Welayah in the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH)


Research and writing: Mahdi Salimi

O you who have believed, obey Allāh and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you (Olu ‘l-Amr). (An-Nisā’: 59)

Who are “Olu ‘l-Amr” or the “commanders” whom the Qur’an considers obeying them along with obeying God and His Messenger? There is a difference of opinion between the followers of the school of caliphs and the followers of the school of Ahl al-Bayt (PBUH).

The followers of the school of caliphs consider Olu ‘l-Amr the commanders and scholars who are in charge of religion and the four caliphs.[1] While all the followers of the school of Ahl al-Bayt (PBUH) agree that, the 12 Imams are the ones who are entrusted with the leadership of all the material and spiritual affairs of the Islamic society by God and His Messenger.[2]

Who are the true examples of the “commanders”?  Historical reports answer this question. Allamah Askari in a part of his book “Maalem al-Madrasatain” cites these historical reports by quoting the sources of the school of caliphs [so-called Ahl al-Sunnah] and this writing is a brief research and adapted from the book Maalem al-Madrasatain.

The attention and concern of the Messenger of God (PBUH) in determining Olu ‘l-Amr after him.

At the beginning of the Bi’tha[3], the Prophet (PBUH) secretly called to Islam for three years until the divine command was revealed:

And warn, your closest kindred. (Ash-Shu’ara 214)

And the Prophet revealed his invitation and started from his family. In historical sources, quoted by Tabari and Ibn Athir, it is narrated from the words of Amir al-Mu’minin Imam Ali (AS) that he said:

When the verse “And warn, your closest kindred.” was revealed, the Prophet (PBUH) called me and said: “O Ali! God commanded me to warn my close family and I was troubled by this verse, because I knew that if I shared this with them, I would see something [from them] that I was reluctant to see. Therefore, I remained silent until Gabriel came down and said: “O Muhammad! If you don’t do what your Lord has commanded you, He will punish you.” So prepare food for us and put a piece of mutton on it and pour milk in a large container and call all the children of Abd al-Muttalib so that I can talk to them and what I have been ordered to convey to them”

I did what the Prophet asked me to do. I invited them, and on the promised day, about 40 people showed up, among them were the Prophet’s uncles, such as: Abu Talib, Hamza, Abbas, Abu Lahab. When they gathered with the Prophet, the Prophet (PBUH) called me to bring the food that I had prepared for them. When I brought the food, the Prophet with blessed teeth tore some meat into several pieces and placed the pieces around the dish and said: “Eat in the name of God.” The whole family ate until they were full and I could only see their hands place in the food. To God, in whose hands Ali’s life is, the food I offered to all of them was so little that one of them could eat it all alone, but the whole family was satisfied and full with the same food. Then the Prophet (PBUH) said to me: “offer the Drink to the family” I brought them the same container of milk and they all drank from it until they were all full and I swear to God, the container of milk was so small that one of them could drink the same container of milk alone. When the Messenger of God wanted to speak to them, Abu lahab took the initiative and said: “How hard this friend of yours has bewitched you!” All the families got up and dispersed while the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) did not speak to them. The next day, the Messenger of God said to me: “O Ali! This man proceeded with the very word you heard and caused the people to scatter before I could say anything to them. Just like the food you prepared, make preparations and bring them all back to me. Imam Ali (A.S.) did what the Messenger of God (PBUH) again and offered them food like yesterday. Then the Messenger of God spoke: “O children of Abd al-Muttalib! I swear to God, I don’t know any young man in the Arab nation who has brought better than what I have brought to you. I have brought you the good of this world and the hereafter. The Almighty God told me to invite you to Him. So which one of you will help me in this “matter” to be my brother, guardian and successor among you?” All the people refused to answer him, and I [Ali ibn Abi Talib], who was younger than all of them, said: “O Prophet of God, I will become your minister for that matter.” The Prophet (PBUH) grabbed my neck and said: “This is my brother, guardian and successor among you. Listen to him and obey him.” Immediately the family stood up while laughing and saying to Abu Talib: “He has ordered you to listen to your son and obey him”[4]

This dawah[5] was in the third year of the Prophet’s mission, in which the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) revealed the call to Islam for the first time, and from the very beginning, he raised the issue of “command”[6]

Conditional alliance with the Prophet (PBUH)

Ibn Hisham and Tabari have narrated:


The Prophet (PBUH) used to visit the Arab tribes on various occasions to spread the call of Islam and call them to God’s worship and help[7], among them he came to Bani Amer bin Sa’sa’ah. A man from among them, whose name was Bahira bin Firas, said: “I swear to God, if I had taken this young man from Quraysh, I would have dominated the Arab people through him.” Then he said to the Prophet: “If we pledge allegiance to you We followed you, and then God gave you superiority over your opponents, will it be for us after you?” The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “The matter rests with God, He places it wherever He wills.” He said: “Should our necks be the target of the Arab people (and our lives be in danger) and when God gave you the upper hand, this will be for other than Is it us?! We do not need your command” and they turned away from him[8].

