Saturday 25th of June 2022
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Ali's counter attack

Ali mustered a force 4,000 strong and sent it to Yemen under the command of Jariah b Qodamah and Wuhaib b Massood al Thaqfi. On the way to Yemen the forces of Ali passed through the territory of Najran, whose inhabitants supported Muawiyah. They resisted the advance of the Alid force. In the action that followed the Najranites were defeated and killed in large numbers. When Basr came to know that the Alid force was advancing on Yemen, he could not make up his mind to risk an encounter with the Alid force. Before the Alid force reached Yemen, Basr and his Syrian troops made good their escape from Yemen and took the road to Syria. The Ali forces occupied Yemen, and restored the rule of Ali. The Governor appointed by Basr was deposed, and the Governor of Ali resumed his office. The people who had taken the oath of allegiance to Muawiyah recanted, and took the oath of allegiance to Ali again. 

After restoring the law and order in Yemen, the forces of Ali marched to Makkah and then to Madina. At both the places the story of Yemen was repeated. The Governors of Muawiyah deposed and the Governors of Ali were reinstated. The people who had taken the oath of allegiance to Muawiyah recanted and took the oath of allegiance to Ali again. 


Consequences of the raids of Muawiyah

As a consequence of his raids, Muawiyah was not able to acquire any territory. Because of these raids a greater part of the country was ravaged, and many persons had been killed. Basr the Commander of the forces of Muawiyah acted as a savage brute, and let loose a reign of terror. When Basr killed the young children of Ubaidullah, the Alid Governor of Yemen, and Ali came to know of this atrocity he invoked the curse of God on Basr. Back in Syria, Basr was struck with insanity. In the fits of madness that came to seize him he would shriek for his sword whereby he could kill the people. He was provided a wooden sword, and a stuffed animal skin on which to practice his skill. He wielded his sword with such mad fury that he died of exertion and the world was rid of him. 

Apart from the ravaging of the countryside and the massacre of the people these raids led to the grave consequence of the demoralization of the people. The people lost the sense of values, and judgement. One day they took the oath of allegiance to one person and the other day they recanted and took the oath of allegiance to another person. Islam came to sit lightly on the people, and instead of fighting in the cause of God as enjoined by Islam, the people fought to seek worldly ends, a course repugnant to Islam. 

That set both the sides thinking. According to the accounts that have come down to us, it is not clear what happened exactly after the failure of the raids undertaken by the forces of Muawiyah in the territory held by Ali. According to some authorities it was Ali who made overtures for peace. According to other authorities, it was Muawiyah who took the initiative in starting negotiations for peace. According to Tabari, the Caliphate was partitioned, and it was agreed that Muawiyah was to be the Caliph for Egypt and Syria, while Ali was to be the Caliph for the rest of the territories under the control of the Muslims. The details of such agreement are not available. It may be recalled that prior to the Battle of Siffin, Muawiyah had proposed such partition but Ali had not agreed thereto because he held such partition to be repugnant to Islam. Since then things had turned out to go in favor of Muawiyah, and according to the decision of the umpires, howsoever obtained, Muawiyah had manipulated to secure the sovereignty of the whole of the Muslim world. Muawiyah was not the man to lose the advantage that he had once secured. It appears to me that there was no regular agreement about the partition of the caliphate. The agreement was merely about a truce on the status quo basis "hereunder Muawiyah held Syria and Egypt, and the rest of the Muslim territories were under the control of Ali. This view gets support from the fact that a few months after this agreement, Muawiyah declared himself to be the Caliph for the entire Muslim world. If there had been a previous agreement for the partition of the caliphate Muawiyah could not so soon go back upon such an agreement and declare himself to be the Caliph for all the Muslim lands. According to the political thought that obtained at the time, the caliphate was indivisible and there could not be more than one Caliph. That is why in spite of the decision of the umpires in his favor Muawiyah had refrained from declaring himself as the Caliph so far. After the failure of his raids he made a truce to gain time and gather more strength. With the lapse of time the position of Ali grew weaker and that of Muawiyah grew stronger. By mid 660 C.E. Muawiyah saw that the position of Ali had become sufficiently weak and his best supporters like Abdullah b Abbas had forsaken him. At that stage be felt himself to be strong enough to declare himself as the Caliph. This declaration stunned Ali. He could not remain quiet at such declaration, and yet he was not strong enough to undertake military action against the pretender. At this stage Ali was the most distressed man, who did not know what to do. He felt that God was putting him to test, and as a true Muslim he decides to resign himself to the will of God.  

The Kharijite plot

Ali defeated the Kharijites at the Battle of Nahrawan, but that was not the end of the Kharijites. Because of the reverse met at Nahrawan they became all the more fanatic. Those who survived the disaster of Nahrawan burnt with the desire to seek vengeance for the blood of their comrades who had fallen in the Battle of Nahrawan. 

After the Battle of Nahrawan, many Kharijites went to Makkah and sought sanctuary in the Kaaba. At Makkah they saw that the occupation of the city by the Syrians, the people repudiated their oath of allegiance to Ali, and transferred their allegiance to Muawiyah, later they saw that when the Syrians were driven away from Hijaz, the people of Makkah recanted from their oath of allegiance to Muawiyah, and took the oath of allegiance to Ali again. The Kharijites felt sore that in this way the sanctity of the process of oath taking was violated, and instead of establishing the kingdom of God on earth, the parties were trying to establish their own kingdoms. That was revolting to the way of thinking of the Kharijites. According to their view all those who were fighting for power had committed sin and had ceased to be Muslims. Fanatics as they were, they had the conviction that they would be serving the cause of God, if they murdered all such persons who were the principal characters in the struggle for power. They singled out three men for such murder: Ali, Muawiyah and 'Amr b Al-A'as. 

The Kharijites in Makkah met at the Kaaba, and commissioned three young men to carry the plot of murder into effect. Abdur Rahman b Maljam al Sarimi was chosen to assassinate Ali at Kufa. Barq b Abdullah was entrusted with the task of murdering Muawiyah. Amr b Bakr was assigned the task of putting an end to 'Amr b Al-A as at Fustat. These young men whitened their swords with deadly poison. Thereafter they were required to proceed to the places assigned to them, and there wait till the seventeenth of the month of the Ramadan, when all the three assassins were to fall on their victims and kill them.


Muawiyah and his assassin

On the appointed date, Barq b Abdullah attacked Muawiyah at Damascus while he was leading the Fajr prayers. The murderer was caught red handed. His feet and tongue were cut off in the first instance. He was thereafter subjected to other tortures, and ultimately put to death. 

The wound that Muawiyah received was not fatal. His physicians offered him two alternative cures, one being cautery, and other was the drinking of a draught which would neutralize the poison, but would render him impotent. Muawiyah adopted the second alternative, and he was duly cured after a few days. The Kharijite plot to murder Muawiyah thus came to naught.


'Amr b Al-A'as and his assassin

At Fustat, the Kharijite assassin Amr b Bakr went to the main mosque on the appointed day to assassinate 'Amr b Al" A'as. 'Amr b Al-A'as was a child of fortune, and during his life luck favored him miraculously at critical moments. That day because of his illness due to colic pain, he did not attend the Fajr prayers in the mosque. Instead the prayers were led by his deputy Kharja b Hudhafa. The assassin had not seen 'Amr previously, and he took Kharja to be 'Amr. Dashing on Kharja, the assassin slew him with the stroke of the poisoned sword. Amr was caught red handed, and produced before 'Amr. 'Amr asked the assassin about his motive for killing Kharja. Amr said that he had really intended to kill him ('Amr), and Kharja had been killed because he took him for 'Amr. Under the orders of 'Amr, the Kharijite assassin was tortured and put to death. The Kharijite plot of murdering 'Amr b Al-A'as thus came to naught.


Assassination of Ali

Abdur Rahman b Muljam al Sarimi, the designated assassin of Ali, reached Kufa well before the appointed date. Here he fell in love with a Kharijite girl Qataum by name. According to chronicles she was an outstanding beauty. She had a face as beautiful as the moon, and her flowing jet black tresses were most captivating. Her father and brother had been killed in the Battle of Nahrawan, and she was fired with the desire to avenge their death. She agreed to marry Abdur Rahman if he could present to her the head of Ali as her dower. As he was already committed to the assassination of Ali he readily accepted the condition laid down by his beloved. At the instance of Qataum, two more Kharijites joined with Abdur Rahman in the conspiracy to assassinate Ali. One of them was Werdan, who was related to Qataum. The other was Shaubib b Bijrah who belonged to the tribe of Anjah. 

On the Friday morning of the seventeenth day of the month of Ramadan, the three conspirators went to the main mosque of Kufa just before the break of dawn. Here they took up their position in the narrow passage leading to the prayer hall. A little later Ali came, the mosque when it was still dark and there was no one else in the mosque. When Ali stood to pray, Werdan struck at Ali, but missed his mark. Then Abdur Rahman struck Ali on the forehead with this poisoned sword which penetrated on the brain through the scar of an old wound. Thereafter the assassins fled from the mosque. 

When the faithful assembled in the mosque for prayers they found Ali lying wounded on the prayer mat. A hunt for the assassins was made. Werdan resisted being taken captive and was killed. Abdur Rahman was apprehended and taken into custody. The third conspirator escaped from Kufa. Abdur Rahman confessed his guilt. He said that he had struck his blow at Ali in the name of God for he considered that in seeking power, Ali had sinned and was guilty of killing thousands of innocent people. Ali cursed Abdur Rahman for his misguided views. He, however, instructed his men that the assassin should be kept in custody and should not be subjected to any hardship. He observed that if he recovered from the wound, he would himself decide what punishment should be awarded to him. If he died the assassin was to lose his life. He was, however, to be killed in one stroke, and was neither to be mutilated nor made to suffer languishing death. 

The wounds of Ali proved to be fatal. No antidote could be found to counter affect the poison that had penetrated into the body of Ali. The condition of Ali steadily deteriorated and he breathed his last on the 24th of January 661 C.E. From God he came and to God he returned. 


Will of Ali

Before his death, Ali made his will in the following terms: "I declare in my will that except for God there is none who deserves to be worshipped. He is unique. He has no partner. Muhammad (peace be on him) is His Prophet and Messenger whom [i.e. commissioned to give the people guidance through the religion Islam. Islam is the most perfect religion and it is destined to prevail over all other faiths. All our prayers, our sacrifices, our life, our death, our everything is for God. I require all my children and family members to fear God. I wish that all of you should die in Islam. Hold fast to the faith of Islam. Remain united, for according to the Holy Prophet unity in ranks is better than prayers. Be kind to your relatives so that Allah may be kind to you. Remain steadfast in piety and resign yourself to the will of God. Never aspire to do anything which is beyond your reach. Be truthful always. Be kind to the orphans, and in their affairs fear God. Do not wait for their seeking your help. See that in your presence they should not be overcome by any care or anxiety. Be afraid of God in respect of the rights of your neighbors over you. The Holy Prophet always willed for the right of the neighbors indeed to such an extent that we were afraid lest the neighbors be declared as heirs. Follow the Quran in letter and spirit, and see that nobody takes precedence over you in the matter of the observance of the injunctions of the Holy Quran. In the matter of prayers be very particular for it is the basic pillar of Islam. As long as you are alive do not miss your prayers. Undertake Jihad with your life and property. Fear Allah in the matter of Zakat for it extinguishes the wrath of God. Fear God in respect of your regard for the companions of the Holy Prophet for the Holy Prophet made particular mention of them in his will. Be afraid of God in the matter of the poor and the needy. Make them share your wealth. Your slaves have rights on you. Fulfil your obligations. Those who disparage your religion, do not be afraid of them. If they wish to harm you, Allah will be enough to protect you. Try to live in the world in a way which may help it become better. Stop the tyrant from his oppression. Act upon the commandments of God. Face the realities of life with courage and fortitude. Do not be ruffled by the obstacles that stand in your way. Help each other in the doing of good. Do not help those who rebel or do mischief. May God be merciful to all who belong to the House of the Holy Prophet! I entrust you to the protection of God".


Hasan's oration on the death of Ali

Hasan delivered the following oration on the death of Ali: "O misguided men of the Banu Murad, you have killed a man who was so dear to the Holy Prophet and Allah. Your crime is most heinous. You have orphaned the Muslim community. You have deprived the faithful of their commander. You have killed a man who was an ideal man, who stood heads and shoulders above the people around him. He was the man who was the bravest man of the age. He was the most learned man of the times. His services to Islam cannot be forgotten. In the Holy Quran there are references to his greatness. There are numerous traditions of the Holy Prophet which speak of his outstanding qualities as a great Muslim. Also you killed a great man on the day when the Holy Quran was revealed. It was on this date that Jesus Christ was lifted to the heavens. Verily I swear by God in Whose Hand is my life that but for the Holy Prophet no person who has gone by, and no person who is to follow can excel Ali in the matter of virtue and faith. May his soul rest in peace."


His burial

Ali instructed that his burial place should remain a secret. He had many enemies, and he feared lest his body might be subjected to some indignity. According to legend, the dead body of Ali was placed on a camel which was driven from Kufa. The camel stopped a few miles west of Kufa, and here the dead body of Ali was buried secretly. No tomb was raised, and nobody knew of the burial place except a few trusted persons. It is narrated that more than a hundred years later, the Abbasid Caliph, Harun-ur Rashid, went deer hunting outside Kufa, and the deer sought sanctuary at a place where the hounds would not pursue it. On inquiry as to why the place was a sanctuary, Harun-ur-Rashid was told that it was the burial place of Ali. Harun-ur Rashid ordered a mausoleum to be built on the spot. In due course, the town of Najaf grew around the mausoleum.


Fate of the assassin of Ali

Ali had willed that his assassin should not be subjected to any torture but should be killed with one stroke of the sword. The assassin was a fanatic, and instead of being remorseful at his ghastly deed and heinous crime he continued to boast of his services to Islam in assassinating Ali. That annoyed the Muslims, and contrary to the will of Ali his assassin was subjected to torture. His eyes were seared, and his limbs were cut off. Thereafter his dead body was put in a sack and burnt.


Elegy on the death of Ali

Abul Aswad Al Dusli wrote the following elegy on the death of Ali: "And now. O eye, alas for thee, come to my aid. Now weep for the Prince of the Faithful; And let Umm Kulthum weep for him with her flowing tears, for verily she has beheld death. Now say to the schismatics wheresoever they may be, may the eyes of the envious never be refreshed. In the month of fasting you have made us grieve. For the best of all men universally. You have slain the best of those that have mounted steeds and tamed them or put foot upon a vessel of those who wear and adjust sandals, and of those who read the Quran and its perspicuous verses and in him were the noblest virtues and the love of the Apostle of God of the created things. Verily the Quraish know wheresoever they were that you were the best of them in ancestry and faith. When I stood before the face of the father of Husain, I saw the radiance that shone above his eyes and before his death were happy beholding the son-in-law of the Apostle of God among us establishing the truth in which there was no thought of evil and acting equitably between enemies and kinsmen. Knowledge with him was not hidden, nor was he created among the proud of heart. The people because when they lost Ali, like unto the ostrich, bewildered in a country bare of herbage. Rejoice not, Muawiyah, son of Sufyan. For verily the continuance of the Caliphate is with us."

The Biographer and his hero

A biographer is in some way an alter ego of the hero, whose biography he writes. There is some communion between the biographer, and his hero transcending considerations of time and space in writing this biography of Ali, I have had some communion with the soul of Ali, and in some mysterious way, I had the necessary guidance in appreciating such events in the life of Ali which were otherwise obscure. Just as a lover locks the image of his beloved in his heart, thus a biographer locks the image of his hero in his heart, and he can enter into a dialogue with such image. 


Biography and History

There is some difference in the approach of a biographer and a historian. A biography is usually an exercise in hero worship. A biographer is prone to paint the picture of his hero in bright colors. The approach of a historian is basically objective and constructively critical. Every hero of a biographer may not necessarily be a great man from the point of view of history. Where the hero is a great man in history, his biography has to be projected in the context of history. Ali is verily a great man of the history of mankind in general and history of Islam in particular. In undertaking this study in the life of Ali, I have to act not merely as a biographer but as a historian as well. This means that besides narrating the main events in the life of Ali, I have to examine the impact of such events on history. As such I have to subject the main events in the life story of Ali to critical examination to ascertain their causes and effects. Of course such criticism has to be constructive. 


Greatness of Ali

Greatness is a phenomenon whereunder specially gifted persons endowed with extraordinary qualities appear on the world stage from time to time. History is the science which studies the phenomenon of greatness. Usually every person who scales the heights of greatness and acquires a place in history is a success from the worldly point of view. There is some peculiarity in the greatness of Ali. He is great, indeed very great, but he was not a success from the worldly point of view in the conventional sense in which the word "success" is understood. We have thus to undertake a study to probe into the causes that militated against the success of Ali from the worldly point of view in spite of his greatness. We will also have to consider how he is great when he did not succeed from the worldly point of view. 


