Lives of the Twelve Imams From the Alhe Bait (AS)
E G F
The First Imam: Ali ibne Abi Talib (AS)
Abu Talib bin Abd al-Muttalib
Mother: Fatima binte Asad, bin Hasbim
Date of Birth:
Rajah 13, 23 BH (May 25, 600 AD)
Place of Birth:
Inside the Holy Ka'ba in Makkah
Progeny from Fatima binte
Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam (pbuh)
Progeny from Fatima binte
Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam (pbuh)
sons: al-Hasan and al-Husain
Two daughters: Zainab
and Umm Kulthum
Khawla binte Ja'far bin Qays al-Hanafta
One son: Muhammad
From Umm al-Banin binte Hizam bin Khalid bin Darim
Four sons: al-Abbas, Ja'far, Uthman, Abd Allah
From Umm Habib
One set of twins: Umar
and girl Ruqayya
He had many other children from other wives
He lived to an age of 61 years
Place of Death: In the main
mosque in Najaf, near Kufa in Iraq
Place of Burial:
Ghouri in the town of Najaf in Iraq
LIFE OF ALI DURING THE TIMES OF THE
The birth of Imam Ali took place under unique circumstances inside the holy Ka'ba. It is considered unique because no prophet or saint has ever been bom in a holy sanctuary. Fatima binte Asad, the expectant mother of Ali was praying outside the Ka'ba when she suddenly felt the labor pains. Just then the wall of the holy sanctuary opened. As she stepped in, the wall closed behind her. Shortly after that she gave birth to her baby. When they came out, Muhammad took the newborn in his arms and named him Ali. The infant looked at his face and smiled.
Muhammad nurtured Ali in his childhood, and the child fully assimilated the habits and the qualities of the Prophet. When he grew up, Ali accompanied Muhammad wherever he went, and followed him like his shadow. This early association blossomed in his devout love for the Prophet whom he emulated in every manner, and assisted him in the delivery of the Message at every step. The association between the two was not accidental. Muhammad himself was born in the Shabe Abi Talib (the house of Abu Talib just out side Makkah) and was raised and nurtured by Ali's parents, Abu Talib and Fatima binte Asad. Abu Talib took special care of his nephew Muhammad, and protected him against all odds as long as he lived.
Ali came into focus as a young lad of about I I years when he became known as one the first to witness Muhammad as Allah's Messenger. The other person to acknowledge the Prophetic mission of Muhammad was his wife Khadija.
Now that Muhammad was commanded by Allah to proclaim his Prophet-hood and invite his kinsmen to Islam, he asked Ali to act as his messenger. Ali called on the elders of Quraish to extend the Prophet's invitation. He and his father arranged a feast known as dhil-Asheera. The Prophet delivered the Message, asking them to forsake the idols and worship Allah alone. In the face of great hostilities, when he asked if any one would help him in his work, none other than Ali stood up and declared his unconditional and unfettered support of the Prophetic Mission.
The Quraish of Makkah unleashed their torment to the early believers, but the Prophet continued to convey the Message undaunted by the insults and the harsh treatment of the Makkans. All protected and defended the Prophet at every opportunity despite his young age. Along with handful of the early believers, Ali endured the harsh economic and social blockade of his parent's house by the arrogant Quraish when the Prophet refused to abandon his mission.
On the night of Hijra, when the enemies of the Prophet were lying in wait for him, he willingly and gratefully undertook the hazardous task of sleeping in the bed of the Prophet so that the Messenger of Islam would not be hurt. It helped the Prophet escape the assassins in the darkness of the night. Allah recognized this service of Ali in the Qur'an: “And there is the type of man who gives his life to earn the pleasure of Allah; and Allah is full of kindness to (His) devotees." 11: 207.
After the departure of the Prophet for Madinah, Ali acted on behalf of the Prophet and returned to the Makkans the valuables that they had placed with the Prophet for safe keeping.
When the Prophet arrived in Madinah, he initiated the foundation of a cohesive society in the form of Brotherhood in Islam. He assigned one Muhajir (migrant) from Makkah as a brother unto one resident Ansar (helper) in Madinah. Since Ali was delayed in Makkah carrying out the duties entrusted to him by the Prophet, he was unable to participate in the newly formed brotherhood. On his arrival in Madinah, when Ali asked the Prophet who would be his 'brother' according to the new rule, the Prophet told him: "You and I are brothers in this world and the Hereafter. "
The idolaters of Makkah could not bear the escape of a handful of Muslims from under their noses. They wanted to kill the Prophet as well as his followers. In the second year of al-Hijra (the Islamic calendar year) they came out in Badr, in the outskirts of Madinaf4 well equipped with arms, eight hundred and fifty strong on foot, and one hundred on horseback. They were almost three times larger in number than the poorl3f equipped and hastily raised 'army' of just three hundred and fourteen. Muslims defenders (80 Muhajirs and 234 Ansars). Of these, only seventy were on camels and only two were on horseback! This was the first of the several confrontations the early Muslims had to face against the pagans in defense of their faith and property. The soldiery of Ali was unknown and untested until this first battle. With a resounding victory for Islam seventy of the bravest Quraish were slain and forty-five were taken prisoners of war. Ali emerged as the undisputed hero for the Muslims. He alone was responsible for almost one half of the carnage of the pagans in that battle. There was no family in Makkah that was not affected by Ali's sword in the Battle of Badr. Ali was to be looked upon as a deterrent and a formidable force in the future. He was not only the 'brother' of the new Prophet but also his fighting hand. The Prophet hardly ever used his sword himself Pleased with his unparalleled bravery as well as chivalry, the Prophet declared All openly as Asadullah (the Lion of Allah), and Yadullah (the Hands of Allah).
