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His Belief

Ali was well-known for his piety and continence. He did many things for his own self as well as for his own people and others, as he was extremely pious. I believe that Ali's piety was not the outcome of circumstances like that of other pious persons, who engage themselves in worship on account of the weakness of their souls, or to escape the vicissitudes of life and to keep aloof from the people, or in imitation of their ancestors, and the effects of the events of life confirm it, because as a rule people accord respect to ancestral customs and traditions.((' According to the Christians `worship' consists of sequestered and monastic life. However, monasticism is not permissible in Islam. It was for this reason that the pious Muslinis neither avoided effort in life nor kept aloof from other human beings. On the other hand at times they heroically staked their very lives even when it was expedient to remain silent (and they do so even in these times).))

The fact is that the piety of the Imam Ali was based on a firm footing and was linked with the mutual tie which exists in all parts of the creation and has bound the sky and the earth with each other. His worship was in fact a continuous effort and a campaign against mischief for the sake of human life and prosperity. He fought against all aspects of evil and wickedness. On the one hand he fought against hypocrisy and selfishness and on the other hand against dastardliness, abjectness meanness, helplessness and other bad qualities which had been acquired by the people during those evil days. According to Ali the essence of piety is to sacrifice one's life for the sake of truth and justice. He has said: "Your faith should be at such a level that you should prefer truth to falsehood even though it may cause you loss and falsehood may bring you gain".

His piety was of the same type as defined by him. He was martyred on account of this very truthfulness, and if it be possible to give the title of "Martyr" to living persons it may be said that even while alive he was a martyr in the path of truth and righteousness.

If a person studies the piety of the Imam carefully it will become known to him that even in politics and government, he had a special method in the matter of worship which he pursued firmly. When he stood before the Almighty God he made his supplications with full

attention, just as a poet is lost in the beauties of nature.

The following remark of All is very instructive for those

who worship God and observe piety: "One group worships

God to be favoured with His blessings. This is the worship

of the tradesmen. Another group worships Him on account

of His fear. This is the worship of the slaves. A third group

worships Him by way of thanksgiving. This is the worship

of the free man".

Unlike many persons the imam's worship was not on account of fear, and it was also not a tradesman-like worship with the hope of acquiring Paradise. On the other hand when great men stand before the Almighty God they find themselves meek and obliged to consider themselves His worst slaves. The basis of this worship is reason, conscience, and spiritual perfection.

Ali's piety

When Ali offered his prayers he was frequently observed to be in a strange physical condition. When asked to account for the pallor of his face and the way in which his body trembled he replied, "I present myself to the Almighty to render an account of the various obligations that devolve on me and I do not know whether I have discharged them dutifully by protecting the defenseless and aiding the oppressed." His humility before God was one of the reasons why he was regarded as a saint of saints. Another factor which made him exceptionally pious was the important part which he assigned to prayer in his daily life.

One day when the Holy Prophet was sleeping with his head in Ali's lap, the time of "Asr" (afternoon prayers) had passed. Informed by Divine revelation that he had caused Ali to miss his prayers, the Holy Prophet said, "Verily, Ali was busy in the service of God and His Apostle. O Lord! Command Thy sun not to set yet and to come back into the world again so as to enable Ali to perform his prayers." The Sun re-appeared forthwith until All had finished his prayers.

In one of his many battles Ali is said to have been pierced by the head of an arrow, which could not be extracted and which caused him great pain for many months. One day, he was holding communion with God, he went into a state of reverie and on emerging from this trance he found that the head of the arrow had come out of its own accord, through the intercession of Divine Favors.

Because Ali was considered to be the most pious and most holy of all the believers in faith, the ,people also began to feel that God must have rewarded him by granting him the power to perform miracles. Tales abound of miraculous happenings. A withered tree grew again at Ali's touch; pebbles turned into pieces of gold at his command, so that a believer in faith could find money to pay back a Jewish usurer; Ali was gifted with divine qualities.

The Nahj al-balaghah and Philosophical Concepts:

Some others, on coming across certain words such as 'existence' (wujud), 'non-existence' ('adam), 'temporality' (huduth) and 'pre-eternity' (qidam), and so on in the Nahj al-balaghah, have been led to assume that these terms entered the Muslim intellectual world under the influence of Greek philosophy and were inserted, unintentionally or intentionally, into the discourses of 'Ali ('a). If those who advocate this view had gone deeper into the meanings of these words, they would not have paid heed to such a hypothesis. The method and approach adopted in the arguments of the Nahj al-balaghah is completely different from that of the philosophers who lived before al-Sayyid al- Radi or during his time, or even those born many centuries after the compilation of the Nahj al-balalghah .

