Did Maula Ali (as) offer prayers under the ‘Imamate’ of Abu Bakar?


We have observed that some Nawasib are trying to rely upon a Shia report to claim that Ali bin Talib Talib (as) offered prayers behind Abu Bakar thus evidencing that Abu Bakar was superior to Ali bin Abi Talib (as) and the caliphate of Abu Bakar was duly accepted by Ali bin Abi Talib (as).  Let us, in this brief article’ shed some light on the issue.

Reply One:  Imam Ali did not offer prayer under the ‘Imamate’ of Abu Bakar  rather he prayed ‘on his own’

In this regard, we do find a Mursal narration by Allamah Tabrasi (page 166) from Hamad ibn Uthman, that is devoid of any chain. A chain can however be located in Tafsir al- Qummi, Volume 2 page 155-159. As it is a rather lengthy narration, we have hence sought to quote only the salient features, and then discuss the point that is presented therein.

The narration states:

1-    Abu Bakar relieved the representative of Lady Fatima (as) from Fadak

2-    Sayyida Fatima (as) was annoyed by this, and approached Abu Bakar  in order to take back her property.

3-    Abu Bakar  asked for witnesses.

4-    Sayyida Fatima (as) presented Umm Aiman (ra) and Maula Ali (as) as her witnesses.

5-    Abu Bakar drafted a letter.

6-    Umar ripped up the letter; that led toFatima(as) feeling aggrieved.

7-    Maula Ali (as) objected to this act in the presence of Abu Bakar and  other companions.

8-    Abu Bakar  said that it was war booty, and ifFatima(as) was to present witnesses, she would acquire possession of it (despite her having already done so previously).

9-    Maula Ali (as) proved to Abu Bakar that the onus was on him to produce witnesses.

10-  Abu Bakar  had no answer.

11-   Umar said that we do not have the powers to debate, so he should prove it .

12-   Upon this, Maula Ali (as) submitted evidence.

13-    People were receptive to the evidence presented by Ali (as).

14-    When Ali (as) did not get any positive response, he returned.

15-   Fatima(as) went to the grave of the Prophet (s) and recited a sad elegy.

16-  Abu Bakar  told Umar that if Ali (as) continues to conduct himself in this manner, they would not survive for long

17-    Umar told him to kill Ali (as) via Khalid bin Waleed.

18-   Abu Bakar  told Khalid to sit beside Ali (as), and kill him when he concluded his prayers.

19-  Asma acquired receipt of this and notified Ali (as).

20-  Ali (as) replied that Allah (swt) would not grant them success.

And then we find the narration:-

 ۔۔۔ وحضر المسجد ووقف خلف ابى بكر وصلى لنفسه وخالد بن الوليد إلى جنبه ومعه السيف فلما ۔۔۔

 Ali (as) entered the mosque, and got behind Abu Bakr, and started offering his prayers alone (Waa Sala le Nafsihi); whilst Khalid sat beside him, carrying a sword. Upon his completing the tashahud, Abu Bakar  felt ashamed and was fearful of the repercussions that might flow from this, he hence turned to Khalid and told him not implement his instructions, and then proceeded to the final salutation. Ali (as) then inquired of him (Khalid) the order that he had been given, to which he (Khalid) replied that I was told to kill you. Ali (as) asked him would you have done that? He said that if I was not stopped, by God! I would have done it. Ali (as) held him up and threw him down; people began to swear “By Allah, Ali will kill Khalid”. They therefore approached Ali, and asked that he forgive him for the sake of Allah (swt) and the individual in his grave (i.e. the Prophet [s]). Ali (as) therefore left him, and grabbed Umar by the neck and told him “O son of dahak! Had there been no will of the Prophet and the Book of Allah (swt), you would have known today who is weak and who is not”

The entire narration has been placed before  our readers, we would hence invite you to read it carefully and judge for yourself as to whether Ali bin Abi Talib (as) offered his prayer behind the Imamate of Abu Bakar  or whether he (as) offered it on his own? Rather than corroborating the Nawasib stance, this tradition renders the entire Nasibi argument superfluous and poses a direct question the need arose for Ali bin Abi Talib (as) not to offer his prayers under the Imamate of Abu Bakar  whilst praying ‘behind’ him?

Reply Two:  Does offering Salat behind a person means that he is superior or eligible for caliphate ?