The Battle of Badr had far reaching consequences for Ali. Whereas this son of Abu Talib intimidated the pagans of Makkah, some among the believers carried grudges and jealousy, even animosity against him. The nascent faith had not yet cleansed their hearts of the old bias they had carried against the man who had, with his sword, cut down their kinsmen, even their closest relatives, their fathers, uncles, sons and husbands. This hostility, which they were unable to express during the life of the Prophet, for fear of annoying Allah's Messenger, showed up immediately after his death. The history, in the years to come, was to witness how the anti-Ali faction came out of the hole, succeeded in isolating the 'brother of the Prophet’ from the affairs of the Islamic State for 25 years. Even in his own Caliphate, the same group rose in rebellion with one pretext or another, and finally plotting to end his life with a sword. In the years that followed, the might and valor of Ali in the service of Islam was to be avenged by his adversaries in killing his sons, his grandsons and kinsmen in the battle of Karbala in an effort to get even with Ali, the Lion of Allah.
After the battle of Badr, the Prophet gave his only daughter Fatima in marriage to the virtuous Hashimite hero of Islam. Together they had two sons, Hasan and Husain, who succeeded as Imams after him, and they laid down their lives upholding and defending the values of Islam.
In later years, Ali continued to be the victorious champion of Islam while others had failed in some of the most threatening battles the Prophet had to undertake in defense. of Islam, the Muslims and the nascent Islamic State that was emerging in Yathrib. As a consequence, Ali received many valedictory titlcs from the Prophet, and wide acclaim among the believers. Only a few of these are briefly narrated below.
The enemies of lslam did not wait long to avenge their shameful defeat at Badr. The following year, they came back at Uhod under the command of Abu Sufyan, the chief of the Makkan infidels. They laid their siege right at the outskirts of Madinah with three times the force they had mustered previously at Badr. This time they were determined to exterminate Islam by killing the Prophet and his followers. Here again the Muslims were outnumbered three to one and poorly supplied. However, All and Hamza raged havoc in the ranks of the infidels, and Ali felled each of the seven standard bearers of the Makkan pagans successively. Together with the valiant believers, the enemy was routed and scattered in all directions. The battlefield resounded with the voice "There is none victorious other than Ali and there is no equal to the sword Zulfiqar."
Hamza was targeted by Hinda, the wife of Abu Sufyan, who had him killed by the spear of her Abyssinian slave, and she savagely mutilated his body personally.
With the apparent victory, the Muslims ignored the warning of the Prophet not to move from their appointed strategic place and ran to loot the battlefield. They were caught unaware by the spare contingent of the pagan army under Khalid bin Walid, and many perished in the act of looting, while others fled for their lives. Many of the senior companions of the Prophet used to reminisce saying that they never ran faster in their lives than in the battle of Uhod!
The Prophet was injured in the onslaught led by Khalid bin Walid. Ali hastened to the rescue and stood by to protect the Prophet. At that station, he repelled several attempts by the pagan contingent. Finally, the pagans were driven away. Fatima (the wife of Ali and the daughter of the Prophet) tended to the wounds of her father. The Prophet asked Ali why he did not flee for his life like the others had done. Ali replied that his life belonged to the Prophet, and he had no business with the others, and being a believer would not want to become a disbeliever!
In the fifth year of al-Hijra the arch enemy of lslam, Abu Sufyan, the Umayyad chief of the pagans of Makkah raised an army 'of about ten thousand confederates of Jewish and other tribes of the Arab idolaters and marched on to Madinah. With this force, he was confident that he could wipe out Islam and its Prophet. However, the Prophet learning of the mighty force marching towards the home of the Muslims, had a ditch dug out between the city of Madinah and the advancing force of the infidels. Whereas this kept back the general advance of the confederate army, a hand full of the infidels jumped across the ditck led by Amr bin Abd Wudd. They jeered and slung abuses at the Muslims and challenged them to send their best for a duel. Ali was a gallant warrior, and the Muslims were frightened of his armor clad gigantic personality. It was Ali who repeatedly asked permission of the Prophet to allow him to face the challenge. When none else dared to come out, the infidels flung further abuses and provocative language at the Muslims. Finally Ali was allowed to face the enemy. The Prophet prayed Allah for Ali and said: "today total Faith has gone out to face total infidelity."
Ali had a brisk duel with Amr and cut down the challenger with one stroke of his famous sword. Prophet declared, "the single stroke of Ali's sword is superior to years of ibada (obedience to Allah)." The Muslims initially watched the encounter from a distance. However, some believers got encouraged with the success of Ali and joined him to eliminate the remaining threat from the infidels who had crossed over the ditch. Ali perused Ikramah bin Abu Jahl into the ditch and killed him.
In the month of Zi-Qa'd, in the sixth year of al-Hijra, the Prophet undertook journey to Makkah for Haj accompanied by about fourteen hundred unarmed Muslims. It was traditional in all of Arabia to suspend all kinds of hostilities during the months of Haj. However, the Makkans came out armed to stop the advance of the pilgrims. The Prophet made a halt at the well of Hudaybiya. After tense negotiations (from within his own ranks of the Muslims, and-from that of the pagan Makkans) a treaty was concluded under which the Prophet had to carry out his rituals of a lesser Hajj at the very campsite, and would return the following year for a full ritual Haj. Ali represented the Muslims and wrote the contents of the Treaty of Hudaybiya.
Early in the seventh year of al-Hijra, the Prophet learned that the Jewish tribes in the valley of Khaybar, about eighty miles north of Madinah, were planning mischief against the Muslims. He decided to march to Khaybar and eliminate the threat to their homes and lives. He took about 1600 believers with him but Ali was unable to go with the Muslim army at that time because of sore eyes.
