What many of our Sunni brothers and sisters in Islam are unaware of is that Ali ibn Abi Talib, members of the Banu Hashim, and a number of the companions opposed Abu Bakr and Umar, and did not give their Bayah to them. In fact, Ali ibn abi Talib withehld from recognising Abu Bakr as the Caliph for six whole months, during which there were several apostate tribes surfacing and great fitnah. Unfortunately, this goes against what has been taught to them with respect to alleged statements made by Ali ibn Abi Talib regarding the superiority of the first there caliphs over him, on the merits of the first, and on his love, obedience,and devotion to them. This is not hi lighted in any way to slander the aforementioned revered and respected symbols of the Sunnis , but rather to ask the enquiring mind to ponder over major discreprenes and to use the rational faculty of their mind – rather than dogma, in understanding what really took place.
Table of Contents:
1. Authentic narrations in Bukhari and Muslim confirming Ali ibn Abi Talib opposed Abu Bakr, and withheld his allegiance for six months.
2. An authentic tradition regarding the gathering at the house of Fatima binte Muhammed and the threat of Umar ibn Al Khattab.
3. The nature and temperament of Umar ibn Al Khattab in the eyes of sunni scholars.
4. General conclusion
Authentic narrations in Bukhari and Muslim confirming Ali ibn Abi Talib opposed Abu Bakr, and withheld his allegiance for six months.
Umar ibn Al Khattab narrates in Saheeh Al Bukhari the following:
“And no doubt after the death of the Prophet (ﷺ) we were informed that the Ansar disagreed with us and gathered in the shed of Bani Sa`da. `Ali and Zubair and whoever was with them, opposed us, while the emigrants gathered with Abu Bakr.”
Reference: Sahih Bukhari :Book 86 [Kitab Al Hudud] Chapter 31.
It is mentioned in Saheeh-Bukhari and Saheeh Muslim by Umar ibn Al Khattab:
“So Abu Bakr refused to hand over anything from it to Fatima who got angry with Abu Bakr for this reason. She forsook him and did not talk to him until the end of her life. She lived for six months after the death of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). When she died, her husband. ‘Ali b. Abu Talib, buried her at night. He did not inform Abu Bakr about her death and offered the funeral prayer over her himself. During the lifetime of Fatima, ‘All received (special) regard from the people. After she had died, he felt estrangement in the faces of the people towards him. .. He had not yet owed allegiance to him as Caliph during these months. He sent a person to Abu Bakr requesting him to visit him unaccompanied by anyone (disapproving the presence of Umar). ‘Umar said to Abu Bakr: By Allah, you will not visit them alone. Abu Bakr said: What will they do to me? By Allah, I will visit them. And he did pay them a visit alone. “
References:  Sahih-Muslim: Book 019, Number 4352  Sahih Bukhari :Volume 5, Book 59, Number 546.  Sahih-Muslim: Book 019, Number 4352
Objection one: Ali ibn Abi Talib was just aggrieved he had not been consulted:
Reply: If Ali ibn Abi Talib’s grievance was that he was not consulted, then had he been consulted, would he have opted for anyone other than Abu Bakr to lead after the Prophet [saw]? If he would naturally have chosen Abu Bakr, than why would he grieve at all? Why would he forsake it for six whole months, until the death of Fatima binte Muhammed ? Does it not seem like a normal action for people who are close, love each other, and for one who recognises the merits and superiority of Abu Bakr to meet with him to immediately discuss his differences, rather than withholding from him for six whole months, which is an enormous percentage of the time Abu Bakr was Caliph himself? If he was merely sad about not being consulted, would he not talk about this grievance to Abu Bakr? If you had a difference with Abu Bakr, would you withhold it at all, and if you did, would it not be for a few days at most while you reflected on the situation?
