Did the Salaf understand Ghadir Khumm as the Rafidah do?

In one of his lectures, Yasser al-Habib (mis)uses a Sunni report pertaining to the Ghadir Khumm event and superimposes his Twelver Shia understanding on them and claims that:

“The Twelver Shia understanding of the Ghadir Khumm event is that of the Sahabah and the Salaf! All Sahabah are slaves of Ali, they shared the Twelver Shia understanding of the Ghadir Khumm event!”

Let us examine these claims and see if the evidence provided by the Rafidah holds up to scrutiny. Before doing so, I would like to share with you the following profound statement by Shaykh al-Islam Abu al-Abbas ibn Taymiyyah:

هكذا أهل البدع لا يكادون يحتجون بحجة سمعية، ولا عقلية، إلا وهي عند التأمل حجة عليهم، لا لهم‏.الكتب » مجموع فتاوى ابن تيمية » العقيدة » كتاب الأسماء والصفات الجزء الثاني

“[…] and this is how the people of innovation (Ahl al-Bid’ah) are; they seldom put forward a textual or a rational proof, except that after examination it turns out to be evidence against them and not for them.” (Majmu’ al-Fatawa by Shaykh al-Islam ibn Taimiyyah)

The term mawla – a dilemma for the Rafidah

The term Mawla has a plethora of meanings that have made it difficult for even major Shia scholars to cite the event of Ghadir Khumm as unequivocal evidence of Ali’s (رضي الله عنه) Imamate.

The word mawla has 16 (!) meanings according to Ibn Kathir, and 27 (!) meanings according to the Twelver Shia scholar Abdul-Hussain Amini (who failed to prove the Shia understanding of Ghadir, despite writing a huge treatise on it. In his desperation he filled it with fabrications and even random poems!).

Shaykh Bin Baz says:

المولى لها معان كثيرة، فتأتي بمعنى المالك ، ومعنى الناصر ، ومعنى القريب ، ومعنى المعتق ، ومعنى العتيق ، ومعنى الناصر، فكون الرسول مولانا، أو فلان مولاه، الإنسان إذا قاله للسيد فهو مولاه ، يعني مالكه ، مولى العبد سيده

“The word mawla has a lot of meanings. It has come with the meaning of “the sovereign master”, the meaning “the helper”, the meaning “the near one”, the meaning “the emancipator”, the meaning “the freed slave”, and the meaning of “the helper”. As such, the Messenger is our mawla, or so-and-so is his mawla. When a person says it to a master, then he (the master) is his mawla, that is “his sovereign master”. The mawla of the slave is his master.”

Linguistically speaking, anybody who is superior (like in status, etc.) to oneself can be referred to as mawla. Therefore the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) is our mawla (or sayyid), and so is Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali, etc. In some parts of the Arab world, people still use mawlana to respectfully address someone. In the Ajam world, from Iran, Afghanistan to Gujarat - religious scholars are addressed as mawlana, mawlawi (molvi), etc.

To claim that the Prophet (ﷺ), the most eloquent of all Arabs, used an ambiguous term such as mawla for the supposedly most important pillar of Islam (divine rulership aka Imamah after Prophethood) when a number of more appropriate terms exist is an insult to him and one of the profound weaknesses of Shiism. In truth, it is a dilemma that has led even some major Shi’a scholars to bitterly admit that the hadith of Ghadir Khumm does not provide unequivocal evidence for Ali’s (رضي الله عنه) Imamah.

What many Shia propagandists conceal is that Ali (رضي الله عنه) being addressed as mawla is not a unique virtue of his. The Prophet (ﷺ) addressed other Sahabah as mawla too as we can read in the following sahih (authentic) narrations:

وقال لزيد: أنت أخونا ومولانا

The Prophet (ﷺ) said to Zaid ibn Haritha: “You are our brother and our mawla.” (Bukhari)

Then there is the following hadith:

الَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ قُرَيْشٌ وَالأَنْصَارُ وَمُزَيْنَةُ وَجُهَيْنَةُ وَأَسْلَمُ وَغِفَارُ وَأَشْجَعُ مَوَالِيَّ لَيْسَ لَهُمْ مَوْلًى دُونَ اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ

Allah’s Messenger () said: “Quraysh, Ansar, Muzaynah, Juhaynha and Ghifar, they are my mawali (plural of mawla i.e. close allies) and there is no mawla of theirs besides Allah and His Messenger.” (Muslim)

Note: On the day of Ghadir, Ali was declared more than just a "friend" (a straw man argument the 12 usually use against Sunnis). A mawla is not just a "friend". Mawla in the context of the Ghadir Khumm event is someone who enjoys rights beyond friendship, it involves loyalty, support, etc., however, it has nothing to do with divine rule. Ali himself never made any such claim.