The Muslims took the smaller fortresses one by one, and laid siege over the grand citadel of Khaybar. Each of the repeated attempts made by the Muslims was repulsed effectively by the ferocious Jewish warriors. Even the most senior and trusted companions of the Prophet failed to break into the defenses of the citadel. By this time the Muslims were getting somewhat discouraged and demoralized. Finally, the Prophet declared, "Tomorrow I shall hand over my flag to one who loves Allah and His Prophet, and who is beloved of the Lord an d His Prophet, a fearless champion who n ever turns his back upon a foe; and at his hands the Lord will give victory. " Hopes ran high in the hearts of all potential commanders to earn that benediction. However, All arrived at the scene with sore eyes. The Prophet healed them with his saliva, and gave him the Standard of die Muslim army. He faced his first adversary in Marhab, a formidable warrior, and cut him into two with one stoke of his famous sword. This was followed with successful duels with six other Jewish warriors. He then led the Muslims to a general attack, and won the day by subduing the fort of Khaybar. Some miraculous feats are reported in the books of history concerning the way Ali pulled out the gate of the fort and, first used it as a shield for himself and then threw it as a bridge over the ditch for the Muslims to cross over. The Prophet did not evict the vanquished people from their homes. The people ceded half of their property to the Muslims for submission, and in return, they were allowed to continue to cultivate the land for their subsistence. The grove of Fadak was retained by the Prophet, and gave it to his daughter Fatima for her family to use.
In the eighth year of al-Hijra, the pagans of Makkah violated the peace treaty signed with them two years earlier. The Prophet took ten thousand believers with him and marched to Makkah. The city was subdued without active fighting, and the archenemy of Islam had to embrace Islam along with other infidels of Makkah. Upon the conquest of Makkah, the holy Ka'ba was cleansed of hundreds of idols. The grand idol, Hubal, treated as a deity by the pagans of Makkah was fixed on a high position, beyond reach. The Prophet asked Ali to mount his shoulders to reach it and destroy it. Ali initially hesitated but complied on second command, and standing on the shoulders of the Prophet, he pulled the heavy idol from its high place and knocked it down to the floor where it crashed to pieces. The Prophet recited: "Truth has come and falsehood being perishable, has vanished. X'VH: 82.
It was the same year of al-Hijra when the Prophet sent Ali to Yemen as his envoy to replace Khalid bin Walid. Khalid had earlier been sent to Yemen to collect the obligatory taxes. He ransacked the place and caused havoc amongst the southern tribes with loss of life and dignity, in his pre Islamic ruthless style. The news of this event caused much grief to the Prophet. Khalid was recalled and rebuked for his conduct. To compensate the families of the victims, the Prophet dispatched Ali to Yemen with money. On arrival there, he distributed the compensation according to the needs of each family. There was still some money left which was also given away to the needy. The people were impressed by this true soldier of Islam and admired him for his generosity, kindness, piety and knowledge.
By virtue of the verse in Qur'an, Ayae tat-heer....... And Allah only wishes to remove all abomination from you, ye Members of the Family, and to make you pure and spotless." XXXIII: 3 3, the Prophet included Ali as a member of his family (Ahle Bait). It is reported in numerous ahadith that the Prophet laid his woolen blanket over himself, his daughter Fatima, her husband Ali, and her sons Hasan and Husain, and said, "O Allah., these are my Ahle Bait."
The following year, the Christians of Najran came to Madinah to see and to verify the Truth of the Prophet of the Muslims. They remained adamantly opposed to all arguments, or to accept evidence from the scriptures. In the end, they opted to go out in the open for Mubahela (a method employed in the olden times to invoke the curse of Truth over Falsehood).
Allah revealed in al-Quran: "The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him Be, and he was. The Truth (comes) from Allah alone; so be not of those who doubt. If anyone disputes in this matter with thee, now after (full) knowledge hath come to thee, say: come! Let us gather together our sons, and your sons, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves: then let us earnestly pray and invoke the curse of Allah on those who lie!" III: 59-61. Ali accompanied the Prophet with Fatima and their two sons, Hasan and Husain (the five infallible members of the Ahle Bait of the Prophet) at the Mubahela representing the men, the women and the children of all Muslims to face the Christian challengers fi7om Najran for the test of the Truth. Seeing the Prophet and his Ahle Bait, their faces glowing with the light of the Truth, the Christians withdrew from Mubahela and returned home, not converted as Muslims, but in peace with the Muslims and the Islamic State.
In the same year, Sura Tauba was revealed to the Prophet. He sent Abu Bakr to Makkah to deliver it to the pilgrims. But soon, the Archangel Gabriel reappeared with instructions that the Message must be delivered by the Prophet himself or one of his family. The Prophet hastened to dispatched Ali on his personal camel. Ali caught up with Abu Bakr, took charge of the important Divine Proclamation and arrived in Makkah. He proclaimed in the name of Allah the early verses of the Sura Tauba, stating that the city of Makkah would, from then on, be a sanctuary for all Muslims, and forbidding all idolaters and polytheists to enter the Holy Precinct, and forbidding the carrying of idols in the Sanctuary.
In the tenth year of al-Hijra, the Prophet of Islam arrived in Makkah for Hajj with thousands of his followers. Ali was in Yemen at that time. He also arrived in Makkah in time to participate in the Haj, personally conducted by the Prophet. This was one of the most important events in the history of early Islam, and every Muslim wanted to perform Haj with the Prophet. After completion of the Haj, and on the way back to Madinah, the Prophet of Islam was ordained by Allah to carry out the last duty of his Prophetic Mission thus: "O Apostle! Proclaim the (Message) which hath been sent to theefrom thy Lord. If thou didst not, thou wouldst have not fulfilled and proclaimed His Mission. And Allah will defend thee from men (who mean mischief. For Allah guideth not those who reject Faith." V: 70
He made a stop at the well called Ghadire Khumm and gathered all those who could be recalled. A makeshift pulpit was erected and the Prophet addressed the congregation: "It seems as if I would soon be summoned to go to Allah and I have responded to it I entrust you with two very precious and grand things,.one of which is greater than the other: the Book of Allah and my Ahle Bait. Take heed of the way you treat these two trusts, because the Qur'an and the Ahle Bait will never separate until they return to me by the Hawd al-Kawthar (the pond). " He then said: "Allah is my master and I am the master of every believer. " Then he took the hand of Ali and raising his arm high above his shoulders for all to see, and said: " Ali will be the maula (master) of whoever deems me his (maula) master. 0 Allah! Place within Your own vilayah whoever accepts the vilayah of Ali and be the enemy of whoever shows animosity to him. " All those who attended the congregation under the hot mid-afternoon sun congratulated Ali on the honor that had just been bestowed upon him by the Will of Allah. This event has been recorded in both Shiite and Sunni books.
