A holistic assessment of ‘Munkuntum mawla’

ألَسْتُ أولى بالمؤمنين من أنفسهم؟ قالوا بلى يارسول الله. قال: من كنت مولاه فعلي مولاه [Am i not more worthy /have a greater right over the believers than they are over their own selves? They replied ‘Yes’ O Messenger of Allah. He said whomsoever i am his Mawla, Ali is his Mawla].

We have demonstrated that the first statement made by the Prophet indicates his absolute authority over the believers in the sense that he is more worthy over them than they are over their own selves; his commands, rulings and judgements override what they want or deem best. We have also established from the words and works of some of the most eminent grammarians of the Arabic language that ‘Mawla’ in its purest essence denotes a meaning of being more worthy – with an individual taking charge over something as the most dominant meaning.

It now becomes clear for any seeker of the truth what the most sensible and clear conclusion of the above statement is that after first affirming his greater right and worth over the believers in terms of his absolute authority over them, whomsoever he is the Mawla [more worthy with regards to taking charge over them and in having a greater right over them] Ali ibn Abi Talib is also Mawla in the very same manner.

A contention that may arise is that the preceding statement is not linked to the subsequent one. The Prophet it is said only affirmed his authority over the believers to get their attention and affirmation, so they may listen and carefully obey over the command he makes next – which was that whoever he was their friend/ally, Ali too should be their friend/ally. This analogy can apply in the correct context. For instance, if the Prophet said ‘Am i not the Messenger of Allah? Then whomsoever i teach, this companion of mine also teaches’. In this way, it can not be claimed that the preceding statement means that the subsequent one affirms the individual being referred to is on par and status with being the Messenger of Allah.  

However, the reason why it fails to work here is because in those analogies, the two statements are not connected and do not intuitively follow. Being the Messenger of Allah has nothing to do with teaching so far as the authority over the people is concerned. It also has nothing to do with being kind to ones parents in the specific sense of the authority of being the Messenger. Rather the preceding statements were only designed to invoke the attention and affirmation, so that they may closely listen to what occurs next. In the case of the declaration of Ghadeer Khumm, we find that rather than the two statements not being linked, they are connected in a manner that is very clear.

The Prophet first affirms he is the Awla – and more worthy over the believers in absolute authority. He then uses a word connected to Awla , which is Mawla and also has connotations of being more worthy, and thus in this context, is directly linked to the preceding statement asking the believers to affirm if he is more worthy over them. Therefore when he says ‘Whomsoever i am his Mawla’ it means whomsoever he is more worthy over by virtue of having a greater right and worthiness over them than they have over their own-selves. He brings Ali ibn Abi Talib as a parallel to him in this authority, and that what applies to him in this regard, will also apply to Ali ibn Abi Talib.

Furthermore, if the Prophet had wanted to reprimand those who harboured a grudge against him, he could have said ‘Am i not the Messenger of Allah? Then love Ali and do not nurse a grudge against him’. This would have ended any argument that this was a declaration for succesorship.