The report that supposedly proves that the Sahabah understood Ghadir as the Shia do

Narrated Riyah Ibn al-Harath: “A group of people came to Ali at al-Rahbah (near Kufa) and said: “Peace be upon you, our mawla.” He replied: “How am I your mawla while you are an Arab people?” They replied: “We heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) saying on the day of Ghadir Khumm: “Whosoever I am his mawla, then Ali is his mawla.” Riyah said: “When they left I followed them and asked whom they were, they said some folks from the Ansar, and amongst them was Abu Ayyub al-Ansari. (Narrated Imam Ahmad in His Musnad 5/419, Shu’aib Al-Arna’out and Al-Albani both said the Isnad is Sahih, and it was mentioned in the Virtues of companions 2/570 #967)

The Shia argue

The Sahabah considered themselves slaves of Ali and this proves the Shia understanding of the Ghadir Khumm hadith.


Firstly, this report proves the veracity of the Sahabah, particularly the Ansar who are deminoised in Shi’ism as rebellious apostates in Shi’ism. The Ansar are slandered in Shi’ism as the group of the Sahabah that initiated the ‘coup d’état’ in Saqifah Bani Sa’idah.

Secondly, in the Ghadir Khumm report found in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad (and similar sources), the noble and honest Ansar Sahabah addressed the Commander of the Faithful as mawla. Ali (رضي الله عنه) was initially puzzled when he was addressed as mawla because at that time slave owners were commonly referred to as mawla (and Arabs were generally not slaves). The proof for that? Ali’s (رضي الله عنه) very appalled reaction after being addressed as mawla:

How am I your mawla while you are an Arab people?”

The Sahabah had to remind Ali  (رضي الله عنه) of Ghadir Khumm:

They replied: “We heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) saying on the day of Ghadir Khumm: “Whosoever I am his mawla, then Ali is his mawla.”

The Sahabah obviously did not mean to say that they are literal slaves ( والعياذ بالله ) of Ali as the foolish extremist Rafidah claim nor would Ali (as proven by his own reaction) ever approve of such extremism and exaggeration ( غلو ).

Ali (رضي الله عنه) was simply reminded of Ghadir Khumm i.e. that he was the mawla of the believers in the sense that he enjoys loyalty, support and obedience akin to a slave-and-slave-master relationship (which is consistent with the sahih context of Ghadir Khumm). This has never been a decleration of his (let alone that of his descendants) Imamah.

Furthermore, if mawla was a divine title of Ali (which the Shia and some Sufis claim), why was Ali perplexed when the Ansar addressed him with it? The truth, of course, is that mawla was never a sacred title of Ali bestowed upon him as the divine leader after the Prophet (ﷺ), if that were the case Ali would not have been disturbed when addressed with it.

Additionally, that the Ansar addressed Ali (رضي الله عنه)as mawla is linguistically correct, especially given that Ali was their caliph at the time.

Ibn Uthaymin (may Allah have mercy upon him) says in his Majmu’ al-Fatawa, vol. 10, p. 250:

لا وجه لاستنكار بعض الناس لمن خاطب ملكا بقوله : مولاي، لأن المراد بمولاي أي متولي أمري، ولا شك أن رئيس الدولة يتولى أمورها

“There is no reason for the opposition of some people to someone who addresses a king saying ‘my  mawla’, because what is meant with ‘my mawla’ is the one who has authority over me, and there is no doubt that the head of the state is the one who exercises authority.”

While it was not customary for Arabs at the time of the Sahabah to address other Arabs as mawla, it was linguistically correct, particularly since Ali was addressed as mawla at a time when he had absolute authority over the Muslims as Caliph.


Ali (رضي الله عنه) was puzzled when he was addressed as mawla by a group of the Ansar. Ali understood it in its commonly understood meaning during his time ie as an expression of muwalat (loyalty) and ownership of a slave or in other words “freed slaves” and this is why he disapproved of it when they referred to him as mawla. However, the Ansar reminded him of the Ghadir Khumm event. Their response to his objection clarified that they meant nothing but what the Ummah has already agreed upon i.e. that Ali ibn Abi Talib deserves support and loyalty as the Prophet (ﷺ) declared at Ghadir Khumm. In that sense, he has even more right over us than a slave owner has over his slave. This is evidence of Ali’s exalted status, not his so-called divine authority.

