Ali in the eyes of Western Scholars

Some of this few famous sayings:

 During civil disturbance adopt such an attitude that people do not attach any importance to you – they neither burden you with complicated affairs, nor try to derive any advantage out of you

 Failures are often the results of timidity and fears; disappointments are the results of bashfulness; hours of leisure pass away like summer-clouds, therefore, do not waste opportunity of doing good

A wise man first thinks and then speaks and a fool speaks first and then thinks

Hearts of people are like wild beasts. They attach themselves to those who love and train them.

Success is the result of foresight and resolution, foresight depends upon deep thinking and planning and the most important factor of planning is to keep your secrets to yourself.  

Man is a wonderful creature; he sees through the layers of fat (eyes), hears through a bone (ears) and speaks through a lump of flesh (tongue).

The world: The world is like a serpent which is outwardly very soft skinned but poisonous within.

 About Him by Western Scholars 

Philip Hitti In his book History of the Arabs, Professor Hitti assessed the character of Hadrat Ali as follows: “Valiant in battle, wise in council, eloquent in speech, true to his friends, magnanimous to his foes, Ali became both the paragon of Muslim nobility and chivalry, and the Solomon of Arabic tradition around whose name, poems, proverbs, sermonettes and anecdotes innumerable have clustered. He had swarthy complexion, large black eyes, bald head, a thick and long white beard, and was opulent and of medium stature. His sabre Dhul Fiqar, which was wielded by the Prophet on the battlefield of Badr, has been immortalized in the words of this verse found engraved in many medieval Arab records, “no sword can match Dhul Fiqar, and no young warrior can compare with Hadrat Ali.” A later Fidayan movement which developed ceremonies and insignia savouring of medieval European chivalry and the modern scouts movement, took Ali for its father and model. Regarded as wise and brave by all the Islamic world, as the idealistic and exemplary by many Fidayan and dervish fraternities, as sinless and infallible by his partisans, and even held to be the incarnation of the deity by the Ghulah (extremists) among them, he whose worldly posthumous influence was second only to that of the holy Prophet himself. The throngs of pilgrims that still stream to his Mashhad at Najaf and to that of his son Husain, the Shi’iah arch-saint and martyr at nearby Karbala, and the passion-play enacted annually on the tenth of Muharram through the Shi’iah world, testify to the possibility that death may avail a Messiah more than life.”

Sir William Muir In his book, The Caliphate, its Rise, Decline and Fall, Sir William Muir paid his tribute to Hadrat Ali in the following words: “In the character of Ali, there are many things to commend him for. Mild and beneficent, he treated Basra when prostrate at his feet with a generous forbearance. Towards theocratic fanatics, who wearied his patience by incessant intrigues and senseless rebellion, he showed no vindictiveness. Excepting Muawiyah, the man of all others whom he ought not to have estranged, he carried the policy of conciliating his enemies to a dangerous extreme. In compromise indeed and in procrastination lay the future of his caliphate. With greater vigour, spirit, and determination, he might have averted the schism which for a time threatened the existence of Islam, and which has never ceased to weaken it. Ali was wise in counsel and many an adage and astute proverb have been attributed to him. But like Solomon, his weakness was for others more than himself.

Charles Mills In his book A History of Muhammadanism, Charles Mills assessed Hadrat Ali as follows: “As the chief of the family of Hashim, and as the cousin and son-in-law of him whom the Arabians respected almost to idolatry it is apparently incredible that Ali was not raised to the caliphate immediately after the death of Muhammad p.b.u.h. In the advantage of his birth and marriage was added the friendship of the Prophet. The son of Abu Talib was one of the first converts to Islam, and was Muhammad’s favourite appellation of him, the Aaron of a second Moses. His talents as an orator, and his intrepidity as the warrior commanded to a nation in whose judgment courage was virtue and eloquence was wisdom. But the pride and loftiness of his spirit endured not to caution inseparable from the schemes of policy, and continually precipitated him into rashness. His opposition to Abu Bakr would not have ceased if Fatima had lived. But upon her death, six months after that of her father, the Companions of Muhammad relaxed in their friendship to his family. In the reign of Abu Bakr, Umar and Othman, a dignified independence was preserved by Ali. On the invitation of the Caliphs, he assisted in the councils of Medina, but he was principally occupied in the tranquil pursuits of domestic life and the various duties of his religion. On the murder of Othman the Egyptians who were at Medina offered him the caliphate. Indignant that the power of nomination should be usurped by the strangers, Ali declared that the suffrages of the inhabitants of Mecca and Medina alone could be available. The public voice soon echoed the opinion of the murderers, and the scruples of Ali were soon removed. In apprehension of the enmity of A’isha, his relentless fall, and of the whole family out of Muawiyah, he declined to receive in private the proffered allegiance of the chiefs. With his accustomed simplicity, he proceeded to the mosque clad in a cotton gown, a coarse turban on his head, his slippers were in one hand, and a bow instead of a staff, occupied the other.”

