What is Eid al-Ghadir? It is the celebration of the appointment of Imam ‘Ali as the successor of the Messenger of Allah.
After completing the Farewell Pilgrimage on the 10th year of the Hijrah, the Messenger of Allah stopped at the Pond of Ghadir Khumm on the 18th of Dhu al-Hijjah, a date that corresponds with March 10th of the year 632. It was there that he received the revelation:
“O Messenger! Deliver what has been sent down to you from your Lord; and if you do not do it, you have not delivered His message (at all); and Allah will protect you from the people …” (Qur’an 5:67)
There, in the presence of 120,000 Muslims, he delivered a three-hour long sermon, in which he stated:
“It seems the time has approached when I shall be called away (by Allah) and I shall answer that call. I am leaving for you two precious things and if you adhere to them both, you will never go astray after me. They are the Book of Allah and my Progeny, that is my Ahl al-Bayt. The two shall never separate from each other until they come to me by the Pool (of Paradise).”
Then the Messenger of Allah continued:
“Do I not have more right over the believers than what they have over themselves?” The people cried and answered: “Yes, O Messenger of Allah.” It was then that the Messenger of Allah held up ‘Ali’s hand and said: “For whoever I am his master, ‘Ali is also his master. O God, love those who love him, and be hostile to those who are hostile to him.”
Immediately after concluding his sermon, the following verse of the Qur’an was revealed:
“This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” (Qur’an 5:3)
Most ahadith or prophetic traditions are ahad; namely, they were transmitted by a single person. Such sayings are not facts. Other traditions are mutawatir or continuous; namely, they were transmitted by numerous authorities.
Hadith scholars differ as to how many narrators are needed for a tradition to be considered continuous. Some place the minimum at four, five, seven or ten. Others raise the bar to forty or even seventy.
The Hadith of Ghadir Khumm, however, has been transmitted by the Household of the Prophet: ‘Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn.
It was transmitted by 110 Companions of the Prophet, including ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, ‘A’ishah, Abu Hurayrah, Abu Dharr al-Ghiffari, Salman al-Farsi, Zubayr ibn al-‘Awwam, Jabir ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Ansari, among many others.
It was transmitted by 83 Followers of the Companions of the Prophet.
It was transmitted by 360 Sunni scholars from the 2nd to 4th century after the Hijrah.
It was also transmitted by all the major Shii scholars, such as Kulayni, Qummi, Mufid, and Sharif al-Murtaza.
As a Muslim scholar and as a Western academic, I can assert, without any doubt whatsoever, that the Hadith of Ghadir Khumm is authentic according to Islamic scholarly standards; and not only that: it is a historical fact according to Western scholarly standards.
Since it is pointless to expound upon the evident, I can direct readers to al-Ghadir fi al-Kitab wa al-Sunnah, the 11-volume encyclopedic work by ‘Allamah Amini. All I can say is: the case is closed.
Although the event of Ghadir Khumm cannot be disputed by any sincere and objective scholar or academic, its interpretation most certainly can be.
For Sunni scholars, the tradition stresses that Muslims should love, honuor, and respect Imam ‘Ali, not necessarily that he was the first in line for succession.
For Sufi scholars, the tradition stresses that Imam ‘Ali was the spiritual successor of the Prophet Muhammad.
For Zaydi scholars, the tradition indicates that Imam ‘Ali was the preferred choice for succession; namely, that he was afdal.
For Twelver Shiite scholars, it indicates the obvious: namely, that Imam ‘Ali was both the spiritual and political successor of the Prophet.
We can agree to disagree on the interpretation of the event; however, we cannot honestly discount that the event ever took place.
So, whether we are Sunni, Shia or Sufi, can we all agree: to love Allah and to love ‘Ali?
By Dr John Andrew Morrow for the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies.