إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُبَايِعُونَكَ إِنَّمَا يُبَايِعُونَ اللَّهَ يَدُ اللَّهِ فَوْقَ أَيْدِيهِمْ
Innalladhīna yubāyi‘ūnaka innamā yubāyi‘ūnallāha yadullāhi fawqa aydīhim
Indeed, those who pledge allegiance to you, [O Muhammad] – they are actually pledging allegiance to Allah. The hand of Allah is over their hands
(Surat Al-Fath, No. 48, Āyat 10)
To give allegiance is to willingly pledge obedience and support to an authority. Paying allegiance or refraining from it has played an important role in Islamic history. It was often done by giving the hand in the hand of the authority.
The allegiance mentioned in the verse above refers to the Pledge of Ridwān, given to the Prophet sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam by some of the companions before the treaty of Hudaybiyyah. When the Prophet (s) in 6 years After Hijrah (AH) went to Makkah with some of the Muslims to perform the ‘Umrah, the polytheists of Makkah prevented him from entering. The Prophet sent a representative to them and when he did not return for a long time, the companions pledged their support to the Prophet in the face of the possibility of an attack by the Meccans. This pledge took place under a tree and is known as Bayat al-Shajarah (Pledge of the Tree) or Bay’at al-Ridwān (Pledge of Satisfaction).
An allegiance is a serious acknowledgement of the status to whom the allegiance is given and signifies respect, loyalty and dedication. In third weed of Dhul-Hijjah we celebrate Eid al-Ghadīr – the event in which Prophet Muhammad (s) was instructed by Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā to inform the people about the position of Amīrul-Mu’minīn Imam Ali ‘alayhis-salām as the Prophet’s successor and the Divinely appointed guardian over the Ummah. When the Prophet finished his sermon, the people gathered and congratulated Imam Ali, giving their bay‘ah – allegiance to him as their guardian. They pledged their commitment to obeying his authority.
Even though this event happened a long time ago, we still have an opportunity to be linked to it by giving bay‘ah – allegiance – to the Imam of our time ‘ajjallāhu farajah. When we give our allegiance to him, we are giving allegiance to all the Divinely appointed Imams prior to him, ending with our allegiance to Imam Ali. And of course, when one gives their allegiance to Imam Ali it is the same as giving allegiance to Prophet Muhammad. And Allah mentions in the above verse that those who pledge allegiance to the Prophet are in reality pledging allegiance to Allah.
An important question is what does our allegiance to Allah and His chosen ones mean? Bay‘ah is not like an election, where we select someone to represent us while recognizing that the person we have selected is to work for our interests. Rather, it is submission and the resignation of our own will and desire to the will and desire of the one whom we have pledged allegiance to. Instead of them working for us, we commit to working for them.
Once we accept this reality and give our bay‘ah to the Imam of our time (af), we pledge to dedicate our lives for Allah and lay the groundwork for the arrival of His representative. If we can do that daily, as we do in Ziyārat of ‘Ahad, we will be upholding the message of Ghadīr in our lives every day.
Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shīrāzī, Al-Amthal fī Tafsīr Kitāb Allah al- Munzal