Periods in the life of Ali

The life of Ali can be divided into three distinct periods. The first period comprises the first thirty-two years of the life of Ali and extends from 600 to 632 C.E. I call this period the period of education and action. It was during this period that Ali received his education under the loving care of the Holy Prophet; imbibed the values of Islam; and acquired all the attributes that contribute to greatness. In the post-Hijri years he emerged as the greatest warrior of the age. He distinguished himself as a great warrior in the battles of Badr, Uhud and the Ditch. His crowning success was his conquest of the Khyber. In the battles he killed more men than any other single man in history. All those who fought in the duels against him were invariably killed. He came to be known as the "Lion of God". He acted as a Justice, and acquired fame for his wise and well reasoned judgments. He acted as the Governor of Yemen, and acquired good deal of experience as an administrator. He had the honor of announcing the verses of the Holy Quran about the "Declaration of Immunity" to the people on behalf of the Holy Prophet on the occasion of the Hajj. When the Holy Prophet died, Ali was in the prime of his youth, enlightened, experienced, wise, valiant, and an embodiment of virtues. He had expected that because of his outstanding qualities and his relationship to the Holy Prophet, he would be chosen as the Caliph, He was however, passed over, and this state of affairs continued for 24 years when the office of the caliphate was held by Abu Bakr, Umar and Othman. This period constitutes the second period of the life of Ali. During this period although Ali acted as a counselor to the Caliphs he generally kept aloof from active politics. I call the period as the "Period of inaction and contemplation." It was a period of inaction from the political point of view because he kept aloof from politics. It was the period of contemplation from the spiritual point of view, for this period was spent by Ali mostly in prayers, religious exercises and dialogues with God. The farther he went from the world, the nearer he got to God. The third period began when Ali was elected as the Caliph. This period lasted for five years only. I call this period as the period of frustration Ali found the caliphate to be a bed of thorns. During five years he had to fight three battles, the Battle of the Camel; the Battle of Siffin; and the Battle of Nahrawan. All these battles were fought against the Muslims and led to considerable bloodshed. It was a matter of the greatest shock for Ali that instead of fighting against the non-Muslims he had to fight against the Muslims. During this period, Ali had to suffer from frustration because of repeated and continuous betrayals, even by men close to him. At the outset of his caliphate, he was betrayed by the Banu Umayya, when Muawiyah defied him and accused him of involvement in the murder of Othman. He was betrayed by the people of Madina who did not respond to his call to undertake "Jihad" against Muawiyah. He was betrayed by Talha and Zubair who took the oath of allegiance to him and later defected. He was betrayed by Ayesha, his mother-in-law, who took up terms against him. He was betrayed by the people of Basra who had taken the oath of allegiance to him but later defected. At Siffin he was betrayed by his own army who would not fight when the victory was in sight. In the matter of arbitration he was betrayed by his umpire Abu Musa Ashari, who instead of defending his cause deposed him. He had to face the secession of the Kharijites who had originally fought on his side at the Battle of Siffin. He was betrayed by Khurrit b Rashid who had been his ally, but later revolted against him, and created trouble in Basra. He was betrayed by his own brother Aquil, who was not satisfied with the allowance that Ali gave him, and joined Muawiyah who rewarded him handsomely. He was betrayed by his cousin Abdullah b Abbas when he had appointed as the Governor of Basra, and who left his post after misappropriating heavy funds from the Bait-ul-Mal. The final act of betrayal came when Ali was martyred by a fanatic Kharijite. 


Causes for the non success of Ali from the worldly point of view

The usual phenomenon of greatness is that men succeed in life, and because of such success they acquire greatness. The usual law is that greatness is a consequence of success. Nothing succeeds like success and nothing fails like failure. This means that if you succeed you become great, but if you fail, you are pushed aside and are forgotten. In case of Ali we come across an extraordinary exception to the law of success and greatness. Ali's greatness is of a different species. His greatness did not flow from any success in life. Such greatness was inherent in him; it preceded his encounter with the world, and it outlived his death, although he did not succeed in his worldly life as the word "Success" is understood in the conventional sense. As a matter of fact, Ali became more famous after death than when he was alive. We may next proceed to consider the causes which militated against the success of Ali in spite of his greatness As a matter of fact the greatness of Ali was of such dimensions that he towered very high above the people around him. It was the case of Gulliver in the land of dwarfs. He was so high that he could not bend to meet the people, and the people were so low that they could not rise to meet him. As such a proper equation could not be established between Ali and the people around him, and that was the main cause why he was frequently betrayed, and why he did not succeed in the affairs of the world as the ordinary men succeed. Ali was very much in advance of his age, and the people of the age could not keep pace with him. 

By the time Ali came to office, a generation had passed since the death of the Holy Prophet. During this period the Muslims had made large conquests. That had brought great wealth, and wealth had changed the life of the people. A capitalist class sprang up among the Muslims. Ali, a great Muslim of the old type wanted to enforce the austere discipline of original Islam. He himself led a very simple life, and aimed to follow in the steps of Umar. Ali, however, lacked the harshness of Umar and could not enforce the reforms he had in view. There was a gulf between Ali, and the capitalist class who wielded considerable influence. Ali was very parsimonious in the spending of public funds while, Muawiyah who himself led a luxurious life was very liberal in spending public funds. The capitalist class among the Muslims given to the worldly way of life preferred Muawiyah to Ali because of personal considerations. While Ali was more concerned with the Hereafter than this world, the people around him were more concerned with the world than the Hereafter. This difference in outlook could not be bridged, and that is why there are many betrayals in the camp of Ali. These betrayals weakened the position of Ali considerably. Ali was a man of strong principles, and he would not compromise with principles. The people opposed to him were masters of propaganda, and they did not hesitate to adopt any means fair or foul to gain their end. Ali lost she game because he would not abandon his principles at any cost. 


Opposition of the Quraish

In the extension of the Muslim dominions, the Quraish had played the leading role. Ali was a Quraish, but he could not win the support of the Quraish. In his book Ali, the Superman, Dr. Mohyuddin has observed as follows about the opposition of the Quraish to Ali: "Ali hoped to establish a world-Islamic empire, a kingdom of God on earth, where peace was to reign supreme and mankind could move steadily towards perfection. That he failed so completely, is one of the enigmas of Islamic history. The student is perplexed, and indeed despondent, when he discovers that the entire tribe of the Quraish gave whole hearted support to the first two Caliphs. Abu Bakr, who belonged to the tribe of the Banu Adi, but not to their two successors, also belonged to the Quraish tribe. It is teaming indeed that they obeyed Abu Bakr and Umar blindly, but deserted Othman and Ali, whom they bitterly opposed and finally murdered. From the moment that Ali came to power, he was resisted and obstructed by the Quraishite, in spite of the fact that the aristocratic Quraish knew that Ali had noble blood in his veins, blood which had cowed in the veins of the Holy Prophet, and that in addition he had those personal traits of character, which made him unique amongst all the persons of his age. Ali's knowledge, piety, bravery, generalship, services for the propagation of Islam, and his achievements on the battlefield for the defense of Islam, made him superior to the first two Caliphs. He was superbly equipped to fill the office of the Caliph, yet the entire race seemed to have taken up arms against him. In spite of his qualities of mind and spirit, he seems to have been sacrificed to the prevailing tribal spirit of his countrymen. Perhaps it was his superiority, more than anything else, which lead to his downfall. He knew himself to be superior to his contemporaries, and he hated the petty tribal chiefs of the Quraish who were interested only in their self-aggrandizement. What is more, he let them know his contempt for them, seldom bothering with the formalities of consulting them and frequently acting independently of them, in defiance of established custom." 

Physical appearance

Ali was of medium height. He had a superb head with a face as noble as the man himself. His nose was straight, and his mouth was beautifully formed. His eyes were most commanding, being full of light and luster. There was a note of music in his voice. There was an aura of spirituality, and a strong personal magnetism about him. In his youth, he was handsome, and full of fiery vigor. In his latter age, he became corpulent and bulky. His gray hair of the head gave way to baldness. His beard, however, remained thick and luxuriant, and he often dyed it red. He was stout, genial, charitable, meditative, reserved-a man who towered high above the people around him because of his intellectual and spiritual attainments. Ali, the man was endowed with all qualities that make a man great. He is not only great, he is regarded as a superman, an ideal man. He was a paragon of virtue. He enjoyed fame for his piety, and religious devotions. He was en embodiment of Islamic values. In his love of God and His Messenger, he was second to none. While praying to God, his absorption was so intense that he often lost consciousness. His mind was so pure that he could hold communion with God. He had learnt the Holy Quran by heart, and he could quote appropriate verses to suit every occasion. He was most truthful and honest. He most humble he was simple in his habits. He avoided display and luxury. He lived the life of an ascetic. Even when Caliph, he lived in an ordinary house. The doors of his house remained open for all at all times. He was most generous. He was most liberal in giving charity. He always came to the help of those who were distressed and involved in any difficulty. He looked after widows and orphans as if they were the members of his own household. He was a warrior, a General, and a man conspicuous for his bravery and valor. Indeed he was braver than any other man in history. He fought hundreds of duels in his lifetime, and in all such encounters his rivals were worsted. In the various battles he killed a record number of enemy. He was a skilful swordsman. His sword would never miss its mark. In the various battles that he fought he never turned his back. He was an embodiment of patience. In the Battle of Uhud he received so many wounds that the nurses were unable to dress such wounds. He bore the pain with great patience. The people around him misunderstood him, but he did not lose patience. He was most chivalrous, and forgiving. He would forgive even his worst enemies. He was a great scholar. His book Nahj-ul-Balagha is a living proof of his scholarship and erudition. There was a sense of humor about him, and sometimes he said things in a lighter vein to bring home the point he had in view. He was a master of similes and metaphors, and when bringing home a point he always illustrated it with appropriate metaphors and similes. He was a great philosopher, and there is great depth in his thoughts expressed in his writings. He was known for his wisdom. He was indeed wiser than Solomon. Most of his wise sayings have attained the dimensions of proverbs. He was a great orator. His sermons were most impressive. He was the master of rhetoric. He is regarded as the father of Islamic learning. He has left a deep mark on Islamic theology. He was the founder of Arabic grammar. He was a great poet. He was the Father to Sufism. He was the Father of Islamic jurisprudence. He was an impartial judge His famous judgements are the most valuable assets of Islamic jurisprudence. He was a skillful administrator. He introduced numerous reforms. He was an eminent political thinker, and his political thought has an air of modernity about it. The greatness of Ali as a man is multi-dimensional in character, and after the Holy Prophet he is the greatest Muslim whose memory is honored by the Muslims, all over the world. 


Wives and children of Ali

The principal wife of Ali was Fatima, the favorite daughter of the Holy Prophet. During the lifetime of Fatima, Ali at one stage proposed to marry a daughter of Abu Jahl. When the Holy Prophet came to know of this proposal, he felt annoyed and declared that if Ali wanted to marry another wife, he should divorce Fatima in the first instance. Thereupon Ali abandoned the idea of marrying another wife. Fatima was the mother of three sons and two daughters. The sons were Hasan, Husain, and Mohsin. Mohsin died during childhood. The daughters were Zainab and Umm Kulthum. 

After the death of Fatima, Ali married a number of wives. These were: 

Umm-ul-Bunian who was the daughter of Hazam b Khalid. Ali had five sons from her: Abdullah, Jafar, Abbas, Othman, and Umar. All of them except Abbas were martyred in the Battle of Karbala along with Husain. 

Khaula who was the daughter of Jafar Hanfiyah. She was the mother of a son known as Muhammad b HanSyah. 

Umm Habib who was a daughter of Rabiah She gave birth to a son Umar, and a daughter Ruqiya. 

Asma who was the daughter of Umais. She was in the first instance married to Jafar, an elder brother of Ali. On the death of Jafar, Abu Bakr married her. After the death of Abu Bakr she married Ali. She had two sons from Ali: Yahya and Muhammad Asghar. 

Laila, who was the daughter of Masud. She was the mother of two sons: Ubaidullah and Abu Bakr. 

Umama, who was a daughter of Abi Al Aa's, and Zainab, an elder sister of Fatima. Her son from Ali bore the name of Muhammad Aswat. 

Umm Saeed who was a daughter of Urwa. She bore Ali two daughters, namely: Umm-ul-Hasan and Rumla. 

Muhyat was a daughter of the famous Arab poet Imra-ul-Qais. She gave birth to a daughter who died in infancy. 

Ali married nine wives in all including Fatima. The number of wives at a time, however, did not exceed four. He had a few slave girls of whom Humla and Umm Shuaib bore him 12 daughters: Nafisa, Zainab, Ruqiya, Umm-ul-Kaream, Humaira, Umm Salma, Sughra, Khadija, Umm Hani, Umm Kulthum Jamana and Maimuna. Ali was, in all, the father of fifteen sons and eighteen daughters. 

Man of many distinctions

Ali was a man of many distinctions. He owed his distinctions to his relationship with the Holy Prophet, his valor, his knowledge and his spiritual attainments. 


His birth

He had the distinction of being a Hashimite both on the side of his father as well as his mother. He had the distinction of having a name which as a derivative of the name of Allah, no other person before him bore the name of Ali. 


His relationship with the Holy Prophet

On opening his eyes after his birth the first person that he saw was the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet named him. As an infant he had the honor of sucking the tongue of the Holy Prophet. He was the first cousin of the Holy Prophet. He became a ward of the Holy Prophet, and was brought up as a family member of the household of the Holy Prophet. He received his training under the loving care and guidance of the Holy Prophet. 

When the Holy Prophet declared his mission, Ali was the first teenager to be converted to Islam. Khadija and Ali were the first two persons to pray after the Holy Prophet. When the Holy Prophet invited the Hashimites to a dinner and asked them to aid him in his mission, Ali was the only person to respond to the call of the Holy Prophet. He risked his life for the sake of the Holy Prophet and slept on his bed when the Holy Prophet left for Madina, and the Quraish youth besieged the house with a view to killing the Holy Prophet. When the Holy Prophet left for Madina he entrusted to Ali the task to return the belongings of the people to them which they had placed in the custody of the Holy Prophet. When the Holy Prophet joined the Muhajjirs and the Ansars in fraternity in Madina, he allied himself in fraternity with Ali. The Holy Prophet married his beloved daughter Fatima Zahra to Ali. He was commissioned by the Holy Prophet to write the agreement which came to be known as the Hudaibia Pact. After the conquest of Makkah he had the unique distinction of standing on the shoulders of the Holy Prophet and destroying the idols in the Kaaba. He was entrusted by the Holy Prophet with the special mission of announcing the Quranic Surah "Al Bara'at" (Immunity) to the people on the occasion of the pilgrimage. He was the only person to whom the Holy Prophet referred to as the Maula' of the Ummah. When the Holy Prophet proposed "Mubahala" with the Christians of Najran, he chose Ali as his "second man". The progeny of the Holy Prophet descends through Ali. He was the only person to whom the Holy Prophet imparted "inward knowledge". The Holy Prophet conferred many appellations on Ali such as Haidar-i-Karrar, Abu Turab, Asad-ullah, Syedul Arab etc. The Holy Prophet declared his relationship to Ali as those of Moses and Aaron. When the Holy Prophet died, Ali washed him and prepared his dead body for burial. 


His valor

He participated in all the wars of early Islam fought under the command of the Holy Prophet. In all the battles, Ali was the flag bearer of the forces of the Muslims. He was the bravest man among the Muslims. For his unusual bravery he won such titles as "Asad Allah," the lion of God, or "Haidar e Karrar" the warrior whom nobody could match. During his lifetime he killed over a thousand persons of the enemy. In the Battle of Badr alone he killed two dozen persons. He fought over a hundred duels, and in all the duels his adversaries, however strong, were killed. He was the Conqueror of Khyber.


His knowledge

He was the most learned man of his age. He was a living encyclopaedia of knowledge and learning. After the Holy Prophet he was the most eloquent person of the age. Because of his knowledge and wisdom he is known as the "Second Solomon". His wise sayings and aphorisms have attained the status of classical proverbs. He was the first person to write a grammar of the Arabic language. Among the early Muslims he is the only person whose collections of writings have come down to us under the title of Nahj-ul-Balagha. He was a distinguished poet. He enjoys fame as the "Father of Rhetoric". He was an authority on Mathematics. He was a master of the science of Physics. He had deep medical knowledge. After the Holy Prophet he is regarded as the greatest philosopher of Islam. He was a calligrapher and wrote a beautiful hand. 


His spiritual attainments

He was the first person to learn the Quran by heart. According to commentators there are at least three hundred verses in the Holy Quran which have an implied reference to Ali. After the Holy Prophet he was the chief judge among the early Muslims. He is regarded as the "Father of Fiqh". He is the first revivalist among the Muslims. He interpreted the doctrines of Islam and systematized them. He is regarded as the "Father of Sufism". All schools of Tasawwuff trace their origin to him. 


His Appellations

Because of his multi-dimensional greatness, and outstanding qualities, Ali is known by many appellations, and each appellation projects some particular aspect of his greatness. Some of these appellations are as follows:

                Murtada - he with whom God is pleased. 

                Maula - the master. 

                Haidar-i-Karrar - the brave warrior against whom no one could stand. 

                Asad Allah - the lion of God. 

                Al-Ghalib - the victorious. 

                Sher-i-Yazdan - the bravest man of the age. 

                Mushldl Kusha - one who resolved the difficulties of the people. 

                Shah-i-Awlia - the king of saints. 

                Shah-i-Mominin - the king of the pious. 

                Abu Turab - Father of the Earth. 

                Amir-ul-Momineen -the leader of the faithful. 

                Amin-ul-Momineen - the trustee of the faithful. 

                Imam-ul-Muttaqeen - the leader of the god-fearing. 

                Sayyid-ul-Arab - the chief of the Arabs. 

                Al Wasi - the testamenter. 

                Al Hadi - the guide. 

                Al Zahid - the chaste. 

                Al Abid - the pious. 

                Al Salah - the reformer. 

References to Ali in the Holy Quran

According to the commentators of the Holy Quran there are numerous verses in the Holy Quran which have implied references to Ali. According to the Shia commentators there are as many as three hundred verses of the Holy Quran which have an implied reference to Ali. According to the Sunni commentators, the number is much smaller. Some of the verses which according to the consensus of the commentator refer to Ali are given hereunder: 


Verse 33, Sura 33

Verse 33 of Sura 33 of the Holy Quran {33:33} reads: "Allah's wish is to remove uncleanliness far from you O'Folk of the Prophet's household, and cleanse you with enough cleaning". Ali is obviously included in the expression "Folk of the Prophet's household". 


