The greatest celebration and blessed day for the Muslims according to narrations and prayers that have been recommended to be recited is Eid al-Ghadīr which is the 18th Day of Dhil Hijjah (the last month of the Islamic lunar calendar).
What Happened on Eid al-Ghadīr?
In the last year of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him and his household)’s life, he performed the Farewell Pilgrimage to Makkah and the Holy Kaʿbah; this was the year 10 AH.
Around 114 thousand up to 124 thousand have been recorded as having accompanied the Prophet on this hajj. During the return journey to Madinah, when they reached a place known as Ghadīr Khum which is near Juhfah, the angel Gabriel descended on him with the following verse of the Quran:
يَا أَيُّهَا الرَّسُولُ بَلِّغْ مَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِن رَّبِّكَ ۖ وَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلْ فَمَا بَلَّغْتَ رِسَالَتَهُ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ يَعْصِمُكَ مِنَ النَّاسِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْكَافِرِينَ
“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” [5: 67] (Qarai translation).
Juhfah is the place from where the people of Madinah, Egypt, and Iraq all separate and go their individual ways back to their own lands. The caravan entered into Ghadīr Khum on the 18th of Dhil Hijjah. Those who had gone ahead returned at the command of the Prophet and those who were behind stopped when they reached there. They offered the afternoon prayers in congregation lead by the Prophet and he then climbed on a pulpit made of camel saddles and addressed the congregation by delivering a sermon (Amini, 1387 AP, vol. 1, pp. 73-75).
Before going into the actual event, let’s analyze the abovementioned verse.
Analyzing the Verse
There are a few points regarding this event as well as the verse that we need to consider. These are the following:
- This is the only verse where the Prophet has been warned about concealing and not communicating the message and is told that if he does not pass this message from Allah to the people, all that he has performed in the 23 years of prophethood would have been for naught. What message is so important?
- The Prophet (peace be on him and his household) said to Imam Ali (peace be on him) that if I had not communicated what had been commanded to me of your mastership, all my actions would have been aborted.
- Surah al-Maʾidah (chapter 5) was revealed towards the end of the Prophet’s life.
- The verse does not address the Prophet as “O Prophet!” Rather, it addresses him as “O Messenger!” which shows it is an important message that needs to be delivered
- The Prophet feared the consequences of what he was going to do and Allah comforts him by telling him that He will protect him from the evil of others
- The Prophet did not fear for his own life because when he was alone and fighting against the idol-worshippers or fighting the polytheists in battles, he felt and showed no fear.
- The verse contains a message that is of equal importance to all the messages of the period of his prophethood combined as if he did not communicate it; it would be as though all his messages would have been in vain.
- The content of the message must be fundamental because minor or individual issues do not require such warning and comfort
- The message of the verse is not about tawhīd (the oneness and uniqueness of Allah/God), prophethood, or the Hereafter as these principles had been explained in the initial days of the Prophet’s appointment and did not require such instruction at the end of the Prophet’s life.
- The message of the verse is also not about the daily prayers, fasting, hajj, the obligatory charities like khums and zakāt or fighting in the way of Allah (jihād) as these had all been expressed during the 23 years of the Prophet’s call and people were acting upon these commands; therefore, there was no apprehension in this regard.
So the question is: what was this important message which the verse is talking about that the Prophet must communicate at the end of his life?
According to numerous narrations from both Shiʿite and Sunni sources, this verse is about the event that took place on the 18th of Dhil Hijjah in the year 10 AH/March 19 632 AD, on the Prophet’s return from hajj (Qaraati, Surah al-Maʾidah, verse 67).
The message that the Prophet was commanded to communicate was the introducing and appointing Imam Ali (peace be on him) as the walī (master) and Imam (leader) after him and to inform everyone of the necessity of following him.
He began the sermon by praising Allah and continued by informing the people that his death was soon approaching and he would leave them (Amini, 1387 AP, vol. 1, pp. 75-76). The sermon is a long one which the reader can refer to if interested as it has been translated into English as well.
At one point he said:
“Behold! I am leaving among you two precious and weighty Symbols that if you adhere to both of them, you shall never go astray after me. Each of these two surpasses the other in its grandeur.”
A person asked: “O Messenger of Allah, what are those two precious things?”
The Prophet replied: “One of them is the Book of Allah and the other one is my select progeny (Itrat), that is my family (Ahlul-Bayt). Beware of how you behave them when I am gone from amongst you, for Allah, the Merciful, has informed me that these two (i.e., Quran and Ahlul-Bayt) will never separate from each other until they reach me in Heaven at the Pool (of al-Kawthar). I remind you, in the name of Allah, about my Ahlul-Bayt. I remind you, in the name of Allah, about my Ahlul-Bayt. Once more! I remind you, in the name of Allah, about my Ahlul-Bayt” (A Shiʿite Encyclopedia).