Professor Nicholson In his book A Literary History of the Arabs, Nicholson remarked: “Ali was a gallant warrior, a wise counsellor, a true friend and generous foe. He excelled in poetry and in eloquence. His verses and sayings are famous throughout the Muhammadan East, though few of them can be considered authentic. He can be compared with Montrose and Bayard in the fineness of spirit. He had no talent for the stern realities of statecraft and was overmatched by unscrupulous rivals who knew that war is the game of deceit. Thus his career was in one sense a failure – his authority as Caliph was never admitted while he lived, by the whole community. On the other hand he has exerted down to the present-day a posthumous influence only second to that of Muhammad himself. Within a century of his death, he came to be regarded as the Prophet’s successor jure divine; as a blessed martyr, sinless and infallible, and even by some as an incarnation of God. The Ali of the Shi’ite legend is not a historical figure glorified, rather he symbolizes in a purely ethical fashion, the religious aspirations and political aims of a large section of the Muslim world.”

John J. Pool In his book Studies in Muhammadanism, John J. Pool observed: “The fact is that Ali was too mild a man for the stirring times in which he lived. He was too slow to resolve and too undecided in action. At any time he preferred compromise and delay to energy and promptness, and with fatal results. The death of Ali was an epoch-making event. We come now to the parting of ways. Henceforward the Commanders of the Faithful ceased to be elected by the votes of the people of Medina and Mecca. Arabia was no longer to be the seat of temporal power. For the future, in Islam, might was to take the place of right.”

Edward Gibbon  In his book Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon observed the following about the assassination of Hadrat Othman and the succession of Hadrat Ali: “A tumultuous anarchy of five days after the martyrdom of Othman was appeased by the inauguration of Ali. His refusal would have provoked a general massacre. In this painful situation, he supported the becoming pride of the chief of the Hashimites; declared that he would rather serve than reign; rebuked the presumption of the strangers and required the formal, if not the voluntary, assent of the chiefs of the nation. He has never been accused of promoting the assassination of Othman, though Persia indirectly and secretly celebrates the festivals of that holy martyr. The quarrel between Othman and his subjects was assuaged by the early mediation of Ali, and Hasan, the eldest of his sons, was insulted and wounded in the defence of the Caliph.”

While commenting on the failure of Hadrat Ali and matters pertaining to statecraft, Gibbon observes as follows: “A life of prayer and contemplation had not chilled the martial activity of Ali, but in a mature age, after a long experience of mankind, he still betrayed in his conduct the rashness and indiscretion of youth.”

Thomas Carlyle In his book On Heroes and Hero Worship, Thomas Carlyle observed: “As for this young Ali, one cannot but like him. A noble minded creature, as he shows himself, now and always afterwards, full of affection, of fiery daring something chivalrous in him, brave as a lion, yet with a grace, truth and affection worthy of Christian knighthood. He died by assassination in the mosque at Kufa, death occasioned by his own generous fairness, confidence in the fairness of others. He said: if the wound proved not unto death, they must pardon the assassin, but if it did, they must slay him straightaway, so that the two of them in the same our might appear before God, and see which side of that quarrel was the just one.”

Dr. Henry Stubbe In his book An Account of the Rise and Progress of Muhammadanism, Dr. Henry Stubbe observed: “Ali was of a brown complexion, a little man with a somewhat large belly, he had a contempt of the world, its glory and pomp. He feared God much, gave many alms, was just in all his actions, humble and affable, of an exceedingly quick wit, and of an ingenuity that was not common. He was exceedingly learned, not only in those sciences that terminate in speculation, but those which extend to practice.”

