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The Saqīfah (Arabic: السقيفة‎), also known as Saqīfah Banī Sā'idah (Arabic: سقيفة بني ساعدة‎), was a roofed building used by a tribe called Banu Sa'idah, a faction of the Banu Khazraj tribe of the city of Medina in Hejaz, western Arabia. Saqifah is significant for being the site where, after the Islamic prophet Muhammad died, some of Muhammad's companions gathered and pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr. No one from Muhammad's family was present at the event, and Ali ibn Abi Talib, who Shia Muslims believe had been declared the successor to Muhammad at the event of Ghadir Khumm, was performing Muhammad's funeral rites when the event occurred.


Shortly before his death, Muhammad called all the Muslims who had accompanied him on the final Hajj (pilgrimage) to gather around at a place known as Ghadir Khumm. Muhammad gave a long sermon, part of which states:

O people! Reflect on the Quran and comprehend its verses. Look into its clear verses and do not follow its ambiguous parts, for by Allah, none shall be able to explain to you its warnings and its mysteries, nor shall anyone clarify its interpretation, other than the one that I have grasped his hand, brought up beside myself,(and lifted his arm), the one about whom I inform you that whomever I am his Mawla, this Ali is his Mawla; and he is Ali Ibn Abi Talib, my brother, the executor of my will (Wasiyyi), whose appointment as your guardian and leader has been sent down to me from Allah, the mighty and the majestic.[1]

This event has been narrated by both Shia and Sunni sources. Further, after the sermon, Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman are all said to have given their allegiance to Ali, a fact that is also reported by both Shia and Sunni sources.[2][3][4]

In Medina, after the Farewell Pilgrimage and the event of Ghadir Khumm, Muhammad ordered an army under the command of Usama bin Zayd. He commanded all the companions, except for his family, to go with Usama to Syria to avenge the Muslims’ defeat at the Battle of Mu'tah.[5] Muhammad gave Usama the banner of Islam on the 18th day of the Islamic month of Safar in the year 11 A.H. Abu Bakr and Umar were among those that Muhammad commanded to join Usama’s army.[6][7]

However, Abu Bakr and Umar resisted going under the command of Usama because they thought that he, who was 18 or 20 at the time, was too young to lead an army,[8] despite Muhammad’s teachings that age and standing in society did not necessarily correspond to being a good general.[9][10]

In response to these worries, the Prophet 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."[11] Whenever Muhammad felt any relief from his fatal sickness, he would inquire as to whether Usama’s army had left for Syria yet, and would continue urging his companions to leave for Syria.[11] Muhammad even said, "Usama's army must leave at once. May Allah curse those men who do not go with him."[12][13][14] However, while a few companions were ready to join Usama’s army, many other companions, including Abu Bakr and Umar, disobeyed Muhammad’s orders. It is also noted that this was the only battle expedition where Muhammad urged his companions to go to the battle no matter what; for other battles, if someone was unable to go to the fight, Muhammad would let them stay at home. It has been pointed out in history that the fact that Muhammad ordered his companions, but not his family, to leave Medina right before he knew he was about to die[15] is proof that he did not intend for his companions to decide on his succession.[16] This has served as an indication that, as Muhammad did not want his companions to be in Medina when he died, he did not want his companions to decide among themselves who would be his successor. That matter had already been decided at Ghadir Khumm.

However, after Muhammad passed away, a group of Muslims left Ali and gathered at Saqifa. The ensuing event has been described as a coup d'état.[17]

Event of Saqifah[edit]

The name of the house is used as shorthand for the event, or the gathering, which was a crucial turning point in the history of Islam. On the day Muhammad died (June 8, 632 CE), the Medinan Muslim or "Ansar" gathered in the Saqifah to discuss the future and leadership of the Muslims. There were two Ansar tribes, the Khazraj and the Aws; both were present. However, the Muhajirun, or Muslim emigrants from Mecca, had not been notified of the gathering. Muhammad Ibn Jarir Tabari writes in his Ta'rikh at page 456, Volume II that ‘Umar came to the door of the Prophet's house but did not enter. He sent a word to Abu Bakr: "Come immediately; I have urgent business with you." Abu Bakr sent message to him that he had no time. ‘Umar sent another message: "We have come across a critical issue. Your presence is required."

