Muslims accuse the Shias of lowering the position of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and raising the status of Imams (a.s.). This is of course a result of their poor understanding of Prophethood and Imamat and their own personal prejudices.
But one way the Muslims have raised their own leaders / Sahabah over Allah’s Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is in the matter of appointing a successor. When it comes to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) the Muslims maintain that he (s.a.w.a.) was neglectful in this regard and failed to appoint a successor. However, the Sahabah were more dutiful and intelligent in this regard and appointed a successor to shepherd the nation. This view is clear from reports like these:
Abu Bakr more intelligent than the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)
Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) outlining to Ibn Abbas how the rulers engineered the usurping one after another:
Then Abu Bakr made Umar as caliph and in this he did not follow the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) who (according to Muslims) left without appointing a caliph.
Abu Bakr was asked in this connection, so he said:
Should I leave the nation of Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) like an old shoe? Would I leave it without appointing a caliph over the Muslims?!
This was his taunt against the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) as (apparently) he (s.a.w.a.) was heedless in appointing a caliph.
- Kitab al-Sulaim (r.a.) trad 14
- Behar al-Anwar v 30 p 152
Umar more intelligent than Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)
Umar is reported to have said:
One who does not leave behind a successor squanders the affairs of the nation.
- Tarikh al-Madinah v 3 p 885-896
According to this report, Umar believes the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) squandered the affairs of the nation.
Abdullah Ibn Umar more intelligent than Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)
Abdullah Ibn Umar urges his father to appoint a successor:
I heard something from the people and took an oath that I will communicate it to you. They presume that you are not going to nominate a successor. If a grazer of camels and sheep that you had appointed comes back to you leaving the cattle, you will (certainly) think that the cattle are lost. To look after the people is more serious and graver.
- Sahih al-Muslim Book 20 trad 4,486
Abdullah Ibn Umar had basic common sense which the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) lacked, when it came to appointing a successor.
Non-Muslims more intelligent than Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)
Even those Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was inviting towards Islam were concerned about successorship of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and used it as a bargaining chip to accept Islam.
When the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) invited Bani Amir Ibn Saasah tribe to Islam, one of them asked:
If we follow you and Allah makes you victorious over the opponents, would successorship be there for us after you?
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) replied: The matter (of successorship) is with Allah and He places it wherever He wants.
- Al-Seerah al-Nabawiyyah of Ibn Kathir v 2 p 158
- Tarikh al-Tabari v 2 p 84
- Al-Seerah al-Halabiyya v 2 p 3
- Al-Seerah of Ibn Hashim v 2 p 32
- Life of Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) (Hayato Muhammad (s.a.w.a.)) by Haikal p 132
Likewise, we see when Amir Ibn Al-Tufail (the enemy of Islam) came to Medina, he demanded from Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.):
O Muhammad! What will you give me if I embrace Islam?
Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.): You will be given what the Muslims are given, and forbidden from what the Muslims are forbidden.
Amir: Will you grant me your position after you if I embrace Islam
Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.): This position is not yours or your people’s. I may give you leadership of battles.
Amir: Now, I am already the commander of armies of Najd. You may give me the leadership of the Bedouins exclusively.
Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) rejected his leadership proposal.
Amir threatened: I will fill your area with horses and fighters.
Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.): God will protect against you.
- Al-Seerah al-Nabawiyyah of Ibn Kathir v 4 p 109
Then when Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) sought the Kinda tribe’s support in his advocacy, they stipulated that he should hold them his position of authority after his death.
Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) retorted: Authority is God’s. He hands it over to whoever He desires.
Therefore, they rejected his solicitation.
- Al-Seerah al-Nabawiyyah of Ibn Kathir v 2 p 159
Incidents like this show that even outsiders and non-Muslims were thinking about successorship and leadership and sought it for themselves and the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) clearly mentioned that it was for Allah to decide. So how can then Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w.a.) ignore or neglect it at a later stage. It puts a question mark on the prophethood of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) who had all along maintained that a successor would be appointed by Allah.
Going by these reports, according to the Muslims, the companions of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and even non-Muslim tribes appreciated the urgency to appoint a successor but Allah who sent forth his last Prophet (s.a.w.a.) with a Shariah till the Day of Judgment was neglectful in appointing a caliph! Also Muslims will have to concede that by appointing a successor, the Sahabah have distanced themselves from the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) Sunnah – which in their view is to leave the nation without a caliph.