The Rafidah, due to their skewed understanding of the texts, claim that the Sahabah confirmed the Rafidi understanding of Ghadir and thus confirmed that they are literally slaves of Ali (رضي الله عنه) and that he is the divine leader of mankind after the Prophet (ﷺ), something Ali himself never claimed based on the Ghadir Khumm.

Further evidence in refutation of the Rafidah and their false Ghadir Khumm understanding

There is additional supporting evidence showing that the understanding of the people of the Sunnah regarding the Ghadir Khumm hadith is consistent with the understanding of Ali, his descendants, and the rest of the Sahabah.

Abu Ishaq reported on the authority of Zaid ibn Yuthay’, who said: “I heard Ali ibn Abi Talib say on the pulpit of Al-Kufa: “I am addressing, by Allah, a man, and I am not addressing but the Companions of Muhammad (ﷺ). Who has heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say on the day of Ghadir Khumm: “Whoever I am his mawla, then Ali is his mawla, O Allah befriend the one who befriends him, and be hostile to the one that is hostile to him?” Then six people from the side of the pulpit stood up, and six from another side, and they testified that they heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say that.” Shareek said: Then I said to Abu Ishaq: “Have you heard al-Bara’ ibn ‘Azib relay this from the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ)?” He said: “Yes.” (Kitab al-Sunan al-Kubra, Abu Abdul-Rahman Ahmad bin Shu’ayb, al-Nasa’i Volume 7, Page 439, Hadeeth # 8419)

Note: The authenticity of the addition of, “O’ Allah, befriend who befriends him and be hostile to the one who is hostile to him” is disputed, however, it is accepted by the Shia. As for additions such as "and he (i.e. Ali) is the wali of all the believers after me.”, all of such additions are false and based on unreliable  narration. An analyses of the most authentic versions can be found here.>>>

A similar narration with some additions:

هدتُّ عليًّا رضي اللهُ عنه في الرَحَبَةِ ينشُدُ الناسَ: أَنشُدُ اللهَ مَن سمِعَ رسول َالله صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّم يقول ُيوم غَدِيرِ خُمٍّ: مَن كنتُ مولاهُ فعليٌّ مولاهُ لمَّا قامَ فشَهِدَ قال عبدُ الرحمنِ: فقامَ اثنا عَشَرَ بَدْرِيًّا كأَنِّي أنظرُ إلى أحدِهِم فقالُوا: نشهدُ أنَّا سمِعْنَا رسولَ الله صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّم يقولُ يوم غديرِ خمٍّ: ألستُ أولَى بالمؤمنينَ من أنفسِهِم وأزواجِي أمهاتُهُم فقلنَا: بلَى يا رسولَ اللهِ قال: فمَن كنتُ مولاه ُفعليٌّ مولاهُ اللهمَّ والِ من والاُه وعادِ مَن عادَاهُ

الراوي: عبدالرحمن بن أبي ليلى المحدث: أحمد شاكر – المصدر: مسند أحمد – الصفحة أو الرقم: 2/199
خلاصة حكم المحدث: إسناده صحيح


“Ali ibn Abi Talib (رضي الله عنه) addressed the people at al-Rahaba (at Kufa/Iraq, where he was already the Caliph over the Muslims) and said: “I adjure those of you in the name of Allah who heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) on the day of Ghadir saying, “Ali is the mawla of whom I am his mawla.” The narrator said: ‘Thereupon twelve amongst the Badri Sahabah stood up and said: “We testify that we heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) saying on the day of Ghadir, “Am I not nearer to the believers than their own selves and my wives are their mothers?” We said: “Yes, O Messenger of Allah (ﷺ)! He said: “Whomever I am his mawla then Ali is his mawla, O Allah befriend the one who befriends him, and be hostile to the one that is hostile to him.” (Musnad Imam Ahmad, 2/199 – The chain of narration has been authenticated by Ahmad Shakir)

The additions (upon which the Shia often insists) are not in their advantage as they serve as a prophetic tafsir for the word mawla. The Prophet (ﷺ) basically explained mawla as muwalat (loyalty, love) which is the opposite of mu`adat (enmity) when he said: "O Allah befriend the one who befriends him..."

