In the name of Allah and all praise is due to Allah and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon His final Messenger.
Claiming that the Prophet (ﷺ), the most eloquent of all Arabs, used an ambiguous term such as mawla for the alleged most important pillar of Islam i.e. ‘Wilayah‘ (upon which the salvation of mankind rests, according to the Imamites) whilst there are a plethora of much more suitable terms for successorship, is an insult to him and one of the many flaws of Shi’ism (Twelverism and Zaydism). This dilemma forced some Shia scholars of the past to reluctantly admit that reports such as the Ghadir Khumm hadith and the al-Manzilah hadith do not provide clear-cut evidence in and of themselves.
al-Sharif al-Murtada’s Admission
‘Alī b. al-Ḥusayn also known as ‘al-Sharīf’ al-Murtaḍā, ‘al-Sayyid’ al-Murtaḍā, and ʿAlam al-Hudā) (b. 355/965 – d. 436/1044) was a Twelver Shia jurist and theologian and student of al-Mufid. He was the elder brother of al-Sayyid al-Radi, the compiler of Nahj al-Balagha. He’s a highly revered figure in Twelver Shi’ism to this very day.
فأما نحن فلا نعلم ثبوته والمراد به إلا استدلالا كقوله صلى الله عليه وآله (أنت مني بمنزلة هارون من موسى إلا أنه لا نبي بعدي) و (من كنت مولاه فعلي مولاه) وهذا الضرب من النص هو الذي يسميه أصحابنا النص الخفي. كتاب الشافي في الإمامة ج2ص67 الشريف المرتضى
“As for us, we do not know its evidence and its intended meaning except through Istidlal* as in his (ﷺ) statement “You are to me as Harun was to Musa, except that after me there shall be no other Prophet” and “For whoever I am his mawla, Ali is his mawla”. These types of texts are what our companions refer to as hidden textual proof.” [al-Shafi fi al-Imamah, vol. 2, p. 67 by al-Murtada]
*Istidlal (reasoning by literal interpretation) is a process in ijtihad and in the ordinary sense means an inference for a thing from another thing, but in the real sense, it is a form of ratiocination or legal reasoning not covered by Qiyas/قیاس (analogy). Istidlal (استدلال) allowed the jurists to avoid 'strict analogy' in a case where no clear precedent could be found. In this case, public interest was distinguished as a basis for legislation. So istidlal means, your endeavours to find a particular verse from the Qur’an, or from Hadith, or a statement from scholars on the issue you are discussing or studying.
وأمَّا النَّصُّ الخَفيُّ: فهُو الَّذي ليسَ في صَرِيحةِ لَفظِهِ النَّصُّ بالإمَامةِ، وإنَّما ذلِك في فَحوَاهُ ومَعنَاهُ، كخَبَرِ الغَدِيرِ، وخَبَرِ تَبُوكٍ، والَّذينَ سَمِعُوا هَذَينِ النَّصَّينِ مِن الرَّسُولِ على ضَرْبَينِ: عَالِمٌ بمُرَادِه (علْيه السَّلامُ)، وجَاهِلٌ به فالعالمون بمراده يمكن أن يكونوا كلهم عالمين بذلك استدلالا وبالتأمل. ويجوز أن يكون بعضهم على من شاهد الحال وقصد الرسول عليه السلام إلى خطابه بيانه ومراده ضرورة. رسائل الشريف المرتضى ج1 ص338_339– رسائل الشريف المرتضى الجزء الأول ص339
“As for the hidden textual proof: It is one which text does not explicitly mention leadership for it (i.e leadership) can only be derived from its content and meaning such as in the report of Ghadir and the report of Tabuk (i.e. hadith al-Manzilah). Those who heard those two texts from the Messenger are of two types: those who knew what he (ﷺ) intended and those who were ignorant of it. Those who were aware of what he intended probably understood it by reasoning and reflecting…” [Rasail, vol. 1, pg. 339]
NOTE: Here we have one of the top Shia Scholars who testified that neither Hadith Ghadir, nor Hadith al-Manzilah contain clear INDICATION on Imamah. He is very clear that he didn’t know any from his companions (meaning other known Shia scholars) who ever claimed that there existed clear Nass/textual evidence on the Imamate of 'Ali (much less on the Imamate of his descendants).
What is clear from al-Murtada’s statement is that the text of the Ghadir and Tabuk (al-Manzilah) hadith are not explicit statements of appointment (i.e. successorship). Yes, of course, al-Murtada believes that Ghadir is about leadership but that’s not the point. The point al-Murtada is making is that Ghadir does not have a clear explicit meaning, it can be explained in various and multiple ways and from it, one could derive what the Prophet (according to al-Murtada and the Shia) intended. This is why this he categorized it as نص خفي (hidden/latent/implicit textual proof) instead of نص جلي (obvious/explicit/clear). What is ‘hidden’ cannot be the basis for creed (‘Aqidah) or Shari’ah and this is why the majority of Ahl al-Sunnah do not even believe in نص جلي for Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him).
