One of the arguments advanced by some Muslims for the superiority of Abu Bakr and Umar over Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) is that the two are buried next to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). They consider this as a virtue in their favour and a sign that they were worthy of being leaders of the Muslims.

Is being buried in a particular place cause for superiority in matter of caliphate?

The only way superiority can be claimed is by virtue of one’s actions and in case of leadership of the Muslims, by divine text (nass) i.e. endorsement by Allah and the Prophet (s.a.w.a.). A claim based on any other argument is a figment of imagination and rooted in falsehood. It can easily be rendered baseless with arguments from the Holy Quran and Sunnah as also intellect and wisdom.

In case of Abu Bakr’s and Umar’s burial in particular it would be groundless to claim superiority as they were not buried based on any instruction from Allah and the Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Also, those who permitted them to be buried had no right over the property to grant such permission. In other words, the legitimacy of the property on which they are buried is itself questionable. So, rather than being a source of superiority it is a source of discredit and ignominy as it violates the Quranic injunction:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَدْخُلُوا بُيُوتَ النَّبِيِّ إِلَّا أَن يُؤْذَنَ لَكُمْ

‘O you who believe! Do not enter the houses of the Prophet unless permission is given to you…’ (Surah Ahzaab (33): Verse 53)

Moreover, the burial argument is used by these Muslims post-facto to justify the caliphate of Abu Bakr and Umar. How did the Muslims who were selecting the caliph in their life time to know that Abu Bakr and Umar would be buried in the vicinity of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.)? So it is a case of them buried because they were the caliphs of the time and not because of any superiority.

Ironically, Imam Hasan b. Ali al-Mujtaba (a.s.) in favour of whom there are too many Quranic verses and traditions to be listed including the all-important one of he along with his brother, Imam Husain b. Ali (a.s.), being a member of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) household – the Ahle Bait (a.s.) and the Chief of the Youths of Paradise, along with his brother Imam Husain (a.s.) was not granted permission even for a token circumambulation (tawaaf) of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) grave.

To those who are wondering how being buried next to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is a source of discredit and ignominy for Abu Bakr and Umar a discussion on the subject between Abu Hanifa and one of his peers makes the point clear.

Abu Hanifa in a quandary

One day, Fuzzaal b.Hasan b. Fuzzaal al-Kufi (refer Qaamoos al-Rijaal, vol. 4 pg 313), a companion of Imam JafarSadiq (a.s.), was walking through the streets of Kufa with his friend.

He saw Abu Hanifa surrounded by people who were posing religious questions.

Fuzzaal decided to approach Abu Hanifa with some questions of his own, despite protests to the contrary by his friend, who warned him that Abu Hanifa was an intelligent person.

Fuzzaal: O Abu Hanifa! My brother used to say that after the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) Ali b. Abi Taalib (a.s.) is the best person. But I say that it is Abu Bakr and then Umar. What do you say in this regard?

Abu Hanifa reflected a little and replied: How do they give superiority to Ali over Abu Bakr and Umar? Don’t they know in battles the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) kept Abu Bakr and Umar seated and ordered Ali to attack the enemy ranks? This itself is proof that the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) held them both dear and wanted to safeguard their lives at all times.

Fuzzaal: Coincidentally, I mentioned the same point to my brother. But he pointed out that according to the Quran those who wage battle are superior to those who are seated according to the verse:

فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ الْمُجَاهِدِينَ بِأَمْوَالِهِمْ وَأَنفُسِهِمْ عَلَى الْقَاعِدِينَ دَرَجَةً

‘…Allah has made the strivers to excel the seated ones by a high degree…’ (Surah Nisa (4): 95)

Abu Hanifa: Tell your brother that for the superiority of these two (Abu Bakr and Umar) it is sufficient that they were buried in the vicinity of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), while Ali (a.s.) is buried far away.

Fuzzaal: Yes I know, coincidentally I mentioned the same point to him but he countered me thus:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَدْخُلُوا بُيُوتَ النَّبِيِّ إِلَّا أَن يُؤْذَنَ لَكُمْ

‘O you who believe! Do not enter the houses of the Prophet unless permission is given to you…’ (Surah Ahzaab (33): Verse 53)

Abu Hanifa: Tell your brother that Ayesha and Hafsa – the daughters of the caliphs, demanded their dowry (mehr) and were given their respective chambers as dowry after the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) demise. They donated their chambers to their fathers for the burial.

Fuzzaal: I advanced the same argument but he countered by saying – haven’t you read in the Quran:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ إِنَّا أَحْلَلْنَا لَكَ أَزْوَاجَكَ اللَّاتِي آتَيْتَ أُجُورَهُنَّ

‘O Prophet! Surely We have made lawful to you your wives whom you have given their dowries…’ (Surah Ahzaab (33): Verse 50)

This verse clarifies that the wives – Ayesha and Hafsa were given their dowries in the lifetime of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) so there was no question of being given their chambers as dowry after the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) demise.

Abu Hanifa: Tell your brother that Ayesha and Hafsa by virtue of being the wives of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) received their chambers as inheritance and in turn offered their portion of inheritance to their respective fathers for burial.

