Event of Ghadir Khumm
The event of Ghadir Khumm (Arabic: حَدِيْث ٱلْغَدِير; Persian: رویداد غدیر خم) refers to a sermon delivered by the Islamic prophet Muhammad at the pond of Khumm, shortly before his death in 11 AH (632 CE). According to Shia Islam, Muhammad announced Ali ibn Abi Talib as his successor in this sermon. Ali, who was Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, occupies a similar position in Islam that Aaron does in Judaism. The anniversary of this day in the Islamic calendar (18 Dhu al-Hijjah) is celebrated by Shia Muslims as Eid al-Ghadir.
|Event of Ghadir Khumm|
|Also called||Eid Al-Ghadeer|
|Observed by||Muslims, mostly Shi'ites|
|Significance||Appointment of Ali as the successor of Muhammad; completion of the message of Islam (Shi'ite view)|
|Observances||Prayers, gift-giving, festive meals, as well as reciting the Du'a Nudba|
|Date||18 Dhu al-Hijjah|
|2021 date||29 July|
The event of Ghadir Khumm took place when Muslims were returning from the farewell pilgrimage, in which Muhammad had informed Muslims about his impending death. On the return trip from the farewell pilgrimage, Muslims were gathered and Muhammad delivered a lengthy sermon, in which he again reminded the audience about his imminent death and then uttered the famous words "Anyone who has me as his mawla, has this Ali as his mawla." He repeated this sentence two or three more times and the sentence itself is often referred to as the Ghadir Khumm hadith. After Muhammad's sermon, his companion, Omar, congratulated Ali and told him, "You have now become mawla of every faithful man and woman."
The word mawla has multiple meanings in Arabic and leader or friend are its two most relevant translations in this context. Shias interpret mawla as leader and see the Ghadir Khum sermon as the formal designation of Ali as Muhammad's successor, though this interpretation is disputed by Sunnis, who interpret mawla as friend in this particular sermon. In some other well-attested narrations of the Ghadir Khumm hadith, instead of the word mawla, the word wali appears which primarily means leader in Arabic.
Later, on the day of al-Ruhba, Shia and Sunni have both recorded that Ali referred to the Ghadir Khumm event to support his right to caliphate. Shia and some Sunni sources also hold that verse 5:67 of the Quran ordered Muhammad to appoint Ali as his successor, shortly before the Khadir Khumm event. Lastly, according to Shia sources, parts of verse 5:3 of the Quran were revealed to Muhammad shortly after appointing Ali as his successor in the Ghadir Khumm event. Islam, as a religion, was declared complete on that day by the Quran. Sunni Islam rejects this view and holds that this verse was revealed to Muhammad a few days earlier, on the day of Arafah.
It cannot be doubted that Muhammad had uttered the Ghadir Khumm hadith, simply due to the sheer number of accounts. Indeed, even if we limit ourselves to mainstream Sunni sources, the Ghadir Khumm hadith appears in numerous Sunni works, several of which are considered canonical. The Shia scholar Amini relied on Sunni sources to list over a hundred sahaba and eighty-four tabi'un who had recounted the event. However, some authors, such as al-Tabari, ibn Hisham and ibn Sa'd, made little or no mention of the Ghadir Khumm event. It is probable that such writers purposefully abstained from commenting on the event to avoid angering their Sunni rulers by supporting Shia claims about Ali's right to the caliphate.
All twelve Shia Imams have either narrated or discussed the Ghadir Khum event. For example, the fourth Shia Imam clearly interpreted mawla as leader, even though Ghadir Khumm in not mentioned in a collection of duas attributed to him, known as al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya. Instead, a famous dua for Eid al-Ghadir has been supplied by the tenth Shia Imam. The Ghadir Khumm event is also mentioned in poems and elsewhere in the Arabic literature, some of which possibly dating back to Muhammad's time; these are compiled in six volumes of the al-Ghadir book.
