It is well-known that the Sahabah had a Consensus on the obligation of appointing a Khalif. It is also widely acknowledged that hastening the burial of the death is an obligation, therefore, by greater reason burying the Messenger (saw) should take higher priority. However, the Sahaba (rah), including Abu Bakr and Umar opted to engage in the matter of appointing a Khalifah (Caliph) to the Rasool (saw) who would dispense of the Ummah’s affairs according to the Shariah. Hence, they prioritized appointing a Khalifah over burying the Messenger. Before we go further, we need to understand three things:
1. That the action of a Sahabi (companion) is not considered a legislative source, but the actions of the Sahabah (rah) is considered as such (legislative source), for then it falls under Ijma’ us-Sahabah (Consensus of the Companions).
2. That whatever the companions (rah) do not speak against and acted upon is considered an Ijma’ (consensus), which can be taken as evidence.
3. And that the Hukm (rule) of an action is determined by its Qareenah that indicates whether it is obligatory or recommended if it is a request to do an action; or if it is prohibited or disliked if it is a request to abstain from an action.
With this in mind, we say that the burial of Muhammad (saw) was delayed because appointing the Khalifah was an obligation and takes priority over the burial of the death, even if it were the Messenger (saw). This is because the Sahabah would never concur on falsehood for Allah (swt) said about them.
The Vanguard (of Islam) - the first of those who forsook (their homes) and those who gave them aFid (the Muhajireen and the Ansar) and also those who follow them in good deeds, Allah is well pleased with them and they with Allah. And Allah has made ready with them gardens underneath which rivers flow and that will be their abode forever eternally, this their supreme triumph. (TMQ At-Taubah: 100)
The fact that burying the death is an obligation but the Sahabah decided to appoint a Khalifah before it is an indication of the importance of the obligation of appointing the Khalifah.The Rasool (saw) passed away on a Monday, on Tuesday Abu Bakr was given Bay’ah, and the Messenger (saw) was buried on Wednesday. Clearly, the delay was not to gather many people, as some claim, because then He (saw) would have been buried on Tuesday. Rather, it was because appointing the Khalifah carries more weight than burying the death, keeping in mind the latter is itself an important obligation. Sheikh Ata’ Bin Khalil said in an answer that,
If the delay was for having people gather for the Janazah then the burial could have taken place on Monday, Tuesday night or Tuesday morning…but they waited until the Bay’ah was completed for Abu Bakr (ra) of contract and obedience. As soon as it was completed they engaged immediately in the burial of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم on Wednesday at midnight.1
Hence, the delayal of the burial serves as a Qareenah (indication) to the obligation of appointing a Khalifah and how vital it is. In his Al-Muqaddimah, Ibn Khaldun used this as an evidence for the obligation of appointing a Khalifah.
The position of imam is a necessary one. The consensus of the men around Muhammad and the men of the second generation shows that (the imamate) is necessary according to the religious law. At the death of the Prophet, the men around him proceeded to render the oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr and to entrust him with the supervision of their affairs. And so it was at all subsequent periods. In no period were the people left in a state of anarchy. This was so by general consensus, which proves that the position of imam is a necessary one.2
This is because any delay cannot be excused and the Sahabah understood that clearly, so the hastened and settled that matter before turning to the issue of burial. Therefore, the delay in the burial of the Messenger (saw) was caused by the Sahabah’s engagement in appointing the Khalifah, hence, prioritizing it over the burial of Rasool (saw). At the head of this engagement were Abu Bakr and Umar (rah). And since none of the other Sahabah objected, it is a Consensus from the Sahabah that appointing the Khalifah is more important than burying the death. This does not mean burying the death ceases to be an obligation, rather it shows having a complete takes more priority.
The Sahabah (rah) were occupied by the matter of appointing Khalifah after the death of Rasool (saw). The Messenger (saw) was not buried until Wednesday after Abu Bakr was appointed Khalifah on Tuesday. This indicates that the delay was caused by the engagement of the Sahabah in appointing the Khalifah and that serves as a proof that the Khilafah (Caliphate) takes priority over the obligation of burying the death, even if it were our beloved prophet (saw).
1 The Muqaddimah, Abd ar Rahman Bin Muhammad Bin Khaldun, Translated by Franz Rosenthal
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