The First Explicit Appointment
Adopted from the Book : "Shi'ism; Imamate and Wilayat" by : "Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi"
Islam began when the Prophet became 40 years old, Initially, the mission was kept a secret. Then three years after the advent of Islam, the Prophet was ordered to commence the open declaration of his message. This was the occasion when Almighty Allah revealed the verse "And warn thy nearest relations." (26;214)
When this verse was revealed, the Prophet organized a feast which is known as "the Feast of the Clan" (da'wat dhi l-ashira). This is the first time that the Prophet openly and publicly called the relations to accept him as the Messenger and Prophet of Allah. It is also the same feast in which the Prophet declared Ali bin Abi Talib very openly, very clearly, and very explicitly as his successor and caliph. I will just summarize what the Prophet said:
O Sons of Abdu l-Muttalib! By Allah, I do not know of any person among the Arabs who has come to his people with better than what I have brought to you. I have brought to you the good of this world and the next, and I have been commanded by the Lord to call you unto him. Therefore, who amongst you will support me in this matter so that he may be my brother (akhi), my successor (wasiyyi) and my caliph (khalifati)?
The Prophet (s.a.w.) used the word "my brother, my successor, my caliph". This is as explicit as it can get in the very first call to Islam! No one answered except Ali bin Abi Talib who was only around fifteen years old at that time. The Prophet called Ali closer to himself, patted his neck, and said;
Verily this is my brother, my successor, and my caliph amongst you. Therefore, Listen to him and obey."1
This is very explicit because the audience understand the appointment of Ali very clearly. Some of them, including Abu Lahab, even joked with Abu Talib that your nephew, Muhammed, has ordered you to listen to and obey your own son! At the least, this shows that the appointment was clear and explicit, not just implied.
The greatest proof of the explicit nature of this appoinment at the very early stage of Prophet Muhammad's mission is the attempt by Sunni writers to conceal the words used by the Propeht. For example, the famous Muslim historian, Ibn Jarir at-Tabari (d. 310 AH.) has recorded this incident with the crucial words intact in his Ta'rikhu 'I-Umam wa l-Muluk. The 1879 edition of his Ta'rikh, published in the Leiden (Netherlands) has the words; "... this is my brother, my successor and my caliph ...." But when it came to at Tabari's Tafsir, while commenting on the verse 26:214 at-Tabari himself or the editors have changed the words as follows; ".... this is my brother, and so and so.'
All these attemps to delete the whole incident from the pages of history or chage the crucial words "my successor and my caliph' into so-and-so" clearly shows that those terms where were very expicit in suppoting the appointment of Imam Ali as the successor of the Prophet. If it had been otherwise, then there was no need on the part of our opponents to hide or change these words.
1. For more on this event, see the chapter, "Self-Consorship in Muslim History" above.
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