Fuzzaal: I told him the same thing but he shot back by saying – you Muslims believe that the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) did not leave behind any inheritance, which is why Fadak was not granted to Fatima (s.a.) his only daughter at the time.

Even if we consider the chambers as inheritance, the fact remains that the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had nine wives at the time of his demise. So every wife had equal right over that property and without the permission of other wives Abu Bakr and Umar should not have been buried. If we divide the inheritance equally among 9 wives then each person will be entitled to no more than a span and not a burial place like Abu Bakr and Umar have taken for themselves.

After listening to this argument, Abu Hanifa resigned himself to defeat and vented his frustration on Fuzzaal by ordering his companions: Get him out of here he is a Shia.
(Al-Ehtejaaj, pg207)

Now there will be some who will deny the debate and accuse the Shias of concocting it. However, the fact remains that the arguments against Abu Bakr and Umar in the matter of burial next to the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) are real and there is no reasoning on earth to justify how they landed next to the Prophet (s.a.w.a.).

Prophets do not leave behind inheritance

Another question that needs answering is how Abu Bakr and Umar were buried on a property that did not even belong to their daughters in the first place. Didn’t they advance the argument to Hazrat Fatma Zahra (s.a.), the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) only daughter and the Chief of all Women of Paradise, when she claimed Fadak – first as a bestowal and then as inheritance, that Prophets do not leave behind inheritance and what they leave behind is charity (sadaqah)?

When Fatima Zahra’s (s.a.) claim on Fadak as inheritance was summarily denied, and she is the Chief of all Women of Paradise by consensus of both the sects, where is the question of lesser people inheriting the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) property and burying their dead ones?

Effectively Abu Bakr and Umar are buried on usurped property on which neither they nor their daughters had a claim and far from being a virtue, their burial on the property of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is a source of discredit and ignominy for them till the Day of Judgement.

Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) burial

In fact, if we go by the argument of Abu Bakr and Umar that Prophets do not leave behind inheritance and what they leave behind is charity, the burial of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) himself comes into question as he (s.a.w.a.) is buried on property that belongs to the Muslims for which obviously no permission was taken. In fact, even if all the Muslims had granted permission, it would still have been impossible to bury the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) since sadaqah is prohibited on him (s.a.w.a.) and the Ahle Bait (a.s.).

But since usurping and stealing cannot be attributed to the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) it means that prophets do in fact leave behind inheritance and the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) burial was in conformity with the laws of Shariah.

Ameerul Momineen’s (a.s.) superiority

If at all superiority is claimed, it should be in the matter of birth, since its location cannot be manipulated by usurping and people know it beforehand while discussing the person’s merits unlike the burial where they learn of it only after the person’s death.

In matters of birth Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) ranks higher than not just Abu Bakr and Umar, but all mankind.
It is reported by consecutive chains of narrators (tawaatur) that Fatima binte Asad (s.a.) gave birth to Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) in the center of the Kaabah. (Al-Mustadrak alaa al-Sahihain vol. 3 pg 483)

None was born in the Kaabah until then (and none was born after that day). (Noor al-Absaar pg 69 from Ibne Sabbaagh)

Not only was Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) born in the Kaabah he is likened to the Kaabah by the Prophet (s.a.w.a.):

‘O Ali, you enjoy the status of the Kaabah.’ (Kunuz al-Haqaeq fi Hadis-e-Khair al-Khalaeq pg 188 from Al-Dailami)

‘You enjoy the status of the Kaabah, it is visited by the people, it does not visit the people.’ (Asad al-Ghaabah fi Marifat al-Saḥaabah vol 4 pg 31)

Burial of Ameerul Momineen (a.s.)

Even in matters of burial Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) is without peers. He is buried in a land that has more excellence than can be mentioned over here. One tradition on the subject reported widely by Sunni scholars should be sufficient.

When Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (a.s.) was asked regarding the verse –

وَآوَيْنَاهُمَا إِلَىٰ رَبْوَةٍ ذَاتِ قَرَارٍ وَمَعِينٍ

‘…and We gave them a shelter on a lofty ground affording rest and with springs.’ (Surah Mominoon (23): Verse 50),

Imam (a.s.) elucidated – lofty ground (rabwah) is Najaf and resting place (zaat al-qaraar) is the Masjid and springs (maeen) is the Furaat.

Then he said – Surely a dirham spent in Kufa equals 100 dirham spent elsewhere and a unit of prayer (rakah) offered in Kufa equals 100 units elsewhere. One who likes to perform ablutions (wuzu) with the water of Paradise, drink from the water of Paradise and bathe with the water of Paradise, should use the water of Furaat for surely in it are divisions from Paradise. Every night two units (misqaal) of musk descend in the Furaat.

Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) used to say while standing at the threshold of Najaf – (This is) Waadi al-Salaam and the gathering place of the souls of the believers, and this is the best resting place for the believers.

And he used to pray – O Allah make my grave in it (Najaf).
(Kanz al-Ummaal, tradition 4,535 from Ibne Asaakir)

Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) is buried in the vicinity of Hazrat Adam (a.s.) and Hazrat Nuh (a.s.) – the two fathers of mankind. His grave was prepared thousands of years ago by Hazrat Nuh (a.s.) on divine command. The merits of the land and his shrine in particular are widely reported by Sunni sources.