Major Price In his book Memoirs of the Principal Events of Muhammadan History, Major Price observed: “His virtues and extraordinary qualities have been the subject of voluminous panegyrics, and his war-like exploits from his youth upwards have been particularly celebrated in the “Khawer Nama,” a poem well-known in the East and which may perhaps contend in extravagance with the wildest effusions of European romance. With his acknowledged talents and magnanimity, it is however, difficult to account for the train of civil mischief and perpetual discontent which continued to disturb him for the whole of his reign. His gallant spirit was probably incapable of bonding to the ordinary shifts of political craft, and it is perhaps true that the Arabian chiefs were not yet sufficiently disciplined to see the sovereign authority quietly monopolized by any particular family.”

J.J. Saunders In his book A History of Medieval Islam, J.J. Saunders observed:”His moral qualities were respectively recognized. He was a brave fighter and an eloquent orator and a loyal friend. Many things of his are quoted to prove his mastery of proverbial wisdom, a gift highly honoured among the Semites. He displayed towards his foes a patience and magnanimity expressive of a humane and generous disposition. His religion was founded on genuine piety. He was shocked by the growing luxury and corruption of the age, and to his many doubts whether Othman was an upholder or a violator of the law may be attributed to the hesitating and ambiguous attitude he adopted towards the regicides, which proved so fatal to his rule and reputation. As his temper was indolent, he drifted rather than led. He was easily outmatched by the astute and the forceful, and he lacked the commanding personality to impose his will on a turbulent society. His authority was challenged by the political shrewdness of Muawiyah, and the furious zealotry of the Kharajites, his inability to overcome either delivered Islam to schism and grave believers were driven to see in a reunion of the Empire under the Umayyads the only escape from tribal and sectarian anarchy. Yet he has been raised by a powerful sect little below that of Muhammad himself, the Shi’ah or party of Ali laid down as an article of faith that he was designated by God and the Prophet to be the lawful Caliph and Imam of the Islam, his three predecessors being treated as usurpers, and that Divine Revelation continued to be interpreted by his descendants, and his supposed grave at Najaf, a sandhill on the edge of the desert six miles west of Kufa, is annually visited by thousands of devout pilgrims who curse his supplanters and revere him as the friend of God and the first of Imams.”

To know more about him: >>Who is Ali <<


3 Responses to “Ali in the eyes of Western Scholars”

  1. Harnam Says:

    I first came aquainted with the name of Ali whilst visiting the ruins of Babylon on a trip to Iraq in the 1960s. My host’s description of Ali and his son Hussain made me sufficiently interested that I visited the Shrine of Ali in Najaf and the Shrine of his son Hussain in Karbala.

    Afterwwards, for 3 years I studied as much literature I could on Ali.

    There are no words that can truly describe the greatness of Ali. Islam owes its existence to Ali and his son Hussain. But why only these two, had it not been for the wealth of Khadija [Prophet Muhammad’s first wife] and the protection of Abu Talib [Prophet Muhammad’s patneral uncle and Ali’s father] the Prophet would not have been able to start his mission and sustain it during the very first harsh years of oppression. Ali;s valour and his sword destroyed the key enemies of Islam and the Prophet. After the Battle of the Ditch in which Ali killed the greatest champion of Mecca and of Arabia, Muhammad’s enemies knew that whilst Ali lived, it was impossible to defeat Muhammad in battle. Ali secured the establishment of Islam. Later Hussain saved Islam by giving and sacrificing his life in Karbala. Ali’s daughters Zaineb and Ume Kalsoom through their speeches, in unimaginable circumstances having witnessed the slaughter of loved ones including sons, brothers and nephews kept the Spirit of Islam alive and thus defeated the desires of Yazid and his companions to distort Islam and reintroduce the paganism of his forefathers

    Ali is not only a mighty warrior. Even in battle he showed clemency and mercy to his foes. On one occasion he knocked down a famous warrior and was about to kill him. The vanquished man spat on Ali’s face.
    Iimmediately, Ali withdrew and hesitated from killing his foe. Bewildered, his foe asked him that why was he not killing him. Ali replied that his quarral with the man was not for personal reasons. He fought the man because he was an enemy of Allah and his Prophet. Ali said that he could not kill him because he had been angered by his spitting on him and if he killed him now it could be for the anger he felt.

    His poetry and prose, his logic and understanding of mathematics. His philosophy about the Creation and the Human Existence. his relation with the Almighty and his obedience to the Prophet make him outstanding. His qualities surely make him the most perfect human being. The inhabitants of Medina would see him during the day time working and toiling to earn a living. At night they could hear his supplications and prayers as he beseeched the Lord with unsurpassed humility. He asked for forgiveness of sins he had never committed. His spirit was tortured by the injustices he witnessed. He welcomed death because he wanted to be with his Maker. His saying that he had thrice divorced the world and its pleasures, indicates his state of mind in which this world and its pleasures had no attraction for him.

