intricately connected to the“Calamity of Thursday.”