Verse 61, Sura 3

Verse 61 of Sura 3 provides {3:61}: "And who so disputes with you concerning God after the knowledge which has come to you say to him: Come, we will summon our sons, your sons, our women and your women and ourselves and yourselves. Then we will pray humbly to our Lord, and solemnly invoke the curse of Allah upon those who lie." 

This verse alludes to the deputation of the Christians of Najran who came to Madina to hold discussion with the Holy Prophet about the truth of Islam. In this verse, the reference to "Our sons, and our women" includes reference to Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husain. Verse 3, Sara Verse 3 of Sura 9 provides: And a proclamation from God and His Apostle to the people on the day of 'Greater Pilgrimage' that Allah is free from obligation to the idolaters and so is His Messenger. So, if you repent it will be better for you; but if you are averse, then know that you cannot escape Allah. Give tidings O Muhammad of a painful doom to those who disbelieve". In pursuance of this verse, the Holy Prophet commissioned Ali to go to the 'Greater Pilgrimage' to announce the verses of the Sura of "Immunity" wherein God absolved the Muslims from all obligations under the treaties previously concluded with the idolaters. 


Verse 23, Sura 42

Verse 23 of Sura 42 reads {42:23}: "Say O Muhammad to mankind: I do not ask of you any reward for it, but love for relatives, and whosoever earns good". 

According to traditions when the Holy Prophet was asked as to who were the relatives alluded to in the verse, the Holy Prophet said, "Verily, the reference is to Ali, Fatima, Hassan and Husain".


Verse 21, Sura 45

Verse 21 of Sura 45 reads {45:21}: "Do those who commit evil deeds suppose that We shall treat them like those who believe and do good deeds-that their lives and their deaths shall be equal. No, bad is their judgment". 

According to Ibn Abbas "the doers of good" referred to in this verse refer to Ali, Hamza and Ubaydah b Harith. 


Verse 17, Sura 11

Verse 17 of Sura 11 reads {17:11}: "Is he to be counted equal with those who rely on a clear proof from his Lord and a witness from Him recites it, and before it was the Book of Moses, an example and a mercy ? Such believe therein. Whoso disbelieves therein the Fire is his appointed place. So be not you in doubt concerning it. Lo, it is the truth from your Lord, but most of mankind believe it not". 

In one of his sermons, Ali said that there was hardly a man from amongst the Quraish who had not been referred to in the Holy Quran. Ali was asked to recite some verse which alluded to him. Thereupon he recited the above verse.


Verse 4, Sura 66

Verse 4 of Sura 66 reads {66:4}: "Now if both of you turn to Allah repentant it will be better for you, as your hearts are already so inclined. But if you back up each other against him, surely Allah is his helper, and Gabriel and the righteous among the believers, and furthermore all other angels too are his helpers". 

According to Ibn Abbas, the Holy Prophet said that the "righteous men" alluded to as "helper" in this verse refers to Ali. 


Verse 18, Sura 32

Verse 18 of Sura 32 reads {32:18}: "Is he who is a believer like him who is an evil doer? Verily, they are not equal". 

According to Ibn Abbas "believer" in this verse refers to Ali, and 'evil doer" refers to Walid b Utba. 

Verse 54, Sura 25

Verse 54 of Sura 25 reads {25:54}: "And He it is Who created man from water, and has appointed for him kindred by blood, and kindred by marriage and your Lord is all powerful". 

According to traditions "kindred by blood" and "kindred by marriage" refers to Ali.


Verse 36, Sura 24

Verse 36 of Sura 24 reads {24:36}:"The lamp of light is lit in houses which Allah has allowed to be exalted so that His name be remembered in them. Therein He is glorified in the mornings and evenings." 

According to traditions, the Holy Prophet said that the "houses" referred to in this verse include the house of Ali and Fatima. 

Verse 55, Sura 5

Verse 55 of Sura 5 reads {5:55}: "Your friend is only Allah and His Messenger, and the believers who observe prayer and pay the poor rate." 

According to traditions "believers" referred to in this verse includes a reference to Ali.

Verse 12, Sura 58 

Verse 12 of Sura 58 provides {58:12}: "O ye who believe! When you consult the Messenger in private, give alms before your consultation. That is better and purer for you. But when you do not find the wherewithal, lo! Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. "  

According to traditions when this verse was revealed the Holy Prophet wanted to fix an amount, which every person who consulted the Holy Prophet should pay. Ali represented that, as the people were generally poor no amount should be fixed, and the option should rest with the person concerned to pay whatever alms he could. 

Verse 181, Sura 7 

Verse 181 of Sura 7 reads {7:181}: "And of those We have created there are people that guide men with truth, and do justice therewith." 

According to traditions, the reference to "people that guide men with truth" in this verse includes a reference to Ali. 

Verse 57, Sura 43 

Verse 57 of Sura 43 reads {43:57}: "And when the son of Mary is cited as an example, behold, the people jeer thereat". According to traditions, the Holy Prophet is said to have told Ali one day that his example would be like that of Jesus Christ. A section of the people would love him so much that they would willingly die for him, while there would be some people who would fight against him. 

Verse 29, Sura 48 

Verse 29, of Sura 48 reads {48:29}: "Muhammad is the Apostle of God and those with him are firm against the disbelievers, and merciful amongst themselves. Thus see them bowing down, and prostrating themselves in prayer, seeking grace from Allah and His pleasure. Their mark is upon their faces, being the traces of prostration. Such is their description in the Torah. And their description in the Gospel is like a seed that sends forth its sprout, then makes it strong; it then becomes thick, and stands on its stem, delighting the sowers, and causing the disbelievers to burn with rage at the sight of them. Allah has promised to those of them who believe and do good works, forgiveness and a great reward." 

According to the commentary of Imam Abu Musa this verse was revealed in favor of Ali. 

Verse 43, Sura 13

Verse 43 of Sura 13 reads {13:43}: "And those who disbelieve say 'You are not a Messenger'. Say to them Sufficient is Allah as a witness between me and you, and so is he who possesses knowledge of the Book". 

According to commentators, the phrase "Whosoever has the knowledge of the Book", alludes to Ali. 


Verse 64, Sura 8

Verse 64 of Sura 8 reads {8:64}: "O prophet! Allah is sufficient for you and for such of the followers as follow you." According to commentators the phrase "such of the followers as follow you", alludes to Ali. 

Father of Sufism

Ali is acclaimed as the "Father of Sufism". Most of the Sufi orders claim their descent from Ali. According to Ali Hajjweri, the rank of Ali is very high in the line up of Sufism. According to Junayd of Baghdad, Ali is the Shaykh as regards the principles and practices of Sufism.


The Holy Prophet and Sufism

The roots of Sufism lie embedded in Islam itself. There are numerous passages in the Holy Quran which are of a mystical character. The Holy Prophet of Islam (peace be on him) himself displayed mystical inclinations and he very often retired to the cave of Hirah for the purpose of devotions, meditation and contemplation. The Holy Prophet was recipient of two types of revelations, one embodied in the Holy Quran, and the other that illuminated his heart. The former was meant for all, the latter for a selected few whose hearts could be illuminated with the Divine Light. The knowledge of the Holy Prophet was thus book knowledge (ilm-i-Safina), and heart knowledge (ilm-i-Sina). Ali got this heart knowledge from the Holy Prophet. It is related that after the Ascension, the Holy Prophet awarded a mantle to Ali which led to the illumination of his heart.


Gnosis of God

According to Ali, the base of religion is the gnosis of God. He held: "The height of gnosis is His confirmation. The height of confirmation is Tauhid. The height of Tauhid is the acknowledgment of the supremacy of God in all matters. He is beyond all attributes. No particular of 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 affect Him. He existed when there was nothing. He will exist forever. His existence is not subject to the law of birth or death. He is manifest in everything, but He is distinct from everything, He is One. 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 well as destroys. All things are subject to His command. He orders a thing to be and it is. Ali enjoined the severance of the heart from all things save God. Ali was asked what was the purest thing that could be acquired, and he said, "It is that which belongs to a heart made rich by God". When Ali was asked about gnosis, he said, "I know God by God, and I know that which is not God by the Light of God. " When asked whether he had seen God he said that verily he had seen God, for he could not worship Him unless he knew Him.


