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Letter Exchange 1: Caliphate, Imamat and Ali's loyalty to Caliphs

The following Queries were mailed to us by a fellow visitor, student and seeker of truth. Below is an article-version of the email exchange.

  1. Hazrat Ali remained loyal to first three caliphs. What do you say?
  2. Shias considered caliphate to be Mawla Ali's right and not Imamat!
  3. Caliphate or Imamat is by the consent of people, and not given by god!
  4. Sermons of Mawla Ali praising Abu bakr and Umer exist, showing the love and affection they shared
  5. Imamat is same as caliphate!


Loyalty is not the right word. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) signed a peace treaty with the kuffars of Mecca at Hudaibya. During this era, the Prophet (SAW) did not fight against the pagans, neither did he show any offense or sign of disagreement with them. Can you call this treaty, a loyalty of Prophet (SAW) towards the disbelievers? Definitely no. I am not comparing the caliphs with pagans, they were Muslims, just as everyone else who recites the Kalimah. However i wanted to clarify that not fighting against or speaking against some one is not necessarily loyalty.

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was prophet of Allah when only Mawla Ali (AS) believed in him, and he will be prophet of Allah if no one believes in him, or everyone believes in him. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) only became the leader of the Islamic estate when the people gave him that position.

In other words, political leadership cannot be possible without the consent of the people. During the era of Abu Bakr, Umer and Usman, they had the consent of the people, due to which Mawla Ali did not try to over throw them, neither support them. As the consent of the people was with the rulers of the time, it was not Mawla Ali's duty to lead the nation, when the nation did not want him to lead it.

When Mawla Ali became the caliph, he fought Mawiya. You must note that Mawiya had been ruler of Syria during the era of second caliph, Umer, but Mawla Ali (AS) didn’t fight Mawiya. As soon as Mawla Ali became the caliph, he called on Mawiya for accountability of Public treasury and thus the battles began. Because Mawla was given a political post by the people now it was now his duty to rectify things as the head of the state. If Mawla Ali was not given khilafat by the people, he would have never fought Mawiya. In other words, if Mawla Ali was not chosen by the people to lead them, he would have remained silent under Mawiya's rule as well, just like he remained silent against Mawiya for his seventeen year rule over Syria during the Caliphate of Umar and Usman. Silence is not loyalty or support all the time. It is a boycott as well.

The thing which u call loyalty, I call patience and dissociation. Mawla Ali (AS) went into political dormancy which is the reason he and Zulfiqar did not participate in any “jihad” under the first three caliphs.

Shias not only consider caliphate to be Mawla Ali's right, but also believed in his Imamat. What is the the difference between a caliph and an imam will be given later.

Where are those who falsely and unjustly claimed that they are deeply versed in knowledge, as against us, although Allah raised us in position and kept them down, bestowed upon us knowledge but deprived them, and entered us (in the fortress of knowledge) but kept them out. With us guidance is to be sought and blindness (of misguidance) is to be changed into brightness. Surely Imams will be from the Quraysh. They have been planted in this line through Hashim. It would not suit others nor would others be suitable as heads of affairs.
Peak of Eloquence, Sermon 144, Regarding Prophets and Ahlulbayt

Certainly the Imams are the vicegerents of Allah over His creatures and they make the creatures know Allah. No one will enter Paradise except he who knows them and knows Him, and no one will enter Hell except he who denies them and denies Him. Allah the Glorified, has distinguished you with Islam and has chosen you for it. This is because it is the name of safety and the collection of honour.
Peak of Eloquence, Sermon 152, Regarding Allah and Imamat

As said earlier, caliphate is different from Imamat. It will be discussed later. Caliphate requires the consent of people. Imamat will only be given by Allah.

And when his Lord tried Ibrahim with certain words, he fulfilled them. He said: Surely I will make you an Imam of men. Ibrahim said: And of my offspring? My covenant does not include the unjust, said He.
Quran [2:124]

Imamat was given to Ibrahim (AS) by Allah. Ibrahim (AS) didn’t consult with people for Imamat. Ibrahim (AS) did not turn to the people for the appointment of his children as Imams also. He asked Allah as to if his offspring will also bore Imamat.

Thus denial of and disobedience to an Imam chosen by Allah, irrespective of what Imamat means or whatever authority the Imam has, is the denial of Allah himself.

The term Caliph may mean an Imam literally. But in context, the difference is made as such, that Caliph is a political leader or the head of the state. The caliph maybe chosen by the people as per their desire, but obedience to a Caliph is not necessary by any means. A caliph chosen by the people, will represent the people. Your political views may or may not be in his favor, but majority will rule.

As per history, Ali (AS) will remain an Imam, with or without the consent of the people. Imam Ali (AS) also believed caliphate to be his right, more than any other man, for obvious reasons. Being followers of Ali (AS), we back his arguments. But until the consent of the People is not with Ali (AS), he cannot represent the people.

As an Imam, he will always represent Allah, not as a Prophet obviously. 

Firstly, you quoted a sermon from Nahjul Balaga, or Peak of Eloquence;

On Hazrat Umar’s demise he (Ali) expressed his praise in these words: “He straightened the disorders, treated the disease, left behind the sedition, established the Sunnah, passed away from the world with unblemished clothing and less evil, caught hold of virtues (of the world) and surpassed its evil. He abided by Allah and feared Him too...” (Nahajul Balaghah ; Sermon No. 225, published by Tublighate Imani Hind, Bombay)

I am sorry to say but that I cud not find anything in Nahjul Balaga like the reference u posted above. If u copied it from a link, then re verify it. I do not have any sermon like that, or with those wordings in the nahjul balaga. Beware of the propoganda of extremist and nasibi websites.