Objection two: There were no compulsion in him to give his allegiance [nor all of the prominent men], and by withholding it he was not opposing or rebelling:
Reply: Some argue that there was no compulsion on him to give his allegiance, and that he did not oppose Abu Bakr, but rather, withheld it. This opinion is very weak, considering that Ali ibn Abi Talib was considered at least one of the four best men after the Prophet [saw] and at a time where the Ridda wars were occurring and the Prophet [saw] had just died, a young Ummah needed men of high status like Ali ibn Abi Talib falling in line and showing their support for the leader. There is a saying that ones silence is more telling than ones words, and by opposing Abu Bakr, and then withholding to give him the allegiance until after six months, Ali ibn Abi Talib was making a very strong statement. It is also of importance here to note the great emphasis given in traditions where after six months, Ali ibn Abi Talib then gives his allegiance. One must ask if it is not important for everyone to do so, but only some prominent men, why does he then give it? Did he not see Abu Bakr in Medina, and did he not speak to him [as Sunni’s state]. If so, would it not have been a simple matter for him to merely give his allegiance? This is arguably one of the weaker objections – but we can understand why many Sunni scholars have sought to use it, considering the alternative shakes the very foundations of beliefs regarding the reality of this event.
Objection three: We have authentic traditions which state Ali ibn Abi Talib gave his allegiance right away.
Reply: It is telling there are traditions which directly contradict the above narrations in Saheeh Bukhari and Muslim and the understanding of many of the Sunni Ulema who have sought to explain the delay of Ali ibn Abi Talib, such as Imam Nawawi in his ‘Sharh Saheeh Muslim’. This can not be an objection taken seriously, considering it has been established what has been narrated in the two saheehs, and great contradictions hi-light the major flaw in the Ilm al Rijal utilised and assumptions made about whether certain men are trustworthy or not.
The gathering at the house of Fatima binte Muhammed and the threat of Umar ibn Al Khattab
The Ansaar, who had heard of the plan of Abu Bakr and Umar, as well as a few of the others planning for the succession of Muhammed [saw] and select a leader among themselves decided to primitively go and choose their own leader. This whole event has been analysed in the previous section on the calamity of Saqifah. What is also revealing is that Ali ibn Abi Talib, Zubayr, and a number of the other companions had camped with Ali ibn Abi Talib, and opposed them in what they were doing in going to Saqifah.
Umar said: “‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib, Zubair Ibn Awwam and those who were with them separated from us (and gathered) in the house of Fatimah, daughter of the messenger of Allah.”
References:  Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v1, p55  Sirah al-Nabawiyyah, by Ibn Hisham, v4, p309  History of Tabari (Arabic), v1, p1822  History of Tabari, English version, v9, p192
“And no doubt after the death of the Prophet (ﷺ) we were informed that the Ansar disagreed with us and gathered in the shed of Bani Sa`da. `Ali and Zubair and whoever was with them, opposed us, while the emigrants gathered with Abu Bakr.
References:  Sahih Bukhari :Book 86 [Kitab Al Hudud] Chapter 31.
“Narrated Muhammad bin Bashir from Ubaidllah bin Umar from Zaid bin Aslam that his father Aslam said: ‘When the homage (baya) went to Abu Bakr after the Messenger of Allah, Ali and Zubair were entering into the house of Fatima to consult her and revise their issue, so when Umar came to know about that, he went to Fatima and said : ‘Oh daughter of Messenger of Allah, no one is dearest to us more than your father and no one dearest to us after your father than you, I swear by Allah, if these people gathered in your house then nothing will prevent me from giving order to burn the house and those who are inside.’
References:  Musnaf of Imam Ibn Abi Shaybah, Volume 7 page 432 Tradition 37045. [Saheeh Chain]
Reliability of the tradition of Aslam Al-Qurashi
All of the narrators are above are Thiqah, considered to be trustworthy and reliable, and we will go through each and every narrator:
Muhammad bin Bashir: Imam Al-Dhahabi said: ‘Thabt’ (Al-Kaashif, v2 p159), Imam Ibn Hajar Asqalani said: ‘Thiqa’ (Taqrib al-Tahdib, v2 p58).
Ubaidllah bin Umar: Al-Dhahabi said: ‘Thabt’ (Al-Kaashif, v1 p685), Ibn Hajar Asqalani said: ‘Thiqa Thabt’ (Taqrib al-Tahdib, v1 p637).
