The martyrdom of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) created tumult in the Muslim nation. Shocking events that couldn’t even be imagined in his (s.a.w.a.) lifetime, began unravelling like a pre-planned strategy.

One such incident revolves around an attempt on Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Talib’s (a.s.) life.

There is a debate on whether or not the rulers of the time tried to silence Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) by eliminating him completely.

One group says that Ali Ibn Abi Talib’s (a.s.) life was spared.

Another group says that an unsuccessful attempt was made on his (a.s.) life.

We study both arguments over here to find the truth.

Allamah Majlis (r.a.) in Behaar al-Anwaar relates from the renowned scholar of the Ahle Tasannun, Ibn Abil Hadeed who relates:

I asked my teacher, Abu Jafar al-Naqeeb – I am amazed at how Ali (a.s.) was able to remain alive for such a long time after the death (martyrdom) of the Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.a.). How long he remained isolated in his house while the enemies were inflamed with anger against him!

Abu Jafar – If Ali (a.s.) had not been submissive and lied low he would certainly have been killed. But he chose to keep a low profile and confined himself to worship and prayers and recitation of Quran. He gave up his sword and was like an offender in search of respite. He was akin to a wanderer in the land or a monk in the forests.

Since he complied with the rulers and submitted himself to them, they left him alone. No Arab could have killed him except by (first) obtaining explicit permission from the rulers or by obtaining their secret approval. However those in authority did not have the motivation to kill him (a.s.) and refrained from harming him. Had it been any different, they would certainly have killed him.

Ibn Abil Hadeed – I asked him, ‘Is there any truth to the narration of Khalid Ibn Waleed (attempt on the life of Ali Ibn Abi Talib a.s.)?’

Abu Jafar – A group of people among the Alawi Shias relate this incident. They say that a man came to Zafar Ibn Hudhayl, the companion of Abu Hanifah and asked him – Is it true that Abu Hanifah says that it is permissible for a person to perform an action before concluding his prayers with salutations like for e.g. talk, do something or answer the call of nature?

Zafar – It is permissible, in the same manner as Abu Bakr talked before reciting the salutation in prayers.

The man asked – What did Abu Bakr say before the salutations?

Zafar  – You should not get into it.

However he repeated the question a second time and a third time.

Zafar said to those present – Remove this man from here….

I questioned – Have you forged this incident?

Teacher – I am above such things. Rather, the Imamiyyah (Shia) narrate it.

  • Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah, vol. 13 p. 301
  • Behaar al-Anwaar, vol. 29 p. 138
  • Bait al-Ahzaan, 148-149

Khalid Ibn Waleed’s assassination attempt

 The incident under question involving Khalid Ibn Waleed is the assassination attempt on Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) on the orders of Abu Bakr. The plan was to kill him (a.s.) in the Mosque of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) immediately after the prayers on the recitation of the concluding salutations.

Abu Bakr decided against the assassination while still in prayers and in the same condition ordered Khalid Ibn Walid to abandon the plan. Abu Bakr fashioned this change of plan through an innovation – by speaking out aloud in place of the final salutation – O Khalid! Abstain from what I had ordered you and peace be upon you!

  • Elal al-Sharaae’ pp. 190-192 tradition 1
  • Behaar al-Anwaar vol. 29 p. 134

The Consultative Committee (Shura) – Umar’s attempt to eliminate Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.)

The Muslim majority rejects all talk of an attempt on Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Talib’s (a.s.) life. But how can they justify the attempt on his (a.s.) life as legislated by Umar in the consultative committee?

All Muslims agree that Umar had constituted the consultative committee (Shura) to select his successor; to ensure that the selection was in harmony with his own choice, he formulated some peculiar laws.

He ordered Sohaib (Ibn Sinaan Ibn Maalik) to lead the prayers for three days and only these six members would consult each other.

Among these six, the seventh will be none except Abdullah Ibn Umar, but there will be no opinion from his side.

Thereafter, Umar made a will to the Muhaajireen (immigrants) and the Ansaar (helpers) present there as follows: If three days pass and after consultation the six members don’t agree on paying allegiance to one of the members, then behead all six of them. If before the passage of three days, four of them agree upon someone and two of them oppose those four, behead the two dissenting members.

  • Al-Kaafi vol. 5 p. 23
  • Tahzeeb al-Ahkaam vol. 6 p. 148
  • Al-Ehtejaaj vol. 2 pp. 362-363
  • Wasaail al-Shia vol. 15. p. 41
  • Mir’aat al-Uqool vol. 18 p. 348

Why did Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) participate in the Consultative Committee?

