The contentions of Sunni arguments against Ghadir Khumm being a declaration for the appointment of Ali ibn Abi Talib [as] as the leader after the Prophet [saw] has in this piece, been dissected in three main bodies within encompassing multiple categories.
1.The context. 2. The words spoken by the Prophet [saw] 3.The aftermath.
1. It has been clearly demonstrated that the majority of those who lived south of Mecca, such as in Yemen, had converted very freshly, just as Ali ibn Abi Talib himself was returning from victory to begin the Hajj. Many did not convert, and among those who did, many apostates during the lifetime and after the death of the Prophet [saw]. A similar pattern follows T’aif, Oman, and other regions. Therefore, they can not be considered as having contribution large percentages towards the final pilgrimage. Furthermore, according to Sunni scholars these very late converts are considered to be of the Mu’alafati Quloobuhum contributing almost nothing of any significance to Hadith narrators from the Prophet [saw]. Thus, the vast majority of Arabia took what they knew of what the Sunnah is and what the commands of Muhammed [saw] were from those in Medina. Imam Malik even based his muwatta on this concept. Umar ibn Al Khattab is given advice by Abdurhaman ibn Awf to suspend a declaration and statement regarding leadership after him until after he returns to Medina in Saheeh Al Bukhari, owing to the fact at his time there are many hypocrites from around Arabia and within Makkah itself, as well as the conquered lands, whilst people in Medina can understand his statement properly and convey it from him to others in its proper and intended meaning. Furthermore, the event of Ghadeer occurred just two months before the death of the Prophet [saw]. If there ever was a time to make a declaration of leadership after you, then doing so in an affirmative way very shortly after your death is the opportune moment.
2. It is quite clear that the prophet [saw] first ensures they affirm his absolute authority over them [by stating he is worthier over them more than they are over their own-selves], before subsequently stating that whomsoever he is more worthy over [Mawla] Ali is more worthy over, thus rendering the meaning to Mawla in its dominant usage as Master within this context. The meaning of ‘friend’ is contrary to the dominant usage of the word according to most respected Arab dictionaries, as well as the established context given the preceding statement by the Prophet [saw] as well as the relationship he had over the believers. Ali ibn Abi Talib according to an authentic hadith in Musnad Ahmad determined the word ‘Mawla’ to mean master.
3. Ali ibn Abi Talib opposed Abu Bakr for six whole months, as well as a number of the companions who did so for a while, in addition to members of the Banu Hashim. This is absolutely significant. If he had truly considered Abu Bakr superior to him, why would he resist in such a manner? If was hurt he was not consulted, then would he have wanted any other result than Abu Bakr being leader as per the Sunni muslims? Those who are close and loving would consult with each other and discuss the event right away, and acknowledge the superiority and be pleased with the outcome. Traditions explaining it away are against basic rationality. Furthermore, what occurred in Saqifah has been demonstrated to be a chaotic power struggle which could have ended in catastrophy. In fact, it sowed the roots for the destabilisation of the muslim Ummah, allowing the Banu Ummayah to slowly grow in prominence and influence leading to despots taking power.