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At the end of the tenth year of Hijira, Prophet Muhammad (pbh) set out for Mecca to perform the full pilgrimage which was later to be known as the Farewell Pilgrimage. He was joined by more than 90,000 Muslims. At the pilgrimage gathering on the Plains of Arafah just outside Mecca, the Prophet (pbh) delivered a sermon admonishing them to righteousness, piety and just conduct.

When all the rites were completed, the Prophet (pbh) along with the Muslims pilgrims departed from the city but suddenly, at a cross-road which diverged to various part of Arabia, the Prophet unexpectedly halted. The place was arid and hence had never before been a stopping place for caravans. The Archangel Gabriel had descended with a revelation which was to be Ayat 67 of Surah 5, also know as The Verse of Proclamation or Tabligh which read, "O Prophet! Deliver what hath been revealed to thee from thy Lord; and if thou didst not, then thou have not deliverth His message, and God will protect thee from the people; surely God will not guide the unbelieving people."

The Prophet (pbh) immediately ordered Bilal, the first black to become a Muslim, to recall all the Muslims who were ahead and those who were lagging behind to assemble there, at Ghadir Khumm. After completing the ritual congregational prayer, the Prophet made his monumental and pivotal announcement. He declared three times that Ali was the

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'Mawla' or Master of whomever Muhammad himself was Master.These words established the succession to the Holy Prophet (pbh).

The crowd of Muslims had hardly scattered when the another revelation came, "This day have I perfected for thee thy religion and completed My favor upon thee and chosen for thee Islam as thy religion." This was to be Ayat 3 Surah 5.(References : Tirmidhi hadith 6094; Sahih Muslim hadith 5920 ; al-Hakim's al-Mustadrak Vol III p109; Fakhr al-Din al-Razi's al-Tafsir al-Kabir Vol XII p 50; al-Suyuti's al-durr al-Manthur Vol II p298; al-Ya'qubi's al-Tarikh Vol II p95; al-Tha'labi's al-Tafsir p120; Ibn Hajar's Sawa'iq Ch 5.)

When the Ghadir ceremonies were over, the Prophet ordered all the Muslims who were present, men and women, to congratulate and swear allegiance to Ali and greet him as the Commander of the Faithful. Among the first to do so were Abu Bakr and 'Umar.

Once in Medina, the Prophet set about settling the organization of the provinces and the tribes which had adopted Islam but suddenly came down with a fever. After three days of serious illness, Prophet Muhammad (pbh), the seal of God's Prophets, passed away on the 28th day of the second month of the eleventh Hijira. Ali, who had married Muhammadís youngest daughter Fatima and had two sons, together with az-Zubayr b. al-'Awwam and Talha b. 'Ubayd Allah separated themselves from the people to make arrangements for the burial of the Prophet.

Abu Bakr and 'Umar in the meantime, after being told that the

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Ansar had gathered in the hall or Saqifa of Banu Sa'ida, rushed there to prevent any unexpected development. The Ansar of Medina were fearful that they would be dominated by the Meccans so they had hastily assembled at the Saqifa to elect a leader from among themselves.

Addressing the assembly, Abu Bakr pointed out that the Muhajirun were the first people in Islam and that among the Muslims they were nearer to the Prophet in relation. Though the Ansar were their brothers and partners in Islam Abu Bakr continued, the Muhajirun were the umara' or rulers and the Ansar the wuzara or deputies. The Arabs he said, will not submit themselves except to this clan of the Quraish and so suggested the assembly choose between 'Umar and one Abu 'Ubayda al-Jarrah, who were with them as leader of the Muslims.

Both 'Umar and Abu 'Ubayd however, refused the nomination. One Ansar named Al-Mundhir Arqam raised a protest that while they did not reject the merits Abu Bakr had mentioned, there was a better and indisputable person for the position among the Muhajirun which was Ali son of Abi Talib.

Al-Hubabb Mundhir, another Ansar suggested that they have one ruler from among themselves and another from among the Muhajirun.With altercations waxing hotter and voices raising, 'Umar told Abu Bakr to stretch forth his hand and quickly paid homage to Abu Bakr. This was followed by Abu Ubayda and the Meccan Muhajirun present, who were inclined to have someone from among themselves as leader rather than submit to an Ansar of Medina. Some voices of protest which questioned homage other than to Ali were drowned in the tumult and due to

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the deep-rooted and old enmity between the Banu Aws and the Banu Khazraj, the Ansars felt it much more profitable to submit themselves to a Quraish leader than allow a chief of the rival tribe to rule over them and thus, also paid homage to Abu Bakr. Hence, by an accident of circumstances, Abu Bakr was elected the actual Caliph although the Prophet had commanded that Ali was the Mawla or Master. (Among reference concerning election of Abu Bakr: Sahih Bukhari 9.817 and 5.19)

Abu Bakr's only exclusive claim to the succession was, what some claim, his leadership of the prayer during the Prophet's illness so the task of consolidation of Abu Bakr's authority as successor to the Prophet was far from complete. Aware of Ali's claims and the respect he commanded in a certain group of the companions and lest there be some serious reaction on his and his partisanís part, Ali's allegiance to Abu Bakr needed to be sought.

However, for six months, until the demoralizing death of his wife Fatima, Ali refused to recognize and pay homage to Abu Bakr and in-fact held himself apart. Fatima too had not spoken anymore to either Abu Bakr nor 'Umar and had asked that on the event of her death, to bury her at night and not permit Abu Bakr and 'Umar to take part in her funeral. (Reference: Sahih Bukhari hadith nos. 5.546; 4.325; 8.718)

The Saqifa incident consequently, marked the first open expression of and point of departure for what ultimately developed into the school of thought of Shi'a or 'those who love Ali and follow his descendants', as opposed to the Sunni, the central body or Jama'a of the Muslims in the present era.

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For EXTENSIVE Ghadir Khum research, please visit : http://www.al-islam.org/ghadir/incident.htm