The Hadith of the pond of Khumm (Arabic: غدير خم) refers to the saying (i.e. Hadith) about a historical event crucial to Islamic history. This event took place on March 10 632 AD at a place called Ghadir Khumm, which is located near the city of al-Juhfah, Saudi Arabia. In Muslim literature, Ghadir Khumm is often referred to as an oasis with a watering hole or pond. Ghadir Khumm is alternately written simply as Khumm, Khur, or Khu'.

Shi'a Muslims believe it to be an be an appointment of Ali by Muhammad as his successor, while Sunni Muslims believe it to be a simple defense of Ali in the face of unjust criticism.

Background ContextEdit

A few months before his death, Muhammad – living at the city of Medina – made his last religious pilgrimage to Mecca in a trip referred to as The Farewell Pilgrimage. There, atop Mount Arafat, he addressed the Muslim masses in what came to be known as The Farewell Sermon. After completion of the Hajj, or religious pilgrimage, Muhammad turned back towards his home in Medina.

On the trip there, he stopped at the pond of Khumm and praised Ali. The exact meaning of the praise is a matter of much dispute; not only do Sunni and Shi'a Muslims disagree as to which statements about the pond are authentic, but they also disagree on the interpretation.

Sunni and Shi'a ConcordanceEdit

Generally, Sunni and Shi'a Muslims both accept that Muhammad said the following at the pond:

“Whomsoever’s Mawla I am, this Ali is also his mawla. O Allah, befriend whosoever befriends him and be the enemy of whosoever is hostile to him.”

However, there is disagreement as to what was said after that. There is also disagreement over the definition of the word "mawla." The Sunni position is that the word translates to "beloved friend," whereas the Shi'a position holds that it translates to "master."

Shi'a ViewpointEdit

Investiture of Ali Edinburgh codex

The Investiture of Ali at Ghadir Khumm (MS Arab 161, fol. 162r, AD 1309/8 Ilkhanid manuscript illustration).

Shi'a Muslims believe that after the pilgrimage, Muhammad ordered the gathering of Muslims at the pond of Khumm and it was there that Muhammad nominated Ali to be his successor, arguing that it wouldn't have made sense to stop those traveling back to Medina to solely defend Ali from criticism.

Sunni ViewpointEdit

The Sunni version of the hadith states that a group of soldiers under the command of Ali were complaining to Muhammad about Ali, and Muhammad defended Ali by praising him. The Sunnis, naturally, believe that Muhammad's intention behind the praise was not at all to nominate Ali as his successor but rather it was only to defend Ali against the slander being said against him.

Scholars of Sunni Islam reject a number of further additions as being fabricated and unacceptable. They believe that Muhammad praised Ali, but that this cannot be construed as a prophetic nomination due to the fact that Muhammad similarly praised others from amongst the Sahaba.

The Translation of the Word "Mawla"Edit

The word "mawla" is found in a number of verses from the Qur'an. With reference to classical Arabic language itself, both Sunni and Shi'a scholars acknowledge that the word Mawla has been used in different ways. The Sunni scholar Ibn al-Athir maintains that the word can be translated as any of the following words: lord, owner, benefactor, liberator, helper, lover, ally, slave, servant, brother-in-law, cousin, or friend. The Shi'a organization Thaqalayn Muslim Association stated in one of its leaflets that it can mean master, friend, slave, or even client.

It is accepted by both Sunni and Shi'a that the proper translation revolves around the context. However, the two groups have very differing views as to what was said at the pond of Khumm and for what purpose those words were said; it is because of this difference that the two groups translate the same word in a different manner.

The word "Mawla" and the entire question of the waliate is discussed in a non-Muslim fashion in a book edited by Monique Bernards and John Nawas called "Patronate and Patronage in Early and Classical Islam" . This book sheds light on the word "maula" but does not resolve the tension between the two interpretations.

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