Now let us ponder over the two aforementioned narrations: For starters, it is important to know that Ali ibn Abi Talib (رضي الله عنه) never used the Ghadir Khumm incident as proof for his alleged divine Imamah, neither at the councils (shuras) of the caliphs who preceded him (in which he was honoured and invited and in which he participated, which itself debunks Shi’ism) nor during his own rule. This is a crucial point, for if the Shia understanding of Ghadir Khumm was right, we must have encountered numerous narrations from Ali (رضي الله عنه) where he claimed his alleged divine Imamah based on the Ghadir hadith. The Rafidah cannot come up with the excuse that the Sahabah hid the truth, as first of all, Abu Jahl and his likes tried to prevent the truth from being spread, however, they failed and were doomed in this world before the next. More importantly, the truthful Sahabah mass-narrated the incident of Ghadir Khumm. If they were evil they would have never narrated it in the first place.

The irony is that we don’t even have a weak narration in which Ali (رضي الله عنه) claimed that he is the only rightful successor after the Prophet (ﷺ) based on the Ghadir Khumm hadith, yet we have narrations (with early Shi’ites in the chain!) that are mass-transmitted (similar to how the Qur’an was transmitted) informing us that Ali (رضي الله عنه) openly testified that Abu Bakr and Umar were upright and his superiors.

So did Ali (رضي الله عنه) ever use the Ghadir Khumm incident for other purposes? Yes, he did, however, he did so with the Sunni understanding of the event of Ghadir, with the understanding of the rest of the Sahabah.

It was not until 25 years after the event of Ghadir Khumm that Ali made use of the Ghadir Khumm hadith – and that too according to the Sunni understanding! Neither at Saqifah nor at any other place and time did Ali ever claim that he was an ‘infallible’ and ‘divine imam’ because of Ghadir Khumm. Never had he understood and used the hadith of Ghadir Khumm like the Shia do, who, to use a Persian idiom, are كاسه داغتر از آش (literally: A bowl hotter than the soup, English equivalent: More Catholic than the Pope).

The reason why Ali ibn Abi Talib (رضي الله عنه) mentioned the Ghadir Khumm hadith during his own caliphate is obvious to everyone who studied the biography of this great man: it was a time of civil war and turmoil and the rise of the Khawarij. Initially, Ali (رضي الله عنه) did not even want to accept the office of the caliphate, the people had to convince and push him. Some of his policies angered a number of major Sahabah, including his own son al-Hasan (رضي الله عنه). Additionally, the Khawarij declared him (and other major Sahabah) as disbelievers and were hell-bent on killing him (they eventually did). It was a chaotic time, a time of fitnah. So it only made sense for Ali (رضي الله عنه) to remind people of the hadith of Ghadir Khumm and how the Prophet (ﷺ) prayed for those who support him (O Allah befriend the one who befriends him) and how he prayed against those who are hostile to him (and be hostile to the one that is hostile to him).

The descendants of Ali (رضي الله عنه) understood the Ghadir incident as the Sahabah/Salaf and Ahl al-Sunnah do

Imam Ibn Hibban states:

الحسن بن الحسن بن الحسن بن علي بن أبي طالب رضى الله عنهم  يروى عن أبيه روى عنه أهل بلده أمه فاطمة بنت الحسين بن علي مات في الحبس بالهاشمية مع أخيه عبد الله بن الحسن

“al-Hasan ibn al-Hassan ibn al-Hasan ibn Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with, narrated from his father. The people of his town narrated from him. His mother is Fatimah daughter of al-Husayn ibn Ali. He died in prison at al-Hashimiyyah with his brother, Abd Allah ibn al-Hasan.” (Abu Hatim Muhammad ibn Hibban ibn Ahmad al-Tamimi al-Busti, Kitab al-Thiqat (1st edition, 1393 H),  vol. 6, p. 159)

‘Ayatollah’ al-Khoie said regarding this upright member of Bani Hashim:

الحسن بن الحسن بن الحسن بن علي بن أبي طالب عليهم السلام، المدني تابعي، روى عن جابر بن عبد الله، وهو أخو عبد الله بن الحسن

“al-Hasan ibn al-Hasan ibn al-Hasan ibn Ali ibn Abi Talib, peace be upon them: al-Madani, a Tabi’i. He narrated from Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah, and he was the brother of ‘Abdullah ibn al-Hasan.” (Abu al-Qasim al-Khoie, Mu’jam Rijal al-Hadith (5th edition, 1413 H), vol. 5, P. 288, # 2769)

The Arabs have a beautiful proverb

أهل مكة أدرى بشعابها

A literal translation would be: The people of Makkah know best its narrow street. It basically means that the people of a place are the best to know its small/secret roads.

