Event of Ghadir Khumm
The event of Ghadir Khumm (Arabic: حَدِيْث ٱلْغَدِيْر, romanized: Ḥadīth Al-Ghadīr; Persian: رویداد غدیر خم) refers to a sermon delivered by the Islamic prophet Muhammad at the Pond of Khumm (Arabic: غَدِيْر خُمّ, romanized: Ghadīr Khumm), shortly before his death in 632 CE. According to Shi'ite traditions, in the sermon Muhammad announced Ali ibn Abi Talib as his successor, after which the final verse of the Quran was revealed, proclaiming the perfection of the religion of Islam. The day's anniversary in the Islamic calendar (18 Dhu al-Hijjah) is celebrated by Shi'ite Muslims as Eid al-Ghadir.
The event of Ghadir Khumm occurred while the Muslims were returning from the Farewell Pilgrimage. According to Shia belief, a verse of the Quran was revealed instructing Muhammad to deliver an important message. The Muslims were gathered and Muhammad delivered a lengthy sermon. The speech included the famous statement by Muhammad that "Anyone who has me as his mawla, has Ali as his mawla". Shi'ites interpret this phrase to be the designation of Ali as Muhammad's heir, though this is disputed by Sunni Muslims. Shia traditions also state that the last verse of the Quran, which is the third verse of Al-Ma'idah (the fifth chapter of the Quran), was then revealed: "This day I have perfected your Religion for you: Completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your Religion."
Most historical sources regarding the life of Muhammad (such as Al-Tabari, Ibn Hisham and Ibn Sa'd)[note 1] either make no mention of Ghadir Khumm or, if it is acknowledged, avoid discussion of Muhammad's address. However, it is probable that such writers purposefully abstained from commenting on the event so as to not anger the Sunni rulers of the time; such discourses could have been used to provide potential fodder for Shia claims to Ali's right to the caliphate. It cannot be doubted however, that Muhammad had spoken at Ghadir Khumm and had given the legendary statement simply due to the sheer number of well-attested hadiths which mention the event. Shia sources claim that over a hundred Sahaba and eighty-four Tabi'un recount the event with different chains of transmission. Preservers of such accounts include Shi'ites, such as Ya'qubi, as well as Sunnis like Ahmad ibn Hanbal in his famous Musnad, with the traditions recorded in the latter generally being considered canonical.
While the authenticity of the event is not contested, its interpretation is a source of controversy between Sunnis and Shias. The Sunni historian Ibn Kathir for example, while himself having collected a huge number of hadiths regarding Ghadir Khumm, states that they supply no basis for Ali's succession. Conversely, the Iranian scholar Abdul Hosein Amini compiled eleven volumes worth of sources in support of the Shia view. However, notable in its lack of mention of Ghadir Khumm is the Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya, attributed to the Fourth Shia Imam and considered by some to be the third holiest book in Shia Islam.[note 2] Having provided special prayers for the "two great feasts" of Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr as well as other prominent days, its neglect to comment on Eid al-Ghadir is conspicuous, possibly casting doubt on the Shi'ite interpretation of the event and implying that it may have been a later invention. Conversely, it is notable that the first undisputed mention of Ghadir Khumm (aside from the hadiths) is roughly contemporary to the Fourth Imam's time; a verse by the 8th Century poet al-Kumayt. Further to this, verses attributed to Hassan ibn Thabit referencing the event are recorded by Ibn Shahr Ashub which, barring authenticity issues,[note 3] predate Al-Sahifa by almost a century.
Situated between Mecca and Medina, Ghadir Khumm was a pond which was fed by a nearby spring. It received its name (meaning "Deceiver Pond") in reference to the salinity of its water which 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, providing shade and later hosting a mosque constructed in honour of Muhammad. However, the climate was very hot and unhealthy. The original inhabitants of the region, members of the Banu Khuza'a and Banu Kinanah tribes, were forced to abandon it due to its poor pasturage and the tendency for them to be afflicted by fevers. Prior to Muhammad's address, Ghadir Khumm had never previously been used as a caravan stop.
Ten years after the migration and on the last days of Dhu al-Qi'dah (coinciding with 632 in the Gregorian calendar), Muhammad moved from Medina to Mecca accompanied by thousands of his followers. He only once attended Hajj rituals, a few months before he died. Since this Hajj took place in the last year of his life, he made his farewells to people. Ali was in Yemen, preaching Islam, when he was informed about Muhammad's Hajj, so he moved towards Mecca together with some people and joined Muhammad before rituals began. When the rituals of Hajj were finished, Muhammad left Mecca for Medina together with other 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 to the pilgrims who had accompanied him before they parted ways. Due to the extreme heat, a dais was constructed for him which was shaded by branches. Calling up Ali and taking him by the hand, Muhammad asked the assembled pilgrims whether he, Muhammad, was not closer to them than they were to themselves. In response, the gathered shouted their agreement. Muhammad then gave the famous proclamation "Anyone who has me as his mawla, has Ali as his mawla". Some versions add the additional sentence "O God, befriend the friend of Ali and be the enemy of his enemy."
