If Abu Bakr and Umar were the usurpers of the Caliphate, why did Imam Ali (PBUH) cooperate with them?
Abdulrahman al-Salimi states: “If Imam Ali (PBUH) had ill will towards Umar, or was dissatisfied with him and knew him as the usurper of his right, he would have waited for an opportunity to take back his right. And he would have seized this golden opportunity, when Umar asked him for an advice whether to go to war with Iranians personally or not. Imam Ali (PBUH) would have told him to go to war personally so that he would be killed there. Therefore, the way would have been paved for his own
Caliphate. But we know how Imam Ali (PBUH) sincerely and compassionately did his best for the benevolence of Umar and the Muslims. Imam Ali’s (PBUH) advice to Umar was due to profundity of his soul, and indeed such an advice cannot be given from anyone except a provident and magnanimous man like Imam Ali (PBUH) who had a pure and impartial soul. Indeed Imam Ali (PBUH) was that kind of man and such deeds by a noble man like him is not astounding. May God grant him the most suitable rewards He grants His exclusive servants on behalf of Islam and Muslims.
If our master, Imam Ali (PBUH), was opposed to the Caliphate of the Caliphs (Abu Bakr and Umar), he wouldn’t be their minister and cooperate with them. It is stated in The Complete History written by Ibn al-Athir, v.3, p. 55, that Imam Ali (PBUH) was the best advisor of Umar and wanted the best for him, and a competent judge and a wise man to solve complicated problems. Even it is quoted from our master, Umar, that he said: “If it was not because of Ali, Umar would have perished”.”
The Caliphate and the Selection, Abdul Rahman Salimi, under the fourth and the fifteenth answer of the subject of The Event of Ghadir Khumm.
All his life, Imam Ali (PBUH) tried for the most important goal of the perseverance of Islam and its spread, and he sacrificed all his life in this path. Imam Ali’s (PBUH) cooperation with the Caliphs was also due to this cause and to avoid the abuse of the enemies of Islam. And it doesn’t mean that Imam Ali (PBUH) confirmed their Caliphate. In fact, Imam Ali (PBUH) objected the Caliphs whenever appropriate. The philosophy of Imamate is not just governance. The perseverance of Islam and protecting it from annihilation or deviation, guiding people and being the religious and scientific reference of Muslims are some of the main responsibilities of the Imam. Some of the reasons why Imam Ali (PBUH) cooperated with the three Caliphs are: 1- to prevent the violation of peoples’ rights 2- to introduce the real Islam to all people 3- to form unity against internal and external threats.
- To prevent the violation of peoples’ rights
The intervention of Imam Ali (PBUH) in judicial affairs was in the cases when the Caliphs’ lack of knowledge about the simplest Islamic rules led to the violation of somebody’s rights and injustice against an oppressed Muslim. In fact, these Muslims had no one to go to except Imam Ali (PBUH) and if Imam Ali (PBUH) didn’t interfere in that case and didn’t defend their rights, they definitely would have no way to regain their rights.
In the Sermon of Shiqshiqiyyah (the Sermon # 3), Imam Ali (PBUH) mentioned the pledge and promise which God has taken from the scholars to fight against injustice towards the oppressed, as one of his reasons to accept the Caliphate after the assassination of Usman:
“I swear to God Who split the grain and created living being, if it wasn’t for the presence of numerous people coming to pledge, and if supporters didn’t give me reason to accept the Caliphate, and if God has not taken pledge from scholars not to keep silent against the gluttony of the tyrants and the hunger of the oppressed, I would drop the rein of the camel of Caliphate on its hump and would let it go. And I would do the same as I did from the beginning of the Caliphate. Then you would have seen that in my view, the world of yours is more worthless than the sneezing of a kid (baby goat).”
2- To introduce the real Islam to all people:
Ibn Hajar Haythami quoted from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):
“In every generation of my nation, there are just members of my progeny who save this religion from the distortions of the deviants, the lies of the falsifiers and the misinterpretations of the ignorants. Behold that your leaders are your delegates to God, so be careful to whom you delegate.”
Al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah ‘ala ahl al-rafd wa-al-dalal wa-al-zandaqah, Abu Al-‘Abbas Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Ali Ibn Hajar Al-Haythami, v. 2, p. 441
Having the comprehensive knowledge which was granted to him by God and was gained during his companionship with the Prophet (PBUH), Imam Ali (PBUH) was responsible to answer and solve the scientific questions and problems of people. And Muslims and non-Muslims considered him as a proper reference who can flourish their minds and thoughts and they went to him as the only master of knowledge and science in whatever subject they needed help with. Therefore, the major part of Imam Ali’s (PBUH) cooperation with the Caliphs was when they had difficulties in understanding people’s problems and solving them, so they had to ask Imam Ali (PBUH) about them.
In such cases, it is the duty of the Imam and every other scholar to give necessary and satisfying answers and don’t deprive others from his knowledge. Because Imam Ali (PBUH) has heard from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):
“I swear to God, if God guides even one man through you, it is better for you than possessing red camels…”
Sahih al-Bukhari, Muhammad Ibn Ishmael Abu Abdullah al-Bukhari Al- Ja’fi, v.5, p.134, Narrative #4210.
3- To form unity against internal and external threats
Among the duties of the Imam and the chosen leader by God, the most important one is the preservation and safeguarding the religion. If he feels that the foundations of the religion is in danger, he should protect it by every possible means. However this duty is done differently depending on the time and conditions and Imam takes final decision according to these conditions. Sometimes this important duty is done by enduring different types of sufferings, being patient against tragedies and keeping silent against his usurped right, and sometimes it requires taking action, direct engagement and decisive intervention.
Although Imam Ali (PBUH) was deprived from his certain right to be the true successor of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the Caliph and in fact his right was usurped, but that’s no reason to abandon his other duties. Because sometimes wrong policies and decisions of the Caliphs put the foundation of Islam in danger. In such cases, Imam Ali’s (PBUH) duty was protecting Islam from the incompetence and lack of knowledge of the Caliphs. For example, in the battle of Nahavand, Iranian’s King has prepared a huge army to eradicate Islam, and if it wasn’t for the policy of Imam Ali (PBUH), not only the army of Umar but also all Muslims and Islam would have been destroyed. In such cases, it is Imam Ali’s (PBUH) duty to preserve the young Islamic system and the new religion; because his main duty, like every other Muslim’s, is the preservation of the religion.
At the Six-Member Council, Imam Ali (PBUH) said: “The people swore allegiance to Abu Bakr, while I swear to God, I was worthier and more competent than him. But I kept silent and endured and didn’t object because I was afraid that people would regress to the time of infidelity and Ignorance and they would take sword against each other. Then they swore allegiance to Umar while I swear to God, I was worthier and more competent than him, but I kept silent and endured because I was afraid that they would regress to infidelity and they would take sword against each other.”
Jami’ al-Ahadith (Al- Jami’ Al- Saghir wa Zawa’iduh wa Al- Jame’ Al-Kabir), Al-Hafiz Jalal al-Din Abdul Rahman Al-Suyuti, v.31, p. 420 In fact, Imam Ali (PBUH) had to choose between the apostasy of people and their regression to the customs of the Ignorance era or being patient against injustice towards himself and cooperation with the Caliphs. And according to the order of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), he chose to turn a blind eye to his usurped right and cooperated with the Caliphs so that the basis and foundation of Islam would not be in danger.