Logically thinking, how can Umar be praised for establishing the Sunnah when sunni texts proudly make his innovations as the part of Islam? And how can Mawla Ali say that, when it is clear from the research of scholars, unanimously, that Mawla Ali rejected the caliphate after the demise of Umer, because he did not agree to the condition, "following the Sunnah of Sheikheins".

How ever Mawla Ali's views on Abu bakr and Umer from shia nahjul balaga and Sunni Sahah Sittah are widely availible.

Beware! By Allah the son of Abu Quhafah (Abu Bakr) dressed himself with it (the caliphate) and he certainly knew that my (Ali's) position in relation to it was the same as the position of the axis in relation to the hand-mill. The flood water flows down from me and the bird cannot fly upto me. I put a curtain against the caliphate and kept myself detached from it. Then I began to think whether I should assault or endure calmly the blinding darkness of tribulations wherein the grown up are made feeble and the young grow old and the true believer acts under strain till he meets Allah (on his death). I found that endurance thereon was wiser. So I adopted patience although there was pricking in the eye and suffocation (of mortification) in the throat. I watched the plundering of my inheritance till the first one went his way but handed over the Caliphate to Ibn al-Khattab after himself.
Peak of Eloquence, Sermon 3, Sermon of ash-Shiqshiqiyyah

It is reported by Zuhri that this tradition was narrated to him by Malik b. Aus who said: Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) had said:" We do not have any heirs; what we leave behind is (to be given in) charity." So both of you (Ali and Abbass) thought him (Abu Bakr) to be a liar, sinful, treacherous and dishonest. And Allah knows that he was true, virtuous, well-guided and a follower of truth. When Abu Bakr passed away and (I [Umer] have become) the successor of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) and Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him), you (Ali) thought me to be a liar, sinful, treacherous and dishonest. And Allah knows that I am true, virtuous, well-guided and a follower of truth. .......
Sahih Muslim , Book 19, Number 4349

Janab Zahra (AS), the leader of the women of paradise, had shown her discontent and anger at Abu Bakr and Umer;

Narrated 'Aisha: (mother of the believers) After the death of Allah 's Apostle Fatima the daughter of Allah's Apostle asked Abu Bakr As-Siddiq to give her, her share of inheritance from what Allah's Apostle had left of the Fai (i.e. booty gained without fighting) which Allah had given him. Abu Bakr said to her, "Allah's Apostle said, 'Our property will not be inherited, whatever we (i.e. prophets) leave is Sadaqa (to be used for charity)." Fatima, the daughter of Allah's Apostle got angry and stopped speaking to Abu Bakr, and continued assuming that attitude till she died. Fatima remained alive for six months after the death of Allah's Apostle.................
Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 53, Hadith 325

So to argue that Abu bakr and Umer were in the good books of ahlulbayt is absolutely absurd. Please read myth of the saintly companions for a deeper historical account.

This point has already been discussed above. However, In literal meanings, both might be similar, but in reference and historical use, they differ vastly. A caliph is the head of the state, a political leader. If the Muslim Ummah votes for me, I will become the caliph of the Islamic empire. Yazeed was a caliph, we had the Ummayad, Abbasid and Fatamid caliphate, even ottoman caliphate.

The word caliph literally translates to representative.

And when your Lord said to the angels, I am going to place in the earth a khalif, they said: What! wilt Thou place in it such as shall make mischief in it and shed blood, and we celebrate Thy praise and extol Thy holiness? He said: Surely I know what you do not know.
Quran [2:30]

Allah nominated Adam (AS) as a caliph for earth. This caliphate however did not mean the caliphate I was talking about earlier. Adam (AS) was the representative of Allah on earth. He was not nominated by people. Even if people didn’t vote for him, he would remain Allah's caliph on earth.

Abu bakr was chosen as the caliph or Islamic head, to represent Islam on behalf of prophet Muhammad (SAW), by the people, which is wrong in itself. Abu bakr, if chosen by the people, represents the people's choice and not Allah's or Islam's. Thus Abu bakr's caliphate is a political leadership, just like the nominated leaders of the Islamic world we have today, Ahmedinajad, or Musharaf (given he is voted for) etc…

Imam is literally the same, leader. The leader of a country is also an imam of the country.

However, the Imamat or khilafat we talk about, is the one which was given to Adam (AS), or more specifically, to Ibrahim (AS).

Imamat is the one which is given to prophet Ibrahim (AS). Unfortunately, Sunnis don’t know what Imamat is, and more unfortunate is that most Shias even do not know what Imamat is.

I will ask you a question and you shall have your answer of what Imamat is.

Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the Last of the prophets; and Allah is cognizant of all things.
Quran [33:40]

And who has a better religion than he who submits himself entirely to Allah? And he is the doer of good (to others) and follows the faith of Ibrahim, the upright one, and Allah took Ibrahim as a friend.
Quran [4:125]

And when his Lord tried Ibrahim with certain words, he fulfilled them. He said: Surely I will make you an Imam of men. Ibrahim said: And of my offspring? My covenant does not include the unjust, said He.
Quran [2:124]

I have posted above a verse which concludes the termination of the office of prophethood after demise of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Can you show me any verse or hadith from history which points towards the termination of the office of Imamat? The answer is simple. No! Because for you to show a verdict which terminates the office of Imamat, the verdict needs to exist, while it obviously is non-existent.

Who were the Imams is another issue and already discussed in another article. The question now arises that even after being a prophet of Allah and friend of Allah, what other honor and authority would being the imam of men bring to prophet Ibrahim (AS). What was missing, which honor and authority Ibrahim (AS) didn’t have as a Rasool Allah and khalil Allah which Imamat would bring to him. Secondly, why was prophet Ibrahim (AS) keen for imams to belong to his offspring as well and was he granted that prayer of his or no.

You answer the above and you will know what Imamat is. I hope this helped.

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