In the year 10AH, the Prophet proceeded on his journey to Mecca to perform pilgrimage. A pilgrimage which was later to be called the â€˜farewell pilgrimageâ€™ (hujjat al-wadaâ€™a). Named so because it was the last pilgrimage the Prophet was to perform before being called to Allah.
As news spread that the Prophet would be performing pilgrimage, many people came and joined. Some sources put the number that accompanied the Prophet from Mecca to Madina at 120,000. Although, the total number of pilgrims far outnumbered that. This count is not surprising since this was the first pilgrimage since migrating to Madina, so many wanted to join the Prophet and be a part of the auspicious occasion.
Soon after the completion of all the Hajj rituals, the Prophet turned home to Madina. On the 18th Dhul Hujja he reached a place called Ghadeer Khum. This place is the point at which the different nationalities disperse. The Yemenis, Egyptians and others, all change routes to return to their homelands. At this strategic point revelation descended upon the Prophet. Archangel Gabriel came to the Prophet with this verse, â€œOâ€™Apostle! Deliver what has been revealed to you from your Lord and if you do not then you have not delivered His message, and Allah will protect you from the people, surely Allah will not guide the unbelieving peopleâ€. (5:67)
The Prophet was ordered to make a declaration (balâ€™ligh), and if that communiquÃ© was neglected by the Prophet, it would amount to the Lordâ€™s message, which was delivered over a period of 23 years, being incomplete. As Allah say, â€œand if you do not deliver then you have not delivered His Messageâ€.
The message to be conveyed, that was to perfect and complete the Lordâ€™s Message (risalah), was the public appointment of Imam Ali as his vicegerent (wali).
This was an important issue, so much so, that the prophet ordered the people to halt in the searing heat of the desert. Anyone who had moved on was ordered back, and those lagging behind were awaited.
After praying the midday prayers, the Prophet had a pulpit erected. He ascended it and after praising the Al-Mighty Allah he said, â€œI have been summoned and it is the moment for me to answer, and I have a responsibility and so do you. So what do you say?â€ The large gathering all replied, â€œWe bear witness that you have delivered, parted advice and struggled, so may Allah graciously reward youâ€.
The Prophet then said, â€œDo you not bear witness that there is no God save Allah and that Mohammed is his Messenger, and that His heaven is reality and His hell is reality. And that death is reality, and that the hour will come no doubt about it (judgment day), and that Allah will raise the dead from their graves. They all said, â€œyes we bear witness to thatâ€. The prophet then said, â€œOâ€™Allah bear witnessâ€. He then continued, â€œOâ€™people do you hear?â€ They said, â€œYes Oâ€™Prophet of Allahâ€.
The Prophet then said, â€œI am preceding you to the Pool (pool of kauthar in heaven), and you shall be following me to the Pool, which has a breadth likened to that between Sanaâ€™a (Yemenâ€™s capital city now), and Basraa (place in Damascus). As many as there are stars in the skies, there will be drinking goblets made of silver at the Pool. So be weary of how you succeed me in faring with the two Weighty Things (thaqalayn) after my departureâ€. A man from amongst the people asked, â€œAnd what are the two weighty things Oâ€™Prophet of Allah?â€ The prophet said, â€œThe greater one, is the Book of Allah (Quran), a rope extending from heaven to earth, hold fast to it and you will never go astray and the smaller Weighty Thing is My Progeny (ahlul bayt). The Sublime and Omniscient has informed me that they will never separate until they reach me at the Pool (kauthar). Do not proceed them else you will perish, nor should you lag behind them else you should perishâ€.
The Prophet then took the hand of Imam Ali, whom he had lifted onto the pulpit beside him, and raised it so high â€˜that the whiteness of his armpits could be seenâ€™, making sure the whole congregation witnessed this action. He then said, â€œOâ€™people who is closer to the believers than their ownselves?â€ They replied, â€œAllah and his prophet are more knowledgeableâ€. He said, â€œAllah is my Master and I am the master of the believers and I am closer to them than their ownselves. So Whosoever I am his master, Ali is his master too.
He repeated this statement three times. He then continued, saying, â€œOâ€™Allah, Befriend him whosoever befriends Ali, Oppose him whosoever opposes Ali, Love him whosoever loves Ali, Hate him whosoever hates Ali, Support him whosoever supports Ali, and desert him whosoever deserts Ali, and make the truth turn with him every which way he turns. Oâ€™people let those present inform those who are absentâ€.
At that moment, upon the completion of his speech, the Archangel Gabriel again descended upon the prophet with the final revelation, â€œToday I have perfected your religion for you and completed my favour unto you, and have chosen for you as religion al-Islamâ€ (5:3)
The Prophet then said, â€œGod is Great (allahu Akbar), for the perfection of the religion, the completion of the favour, the acceptance of the lord my deliverance of the Message and for making Ali the vicegerent (wali) after meâ€.
The event of Ghadeer should alone be sufficient proof of the Imamate of Imam Ali. This event is not peculiar only to Shiites, but is in fact narrated in over sixty Sunni books. It is narrated by some of the most prominent Sunni scholars. The likes of Ar-Razi, Thaâ€™labi, Suyuti, Nishapuri, Tabari, Ahmad bin Hanbal and Bukhari.
Day of Ghadeer was the final seal in the appointment of Imam Ali as caliph and Imam of the Muslim State. But during the 23 years of his mission, the Prophet, was promoting him to the people. The Prophet continuously praised the high virtues of Ali. In fact the first open declaration of prophethood was also the first declaration of Aliâ€™s caliphate.
The al-Mighty Allah sent revelation, â€œAnd warn your nearest of kinfolkâ€ (26:214). The Prophet was ordered to invite his clan of Bani Hashem to the righteous religion of Islam. The event is recorded in the history books as, â€˜feast of the clanâ€™.
After feasting on the food, the Prophet addressed his family members saying, â€œOâ€™sons of Abdul Muttalib! I have brought for you the good of this world and next, and I have been appointed by my Lord to call you unto him. Therefore, who amongst you will administer this cause for me and be my brother, my successor and my caliph?â€
No one of those present responded to the Prophetsâ€™ request except Imam Ali who was only but a boy of ten. The Prophet repeated his request three times and on every occasion none but Ali would stand and say, â€œI, Oâ€™prophet of Allahâ€. The prophet then said, â€œOâ€™People! This Ali is my brother, my successor and my caliph amongst you, listen to him and obey himâ€.
So if anyone wishes to live and die a true believer in Mohammed and the message he came with, it is pertinent upon him to observe the commands of the Prophet pertaining to the appointment of Ali as caliph. The requirement was to take him and his chosen progeny as leaders, and follow in their path and adhere to their teachings as they were the very same teachings of the Prophet. The Prophet said, â€œwhoever wishes to live my life and die my death, and inhabit the Perpetual Garden promised to me by my lord let him take Ali and his progeny after him as masters, for they shall never take you out of the guidance, nor let you strayâ€.
Imam Ali and his progeny are the ark of salvation (safinat al-najaat), so embark it because it is the only ark that will stay afloat when the high seas turn rough. It is the ark chosen by Allah to lead and keep mankind afloat and steady on the righteous path. In that ark the Prophetâ€™s message continues unaltered. The Prophet said, â€œthe similitude of my household among you is that of the ark of Noah. Whoever embarks upon it is saved and whoever lags behind it is drownedâ€.