This Arab man understood from the very beginning that the order of the Messenger of God (PBUH) is sovereignty and rule, and in exchange for his agreement with the Messenger of God (PBUH), he wanted a share in the rule and leadership of the Arabs for his tribe. But the Prophet (PBUH) refused to accept his proposal despite his strong need for supporters and left the decision to God, not to the people[9].

The condition of the ruler of Yamama region in accepting Islam

The Messenger of God sent six ambassadors to the rulers of different regions to invite them to Islam[10] including an ambassador named Salit bin Amr al-Amiri to the ruler of the Yamama region, Huzah bin Ali al-Hanafi, and entrusted him with a letter.

Huzah bin Ali al-Hanafi welcomed the ambassador of the Messenger of God (PBUH) and expressed his love for him and read the letter of the Prophet. He wrote in response to the Prophet:

How good and beautiful is what you invite. I am the poet of my people and their orator. And the Arabs consider my status, so give me a share of the affairs so that I can follow you.”

After that, he gave a gift to the ambassador of the Messenger of God (PBUH) and dressed him in a garment. The ambassador returned to the Messenger of God (PBUH) and presented all the gifts to him and conveyed the words of Huzah to him. But the Prophet did not accept and said:

If he asks for a barren land from me, I will not give it to him.

Therefore, a part of the command that Huzah asked the Prophet was the rulership of a land or a tribe, which the Prophet said that he would not make him the ruler of even a barren land.[11] If by default, the command of leading the society is the responsibility of the people, then why The Prophet (PBUH) did not accept the diplomatic offer of Yamama ruler and did not even agree to promise him a barren land?

The content of the Aqaba Al-Kobra Treaty

After the death of Khadijah (pbuh) and Abu Talib (pbuh) (the two economic and political supporters of the Prophet), Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was left unprotected and the pressure of the people of mecca polytheists on him and his followers increased. For this reason, the Prophet needed another geographic-social base other than Mecca to spread the divine messages from there. At the same time, in the year 11 of the Prophet’s Bi’tha , 6 people from the people of Yathrob (Madinah) met the Prophet (PBUH) in Mecca. They, who were familiar with the attributes of the Prophet through the predictions of the Jews living in Medina, were attracted to him when they saw Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and thus the preparations for the migration of the Prophet (PBUH) were made. The following year, 12 people from the people of Yathrob (Madinah) pledged allegiance to the Prophet during the Hajj season. And again the following year, 70 or so of them gathered with the Prophet (PBUH) in Aqaba. The Prophet (PBUH) said to them: Choose 12 leaders from among you to be in charge of your people’s affairs. They chose 12. The Messenger of God (pbuh) said to the leaders: “You are in charge of the affairs of your people, just as the apostles were in charge of the affairs of Jesus (pbuh)” and made a pact with them. 12 leaders, but what were the provisions of this treaty?

Ubadah ibn al-Samit was one of the twelve leaders who reported the contents of this treaty:

“We pledged allegiance to the Messenger of God to listen and obey in hardship and comfort, in happiness and unhappiness, and to not speak anything but the truth in any situation, and not to be afraid of the blame of any blamer in the way of God, and not to quarrel about  the matters of command with who owns it.”[12]

What the Messenger of God (PBUH) meant about the command that he made a pact to not quarrel over its owner, is the one that they quarreled with in ” Saqifa of the Banu Sa’ida ” after the death of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). But why did the Messenger of God (PBUH) not name the owners of the command from the very beginning? The wisdom is that probably some of those who pledged allegiance did not have the capacity to accept the owners of the command (that is, people other than their own tribes).[13]  Who exactly are these owners of the command (commanders)?

A dispute over command in Saqifa

Despite the fact that the Messenger of God (PBUH) rejected the request of those who wanted a share in the rule in exchange for support, and considered the choice to be the responsibility of God, not the people[14]  and even at the beginning of the formation of the Islamic community (in the Treaty of Aqaba Al-Kobra) took an oath of allegiance from Ansar so that they would not quarrel with the owners in the matter of command [15], but after the death of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), the Muhajirun and the Ansar gathered in a place called Saqifa of the Banu Sa’ida, where the focus of their discussion was the quarrel and competition over “the command”.

