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Saqifah Bani Sa'idah (Arabic: سقيفة بني ساعدة‎, romanizedSaqīfat Banī Sā'idah), commonly known as simply Saqifah (Arabic: السقيفة‎, romanizedSaqīfah), was a roofed building in Medina used by the Banu Sa'idah clan of the Banu Khazraj tribe. Saqifah is significant as the site where, after Muhammad's death, some of his companions gathered and pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr. No one from Muhammad's family was present, and Ali ibn Abi Talib was conducting Muhammad's funeral at the time.


Shortly before his death, Muhammad called his followers who had accompanied him on the Farewell Pilgrimage to gather at a place known as Ghadir Khumm. There, he delivered a lengthy sermon; during a part of the sermon, he raised Ali's arm and asked the people, "Who has more priority over you than yourself?" They responded, "Allah and his messenger."[1] According to Ahmad al-Tabarsi's transcript of the sermon, Muhammad then stated:

Behold! Whosoever I am his master, this Ali is his master. O Allah! Stay firm in supporting those who stay firm in following him, be hostile to those who are hostile to him, help those who help him, and forsake those who forsake him. O people! This Ali is my brother, the executor of my [affairs], the container of my knowledge, my successor over my nation, and over the interpretation the Book of Allah, the mighty and the majestic, and the true inviter to its [implications]. He is the one who acts according to what pleases Him, fights His enemies, causes to adhere to His obedience, and advises against His disobedience. Surely, He is the successor of the Messenger of Allah, the commander of the believers, the guiding Imam, and the killer of the oath breakers, the transgressors, and the apostates. I speak by the authority of Allah. The word with me shall not be changed.[2]

After the sermon, Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman are all said to have given their allegiance to Ali, documented in sources from both Islamic denominations.[3][4][5] However, some have doubted the veracity of this tradition due to evidence that Ali may not have been present during the sermon, instead being in Yemen at the time, a view upheld by the historian Ibn Kathir.[6]

In Medina, after the Farewell Pilgrimage and the event of Ghadir Khumm, Muhammad ordered an army under Usama bin Zayd. He commanded all the companions, except for his family, to go with Usama to Syria to avenge the Muslim defeat at the Battle of Mu'tah.[7] Muhammad gave Usama the banner of Islam on the 18th day of the Islamic month of Safar in 11 AH (633 CE). Abu Bakr and Umar were among those whom Muhammad commanded to join Usama's army.[8][9] Abu Bakr and Umar resisted Muhammad's order because they thought that he (18 or 20 years old at the time) was too young to lead an army,[10] despite Muhammad's teaching that age and standing in society did not necessarily correspond with good military leadership.[11][12]

Muhammad said, "O Arabs! You are miserable because I have appointed Usama as your general, and you are raising questions if he is qualified to lead you in war. I know you are the same people who had raised the same question about his father. By God, Usama is qualified to be your general just as his father was qualified to be a general. Now obey his orders and go."[13] When Muhammad experienced any relief from his final illness, he asked if Usama's army had left for Syria and continued urging his companions to go:[13] "Usama's army must leave at once. May Allah curse those men who do not go with him."[14][15][16] (In Islam, someone's "curse" means that God's mercy is removed from them.)[17] While a few companions were ready to join Usama's army, many others, including Abu Bakr and Umar, disobeyed Muhammad's orders. This was the only battle expedition where Muhammad urged his companions to go the battle unconditionally; for other battles, he would allow those who could not go to fight stay at home. With his death impending,[18] Muhammad ordered his companions but not his family to leave Medina; this is put forward as proof he did not intend his companions to decide his succession.[19]

Gathering at Saqifah[edit]

A modern view of the approximate area where the gathering at Saqifah occurred

During Muhammad's life, the Muslims in Medina were divided into two groups; the Muhajirun, who had converted to Islam in Mecca and migrated to Medina with Muhammad, and the Ansar, who were originally from Medina and had invited Muhammad to rule their city. They were satisfied during Muhammad's leadership in Medina and were glad when he announced that Ali would be his successor at the event of Ghadir Khumm,[20] because they knew Ali would continue Muhammad's fair policies towards them. Ali was the only Muhajir whom the Ansar were willing to accept to rule over them after Muhammad.[21]

