Ghadir Khum -The Historical Event

Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem, salaam alaykum dear readers,

We recently celebrated Eid al-Ghadir on the 18th day of the Islamic month of Dhul Hijjah, the 12th and final month of the lunar-based calendar.

For those who might be unfamiliar with the event of Ghadir Khum whose social, economic and political repercussions continue to be felt today in the 21st century and will continue to affect the world we live in until the coming of the Mehdi (as) and Jesus (as), then the following article may contribute to a better understanding, InshaAllah (God willing).

Details of the Ghadir Khum Event

DETAIL #1

Before talking about Ghadir Khum, I want to briefly mention the Farewell Pilgrimage. Prior to the momentous event of Ghadir Khum, the Prophet Muhammad (saww) made the announcement that he would perform a final pilgrimage (Hajj) to Makkah referred to as “Khutbatul Wada”(the Farewell Sermon). The news spread and according to narrations of different sources, well over 100,000 joined the Prophet.

During the Hajj, the Prophet expounded on the laws and tenets of Islam and prohibited all existing practices of the days of Jahiliyah (ignorance) enjoining the gathering to inform those not present and also to convey to posterity his eternal message. 1

The significant Thaqalayn hadith was a part of the Farewell Sermon:

Al-Kafi which is one of the Four Books of Shi’a,إِنِّی تَارِک فِیکمْ أَمْرَینِ إِنْ أَخَذْتُمْ بِهِمَا لَنْ تَضِلُّوا- کتَابَ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ وَ أَهْلَ بَیتِی عِتْرَتِی أَیهَا النَّاسُ اسْمَعُوا وَ قَدْ بَلَّغْتُ إِنَّکمْ سَتَرِدُونَ عَلَی الْحَوْضَ فَأَسْأَلُکمْ عَمَّا فَعَلْتُمْ فِی الثَّقَلَینِ وَ الثَّقَلَانِ کتَابُ اللَّهِ جَلَّ ذِکرُهُ وَ أَهْلُ بَیتِی

“Indeed I am leaving two things among you, to which if you hold yourself, you will never astray: the book of Allah –who is all mighty and great- and my ahl al-bayt (household), my ‘itra (family). O people hear! And I have announced to you that: indeed you will enter my presence and I will ask you about what you did to the thaqalayn (two weighty things) and the thaqalayn are the book of Allah and my ahl al-bayt.”

Hadith al-Thaqalayn

Sunan al-Nasa’i, one of the six sahih (authentic) books of Sunnis:کأنی قد دعیت فاجبت، انی قد ترکت فیکم الثقلین احدهما اکبر من الآخر، کتاب الله و عترتی اهل بیتی، فانظروا کیف تخلفونی فیهما، فانهما لن یفترقا حتی یردا علی الحوض

“Looks like I have been called, and I answered (my time of death has come), indeed I have left the thaqalayn (two weighty things) among you, one of them is greater form the other, the book of Allah and my ‘itra (family), my ahl al-bayt (household). So look after how you will behave with them after me, indeed they will never separate from each other until they enter my presence by the pool [in the paradise].”

Hadith al-Thaqalayn

On 18 Dhu al-Hijjah 10 AH (March 632 CE), after leaving the Farewell Pilgrimage in Makkah on the way to Medina, a caravan of more than several thousand Muslims including the Prophet Muhammad reached a place called Ghadir Khum (an intersection of routes between Makkah & Medina). When they reached Ghadir Khum, the Prophet Muhammad received a revelation:

“O’ Our Apostle Muhammad! Deliver what has been sent down to you from your Lord; and if you don’t do it, then it will be as if you have not delivered His message (at all); and surely Allah will protect you from the mischief of men …”

(Qur’an 5:67)

The Prophet stopped the caravan and called back those who had gone ahead and waited for those who were behind. Both Shia & Sunni sources confirm the verse was revealed to the Prophet right before the speech he gave at Ghadir Khum. 2

Detail #2

The revelation of verse 5:67, led the Prophet to name Ali ibn Abi Talib (as) – his cousin & son-in-law as his successor (in leadership – both spiritual & temporal):

“Anyone who has me as his Maula, has this Ali as his Maula.”

2 3
DETAIL #3

After the Prophet Muhammad made the proclamation of the Imamat of Ali, he immediately received another revelation:

“…This day I have perfected for you, your religion, and have completed My favour on you, and chosen for you ISLAM to be the religion…”

(Qur’an 5:3)

This has been narrated by Shia & Sunnis. 6 The Prophet then asked the crowd to pledge their allegiance to Ali ibn Abi Talib. Umar, Abu Baker & Uthman were among those who gave their oath.4 After the sermon, the Prophet ordered those who were present to receive ‘baiyat’ (allegiance) for Ali as the Amirul-Momineen’ (Leader of the faithful) in their own places on their return from the Hajj. 5

Arguments of the Event of Ghadir Khum

There are those who assert the above details are erroneous by raising the following arguments:

ARGUMENT #1

If the Prophet was going to deliver such an important message about who would lead the Ummah after him, why not give the speech at the Farewell Pilgrimage where a majority of the Muslims had already been gathered instead of giving the message at Ghadir Khum where only a small amount of Muslim were.

RESPONSE: The Prophet didn’t receive the order from Allah (swt) (revelation of verse 5:67) at the Farewell Pilgrimage; he received it when he and the caravan reached Ghadir Khum. Whether few or many thousands, it’s irrelevant to the commandment from Allah (swt) to reveal what had been delivered to the Prophet.

ARGUMENT #2

The Shia exaggerate the number of Muslims that were present at Ghadir Khum since some had remained back in Mecca or headed to Yemen or had already bypassed Ghadir Khum and were on their way back to Syria.