Prayers to God

When Ali used to pray, his hair would stand on end. He would tremble and say, "The hour has come to fulfil a trust which the heavens and the earth were unable to bear." Abu Darda, an eminent companion of the Holy Prophet, said, "None in this world has excelled Ali in prayer." While praying, so great was the intensity of the emotions of Ali that he would fall into a swoon. It is related that on one occasion, Abu Darda found Ali lying rigid on the prayer mat, and touching his cold body thought that Ali had breathed his last. Then he broke this news to Fatima. She said that Ali often became unconscious while praying. Abu Darda weeping profusely sprinkled some water on the face of Ali, and he regained consciousness. Seeing the tears in the eyes of Abu Darda, Ali said: "Why are you crying? You shed tears when you see me in this state. Imagine what will happen to me when the angels drag me into the presence of God, and I am forced to render an account of my deeds. They will bind me with fetters of iron, and present me before God and those of my friends who will happen to be witnesses will be powerless to help me. They will lament my unhappy plight, but none save God will be able to help me on that day. "


Communion with God

Very often, Ali would sob the whole night in prayers to God, and God would reward him with a glimpse of the Inner Vision. According to Ali, the highest purpose of knowledge is the awakening of latent spiritual faculties whereby one is enabled to discover his true and inner self. It is to this inner self that God reveals Himself when the self disappears in the vision of the "All Absorbing Reality." Ali often observed that man could have the joy and wonder of communion with God if one abandoned pride, disciplined the flesh, overcame the lust and submitted to the Will of God. He exhorted the people in his various sermons not to indulge in the gross licentiousness, which had characterized Arab society in the "Days of Ignorance." But should instead live in piety and simplicity as enjoined by Islam. Ali said, "Man is a wave in the boundless Sea of God. As long as man's vision is clouded by ignorance and sensuality he will consider himself a separate entity, different from God. But when the veil between him and God is lifted, he will then know what he really is, the wave will then merge with the ocean". Ali held that enlightenment is needed so that one can first get to know himself. Only then would he get to know God. Ali held that to this end religious exercises must be practiced. Sufism for which Ali stood derived its strength from the Shariah. Ali preached that any form of knowledge which failed to show the Infinite Reality in man was useless, because it could not fill that vacuum of which the aching soul of every individual was so pathetically conscious. Ali wanted men to 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 was enunciated by Ali as the core of Sufi thought. Ali is accordingly acknowledged as the "Father of Sufism" and the "Prince of Saints".


Doctrine of preference

Ali also enunciated the doctrine of preference. He stood for preferring the claims of others to one's own claims. He gave an outstanding demonstration of this doctrine when he slept on the bed of the Holy Prophet on the night of the Holy Prophet's migration from Makkah, when the infidels were seeking to slay him. Ali risked his life for the sake of the Holy Prophet, because of the preference that Ali gave to the life of the Holy Prophet as compared with his own life. After the death of the Holy Prophet, Ali considered that he was the most deserving person to be elected as the Caliph. When his claims were overlooked and other persons were elected as the Caliph, he offered them allegiance in pursuance of the doctrine of preference. It was this spirit of preference that motivated Ali to plunge on the thick of the battle to meet the challenge of the enemy regardless of his own personal safety. It is related that after the ascension, the Holy Prophet gave Ali a mantle, he asked him as to the use that he would make of the mantle. Ali said that he would use it to cover the faults of others. The true Sufi way lies in covering the faults of others.



According to Ali, fasting was not a mere formality or a ritual; it was an exercise for the purification of the soul. Because of his constant fasting, Ali earned the epithets of "Qa'im-ul-Lail" (Praying most of the night without sleep), and "Sa'im-un-Nahar", (Fasting mostly during the day). Ali held that hunger sharpens the intelligence, and improves the mind and health. Hunger involves home affliction for the body, but it illumines the heart, purifies the soul, and leads the spirit into the presence of God. One who cultivates his spiritual nature by means of hunger in order to devote himself entirely to God and detach himself from worldly ties is at a much higher level than the person who cultivates his body by means of gluttony and lust. Ali acted on the advice of the Holy Prophet, "Fast so that perchance your hearts may see God in this world". And verily, because of his fasting and other spiritual exercises, Ali did see God in this world. The Holy Prophet had enjoined, "When you fast, let your ear, your eye, your tongue, your hand, and your every limb fast." Ali followed this advice in letter as well as in spirit. By the discipline of fasting, Ali was able to subordinate the physical senses to spiritual requirements in such a way that they could respond only to what was pure and became dead to what was impure. Ali thus led a purified life.



Ali held: "Of the most meritorious acts of a believer, and one of the most acceptable things to God is Zakat. It behooves everyone to give charity, because from amongst the acts of worship this is the most pleasing to God." In his sermons, Ali exhorted the people in the following terms: "O ye people send a part of your wealth to God so that: it may stand you in good stead in the next world. Do not leave your entire wealth here so as to be a source to annoyance to you in the world to come". In the annals of the Arabs, Hatim Tai enjoys fame for his munificence and generosity. Ali outclassed Hatim in the matter of generosity. Some of the stories of his generosity which have attained the dimensions of legends are narrated in another Chapter of this book.



Ali was born in the Kaaba. He had, therefore, a strong emotional attachment for the Kaaba. Ali observed that the Holy Kaaba was sited in a territory known for its stony wastes and wilderness where no water was available. God had ordained the Muslims to bear the hardships involved in a journey through such inhospitable land cheerfully so that these very privations might ultimately become a source of salvation. The pilgrimage is symbolic of the fact that whatever hardship one bears in the trials of life and endeavors to fulfill the will of God, he acquires goodness and righteousness by them. The darkest thing in the world is the beloved's house without the beloved. What is really important for a lover is the beloved and not the house of the beloved. According to Ali the spirit of pilgrimage did not lie in a bare visit to the Kaaba, it lay in developing the inner vision whereby one could see God, the Lord of the Kaaba.



Ali held that Jihad is the gateway to Paradise. He said: "God has opened this gate for His friend. It is the mantle of piety. It is the shield of faith. He who avoids it, God subjects him to disgrace". 

Ali held that Jihad did not lie in merely taking up arms in the cause of God, it comprehends incessant struggle against falsehood in all spheres of life. Jihad is the main pillar on which Islam rests.



The first stage in the path of Sufism is repentance. Repentance is described as the awakening of the soul from the slumber of heedlessness, so that the sinner becomes aware of his evil ways and feels contrition for past disobedience. Ali repeatedly prayed for the forgiveness of God. His typical prayer was: "O God, forgive me my sins of which you are more aware than me. And if I commit these sins again, even then forgive me. Whatever promises I had made with myself to follow Your commands have not been fulfilled. I seek Your forbearance if I have sought Your proximity with my tongue, but my heart did not keep pace with my tongue, overlook my lapse. O God, forgive me for my futile talk, vain desires and lapses of the tongue".



Ali exhorted that while living in the world, one should not renounce the world, yet he should not have an undue attachment for the world. Detachment from the world is the means of attaining God. It is related that some one begged Ali to give him a precept. Ali said: "Do not let your wives and children be a cause of concern for you, for if they are the friends of God, He will look after His friends, and if they are the enemies of God, why should you take care of God's enemies?"



On the mystic way, the traveler has to meet many trials and tribulations. God subjects His lovers to severe testing, and he alone can pass such tests who is patient. Ali was the personification of patience, and for his patience he won the epithet of "Job, the Second". In the Battle of Uhud Ali received as many as sixty-one wounds so that his whole body looked like one big wound which the nurses could not dress. Ali though in mortal agony said: "May God grant me patience to bear this suffering. Is it not a favor of God that He gave me the courage to stand and fight, and not to leave the field?" 

About the patience of Ali, Dr. Ata Moyudin writes as follows in his Ali, the Superman, "Ali used to say that at no time in his life had he ever known peace and tranquillity. From the time he went in infancy to the home of the Holy Prophet, it was a ferment of turbulence and turmoil. The Holy Prophet was constantly persecuted by the Makkan pagans. Then from adolescence onwards, Ali was constantly fighting in Jihad, and after the death of the Holy Prophet, he was embroiled against his wish, in the political intrigues of others. Even when elected Caliph, the implacable enemies of Islam arose and rebelled against him. Yet he bore all these afflictions with patience, thanking God that he had acquitted himself well in the tests and trials to which the Almighty had thought fit to subject him."

The learning of Ali

Ali was the most learned man of the age. He was a living encyclopaedia of knowledge. The Holy Prophet said, "If I am the City of Knowledge; verily Ali is the Gate of it". He was the first person to have learnt the Holy Quran by heart. He possessed a prodigious memory. He was a keen observer; he was a deep thinker; he had an enlightened mind and he carried in his brain a vast storage of knowledge. He was a versatile genius and he exhibited extraordinary talents in all disciplines of knowledge. He was a master of philosophy and rhetoric. He was a distinguished poet. He was a great preacher and teacher. His knowledge extended to such disciplines as: logic, mathematics, physics, astronomy, medicine and history. 


His concept of Knowledge

Ali held that the principal aim of knowledge is the inculcation of virtue, promotion of faith, and understanding of God. He held that knowledge enlivens the soul; it is health and life; it kills ignorance. He defined knowledge as the sum total of excellence. He held that the pursuit of knowledge is better than the pursuit of riches, that knowledge is the ornament of the rich and the richness of the poor and that knowledge is better than riches. He held that the learned live even after their death. He maintained that the learned are the living ones in the dead mass of ignorance. He observed that to respect the learned is to respect God. About the respect of the teacher he held that one who teaches you a letter binds you with the fetter of gratitude. He maintained that the talk of a learned man carried with it the fragrance of the garden of Paradise. 


