A lot of Muslims say – It is useless to debate who is the deserving successor of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) or the differences between the companions of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) because these points and events have been well preserved in the annals of history and reviving them serves no particular objective.

Moreover, they claim that a discussion on such issues might only aggravate the problems of the nation and trigger disharmony which eventually leads to much animosity between the Muslims.

This argument would have had merit if these Muslims did not make attempts to remember certain other events which also create disharmony between the Muslims. Instances that come to mind include the incident of Abu Bakr sharing the Prophet’s company (s.a.w.a.) in the cave or when the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) ‘permitted’ Abu Bakr to lead the prayers during his illness.

It is evident that the Sunnis do not spare any opportunity to elevate Abu Bakr’s ‘stature’ and defending his right to caliphate! Why is it that these Muslims do not refrain from narrating about Abu Bakr’s so-called virtues but object to the glorifying of Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) – Ali b. Abi Talib and remembering his virtues? The answer is simple – because remembering Ali’s (a.s.) virtues invariably leads to the discussion on successorship.

The most obvious answer for discussing the virtues of Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) and his immaculate sons (a.s.) and contrasting it against the evil and disrepute of certain personalities serves many benefits for the Muslims.

For one – it serves as guidance towards the right path and creates aspiration in the hearts of those who seek guidance to emulate these infallible personalities. Conversely, it also tells them what not to be, an equally important lesson imparted by the lives of the evil and vile people.

Invitation to discuss and understand:

The All-Merciful orders in the Noble Quran

فَاقْصُصِ الْقَصَصَ لَعَلَّہُمْ یَتَفَکَّرُوۡنَ ﴿۱۷۶﴾

‘…therefore relate the narrative that they may reflect.’ (Surah A’raaf (7): Verse 176)

1. Deriving lessons from examples
With reference to deriving lessons from experience of others, Allah states in the Quran:

لَقَدْ کَانَ فِیۡ قَصَصِہِمْ عِبْرَۃٌ لِّاُولِی الۡاَلْبَابِ

In their histories there is certainly a lesson for men of understanding. (Surah-e-Yusuf (12):Verse 111)

In another instance, the Lord of the Worlds exhorts in Surah-e-Hashr (58): Verse 2:

‘…therefore take lessons, O you who have eyes.’

Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) – Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) underlines importance of learning from history in the following manner:

‘Gaining more wisdom leads to lesser disappointments.’ (Ghurar al-Hikam, vol. 5 pg 217)

Addressing his son Imam Hasan b. Ali (a.s.) in his will, Ameerul Momineen – Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) urges:

Though the span of my life is not as that of some other people who have passed away before me yet I took great care to study their lives, went through their activities assiduously, contemplated over their deliberations and deeds, studied their remains, relics and ruins and pondered over their lives so deeply that I felt as if I have lived and worked with them from early ages of history down to our times. I know what did them good and what brought them harm. Sifting the good from bad I am concentrating within these pages, and for your good, the knowledge that I so gathered. (Nahjul Balagha, Letter No.31)

In another instance, he says – one who takes lessons from life gets vision, one who acquires vision becomes wise, and one who attains wisdom achieves knowledge.

He further adds – When man derives lessons from life, he further escalates towards guidance. (Nahjul Balagha, Sayings of Hazrat Ali (a.s.) 196)

2. Strength of heart is achieved
When one analyzes and revives discussions on the lives of the infallibles (a.s.) and delves into their trials and struggles, his heart gains untold strength and he draws tremendous inspiration from their lives.

Allah declares in the Noble Quran:

وَكُلًّا نَّقُصُّ عَلَیۡکَ مِنْ اَنۡۢبَآءِ الرُّسُلِ مَا نُثَبِّتُ بِہٖ فُؤَادَکَ

And we all relate to you of the accounts of the apostles to strengthen your heart therewith..(Surah Hud (11):Verse 120)

3. The Characters of the Noble are a Mirror
Pondering over the lives of individuals with high morals and spotless characters acts as a mirror for those who wish to reflect and aspire for perfection. To emulate the divine guides who possessed perfect faith and morals serves as a reflection in which these people like to see themselves. One such infallible personalityis the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), emulating whom is the key to success.