Presently, we shall not discuss the metaphysics of Greek or Alexandrian (Neo-Platonic) philosophy, but shall confine ourselves to the metaphysical views propounded by al-Farabi, Ibn Sina and Khwajah Nasir al-Din al-Tusi. Undoubtedly Muslim philosophers brought new problems into philosophy under the influence of Islamic teachings which did not exist before, and in addition to them, introduced radically original ways of demonstration and inference to explain and argue their point with regard to some other problems. Nevertheless, what we learn from the Nahj al-balaghah is obviously different from this approach. My teacher, 'Allamah Tabataba'i, in the preface to his discourse on the traditions of Islamic scholarship, writes:

These statements help in resolving a number of problems in the theological philosophy. Apart from the fact that Muslims were not acquainted with these notions and they were incomprehensible to the Arabs, basically there is no trace of them in the writings and statements of pre-Islamic philosophers whose books were translated into Arabic, and, similarly, they do not appear in the works of Muslim philosophers, Arab or Persian. These problems remained obscure and unintelligible, and every commentator discussed them according to his own conjecture, until the eleventh century of the Hijrah (17th century A.D.). Only then they were properly understood for the first time- namely, the problem of the True Unity (al-wahdat al-haqqah) of the Necessary Being (wajib al-wujud) (a non-numerical unity); the problem that the proof of the existence of the Necessary Being is identical with the proof of His Unity (since the Necessary Being is Absolute Existence, Him Being implies His Unity); the problem that the Necessary Existent is the known-in-His-Essence (ma'lum bil dhat); that the Necessary Being is known directly without the need of an intermediary, and that the reality of every thing else is known through the Necessary Being, not vice versa ... [1]

The arguments of the early Muslim philosophers like al-Farabi, Ibn Sina and Khwajah Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, such as the discussions on the Divine Essence and Attributes, such as Unity, Simplicity (basatah), Self-Sufficiency, Knowledge, Power, Will, Providence, and so on, revolve around the conception of the necessity of existence (wujub al-wujud), from which all of them are derived, and the necessity of existence itself is deduced indirectly. In this fashion it is demonstrated that the existence of all possible existents (mumkinat) cannot be explained without assuming the existence of the Necessary Being. Although the argument used for proving the truth of this cannot be called demonstration per impossible (burhan khulf) in view of its indirect mode of inference, it resembles burhan khulf and hence it fails to provide completely satisfactory demonstration, for it does not explain the necessity of existence of the Necessary Being. Ibn Sina in his al-'Isharat claims that he has succeeded in discovering "the Why?" (lima) of it and hence chooses to call his argument "burhan al-siddiqin" (burhan limmi, i.e. causal proof). However, the latter philosophers considered his exposition of "the Why?" (lima) as insufficient.

In the Nahj al-balaghah, necessity of existence is never used to explain the existence of the possible beings (mumkinat). That on which this book relies for this purpose is the real criterion of the necessity of existence, that is, the absolute reality and pure being of the Divine Essence.

'Allamah Tabataba'i, in the above-mentioned work, while explaining a hadith of 'Ali ('a) found in al-Tawhid of al-Shaykh al-Saduq, says:

The basis of our discussion rests upon the principle that Divine Being is a reality that does not accept any limits or restrictions whatsoever. Because, God, the Most Exalted, is Absolute Reality from Whom is derived the existence of all other beings within the ontological limits and characteristics peculiar to themselves, and their existence depends on that of the Absolute Being. [2]

In the Nahj al-balaghah the very basis of all discussions on Divine Essence rests on the position that God is Absolute and Infinite Being, which transcends all limits and finitude. No point of space or time, nor any thing is devoid of Him. He is with everything, yet no thing is with Him. Since He is the Absolute, and the Infinite, He transcends all time, number, limit and proximity (all kinds of quiddities). That is, time and space, number and limit are applicable to a lower stage i.e. stage of Divine Acts and creation. Everything is from Him and returns unto Him. He is the First of the first and the Last of the last. He precedes everything and succeeds everything.

