Was the declaration at Ghadeer-Khumm in response to hateful speech spoken against Ali ibn Abi Talib by soldiers angry at his actions in Yemen, and how widespread was the discontent?

One of the ways to explain why Muhammed ﷺ would choose to specially deliver a speech at Ghadeer Khumm and use the words he did, as well as interpret ‘Mawla’ is that this was all to defend Ali ibn Abi Talib عليهم السلام from rumours which had spread about him from discontent members of his battalion who had accompanied him to Yemen, shortly before he rejoined the Prophet ﷺ for Hajj. It is stated that because some of these companions decided to speak out against him, and spread rumours about his usurpation of the Khums and unfair treatment, the Prophet ﷺ opted to defend him after the Hajj. 

Although there can be debate about particular details of this, it is accepted that some among the companions did show discontent against Ali ibn Abi Talib عليهم السلام. It is written in the Seerah of Ibn Ishaq, as well as that of Ibn Hisham the following:

“The army showed resentment at their treatment…when the men complained of Ali,the Apostle arose to address them and he (the narrator) heard him (the Prophet) say: “Do not blame Ali, for he is too scrupulous in the things of Allah, or in the way of Allah, to be blamed…”…Then the apostle continued his pilgrimage, and showed the men the rites..”  


Important points to raise based on the above:


1. The evidence from the Seerah of Ibn Ishaq, and Ibn Hisham should be clear evidence that the Prophet ﷺ very quickly addressed the issue there and then, rising up to tell the army that Ali ibn Abi Talib عليهم السلام is not one they should blame, but rather, he is so committed and fair in the way of Allah that he would never wrong anybody. This statement, if anyone respected the words of the Prophet ﷺ should have sufficed there and then and he continued on with the Hajj after settling the matter. If these clear words had not, then they ought to have removed any ill-feelings after the final sermon, where the Prophet ﷺ had stated “Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.” If the Prophet ﷺ felt there was any need to add more to this to defend Ali ibn Abi Talib عليهم السلام in this particular instance, he would have done so, but his words were clear and decisive to anyone who regarded the Prophet ﷺ as Awla over them and their Mawla.

2. Is it not more logical that the Prophet ﷺ would have opted to settle the issue immediately, rather than waiting almost two weeks until the 18th of Dhul-Hijjah which was the date of the declaration of Ghadeer?

3. If the Prophet ﷺ had made his declaration of Ghadeer Khumm to stop rumours against Ali ibn Abi Talib عليهم السلام which had begun to spread as well as reprimand some members of the Army, why did he not do it at Makkah, which would have been the opportune moment to close the issue without letting it grow as the Hajj carried on? Afterall, when he had left Hajj, rumours about Ali ibn Abi Talib عليهم السلام may have remained among those who did not follow him on his way to Medina through Ghadeer Khumm.

4. It was well known that Ali ibn Abi Talib عليهم السلام was a man loved by the Prophet ﷺ. He was the hero of Badr, the hero of Khandaq, the Hero of Khaybar, the first male Muslim, married to the daughter of the Prophet عليهم السلام, the one made his brother in the pact of brotherhood, the one whose relation to the Prophet ﷺ was as Aaron عليهم السلام was to Moses عليهم السلام. The one for whom loving him was faith and nursing grudge against him was hypocrisy. Those from the army ought to have known that, considering that they themselves were of the people of Medina. They knew full well the close relation and the virtue and merit the Prophet ﷺ had with Ali ibn abi Talib عليهم السلام. Their issue with him – those among the army- was how he handled the Khums and so it makes more sense for the Prophet ﷺ rather than saying whosoever friend he is, Ali عليهم السلام is also his friend, to clearly state what Ali ibn abi talib عليهم السلامhad done was not wrong. They already knew the relation he had to the Prophet ﷺ and were more concerned with what the judgement of the Prophet ﷺ was on a particular action of Ali ibn Abi Talib عليهم السلام. This goes for a large cohort of those who has followed the Prophet ﷺ and were from Medina and so returned with him – they knew full well the relationship enjoyed by Ali عليهم السلام to the Prophet ﷺ.


The real aftermath of Yemen

We will cite  Kitab -al-Irshad, from one of the greatest classical Shia scholars, Shaykh-al-Mufid, to illustrate that the Shia are not ignorant about what occurred in Yemen, and given the evidence it is quite clear that the matter had been addressed by the Prophet ﷺ and resolved immediately.

“The Commander of the Faithful, peace be on him, said farewell to him and returned to his army. He met them nearby and found that they had put on the breastplates which they had had with them. He denounced them for that. “Shame on you!” he said to the man whom he had appointed as his deputy over them. “Whatever made you give them the breastplates before we hand them over to the Apostle of Allāh, may Allāh bless Him and His Family? I did not give you permission to do that.” “They asked me to let them deck themselves out and enter into the state of consecration in them, and then they would give them back to me,” he replied. The Commander of the Faithful, peace be on him, took them off the people and put them back in the sacks. They were discontented with him because of that. When they came to Mecca, their complaints against the Commander of the Faithful, peace be on him, became numerous [many complained, but this does not imply the whole army or most]. The Apostle of Allāh ordered the call to be given among the people: “Stop your tongues (speaking) against ‘Alī b. Abī Ṭālib, peace be on him. He is one who is harsh in the interests of Allāh, the Mighty and High, not one who deceives in His religion.” At this the people refrained from mentioning him and they realised the high position he enjoyed with the Prophet, may Allāh bless Him and His Family, and his anger against anyone who wanted to find fault with him.”


[1] (Ibn Ishaq, Seerah Rasool-Allah, p.650 and Ibn Hisham in his Seeraah)

[2]  Shaykh-Al-Mufeed – Kitab al- Irshad