It was at this place and occasion when the last revelation of the Qur’an was delivered to the Prophet: "... This day have those who rejected Faith given up hope of your religion: yet fear them not but fear me. This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. " V:4. This completed the Book of Allah as well as the long and onerous task of the Prophet.
Soon after his return to Madinah the Prophet became ill and passed away. However, while the members of the Ahle Bait were busy making arrangements for the burial of the Prophet, the senior companions hurried to a heated conference that was being held at Saqueefa Banu Saada to determine the successor to the Prophet. At the conclusion of the meeting, Abu Bakr was elected as the first Caliph.
ALI IS THE IMAM OF GUIDANCE
Allah says in Qur'an that there is no compulsion in Faith. However Allah favored Man with guidance and intelligence so that he may choose what he wishes to believe and to set his own course for the conduct of his life. In the end, those who choose virtuous conduct will enjoy the everlasting bounty of Allah in the gardens of Paradise, while those who follow evil ways will have to endure the everlasting wrath of Allah in the doom of Hell.
Allah has ordained: "O ye who believe! Obey Allah, obey the Apostle and those charged with authority among You. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer to Allah and His Apostle, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: that is best, and most suitable for final determination." IV:59.
To obey Allah, there is the Word of Allah: the Book, al-Qur’an.
To obey the Prophet, there is the word of the Prophet: al-Hadith. Allah authenticates the word of the Prophet: "Nor does he say (aught) of(his own) desire. It is no less than revelation sent down to him. He was taught by one Mighty in Power." LIII:3-5.
To obey those charged with authority are by Allah's Will. The Qur'an says: "And We made them leaders, guiding (men) by Our Command, and We sent them inspiration to do good deeds, to establish regular prayers, and regular charity; and they constantly served Us (and Us only)." XXI: 73.
Allah has further clarified His ordinance: "..fight ye the chiefs of Unfaith: for their oaths are nothing to them..."IX:12. "And We made them (but) leaders inviting to the Fire; and on the Day of Judgment no help shall they find"XX'VIII: 41. "But those who were blind in this world will be blind in the Hereafter, and most astray from the Path. " XVII:72.
It is Allah's grace that He gave mankind the will to choose their path, including the choice of a leader (Imam) for guidance-.- For making such a choice, Allah warns in the Qur'an: "One day We shall call together all human beings with their (respective) Imams: those who are given their records in their right hand will read it (with pleasure), and they will not be dealt with unjustly in the least." XVII: 7 1.
To the believers, the Prophet warned, "Choose your Imams wisely, for those who died without recognizing the Imam of their Time died the death of the Times before the Truth came to them."
The Prophet spared no effort to illustrate to the believers that Ali was the Imam of Guidance after him. Ali was nurtured by the Prophet from the very beginning of his life. By his own words, Ali lived his life like the shadow of the Prophet, "like a baby camel follows its mother!" He protected the person of the Messenger of Allah on numerous occasions and defended the Message of Islam from its very inception. His gallant feats of soldiery were exemplary to the believers and a source of encouragement and have remained unmatched throughout history. It is beyond the scope of this book or even this chapter on the First Imam to describe all the events, the circumstances or the ahadith quoted from the Prophet about him. Only a few of the major events of his life have been described above along with the relevant ahadith of the Prophet. A few other important ahadith are given below to highlight the life of the Patriarch of the Imams of Ahle Bait during the life of the Prophet of Islam. For details and for research, the reader is referred to the sources listed in the Bibliography.
THE PROPHET'S AHADITH ON IMAM ALI
On Relationship of Imam Ali with the Prophet (pbuh)
"I am to you like Musa (Moses) was to Harun (Aaron) except that there shall be no prophet after me".
"O Allah! Befriend those who befriend Ali, be enemy to those who exhibit animosity towards All."
"O Ali! You are the foremost among the believers. You are the wisest and the most faithful in honoring a pledge. You are the best in giving justice. You are the kindest of the Muslim ummah. You are the most patient in adversity. You are my right arm. You will wash by body, and you will give me burial ' On the Day of Judgment, you will carry the banner of Islam, and you will drive away the unworthy from Hawdhe Kawthar (the Pond)." "Whoever parts company with Ali parts company with me; whoever parts company with me parts company with Allah."
On the Person of Ali:
..... that looking at the face
of Ali is an act of devotion" and
.....that zikre Ali (elaborating the deeds and acts of Ali) is devotion."
"The fist (measure) of Ali
and my fist are equal."
"I am the City of all Knowledge, and Ali is the gate (door) of that City. Whoever wishes to enter that city should come through its gate."
"Ali is the best of
judges among you."
"Ali is total Faith...
"Ali is with the Truth,
and the Truth is with Ali."
"Ali is the fearless Lion of Allah."
"Ali is the Hand of Allah."
"Ali is always
victorious. He never turns his back
to the enemy."
" Ali is the Imam (leader) of the pious,"
"No one ever acquired such
excellence as Ali. He leads his friends
to the Right Path, and prevents them from going astray."