A summary of the content of Tabari’s history book is given below:

When the Prophet (PBUH) passed away, the Ansar gathered in the Saqifa of the Banu Sa’ida and said: “After Muhammad, we will make Sa’d ibn Ubadah the guardian of this command.” They brought Sa’d ibn Ubadah while he was sick. When they gathered around him, he could not make his voice heard by everyone, so one of his relatives heard his voice and recited it loudly to those present. After a short speech, he said: “Take this command only for yourself, because it is only for you, not [other] people.” In response, they all said while expressing his merits: “We entrust you with this command…” Then they started talking. They continued and said: “If the Quraysh Muhajirun refused and said, for example: We are the Muhajirun and the first companions of the Messenger of God.” We are his family and friends. So why do you quarrel with us in this command? [What should we do then?]” Some people said: “Then we will say: one year a leader will be one of us and one year a leader from one of you, and we will not be satisfied with anything except this.” The news of this assembly reached Umar ibn al-Khattabb. He rushed to Abu Bakr. He was at home and Umar sent to Abu Bakr: “Come out to me!” Abu Bakr said: “I am busy.” Umar sent him to him again: “Something has happened, you must be present.” Abu Bakr came out, Umar said: “Didn’t you know that the Ansar have gathered in the Saqifa of the Banu Sa’ida?” And they want to entrust this command to Sa’d ibn Ubadah!? And the best opinion that was presented was from someone who said: “A leader from us [Ansar] and a leader from the Quraish!” The two of them rushed towards the Saqifa of the Banu Sa’ida. On the way, Abu Ubayda al-Jarrah accompanied them. They encountered two of the Ansar near Saqifa. The two said: “Go back!” what you want is not here!” They said: “We will not” and entered the assembly. Umar says: “We went to them while I had prepared a speech that I wanted to speechify to them. then Abu Bakr said: Wait! Let me speak first!” Abu Bakr held the assembly and gave a speech and praised the Quraysh Muhajirun and said: “…they were the first to worship God on earth and believed in the Messenger, and they are his friends and family, after him the most deserving people for this command are them No one but the unjust will argue with them about this command…” He then went on to praise the Ansar and then added: “After the first Muhajirun, we do not have anyone like your status [Ansar]!” So we are the leaders and you are the ministers… we can’t do things without you!” Meanwhile, Habab ibn Mundhir got up and said: “O group of Ansar! Take your command… no one would dare to oppose you… you are people of honor and wealth… don’t argue because you would lose your command… If they [the Muhajirun] refused, this is the best opinion: a leader from us and a leader from them” Umar said in his answer: “Never! Two [leaders] do not come together at the same time. I swear to God, the Arab people will not be satisfied with your emirate [the Muhajirun] while there are greater people other than you! But the Arab people have no problem entrusting their affairs to those who have prophethood in them and entrusting their affairs to them. And we [the muhajirun] have clear proof and clear power for anyone from the Arab people who avoided our command. Who else but the people of falsehood will quarrel with us about the power and the Monarchy of Muhammad, while we are his friends and family?! In short… the conversation took off and finally everyone agreed on Abu Bakr and pledged allegiance to him.[16]

What the Muhajirun and the Ansar argued about in the Saqifa of the Banu Sa`ida was the power and emirate after the death of the Messenger of God (PBUH), which was interpreted as the caliphate after the Messenger of God (Khalifat Rasulullah).[17]

The followers of the school of caliphs believe that the leadership of the society is by the peoples Decision. While the historical reports of the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) show the opposite. There are many such reports. In addition to the above four reports, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was so concerned about appointing a successor after him that even when he was absent from Madinah for a few days for traveling or wars (invasions), he appointed a temporary successor. Allamah Askari in his book “Maalem al-Madrasatain” mentions examples of it categorized:

1) In the Battle of Bawat, he appointed Sa’d ibn Mu’adh one of the Ansar and one of the greats of the Aws tribe as his successor in Madinah.


2) In the invasion of Banu Qaynuqa, he appointed Abu Lubaba Ansari Awsi as his successor in Medina.


3) During the last Jumada period, he appointed Ibn Umm Maktum as his successor in Faran invasion and was absent from Madinah for ten days.

4) During the invasion of Dhi Amr in the districts of Najd, he appointed Uthman ibn Affan as his successor and was absent from Madinah for ten days.