Zaid bin Aslam: Al-Dhahabi said: ‘Hujja’ (Siar alam alnubala, v5 p316), Imam Ibn Hajar Asqalani said: ‘Thiqa’ (Taqrib al-Tahdib, v1 p326).
Aslam al-Qurashi (the slave of Umar): Al-Dhahabi said: ‘Faqih, Imam’ (Siar alam alnubala, v4 p98), Ibn Hajar Asqalani said: ‘Thiqa’ (Taqrib al-Tahdib, v1 p88).
The above tradition is particularly revealing and it is also one which contains authentic chains of narrators according to the mainstream opinion of the Sunni’s. Furthermore, they are the narrators of Bukhari and Muslim. The only question mark on this particular narration is the fact Alam Al-Qurashi, a man considered a Jurist, a Leader, and trustworthy, was a slave of Umar ibn Al Khattab bought by him a few months after the threat of Umar ibn Al Khattab to burn down the house of Fatima binte Muhammed. Therefore, there had to be someone between him , either Umar ibn Al Khattab himself, or one of the many other companions, who narrated this to him. It is also important to note that he is considered a very important source on the biography of Umar ibn Al Khattab.
It is important here to note an important concept in Sunni Ilm al Rijal and legal theory there is something known as ‘Mural al Sahabi’. These are taken for very young companions such as Ibn Abbas [radiyallahu anhu]. When they narrate, their traditions are regarded as ‘al-mawsul al- musnad’ because it is assumed the companion who was too young to directly hear it from the Prophet [saw] may have heard it from other companions, and in Sunni theology, all the companions are considered as righteous and trustworthy and so the tradition is regarded to be connected.
Although Aslam Al Qurashi is not a companion, he was the slave and served Umar ibn Al Khattab very closely, and is considered amongst one of the earliest of the T’abieen at the very worst. He was bought only a few months after the event, and as already mentioned, is considered pious, a scholar, reliable, and an important sole of history for the life of Umar ibn Al Khattab by Sunni scholars. Therefore it is highly likely he is reporting from what he personally heard from other companions who were themselves, eye witness to this event. As all the companions are considered as righteous and trustworthy, and he was with Umar only shortly after the death of Muhammed [saw], and lived with him, it is highly likely he obtained his knowledge of this event from a direct companion eye witness for him to be able to attribute certain words and actions to Umar ibn Al Khattab in the same way that men like Ibn Abbas can relate from the Prophet [saw] through other companions in Sunni Rijal. Only this time, a man regarded trustworthy and upright was also one who met Umar ibn Al Khattab and was close to him, and therefore this report is of immense historical value.
Additionally, even if one discards this logic, what is essential to note is that the report of Umar ibn Al Khattab threatening the house of Fatima and being furious as those who decided to oppose Abu Bakr and himself, with a threat of burning it down, is corroborated through a number of other chains, whose authenticities are up for dispute. However, when one has an authentic chain that is -for sake of argument – having a gap in this way and is in a sense, a Mursal of a companion, if there are other corroborating chains, in Sunni Ilm Al Rijal, it strengthens and elevates the authenticity of the chain which has otherwise authentic narrators by their standards. And as we can see in the following section , there are several such chains. The reliability of these does not necessarily matter, as they are not used as primary – but rather supporting evidence.
Some of the many corroborating narrations and sources:
Ibn Humayd – Jarir – Mughirah – Ziyad b. Kulayb:Umar Ibn al-Khattab came to the house of Ali. Talha and Zubair and some of the immigrants were also in the house. Umar cried out: “By God, either you come out to render the oath of allegiance, or I will set the house on fire.” al-Zubair came out with his sword drawn. As he stumbled (upon something), the sword fell from his hand so they jumped over him and seized him.”
Reference: History of al-Tabari, Volume 9 page 187
“When Umar came to the door of the house of Fatimah, he said: “By Allah, I shall burn down (the house) over you unless you come out and give the oath of allegiance (to Abu Bakr).”
