The 18th of Dhil-Hijjah 1410 AH is to be celebrated in the Shii world as the 1,400th anniversary of the declaration of Ghadir Khum in which the Prophet said the following about Imam Ali: 'Whomsoever's master (mawla) I am, this Ali is also his master.' This event is of such a significance to the Shi'as that no serious scholar of Islam can ignore it. The purpose of this paper is to study how the event of Ghadir Khum was handled by the orientalists. By 'orientalists' I mean the western scholarship of Islam and also those easterners who received their entire Islamic training under such scholars.
Before proceeding further, a brief narration of the event of Ghadir Khum would not be out of place. This will be especially helpful to those who are not familiar with Ghadir Khum. While returning from his last pilgrimage, Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace, received the following command of Allah: '0 Messenger! Convey what had been revealed to you from your Lord; if you do not do so, then [it would be as if] you have not conveyed His message [at all]. Allah will protect you from the people' (5:67). Therefore he stopped at Ghadir Khum on DhilHijjah 18, 10 A.H. to convey the message to the pilgrims before they dispersed. As it was very hot, a dais shaded with branches
was constructed for him. Then the Prophet gave a long sermon. At one point, he asked his faithful followers whether he, Muhammad, had more authority (awla) over the believers than they had over themselves; the crowd cried out: 'Yes, it is so, O Apostle of Allah!' Then he took Ali by the hand and declared: 'Whomever's master (mawla) I am, this Ali is also his master' (Man kuntu mawlahu fa hadha Aliyun mawlahu). Then the Prophet also announced his impending death and charged the believers to remain attached to the Qur'an and Ahi al-Bayt. This summarizes the important parts of the event of Ghadir Khum.
The main body of this paper is divided as follows: Part II is a brief survey of the approach used by the orientalists in studying Shi`ism. Part III deals with the approach used to study Ghadir Khum in particular. Part IV is a critical review of what M A Shaban has written about the event in his Islamic History AD 600-750. This will be followed by a conclusion.