5) In the Battle of Banu l-Mustaliq, He left his Ghulam[18] Zayd ibn Haritha as his successor and was absent from Madinah for eighteen days.

6) In the invasion of Mecca, he appointed Abu Rahm Al-Ghaffari as his successor of Madinah.

In addition to 21 other cases that Allamah Askari mentioned in his book.[19]How could a Prophet that would appoint a successor in his absent from Madinah for a few days for managing the affairs of the Muslim community, to leave the guardianship of the community of Islam to the people’s choice (democratic methods) after his death?! In terms of historical evidence (also quoted from the sources of the followers of the school of caliphs), especially the incident of Ghadir, it is clear that the Saqifa incident was a kind of rebellion against the Sunnah and command of the Messenger of God (PBUH). The result is that the leadership and command of the society is from God, not the determination of the people.[20] In a narration from Jabir ibn Abdullah Al-ansari, when this verse was revealed:

“O you who have believed, obey Allāh and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you.”

I said: O Messenger of God! We know God and His Messenger. Who are the owners of the command whose obedience God has compared to your obedience? The Messenger of God (PBUH) said: O Jabir! They are my successors and imams [leaders] of the Muslim community after me. The first of them is Ali ibn Abi Talib. Then Hasan, then Hussein, then Ali ibn Al-Hussein (Sajad), then Muhammad ibn Ali, who is known as Baqir in the Torah. Jabir, you will meet him, so if you see him, convey my greetings to him. After him is Sadiq Ja`far ibn Muhammad, and then Musa ibn Ja`far (al-Kazim), then Ali ibn Musa (al-Reza), then Muhammad ibn Ali (al-Jawad), then Ali ibn Muhammad (al-Hadi), and then Hasan ibn Ali (al-Askari) and After him, the one that has both my name and nickname, the proof of God on earth and his remnant among the servants of God, is the son of Hasan ibn Ali. He is the one that by him God is will be mentioned in the east and the west. He is the one who is absent from the Shias and his Owlya, an absence that no one remains steadfast in his promise to his Imamate unless God has tested his heart for faith.[21]


[1]  Zamakhshari, Al-Kashaf, 1407 AH, Volume 1, 524; Fakhr Razi 1420 AH, Vol.10, 113.

[2] Makarem Shirazi and others, Tafsir nemooneh, 1371, vol.3, 436.

[3] refers to the sending of muhammad to the people of the world

[4] Tabari History book, compiled by Muhammad bin Jarir Tabari, vol. 2, pp: 321-321, al-Kāmil book, compiled by Ibn Athir, vol. 2, pp. 62-63

[5]  the act of inviting or calling people to embrace Islam.

[6] The book of Maalem al-Madrasatain , authored by Allamah Sayyid Morteza Askari, volume 1, pages: 271-273

[7] Tabari, Muhammad bin Jarir; Tarikh al-Tabari, 1387 AD, vol.2, p.348

[8] Ibn Hisham, Vol. 1, pp. 424-425, Tabari, Tarikh al-Tabari 1387 AH, Vol. 2, pp. 350

[9] Tabari, Tarikh al-Tabari 1387 AH, vol.2, p: 644, Khalifa bin Khayyat, Tarikh Khalifa, 1415 AH

[10] Tabari, Tarikh al-Tabari 1387 AH, vol. 2, p. 644, Khalifa bin Khayyat, Tarikh Khalifa, 1415 AH

[11] Maalem al-Madrasatain, authored by Allamah Askari, vol.1, p.: 218

[12] Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyah, Ibn Hisham, vol.1, p.: 454

[13] Ma’alem al-Madrasatain, Allamah Askari, vol. 1, pp. 271-270

[14] Ibn Hisham, Vol. 1, pp. 424-425

[15] Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyah, Ibn Hisham, vol.1, p.: 454

[16] Tarikh al-Tabari, Muhammad bin Jarir al-Tabari, vol. 3, pp. 218-222

[17] Ma’alem Al Madrasatain, Allamah Askari, Vol. 1, p. 219

[18] an Arabic word meaning servant, assistant, boy, or youth.

[19] Ma’alem al-Madrasatain, authored by Allamah Askari, vol.1, pp.: 274-279.

[20] Ma’alem al-Madrasatain, authored by Allamah Askari, vol. 1, p. 217

[21] Kamal al-din wa tamam al-ni’ma, Sheikh Sadooq, vol. 1, p. 253; I`lam al-wara bi A`lam al-Huda, Shaykh Tabarsi, p. 397; Kifayat Al-Athar, Khazaz Razi (died: 4th century) pp. 53-54

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