Situated between Mecca and Medina, Ghadir Khumm was a pond which was fed by a nearby spring. It received its name, which means deceiver pond, in reference to the salinity of its water that made it unfit for consumption. It was here that a trijunction existed where routes from Medina, Egypt and Iraq intersected. The area was surrounded by bushes and trees and later hosted a mosque that commemorated the Ghadir Khumm event. The original inhabitants of the region, members of the Banu Khuza'a and Banu Kinanah tribes, were forced to abandon the area due to its poor pasturage and harsh climate. Prior to Muhammad's address, Ghadir Khumm had never been used as a caravan stop.
Ten years after the Muhammad's migration to Medina and on the last days of Dhu al-Qi'dah, Muhammad performed the hajj rituals in Mecca. This hajj ceremony has become known as the farewell pilgrimage, in which Muhammad informed Muslims about his impending death. The prevailing view is that Ali was in Yemen, preaching Islam, but managed to join Muhammad in time for the rituals. A number of Sunni sources argue that Ali did not reach Mecca in time to be present in the Ghadir Khumm event but the prevalent Sunni view rejects this argument and Ali's presence at Ghadir Khumm is also evident from the words "this Ali" in the Ghadir Khumm hadith. In his book against Shia beliefs, the Sunni scholar ibn Hajar noted that "Those who question the authenticity [of the Ghadir Khumm hadith] and those who reject [the hadith] because Ali was in Yemen should be ignored." When the rituals of hajj ended, Muhammad set off on the return journey from Mecca towards Medina, accompanied by thousands of Muslims.
On 18 Dhu al-Hijjah 10 AH (March 632 CE), while returning from his farewell pilgrimage, Muhammad stopped at Ghadir Khumm to make an announcement before the pilgrims parted ways. He ordered those who were ahead to return and waited for the remaining pilgrims to join them. After the noon prayer, to avoid the extreme heat, a dais was constructed for Muhammad in the shade.
Muhammad then delivered a sermon, in which he gave Muslims the news of his imminent death. Muhammad also told Muslims that he would leave among them two important things: Quran and his ahl al-bayt, meaning his family. "These two will never be apart until they are presented to me on the day of resurrection," Muhammad told the crowds. This statement about the Quran and his ahl al-bayt is known as the Thaqalayn hadith, which he had repeated before on multiple occasions.
Then, calling up Ali and taking him by the hand, Muhammad asked the pilgrims: "Am I not awla to you than yourselves?" The translation of this sentence is: Do I not have a greater authority over you than yourselves? Awla has the same root as mawla in Arabic. Interpreting mawla as leader or master, Muhammad could have equivalently asked: Am I not your mawla? In response, the crowd shouted their agreement. It is worth noting that Muhammad's question for the crowd was a reference to verse 33:6 of the Quran. Muhammad then uttered what has become known as the Ghadir Khumm hadith:
He repeated this sentence two or three more times. Some accounts add that Muhammad then continued, "O God, befriend the friend of Ali and be the enemy of his enemy." After Muhammad's sermon, Omar congratulated Ali and told him, "You have now become mawla of every faithful man and woman." Omar was a companion of Muhammad and it might be worth noting that, after Muhammad's death, Omar helped install Abu Bakr as the caliph in the Saqifah gathering. Abu Bakr, also a companion of Muhammad, later appointed Omar as his own successor.
Though the above account is what both sects agree upon, Shia records also include additional details about the Ghadir Khumm event.
Shia's detailed accountEdit
In Shia records, two verses of the Quran are associated with the Ghadir Khumm event. Shortly before the Ghadir Khumm event, verse 5:67 ordered Muhammad to communicate an important message to Muslims, without which his divine mission would fail. In this verse, God also promises to protect Muhammad in the aftermath.
|يا أَيُّهَا الرَّسولُ بَلِّغ ما أُنزِلَ إِلَيكَ مِن رَبِّكَ ۖ وَإِن لَم تَفعَل فَما بَلَّغتَ رِسالَتَهُ ۚ وَاللَّهُ يَعصِمُكَ مِنَ النّاسِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لا يَهدِي القَومَ الكافِرينَ||O Apostle! Communicate that which has been sent down to you from your Lord, and if you do not, you will not have communicated His message, and Allah shall protect you from the people. Indeed Allah does not guide the faithless lot.|
According to Shia records, after this verse was revealed, Muhammad gathered all Muslims at Ghadir Khumm and delivered a lengthy sermon, in which he told Muslims about his imminent death and uttered the famous sentence "Anyone who has me as his mawla, has this Ali as his mawla." The most detailed account of Muhammad's sermon is attributed to the fifth Shia Imam. Two of Muhammad's companions have also narrated shorter versions of this sermon.