Allah declares in His Noble Book:

لَقَدْ کَانَ لَكُمْ فِیۡ رَسُوۡلِ اللہِ اُسْوَۃٌ حَسَنَۃٌ لِّمَنۡ کَانَ یَرْجُوا اللہَ وَالْیَوْمَ الْاٰخِرَ

Certainly you have in the Apostle of Allah an excellent exemplar for him who hopes in Allah and the latter day..(Surah-e-Ahzaab (33):Verse 21)

In another place, the Quran exhorts Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.) and the men who trusted and believed in him by saying:

قَدْ کَانَتْ لَكُمْ اُسْوَۃٌ حَسَنَۃٌ فِیۡۤ اِبْرٰہِیۡمَ وَ الَّذِیۡنَ مَعَہٗ ۚ اِذْ قَالُوۡا لِقَوْمِہِمْ اِنَّا بُرَءٰٓؤُا مِنۡكُمْ وَ مِمَّا تَعْبُدُوۡنَ مِنۡ دُوۡنِ اللہِ ۫ کَفَرْنَا بِكُمْ وَ بَدَا بَیۡنَنَا وَ بَیۡنَكُمُ الْعَدَاوَۃُ وَ الْبَغْضَآءُ اَبَدًا حَتّٰی تُؤْمِنُوۡا بِاللہِ وَحْدَہٗۤ

Indeed, there is for you a good example in Ibrahim and those with him when they said to their people: Surely we are clear of you and of what you serve besides Allah; we declare ourselves to be clear of you, and enmity and hatred have appeared between us and you forever until you believe in Allah alone…
(Surah Mumtahinah (60):Verse 4)

Undoubtedly, when we discuss the characteristics of the exemplary companions of the Prophets (a.s.) or underscore the righteousness they showed in the way of Islam, it is because we wish to separate them from men who apparently adorned themselves with piety, but deep within their hearts harboured malice against the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Islam.

Moreover, we want Muslims to understand the status of various companions in the eyes of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) so that naïve Muslims do not get swayed by the double standards of the so-called companions of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.).

It is therefore imperative to widely discuss the true companions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), so that the Muslims know who was submissive to him (s.a.w.a.) and ready to sacrifice his life for his (s.a.w.a.). Thus, Muslims can seek guidance by emulating the characteristics of such great men and imbibe similar traits in order to perfect their faith and morals and thereby acquire the pleasure of Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w.a.).

Allah the High says in His Book,

قُلْ ہَلْ مِنۡ شُرَکَآئِكُمۡ مَّنۡ یَّہۡدِیۡۤ اِلَی الْحَقِّؕ قُلِ اللہُ یَہۡدِیۡ لِلْحَقِّؕ اَفَمَنۡ یَّہۡدِیۡۤ اِلَی الْحَقِّ اَحَقُّ اَنۡ یُّتَّبَعَ اَمَّنۡ لَّا یَہِدِّیۡۤ اِلَّاۤ اَنۡ یُّہۡدٰی ۚ فَمَا لَكُمْ ۟ کَیۡفَ تَحْكُمُوۡنَ ﴿۳۵﴾

Is He then Who guides to the truth more worthy to be followed, or he who himself does not go aright unless he is guided? What then is the matter with you; how do you judge? (Surah Yunus (10): Verse 35)

4. Prohibition from evil
When one discusses and debates on the companions of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in the light of Islamic history, we intend to segregate the good from the bad to identify who was more beloved in the eyes of Allah (s.w.t) and His beloved Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and who was detested by them so that people love and cherish the meritorious companions for their sacrifices in the way of Islam and express disgust from the evil mongers who distorted beliefs to suit their motives. There isn’t a greater act than to call people towards the truth and restrain them from evil by making them befriend and love the true companions of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and distance themselves from the mischief makers.

5. Creates an environment of alliance and agreement
Our opinion on this matter is that if one were to have a serious, fair, and unprejudiced debate over such topics then we could easily ascend towards joining hands in alliance because the only topic that has plagued our community so far is the matter of caliphate after the demise of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.a.). Other differences related to Tauheed, Divine Justice (Adl), Prophethood (Nabuwwat) and resurrection (Qiyamat) although critical stem from the differences related to caliphate. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us even today notwithstanding the span of fourteen hundred years, to look into the rationale behind these events, analyze them and retrace the dispersed links at their appropriate places to connect them so that the chain thus formed makes it easy for us to understand the Quran and reach the Ahle Bait (a.s.). In this manner, it would become easy for Muslims to gain true guidance and leadership thereby dispelling differences and alleviating disharmony.

