The first path would have been to adopt a passive attitude towards the future, and to be content with the part which he had played in leading and directing the da`wah during his lifetime, leaving its future to circumstance and chance.
It is of course unthinkable to attribute such passivity to the Prophet because it grows from two different possibilities, neither of which can be leveled against the Prophet. The first possibility is the belief that such passivity and disregard would have no effect upon the future of the da'wah, and that the Ummah which would follow his da`wah would be capable of acting independently in a manner which would protect the da'wah and ensure it against deviation.
But this belief is totally indefensible, and indeed the essential nature of things would seem to indicate the opposite, because the da`wah was by its very nature a radical and transformatory factor, which aimed at building a new community from which all jahili principles would be removed. It was, however, also prone to dangerous possibilities when deprived of its leader and of all guidance. And such perils were sure to arise if no allowances were made for the vacuum left by the Prophet's death, which would leave the Ummah without any guidance, and from the subsequent needs of the Ummah to adopt an extemporaneous attitude in the shadow of the massive difficulties posed by the death of the Prophet. Had the Prophet left the Ummah without any guidance regarding the development of Islam, it would have had to face the problem of conducting itself without its leader while facing the most dangerous issues ever to confront Islam without possessing any prior experience thereof. Such a state of affairs would also have required that the Ummah adopt an immediate policy as to how to conduct itself in spite of the danger posed by the problem, because the vacuum could not be allowed to continue. And this speedily-arranged policy would have had to be instituted just when the Ummah was suffering the
staggering shock of losing its Great Leader. This shock must obviously have shaken the foundations of logical thought and exacerbated any disorders, and it was perhaps this shock that forced one of the sahaba to announce that the Prophet had not died and would not die.
These are the dangers which might have arisen from any religious immaturity on the part of the sahaba, who had not yet attained the standard at which the Prophet could feel satisfied, of a reasonable reaction to the khilafah after his death, within the religious framework of Islam, and of their ability to overcome the hidden contradictions which existed, and continued to exist, in the minds of the Muslims, regarding their divisions into the Muhajirun and Ansar, Quraysh and the rest of the Arab tribes of Makkah and Medina.
There are also the dangers which arose from the existence of anonymous factions within the Ummah who acted treacherously from the time of the Prophet onwards. This is the faction which the Qur'an calls the munafiqun (hypocrites). When we add to them the large numbers who converted to Islam after the conquests, becoming Muslims for material gains and not out of spiritual awakening, we can begin to assess the danger posed by these groups, who would find a chance to grow and expand in the vast vacuum which would result from the absence of the guiding leadership.
Obviously the acceptance of such a perilous position after his death could not be envisaged by any ideological leader, let alone by the Seal of the Prophets.
Indeed Abu Bakr was loathe to leave the arena without ensuring a positive future for the government by the appointment of one who could fully comprehend and control its affairs...
Similarly, the people rushed to Umar when he was struck down saying: O Leader of the Faithful, if you would only set out a covenant,1 fearing the vacuum of authority which the khalifah
1 Tarikh al-Tabari, 5/26.
would leave behind him, in spite of the political and social concentration which the da'wah had attained during the 10 years following the death of the Prophet. And Umar designated six people to calm their fears. Umar recognized the extent of the danger posed by the circumstances of as-Saqifa, and the possible complications which might have arisen from the improvised nature of the khilafah of Abu Bakr, when he said: `The appointment (ba` yah) of Abu Bakr would have been a fatal mistake had Allah not protected us from its evil.'2
Abu Bakr himself regretted the speed with which he had accepted authority and taken over its difficult problems, although he had sensed the danger of the situation and the necessity for a quick solution, when he said, when blamed for accepting the authority: `Indeed the Messenger of Allah had died and the people 3had only just emerged from jahiliyyah. So I feared that they would be subject to temptations, and my associates encouraged me therein'
If all this is true then it must also be evident that the Pioneer and the Prophet of Islam felt the danger of a negative attitude more acutely, and understood the exact nature of the situation and needs of the task of radical transformation, which he had instigated in the Ummah so newly emerged from jahiliyyah, more profoundly than Abu Bakr.
The second possibility which could explain the passivity of the Leader towards the future and progress of Islam after his death is that he did not seek to protect Islam from this peril, although aware of the great danger posed by such a stance, because he viewed Islam advantageously and was only interested in protecting it during his lifetime, so that he could receive benefits and gains from it while uninvolved in its future protection after his death.
This explanation is unthinkable in the case of the Prophet, or even if we do not regard him as a Prophet, closely involved with
2 Sharh al-Nahj of Ibn Hadid, 6/46.
3 Tarikh al-Tabari, 3/20.
Allah, May He be Praised and Exalted, in every aspect of Islam, and simply consider him as a leader passionately committed to his cause similar to any other. We cannot cite any example of a totally devoted leader who sacrificed himself in the interests of Islam as did the Prophet until the last moment of his life. In fact his whole career proves this point, and even when on his deathbed and suffering greatly from his illness he was deeply concerned with a campaign which he had planned, and the force which he had dispatched under Usama, and ordered them saying: 'Stand ready with Usama's forces! Convoke the forces of Usama! Send out Usama's contingents!' He repeated this although losing consciousness from time to time.4 For indeed the concern of the Prophet regarding this military campaign alone was so profound that he expended all his efforts upon it even on his deathbed, and although he knew that he would die before he could reap the rewards of this campaign, he did not allow this to interfere with his tusk even until his last breath. So how can we even consider the opinion that the Prophet was neither preoccupied with the future of Islam, nor planning against the expected dangers which would confront its safety after his death?
Finally, during the lifetime of the Prophet there is one act which is itself sufficient to negate the first assumption, while also proving that the Prophet was by no means passive towards the future of Islam, nor unaware of the dangers therein or un concerned thereby. Furthermore, this act has been related in the authentic works of both the Sunni and Shi`a Muslims. It is that Umar aI-Khattab was amongst a group of men in the house when the Prophet, who was about to die, said: `Bring me parchment and pen so that I may write something for you after which you shall never go astray'5
In fact this act of the Prophet, which is generally viewed as authentic, illustrates clearly that he was deeply concerned about
4 Tarikh al-Kamil of Ibn Athir and others.
5 Musnad Ahmad, 1/300; Sahih Muslim, Vol 2, at the end of AI-Wasaya; and Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol I, Kitab as-Salh.
the dangers which had to be faced in the future, and recognized the need to plan ahead so as to protect the Ummah from deviation, and save it from inattentiveness and disintegration. It is thus totally impossible to substantiate any claim of passivity leveled against the Prophet.