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Eid al-Ghadir: The Best of Celebrations

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There’s a story that emanates from Ghadir. It’s a story as vast and encompassing as the sea itself, reaching out and washing over lands burdened and worn. In the stark heart of the desert, this tidal wave of faith inspires life, causing small buds of hope to burst forth in a place where survival seems a dream. It’s a force that can take the hardened, red earth and elevate it to the lush green that paints the sky. Ghadir is where the prophecy finds its destiny, where the mission given to a prophet seamlessly blends into the stewardship held by Ali. Here, Islam emerges, chosen by Allah himself as the religion of His people. He declares, ‘Today, I have perfected your religion, completed my favor upon you, and chosen Islam as your faith.’ Ghadir, then, isn’t just a place or an event—it’s the manifestation of monotheism, a tribute to the prophecies of Muhammad, an acknowledgment of the leadership of Ali, and a remembrance of the twelve Infallibles.

The Event of Ghadir

The event of Ghadir unfolds the tale of the last pilgrimage of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) to Mecca, undertaken in the tenth year of Hijra. Imam Sadiq (AS) speaks of how the Prophet (PBUH) spent a decade in Medina, never embarking on the pilgrimage until the revelation of the verse, ‘And proclaim the Pilgrimage among men: they will come to you on foot and (mounted) on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways.’

Guided by this verse, the Prophet (PBUH) at the start of the month of Dhu al-Qi’dah that year, spread the word across all Muslim regions and tribes about the pilgrimage. It was announced that they would depart for Mecca to perform Hajj in that very month. This proclamation led to the largest assembly of Muslims for the ‘Hajjatul Wida’ or ‘The Farewell Pilgrimage,’ as it’s known in Islamic history.

As the Prophet’s (PBUH) journey was announced as the ‘Farewell Pilgrimage,’ Muslims from various regions rushed to join him in Mecca, eager to experience the presence of the Prophet (PBUH) during the Hajj ceremonies. By the final days of the month of Dhu al-Qi’dah in the tenth year of Hijra, the Prophet (PBUH), accompanied by his family, major migrants, helpers, and other Muslims (estimated to be around ninety thousand in number), departed from Medina towards the region of ‘Dhul Hulaifa’ to enter into the state of Ihram. At the same time, around twelve thousand people also started their journey to Mecca with Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS) from Yemen.

By then, all the significant divine commands and injunctions for Muslims had been communicated, except for the rules of ‘Hajj’ and the formal appointment and allegiance to the ‘Guardian’ and successor of the Prophet (PBUH). During the journey of Hajjatul Wida, the rules and rituals of Umrah and Hajj were fully and practically explained by the Prophet (PBUH) to the Muslims. Yet, what remained was the matter of ‘Guardianship’ and the succession of the Prophet (PBUH), which was saved for Ghadir Khum. It was there, in the presence of the maximum number of people, that the Prophet (PBUH) would elucidate the topic of guardianship and succession after him.

Ghadir’s Geography

The area of Ghadir Khum is situated along the path of floodwaters, which after passing through Ghadir, reach ‘Juhfa’ and then continue towards the Red Sea, pouring the floodwaters into its vast basin. Such paths are referred to as ‘Wadi’ in Arabic. Wadi Juhfa is a floodway that empties into the sea. Along this route, a natural basin has formed, where the leftover waters from the flood accumulate. These pits or water catchment areas are called ‘Ghadir’ in Arabic.

There are many Ghadirs located along the paths of floods in various regions, each recognized and distinguished by a unique name. This particular Ghadir, to set itself apart from the others, was named ‘Khum.’ The name Ghadir Khum has remained unchanged for fourteen centuries, and in geographical and historical books and dictionaries of various eras, we see this name specified for this location. The precise positioning of Ghadir Khum has been determined, and its distances from four directions have been clearly outlined.

Ghadir Sermon

“Praise and thanks be to Allah, the one who is highly exalted in His uniqueness and near in His solitude. His power and sovereignty are grand, and His pillars are magnificent. His knowledge encompasses everything while He is in His place, and He holds all creatures under His control with His power and evidence. He has always been and will continue to be worthy of praise…

I acknowledge Allah’s sovereignty over me as His servant and testify to His lordship. I deliver what He has revealed to me, fearing that if I do not, a punishment may descend upon me from Him that no one can avert, no matter how clever their scheme, unless His favor is pure. There is no deity but He, for the Lord has declared to me that if I do not convey what He has revealed about Ali, I have not delivered His message. He has guaranteed me protection from the harm of people, and Allah is sufficient and generous.