6. Analysis of the problems and identifying the solution
A Syrian writer Dr. Abdul Rahman in his book on the issue of successorship titled ‘Al-Ghadeer’ states that – The Muslim world has always felt the need to analyze the events and incidents pertaining to the issue of caliphate and it is very important to understand how politics played out during and after the life of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) leading to disputes on the issue of caliphate. It is essential for the Muslim nation to know the reasons behind division and discord in the issue of leadership. What led to the division of the community after the demise of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) and eventually deprived the Ahle Bait (a.s.) of their rights?

The Muslim nation is always very concerned about solving the problems plaguing the community and how to best address them. After all, it is important to identity the ways in establishing a peaceful and harmonious relationship among the Muslims so as to create an alliance that can provide an effective political and religious solution. Perhaps it is obligatory on every individual to initiate an unprejudiced and fact-based discussion on the same to gain deep insight on the reasons and causes behind the fissures in the community and analyze them to reach the truth. (Al-Ghadeer, vol. 5 pg. 340)

It is critical to understand the events that led to the division of the nation, the atrocities meted out to the Ahle Bait (a.s.) after the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) demise and the cruelty and bias that the true inheritor, Ali b. Abi Talib(a.s.) endured when his rights were usurped. In this way, it will be easy for the average Muslim to see where the truth lies and identify the devil in sheep’s clothing.

7. Obedience to religious leaders leads to the renewal of commands
When the believers attend a gathering commemorating or hailing the meritorious nature of Ali b. Abi Talib(a.s.) and his infallible descendants (a.s.),it is their way of showing their love for them. They gain profound knowledge about these personalities which in turn serves to attract divine pleasure. One may ask –Is there any other motive for organizing these assemblies other than to discuss the code of conduct, tribulations and hardships of the infallibles (a.s.)? The answer is No. There is no other motive to establish such gatherings other than to make the Muslims aware of the code of conduct, ethics and tribulations of the divine leaders. To those who protest against the establishment of such assemblies as innovation or unnecessary or pointless, we say – should we stop reciting the Quran too? For what is the Quran ‘but a reminder to the nations’ of what transpired in the past and the narratives of the Prophets (a.s.) and their code of conduct? Our assemblies are but an extension of these narratives and reminders.

8. Muslims who hail and emulate the leaders chosen by Allah develop love for them
Until the time that a particular belief or thought finds place in one’s heart, the seeker doesn’t derive any benefit. Muslims can establish a strong bond at a religious and spiritual level only when the teachings of the divine leaders are reflected upon and penetrate the depths of their hearts.

9. The innocent is defended
While on the one hand, an ordinary Muslim is expected to perform his duty by acquiring knowledge of these incidents, it is just as necessary for the scholars and teachers of religion to defend the infallibles (a.s.) and highlight their sufferings in the way of Allah and Islam.

When Ali b. Abu Talib(a.s.) received a fatal blow on his head while praying at the Mosque of Kufa, he summoned his two sons –Imam Hasan(a.s.) and Imam Husain (a.s.) and addressed to them in the following manner:

وَ كُونَا لِلظَّالِمِ خَصْماً وَ لِلْمَظْلُومِ عَوْنا

‘Be the enemy of the tyrant and a friend and helper of the oppressed.’
(Taarikh-e-Tabarivol 4 pg 113)

Muslims all around the world acknowledge that there hasn’t been a personality as great, commendable and worthy of emulation as Ali b. Abi Talib(a.s.) in the entire history of Islam, nor did anyone suffer hypocrisy, tyranny and oppression like him. Therefore, the Muslims must identify the oppressor and analyze the matter of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) successorship. It is necessary to separate the truth from falsehood and promote the truth after one has realized it. Those who rejected the true position of Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) or attempted to lower his position should be made to realize their folly. One must raise his hands and pray for the success of those who hoisted the flag of truth and veracity in the honor of the infallible leaders – especially Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.). Finally, one must beseech Allah constantly to hasten the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s) to fill the world with divine illumination and justice till eternity.