According to these accounts, Gabriel had previously twice ordered Muhammad to appoint Ali as his successor. Both times, Muhammad hesitated because he feared munafiqun (hypocrites) in the aftermath of Ali's appointment. The third time, Gabriel finally promised Muhammad protection from the faithless and spurred Muhammad to action. In his sermon, Muhammad also warned about munafiqun's subversion after his death.
After the sermon, Muhammad set up a tent for Muslims to pledge their allegiance to Ali. Abu Bakr, Omar, Talhah, and Zubayr were among those of Muhammad's companions who congratulated Ali. The poet Hassan ibn Thabit commemorated the occasion with a poem, which contains the verse "Stand up, Ali. You're my successor and the leader [towards salvation] after me."
Shortly after Ali's appointment, parts of verse 5:3 were revealed to Muhammad, which announced the perfection and completion of Islam, as a religion. It is also worth noting that, according to Shia and some Sunni sources, verse 5:67 of the Quran was accompanied in Muhammad's lifetime by a footnote that declared Ali as Muhammad's successor: "Communicate that which has been sent down to you from your Lord [about Ali's succession]," where the expression in brackets is not divine revelation but rather the accepted interpretation of this verse in Muhammad's lifetime.
|...اليَومَ أَكمَلتُ لَكُم دينَكُم وَأَتمَمتُ عَلَيكُم نِعمَتي وَرَضيتُ لَكُمُ الإِسلامَ دينًا...||...Today the faithless have despaired of your religion. So do not fear them, but fear Me. Today I have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed My blessing upon you, and I have approved Islam as your religion...|
Interpretation and viewsEdit
Meaning of MawlaEdit
While the authenticity of the Ghadir Khumm event is not contested, its interpretation is a source of controversy between Sunni and Shia. For example, the Sunni historian ibn Kathir held that the Ghadir Khumm hadith supplied no basis for Ali's succession. Conversely, the Shia scholar Amini compiled eleven volumes worth of Sunni sources that support the Shia view about Ali.
Mawla has multiple meanings in Arabic and the opinion about the meaning of this word in the Ghadir Khumm hadith is split along sectarian lines between the Sunni and Shia. Among Sunnis, the word mawla in this hadith is translated as "friend" or "one who is loyal/close", i.e., Muhammad was advocating that Ali was deserving of friendship and respect. Conversely, Shias interpret the word mawla as "leader" or "ruler," i.e., the Ghadir Khumm hadith was a clear designation of Ali as Muhammad's successor.
One approach to resolve the ambiguity surrounding the word mawla is to investigate how this word was used in Muhammad's time and in similar contexts. To begin, in several well-attested versions of the Ghadir Khumm hadith, the word wali appears instead of the word mawla, which suggests that the narrators of these versions might have interpreted mawla as leader. Indeed, leader is the primary meaning of the word wali in Arabic. In Omar's own words, Abu Bakr became wali after Muhammad's death and Omar himself became wali after Abu Bakr's death.
In their inaugural speeches, both Abu Bakr and Omar used words that have the same root as mawla to announce their succession to Muhammad. On multiple other occasions, both Abu Bakr and Omar again used words with the same root as mawla to describe their authority, e.g., when Abu Bakr appointed Omar as his successor on his deathbed. As a side note, it is perhaps surprising that Abu Bakr appointed his own successor while Muhammad lacked the foresight to do the same. There are also reliable records indicating that Omar congratulated Ali after Muhammad's sermon and told him, "You have now become mawla of every faithful man and woman."
Among Sunnis, the Ghadir Khumm event is not associated with Ali's succession. Instead, the Sunni historian ibn Kathir connects the event with Ali's campaign in Yemen, from which he had just returned prior to the farewell pilgrimage. Ali was reportedly strict in imposing Islamic guidelines for a fair distribution of booty during the expedition. This behaviour angered some of the soldiers, a few of whom complained to Muhammad. In response, Muhammad sided with Ali and stressed that "[Ali] is too firm in his righteous way [for you to complain about him]."
