Here in the West, we experience the different types of elections which take place every few years, whether it be a congressional position, senate, governorship or the presidential election. These elections are presented to the people as a free, democratic opportunity for every registered citizen to partake in. Before the voting process, each candidate nominated by the people are granted the right and opportunity to campaign for themselves, prove their positions and convince the people why they are worthy of their vote. In this western system, we find that most of the time, the transition from one power to another is accepted, respected, and relatively smooth. We observe that in the presidential elections, the transition of power from one president to another is peaceful, regardless of their differences in ideologies, background, experience, or party. We find that the American system takes pride in this reality and each former president is able to shake their hands and host the president-elect, although they may have been fighting like cats and dogs during the campaign. Some even collaborate together in future projects and opportunities. This is not the case in all political systems across the world; however we find it existing in here in the West.
When we reflect in the Divine system and government which the Almighty God has implemented and presented through the prophets and messengers, we find that this democratic transition from one authority to another is often times not so peaceful and not so smooth. From the beginning of time since the birth of Prophet Adam (a), the concept of prophethood was introduced to humanity, and the idea of a messenger delivering a divine message has been understood. From Adam to Muhammad who is the Seal of Messengers, a total of 124,000 prophets were divinely selected and sent to mankind to small and big groups of people, to certain cities and nations, and finally to all of mankind till the end of time with the prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family). However, their message and aim is one, their sender is the Almighty Allah (swt), the divine revelations all resonate one another, and the source and origin is from the same foundation. This is the beautiful system of divine selection where selected ones are ‘infallible’ and free from the perils of greed for power or vices such as jealousy. The prophetic chain is indeed one divine chain where each part is attached to the other and leads to the next till the final point.
The prophetic chain is further succeeded by the divine nomination and election of qualified successors and awliyaa (leaders) who serve as guardians to the divine message and spiritual guides to its purified teachings. The concept of elections never existed when a prophet appointed his successor. Narrations say that most if not all the prophets or messengers appointed a successor before departing this world. It was never a consensus of human vote which earned the successor their position, it was only and always the divine vote and selection that carried with it the assurance of infallibility and qualification of that candidate.
In light of the observation we discussed earlier with the Western system, there is a strange observation to make and a disparity that begs the eyes to notice and wonder and ponder further. Why is it that when it comes to the human system where elections are made by the people, we do find examples even if little, where a peaceful transition can be made from one power to another, one leader to another. Yet, when it comes to the divine system, there is difficulty in accepting the new leader and successor whom the Almighty Creator has officially selected?
The question we ponder is, why is it that the companions of Prophet Muhammad (sa) and a good majority of Muslims afterwards till this day, could not accept the divine selection of Ali ibn Abi Talib (as) as his successor, caliph, leader over the Muslim nation? Why is it that there was no ‘peaceful transition of power or authority’ from one to another, from the leadership of Prophet Muhammad reflected in his prophethood, to the leadership of Imam Ali (as) reflected in his vicegerency? Why is it possible for a human system of election to grant democracy and respect for the elected one, whereas the divine system is challenged, countered, disrespected, and fought against?
We find the same hands which shook the hands of Imam Ali (as) are the same hands which broke their oath and shook the hands of another unqualified person while defying the divinely appointed guide whom Allah (swt) has presented. We find that the transition after the Prophet’s demise was far from peaceful, far from respect to the Prophet who has just breathed his last. The story repeats itself from one Imam to another till the 12th living Imam Al-Mahdi (aj) who is currently in occultation. Each Imam announced the divine selection of the next Imam among their children, but always there was challenge and protest from the people, there was doubts and disbelief from even some members of the family. It was only until the inception of the 8th Imam Ali ibn Musa Ar-Redha (AS) that a majority has accepted his Imamate and those after him, although the state of taqiyya (dissimulation) exists and the believers are forced to exercise caution under the influence of fear of the tyrant ruling authority.
It is a shame to humanity and mankind that we ignore the choice of the Almighty God and we defy His command, while we choose our own and treat it as the most qualified and best of selections although our selections are fallible and limited due to our short vision and lack of insight and knowledge. It is something that humanity is paying the price today and everyday till the end of time the fact that we reject those whom Allah (swt) have chosen and have caused injustice to these divine leaders to the point of committing assassination and murder. As Lady Fatima (as) pointed out in her speech, the she-camel of Prophet Saleh (as) is not better in Allah’s eyes than her, nor is the children of the she-camel of Saleh (as) closer to Allah than Imams Hasan and Husayn (as). The divine verdict to the rejection of Allah’s appointed ones is clear, as presented in the Holy Qur’an in the story of Prophet Saleh (as).
“The Thamud (people) rejected (their prophet) through their inordinate wrong-doing, Behold, the most wicked man among them was deputed (for impiety). And the messenger of Allah said: It is the she-camel of Allah, so let her drink! But they denied him, and they hamstrung her, so Allah doomed them for their sin and obliterated their traces and made them equal (in destruction, high and low)! Then they rejected him (as a false prophet), and they hamstrung her. So their Lord, on account of their crime, obliterated their traces and made them equal (in destruction, high and low)!
And for Him is no fear of its consequences.” [91:11-15].
This is the divine punishment for those who denied water and killed the selected camel of Prophet Saleh (as). Awaiting till the Day of Judgment is the eternal castigation of those who confiscated the rights of the Prophet’s progeny and fought against them, and all those who believe in them, agree with them, and follow their footsteps till the end of time!