The Prophet then took Imam Ali’s hand and raised it so high that the whiteness of both their armpits was visible to all. The Prophet then took an affirmation from them. The affirmation and acknowledgement he took from them is as follows:
“Who is more deserving (and more rightful) over the believers than they are are over themselves? They all replied: Allah and His Prophet know better. The Prophet then said: Verily, Allah is my master and I am master over the believers and I am more deserving (and more rightful) over them than they are over themselves.”
It was after this that the Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his household) announced:
“Whosoever’s master (mawlā) I am, Ali is his master (mawlā).”
He repeated this sentence about 3 or 4 times. He raised his hand in prayer and beseeched God: “O Allah! Love those who love him and be the enemy of those who have enmity towards him, help his helpers and humiliate those who humiliate him and make him the criterion and scale and axis of truth and uprightness.”
He then commanded that those who were present should communicate and pass on this message to those who were absent. The crowd had not yet dispersed when once again Gabriel came to the Prophet and revealed to him the following verse:
… الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الْإِسْلَامَ دِينًا…
“… Today I have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed My blessing upon you, and I have approved Islam as your religion…” [5: 3] (Qarai translation)
After the completion of the sermon, the people present all came and congratulated the Imam and paid allegiance to him. Of the first two to do so were Abu Bakr and Umar who said to him: Congratulations O son of Abu Talib for today you have become our mawlā (master) and the mawlā (master) of all believing men and women (Amini, 1387 AP, vol. 1, pp. 75-77).
The revelation of this verse indicates that it with the issue of Imamate of Imam Ali and the rest of the 11 Imams that Islam became complete and perfected.
The sermon is quite long and covers many other topics as well.
Important Topics Covered in the Sermon of Ghadīr
Some of the important topics that were covered in this sermon are as follows:
- Allah’s command to communicate an important message
- Announcement of the wilāyah (mastership) and Imamate of the twelve Imams
- Emphasized attention to the issue of Imamate
- Warnings regarding the treachery of the hypocrites
- The friends and enemies of the Ahlul Bayt
- Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance), the 12th and final Imam
- Taking formal allegiance from the people regarding the matter of Imamate of Imam Ali (Muballighan Journal, no. 50)
Meaning of ‘Mawlā’ in the Sermon of Ghadīr in Relation to Imam Ali
There are debates among the Shiʿite and Sunni schools of thought regarding the word mawlā in the sermon of Ghadīr. The two opposing views are:
- The Shiʿa and some Sunnis believe it refers to mastership and Imamate
- Most of the Sunnis believe it means friend and helper.
However, considering the various logical and contextual reasons in connection with the sermon, the conclusion is that it refers to the mastership and Imamate of Imam Ali after the Holy Prophet and not mere friendship or helper.
The word mawlā (مولی) in Arabic has many different meanings; some of which are friend or one who loves another, helper and one who has the right of mastership over the affairs of others. What does this word refer to in the sermon of Ghadīr and what was the Prophet’s intent? Did he mean that Imam Ali is the friend and helper of the believers?
Let’s look at a few reasons that prove his intent was that of mastership/wilāyah and Imamate:
- In many narrations of the hadith it has been reported that before the Prophet raised the hand of Imam Ali and said the sentence of whosoever’s master I am, Ali is his master, he reminded the believers of his mastership and right over them and took an affirmation from them in this regard by asking them: Am I not more deserving (and rightful) over you than yourselves? And they all replied yes and affirmed this. And it was after this that he said the aforementioned sentence regarding Imam Ali (For example, refer to: Ibn Hanbal, 1416 AH, vol. 32, p. 56 & Ibn Majah, 1418 AH, vol. 1, p. 133).
Clearly, the meaning of mawlā in the sentence “whosoever’s mawlā I am, Ali is his mawlā” concerning the Holy Prophet in relation to the Muslims, considering the context of the previous aforementioned sentence, refers to the leadership of the Prophet, i.e. he had mastership and authority over the affairs of the Muslims. Therefore, the Prophet, with this sentence, proved and announced the same mastership that he had over the Muslims for Imam Ali.
- In the sentence “whosoever’s mawlā I am, Ali is his mawlā” the being mawlā of the Holy Prophet has been mentioned first and then that of Imam Ali. Therefore, the word mawlā in relation to Imam Ali has the same meaning it holds for the Holy Prophet. The Prophet is the friend/one who loves the Muslims, their helper as well as their leader and master in their affairs, i.e. the guardianship or mastership of the Holy Prophet over the Muslim has three aspects: love, help and support, and leadership. These three aspects are proven for Imam Ali as well in the hadith/sermon of Ghadīr as the word has the same meaning for him too as mentioned above.