Ibn Kathir too sides with Ali in his book but also suggests that Muhammad used the Ghadir Khumm event to publicly declare his love and esteem for Ali. However, having resolved the conflict earlier, it would have been unlikely for Muhammad to make a second and much more public announcement in response to the same isolated issue. Notably, among the dozens of Sunni accounts of the Ghadir Khumm event listed earlier, none has recorded any mention of the Yemen conflict in Muhammad's sermon.
Arabs in Muhammad's era traditionally avoided entrusting young men with great responsibilities. In view of this, some consider Ali's succession of Muhammad unlikely because he was in his thirties when Muhammad died. However, it is also worth noting that Muhammad entrusted the youth with key roles on multiple occasions, possibly to discourage the entrenched traditions of Jahiliyyah, which means ignorance and refers to the pre-Islamic era.
In one such instance, shortly before his death, Muhammad appointed Usama ibn Zayd to lead a new campaign against Romans even though he had not yet reached twenty. Usama's appointment raised criticism among Muslims and forced Muhammad to defend his decision. In particular, Muhammad had ordered both Abu Bakr and Omar to join the Usama's army. However, despite Muhammad's insistence, Abu Bakr and Omar, alongside many others, refused to leave Medina (ostensibly) out of concern for Muhammad's health. In the end, Usama's army did not leave Medina until after Muhammad's death.
In another instance, Muhammad left Ali in charge of Medina when he left for the Tabuk expedition. When some Muslims attempted to undermine his decision, Muhammad publicly endorsed Ali by saying that, "You are unto me as Aaron was to Moses." Al-Tabari labels Ali's critics as munafiqun.
Shia argues that the Ghadir Khumm hadith cannot be interpreted as an announcement about befriending Ali because
- Friendship cannot be forced.
- A friendship request does not justify the sheer number of surviving Sunni narrations of the Ghadir Khumm event.
- A friendship request was unlikely to follow Muhammad's breaking news about his imminent death, according to Sunni sources.
- A friendship request would not justify bringing back faster pilgrimes and waiting for slower ones on a scorching day, according to Sunni sources.
- A friendship request would suggest that Muhammad, unlike his successor, Abu Bakr, lacked the foresight to appoint his next in line, according to Sunni sources.
- A friendship request would not justify the Quran's verse "O Apostle! Communicate that which has been sent down to you from your Lord," which called Muhammad to action shortly before the Ghadir Khumm event, according to Shia sources.
- A friendship request would not justify Omar's congratulation to Ali afterwards: "You have now become mawla of every faithful man and woman," according to Sunni sources.
- A friendship request does not warrant the warning that "[O Apostle,] if you do not [communicate that which has been sent down], you will not have communicated His message...," according to Shia sources.
- A friendship request would not justify God's promise to protect Muhammad in the aftermath of the Ghadir Khumm event "...God shall protect you from the people," according to Shia sources.
- A friendship request would contradict the remainder of the Ghadir Khumm sermon which unambiguously designates Ali as Muhammad's successor and warns Muslims about subversion, according to Shia sources.
Shia views the Ghadir Khumm event as Muhammad's most public announcement of Ali's succession. According to the Shia, there were also other occasions on which Muhammad publicly announced Ali as his successor. One instance, which appears in several Sunni and Shia sources, is the so-called day of relatives, on which Muhammad presented Islam to his relatives and asked for their support. Ali, the youngest among them, was the only relative who offered his assistance. Addressing Ali, Muhammad then said, "You are my brother and my successor." It is widely accepted that verse 26:214 of the Quran was revealed to Muhammad prior to this event.
In the immediate aftermath of Muhammad's death in 11 AH, a small group of Muslims elected Abu Bakr as Muhammad's successor at Saqifah. The Saqifah event excluded Ali and the rest of Muhammad's family, who were preparing to bury him. After Muhammad's burial, Ali and his supporters peacefully protested Abu Bakr's succession. The Sunni view is that Ali's resistance continued until his wife, Muhammad's daughter, died from grief a few months later. However, the Shia view is that Ali's wife and Muhammad's daughter, Fatimah, died from the injuries that she suffered during a raid on her home ordered by Abu Bakr. The alleged raid was intended to subdue Ali and his wife, Fatimah.