RESPONSE: As mentioned in the Detail #1 above, several thousand people were with the Prophet when they arrived at Ghadir Khum however, the Prophet called back those that had already gone past Ghadir Khum and waited for those behind to catch up. The Prophet & the caravan waited hours for everyone to gather.

ARGUMENT #3

The verse from the Quran that was revealed 5:67, was not about Ali ibn Abi Talib but was directed towards the People of the Book (the Christians & the Jews) because the verse before & after were referring to the People of the Book. This verse was telling the Prophet to tell the Christians & Jews about Islam and to not fear them.

RESPONSE: The divine arrangement of the Quran is based not on chronological order but on other considerations.7 This means that verse 5:67 doesn’t have to refer to the People of the Book just because the previous and following verses do. The message of Islam had been delivered to the Christians and Jews throughout the Prophet’s mission. This argument doesn’t fit since the verse says “if you don’t do it”. Whereas the Prophet had already shared the religion with the People of the Book.

ARGUMENT #4

The word Maula in the Prophets speech means friend and not leader / master, i.e. take Ali ibn Ali Talib as your friend.

RESPONSE: Let’s say the word Maula means friend as the argument suggest, it would then be: “Anyone who has me as his friend, has this Ali as his friend.” The Prophet had people travel to Ghadir Khum for hours, and then remain for a three hour speech in the mid-day heat, just to pledge allegiance that Ali is their friend? Are we to think that Ali was the “only friend” of the Prophet?

Maula as friend negates every part of verse 5:67 that was revealed right before the Prophet said “Anyone who has me as his Maula has this Ali as his Maula”. Here is a breakdown of the verse and why “friend” doesn’t fit:

If Maula means leader / master, then this part of the verse makes sense as the Prophet had not delivered what had already been revealed to him, as he feared the reaction of some of the Muslims.

and if you don’t do it, then it would be as if you have not delivered His message (at all)… this would mean that the message the Prophet had already delivered such as the Unity of God, the divine attributes of God, the belief in all previous Prophets, the belief in the day of judgement, salat, fasting, hajj, zakat, khums, jehad, enjoining of good and forbidding of evil, it’s as if he hasn’t delivered any of this to the people if he doesn’t tell the people that Ali is their friend.

If Maula means leader / master, the importance of this part of the verse makes complete sense. The Prophet, by divine decree designating who will be the spiritual & temporal leader after him is crucial to ensuring what the Prophet has already delivered stays intact and the Ummah does not go astray after him. 8

Previous Prophets had successors, even when the Prophet would leave Medina, he would appoint someone to be in charge of the affairs of the Muslims. We’re now to believe that the Prophet wouldn’t have appointed a successor?

and surely Allah will protect you from the mischief of men… there would be no reason for the Prophet to need protection for telling the people that whoever I am his friend has this Ali as his friend. This is a harmless statement that doesn’t threaten anyone.

If Maula means leader / master, this would make sense that Allah (swt) mentions he will protect the Prophet from the people. The Prophet was approaching death and had mentioned this both at the Farewell Pilgrimage and Ghadir Khum and there were some amongst them who were hypocrites & mischief-mongers who had their own plans for after the Prophets death. The Prophet by divine decree, naming Ali as the leader (not Prophet) after him disrupts their plans. 9

It is also worth mentioning here, that before the Prophet made the statement: “Man kunto Maula, fahadha Ali un Maula” (“Anyone who has me as his maula (leader / master) has this Ali as his maula (leader / master)”), the Prophet said to the huge crowd: “O people! Allah is my Maula (Master) and I am the Maula (master) of believers.”

The crowd unanimously replied: “Verily O Prophet of Allah.” So Maula means leader / master in this instance but not in the very next statement?

Additional Resources

The most important thing a human being can do, is to use their aql (intellectual abilities) to reflect, ponder and transcend. If 0ne is sincere in seeking the truth no matter where the truth might lead, may I suggest the following additional resources of the event of Ghadir Khum. Please note there a many many more authentic sources than what I can list here:

  • There is an 11 volume book written by Allama Amini about Ghadir, which took him over 40 years to write. You can read more about the book here.
  • There is a biography, written in English by Dr. Fakhr-Rohani titled: “Devoted to The Truth: Allama Amini, The Author of al-Ghadir.” More on the book can be found here.
  • Finally, I have included below, a selection of lectures on the event of Al-Ghadir / Imamat that are worth watching.

An informative lecture as to what happened on Al-Ghadeer:

Al-Ghadeer in Sunni Sources:

Why the Ummah abandoned Ghadeer:

Contextualizing the sermon of Ghadir Khum:

Known as the sermon of Shiqshiqiyah:

Your participation in discourse is most welcome & appreciated. Write a comment below to contribute to the conversation!


  1. Prophet Muhammad (s), A Brief Biography #10 The Farewell Pilgrimage
  2. A Shi’ite Encyclopedia, Ghadir Khum Part 1
  3. Hadith Al-Thaqalayn, Section 2 At Ghadir Khumm
  4. A Shi’ite Encyclopedia, Ghadir Khum Part 2
  5. The Holy Quran by S. V. Mir Ahmed Ali, Second Edition 1995, Pg. 493, Chapter V footnotes.
  6. A Shi’ite Encyclopedia, Ghadir Khum Part 3
  7. The Holy Quran by S. V. Mir Ahmed Ali, Second Edition 1995, Pg. 449, Chapter V footnotes.
  8. The Holy Quran by S. V. Mir Ahmed Ali, Second Edition 1995, Pg. 494 – 495, Chapter V footnotes.
  9. The Holy Quran by S. V. Mir Ahmed Ali, Second Edition 1995, Pg. 495, Chapter V footnotes.
  10. Prophet Muhammad (s), A Brief Biography #11 The Farewell Pilgrimage

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.