Superiority of knowledge over wealth

It is related that once ten learned men approached Ali, and wanted to know how knowledge was better than wealth. They requested that each one of them be given a separate answer. Ali answered them as follows:

Knowledge is the legacy of the Prophets; wealth is the inheritance of the Pharaohs. As the Prophets are superior to the Pharaohs, so knowledge is better than wealth. 

You have to guard your wealth, but knowledge guards you. Therefore, knowledge is better than wealth. 

When knowledge is distributed it increases. When wealth is distributed it decreases. As such knowledge is better than wealth. 

A man of wealth has many enemies, while a man of knowledge has many friends. Therefore knowledge is better than wealth. 

A learned man because of his wider outlook is apt to be generous while a rich man because of his love for money is apt to be miserly As such knowledge is better than wealth. 

Knowledge cannot be stolen, while wealth is constantly exposed to the danger of being stolen. Accordingly knowledge is better than wealth. 

With the lapse of time, knowledge gains in depth and dimensions. Hoarded coins get rusty, or cease to be legal tender. Therefore knowledge is better than wealth. 

You can keep account of wealth because it is limited, but you cannot keep account of knowledge because it is boundless. That is why knowledge is better than wealth. 

Knowledge illuminates the mind, while wealth is apt to blacken it. Therefore knowledge is better than wealth. 

Knowledge is better than wealth, because knowledge induced the humanity in the Holy Prophet to say to God "We worship Thee as we are Thine servants", while wealth engendered in Pharaoh and Nimrod the vanity which made them claim Godhead.


Ali as a poet

Ali was a distinguished poet. In his book Ali, the Superman, Dr. Ata Mohyuddin has assessed the poetry of Ali in the following terms: "Ali, in his poems is shown as a moralist, freely expressing the righteousness of his cause. In them, as in his sermons, he exhorts the pious to be sincere and steadfast, to refrain from doing wrong, and to stick to the faith. The poetry is neither romantic nor lyrical, but reformative. It contains no sensuous feelings or imagery and has nothing about it of the themes on which the old school of Arab poets delighted to dwell. There is no praise of women, wine, music, amusement and even of the sword. Ali's eloquence is reserved for the praise of patriotism, humility, modesty, chastity, piety, and resignation to God's will. Some of his verses are addressed to his followers, and are complaints about their infidelity. Others extol the virtue of loyalty to the community. Indeed he may be said to have laid the foundation of a national poetry. The style of the verses, which like Ali's prose is racy, lively and unstilted, manes the ethical truths expounded in them much more palatable than they might otherwise have been. The literary form adopted by Ali in his verses exerted a great influence on the trend of Arabic poetry in general. These verses still retain an importance second to none in Arabic literature". 


Ali's Dewan

There is some controversy about Dewan, or the collection of the poems of Ali. According to one school, his "Dewan", a collection of 1500 verses and bearing the title "Anwar Oqueil", is extant. According to another account this collection includes poems written by the followers of Ali. 


Samples of the poetry of Ali

In his book History of the Caliphs, Suyuti has given some samples of the poetry of Ali. These are:

"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 the dispelling of distress, and the stratagem of the cunning availeth not. There shall come to thee in thy despair a helper when the answered of prayer who is nigh shall bring. For all sorrows when they have reached their term there is linked to them an approaching joy". 

"Consort not with a foolish brother, beware of him for how many a fool hath corrupted the gentle when he hath fraternized with them. A man is judged by the man with whom he consorteth for there are comparisons and similitude for one thing with another. The measure of a sandal is made when it is matched with it, and the evidence of the feeling of one heart towards another is when they meet". 

"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". 

"Disclose not thy secret but to thyself for every confidant hath a confidant. For verily I have seen erring men who do not aspire to a high sense of honor". 

Ali's generosity

Generosity was one of the main attributes of Ali. According to Ali when someone in need asks for your help and you help him that is liberality or munificence. When you help a man in need before he asks of your help that is generosity. In Arab annals, Hatim a Bedouin is known for his generosity. According to the accounts that have come down to us, Ali out-classed him in the matter of generosity. Ali used to say "Woe to that man who spends his wealth in buying male and female slaves, but spends not his money on the free-born who, with a little alms would become enslaved in gratitude to him for ever." 


Preference for the supplicant to one's own Deeds

Once a supplicant went to the house of the Holy Prophet to beg for food, but there was no one in the house. On being told of this by his wives, the Holy Prophet asked whether there was anyone who could give relief to the supplicant. Ali offered to take the beggar to his house. There Fatima said that there was nothing in the house except a few loaves that she had cooked for the children. She, however, gave the loaves to the supplicant saying that she would give them to the beggar, and would rather see her children go hungry. It was on this occasion that the following verse of that Holy Quran was revealed: "They prefer the supplicant to themselves even though they may be hungry themselves. And whosoever is rid of the covetousness of his own soul will be triumphant"{59:9}. 


God accepted Ali's charity

It is related that once, somebody presented 300 gold coins to the Holy Prophet, who made a present of them to Ali. On the way home, Ali saw a harlot to whom he gave one hundred coins. The next day the whole town was gossiping about Ali's misplaced charity for giving the money to a woman of ill repute. Ali felt offended and decided that he would give another hundred coins to a worthier person this time he met a thief and he gave him one hundred coins. The people were critical of Ali squandering the money by giving it to a brigand. Ali decided that whatever money was left with him he would give it to a deserving person. This time he gave the money to a person who happened to be rich man. The people became loud in the criticism of Ali in his charity to undeserving persons. It was, however, revealed to the Holy Prophet that God had accepted the charity of Ali. The harlot after getting the money gave up her profession and decided to lead a chaste life. The thief after getting the money gave up robbery, the rich man on getting the alms felt so repentant that he distributed all his wealth among the poor. 


Manifold return for chartiy

Once Fatima gave some yarn that she had spun to Ali to sell it in the market and buy therewith some provisions for cooking meals. Ali sold the yarn for a gold coin. He came across some beggars, and he distributed the entire amount among the beggars. He had gone a few steps when he came across a man with a camel who said, "Ali, would you buy the camel." Ali said that he had no money. The man said that he could sell the camel on credit. Thereupon the man gave the bridle of the camel to Ali and disappeared. Ali had gone a few steps when another person met him and purchased the camel for a hundred gold coins. Ali thus got a hundred fold return for his charity. 


A legend of the generosity of Ali

It is related that on one occasion a supplicant approached Ali and asked him to give him some bread. Ali asked his slave Qanbar to attend to the supplicant. Qanbar came to Ali and said that the bread was in a saddle bag. Ali said, "Give him the saddle bag". At this Qanbar said that the saddle bag was on the camel. Ali said, "Give him the camel". Qanbar said that the camel was in a row of camels. Ali said, "Give him all of the camels". 


He gave his gold ring to the beggar

It is related that at one time while the Holy Prophet and Ali were offering prayers in a mosque, a supplicant came and said, "O God, bear witness that I have asked everyone of the congregation to give me something in alms, but none has offered anything." Ali, who was prostrating on the prayer mat at that time, held out his finger which bore a gold ring, and pointed it out towards the beggar, who took it off. 


He undertook to pay the debt of a dead Muslim

Once a Muslim died in Madina. The Holy Prophet along with Ali attended the funeral. Before leading the funeral prayer, the Holy Prophet inquired whether the deceased had to pay any debt. He was told that the deceased had to pay a debt of a few dinars. The Holy Prophet desired that someone should undertake responsibility for clearing the debt of the deceased. It was Ali who undertook the responsibility for meeting the debt, and it was only then that the Holy Prophet led the funeral prayers. 


He paid for the dates

One day as Ali passed through the market of Kufa he found a slave girl weeping while sitting on the roadside. Ali inquired from the girl as to the cause of her distress. She said that she had purchased some dates from a date seller, but her master had not approved of the dates and when she wanted to return the dates to the date seller he refused to accept them. Ali paid her the amount involved, and asked her to eat the dates herself. 

Administrative instructions

When Ali appointed a person to a high office, with the letter of appointment he also issued a memorandum of instructions setting out the guidelines to be followed for the purposes of administration. Some of these instructions, which are on record, are very much modern in character, and show the insight of Ali as an administrator. 

Instructions to Malik Ashtar

When Malik Ashtar was appointed as the Governor of Egypt, Ali instructed him as follows: 

"O Malik, let it be known to you that you have been appointed to the governorship of Egypt. All of your actions as the Governor will be open to the criticism of the people. You should do good deeds. Keep your passions under control. Your dealings with your subjects should be just and fair. Treat them affectionately and love them. 

