“O Messenger! Communicate that which has been sent down to you from your Lord, and if you do not, you will not have communicated His message, and Allah shall protect you from the (evil of) people. Indeed Allah does not guide the faithless lot.”
This is how God addresses Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) in ayah 67 of Surah Ma’edah. The words are clear. The message is urgent and has to be communicated. The tone is rather stern and means to say that the outcome of all 23 years of the mission of the Prophet depends on carrying out this express divine commandment. The tone of the All-Merciful God is reassuring as well. The Almighty promises the Prophet that He will protect him from the evil of the wicked people, which means there were seditious persons among his companions who did not like to obey God’s commandment, out of sheer jealousy for the prime position of Imam Ali (AS). This historic event occurred in the wilderness of Khom near Juhfa beside the Ghadeer or Pond, perhaps to signify the perennial freshness of this event. It capped the 23-year mission of the Seal of Messengers that began on Mount Noor in Mecca, where the ten-year old Ali (AS) was also present when Archangel Gabriel descended with the first few ayahs of the holy Qur’an.
The day chosen by God for this great phenomenon had seen certain miracles in antiquity, such as the turning into a garden of the huge fire the tyrant Nimrod had ignited and flung Prophet Abraham into it. This is yet another indication that even the most intricate plots of the faithless will come to naught against the epitome of faith that emerged at Ghadeer. Moreover, according to Hadith, it was on the 18th of Zil-Hijjah, as per divine commandment, Prophet Moses had designated Prophet Joshua as his successor. In the following centuries Prophet Solomon had appointed Asef the son of Barkhiya as his deputy on this day. And it was this very same day when Prophet Jesus had named Simeon as his vicegerent. Thus, when the Prophet of Islam, after a memorable midday sermon under the blazing sun, extracted the pledge of obedience to his superiority over all others from the huge assembly of 120,000 Muslims and then lifted his cousin to proclaim “for whomsoever I am Master, this Ali is his Master,” he was not saying anything from himself. In fact, like the Prophets of the past, he was only pronouncing what God had commanded him to do so for fixing a permanent criterion for humanity to recognize true faith. It is interesting to note that God and the Prophet did not choose as custodians of Islam any Tom, Dick and Harry of Arabia, who had spent the greater part of life in idolatry and vices before paying lip service to monotheism. This would have been against the principles of Divine Justice. This would have been contrary to the course of events ever since the Day of Mab’ath, when in the solitude of Cave Hera, Archangel Gabriel had descended to the 40-year old son of Abdullah with the first rays of divine revelation, while outside stood a 10-year boy. The boy heard whatever that transpired, and as mentioned in all authoritative texts, even those written by our Sunni brethren, such as the Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the Prophet had told the 10-year boy: “O Ali! You are my legatee and my caliph.”
Later when the Prophet invited the Arabs of Mecca for a banquet and after serving them a good meal, testified the Oneness of God and his mission as the Last and Greatest Messenger of Islam, and called for an assistant in his mission, who would be caliph after him, the gathering exchanged stupefied looks. The silence was broke by a pre-teen boy who stood up and testified to the prophethood of his cousin and volunteered to help him carry out the divine mission. It had happened three times, and here also the Prophet said in explicit words that Ali would be his legatee and caliph after him. He proved to be the staunchest supporter and never for a single moment left his elder cousin alone. As a youth he volunteered to sleep on the Prophet’s bed on the Night of Hijra, so that the latter could leave Mecca for Medina, undetected, from the Arab assassins hovering around the abode of divine revelation. Then in Medina, this brave young man single-handed defeated the Arab infidels and the Israelite warlords in almost every armed encounter they imposed upon the Prophet. The Prophet always recounted the merits of his cousin, who was now married to his only surviving child, the Impeccable Daughter Fatema (peace upon her). It was clear that he was second only to the Prophet. In several ayahs of the holy Qur’an, God testified to the unsurpassable merits of Imam Ali (AS) – whether in the thick of battle, whether in the parley and subsequent Mubahela with the Christians, or whether in terms of piety, faith and wisdom. In view of these undeniable facts, the All-Wise and Just God commanded the Prophet to publicly proclaim Imam Ali as vicegerent before the massive gathering of pilgrims.
The rest is history. Every single person from the huge gathering of 120,000 Hajj pilgrims, including women for whom a separate arrangement had been made, surged to congratulate Imam Ali (AS) and swear allegiance to his leadership. They thus, de-legitimized forever any bid in the future by any person (other than the Infallible Ahl al-Bayt), to call himself caliph or successor of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA). The formal declaration of the imamate of Imam Ali (AS) thus set up an everlasting barometer for discerning truth from falsehood, and it made the faithless despaired of distorting Islam – as had been done by imposters with the messages entrusted to the Prophets of the past. Now we understand, why Divine Providence has decreed that Imam Mahdi (AS), who would reappear in the end times, with Prophet Jesus as his lieutenant, to establish the global government of peace and justice, will be the direct descendent of Imam Ali (AS) and the Prophet’s Immaculate Daughter, Hazrat Fatema Zahra (SA) – and not the offspring of any those who had masqueraded as caliphs to terrorize Muslims.
Interestingly, we read in the famous Ziyarat of the Commander of the Faithful, on the Day of Ghadeer, the following passage which is almost self-explanatory.
“I affirm that you are the one who is meant by the words of the Almighty and the All-Merciful, “This indeed is my straight path, so follow it, and do not follow [other] ways, for they will separate you from His way.”(Holy Qur'an 6:153). By God, those who follow others besides you have gone astray and misled others and those who are hostile toward you deviate from the Truth. O Allah, we have heard Your command and we obey and follow Your straight path, so guide us, Our Lord! Do not make our hearts swerve after You have guided us, and enable us to be of those who are grateful for Your blessings!”