This is the idea that forms the axis of all discourses of the Nahj al-balaghah, and of which there is no trace in the works of al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd, al-Ghazali, and Khwajah Nasir al-Din al-Tusi.

As pointed out by 'Allamah Tabataba'i, these profound discussions of theology proper (ilahiyyat bil-ma'na al-'akhass) are based on a series of inter-related problems which have been posited in metaphysics (al-'umur al-'ammah). 3. An elaborate discussion of those theological problems and their relevant issues mentioned above is outside the scope of our present discussion.

There are two reasons for rejecting the claims that the theological discussions of the Nahj al-balaghah were inventions of later writers familiar with philosophical notions. Firstly, the kind of problems discussed in the Nahj al-balaghah were not at all raised by any philosopher till the time of al-Sayyid al-Radi, the compiler of the Nahj al-balaghah. That the Unity of the Necessary Being is not of the numerical kind and that Divine Essence precedes number; that the existence of the Necessary Being implies Its Unity; the simple reality of the Necessary Being; His immanence and other such notions were not known to philosophy during or before al-Sayyid al-Radi's times. Secondly, the axes of arguments presented in this book are altogether different from the axes of philosophical discussions which have been prevalent throughout history until the present day.

Knowledge and sagacity of Imam Ali (as)

Ali was matchless so far as power of perception is concerned. The Islamic learning rotates on the pivot of his intellect. He was the fountain head of knowledge. There is no branch of science in Arabia which was not founded by him or in the foundation of which he was not the chief figure. We shall write in detail later about his great skill in social sciences, because this topic deserves to be discussed separately. In this chapter I propose to deal only briefly with his knowledge of jurisprudence, scholasticism and Arabic litrature, as well as his judicial acumen. I shall be brief because many others have written on this subject and some of them have conducted deep research.. I shall, therefore, narrate briefly those facts which they have dealt with in detail, and shall narrate those things in detail which they have dealt with only briefly.

I begin with the Qur'an and the Hadith (tradition) and shall write about other sciences later so that it may become known as to how far the following words of the prophet proved to be true about Ali.

"I am the city of knowledge and Ali is its gate"

Ali was brought up by his cousin. He became his disciple and adopted his habits and conduct. The prophet's heritage became implanted in his treart and brain. He reflected over the Qur'an with the intellect and eye of a sage and learnt its latent realities. The circumstances provided him ample time to reflect over the Qur'an. So long as Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman remained busy with the caliphate, he kept his attention directed towards the Qur'an. He mastered its words and meanings. His

tongue could recite it eloquently and his heart was immersed in it. His knowledge of the traditions of the prophet was such that none else could compete with him in the matter. And there is nothing surprising. about it, because he was always associated with the prophet and benefited from him more than any other companion or Mujahid did. Whatever heard by others was heard lay him and whatever was heard by him was not necessarily heard by others. It is a well-known fact that Ali did not narrate any Hadith from anyone except from the prophet. This was so because he was certain that not even a word of the traditions of the prophet was hidden from his ears and heart. He was asked: "How is it that you are superior to all other companions in the matter of the knowledge of Hadith?" He replied: "It is so because the prophet told me whatever I enquired . from him, and if I did not enquire about anything he himself made it known to me".

Ali was superior to all others in the matter of jurisprudence and Islamic learning just as he acted upon them in a better way than others. Those who were his contemporaries did not find a greater jurist and a greater judge than him. Abu Bakr and Umar always approached him for the solution of difficult problems. These two caliphs benefited much from his knowledge and wisdom. Other companions of the prophet also consulted him for the solution of their problems. None could put forth better arguments than him with regard to legal problems.

As regards jurisprudence Ali's knowledge was not limited to text and orders. He was more adept than his contemporaries in other branches of learning also, as their knowledge is necessary for a jurist (for example mathematics).

Abu Hanifa is called 'the grand Imam' in the capacity of a jurist. He was a pupil of Ali, because he learnt jurisprudence from Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq and the chain of his teachers when taken upwards, ended with Ali. In the same way Malik son of Anas was a pupil of Ali through a few intermediaries. Malik learnt jurisprudence from Rabiya. He learnt it from Akrama. Ile learnt it from Abdullah and Abdullah learnt it from Ali.

Abdullah son of Abbas, who was the preceptor of all others, was asked: "What is the ratio of your knowledge to that of your cousin i.e. Ali. lie replied: "The ratio is the same as exists between a drop and the ocean".

