وصلاتك وسلامك على نبيك وعبدك محمد
وعلى آله وازواجه وذريته
The Imamiyah Shi’ah claim that the succession to the Prophet (sall Allahu alaihi wasallam) and the leadership of the Muslim community cannot be determined through consultation among the community, for it is meant to be divinely appointed by Allah Himself. They cite the Ayah:
وَرَبُّكَ يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَآءُ وَيَخْتَارُ ۗ مَا كَانَ لَهُمُ ٱلْخِيَرَةُ
And your Lord creates what He wills and chooses; not for them was the choice.
Without justification, the Shi’ah have specified the statement “not for them was the choice” as applying to the matter of succession and leadership. Such a meaning is not only absent from the text, it is even invalidated by Shi’ah exegesis:
واختلف في الآية وتقديرها على قولين: أحدهما: أن معناه وربك يخلق ما يشاء من الخلق ويختار تدبير عباده على ما هو الأصلح لهم ويختار للرسالة ما هو الأصلح لعباده ثم قال ما كان لهم الخيرة أي ليس لهم الاختيار على الله بل لله الخيرة عليهم وعلى هذا تكون ما نفيا ويكون الوقف على قوله ويختار وفيه ردّ على المشركين الذين قالوا لولا نزّل هذا القرآن على رجل من القريتين عظيم فاختاروا الوليد بن المغيرة من مكة وعروة بن مسعود الثقفي من الطائف
(Majma al-Bayan of Tabarsi)
This is also confirmed in Asbab an-Nuzul of al-Wahidi: "The specialists of Qur’anic exegesis said: “This verse was revealed as an answer to al-Walid ibn al-Mughirah when he said, as reported by Allah, exalted is He, in the Qur’an (And they say: If only this Qur’an had been revealed to some great man of the two towns?) [43:31]. Allah, exalted is He, informed that the messengers are not sent of their own accord”.
In summary, the Ayah has nothing to do with the issue of succession, as confirmed in both Sunni and Shi'ah books of exegesis. It was revealed in answer to the objection of al-Walid b. al-Mughirah and others as quoted in 43:31. They (idol-worshipers) have no choice with regard to whom Allah reveals. So this Ayah is in reference to Nubuwwah, Prophesy and Revelation, and not in reference to succession, leadership.
So how do we understand that the matter of succession and leadership may be determined through consultation? Allah Most High says:
وَٱلَّذِينَ ٱسْتَجَابُوا۟ لِرَبِّهِمْ وَأَقَامُوا۟ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَأَمْرُهُمْ شُورَىٰ بَيْنَهُمْ وَمِمَّا
And those who have responded to their Lord and established prayer and whose affair is [determined by] consultation among themselves, and from what We have provided them, they spend.
The word أمر (affair) certainly includes the affair of leadership, as elsewhere the administrative leaders of the Believers are named أولى الأمر منكم
This was practically confirmed by the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم when he advised the Aws and Khazraj to elect twelve representatives among themselves to manage their affairs:
أخْرِجُوا إلَيَّ مِنكُمُ اثْنَيْ عَشَرَ نَقِيبًا يَكُونُونَ عَلى قَوْمِهِمْ)، فأَخرَجُوا تسعةً مِن الخَزْرَجِ، وثلاثةً مِن الأَوْسِ
“Appoint twelve representatives (naqīb) from among you for me, who will see to their people’s affairs.” They appointed twelve representatives, nine from the Khazraj and three from the Aws. (Musnad Ahmad)
Note the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم did not personally designate these representatives, nor were they divinely appointed by Allah.