    His generosity was unlimited. Whatever he earned he shared with the needy. More than once, he gave away the bread he had bought for his family and his children slept hungary. his kindness was legendary. he even showed kindness to his assassin Ibn Muljam.

    His adherence to the law and justice was unshakable. Ibn Muljam a well known Kharji [the Kharjis were sworn enemies of Ali] came to Kufa with the intention of killing Ali. Some of Ali’s companions found out about his presence in Kufa. They asked for Ali’s permission to arrest him but he refused to give his permission on the grounds that Ibn Muljam had committed no crime. Hours later, Ibn Muljam wounded Ali and this wound proved fatal. Ibn Muljam had struck Ali with a sword laced with poison. He was brought before Ali. Blood was still gushing from the wound on Ali’s forehead. Someone gave Ali some water to drink. He offerred the water to bn Muljam. Then Ali noticed that Ibn Muljam’s hands had been tied so tightly that the rope was biting into his flesh. Ali ordered that the rope be loosened. He ordered that his murderer not to be tortured and that if he died his murderer should be killed with one blow of the sword and his body not to be mutilated.

    Some say that he failed as a leader or Caliph. I say they are absolutely wrong. I say that they have failed to understand Ali. He was the embodiment of Islam. In thought and action he was the living Quran.

    It was not possible for Ali to comprise his ideals and values. It was not possible for Ali to resort to deception, cruelty, bribery and lies and forgery to gain power. Once Ali said that Muawiya was not more astute or clever than him but he [Ali] would never resort to the deception, dishonesty, lies and treachery Muawiya was using.

    If Ali had to choose, he would have refused and rejected an empire thousand times bigger than the one he ruled rather than compromise or negate on his ideals and values.

    On one occasion, his cousin Abdullah Ibn Abbas commented on the bad state of his shoes. Ali said: “O’Abdullah take these shoes and sell them in the market”. Abdullah replied: “No one would buy them due to their bad condition”. To this Ali said: “Abdullah this world and its attractions and this Caliphate i.e. government to me are of even less value than these shoes which no one would wish to buy”

    Ali’s foes may have succeeded in gaining power but they failed to move Ali from his ideals and values and this is Ali’s resounding victory.

    History has given its verdict in favour of Ali. Today’s Ali’s grave is a centre of pligrimage, his name is invoked to gain blessings from the Almighty. Pilgrims beg him to intercede for their salvation. Muslim soldiers raise his name as a battle cry to give courage.

    He is the Imam and Guide of all the Sufi Orders in Islam. Every Muslim Saint past and present derives his position by giving his allegiance and unqualified love to Ali.

    Ali’s wisdom, his justice and sayings are always quoted by Muslims. Athough for over 90 years the Ummaiyad Kings did their best to relegate his position or malign his name, discredit and harm is reputation and distort his character, he remains a beacon of light and guidance.

    Today, his foes are cursed and not even their graves can be found. Death failed to dim Ali’s character and personality. In fact in death he achieved such an astounding victory over his foes and his name lives on respected, loved and honoured and revered by millions. Ali is the embodiment of truth, honour and justice. The Prophet of Islam gave mankind the first Charter of Human Rights. Ali not only upheld this Charter in this true form but also ensured that generations of mankind will benefit from it.

  2. Extended Stay Says:

    Incredible! This blog looks just like my old one! It’s on a completely different subject but it has pretty much the same page layout and design. Excellent choice of colors!

  3. Syed Habib. Says:

    Scholars of the West know that Ali was a Perfect Man and as Harnam says he had no desire for power which corrupts man.The money power of Mecca never accepted Mohammad or Islam or God but when they failed to do away with Mohammad or his creative religion,they went underground to wait for the first opportunity to avail.They got it when the prophet passed away.They began to put greed before even the burial of the Master of the Two Worlds,as also confirmed by maulana Rumi.
    State power is a Satanic craft and Ali or his beloved Prophet had no need for it.The prophethood and the inner spiritual experience seek nothing but God and Satan continues to be a stumbling block to be overpowered.
    Muslims of today should pursue their goal of spiritual perfection forgetting all about divisive craftsmen that money power uses even today,far more than ever before.

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