The companions have unanimously quoted the prophet as saying: "The best judge amongst you is Ali".

Ali excelled all other persons of his time in matters of law, because he knew the Qur'an and religious rules and regulations better than all others, and in Islam correct judgements depend on these two things.

He possessed such intelligence, wisdom and power of thinking that in the event of dispute he could give the most rational judgement. His conscience was so strong that he was capable of giving a conscientious and just decision after examining and understanding various aspects of a matter.

Umar ibn Khattab has been reported to have said: "O Abul Hasan! May that problem be not auspicious for the solution of which you are not available".

While giving his judgement Ali, had regard for the claimants as well as for the nation and the general public. This double consideration and regard on his part was inter-dependent. He was the first judge who proved the rights of the people from philosophical point of view and said that it is the duty of the rulers to pay due consideration to these rights. Besides in the case of claimants it is also necessary to observe justice in the case of all persons in the matter of general administration. People are under obligation to perform certain acts for the reformation of the society in which they live.

There is mutual relationship between the human beings, and the public laws have joined them with one another. It is necessary to respect these laws for the reformation of the nation and not only for achieving personal ends.

Ali established public laws and national unity, and treated all the individuals as one person in the matter of rights and responsibilities. In his orders and judgements

he fully observed this principle which is being followed strictly by the civilized people of the present times.

One night Ali heard some afflicted person crying for help. He ran towards him at once and said: "'I 'he rescuer has come". He saw that one man was holding another man by his collar. When he saw Ali he left his opponent. Then he said addressing Ali: "I sold a piece of cloth to this man for nine dirhams and did not also violate any condition of the bargain. He gave me base coins and when I asked him to give me good ones instead he abused and slapped me',".

Ali asked the buyer to take back the base coins and give the seller the good coins. Then he enquired from the other person whether he had any witness to comfirm that the buyer had slapped him. He produced the requisite evidence. Thereupon Ali asked the buyer to sit down and told the other man to take revenge. He, however, forgave him.

When Ali saw that the claimant had forsaken his right and forgiven the other person he did not press him to take revenge. He, however, kept this point in view in connection with this incident that it was necessary to take care of the rights of the common people and it was his duty to punish the oppressors so that the link of justice might remain firm amongst the people, and the rights of the nation might not be violated. He also kept in view the fact that in every community there are many powerful and. cruel persons who usurp the property and rights of the weak, and the latter cannot take back or demand their rights on account of weakness or fear, although it is only appropriate that their rights should not be encroached upon. He, therefore, thought within himself: "Who is there besides myself who should support them and claim their rights so that they may lead a peaceful social life and should rest assured that there is no distinction between the individuals in respect of social rights, and their rights are safe?"

In the case mentioned above, therefore, Ali let go the person who had been beaten but caught the agressor by the hand and slapped him nine times in the presence of the other person saying: "'This is the right of the ruler".

Ali was not contented with the outward appearance of anything and was keen to go deep into all matters. lie pondered over the Qur'an and the religion sagaciously in the same way in which other thinkers ponder over worldly matters.

No doubt a person possessing celestial power like Ali does not content himself with the apparent orders of the religion, the carrying out of prescribed duties and the formalities of worship. Mostly the people look at the religion and the orders relating to transactions and judgements in a superficial manner. However, Ali looked at their interior and realities also. He made these things the subject of his reflection and research, and proved that religion is based on the principles which are linked and related with one another. This led to the establishment of the science of scholasticism and Islamic philosophy. Ali was the first scholastic ( `Arif) and founder of scholasticism. (For details see "On Ilmul Kalam wal Irfan, ISP 82)

The ancient scholastics drank deep from this fountainhead, because they acquired, the elements and principles of scholasticism from him. The later scholastics also admit him to be their leader, because they also acquired guidance from him.

Wasil son of `Ata was the chief and the central figure of Mu'tazila sect. This was the first sect in Islam which introduced reason into religion and advocated that the religious precepts should conform with the principles of logic, and the correctness of religion should be proved by means of reason.

Wasil son of `Ata was the pupil of Abu Hashim son of Muhammad son of Hanafiya and his father Muhammad was the pupil of Ali.

The samething can be said about the Asha'ira, because they were the pupils of the Mu'tazila, who acquired kno%,ledge from Wasil son of `Ata, and he acquired it through some intermediaries from Ali.

The source and basis of Sufism lies in Nahj-al-Balaghah.

