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Family tree · In Mecca · In Medina · Conquest of Mecca · The Farewell Sermon · Succession

Diplomacy · Family · Wives · Military leadership

Farewell Pilgrimage · Ghadir Khumm · Pen and paper · Saqifah · General bay'ah

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حدیث غدیر خم
Narration of the pond

A series of articles on

Ali callig.gif
Imam of Islam

Family tree · Descendants · Succession to Muhammad · Birthplace · Timeline of Ali's life · First Fitna · Hadith of the pond of Khumm

Nahj al-Balagha · Qalam-e-Mowla · Zulfiqar · Imam Ali Mosque

Ali the Warrior · Ali caliphate · The Fourteen Infallibles · The Twelve Imams · Ali in Quran · Sunni · Shi'a

This is a sub-article to the Succession to Muhammad

The Hadith of the pond of Khumm (Arabic: غدير خم‎) refers to the saying (i.e. Hadith) about a historical event crucial to Islamic history. This event took place on March 10 632 AD at a place called Ghadir Khumm, which is located near the city of al-Juhfah, Saudi Arabia. In Muslim literature, Ghadir Khumm is often referred to as an oasis with a watering hole or pond. Ghadir Khumm is alternately written simply as Khumm, Khur, or Khu'.

Shi'a Muslims believe it to be an be an appointment of Ali by Muhammad as his successor, while Sunni Muslims believe it to be a simple defense of Ali in the face of unjust criticism.

Background Context

A few months before his death, Muhammad – living at the city of Medina – made his last religious pilgrimage to Mecca in a trip referred to as The Farewell Pilgrimage. There, atop Mount Arafat, he addressed the Muslim masses in what came to be known as The Farewell Sermon. After completion of the Hajj, or religious pilgrimage, Muhammad turned back towards his home in Medina.

On the trip there, he stopped at the pond of Khumm and praised Ali. The exact meaning of the praise is a matter of much dispute; not only do Sunni and Shi'a Muslims disagree as to which statements about the pond are authentic, but they also disagree on the interpretation.

Sunni and Shi'a Concordance

Generally, Sunni and Shi'a Muslims both accept that Muhammad said the following at the pond:

“Whomsoever’s mawla I am, this Ali is also his mawla. O Allah, befriend whosoever befriends him and be the enemy of whosoever is hostile to him.”

However, there is disagreement as to what was said after that. There is also disagreement over the definition of the word "mawla." The Sunni position is that the word translates to "beloved friend," whereas the Shi'a position holds that it translates to "master."

Shi'a Viewpoint

Shi'a Muslims believe that after the pilgrimage, Muhammad ordered the gathering of Muslims at the pond of Khumm and it was there that Muhammad nominated Ali to be his successor, arguing that it wouldn't have made sense to stop those traveling back to Medina to solely defend Ali from criticism.


Suppose a philosopher from another faith asks you about the Ghadir Day saying: "Why did he (pbuh) stop all those thousands of companions from proceeding, confining them in midday heat in such a sunbaked plain? Why did he make sure to call back whoever advanced, and wait for whoever lagged behind? Why did he camp with them in such a desolate place where neither water nor vegetation was available? Then why did he preach to them about Allah Almighty in that place and enjoined those who were present there to convey, upon dispersing, what they had heard to those who had not, and why did he start with a selfeulogizing sermon, saying: `It looks like my Lord's Messenger [angel of death, Isra'il] is about to come to call me [to return to my Lord] and I will respond to the call; I am responsible, and so are you,' and what message was the Prophet (pbuh) enjoined to convey and which the nation was enjoined to heed? Why did he ask them: `Do not you believe that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad (pbuh) is His Servant and Messenger, that His Paradise is just and His Fire is just, that death is just and the life after death is just, that the Hour is undoubtedly approaching, that Allah will bring to life all those who are lying in their graves?' and they responded in the affirmative? Why did he immediately take `Ali's hand, lift it till the white hair in his armpit became visible, saying: `O people! Allah is my mawla, and I am the mawla of the believers;' then why did he explain his statement `I am the mawla of the believers' by asking them: `Do not I have more authority over your lives than you yourselves have?' Then why did he say, having made such an explanation, `Whoever has accepted me as his mawla, this (`Ali) is his mawla; O Lord! Befriend whosoever befriends him and be the enemy of whosoever antagonizes him; support whosoever supports him and betray whosoever betrays him,' and why did he specifically choose him and pray for him in such a manner which is worthy only of just Imams and truthful successors? And why did he require them to testify by asking them: `Do I not have more authority over you than you yourselves have?' and they answered in the affirmative; then he said: `To whomsoever I have been a mawla, `Ali is his mawla,' or `To whomsoever I have been a wali, `Ali is his wali, and why did he link the Qur'an to his progeny, thus making them the examples for the wise to follow till the day of Judgment? Why so much concern from such a wise Prophet? What was the mission that necessitated all these introductions, and what was the aspired objective from such a memorable stand? What was the message which Allah Almighty ordered him to convey when He said: `O Messenger! Convey what has just been revealed unto you from your Lord, and if you do not do so, then you have not conveyed His Message (at all), and Allah will protect you from (evil) men (Qur'an, 5:67),' and what mission required so much emphasis from Allah Who demanded, in a tone so close to threatening, to be conveyed? What was the affair regarding which the Prophet feared dissension if not conveyed by him, one the announcement of which required a profound protection from Allah against the harm of the hypocrites...?"


Sunni Viewpoint

The Sunni version of the hadith states that a group of soldiers under the command of Ali were complaining to Muhammad about Ali[dubious ], and Muhammad defended Ali by praising him. The Sunnis, naturally, believe that Muhammad's intention behind the praise was not at all to nominate Ali as his successor but rather it was only to defend Ali against the slander being said against him.[3]

Scholars of Sunni Islam reject a number of further additions as being fabricated and unacceptable. They believe that Muhammad praised Ali, but that this cannot be construed as a prophetic nomination due to the fact that Muhammad similarly praised others from amongst the Sahaba.

The Translation of the Word "Mawla"

The word "mawla" is found in a number of verses from the Qur'an. With reference to classical Arabic language itself, both Sunni and Shi'a scholars acknowledge that the word mawla has been used in different ways. The Sunni scholar Ibn al-Athir maintains that the word can be translated as any of the following words: lord, owner, benefactor, liberator, helper, lover, ally, slave, servant, brother-in-law, cousin, or friend. The Shi'a organization Thaqalayn Muslim Association stated in one of its leaflets that it can mean master, friend, slave, or even client.

It is accepted by both Sunni and Shi'a that the proper translation revolves around the context. However, the two groups have very differing views as to what was said at the pond of Khumm and for what purpose those words were said; it is because of this difference that the two groups translate the same word in a different manner.

The word "Mawla" and the entire question of the waliate is discussed in a non-Muslim fashion in a book edited by Monique Bernards and John Nawas called "Patronate and Patronage in Early and Classical Islam" [4]. This book sheds light on the word "maula" but does not resolve the tension between the two interpretations.


See also

  • Hadith of the two weighty things
  • Hadith of the Twelve Successors
  • Hadith of Mubahela
  • Hadith of the Cloak

External links