Now let us see what this great-grandson of Ali ibn Abi Talib (رضي الله عنه) had to say about Ghadir Khumm:

Mohammad bin ‘Asim al-Thaqafi in his Juz (42) narrates authentically from Shababah from Fudhayl ibn Marzuq that a Rafidi asked al-Hasan ibn al-Hasan ibn al-Hasan ibn Ali ibn Abi Talib (رضي الله عنه):

“Didn’t the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say to Ali, ‘Whosoever I am his mawla then Ali is his mawla?” He replied: “By Allah, if he meant rulership and authority then he would have been clear about it in the same way that he was clear about prayer, alms, fasting Ramadan, and the pilgrimage. He would have said, “O people, Ali is the caretaker of your affairs after me, so listen to him and obey him!’ The one that had the best interest of his people was the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).”

Note: al-Mizzi said in his Tahthib al-Kamal 6/88:

وهذا من أصح الأسانيد وأعلاها

 المزي في تهذيب الكمال (6|88)

“And this is from the highest and most authentic chains of transmission”.

The Prophet (ﷺ) certainly did not declare his cousin as an absolute ruler at Ghadir Khumm, that would be nonsensical as, after the incident of Ghadir, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) lived for another few months. The Shia want us to believe that the most eloquent of all Arabs said:

“Whosoever I am his absolute ruler, then Ali is his absolute ruler.”

This is undoubtedly a nonsensical interpretation (some more sensible Shia know of this dilemma and thus resort to other mental gymnastics and cherry-picking of narrations to solve this), there can’t be two absolute rulers at the same time, this goes against all fundamental principles of the religion.

The correct and logical understanding of the Ghadir hadith is neither with the Twelver Shia nor Zaydiyyah, nor any other heretical sect; it is with none but the victorious sect, the Ahl al-Sunnah, ولله الحمد والمنة.

A piece of advice from a former Shia

Whether you are Sunni, Shia, from any other sect, or even non-Muslim, so long as you are interested and seeking nothing but the truth I can give you the following advice:

The Shia have undoubtedly an upper hand when it comes to flooding the net with their Ghadir Khumm narrative. Of course, that doesn’t make their narrative right, however, they made it seem as if their narrative is rock solid. Nothing could be further from the truth.

One of the common Shia methods – which I used to employ myself when I was a Rafidi – is to straw man the Sunni position. The Shia clergy have fooled their gullible followers with an infamous straw man argument that they constantly repeat. The Shia masses have been made to believe that Sunnis in their nativity believe that Ali ibn Abi Talib (رضي الله عنه) was merely declared as a ‘friend’ at Ghadir Khumm, which of course doesn’t make sense, since everybody knew that Ali (رضي الله عنه) was more than a friend to the Prophet (ﷺ) anyway. Why would the Prophet (ﷺ) bother people on a ‘hot’ day (as if the days are not hot in Arabia anyway) and tell them that Ali (رضي الله عنه) is his and their friend?

As I said, nothing but a straw man argument, a logical fallacy. Sunnis do not believe that Ali ibn Abi Talib (رضي الله عنه) was declared the friend of the believers at Ghadir Khumm. A mawla is much more than just a friend. What is more important, you will often not find the Shia speaking about the context of the Ghadir Khumm hadith, they make it seem as if it was a divine Imamah celebration under some palm trees, whereas in reality, the pond (Ghadir) of Khumm was one of many stops were people used to rest anyway. The Prophet (ﷺ) was informed that some individuals were very upset with Ali (رضي الله عنه), to the point that some expressed hatred for him. The Prophet (ﷺ) did not declare those men as disbelievers, instead, he seized the opportunity and declared that having utmost loyalty, support, and love for Ali ibn Abi Talib (رضي الله عنه) is a prophetic commandment.

Recommended articles:

The Ghadeer Khumm Event – As Understood by Ahlelbayt, Sahaba & Ahlus-Sunnah.

Authentic Shia hadeeth on Ghadeer is actually a fabrication of Saba’ites.

Did Allah remove his Messenger’s (saw) fears at Ghadir?

Sunni-Shia debate Al-Tabligh verse & Ghadir Khumm


Rasul-Allah (saw) and the divine order of Imamah