When some of the Muhajirun refused to obey Muhammad's orders to follow Usama bin Zayd to Syria or to give him pen and paper to make a will, however, the Ansar knew some of the Muhajirun were trying to take power upon Muhammad's death.[22] They were worried the rule of a Muhajirun (a foreigner, in their eyes) other than Muhammad or Ali over them would lead to their eventual oppression. Thus, when they saw some of the Muhajirun planning to take power upon Muhammad's death, they thought they would be equally good candidates for power as the Muhajirun. When Muhammad died, some of the Ansar went to Saqifah and nominated Sa'd ibn Ubadah as their leader.

According to one version of events, Ansar informants told Umar, who was in Medina, about events at Saqifah. Umar looked for Abu Bakr, had been at his house in Sunh.[23][24][25] Umar, desperate to prevent the Ansar from declaring Sa'd ibn Ubada the caliph, offered to pledge allegiance to Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah. Abu Ubaidah refused, believing Abu Bakr was better suited for leadership than he was.[26] As a delaying tactic, Umar proclaimed Muhammad was not dead and threatened to kill anyone who said otherwise. Abu Bakr arrived in Medina and calmed Umar down, confirming that Muhammad was dead.[27] Abu Bakr, Umar, and Abu Ubaidah then went to Saqifah.[28][29] According to another version, after Abu Bakr publicly persuaded Umar that Muhammad had died, Abu Bakr, Umar, and Abu Ubaidah went to Abu Ubaidah's house, where they began to discuss the issue of leadership. An informant arrived to tell them of the Ansar's gathering at Saqifah; the three left to go to the meeting.[30] The Muslims did not choose Abu Bakr, Umar, and Abu Ubaydah al-Jarrah to represent them; they left to go to Saqifah on their own.[31]

The Ansar and the three Muhajirun at Saqifah (Abu Bakr, Umar, and Abu Ubaidah) debated who was more qualified for leadership. The Ansar suggested having two leaders, one from the Muhajirun and one from the Ansar.[32] Abu Bakr stated the Muhajirun should be the leaders and the Ansar their ministers.[33] Debate continued until Bashir ibn Sa'ad, an Ansari who was jealous of Sa'd ibn Ubada, gave a speech supporting Abu Bakr, Umar, and Abu Ubaidah. Abu Bakr then told the Ansar to pledge allegiance to either Umar or Abu Ubaidah. Umar refused and pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr, and Abu Ubaidah and Bashir followed.

Hubab ibn al-Mandhir then gave a short speech during which he called Bashir "a traitor to [his] own people".[34] After that, a group of Bedouin tribesmen arrived. They were opponents of the Ansar, and when they saw the three pledges of allegiance to Abu Bakr, they also pledged allegiance to him.[35]

The debates between the Ansar and the three Muhajirun at Saqifah were violent and possibly bloody; Al-Tabari reported that it was "truly a scene from the period of Jahiliya (the pre-Islamic era)".[36][37][38] The gathering at Saqifah, which was reportedly attended by 14 people[39], took place while Ali was conducting Muhammad's funeral and has been labelled as a coup[40].

