Many Muslims believe that Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) was not the designated successor of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Had he been the rightful successor he should have staked his claim to caliphate. His silence in this regard means that he had accepted the caliphate of Abu Bakr.
Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) claimed his right to caliphate on several occasions immediately after the demise of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and right up to the time he became the apparent leader of the Muslims after Usman’s death. Not only he (a.s.), many of the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) faithful companions led by Salman al-Muhammadi (r.a.) and Abu Zarr (r.a.) also defended his right to caliphate.
Even before he (a.s.) made a claim, the usurpers of caliphate were well aware of Ameerul Momineen’s (a.s.) right in this regard. They took extreme measures to forestall and obstruct his attempts to warn the Muslims about his superior claims and his relationship with the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.a.). They attacked his house and burnt down the door without regard for its inhabitants viz. Ali (a.s.), Fatima Zahra (s.a.), Imam Hasan (a.s.) and Imam Husain (a.s.) among others. They dragged Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) out of the house to pay allegiance to Abu Bakr.
All this and more was done only with the explicit objective of denying Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) his right to caliphate. The most reliable books of Ahle Tasannun have documented these incidents in vivid detail.
Of course, despite their own books contradicting their claims, the Muslims insist that none of this happened and Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) never claimed caliphate.
Not necessary for Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) to claim caliphate
There is an interesting incident involving Hesham Ibn Hakam (r.a.) – the great debater and defender of the Ahle Bait (a.s.) – on this topic. The incident proves that even if we go by the argument of the Muslims that Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) did not claim caliphate, he was still in the right. In fact, it was not even necessary for him to claim caliphate.
Ziraar asked Hesham b. Hakam (r.a.) – Why didn’t Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) call the people towards his Imamat if he was in fact the successor of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.)?
Hesham (r.a.) – It was not obligatory on him to do so because the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had already invited the Muslims towards his (a.s.) guardianship and leadership on the Day of Ghadeer, the Day of Tabook and on other occasions. But the Muslims did not heed his (s.a.w.a.) invitation. Had it been permissible to invite, then Adam (a.s.) would definitely have invited Iblis towards prostration after Allah’s order for prostration.
So he (Ali a.s.) was patient … “as did the apostles endowed with constancy bear up with patience…” (Surah Ahqaaf (46): Verse 35)
• Manaaqeb-e-Aal-Abi Talib (a.s.) vol. 1 p. 270 of Ibn Shahr Aashob
NOTE: Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) has claimed Caliphate and Imamate to be his right on numerous occasions immediately after the martyrdom of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) till his own period of apparent caliphate. Here, Hesham (a.s.) is merely arguing on the basis of assumption i.e. even if we assume that Ali (a.s.) did not make any claim, then his example would be like that of Prophet Adam (a.s.) who did not ask Iblis to prostrate before him after Allah the Almighty had already ordered him to do so but he refused. When someone has refused Allah’s command, Adam’s order would be like defying the Emperor but obeying the slave!! Similarly, after the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had introduced Ali (a.s.) as his successor on several occasions, there was no point in Ali (a.s.) reiterating his claim. Nevertheless, to complete his argument against the people and that they may not have any excuse on the Day of Judgment, he (a.s.) has repeated his claim on several occasions amongst different audiences.
Apart from this there are other arguments to prove that Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) was in the right whether or not he claimed caliphate.
For instance, there is a tradition of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) accepted by all Muslims –
‘Ali is with the truth (haqq) and the truth is with Ali. O Allah! Turn the truth wherever Ali turns.’
So whether or not he reiterated his claim to Imamat after the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) is in the right.