References: History of Tabari (Arabic), v1, pp 1118-1120  Tarikh al-Kulafa, by Ibn Qutaybah , v1, p20  History of Ibn Athir, v2, p325
“Abu Bakr was after group of people who failed to give bayya and gathered with Ali, he sent Umar in their direction. He (Umar) called them to come out from the house of Ali, but they refused to come out. Thus (Umar) asked (his men) to bring wood, then he said: ‘I swear by He who controls the life of Umar, if you people do not come out of the house I shall set fire to it, and everyone inside shall perish. Some people said: ‘O Abu Hafs (Umar), Fatima is also in this house’. Umar replied, ‘I do not care’ Then the people came out from the house and gave bayya except Ali.”
Reference: Abu Muhammad Abdullah bin Muslim bin Qutaybah (d. 276 Hijri) in his famous book al Imama wa al Siyasa pages 18-28
“Ali and Abbas were sitting inside the house of Fatimah, Abu Bakr told Umar: “Go and bring them; if they refuse, kill them.”Umar brought fire to burn the house. Fatimah came near the door and said: “O son of Khattab, have you come to burn our house on me and my children?”Umar replied: “Yes I will, by Allah, until they come out and pay allegiance to the Prophet’s Caliph.”
Reference:  Iqd al-Fareed, by Ibn Abd Rabb, Part 3, Pg. 63  al-Ghurar, by Ibn Khazaben, related from Zayd Ibn Aslam
Key aspects of note regarding the tradition:
As we can clearly see, Umar ibn Al Khattab threatens Fatima binte Muhammed that he will burn the house down , unless those inside the house come out and pay their oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr. This itself is a very revealing point. We find that Umar ibn al Khattab was given enough knowledge to warrant his fury towards Ali ibn Abi Talib, members of the Banu Hashim, and other companions who had gathered with him at the house of Ali and Fatima. This is strong evidence which corroborates the other evidences already brought in that what Ali ibn Abi Talib and the others were doing was clear opposition, which caused the fury of Umar ibn al Khattab who in other traditions is sent by Abu Bakr to demand the oath of allegiance. This is a far-cry from the notion that Ali ibn Abi Talib loved them , believed in their superiority, but was only mildly upset at not being consulted – the traditions clearly signifies something far more severe. One can also not ignore the words of Umar ibn Al Khattab – is that a way to talk to Fatima ? Would he burn down a house with Ali ibn Abi Talib in it?
Objection one: Umar ibn Al Khattab shows that he loves Fatima and is evidenced by his words that none was more beloved to him after he Prophet [saw] than her; this is surely a sign of respect.
Reply: This is a very weak point, and one that really any rational individual who appreciates the significance and nature of words, who is not clouded by bias , would make. Even if – for sake of argument -Umar ibn Al Khattab told Fatima he loved her the most, he still followed this by saying that even this love would not stop him from burning her house down whether she was in it, or not in it. Is this really a sign of reverence and respect? To claim you will burn someones house down whether they are inside it or not, containing your children [Hasan and Hussain], your daughter [Fatima], your dear and beloved husband [Ali ibn Abi Talib] , and other members of your clan and general companions? We will not elaborate further because we truly believe any seek of truth will not genuinely believe the words used were anything but humiliating and disrespectful.
Objection two: If you accept the tradition then you also have to accept the words of Fatima in trying to get Ali ibn Abi Talib to give Bayah and also the notion they then gave their allegiance.
Reply: This is fallacious reasoning. We cite the tradition as not proof of every word it contains in its entirerity, but rather, an authentic report in the eyes of Sunni muslims, which corroborates the most important point in the tradition which has also been mentioned in numerous other chains of transmission in other works – that Umar ibn Al Khattab threatened to burn down the house of Fatima, and that there was fierce opposition to giving the Bayah to Abu Bakr, and that the policy adopted by Umar ibn Al Khattab was to subdue and force others to give their allegiance and fall in line. What is nor corroborated in numerous other traditions is of no interest to us. We want to bring forth what is agreed upon by all of them, and thus adding to its historical significance and reliability.
