A Sunni-Shia divide: Hadith-e-Qirtas

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Hazrat Mir Muhammad Ishaqra

عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ، قَالَ لَمَّا اشْتَدَّ بِالنَّبِیِّ صلّی اللہ علیہ وسلم وَجَعُہُ قَالَ ائْتُونِی بِکِتَابٍ اَکْتُب لَکُمْ کِتَاباً لَا تَضِلُّوْا بَعْدَہُ۔ قَالَ عُمَرُ اِنَّ النَّبِیَّ صلّی اللہ علیہ وسلم غَلَبَہُ الْوَجَعُ وَعِنْدَنَا کِتَابُ اللہِ حَسْبُنَا فَاخْتَلَفُوْا وَکَثُرَ اللَّغَطُ قَالَ قُوْمُوْا عَنِّی، وَلَا یَنْبَغِیْ عِنْدِی التَّنَازُعُ

[Translation] [Hazrat Ibn Abbasra narrated “When the ailment of the Prophetsa became worse, he said, ‘Bring for me (writing) paper and I will write for you a statement after which you will not go astray.’ But Umarra said, ‘The Prophet is seriously ill, and we have got Allah’s Book with us and that is sufficient for us.’ But the companions of the Prophetsa differed about this and there was a hue and cry.

On that, the Prophetsa said to them, ‘Get up (and leave me alone). It is not right that you should quarrel in front of me.”] (Sahih al-Bukhari)

[Referring to this famous Hadith-e-Qirtas, Hazrat Mir Muhammad Ishaqra said the following:]

It is mentioned in a hadith that during the final illness of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, some people were arguing over whether to bring a pen and paper [for the Holy Prophetsa] during which the Prophetsa said to them “Get up and leave me alone”.

This hadith, in its entirety, is known as “Hadith-e-Qirtas” [hadith of the pen and paper] and is a famous disputed hadith amongst the Ahl-e-Sunnah wal-Jamaat [Sunnis] and the Shiites.

Shiites argue that the Holy Prophetsa asked for a pen and paper as he wanted to write a will in favour of Hazrat Alira, that he would be the khalifa after his demise. However, [they allege] Hazrat Umarra stopped people from bringing a pen and paper so that the Holy Prophetsa would not be able to write such a will.

On the other hand, the Sunnis say that Hazrat Umarra was actually concerned and worried about the Prophet’ssa agony, due to his illness. That is why he stopped others from bringing a pen and paper, as he did not want the Prophetsa to undergo more suffering. Sunnis maintain that such a thought [to conceal a will in favour of Hazrat Alira] could never have crossed the mind of Hazrat Umarra.

As this is a very famous hadith that is disputed and we Ahmadis also have to face Shiites from time to time, I wish to detail the reality of the hadith.

1. The hadith is narrated by Hazrat Ibn Abbasra

2. The Holy Prophetsa said اَکْتُب لَکُمْ کِتَاباً لَا تَضِلُّوْا بَعْدَہُ which means, “I will write something which, if followed to the letter, will make sure you never fall astray”

3. At the time, lots of people were present at the Holy Prophet’ssa house

4. Hazrat Umarra said:

اِنَّ رَسُولَ اللہِ صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم قَدْ غَلَبَہُ الْوَجَعُ وَعِنْدَکُمُ الْقُرْآنُ، حَسْبُنَا کِتَابُ اللہِ

meaning that the Prophetsa was in great pain and they had the Quran with them which is a complete guidance and would serve every possible need

5. No one from among those present rejected the claim by Hazrat Umarra, that the Holy Prophetsa was experiencing great pain at the time

6. فَاخْتَلَفَ اَھْلُ الْبَیْتِ mentioned in other narrations] indicates the fact that the Holy Prophet’ssa family were also divided in opinion. Some agreed with Hazrat Umarra while others differed

7. Those present disagreed to such an extent that they began to argue loudly

8. As a result, the Holy Prophetsa told everyone to leave and said that arguing in front of the Prophet of God is not agreeable.

Apart from this the Holy Prophetsa did not say anything. He never insisted on bringing the pen and paper Firstly, the narrator of this hadith is Hazrat Ibn Abbasra. His age at the time would have been 11 years at most. For this reason, we simply cannot give such importance to a narration by someone of that age and as a result, label the very pillars of Islam [the Khulafa] as misguided and disbelievers. God forbid.

If we attest to the notion that Hazrat Alira was meant to be the Khalifa immediately after the Holy Prophetsa and it was this that the Holy Prophetsa wanted to write down and the Companionsra deliberately did not listen to the Holy Prophetsa, then we will have to accept that the Companions knowingly disobeyed the command of the Holy Prophetsa and disobeying the Holy Prophetsa is known as kufr.

We will also have to agree that the Companionsra would (God forbid), as a result, have to be labelled as liars and transgressors. This is because they purposefully blocked the right of Hazrat Alira as the first Khalifa after the Prophet’ssa demise and did this by devising a deceitful plan.

In fact, accordingly to Shiites, the Companionsra forcefully took away this honour from Hazrat Alira. If we verify and accept these accusations against the Companionsra, then the entire list of Islamic victories, advancements and the services to establish Khilafat that were achieved by the Khulafa must be rejected and deemed un-Islamic.

If we do so, nothing will be left of Islam. The beautiful and elegant edifice of Islam that the Khulafa toiled night and day for would be destroyed and flattened in an instance.

Secondly, if the Holy Prophet’ssa message, which he wanted to write down and that would have ensured Muslims would not go astray, was that Hazrat Alira would be the next khalifa, then why, despite knowing this, did Shia Muslims go astray? They should have stayed on the right path and not have been divided.

The reality is that Shias themselves were divided into many sects, going so far as to label one another as hell-bound. A sect of Shiites called the Ghalis go as far as to label Hazrat Alira as God… The third point to consider is that others were also present with the Holy Prophetsa. Apart from them, the Ahl-e-Bait (family of the Holy Prophetsa) was also present. Hazrat Alira himself was also there and amongst everyone.

Now, if Hazrat Umarra is to be labelled as someone who disobeyed the Holy Prophetsa, then Hazrat Alira and, in fact, all the Ahl-e-Bait and Companionsra who were present are also guilty of disobedience to the Prophetsa (God forbid).

Further, those who knew that the Holy Prophetsa was about to write a will to make Hazrat Alira the khalifa are more blameworthy for not bringing the pen and paper.

(Originally published in Al Fazl on 17 January 1940 in the form of notes taken by Mahmood Ahmad Khalil Sahib from the lectures on hadith by Hazrat Mir Muhammad Ishaqra, a scholar of hadith and brother-in-law of the Promised Messiahas)

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