During the life of the Prophet himself, many of his companions also attested to the knowledge, valor, judgments, generosity, piety and faith of Ali; and to his unparalleled greatness.
LIFE OF ALI DURING THE TIMES OF THE FIRST THREE CALIPHS
On the death of the Prophet, the people of Madinah were concerned that if they remained passive, the goveniment of their city would pass over to the Muhajirs. Likewise, the Muhajirs had no intention of relinquishing the government over to the Ansar of Madinah. The most prominent companions of the Prophet hurried to join a heated conference on the matter. For Ali, the primary obligation was to bury the Prophet after his death, and there was nothing in the world that would have distracted him from carrying out his mission. He was confident that the public declaration made by the Prophet about him was sufficient reassurance for his rights of succession.
At the meeting, Abu Bakr was elected the first Caliph and Umar led the congregation 'in Madinah the next day to obtain fealty for the new Caliph. All felt betrayed and refused to give his endorsement to the process of election by which Abu Bakr became the first successor to the Prophet of Islam. As a result of this incidence, bitterness and unpleasantness ensued. However, All did not raise arms to obtain his rights by force. In fact, there were many in Madinah at that time who wanted him to do so. He only wished for Islam to remain a unified force, and showed no wish to divide the young nation by a civil war of succession. Within six months of the death of the Prophet, his beloved daughter Fatitna also passed away leaving her husband and her family in deep grief.
Just before his death, Abu Bakr named Umar as his successor. Thus Ali was deprived of his rights to become the caliph a second time. He protested against the method but again refrained from using force to assert his right to the caliphate. Despite his bitterness on the issue of Caliphate, Ali did not refrain from providing advice to the caliphs whenefer he was consulted in the matters of the State or ofj'urisprudence. When Umar was fatally wounded by Abu Lulu the dis-satisfied Persian slave, he set up an elaborate electoral council of six most eligible candidates for succession which also included Ali. However, the mechanism effectively eliminated Ali, and Uthman became the third caliph.
By this time, the boundaries of the Muslim' rule had extended to far off lands. It had been many years that Ali was not seen participating actively in matters of the State, and had retreated into a quiet life in the coastal town of Yanbu, located in the north west of Madinah. By now, the numbers of new Muslims from far off lands had exceeded those in the Arab lands. However, the reign of Uthman quickly became controversial because of his policy of promoting Umayyads to key positions throughout the empire. Many of the previous governors, who were among the respected companions of the Prophet, were replaced by the new Umayyad nominees. Most of these new officials of Uthman were neither pious nor knowledgeable in matters of religion. They were arrogant and their behavior was brutal to many companions of the Prophet who had settled in the new provinces. Complaints sent to the Caliph produced no response, as they were filtered by his personal secretary (and son-in-law) Marwan bin Hakam. This aroused wide spread dissention among the Madinan Muslims as well as the new Muslims in the peripheral provinces. Many deputations sent to meet with the Caliph returned without any change of personnel or policies.
Ultimately an angry mob of Muslims marched onto the Caliph's palace and assassinated him. The mob had consisted of a huge representation from the provinces as well as many prominent companions of the Prophet from Madinah who had opposed the policies of Uthman. For several days there was chaos in Madinah. At this point people came to Ali and unanimously elected him their Caliph. All had to accept the trust, knowing full well that the task of governing the nation at that time was a formidable one. He told the people that he would strictly follow the Quran and the Prophet in his government, and there would be some who would not like it. However, many companions who were aware of the impeccable character of Ali, were confident that he would bring justice to the people.
No sooner did the new Caliph take office, the Umayyad camp in the north under Muawiyah bin Abu Sufyan began a systematic revolt against him and demanded revenge for the blood of Uthtnan (who was also from the Umayyad clan). His excuse for the rebellion was that the new Caliph did nothing to punish the killers of Utlunan.
In Madinah, several sympathizers of the slain Caliph also echoed the Umayyad uproar. Ironically, the Prophet's wife Ayesha binte Abu Bakr, who was among the foremost to protest against Uthman's policies, now wanted to avenge his murder. Whereas it is true that Ali was not pleased with the policies of Uthman, he did not form public demonstrations and never took part in any agitation or mob protest that ultimately led to Uthman's assassination.
Two of the candidates for caliphate in the electoral council designed by Umar before his death, Talha and al-Zubayr (the former a cousin and the other a brother-in-law of Ayesha), still considered themselves to be active candidates for the high position. The appointment of Ali to the Caliphate by popular vote was not acceptable to them. They also instigated the rising against the new Caliph for their own motives.
LIFE OF IMAM ALI AS A CALIPH
On becoming the Caliph of the Islamic State, Ali had a stonny five years long career. The rising against the new Caliph had a catchy slogan:'to avenge the murder of Uthman'. In this rising Talha and Zubayr enlisted the support of Aycsha, who by her own admission in later years, was 'gravely misled by the mischief mongcrs'. Muawiyah who had been a governor of the provinces of Palestine and Syria for nearly twenty five years, had enjoyed virtual autonomy during the rule of the preceding three caliphs. Taking advantage of the situation, he refused to accept Ali as the Caliph. In fact, he wanted to have the seat of Caliphate for himself Muawiyah fuelled the revolt by the three leaders in Madinah, and they marched on to the province of Basrah and took it after a bloody massacre.
THE BATTLE OF JAMAL (CAMEL)
Ali invited the instigators of the revolt to avert the civil war, avoid the inevitable killing of more Muslims on either side, and to resolve the dispute through negotiation. As the three leaders had gained victory at one front, they were confident of continued success at other fronts as well. Ali had to draw his sword when his ambassador with an invitation for peace was killed by the order from one of the revolting three leaders. This started the disgraceful Battle of the Camel. This was the first time that Muslims drew their swords against each other in battle. There were companions of the Prophet on both sides. People had forgotten the Prophet's famous saying, "Ali is with the Truth, and the Truth is with Ali."