Both Sunni and Shia agree that Fatimah's dying wish was that Abu Bakr should not attend her funeral. Ali buried his wife secretly under the cover of darkness to fulfill her last wish and Fatimah's exact burial place remains unknown to this day. The Sunni view is that Ali eventually acknowledged Abu Bakr's authority after Fatimah's death. However, about their relationship, Sahih Muslim writes that Ali regarded Abu Bakr as a liar, a sinner, and a traitor.
On his deathbed, Abu Bakr appointed Omar as his successor. When Omar was fatally injured in 23 AH, he tasked a small committee of six to choose the next caliph among themselves. The outcome of this committee was Uthman who ruled for 13 years. Even though Ali was also a member of this committee, historical reports indicate the odds were strongly stacked against him. After popular uprisings that led to Uthman's assassination in 35 AH, Ali was largely seen as the most eligible candidate for the caliphate.
When Uthman died, droves of Muslims pledged their allegiance to Ali in 35 AH, as the fourth caliph. However, among those who did not acknowledge Ali's authority or broke their pledge of allegiance, Muawiyah initiated the battle of Siffin against the new caliph, Aisha, Talhah, and Zubayr started the battle of the camel, and Kharijites (often identified as Islamic extremists) started the battle of Nahrawan. Ali's efforts were largely directed towards addressing the unjust distribution of wealth and power that had led to the revolts of 35 AH and Uthman's assassination. Arguably, his unyielding justice and his refusal to participate in the new game of political deception and opportunism that had taken root after Muhammad's death were the key factors that led to his assassination by a member of Kharijites.
During the reign of the first three caliphs, Ali regularly offered his help to support a nascent Islam. For instance, Ali's help with difficult judicial decisions saved multiple lives by overturning wrongful execution verdicts. The second caliph, Omar, said about Ali that "If it was not for Ali['s help], Omar would have perished."
However, it is important not to interpret Ali's efforts to support Islam and justice as support for the first three caliphs. Indeed, even though Ali offered his help in difficult situations, the historic records indicate that he also regularly criticized caliphs and defied their authority to uphold Islamic values. In his famous Shaqshaqiya sermon, Ali later said about the first three caliphs that "I patiently waited [through their reign], while [the pain was like having a] thorn in my eyes and suffocating. I watched them plunder my inheritance."
After assuming power, on the day of al-Ruhba, Shia and Sunni have both recorded that Ali referred to the Ghadir Khumm event to support his right to caliphate. A hadith about the so-called day of relatives, narrated by Ali, is another instance where he emphasized his right to caliphate.
Discussion: Why was Ghadir Khumm forgotten?Edit
Muhammad passed away less than three months after the Ghadir Khumm event in 11 AH. Immediately after Muhammad's death, the Saqifah gathering elected Abu Bakr as Muhammad's successor. While there are Sunni and Shia records of sporadic oppositions, Abu Bakr's succession of Muhammad was largely accepted.
On the other hand, there is no doubt that the Ghadir Khumm event took place, simply due to the sheer number of accounts that have reached us. Even if we opt for the Sunni interpretation of the Ghadir Khumm event (a request from Muslims to respect Ali), historical accounts from both Sunni and Shia suggest that Ali was ostracized after Muhammad's death and pressured to acknowledge the authority of the first caliph, Abu Bakr. Indeed, despite of Muhammad's request at Ghadir Khumm, many of his companions carried a deep hatred for Ali, according to ibn Taymiyyah. This hatred was in spite of Muhammad's famous warning: "[Ali,] only true Muslims love you and only munafiqun hate you." The enmity towards Ali continued after his death: Ali was buried in secret and his burial place was not disclosed for a few decades, fearing the hostility of Islamic rulers. Umayyad caliphs, including Muawiyah, publicly cursed Ali for decades.