Allah has revealed this to me: “In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful. O Messenger, deliver what has been revealed to you from your Lord (about Ali, meaning the caliphate of Ali bin Abi Talib), and if you do not, you have not delivered His message, and Allah will protect you from the people…””

The Ubiquity of the Ghadir Sermon

No prophetic narration can match the certainty and ubiquity of the Ghadir sermon. The Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) words and the pledge of allegiance to Imam Ali (as) took place in the most significant Islamic assembly to date, in the presence of prominent companions of the Prophet. During his caliphate, Imam Ali (as), the Commander of the Faithful, repeatedly reminded Muslims of the Ghadir event during his confrontations with opponents and rebels. On each occasion, a group of companions who had been present at Ghadir would stand and testify (refer to “Al-Mustadrak ‘ala al-Sahihain” by Hakim Nishapuri, 3/371; “Musnad” by Ibn Hanbal, 1/118, 5/366; “Khasais Amir al-Mu’minin” by Nasa’i, 93; “Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah” by Ibn Kathir Shami, 5/208). This highlights the widespread acknowledgment and affirmation of the Ghadir event.

The Documentation of the Ghadir Sermon

The documentation of the Ghadir sermon holds a distinguished and superior position among other prophetic narrations. Over a hundred companions of the Prophet, eighty-four followers (Tabi’un), and three hundred and sixty reliable narrators have reported it (Al-Ghadir, 1/14). Notable narrators of the Ghadir from the Companions include Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, Fatimah Zahra, Hasan bin Ali, Husayn bin Ali, Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib, Abdullah bin Abbas, Aisha and Umm Salama (wives of the Prophet), Asma bint Umays (wife of Abu Bakr and then Ali), Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Talha, Zubair, Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas, Abd al-Rahman bin Auf (The Ten Promised Paradise), Abu Huraira, Usama bin Zaid, Ubay bin Ka’b, Jabir bin Abdullah, Abu Dharr Ghifari, Salman Farsi, Khalid bin Walid, Ammar bin Yasir, and Umar bin al-As, amongst others.

The full names of these individuals, along with the names of the followers (Tabi’un) and those narrators who have reported the Ghadir sermon, accompanied by biographical sketches and their narrations, have been recorded in the two-volume work “Abqat al-Anwar,” written by the meticulous researcher Mir Hamid Husain Lucknawi Nishapuri in 1008 pages. It includes the names of one hundred and fifty narrators and famous scholars who have reported this narration.

In addition to the Shia scholars who have written numerous books on the validity, continuity, and clear implication of this narration on the leadership and caliphate of Ali since the era of Sheikh Saduq, Sheikh Mufid, and Sheikh Tusi to the present, many Sunni scholars have also dedicated special books and treatises to the issue of leadership and the Ghadir sermon. Amini, in “Al-Ghadir,” has mentioned the names of twenty-six of these scholars.

The Fruit of the Ghadir Sermon

Although the Ghadir sermon is considered a permanent charter of Islam and contains comprehensive content related to all aspects of Islam, scientific discussions on the text of the Ghadir sermon are mainly centered on the term ‘Mawla’ and its customary and linguistic meanings. This is because the main pivot of the sermon is the phrase “Whoever I am his Mawla, Ali is his Mawla,” and whenever the Ghadir sermon is referred to in brief, this phrase is taken into account. The narrators and scholars have also usually shortened the sermon to this phrase and omitted the accompanying contexts.

What is noteworthy about this phrase is that considering the detailed text of the sermon and careful examination of the other topics that the Prophet (PBUH) mentioned in his sermon, the meaning of ‘Mawla’ and the intended ‘Wilaya’ (allegiance or guardianship) was very clear and evident to the audience in Ghadir. It would be even more clear to any unbiased person who reads the text and takes into account the full circumstances of the sermon. It leaves no room for debate or dispute.

The Message of Ghadir

One dimension of the issue and Hadith of Ghadir pertains to ‘Wilayat’ or guardianship; it translates governance into guardianship. ‘Whomever I am his Mawla (protector/guardian), Ali is his Mawla’ – the Prophet (PBUH) uses the term ‘Mawla’ for Ali, and ties his Wilayat (guardianship) to his own, at a time when he is determining the right of governance for an individual. The concept embedded in ‘Wilayat’ itself is very significant. Islam does not accept any sovereignty over people without this concept of ‘Wilayat’ – a popular concept that is mindful of people’s rights, upholding them, and safeguarding human dignity. No other title for governance is considered in Islam.

The person who is the Wali (guardian) and ruler of the people is not a sultan or king. That is to say, the governance title is not contemplated from the aspect of his power or dominance over dispossession. It is not considered and respected from the perspective that he can do whatever he wants. Instead, it is considered from the perspective of his guardianship and supervision, that he is the Wali of the believers or the Wali of Muslim affairs. This is the aspect that is taken into account. The issue of governance in Islam is important from this perspective.

