Usurpation of the Leadership of Islamic Society after the Death of Holy Prophet Muhammad

  June 10, 2021   Read time 2 min
Usurpation of the Leadership of Islamic Society after the Death of Holy Prophet Muhammad
Shia Muslims believe that Prophet himself had chosen the true successor who was supposed to lead the Muslims after the death of the Holy Prophet. However, the idea of usurpation is challenged by Sunni Muslims.

The idea that the umma had no method for determining the successor to the Prophet was held by some of the companions. Instead of the designation of God and His Prophet, they followed the designation given by the previous caliph, each caliph receiving his appointment at the hands of his predecessor, except in the case of the first caliph. The idea that the designation by Abu Bakr of Umar was not so much a definite order as a form of advice runs contrary to the historical evidence. For while the first caliph was still alive, the said designation was opposed by various companions, such as Zubayr; it is clear that if it were a question merely of advice, there would be no reason for the companions to oppose it at this stage. Turning from this appointment of Umar by Abu Bakr to the third caliph, Uthman, we see that he was appointed by a council of six persons who were all appointed in turn by the second caliph; this was also, therefore, a form of designation, as it involved restricting the ability to consult public opinion.

In principle, the idea of consulting public opinion or the notion of election of the caliph by the umma, was entirely absent from the minds of the companions; and whatever has been claimed to the contrary comes from later interpretations by others. For it is clear that the companions believed that the caliph was to be appointed by his predecessor. For instance, when the second caliph was injured, Aisha, a wife of the Prophet, sent him a message through his son, Abdullah Ibn Umar, saying: "Give me greetings to your father and tell him not to leave the Prophet’s umma without a shepherd.’

Even though there was a crowd of people at his father’s bed, Ibn Umar asked his father to appoint a successor, saying: ‘People are talking about you, thinking that you are not going to appoint a successor. If a shepherd, entrusted with the responsibility of looking after your sheep and camels were to leave them alone in the desert, without assigning anyone the duty of taking care of them, would you not reproach him? Taking care of human beings is more important than taking care of sheep and camels.’