However, at the open confrontation, Imam Ali was victorious. Although Zubayr had withdrawn from the battle, he was assassinated on his way back to Madinah. Talha bled to death from an arrow shot at him by the Uma@ad Marwan, who was a soldier in their army. At the end of the battle, Ayesha was escorted back to Madinah with great respect.
THE BATTLE OF SIFFEEN
After dealing with the revolt headed by Ayesha, Ali invited Muawiyah to come under the direct rule of the Caliph. Having enjoyed virtual autonomy and power for over two decades, Muawiyah declined to abide by the Caliph's advice. He gathered his army of regular soldiers and declared war against the Caliph. This important event took place at Siffeen.
The army of the Caliph consisted of believers whojoined forces with him as volunteers. They fought with vigor and faith but the confrontation turned out to be a long drawn out one. When Muawiyah saw that his defeat was inevitable, he resorted to a clever trick. He ordered his army to hoist copies of the Qur'an atop their spears and cry out aloud to stop the war in the name of Allah and turn to the Qur'an to resolve their differences.
EMERGENCE OF THE KHARJITES
The soldiers of the Caliph fell to the clever ploy by Muawiyah and asked Ali to resolve this matter through arbitration. Whereas Muawiyah got the arbitrar of his choice, the Caliph had to accede to the choice by the majority of his soldiers. By a deceitful maneuver during arbitration, the representative of Muawiyah gained advantage over the Caliph's camp. This sent a wave of dissent in his an-ny and caused a large portion of them to abandon allegiance to him. In fact, they took up the position of open confrontation and took up arms against him. This group of deserters is known as the Khawarij (the Khadites).
THE BATTLE OF NAHRAWAN
With an eloquent lecture to the dissenting soldiers, Ali was able to convince a large section of them to abandon their hostility and open confrontation against him. A remaining force of about four thousand soldiers persisted in their resolve to fight him. A bloody battle ensued at Nahrawan, and all but a handful of them perished. At a later date they regrouped and had a second attempt against the Caliph, but lost with massive bloodshed. Despite such grave losses, the Kh@ite movement persisted and could not be totally wiped out. The survivors retreated to the mountains to brew further mischief.
THE SEQUELAE OF SIFFEEN AND NAHRAWAN
After the battle of Nahrawan, Ali invited his army to head for Syria to subdue the rebel governor Muawiyah for his deceit. The soldiers asked Ali to return to Kufa briefly so that they could visit their families and refurbish their supplies. Having returned to Kufa, the army of volunteers simply disappeared. Thus, the righteous Caliph was unable to regroup a substantial force to bring the revolting governor of Syria under the rule of the Caliphate.
Muawiyah took this opportunity and started a systematic scheme to weaken the hold of the Caliph over the provinces. He invaded and took the western province of Egypt. Muhammad bin Abu Bakr, the governor of the province was captured on his way between Madinah and Egypt and was killed.
Muawiyah sent his army on a wild rampage in Hijaz, and all the way down to the province of Yemen, leaving in their wake indiscriminate looting and burning of property. He sent down swarms of his army contingents to the province of Basra and weakened their allegiance to the Caliph. As part of his demeaning propaganda against Ali, he introduced an ignoble practice of cursing Ali on the pulpit in the Friday congregational prayers, held throughout the territory controlled by him.
The Caliph addressed his subjects during the congregational prayers and at other occasions and appraised them of the deeds of the rebel governor. He tried to awaken their conscience and induce in them the spirit of individual dignity and self-respect. He advised them that if they remained placid, they would be the next on the rampage of Muawiyah. The untiring efforts of the Righteous Caliph in his eloquent sermons again roused his followers to regroup, and a respectable army gathered for the defense of the province of Iraq.
THE MARTYRDOM OF IMAM ALI
Imam Ali had many enemies from his first battle against the Kuffar (non-believers) during the early days of Islam down to the recurring conflicts against the charlestons who declined to accept his Caliphate, including Muawiyah bin Abu Sufyan, the rebellious governor of Syria. The new faction of the Khwarij in his own caliphate were his new enemies, who wanted to have him killed. Abd ar-Rehman ibne Mulji@ a previously unknown Kharji hid in the mosque over night during the month of Ramadhan. He struck the Imam on the head with a poison-dipped sword while he was prostrate in Ms prayers. The Imam suffered from the poisonous deep cut wound for three days and died at home surrounded by his grief-stricken family.
Before he died, he called his elder son Hasan to his bedside and appointed him to be the Imam after him. On his deathbed, Imam Ali gave his last advice to his children as well as Muslims, which is summarized here: -Keep piety your foremost goal in life.
-Be organized, and always be prepared to further the cause of Islam.
-Do not forget the orphans among you.
-Remember your neighbors at all times.
-Make al-Qur'an your guide.
-Maintain prayers as your foremost discipline in life because this is the strongest pillar of your faith.
-Give freely in the name of Allah, including your lives when needed to defend Islam.
-Remain united, and protect each other from sin, because if you fail to do so, others will become your overlords.
REFLECIRIONS FROM THE LIFE OF IMAM ALI
Upon the death of the third caliph, Imam Ali became the Caliph of a vast nation of new Muslims who had not been introduced to the Ahle Bait and who had poor knowledge of the feats of Imam All or the teachings of the Prophet. However, among the companions of the Prophet, the towering personality of hnam Ali dwarfed them all. This provoked feelings ofjealousy among those who saw the opportunity slip away from their hands for the high position. Consequently the Caliphate of Imam Ali suffered a series of betrayals by many friends, companions and even Ayesha binte Abu Bakr, a wife of the Prophet. He was frustrated when he had to draw his sword against the Muslims who had previously protected and defended against the infidels. Many were confused when they saw the close companions of the Prophet come out in open confrontation in bloody battle. It was among these unsure and skepfic people that the Khaji faction emerged. It was these people who failed him in his efforts to subdue Muawiyah bin Abu Sufyan, the ambitious rebel governor of Syria. When this group of people rebelled against the Imam, it further compounded the problem of dissention, dissatisfaction and division among the Muslims already spearheaded by Muawiyah.