The main word that has been used in the tradition and that led the Nawasib to rejoice is the word ‘Khalaf’ i.e. behind. We read in Sahih Bukhari Volume 9, Book 89, Number 287:

Narrated Ibn ‘Umar:

Salim, the freed salve of Abu Hudhaifa used to lead in prayer the early Muhajirin (emigrants) and the companions of the Prophet in the Quba mosque. Among those (who used to pray behind him) were Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, Abu Salama, and Amir bin Rabi’a.

Now, if one applies Nasibi logic, namely offering Salat behind a person evidences that individuals right to be Khalifa, then Salim had the right to be the first Khalifa at the hem of the state following the death of the Prophet (s).

It is similarly written by Ibn Abi Sheybah in his al-Musanaf, vol 3, page 319, Hadeeth 2 as well as in Sunan al-Behaqi, Volume 3 page 12 that Imam Hasan and Imam Hussain offered prayers behind Marwan:

 حدثنا حاتم بن إسماعيل عن جعفر عن أبيه قال كان الحسن بن علي والحسين يصليان خلف مروان قال فقيل له أما كان أبوك يصلي إذا رجع إلى البيت قال فيقول لا والله ما كانوا يزيدون على صلاة الأئمة .

 Ja’far, from his father who said: Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein prayed behind Marwan. It was said to him: Did they pray when they returned to their house? He said: No, by Allah, they did not add to the prayer of the Imaams.

And who was this Marwan? Al Muhaddith Shah Abdul Aziz stated in Tauhfa Ithna Ashari:

“Hadith narrated by Marwan can be found in al Bukhari, even though he was a Nasibi, in fact he was leader of that wicked cult.”

Based on the Nasibi logic, are they willing to claim that a Nasibi was greater in status than the chiefs of paradise? And if this does not affect the status of Imam Hasan and Imam Hussein, why does the word ‘khalaf’  affect status of Imam Ali (as)?

Tauhfa Athna Ashariya (Urdu), page 97 by Shah Abdul Aziz

The onus remains on Sunnis to prove that he offered his Salat under the IMAMAT of Abu Bakr.

If praying behind a person is proof of Khilafath, then the Ahl’ul Sunnah should know that Umar throughout his Khilafath offered Salat behind Ubayy bin Kab but he never even short listed him for Khilafath by placing him on the six-men Shura committee set up to appoint a successor.

Most interestingly in Muwatta Imam Malik Book 2, Number 2.8.42 under the chapter “Wiping over Leather Socks” we find a tradition wherein Rasulullah (s) actually prayed behind the Sahabi Abdur Rahman:

Yahya related to me from Malik from Ibn Shihab from Abbad ibn Ziyad, a descendant of al-Mughira ibn Shuba from his father from al Mughira ibn Shuba that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, went to relieve himself during the expedition of Tabuk. Mughira said, “I went with him, taking water. Then the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, came back and I poured out the water for him. He washed his hands and then went to push his hands out of the sleeves of his garment, but could not do so because of their narrowness. So he brought them out from underneath his garment. Then he washed his arms, wiped his head and wiped over his leather socks. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, returned and Abdar Rahman ibn Awf was leading the people in prayer, and he had already finished one raka with them. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, prayed the remaining raka with them to everyone’s concern. When the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, finished he said, ‘You have acted correctly.’ ”

If leading prayers is a proof of or is an individual’s right to Khilafah then why did Rasulullah (s) not appoint the man who as per the abovementioned Sunni tradition he (as) was praying behind?

Interestingly, in Sahih Bukhari there are two chapters that contain the words ‘khalaf’ and that too with respect to ‘praying behind’ an individual. We read in Sahih Bukhari English translation, Volume 1, Book 9 Chapter 14:

“Praying behind a sleeping person”
Sahih Bukhari English translation, Volume 1, Book 9 Chapter 14


“To pray Nawafil behind a sleeping woman”
Sahih Bukhari English translation, Volume 1, Book 9 Chapter 15


Reply Three:  Sunni Fiqh deems it permissible to pray behind a sinner

It is strange that Nawasib are trying to argue that praying behind Abu Bakar meant that Ali bin Abi Talib (as) held Abu Bakar in high esteem when the very jurisprudence that they ascribe to, has no qualms with an individual praying  behind a sinner. Mulla Ali Qari states:

“It is permissible to offer prayers behind a pious person or a sinner”
Sharah Fiqh Akbar, page 416

do we need anything further on the matter?

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