Let us continue from where we left off in the previous article.
Abu Bakr used the word “Quraish” quoting what he heard from the Prophet (pbuh) that the Imams [leaders] are/will be from Quraish. But did he mean Quraish as a family or tribe? Or he meant those from Quraish who strived, struggled and sacrificed for Islam? Instead of saying Muhajireen he said Quraish in the hope that all of the Quraish would eventually fall in line with the Muhajireen, the greater part of them being from the Quraish?
If Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, and Abu ‘Ubaidah used the word Quraish to mean a clan or a dynasty then they would have pointed to the Quraish blood relatives of the Prophet (pbuh). That would mean they would have chosen the Prophet’s uncle al-‘Abbas or the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law Imam ‘Ali. But they did not. So that means that Abu Bakr and his companions intended the Muhajireen and the 13-year Makkah camaraderie of the Prophet (pbuh) when they quoted the Prophet’s hadith about Quraish.
It would be extremely unwise, indeed impudent, to assume that Abu Bakr and his colleagues would recommend a prominent clan or a prestigious clique to be the rulers of Muslims. If that were the case, they would have selected the tulaqa’ to be on an equal competition for Islamic leadership in preference to the Muhajireen and Ansar.
In that case, Abu Sufyan or Safwan ibn Umayyah or al-Harith ibn Hisham would have been more worthy of leading the Ummah. The age-old enemies of the Prophet from among the Quraish wanted everyone to believe that just because they themselves are biological Quraishis they are entitled to leading the Muslims. This was to play out in a more serious and confrontational way when Mu‘awiyah subverted the Khilafah.
The Umayyads who are from Quraish’s bloodline would in the years to come manipulate this hadith to claim legitimacy for their rule and would make people believe that it is exclusively their right to rule. With hindsight, any Muslim should be able to look back and see how outrageous and scandalous this was.
If we were to go by a strict and technical understanding of Quraish as those closest to the Prophet (pbuh) by bloodline then we would without doubt conclude that they would be Bani Hashim and not Bani Umayyah. And thus Bani Hashim, who are from Quraish and are the Prophet’s direct bloodline lineage, are the accepted and expected leaders of the Ummah if they have the necessary qualifications.
The fact of the matter is that there is nothing in the Qur’an, by the Prophet (pbuh), or according to common sense that gives automatic privilege of leadership to anyone just because that person belongs to a reputable family or because of class privilege. The criterion here is taqwa along with the merits of sustained selflessness and a proven history of public service.
Driving home this point is ‘Umar. When he was requested to appoint his successor, he said: if Abu ‘Ubaidah was still alive I would have decided on him, and if Salem Mawla Abi Huthaifah was still alive, I would have decided on him. But Salem Mawla Abi Huthaifah was not from Quraish. He was not even an “ethnic Arab.” At a young age he was carried to Arabia from a place called Istakhr (اصطخر). It is an ancient city located in southern Iran in the province of Fars about five kilometers north of the ancient ruins of Persepolis. At one time it was the capital of the Sassanid state. It has since been surpassed by the city of Shiraz. Today it is no more than a historical site.
Salem Mawla Abi Huthaifah belonged to a woman from the Ansar who eventually sprung him out of captivity. During the years of the Prophet (pbuh) he was well known among the Muslims for his awareness of Islam. He would lead the Muhajireen in salat even when ‘Umar himself was a prayer attendee. He was martyred during the wars of Riddah in al-Yamamah (an area in Arabia not far from today’s city of Riyadh) when Abu Bakr was Khalifah.
This one goes out to the fanatic sectarians: ‘Umar’s choice to be the leader of the Ummah after him was an ethnic Persian. And as fate would have it, ‘Umar was assassinated by an ethnic Persian—an assassination that up to this day remains a mystery…
Lingering deep down inside the public perception in Arabia among the novice Muslims was the pre-Islamic grandeur status of Quraish. When Abu Bakr quoted the Prophet (pbuh), he meant a Quraish that would be compliant to the Muhajireen while later the Umayyads meant a Quraish that would have the Muhajireen (and Ansar) subservient to them.
Quraish became that multipurpose word that would be swayed rightly by the Khulafa’ and wrongly by the Umayyads. The Umayyads and their accomplices turned Quraish into an ‘asabiyyah (communal self-centeredness). By so doing, they disrupted and dishonored the brotherhood, equality, and impartiality of Islam.
This internal Arabian tribal hierarchy which placed Quraish at the top of the totem pole played out externally by placing the Arabians at the top of the multi-national or multi-ethnic makeup of the Muslims. Now the Ummah began to sense a form of discrimination rooted in officialdom. What began as a tribal bias for Quraish developed into a national bias for the Arabians.
The Quraish’s eventual power grab unraveled the Khilafah and by extension suspended the Imamah. When tribalistic/nationalistic Umayyads reached their royal thrones of dominance they set in motion a historical chain reaction of one dynasty versus another that followed—Bani Umayyah vs. Bani al-‘Abbas, etc…
One important factor that we need to keep in mind is that an ideal ruler will never be able to achieve his sublime goals if his citizens or subordinates are uncooperative and unhelpful. In a society both the top and the bottom have to work together and share the same sublime standards of social equality and equal opportunity.
We cannot lose sight of the fact that not all the Muslims were the Prophet’s kindred spirits. The majority of those who became Muslims did not live a day-to-day interaction with Allah’s Prophet (pbuh). The close companions and the intimates of the Prophet (pbuh) were a drop in the bucket, as it were. The latter-day Muslims were not on par with the Ahl al-Bayt, and Muhajireen and Ansar kindred spirits of the Prophet (pbuh). Some people became Muslims and enhanced to fully-developed committed Muslims. Other people became Muslims but were never full-fledged Muslims.
The Arabian nomads say, “We have [wholeheartedly] committed ourselves [to Allah].” Say [to them, O Muhammad,] “you have not [wholeheartedly] committed yourselves [to Him;] rather, you should say, ‘We have [only in a civic sense] acquiesced [to Him]’ until the [sense of responsibility associated with] commitment [to Allah] genuinely penetrates into your hearts… (Al-Hujurat, 14)