There were others in the Imam's army who expected large gratuities from him for their services, as practiced in the preceding era. The Imam did not give in to favoritism or nepotism, and considered the public treasury to be a sacred trust that could not be violated by using it to win loyalty or services. Many of them became dissatisfied and left the Imam when he refused to meet their expectations. Even in the battlefields, he had forbidden his soldiers to loot or strip the fallen in the opposite camp.
Imam Ali had planned major reforms for the state since it had fallen into geperal abuse towards the end of the rule of the third caliph. These were delayed due to the civil disorder he had to deal with. There was only a brief period of relative peace in his province after the battle of Nahrawan in which he could institute his reforms. They illustrate his great foresight, wisdom and organization. It is not within the scope of this book to discuss or describe tlxm here. For this, the reader may rcfcr to Nalijul-Balaglia, a collection of the Imain's Sermons, letters and sayings.
The sermons and lectures of the lmwn are highly eloquent and full of knowledge and wisdom. The style in which he delivered them reminded people of the times of the Holy Prophet. The people attended the congregational prayers led by him and sat to savor the sermons he gave for their spiritual as well as worldly improvement.
Peak of Eloquence
The book nwned Nahjul-Balagha was compiled and named as such by Abul Hasan Syed Muhammad Razi, generally known as Syed Sharif al-Razi (359-406AH).
He was a brilliant student of the great jurist AbuAbd Allah Sheikh Mufid. Before his death, he had produced forty other works of reference on al-Qur'an and Hadith. However his masterpiece remains the compilation of the book Nahjul-Balagha.
Syed al-Razi had come across the sayings, sermons and letters of Imam Ali scattered in various books of theology, history, biography, literature and the commentaries of al-Qur'an and Hadith. He found references made to a considerable collection of materials by the first century scholars that had been lost due to the turmoils of the time. He went back into the written materials available to him and with painstaking meticulousness, selected the spoken word of Imam Ali. He searched and obtained the authentic collections for his book. He could only classify these materials into sermons, letters and sayings of Imam Ali. Since the reference material came to his attention at different times, the extracted materials had no chronological sequence. He died five years after the completion of his book. It is probable that if he had lived longer, he would have re@ted his collection into chronological order or according to content or topic. It is clear that he considered the work sacred and devoted many years of his life to complete it. No sooner had it gotten published, than it became the center for interpretations and commentaries by many authorities of his time. Commentaries on the book have continued to be published right through the ages, and most of these works are currently available in many languages, including English.
The book Nahjul-Balagha, as compiled by Syed al-Razi contains a collection of 245 sermons, 75 letters and 210 sayings of Imam Ali. Apparently there were many more of these sermons and letters that were not available to Syed al-Razi at the time. It was Sheikh Muhammad Abdoh (d. 1323 AH), a mufti Ourist) in Egypt, who got the Nahjul-Balagha published and thus acquainted the centers of learning in Egypt and Beirut with the wealth of knowledge contained in this book. The reader is urged to obtain a copy of the book for himself and benefit from the wisdom and knowledge of Imam Ali.THE DEWAN (COLLECTED POETRY) OF IMAM ALI
The eloquence of Imam Ali was exemplary among his peers and has remained unmatched to this day. His normal sermons used have a poetical rhyme in them. In fact the origin of the art and science of grammar in Arabic is ascribed to him. The poetical word of Imam Ali has been quoted in many classic works, and a Dewan is ascribed to him. Only two of his poetical works are quoted below:
I."Where hearts contain despair
And the spacious breast is stifled by what is within it,
And cares make their abode and repose,
And sorrows anchor in their habitations,
And no way is seen for dispelling of distress,
And the stratagem of the cunning availeth not;
There shall come to thee in thy despair a helper,
When the answerer of prayer who is nigh, shall bring
For all sorrows when they have reached their term,
There is linked to them an approaching joy."
2."Men lust for the world and plot for it,
Yet its clearness is mingled for them with impurities.
They do not give thou of it thy portion
According to thy wisdom when it is distributed!
But men have their allotted shares according to their destinies,
How many there are of the wise and sagacious unprospered! While a fool has gained his wealth by errors,
If it could be acquired by force and rapine,
Falcons would sweep off with the subsistence of sparrows!
GNOSIS OF ALLAH ACCORDING TO IMAM ALI
1. "I know Allah by Allah, and I know that which is not Allah by the Light of Allah."
"I have seen the Face of Allah, for if I had not seen it, I could not worship Him!"
"The height of gnosis is His confirmation."
"The height of confirmation is Tawhid (Oneness)."
"The height of Tawhid is the acknowledgement of the supremacy of Allah in all matters."
"He is beyond all attributes."
"No particular attribute can give an idea of His exact nature."
"He is not bound by anything; all things are bound by Him."
"He is infinite, limitless, boundless, beyond Time, beyond Space, beyond imagination."
"Time does not affected Him."
"He existed when there was nothing."
"He will exist for ever."
"His existence is not subject to the laws of birth or death."
"He is manifest in everything, but He is distinct from everything."
"He is not the cause of anything; everything is because of Him."
"He is unique."
"He has no partner."
"He is The Creator."
"He creates as He destroys."
"All things are subject to His command."
"He orders a thing to be and it is."
2.Man is a wave in the boundless sea of Allah.
"As long as man's vision is clouded by ignorance and sensuality he will consider himself a separate entity, different from Allah.
"But when the veil between him and Allah is lifted, he will then know what he
3 . While living in the world do not renounce it, yet have no undue attachment to it. Detachment from it (zuhd) means attaining Allah.