Ghadir in the Qur’an

The verse revealed before the official announcement of the guardianship (Wilayat) of Imam Ali (peace be upon him) indicates the extraordinary importance of Ghadir and, on the other hand, reflects the concerns of the Prophet (PBUH).

The verse is: “O Messenger, announce that which has been revealed to you from your Lord, and if you do not, then you have not conveyed His message. And Allah will protect you from the people. Indeed, Allah does not guide the disbelieving people.” (Qur’an 5:67). This verse from the Holy Qur’an equates the non-declaration of Ali’s guardianship with the non-completion of the divine mission, and despite the concerns that the Prophet (PBUH) had, promises him protection.

The verse that was revealed after the announcement of the guardianship (Wilayat) of Imam Ali (peace be upon him) in Ghadir brought a wave of joy in the hearts of the believers and bestowed tranquillity and reassurance upon them: “Today those who disbelieve have despaired of [defeating] your religion; so fear them not, but fear Me. Today I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.” (Qur’an 5:3). This verse indicates the completion of the divine religion with the appointment of Imam Ali (peace be upon him) and suggests the despair of the disbelievers with the perfection and preservation of the religion.

Ghadir in the Sayings of the Infallibles (Peace Be Upon Them)

Sheikh Saduq in his book “Amali” quotes from Imam Baqir (PBUH) who narrates from his grandfather as follows: Once, the Holy Prophet of Islam (PBUH) said to Imam Ali (PBUH): “O Ali, God revealed the verse ‘O Messenger, announce that which has been revealed to you from your Lord’ (Qur’an 5:67) concerning your Wilayat (guardianship). If I do not proclaim what has been commanded to me, my deed will be null, and anyone who meets God without acknowledging your Wilayat, their deeds will be null. O Ali, I speak nothing but the word of God.”

Ghadir Khumm, Doubts and Responses

Unfortunately, after the demise of the great Prophet of Islam (PBUH), a wide-ranging assault began against the Wilayat (leadership) of Imam Ali (PBUH), and the most significant attacks were directed at the Hadith of Ghadir. However, as they could not ignore this grand and radiant divine message, they constantly resorted to incorrect and illogical interpretations, such as interpreting the term “Mawla” to mean assistance, affection, and friendship. They aimed to distort this luminous Hadith and justify their unjustifiable deeds.

Official Eid of Ghadir

The Holy Prophet, after appointing Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (as) as his successor on the day of Ghadir, announced this day as a festive occasion and held a ceremony. He sat in his tent, received well-wishers with utmost joy, and told them, “Congratulate me… Congratulate me, because Allah has assigned me the prophecy and my Ahlul Bayt (family) the Imamat (leadership).”

We don’t find any other day in the Prophet’s history where he asked to be congratulated — not on his wedding day, nor on the day he migrated from Mecca to Medina to escape the grasp of the idolaters, nor on the day of the Conquest of Mecca and the victory of the Muslims. However, on the day of Ghadir, he repeatedly said, “Congratulate me.” Why? Because the Prophet fully understood the greatness of this day. He was aware of the nobility of this memory and the superiority of this Eid (celebration) over other Eids.

Based on this, the Prophet said, “The day of Eid Ghadir Khumm is the best of Eids for my Ummah (community), and it is the day when Allah commanded me to remember the appointment of Ali ibn Abi Talib as the leader who will guide my community after me; it is the day when Allah perfected the religion, completed His blessing, and chose Islam as a religion for the people.”

This day is now recognized and celebrated by Shia Muslims around the world as Eid al-Ghadir. It is one of the most important religious observances in Shia Islam and commemorates the Prophet Muhammad’s declaration of Imam Ali as his successor, as per Shia belief.

Etiquette and Practices of Eid al-Ghadir

One of the unique aspects of Eid al-Ghadir is kindness and benevolence towards others, including one’s family and religious brethren. In this regard, Imam Ali (peace be upon him) has recommended:

“Improve your family’s livelihood! Be kind to your brothers! Be grateful for God’s blessings! Meet each other with happiness and a radiant face! Giving one dirham on this day is equivalent to two hundred thousand dirhams. Whoever breaks a believer’s fast on this day is like one who has broken the fast of ten ‘F’eams’. When someone asked Imam Ali what a ‘F’eam’ is, he replied: ‘Each ‘F’eam’ represents two hundred thousand prophets, truthful ones, and martyrs. So imagine the reward of someone who breaks the fast of several believers! I guarantee on behalf of Allah for such a person that they will not suffer poverty or disbelief.'”

This encourages generosity, charity, and communal gathering, emphasizing the great reward for doing good deeds on this day. This also includes acts of worship such as prayer and fasting. Many Shia Muslims also use this day to renew their allegiance to Imam Ali and the other Imams, recognizing their spiritual leadership.

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