There are two kinds of subjects to be governed, firstly your brethren in Islam, and secondly the minorities whose protection has been guaranteed. Intentionally or unintentionally the people are apt to make mistakes. It will behoove you to excuse them, as you expect that God will forgive your sins. Do not be ashamed if you pardon them. Never find pleasure in punishing them. Do not be short tempered. Never say that you are Governor above them, for it breeds a feeling of inferiority in them. Should you ever take pride in your exalted office then think of the power and grandeur of God, for that is the only means to check your arrogance. Remember that God hates the cruel and the arrogant. 

Be fair and just, for if you fail in it, you are a tyrant and tyrant is the enemy of God. God hearkens to the weak and the afflicted. Follow the path of moderation in your doings, and try to please your subjects. 

It is the common masses who are a power in the eyes of Islam. Freely mix with the masses, and refrain from the company of the backbiters and the wicked. Be broad-minded, overlook the faults of others, and forgive them. Do not bear malice against anyone, and do not do anything which is below your dignity. The backbiters and the wicked are very cunning, never lend an ear to what they say. Do not seek the advice of a coward who will make you faint hearted. Do not take the greedy persons as your advisers, for they will make you cruel. Above all bear in mind that miserliness, cowardice, and greed ruin a person. In the selection of Ministers see that you appoint those persons who speak the truth, howsoever unpalatable it may be. Do not seek the advice of those who may flatter you to your face, for flattery breeds arrogance. Do not give an equal status to a bad and a good person. Treat a good person kindly and a bad person curtly. Remember that it is better to rule over the people by love than by fear. Always try to satisfy and please your subjects. 

Try to maintain the traditions of those early Muslims who brought amity and love amongst the believers in faith and tried to reform. In no way should you depart from these traditions. Should you try to introduce innovations, you will come to grief. Always seek advice from the learned and wise concerning the reformation of the people. Your subjects are divided into different classes; some of them are soldiers who fight for God, some are Qadis, some are non-Muslims who pay Jizya, some of them are businessmen, some are craftsmen and artisans, while a few are beggars. Remember that God has fixed a share for each of them. 

The soldiers serve as a fort for the subjects. They are the ornaments of the rulers, protecting religion, and maintaining peace. Take good care of them as you take care of your children. Love them and treat them kindly. 

When appointing Qadis, select holy and pious persons for the post. They should neither be greedy nor make errors in their judgements. In no way should they deviate from the truth deliberately. They should not become arrogant when flattered. But alas, such persons are few. Supervise your officials who should be appointed on merit and merit alone. Appoint the officials from those families who accepted Islam the earliest for those are the people who attach more importance to the next world than to this. Give them handsome pay so that they may not be beguiled into monetary temptations. Have a good system of spies to observe their activities. And should any of these officials be found guilty of bribery, misappropriation of government funds, or any similar offense, punish him immediately. Such officials should be suspended, disgraced and dismissed. In the imposition of taxes you should see that the people are taxed according to their capacity. Try to populate those towns and places which are thinly populated. In the case of famine, failure of crops or the incidence of any other such calamity, you should remit taxes. Remission of taxes at such junctures mitigates the sufferings of the people. Such philanthropic measures will endear you to the people who will stand by you through thick and thin. Should the condition of farmers be poor, the cultivation of the land is bound to deteriorate. Should the ruler be greedy, the farmers are bound to be reduced to poverty. 

Strictly supervise the work of your record keepers, who should be appointed from amongst those who are scrupulously honest, and are humble. In no case should they be negligent in the discharge of their duty, and they should carry out your orders implicitly. Enjoin the businessmen and the industrialists to be honest and kind. They are the men who increase the wealth of a nation. Of peaceful nature, they are great benefactors of the people. Extend your protection to them and encourage them to develop trade and commerce. The prices must be reasonable, and they should not be allowed to make exorbitant profits. Their weight must be correct, and the accounts kept by them should not be false. Defaulters who set such orders at naught should be punished. 

Be kind towards the poor and the destitute. Fear God and help them. They need your attention and you should not neglect them because of your other official duties and activities. Show mercy to the aged and the orphans, who have no means of subsistence. Show them your generosity. Above all be humble and benevolent. When you give anything to them give it cheerfully with a smiling face. Address them kindly and do not put off till tomorrow what you can do today. Fear God and observe prayers, which should be perfect and not defective in any way. Do not be isolated from your subjects, and do not stay away from them for a long time, for if you do so, your officials will oppress the subjects. Sometimes an official may adapt unscrupulous and crooked means for self-aggrandizement. Avoid such men and do not show any favors to them. Do not show any nepotism to your relatives, and do not bestow any land on them. Be just in your dealings with everyone. If any relation of yours commits an offense, you should punish him according to the laws of God. Under no circumstances you should spare him and show him any mercy. 

Should your subjects rebel against you because of your strict disciplinary measures, you should explain to them fully the critical situation, which has necessitated your adopting such measures, and try to win them over. You should always try to make peace with your enemies for peace brings happiness and prosperity. Even after the conclusion of peace, be watchful of your enemies for they are sometimes apt to deceive you. You must keep your promise to your enemy at any cost. Never violate the terms of a treaty. Neither break your promise with your enemy nor try to deceive him. Avoid bloodshed. Never kill anyone without sufficient cause. Verily on the Day of Judgment God will punish those who have shed the blood of others unnecessarily. Never consolidate your position by putting men to the sword unnecessarily and unlawfully, for it is bound to weaken the kingdom. Never take pride in your high rank. Treat the subjects kindly and you must act according to whatever promises you have made. Do the right thing at the right time in the right way. Should the people be unanimous about a particular course of action, never thrust your opinion on them. Never lose your temper and try to keep your passions under control. Always remember God and try to follow in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him). Follow these instructions faithfully and sincerely."

Instructions to Abdullah b Abbas

Ali issued the following instructions to Abdullah b Abbas, the Governor of Basra: "You should know that Basra is the place where Satan descends. It is the home of dissension. You should treat the people of Basra with kindness and remove fear from their hearts. I have come to know that you are oppressing the people of Bani Tamim. Bani Tamim are the people whose one star rises if another star sets. That was the case both in the time of ignorance and Islam. We are also closely related to them. It behooves us to strengthen those bonds. In your speech and your actions be careful and discern the right from the wrong. You are my nominee, and I am responsible for your action. I repose confidence in you, see that this confidence is not betrayed."


Letter to Ziyad b Abiya

Ali issued the following instructions to Ziyad b Abiya, the Governor of Fars: "Beware that it is the matter of administration. Any lapse on your part is brought to my notice, I will deal with you harshly and will not spare you. Treat the path of moderation and do not waste public funds. Today remember your tomorrow. Spend only as much as is absolutely necessary. Whatever is surplus save it for a rainy day. Do not be arrogant. Do you think God would reward you for humility when you are arrogant? When you roll in luxury you will not be rewarded for poverty. A man is rewarded only for his accomplishment. One reaps what he sows." 


Instructions to the Collectors of Zakat

Ali issued the following instructions to the Collectors of Zakat: "Proceed to your duty with pious intentions and faith in God. Do not threaten any Muslim. See that you do not indulge in any act which is not liked by the people. Do not collect anything beyond what is enjoined by the commandments of God. When you reach any settlement alight at the well outside the settlement. Do not alight at the house of anyone. Thereafter enter the residential area with due decorum and dignity. Greet the people. If they do not respond to your greeting, do not mind it? Thereafter tell them that the Caliph has sent you to them to seek compliance with the commandments of God. Ask them whether anything is due from them in accordance with the commandments of God. If anyone says that nothing is due from him, do not enter into argument with him. If he accepts the liability then proceed to collect the dues with due sympathy without harassing him in any way. If Zakat is due in the shape of animals or camels do not enter the animal fold without the permission of the owner. When you enter such fold do not do anything which would annoy the owner. Do not try to create the impression that you are an officer. In assessing, divide the property in two parts and give the owner the option to retain one part. Then divide the other part into two parts and give the owner the option to retain one part. Repeat the process of division until that part which is payable in Zakat is arrived at. If the owner objects to the process of division, repeat the process to the satisfaction of the owner. Whatever is collected as Zakat, place it in the custody of a man in whose piety and integrity you have confidence. If any animal is taken in Zakat, see that it is not lame, unhealthy, or disabled in any way. When a she animal is taken see that its young one is not deprived of milk. While taking the animals to the headquarters see that they are well fed, and are not subjected to any hardship. 

In doing your duty be afraid of God in your heart of hearts. Do not comply with the commandment of God in such a way that outwardly it may appear to be in conformity with the commandment of God, but inwardly it may be repugnant to such a commandment. See that what you do is in complete accord with what you say. Do not make your subordinates feel that you are an officer over them. You should not harass them in any way, and you should not make them feel inferior for under Islam all persons are equal. You can take your share out of Zakat, but bear in mind that the poor, and the destitute should first have their due share. See that no one is deprived of what is due to him. See that what is in trust with you is not misappropriated in any way. The worst crime is the betrayal of trust and disloyalty to the Imam."  

source : http://witness-pioneer.org
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