Ultimately, al-Murtada dismantled the illusion of Shias who think that Hadith al-Ghadir is explicit and clear evidence for their belief in Imamah. Modern-day Shia scholars either try to dilute al-Murtada’s words or simply state that he must have erred or that he’s ‘misunderstood’.
One argument put forward by Shias is that the very same ‘al-Sharif’ al-Murtada reproached Ahl al-Sunnah for blaming (!) the Prophet (ﷺ) for his choice of wording. The response of Ahl al-Sunnah is that this only proves the ignorance of al-Murtada. The Prophet (ﷺ) would be mistaken in his choice of words if he actually intended leadership for his cousin. It is the Shia that make the Prophet (ﷺ) appear as if he’s mistaken in his choice since no sane man would use such vague multi-faceted word (mawla) to refer to absolute leadership (wilayah mutlaqah), Ahl al-Sunnah do not claim to begin with that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) intended to declare successorship.
‘al-Sharif’ al-Murtada was not alone…
It is important to mention that al-Murtada was not alone in his judgment concerning the Hadith of Ghadir; he was echoed by the likes of al-Noori al-Tabrisi, al-Tusi and al-Hilli (who was utterly refuted by Shaykh al-Islam).
لم يصرح النبي لعلي بالخلافة بعده بلا فصل في يوم الغدير وأشار إليها بكلام مجمل مشترك بين معاني يحتاج إلى تعيين ما هو المقصود منها إلى قرائن
فصل الخطاب 205 – 206
“The Prophet did not declare ‘Ali as his immideate successor (caliph) after him on the day of Ghadir, he rather pointed towards it (i.e. successorship) with a speech that consists of general wordings that share meanings and are thus in need of =
وأما الخفي فقوله عليه السلام : (من كنت مولاه فعلي مولاه اللهم وال من والاه وعاد من عاداه وانصر من نصره واخذل من خذله وأدر الحق معه كيف ما دار. وقوله عليه السلام : أنت مني بمنزلة هارون من موسى. وقوله لجماعة من أصحابه : اللهم ائتني بأحب الناس إليك يأكل معي. – رسائل المحقق الحلي ص399 و 400
“…as for the hidden textual proofs [for the Imamah of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib], this includes his (i.e. the Prophet’s) statement: “Whoever I am his mawla, then Ali is his mawla, O Allah befriend the one who befriends him…” [Rasa`il by al-Hilli, pg. 399-400]
Then al-Hilli proceeds admitting that not just the Ghadir Hadith, but also Hadith al-Manzilah and Hadith al-Tayr al-Mashwiy (a hadith about how the Prophet wanted to eat a meal of a roasted bird with ‘Ali which many of the Twelvers claim is a clear-cut proof for the ‘Ali’s Imamah) constitute hidden textual proof for the Wilayah of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, the so-called mother of all pillars based on which the Rafidah have declared Takfir on the best of the Ummah.
The likes of al-Murtada and others admit that narrations such as the Ghadir Khumm hadith (upon which the entire Imamite sect rests) are خفي i.e. hidden/latent/implicit textual proofs for the very foundation of Shi’ism i.e. they are not Qati’i al-Thuboot/Qat’i al-Dalalah (definitive, i.e a piece of evidence which can have no other meaning).
Of course, the likes of al-Murtada tried their utmost to illustrate that the only possible meaning in those narrations can be leadership and that the people were two groups, those who understood what was intended in the wording of narrations such as Ghadir and those who did not.
The truth is: Nobody understood Ghadir to mean leadership from amongst the people that witnessed that event. ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) himself never brought it up to Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, not even at any Shura, not even once. The best the Shia can cite are narrations where ‘Ali reminded the people when he was already a caliph (i.e. around 25 years after Saqifah!) and faced opposition from the Khawarij and some Sahabah who were upset at his political decisions. That means ‘Ali used the Ghadir narration to remind people to be loyal to him and support him i.e. exactly the way the Sahabah and Ahl al-Sunnah understood it from day one, including ‘Ali’s great-grandson.
‘Ali ibn Abi Talib pledged allegiance according to the consensus of historians. He did so willingly and out of conviction and not in a state of Taqiyyah or for the sake of some false ‘unity’ as the Shia want us to believe. His very participation in the Shura validates the caliphate of his predecessors. Neither ‘Ali nor those around him understood the Ghadir Khumm even as an appointment. All major books of Hadith and history prove the man wasn’t appointed to the point that even some Shia authorities had to admit that their best proofs are not really that clear.
Al-Hamdulillah for Islam and Ahl al-Sunnah.