A natural question is why Muhammad's instructions at Ghadir Khumm were ignored after just three months:
- Ali's youth might have been a factor, considering the entrenched traditions of Jahiliyyah that highly prioritized seniority among Arabs. Jahiliyyah literally translates to ignorance and refers to the pre-Islamic era.
- The strong sense of tribalism is another integral part of Jahiliyyah that might have been a factor here: Muhammad and Ali were both from the Banu Hashim clan and many might have preferred the power not to remain exclusively in hands of the Banu Hashim.
- Ali played a key role in defending a nascent Islam against the military might of the Quraysh tribe and that role earned Ali the enmity of Quraysh: In one instance, when the tide of war turned against Muslims in Uhud and most deserted the combat scene, despite suffering multiple wounds, Ali was among the handful of Muslims who defended Muhammad. After the battle of Uhud, Gabriel descended upon Muhammad with the message that, "There is no sword like Zulfiqar (Ali's sword) and there is no youth as brave as Ali." As another instance, in the battle of Khandaq, Ali killed the Quraysh hero, ibn Abd al-Wud, in a duel.
In these and other battles to defend Islam, Ali killed many of the Quraysh warriors and earned himself the enmity of the powerful Quraysh. As Islam grew more powerful, most of the Quraysh tribe converted to Islam but held on to their tribal identity from Jahiliyyah. This enduring enmity and hatred was not lost on Muhammad who warned Ali, "These people hold grudges against you that they will reveal only after my death."
- It was not uncommon for Muhammad's companions to disobey him. In fact, in a famous hadith, Muhammad prophesied that among those Muslims who would survive him after his death, most would turn their backs to Islam and would be damned to hell. A few examples of this disobedience follow: On his deathbed, Muhammad asked his companions for pen and paper: "I will write something that will guide you in the path of righteousness after my death." Omar told those with him that, "Muhammad is delirious and the Quran suffices for you." A heated argument broke out among them and Muhammad's request was eventually ignored. In another instance, all but a handful of Muslims left Muhammad alone when a new convoy arrived at Medina during the Friday sermon.  Another example is the Tabuk expedition in 9 AH, in which many defied Muhammad's orders under various pretexts. Several verses of the Quran reprimanded those who disobeyed Muhammad on this expedition.
On his return from the Tabuk expedition, Muhammad survived an unsuccessful assassination attempt by twelve of his fighters. Yet another example is the campaign led by Usama ibn Zayd against Romans: Even though Muhammad repeatedly insisted on its urgency, Usama's army set off only after Muhammad had died.
While 18 Dhu al-Hijjah is not a significant day on Sunni calendar, Shia Muslims celebrate this day as the Eid al-Ghadir, the day on which Islam, as a religion, was completed by Ali's appointment as Muhammad's successor. A Shia hadith, attributed to Muhammad, commemorates Eid al-Ghadir as Islam's greatest Eid.
According to Shia and some Sunni sources, fasting and acts of charity are highly valued on this day. Iraqi Shias honor the holiday by making pilgrimages to Karbala while honey-filled pastry effigies are made representing Sunni caliphs in Iran, which are then stabbed with knives. However, this last claim might be fabricated or archaic: In fact, it is haram (forbidden) in Shia Islam to insult Sunni religious figures. Indeed, there are droves of Shia hadiths and religious instructions that prohibit any abuse, and encourage Shias to show kinship and unity with their Sunni "brothers."
Eid al-Ghadir is also a public holiday in several countries, including Iran, India, Azerbaijan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Bahrain and Syria. Shias also celebrate Eid al-Ghadir in Europe and Americas, particularly the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France.
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- The Feast (Eid) Ghadir Khum yjc.ir
- Islamic countries, Eid Ghadir Khum hawzah.net
- Ghadir Khum, celebration alkawthartv.com
- Eid Ghadir-Khum, in Georgia iribnews.ir
- The celebration of Ghadir, in Saudi Arabia shia-news.com
- Wikishia entry about the Ghadir Khumm event
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- The event of Ghadir Khumm
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- Khetabe Ghadir (Ghadir sermon)
- Complete sermon at Ghadir Khumm in English
- Ghadir, the greatest Eid of all religions
- Ghadir Khumm—Interesting aspects of a unique event
- Did Umar congratulate Ali?