Objection three: Umar ibn Al Khattab did not go and actually carry out on his oath of Allah [swt] in burning down the house.
Reply: We don’t deny , the aftermath is a hotly disputed topic even among Shias. We take the view that Allah [swt] knows best what happens, although there are strong indicators which we will not discuss here as we are not intent on proving Umar ibn Al Khattab tried to break down the house. What we believe is that there is strong evidence that a humiliating threat was made, and this is enough to condemn what was done in the strongest of terms. Anything done further to this is just insult to injury.
The nature and temperament of Umar ibn Al Khattab in the eyes of Sunni sources
With the greatest of respects towards the Sunni muslims, who undoubtedly revere Umar ibn Al Khattab, what we intend to cite about him regarding his temperament is only supportive evidence of his quite rash and also harsh behaviour – which further adds credence to the threat on the house of Fatima.
The famous Deobandi-Hanafi Sunni scholar, Shelby Numani, author of the first two volumes of the famous ‘Seeratu-Nabi’ states:
“From Umar’s irritable and peevish temperament such an action on his part was not improbable.”
Reference: al-Faruq, by Shibli Numani, p44
We also find the famous comment by Umar ibn Al Khattab upon the death of the Prophet [saw]:
“By Allah, if I hear anyone mention that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) has died, I will strike him with this sword of mine!”
Some may argue the comment was made out of love for the Prophet [saw] , however, very shortly after he died, Umar ibn Al Khattab suddenly went to Saqifah , in full knowledge he had died. Eitherway, such a comment shows the quick tempered nature of some of what he would do and say.
“There was a dispute between Abu Bakr and `Umar, and Abu Bakr made `Umar angry. So `Umar left angrily. Abu Bakr followed him, requesting him to ask forgiveness (of Allah) for him, but `Umar refused to do so and closed his door in Abu Bakr’s face.”
Reference: Saheeh-Bukhari [V6, Book 60, Hadith 164/Book 65 Hadith 4640]
“…Then ‘Uyainah came into the presence of ‘Umar, he addressed him thus: “O son of Khattab, you neither bestow much on us nor deal with us justly.” ‘Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) got angry and was about to beat him up…”
Reference: Saheeh – Bukhari and Riyad as Salihin.
“When Walid bin `Uqbah was brought to `Uthman, they had testified against him. He said to ‘Ali: ‘You are close to your uncle’s son, so carry out the legal punishment on him.’ So ‘Ali whipped him. He said: ‘The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) gave forty lashes, and Abu Bakr gave forty lashes, and ‘Umar gave eighty all are Sunnah.’”
Reference: Vol 3, Book 20, Hadith 2571.
It has been clearly demonstrated by virtue of a tradition with an authentic chain of narrators supported by corroborating chains and secondary reference, that the least we can assume taking these all holistically is that Umar ibn Al Khattab threatened to burn the house of Fatima down if Ali ibn Abi Talib and others who had gathered in the house did not cease in their opposition of Abu Bakr and Umar. The words spoken by Umar were humiliating and offensive in the most severe of ways this itself – whether or not he actually carried out on his oath, is enough to condemn it with the highest of condemnations.
This also supports what has been found in Bukhari and Muslim, whereby Ali ibn Abi Talib opposed Abu Bakr and Umar, gathered in the house of Fatima, and Ali ibn Abi Talib according to the sources withholding his allegiance until the death of Fatima [six months later]. We are also told he did not inform Abu Bakr about her death, did not want Umar to visit him with Abu Bakr, and performed her funeral prayer in the night. Whatever traditions mention about Ali ibn Abi Talib allegedly reconciling with Abu Bakr conflict with other so-called ‘authentic’ reports as deemed so by Sunni scholars. We know that had Ali ibn Abi Talib truly believed him to be the best man after the Prophet [saw], superior to him, and if he loved and respected him, he would have approached him to discuss the differences directly, rather than withholding it for six whole months. This suggests more than a small difference between them, but something far more severe, and when taken with the threat on the house of Fatima, leads to the inevitable conclusion of a serious opposition by Ali ibn Abi Talib, members of his family, and other companions.