Recent attacks against Ansar Allah, a subgroup of the Houthis, during preparation and gathering for the al-Ghadeer day celebration, did not affect the celebrants’ psyche. Tens of thousands celebrated the holiday in different governorates around Yemen, displaying their unbridled desire to commemorate al-Ghadeer. For the Houthis, this holiday is a great religious occasion for them.
This year, the 18th of Dhu al-Hijja in the Islamic calendar coincided with October 23, Ansar Allah celebrated the event in a fraternal atmosphere of interdependence and camaraderie.
The occasion was celebrated not only in Sana’a and Saada, but also in Dhamar, Hajjah, Jawf, Marib, Amran, Yareem and Taiz, as well as in several districts of other provinces and cities. The ubiquity of the celebrations revealed the widespread loyalty to Allah, Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him (PBUH), and Imam Ali.
Abdulmalik Badralddin al-Houthi, leader of the Houthis, said of al-Ghadeer that the outstanding attention of the masses is proof of their faith, awareness and recognition of the importance of these religious events.
“I am so proud of Yemenis and their close interaction with religious events. Despite all the attacks that might have prevented them from celebrating, they are still closely linked to and love their religion and its great symbols, led by the Prophet Muhammad PBUH.”
A question that Muslims often pose, why do the Shi’it celebrate Ghadeer? What is so significant about the event that merits such pomp and splendor?
Eid al-Ghadeer is a festive day observed by Muslims of Shi’ite on the 18th of Dhu al-Hijjah in the Islamic calendar. This day is to celebrate the announcing of Ali ibn Abi Talib by the prophet Muhammad PBUH as his immediate successor. It marks the anniversary of Prophet Muhammad’s last sermon, described in Hadith of the Ghadeer Khumm (Khumm rivulet), in which he stated, “Whosoever’s master (maula) I am, Ali is also his (maula) master. O’ God, love those who love him, and be hostile to those who are hostile to him”.
A few months before his passing, Muhammad PBUH, while living in the city of Medina, made his last religious pilgrimage to Mecca in a trip referred to as the Farewell Pilgrimage. After completion of the Hajj, or religious pilgrimage, Prophet Muhammad turned back towards his home in Medina. On the trip there, he stopped at the Ghadeer of Khumm and appointed Imam Ali as the master of Muslims after him and also took a covenant about his mastership from those who were present.
Ali ibn Abi Talib was the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad; Ali was also the first male to accept Islam. Sunnis consider Ali the fourth and final of the rightly guided caliphs while Shi’ites regard Ali as the first Imam, and consider him and his descendants the rightful successors to Muhammad, all of whom are members of the Ahl al-Bayt (family of the prophet). This disagreement split the Ummah (Muslim community) into its Sunni and Shi’ite branches.
Ali migrated to Medina shortly after Muhammad did. Once there, Muhammad told Ali that God had ordered Muhammad to give his daughter, Fatimah, to Ali in marriage. For the ten years that Muhammad led the community in Medina, Ali was extremely active in his service, leading parties in battles, and carrying messages and orders. Ali took part in the early caravan raids from Mecca and later in almost all the battles fought by the nascent Muslim community.
In Muslim culture, Ali is respected for his courage, knowledge, belief, honesty, unbending devotion to Islam, deep loyalty to Muhammad, equal treatment of all Muslims and generosity in forgiving his defeated enemies. Ali retains his stature as an authority on Quranic exegesis, Islamic jurisprudence and religious thought. Ali’s influence has been important throughout Islamic history.
Sunni Muslims do not celebrate this day as they feel that it is not an established celebratory day. The exact meaning of the sermon is a matter of much dispute. While Shi’ite Muslims believe that through this sermon, Muhammad nominated Ali to be his successor; Sunni Muslims disagree about the authenticity of some of the statements of the sermon and also disagree on the interpretations. The predominant view among Sunni Scholars is that Muhammad’s statements in this context where to explain his close relation and the respectable position of Ali among the sahaba (Muhammad’s companions).
An objection is often raised and a lot of Yemenis don’t celebrate this event and cannot accept it. Sheikh Mohammed al-Waqshi said that the celebration of the al-Ghadeer Day has no basis in religion. “It was not celebrated by any of the Prophet Mohammed’s companions so it is not a religious Eid. It is a normal day as the celebration of revolutions or the foundation of parties but not a religious day.”
The conflicting opinions of parties and people in Yemen on this event led groups of people to impede the ceremony by launching attacks in places of gathering. Al-Houthi said that nearly eleven attacks were carried out by barbaric powers in Hajjah, Amran, Ibb, and other provinces resulting in injuries and even deaths without any justification.
“These forces that attacked us in our celebrations were worried about the awareness these gatherings draw to their own beliefs. These forces don’t want the people to be aware of other views,” he added.
Amar Abohadi, GPC party member, said that Houthis hold such occasions only to gather as many people as they can in a single place for “political purposes.” “They want to reinstate the Imamate”.
Responding to Abohadi, Amtaslam al-Qohom, a member of Ansar Allah, said that Houthis wants a leader who leads the Islamic nation in standards. He should be merciful, qualified to administer justice, wise, and knowledgeable of the basics of religion. “Unlike what we have today, we want a leader with these merits; from any part of Yemen”.
Dr. Majed al-Moghales said that Muslims should believe that criticism, insults, curses and accusations of apostasy and hypocrisy are all major sources of discord secretions that impact Muslims. “We must close that file of the past, for it does not make sense to keep fighting each other over something from the past. We must open a new page built on the good lessons of history, but we must use this history for the benefits of its lessons, only, without diving too deeply into the events [that divide us],” he said.