- Attributing the meaning of love and aid and support to the word mawlā necessitates that we attribute an unwise action to the Prophet who was the wisest person in the history of humankind. The reason being that Imam Ali loves and is the helper of all the Muslims and it is also incumbent on each of the Muslims that they love and support him. That was something that was known to everyone and was not something new to them. This is a requirement for faith as the Quran clearly states that the believers must love and aid one another: “But the faithful, men and women, are comrades of one another: they bid what is right and forbid what is wrong…” [9: 71] (Qarai translation). Therefore, it makes no sense that the Prophet would gather all those people in the heat of the day and deliver a sermon and remind them of this clear Quranic principle. And even if we wanted to remind them of this, it should have been in regards to everyone; not one particular person unless the intent was a special love and aid which is at the level of the love and aid of the Holy Prophet and is one of the requisites of leadership and Imamate.
- As is clear from the verse 67 of Surah al-Maʾidah where as well as narrations regarding the event of Ghadīr Khum, the Prophet was worried about announcing the guardianship and mastership of Imam Ali formally and explicitly. Clearly, he would not have been worried about announcing a normal love and support; rather, it was the leadership and rulership over the Islamic nation that would give the hypocrites and enemies an excuse to claim – based on their tribal and ignorant customs – that the appointment of the Imam as the leader of the Muslims was a human act and based on the laws of tribes and family and, as a result, the foundation of prophethood and messenger-ship would be distorted in the minds of people. However, God promised the Prophet that He would neutralize this scheme and threat.
- The mastership and guardianship (wilāyah) of Imam Ali which was announced on the day of Ghadīr was the reason for the completion and perfection of religion according to verse 3 of Surah al-Maʾidah which was revealed after the Prophet’s announcement. Without doubt, religious love and support at the normal and prevalent level do not have such a role in religion; unless the love and aid are of a special kind, i.e. a love and support that is equal to that of the Prophet which is inherent with leadership.
- The wilāyah of Imam Ali which was announced on the day of Ghadīr was so important that if the Prophet would have not have communicated it all the other Divine messages that he communicated would have been fruitless and would have been as though he had not done so at all. This matter conveys that the wilāyah of Imam Ali was the factor for the protection and continuation of the Divine messages that the Prophet had communicated. This wilāyah is nothing except the leadership of the Islamic nation; a leadership that would fill the void of the absence of the Prophet and is the criterion of truth and falsehood and the perfect role model of prophetic and Divine guidance. The fact that the Prophet emphasized the inseparability of the Quran and Ahlul Bayt and bound the guidance of the nation to these two, is clear proof of this fact.
- There are many other hadith that have been narrated from multiple sources and are authentic and prove the right of Imam Ali to leadership like the Hadith of Thaqalyn (two weighty things), Hadith of Manzilat (position), etc.
- The fact that the Prophet took allegiance from the people for this matter is another proof that it is a matter of leadership and mastership and Imamate; not friendship, love, and support. He commanded them to congratulate him and call him by the title of ‘Amirul Muʾmineen’ (leader of the believers)
- Among the people who were present, some of them composed poetry and recited it there in the presence and with the permission of the Prophet. In those verses, they clearly showed what their understanding of the words of the Prophet was by using the terms guide and Imam in their verses. The Prophet, in turn, did not correct their understanding or tell them this was not my intent. Rather, he confirmed this meaning by praising him (Ufuq-i Hawza, no. 290)
- Let us consider the sentence “whosoever’s mawlā I am, Ali is his mawlā” alone without considering the words of the Prophet before it.
Lexically and literally speaking there are two views regarding the meaning of the word mawlā. Some believe it refers to different meanings like friend/one who loves, helper, more rightful of authority, etc. as a homonym (one word which sounds the same but has different meanings), while some others believe that these all these meanings are instances of one comprehensive word and the word has a common meaning in all instances mentioned above.
According to Ibn Faris (a famous etymologist) in his Maqayīs al-Lughah and other scholars, explain that all the instances of the word walī share in the meaning of “closeness.” And one says awlā bish shaiʾ (close to something) in Arabic this refers to having more right over something. This word is used for closeness in terms of space, relations, religion, honesty, help, belief, metaphorical, etc. For example, a neighbor is close to a neighbor, a friend, and helper to one he/she loves and aids, etc.