Despite the fact that the consultative committee members and its selection policy were heavily loaded against him, Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) pointed out to Ibn Abbas that he decided to participate to underscore the contradiction in Umar’s initial stand that Prophethood and Caliphate cannot reside in the same family (Bani Hashim). Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) reasoned that at least Umar had now accepted that caliphate could rest with Bani Hashim.

Likewise, given that Allah’s Proof has a comprehensive understanding of a matter and acts with perfect wisdom, another reason why Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) participated in the consultative committee could be to expose the initial attempt on his life at the behest of Abu Bakr as also Umar. Since if Umar can order his killing in the consultative committee to ensure events unfold as he wishes, he could also have ordered his killing earlier for the same reason.

So the opponents are left with no argument regarding the plot to eliminate Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.). If it was officially sanctioned in the consultative committee, it could have officially been sanctioned earlier.

Saad Ibn Ubadah’s murder

Even if there is dispute about an attempt on Ali Ibn Abi Talib’s (a.s.) life, what do the opponents have to say about the cold-blooded murder of Saad Ibn Ubaadah?

Can they deny that he was eliminated by the rulers for refusing to pay allegiance?

Saad Ibn Ubadah was no ordinary person. As a companion of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), he was highly respected and stood head and shoulders above the likes of Abu Bakr and Umar in stature.

It is sufficient for his praise that on the day of Badr, he was given the standard of the Ansaar while Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) held the standard of the Muhajireen.

  • Taarikh al-Tabari, vol. 3, p. 210

Clearly Abu Bakr and Umar couldn’t even compare to Saad Ibn Ubadah in stature, let alone Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.).

On the Day of Saqifah, Saad Ibn Ubadah was the most likely candidate for caliphate if we were to go by consensus which is the most favoured yardstick of the majority. This is because the Ansaar had flooded Saqifah once the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had breathed his last.

But two factors went against Saad – poor health and infighting amongst the Aws and Khazraj factions of the Ansaar. This gave the upper hand to the Muhajireen although they were heavily outnumbered and had no-good members like Abu Ubaydah Jarrah and the two Shaikhs staking a claim for caliphate.

After allegiance was paid to Abu Bakr by the Muslims – Saad Ibn Ubadah and his entire clan refused to follow suit and severed all relations with the rulers, refusing to socialize with them or pray with them or even perform Hajj with them. This continued till Abu Bakr’s death and Umar became the ruler.

One day the Muslims heard that Saad Ibn Ubadah had been killed with an arrow in a remote location. His death was attributed to a ‘Jinn’.  For the intelligent, it was clear that the ‘Jinn’ was an official government assassin – like Khalid Ibn Waleed or an agent of Muawiyah like Al-Mughairah Ibn Shobah. His ‘crime’ as recorded by historians was the obvious challenge to the authority of the rulers Abu Bakr and Umar by refusing to pay them allegiance.

  • Sharh Nahj al-Balaaghah vol. 1 p. 540

Saad Ibn Ubadah offers two lessons to all Muslims

Saad Ibn Ubaadah’s incident exposes two important lies peddled by the Muslims of yore and today.

First lie – Selection of Abu Bakr and Umar was backed by consensus.

This is clearly false.

Were Saad Ibn Ubadah and his group of Khazraj not part of the consensus? Yes

Did they pay allegiance to Abu Bakr and Umar? No

Hence Abu Bakr and Umar were not selected by consensus.

Second lie – Ali Ibn Abi Talib’s (a.s.) life was spared by the rulers.

Wasn’t Saad Ibn Ubadah ‘eliminated’ for refusing to pay allegiance to the rulers?

In the least, there is no explanation for his disappearance. The best explanation the government could offer was that it was the handiwork of a Jinn!

Hence it should not come as a surprise to anyone if Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) was likewise targeted for his opposition to the caliphs.

To conclude, let us quote a small humorous incident. Momin al-Taaq, a very knowledgeable companion of Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.) known for his debates with the opponents, was once asked, ‘Why Ali (a.s.) did not rise against the usurpers of his right if he was truthful?’

Momin al-Taaq replied, ‘He was afraid of the Jinn.’

Everyone was amused at this apparently nonsensical answer. But Momin al-Taaq clarified, ‘Ali was scared of the same Jinn that had killed Sa’d Ibn Ubadah.’ Hearing this answer, everyone was stunned because they followed the inference.