Regarding the appointment of leaders (caliphs / Imams) of the Muslim nation in Saqifa, the Third Martyr (Al-Shaheed al-Thalith) Qazi Nurullah Shustari (r.a.) records in his book Al-Sawarim al-Muhriqah fi Naqd Al-Sawaiq al-Muhriqah:
There are several responses to this objection.
First the consensus being claimed on the installation of a leader by the Muslims can hardly be referred to as consensus as the Shias and Mutazalis do not consider such a selection as valid.
Secondly, those who did not attend the funeral of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and remained engaged in the election of Imam and caliph were not acting on any obligation. These individuals were foolish and heretical causing misery to Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Neither were they just nor truthful, their actions were despicable and reprehensible, therefore Shias consider this gathering (at Saqifah) as evil and a grave violation of divine command. And no believer performs such an act, one who acts as such has given preference to this world over the hereafter.
If they had some faith and consideration they would have waited till the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) shrouding and burial, they would have expressed sympathy and offered condolence to the family of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Then Ali (a.s.) and Bani Hashim would also have participated in the proceedings and the consensus would have been even broader than earlier (even though consensus is not required for the selection of an Imam).
And I wonder what the urgency was that they could not wait till the burial of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.). While in the state of illness, the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) kept asking for pen and paper so that regarding this very matter of selection of Imam he could write down some clear instructions, but the companions declared, ‘Quran is sufficient’.
And the purpose of gathering in Saqifa was nothing but seeking (worldly) leadership, because it is not clear how after the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) departure they suddenly became so vigilant for the appointment of an Imam for the protection of religion and how they showed such haste.
That is why all this seems a deception, because until yesterday when the enemies were challenging them in Badr, Uhud and Hunain they were sluggish and showed no vigilance in defending the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Islam.
And then they fled from the battlefield of Ahzab when Amr Ibn Abd Wudd challenged them with their names and titles, but they remained silent and did not dare answer him and thus they failed to abide by their covenants (to Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)).
And on the Day of (Battle with) Marhab (in Khaibar), they could not face him in battle and all of them fled in a most disgusting manner and on all these occasions they never rose to help Islam in its need, rather they fled from battle (after battle) to save their lives, then how did they get so vigilant about reformation in Islam after the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) demise?!
Clearly, the rush towards Saqifa was nothing but greed for power and position and for seeking the world and out of envy for Aal Muhummad (s.a.w.a.) and that became a reason for all of them going out from the fold of Islam.
- Al-Sawarim al-Muhriqah fi Naqd Al-Sawaiq al-Muhriqah p 188-192
Simply put, selecting an Imam is too important to be left to the personal whims of the masses or even a prophet. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) himself closed the door for such a selection by appointing Ali (a.s.) as his successor in Ghadeer and on multiple occasions. After this, there is no scope for selecting any other person as Imam.