However, those who believe it is a homonym consider one of its meanings to be one who is closer/more rightful over the affairs of another. The debate between the two sides regarding the sermon of Ghadīr is whether the word mawlā means one who has more rights and authority as the Shiʿa believe or it refers to friend and helper, as the Sunnis believe. However, none claim that it means all of the meanings in case it being a homonym.
Now, If we consider this sentence alone “whosoever’s mawlā I am, Ali is his mawlā” what do we understand from it? The question we ask is, what position does the Prophet hold? When he said this sentence which meaning of the word did he intend? As mentioned before, he was the helper, friend, as well as someone who had authority over the affairs of others. After the first part of the sentence pertaining to himself, he then said what I have Imam Ali also has and it is true for him too. Every Muslim agrees that the Prophet had all three of these positions. Whereas, those who advocate that the aforementioned word means simply friend; are advocating only the position of a friend for the Prophet as well (Rabbani)
And how does it make sense that the Prophet who was a wise and intellectual person would intent one meaning for one part of the sentence and in the second part of the sentence which he is connecting to the first, he would intent something else?
Therefore, considering all this evidence and proof, one can only conclude that what the Prophet was communicating and emphasizing on that day and in that sermon was the Imamate and successorship of Imam Ali.
Recommended Acts to be Performed on This Day
Some of the actions recommended to be performed on this day are as follows:
- The ziyarah of Imam Ali which can be found in the Mafatih al-Jinan
- The units of prayers as mentioned in the Mafatih al-Jinan
- Recitation of Dua al-Nudbah
- To feed other believers which has the reward of feeding all the prophets and the siddiqīn
- To recite the pact of brotherhood as mentioned in the prayer books
(Source: Mafatih al-Jinan)
- When one meets fellow believers to recite the following:
اَلْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ ٱلَّذِي جَعَلَنَا مِنَ ٱلْمُتَمَسِّكِينَ
alhamdu lillahi alladhi ja`alana min almutamassikina
Praise be to Allah Who has blessed us to be among those who cling and hold
بِوِلاَيَةِ امِيرِ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَٱلائِمَّةِ عَلَيْهِمُ ٱلسَّلاَمُ
biwilayati amiri almu’minina wal’a’immati `alayhim alssalamu
to the divinely commissioned leadership and authority of Amir al- Mu’minin and all the Imams, peace be upon them all (duas.org)
- Ahlul Bayt Digital Islamic Library Project Team. A Shiʿite Encyclopedia. Ghadir Khum Part 1. Retrieved from: https://www.al-islam.org/shiite-encyclopedia/ghadir-khum-part-1
- Amini, Abdul Hussein. 1374 AP. Al-Ghadīr, vol. 1. Translated by: Jalal al-Din, F. & Et. Al. Tehran: Bunyad-i Bethat. Retrieved from: https://www.noorlib.ir/View/fa/Book/BookView/Image/32514/1/73
- Ibn Hanbal, Ahmad. 1416 AH. Al-Masnad al-Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal, 1st ed. Research by a group of researchers. Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Risalah.Vol. 32
- Ibn Majah, Muhammad. 1418 AH. Sunan al-Ḥāfiẓ Abi ʿAbdillah Muhammad b. Yazīd al-Qazvīnī Ibn Majah, 1st ed. Research by Bisha Awad Maruf. Beirut: Dar al-Jil. Vol. 1
- “Maʿna Shenāsi-yi Mawlā dar Ḥadīth-i Ghadīr” (the semantics of the word mawlā in the narration of Ghadīr). Ufuq-i Hawza Journal, no. 290. 1389 AP. Retrieved from: https://hawzah.net/fa/Magazine/View/6435/7815/100012/%D9%85%D8%B9%D9%86%D8%A7-%D8%B4%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%B3%DB%8C-%D9%85%D9%88%D9%84%DB%8C-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%AD%D8%AF%DB%8C%D8%AB-%D8%BA%D8%AF%DB%8C%D8%B1
- Qaraati, Mohsen. Tafsir Nur. Commentary of Surah Maʾidah. Verse 67. Retrieved from: https://quran.anhar.ir/tafsirfull-26250.htm
- Qummi, Abbas. Mafatih al-Jinan
- Rabbani. Dars-i Kalam-i Ustad Rabbani (theological lessons of teacher Rabbani). Retrieved from: http://www.eshia.ir/feqh/archive/text/rabani/kalam/91/910809/
- “Waqiʿa-yi Ghadīr” (the event of Ghadīr). Muballighan Journal, no. 50. 1382 AP. Retrieved from: https://hawzah.net/fa/Magazine/View/2689/3834/29342/%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%82%D8%B9%D9%87-%D8%BA%D8%AF%DB%8C%D8%B1
Compiled by: Rashed