IMAM ALI, THE ORIGINATOR OF SUFISM (MYSTICISM)
Imam Ali is acclaimed as the Father of Sufism, and the Prince of Saints. Most Suft orders claim their descent from Imam Ali and emulate him in his phi ' losophy, gnosis and worship of Allah. Imam Ali held that men should be virtuous, as virtues purify the soul; and it is only the purified soul that can be the recipient of spiritual enlightenment. This is the doctrine of Inner Light, which sits in the core of the Sufi Ihought.
IMAM ALI, THE ORIGINATOR OF FIQ (ISLAMIC JURISPRUDENCE)
In the years prior to his own rule, Imam Ali was consulted by the preceding Caliphs in matters of Islamic law and judgements. It is said that even his archenemy Muawiyah acknowledged his superiority in knowledge, and had consulted him on an unusual case of inheritance that he was unable to solve.
During his own rule, Imam Ali used to address the Muslims after the congregational prayers, and expounded on the Word of Allah, and elaborated its meanings and implications with the Hadith and Sunna of the Prophet. He spoke on the purity of Faith and the Fidelity 'in the ritual practices of religion, on Worship and Submission to Allah, on Charity and Alms giving, on the Conduct of one!s individual life and one's interaction with the Society at large. With his letters to his governors, he gave specific instructions on how to deal with the Muslim and the non-Muslim subjects under their charge. All aspects of human fallibility were under his direct vision, and he explained to his sub ects how to deal with them. Thus, in the light of Qur'an and Hadith, as well as his own illustrious conduct of life, he laid down the foundations of Fiq (Islamic Jurisprudence). The reader is once again referred to larger biographical works on the Imam for details.
IMAM ALI ON KNOWLEDGE
1. Knowledge is better than (worldly) wealth because: -"Knowledge is the legacy of the Prophets; wealth is the legacy of the pharaohs."
"Knowledge induces humanity in Prophets to say,'O Allah! We worship Thee and are Thine servants;'while wealth 'induces the pharaohs and the nimrods to claim godhead for themselves."
"You have to guard your wealth, but knowledge guards you."
"When knowledge is distributed it increases, but when wealth is distributed it decreases."
"A man of wealth has many enemies, but a man of knowledge has many friends. "
"A man of knowledge has a wider outlook and is apt to be generous, but a man of wealth is apt to be mean and miserly."
"Knowledge gains in depth and dimension with lapse of time, but wealth in the forms of hoarded coins and currency become rusty and loose its value."
"You can keep an account of wealth because it' limited but you cannot keep is it an account of knowledge because it is boundless."
"Knowledge illuminates the mind, but wealth is apt to darken it."
2. The highest purpose of knowledge is the awakening of latent spiritual faculties whereby one is enabled to discover his true and inner self.
3. Any form of knowledge which failed to show the infinite reality in man was useless, because it could not fill that vacuun of which the aching soul of every individual was so pathetically conscious."
Selected Sayings of Imam Ali
1. You are ordained to recognize the Imam and obey.
2. Anyone who has four attributes will not be deprived of their (four) effects:
-one who prays to Allah and implores to Him, will not be deprived of the granting of his prayers;
-one who repents for his thoughts and deeds, will not be refused acceptance of the repentance;
-one who has atoned for his sins, will not be debarred from salvation;
-one who thanks Allah for His blessings and bounties, will not be denied, for their thanks increase them.
The truth of this is attested by al-Quran:
-As far as prayers are concerned, Allah says, "Pray thee to me and I shall accept thy prayers."
-About repentance He says, " ftoever has done a bad deed or has persuaded himself to sin, and then repents and asks for His forgiveness, he willfind Allah most Forgiving and MercifuL "
-About being thankful He says, "Ifyou are thankfulfor what you are given then I shall increase My Bounties and Blessings. " -About atonement of sins He says, "Allah accepts the atonement ofthose who have committed a vice without realizing its enormity and then atonefor it.Allah accepts such attunements, He is Wise and Omniscient."
3 . Half of the success in life is to acquire friends and sympathizers.
4. This world is not a place of permanent abode. It is a passage, a road on which you are passing. There are two kinds of people: -those who have sold their souls for eternal damnation; and those who have bought their souls and freed them from damnation.
5. Minds get tired like bodies. When you feel that your mind is tired,then invigorate it with advice.
6. Obstinacy and stubbornness will not let you arrive at the correct decision.
7. In this world man is a target to the arrow of death, an easy prey of calamities and adversities:
-here every morsel and every draught is liable to choke one; -here one never receives a favor until he loses another instead;
-here every additional day in one's life is a day reduced from the total span of his existence;
-When death is the natural outcome of life how then can one expect immortality!
8. No wealth has more usefulness than intelligence and wisdom.,
-No solitude is more horrible than people avoiding you on account of your vanity and conceit or when you think your are above everybody to confide and consult.
-No eminence is more exalting than pity.
-No companion can prove more useful than politeness.
-No heritage is better than culture.
-No leader is superior to Divine Guidance.
-No deal is more profitable than good deeds.
-No profit is greater than heavenly reward.
-No abstinence is better than refraining from indulging in doubts (about religion).
-No virtue is better than refraining from prohibited deeds.
-No knowledge is superior to deep thinking and prudence.
-No worship or prayers are more sacred than fulfillment of obligations and duties.
-No religious faith is loftier than feeling ashamed to do wrong and bearing calamities patiently.
-No eminence is greater than humility.
-No exaltation or grandeur is superior to learning and knowledge.
-Nothing is more respectable than forgiveness and forbearance.
-No support and defense is stronger than consultation and counsel.
9.Anyone who loves us (Able Bait) must be ready to accept a life of austerity.
10.Best deed of a great man is to forgive and forget.