Though the previous account is the general essence which is agreed by both sects, Shia sources also include additional details in regards to their beliefs of the event. In such versions, Muhammad is stated to have previously been aware (through divine inspiration) that Ali was to succeed him as leader of the Muslim community. However, he chose to withhold this information from his followers until such a time that Ali would not face opposition to his ascension. At Ghadir Khumm, Muhammad received the Quranic revelation to "communicate that which was revealed to you by your Lord" (Quran ). Some versions of this last tradition state that the Quran, prior to an alleged falsification by enemies of Ali, explicitly mentioned his succession in this verse.[note 4]
Muhammad then addressed the Muslims with the "Mawla" statement, which was to be taken as the official designation of Ali as his successor. He also disclosed his own impending death and urged the Muslims to be faithful to two things: the Quran and his family. After performing prayers, Muhammad and Ali went to the former's tent and there, on Muhammad's orders, Ali received the congratulations of the Muslims who acclaimed him as Amir al-Mu'minin (Commander of the Faithful). Among these well-wishers were the later caliphs Abu Bakr and Umar, as well as Ibn Abbas. The poet Hassan ibn Thabit was also said to have composed, with Muhammad's approval, a poem in honour of Ali's nomination. Muhammad then commemorated the day by declaring it to be the "Greatest Eid" of Islam.
This day have those who reject faith given up all hope of your religion: yet fear them not but fear Me. This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. (Quran )
This verse has been viewed to have been the last part of the Quran to be revealed. Again in regards to the alleged falsification of the Quran, it is also said to have originally contained an overt reference to Ali. The unadulterated version was claimed to have been "This day, I have perfected your religion for you thanks to the walaya of Ali ibn Abi Ṭalib and completed My favour unto you". However, the verse is typically not believed to have been associated with Ghadir Khumm, but is instead generally accepted to have been revealed on the Day of Arafah some days earlier.
Mawla has a number of meanings in Arabic, with interpretations of Muhammad's use here being split along sectarian lines between the Sunni and Shia. Among the former group, the word is translated as "friend" or "one who is loyal/close" and that Muhammad was advocating that Ali was deserving of friendship and respect. Conversely, Shi'ites tend to view the meaning as being "master" or "ruler" and that the statement was a clear designation of Ali being Muhammad's appointed successor. The uncertainty of Muhammad's use of the word is somewhat proved by the fact that in some versions of the event, mawla is swapped out in favour of the less ambiguous term wali.
Among Sunnis, Ghadir Khumm is not associated with Ali's succession and is considered to be of little significance. Instead, the Sunni historian Ibn Kathir connects the event with Ali's campaign in Yemen, from which he had just returned prior to accompanying Muhammad on the Farewell Pilgrimage. Ali was said to have been austere in regards to the distribution of booty during the expedition. This behaviour affected his popularity among the soldiers, with doubts being raised regarding his integrity and accusations of greed and misuse of authority being levied against him. Ibn Kathir thus suggests that Muhammad, wishing to pacify these protests, used Ghadir Khumm to publicly declare his love and esteem for Ali. Other sources though have questioned whether it would be logical to make such a public announcement in response to a relatively isolated issue.
Ghadir Khumm is seen as the official designation of Ali as the intended heir to Muhammad as both the spiritual and temporal leader of the Muslim community. It is viewed to be the single most important evidence for the succession of Ali and his descendants, as well as the granting to them of the unique authority to interpret the Quran. As a result, the date of the sermon is considered to be one of the foundational events of Shia Islam, with the anniversary being one of its most important annual celebrations. Among Shi'ites, the importance of Ghadir Khumm was proved when Ali, twenty-five years after the event, publicly referenced it. In 658, while standing in front of the mosque at Kufa, Ali called for witnesses from Ghadir Khumm to testify to it, to which a dozen or so individuals stepped forward. However, whether Ali was claiming religious authority with this action or merely calling for an allegiance of trust varies among historians.
There are some doubts regarding Ali's role in the sermon. Some have questioned the veracity of Muhammad naming Ali his successor, as well as the subsequent oaths of allegiance, given that there is evidence that Ali was not present at Ghadir Khumm at all, instead being stationed in Yemen at the time. Historian Al-Tabari published his two-volume work (now lost), Ahadith Ghadir Khumm, to refute this belief upon learning of it from a Baghdadi scholar. However, Ibn Kathir, another influential historian, disputed the work and upheld the theory, stating that Al-Tabari had failed to distinguish between weak and reliable sources.
In addition to this, it may be considered unlikely for Muhammad to have chosen a successor in Ali, given the latter's relative youth, being approximately thirty years old at the time of the speech. It is notable that Arabs of this period traditionally avoided entrusting young and untried men with great responsibilities. Historian M. A. Shaban adds that his sources regarding the community at Medina at the time gave no indication of them reacting as they would have done had they heard of this designation. Shaban concludes that had Muhammad intended on a successor at all, his most practical option would have been for his followers to choose one amongst themselves.
Following the death of Muhammad in Rabi' al-awwal 11 AH (June 632 CE), Abu Bakr, an eminent Sahaba, was chosen as the new leader of the Muslim community through an election at Saqifah. Several of Muhammad's companions, most prominent among them being Ali, initially disputed this succession. It would not be until after the reigns of Abu Bakr and his successors, Umar and Uthman, that Ali would finally ascend the throne. Though these four rulers are referred to by Sunnis as the Rashidun (rightly-guided) Caliphs, only Ali is recognised by the Shia, with the remainder being viewed as usurpers to the latter's inheritance.
Shia Muslims celebrate 18 Dhu al-Hijjah as the occasion on which Muhammad declared Ali as his successor, with the anniversary being termed Eid al-Ghadir. Fasting, doing Ghusl (ritual bath), reciting the Du'a Nudba, and giving food to believers is among recommended practice for the date. Iraqi Shi'ites honour the holiday by making pilgrimages to Karbala while in Iran, honey-filled pastry effigies are made representing Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman, which are then are stabbed with knives. It is also a public holiday in countries such as: India, Azerbaijan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Bahrain and Syria. Shi'ites also celebrate Eid Ghadir in Europe and Americas, particularly the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France.