Before becoming aware of the (reel: philosophy the Muslim Sufis had acknowledged the sayings of Ali to be the source of their ideas, because till that time Greek philosophy and Persian philosophy had not yet been transferred to the. Arabic language.

The Almighty God willed that as in the case of religious knowledge Ali should be the pillar and centre of Arabian learning. Not even one person in his time could compete with him in the matter of Arabic literature.

With his perfect knowledge of syntax, eloquent tongue and great power of thinking he formulated the rules and principles of correct Arabic language. He confirmed it with logical reasoning and arguments. His skill in logical reasoning can be realized from the fact that he laid the foundation of Arabian sciences and paved the way for others to promote them.

History shows that Ali was the founder of the science of syntax. One day Abu'l Aswad, who was one of his companions came and saw that Ali's head was bent down and he was reflecting about something. He said: "O Commander of the Faithful! What are you thinkiny about-" Ali replied: "In your city (i.e. Kufa) I haxc heard something which was expressed by the speaker in a wrong manner. I have, therefore, decided to write an elementary book on the principles of the Arabic language".

He then handed over a paper to~ Abu'l Aswad on which it was,written that the .vords arc of thrcc kinds noun, verb and preposition.

This incident has also been narrated in another way and it has been said that Abu'l Aswad complained before Ali that the people usually spoke incorrect lan ,tuaurc, because since the time the Arabs had minaled, after their conquests, with the non-Arabs, incorrect phrases hail penetrated into their conversation.

The Imam reflected a little and then asked Abu'l Aswad to write down what he wits going to dictate. Abu'l Aswad procured a pen and a sheet of paper and then Ali said: "The Arabic langua1ge is composed of noun verb and preposition. Noun tells about the things which bears that name, verb tells about the motion and action of that thing and preposition conveys a meaning which is neither noun nor verb. "Things are of three kinds viz. a patent thing, a latent thing and a thing which is neither patent nor latent". (Some scholars of syntax say that by the third kind of things Ali meant `demonstrative pronoun').

Then he asked Abu'1 Aswad to expand and complete the subject according to the same `Nehv' (i.e. method or manner). From that day onwards this branch of learning began to be called `IVehv' (syntax).

One of the other attributes of Ali was his sharp intelligence and quick understanding. Often it so happened that whether it was an assembly of friends or a gathering of enemies he uttered extempore wise words, which became proverbs and passed from one tongue to another. Difficult mathematical problems which were enigmas for others were solved by him in no time. It is said that a woman came in the presence of Ali and complained that her brother had died leaving behind six hundred dinars, but out of that money she had been given only one dinar. Ali replied: "Perhaps the heirs of your brother consist of one widow, two daughters, mother, twelve brothers and yourself". And the position turned out to be the same as was mentioned by the Imam.

One day while Ali was delivering a sermon from the pulpit, one of those present said: "A man has died and he has left behind his widow, father, mother and two daughters". Ali replied at once: "The one-eighth share of the widow will be changed into one-ninth. As the Imam gave this judgement while he was occupying the pulpit the problem began to be called". "Obligation of the Pulpit".

Ali was the philosopher of Islam. Philosophy comes into existence by means of wisdom and intelligence and strong power of perception and inference. A philosopher is he, who mentions a number of important matters in a brief narrative and endeavours to live according to his words. -

Ali occupies the highest position not only among the philosophers of Islam, but also among the unique personalities of the human race.

It is very difficult to find a person like Ali who may infer theoretical and rational matters with the power of his intellect, and state them in beautiful and brief sentences in such a way that the time may preserve them, and they may become proverbs. Islamic sciences and learning absorbed the colour of humanity in their paintings by means of celestial philosophy and their fountainhead were the two personalities viz. Muhammad and Ali.

The Imam looked philosophically at the secrets of creation, human life and society and numerous sayings with regard to the oneness of God, divine matters, and metaphysics, are available. We have already remarked above that he was the founder of scholasticism and theology. He was a preceptor, whose skill and leadership has been admitted by every person, who came after him with his own view or remark. In Nahj al-Balaghah he has strung so many pearls of wisdom that, time, has made him stand in the first row of the philosophers of the world. Muhammad in fact referred to Ali when he said: "The scholars among my followers are like the prophets of descendants of Israel".



1. Maktab e tashayyu, No. 2 p. 120

2 Ibid, p. 126

3 Ibid, p. 157



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