The author frames such hadith by talking about two parallel concepts of leadership, a public political leadership, first held by Abu Bakr as-Saiddiq (ra), and a hidden spiritual leadership, first held by Imam Ali. Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri goes on to explain:
The manifest caliphate is the political office of the religion of Islam.
The hidden caliphate is exclusively a spiritual office.
The manifest caliphate is an elective and consultative issue.
The hidden caliphate is an inherent and selective act.
The manifest caliph is elected by the people.
The hidden caliph is elected by God.
The manifest caliph is elected.
The hidden caliph is selected.
This is the reason that the first caliph Abū Bakr as-Siddīq (RA) was elected on the basis of ‘Umar Fārūq’s proposal and the support of the majority of public opinion. But the election of the first Imām of spiritual sovereignty — ‘Alī al-Murtadā (AS) — required neither anybody’s proposal nor support.
Caliphate was a democratic act, therefore, the Prophet (SAW) did not declare it. Spiritual leadership was an act of designation; therefore, the Prophet (SAW) declared it in the valley of Ghadīr Khum.
The Prophet (SAW) left the election of the caliph to the will of the people, but himself announced his spiritual heir with the divine consent.
Caliphate is established for improving the administration of the earth.
Spiritual leadership is established to beautify it with the heavenly charm and grace.
Caliphate makes men just.
Spiritual leadership makes them perfect.
Caliphate is confined to the floor.
Spiritual leadership extends to the Throne.
Caliphate is ineffective without crowning.
Spiritual leadership is effective even without crowning.
This is probably the reason that caliphate is entrusted to the Ummah, and
Spiritual leadership is entrusted to the progeny.
“Thus we can deny neither the khilāfah (caliphate; political leadership) nor the wilāyah (spiritual leadership). The direct caliphate of Abū Bakr as-Siddīq (RA) was established with the consensus of the people and is categorically proved by the evidence of history. The direct spiritual leadership of ‘Alī al-Murtadā (AS) was announced by the Prophet (SAW) himself and is categorically proved by the evidence of unbroken chain of traditions. The proof of the caliphate is the consensus of the Companions (RA), the proof of spiritual sovereignty (wilāyah) is the declaration of the Prophet (SAW). One who denies the caliphate in fact denies history and consensus, and one who denies the spiritual leadership (wilāyah) denies the Prophet’s declaration. Therefore, both the caliphate and the spiritual leadership are inescapable realities. What is urgently needed is a clear understanding of the reality of the two institutions in order to present them to the people as unity, and not as division.”
It should be understood that just as the manifest caliphate started with the early caliphs and its blessings percolated down to the righteous and just rulers, similarly the hidden caliphate started with ‘Alī al-Murtadā (AS) and its blessings gradually trickled to the members of the Prophet’s family and the saints of the Ummah. By means of the declaration — مَنْ كُنْتُ مَولاهُ فَعَلِيٌّ مَولاهُ (one who has me as his master has ‘Alī as his master) — and — عليّ وليكم من بعدي (‘Alī is your spiritual leader after me) — the Prophet (SAW) pronounced ‘Alī (AS) as the opener of the spiritual kingdom.
For a while I've known that the Zaydis existed (a group of Shias who leaned towards accepting the status of Abu Bakr) but this is the first time I've heard/read from a Sunni scholar who seems to lean so hard towards Shiism.
see also: "i'm sushi"