Islam stackexchange wasn't able to answer this question. It quotes Wikipedia:Ali.

This is a politically charged question I think.

Sunnis and Shias see Ali positively. So if there are Sunni records that say even Ali think that way, it'll be something.

So are there any historical sources or biographies or hadith that say that?

  • 2
    Hereditary succession was a thing that goes way back in quite a few forms... Why would you expect Muhammad or any of his descendants to make it more explicit than other hereditary monarchs (or other)? Mar 28, 2020 at 16:43
  • I have no idea. I will need some direct quotations and so on to know it. The first 4 calpihs of islams are "elected". It's a move toward meritocracy and democracy but not far and they went back to hereditary monarchs. What's the actual story?
    – user4951
    Mar 29, 2020 at 6:49
  • 2
    No idea what the actual story is in the case of the Caliphs, but FWIW in the case France, monarchs were initially elected, until one family became dominant, at which point they got "elected" as a matter of course, and ultimately the elections just went away. Mar 29, 2020 at 9:25
  • @DenisdeBernardy England similarly. The first post-conquest succession by primogeniture was not until 1189, and pre-conquest hereditary succession was also often not observed.
    – C Monsour
    Mar 29, 2020 at 18:33
  • Just to add to those two examples, it's worth stressing that Europe was quite different from Eastern empires in this respect. "Divine" rulers were ubiquitous further East. So it may very well have been that, in contrast with Europe during the same time period, hereditary rule would have been seen as a matter of course in Arab controlled lands at the time. Mar 29, 2020 at 19:39

1 Answer 1


In addition to my answer on Islam.SE, if you think non-Muslim sources may be less "biased" (I agree many Muslim sources can be biased on this, even though I believe the Shia view is accurate), you may want to read the book by Wilfred Madelung, a German-British scholar of early Islamic history who has confirmed the idea of superiority of Ali over the caliphs and his disputes with them.

Note that even Western scholars are divided on this to some part. Madelung's work though is among the most recent works which builds up on previous scholarship but also criticizes them, giving qualified support to the Shia belief. But he diverges from the Shia view that the Prophet Muhammad had actually appointed Ali as his caliph but he argues that hereditary succession was always a given in Abrahamic traditions as well as Quranic account of succession to past prophets.

PS: In reference to comments, the idea that the first three caliphs were "elected" is also contested. If the electoral excludes some of the most prominent companions of the Prophet and involves coercion, it can't be called an "election" and this was the case for Saqifa the first "election" which was more like a factional coup d'état. The second caliph was also appointed not elected. You may want to post a separate question on this but you can also consult Madelung's comprehensive account of post-prophetic politics.

  • +1. One small quibble regarding your PS about those elections not being proper elections, if I may. I'd suggest reading up on what elections looked like before the 20th century. Or for that matter, nowadays, in an alarming number of countries (including the US). :D Mar 31, 2020 at 17:15
  • @DenisdeBernardy Thanks for links. Yes, I am familiar with Gerrymandering and some other criticisms against modern democracies.
    – infatuated
    Apr 1, 2020 at 18:49
  • The thing with "proper" election is it's often not clear who should "elect". I can say that my bro elect me and we got "consensus". The fact that Ali wasn't there makes me wonder why he isn't qualify to "elect" but people probably don't notice those minor details
    – user4951
    Apr 1, 2020 at 23:15
  • hereditary succession was always a given in Abrahamic traditions - When it comes to Patriarchs or Kings, yes, but not when it comes to Prophets (proper); e.g., Joshua was not related to Moses, Elisha was not a descendant of Elijah, nor Baruch of Jeremiah, etc.
    – Lucian
    Apr 2, 2020 at 22:44
  • @Lucian Hereditary succession doesn't have to be through son. In the Quran Moses asked to have a caliph or representative from his family and Aaron his brother was determined by Allah to be his caliph. Solomon succeeded his father David, both prophets according to Islam. Ali was the Prophet's cousin, son-in-law and spiritual brother.
    – infatuated
    Apr 3, 2020 at 5:53

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