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Majd, Vahid. The Sermon of Prophet Muhammad (saww) at Ghadir Khum. p. 151.
  2. ^ Majd, Vahid. The Sermon of Prophet Muhammad (saww) at Ghadir Khum. pp. 38, 152–154.
  3. ^ "A Shi'ite Encyclopedia". Ahlul Bayt Digital Islamic Library Project. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  4. ^ Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Volume 4. p. 281.
  5. ^ al-Razi, Fakhr. Tafsir al-Kabir, Volume 12. pp. 49–50.
  6. ^ Alexander Wain, Mohammad Hashim Kamali, The Architects of Islamic Civilisation (2017), p. 12
  7. ^ Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 283.
  8. ^ Haykal, Muhammad Husayn (1935). The Life of Muhammad. Cairo.
  9. ^ Muir, Sir William (1877). The Life of Mohammed. London.
  10. ^ "19 - The Life of Imam Ali: Prophet's (pbuh) Death - Dr. Sayed Ammar Nakshwani - Ramadhan 1435". YouTube. YouTube.
  11. ^ Bodley, R.V.C. (1946). The Messenger. New York.
  12. ^ Kelen, Betty. Muhammad, Messenger of God.
  13. ^ a b Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 286.
  14. ^ Shahristani. Kitab al-Milal wan-Nihal. p. 8.
  15. ^ Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 288.
  16. ^ "19 - The Life of Imam Ali: Prophet's (pbuh) Death - Dr. Sayed Ammar Nakshwani - Ramadhan 1435". YouTube. YouTube.
  17. ^ Zafar, Harris (2014). Demystifying Islam: Tackling the Tough Questions. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 102. So when the Quran speaks of God cursing someone, it means that God punishes that individual by driving him or her away from Himself or removing all good from his or her life by depriving him or her of His Divine mercy.
  18. ^ Tabari. History, Volume II. p. 435.
  19. ^ Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 289.
  20. ^ Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 356.
  21. ^ Hazleton, Lesley (2010). After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam. Anchor Books. pp. 60–61. Ali was the one Emigrant whom the native Medinans would have freely acknowledged as their leader.
  22. ^ Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 380. The Ansar were watching the events. It occurred to them that the refusal of the Muhajireen to accompany the army of Usama to Syria; their refusal to give pen, paper and ink to the Prophet when he was on his deathbed and wanted to write his will; and now the denial of his death, were all parts of a grand strategy to take the caliphate out of his house. They were also convinced that the Muhajireen who were defying the Prophet in his lifetime, would never let Ali succeed him on the throne. They, therefore, decided to choose their own leader.
  23. ^ Jafri, S. H. M. (2002). The Origins and Early Development of Shi'a Islam (1st ed.). Oxford University Press. Abu Bakr, who had been at his house in Sunh, a suburb of Medina, then arrived on the scene.
  24. ^ Dickins, James; Watson, Janet C.E. (1999). Standard Arabic: An Advanced Course. Cambridge University Press. Abu Bakr had been sent for and came hurriedly from Sunh.
  25. ^ Rodinson, Maxime (2002). Muhammad: Prophet of Islam. Tauris Parke Paperbacks. p. 289. Abu Bakr had been sent for and came hurriedly from Sunh.
  26. ^ al-Suyūṭī. Baptist Mission Press. 1881. p. 70.
  27. ^ Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 379.
  28. ^ Al-Bukhari.
  29. ^ at-Tabari, Volume 3. p. 208.
  30. ^ Jafri, Syed Husain Mohammad (2002). The Origins and Early Development of Shi'a Islam (1st ed.). Oxford University Press.
  31. ^ al-Samawi, Muhammad al-Tijani (2014). Black Thursday. Lulu Press, Inc.
  32. ^ El-Hibri, Tayeb (2010). Parable and Politics in Early Islamic History: The Rashidun Caliphs. Columbia University Press. p. 354.
  33. ^ Pechilis, Karen; Raj, Selva J. (2013). South Asian Religions: Tradition and Today. Routledge. p. 199. Abu Bakr suggested that the khalifa...come from the muhajirun and the ansar would serve in advisory and other administrative positions.
  34. ^ Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 365.
  35. ^ Grunebaum, G. E. Von. Classical Islam - A History 600-1258.
  36. ^ Abdullah. "Role of Umar before and In Saqifa". Archived from the original on 2018-12-14. Retrieved 2018-12-11.
  37. ^ At-Tabari, Volume 3. pp. 208–210.
  38. ^ ibn Khaldun, Volume 2. p. 63.
  39. ^ Suhufi (2003). Stories from the Qur'an. Islamic Seminary Publications. p. 312.
  40. ^ Cooperson, Michael (2000). Classical Arabic Biography: The Heirs of the Prophets in the Age of al-Ma'mun. Cambridge University Press. p. 25.

Other references[edit]

  • Guillaume, A. The Life of Muhammad, Oxford University Press, 1955
  • Madelung, W. The Succession to Muhammad, Cambridge University Press, 1997

External links[edit]

  • [1] Shia view of the matter
  • [2] Early Troubles