Abu Bakr came out and was informed openly in the presence of other companions, about the gathering of the Ansars in the Saqifah by Umar. ‘Umar said that they should go there at once and both of them moved. After a tumultuous debate, the details of which are highly contested, those who gathered there gave their allegiance, or bay'ah, to Abu Bakr as the new leader of the Islamic community. There were some Muslims who felt that Ali, Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law should have been the new leader. They initially refused to take the oath to Abu Bakr and were known as the Shi'ah Ali or "Follower of Ali." They did so because Ali himself didn't take the oath as described by Shia sources. On the other hand, Sunni sources like, Sahih Bukhari, Seerat Ibn Ishaq, Seerat Ibn Hatham, Tareekh Ibn Kathir, Tareekh e Al-Tabari, Tareekh Ibn Khaldun and almost all other sources heavily disagree with Shia Historians on the matter of pledges of allegiance of Ali with first Caliph Abu Bakr and then with Umar and Uthman.[18][19][20]

Other sources[edit]

According to The Succession to Muhammad by Wilferd Madelung, senior research fellow at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London,[21] Umar later described the event as a faltah, a precipitate arrangement (p. 30).

Similarly, according to one hadith, or oral tradition, recorded by Sahih al-Bukhari, Umar is reputed to have said:

I have been informed that a speaker amongst you says, "By God, if 'Umar should die, I will give the pledge of allegiance to such-and-such person." One should not deceive oneself by saying that the pledge of allegiance given to Abu Bakr was given suddenly and it was successful. No doubt, it was like that, but God saved (the people) from its evil, and there is none among you who has the qualities of Abu Bakr. Remember that whoever gives the pledge of allegiance to anybody among you without consulting the other Muslims, neither that person, nor the person to whom the pledge of allegiance was given, are to be supported, lest they both should be killed.[22]

Also, it is narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari that Umar said:

“When he (the Apostle) died, the Ansar opposed us. They gathered in the Saqifa Banu Sa'eda. Ali, Zubayr and their friends also opposed us.”[citation needed]

Francesco Gabrieli, an Italian arabist, writes in his The arabs-A compact history that:

"At the tumultuous council held in the headquarters of the Banu Saidah in Medina, Umar, almost as a surprise, imposed Abu Bakr as khalifa or successor of the Envoy of God. Like so many events and institutions, the caliphate was born of an improvisation."[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Last Sermon of Muhammad by Shia Accounts
  2. ^ "A Shi'ite Encyclopedia". Ahlul Bayt Digital Islamic Library Project. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  3. ^ Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Volume 4. p. 281.
  4. ^ al-Razi, Fakhr. Tafsir al-Kabir, Volume 12. pp. 49–50.
  5. ^ Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 283.
  6. ^ Haykal, Muhammad Husayn (1935). The Life of Muhammad. Cairo.
  7. ^ Muir, Sir William (1877). The Life of Mohammed. London.
  8. ^ "19 - The Life of Imam Ali: Prophet's (pbuh) Death - Dr. Sayed Ammar Nakshwani - Ramadhan 1435". YouTube. YouTube.
  9. ^ Bodley, R.V.C. (1946). The Messenger. New York.
  10. ^ Kelen, Betty. Muhammad, Messenger of God.
  11. ^ a b Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 286.
  12. ^ Shahristani. Kitab al-Milal wan-Nihal. p. 8.
  13. ^ Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 288.
  14. ^ "19 - The Life of Imam Ali: Prophet's (pbuh) Death - Dr. Sayed Ammar Nakshwani - Ramadhan 1435". YouTube. YouTube.
  15. ^ Tabari. History, Volume II. p. 435.
  16. ^ Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 289.
  17. ^ "Saqifah: A Sunni View". Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  18. ^ Ibn Khaldun, Abdur Rehman (2003). Tareekh Ibn Khaldun Volume II (First ed.). Karachi, Pakistan: Nafees Academy. pp. 178–200.
  19. ^ Ibn Kathir Damishque, Amad ud Din (2003). Tareekh ibn Kathir Volume VI (Offict ed.). Urdu Bazar, Karachi Pakistan: Nafees Academy.
  20. ^ Ibn Hatham, Abdul Malik (2000). Seerat Ibn Hatham (1st ed.). Cairo, Egypt: Al-Falah Foundation. p. 291. ISBN 977-5813-80-8.
  21. ^ [1]
  22. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 8:82:817
  23. ^ Francesco Gabrieli, The Arabs – A Compact History, 1963

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]

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