A Biographical Profile of Imam Ali (a.s)


With the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.


A Biographical

Profile of Imam Ali (a.s)

 Presented by:



This well-written profile of Imam Ali (AS) has been copied from a book by Syed Muhammad Askari Jafari.  While providing a glimpse into our glorious history, it provides an unbiased and fair analysis of one of the most important personalities of the first centuries of Islam.


Since unfortunately, the name of Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS) has been associated with a particular sect, many readers hesitate to accept any statement about him.  This adds to the importance of this profile, which has been reduced entirely from non-Shi’ite books and resources, all of them being popular and well-known texts, hadith and collection of traditions, narrations, and history books, written by well known personalities of the majority Muslim sect, so that all readers can read and refer to the facts herein, without any hesitation or doubts.




– Early life and some scholars’ comments

– Imam Ali’s noble behaviour towards enemies

– Imam Ali to his friends and subjects

– Imam Ali’s simple lifestyle

– Dawat-Zul-Asheera — Prophet’s first public invitation

– The Night of Migration

– The champion of Islam — Battles  of Badr, Uhud, Khandaq, Khaybar and Hunayn

– Declaration of Imam Ali as Vicegerent — (Zul-Asheera, Khaybar, Tabuk, Ghadeer)

– Imam Ali’s life from the First Year of Migration to the Prophet’s demise

 – Imam Ali and the Election for Caliphate

– The sad events of the demise of Hazrat Fatima

– Imam Ali during the reigns of the first three Caliphs

– Caliphate restored to Imam Ali

– The Battle of Jamal

– The Battle of Siffin

– Martyrdom

– Imam Ali as a Ruler and Statesman

  Imam Ali and Philosophy of Religions


Early life and some scholars’ comments


Imam Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, was the first cousin of the Holy Prophet (SA).  His father, Abu Talib, and the father of the Holy Prophet, Abdullah, were the sons of Abdul Muttalib from the same mother, Fatima.  The name of Imam Ali’s mother was also Fatima, the daughter of Asad, the son of the famous Hashim.  Thus his parents were cousins.


Imam Ali (AS) was born on the 13th Rajab, (30 Amul Fil), about 610 A.D., i.e. 23 years before the Hegira (Migration).  Historians say that he was born in the precincts of the Holy Ka’bah. (1)


At the time of his birth, his father and his cousin, Muhammad, the Holy Prophet (SA), were out of Mecca, his mother gave him the names of Asad and Haider.  His father called him Zaid.  But when the Holy Prophet (SA) returned to the city, he took his young cousin in his charge and gave him the name of Ali, saying that it was the name decreed for him by Allah. (2)


Among his various Kunniya (patriotic appellations), the most famous were Abul Hasan, Abus Sibtain and Abu Turab.


His titles were Murtaza (the chosen one), Ameerul Momineen (the Commander of the Faithful), Imamul Muttaqin (the leader of the pious and God-fearing).


The famous historian and biographer Allama Ali ibn Muhammad says, Imam Ali was a man of middle height with black, big and piercing eyes, very handsome and fair complexion, broad shoulders, a long muscular neck, a broad forehead and a little hair on the top of his head.


He used to walk with very light gait and he was very agile in his movements.  He had a smiling face, pleasing manners, a jovial temperament, kind disposition and a courteous behaviour.  He would never lose his temper. (3)


He was born three years before the marriage of the Prophet (SA) with Lady Khadija .  Soon after his birth, the Prophet (SA) took him under his care and Ali was like a son to him.  He used to live with the Prophet (SA) and used to sleep with him. He was fed by him, washed and dressed by him, and even carried by him on a sling whenever he would go out. (4)


When the Holy Prophet (SA) married Khadija, she adopted this child as her son.  Imam Ali (AS) himself, has described his childhood saying that:


“I was still a new born baby, when the Holy Prophet (SA) took me from my parents.  I used to cling to him and he used to feed me, and (when I grew a little older), he never found me uttering a lie or feigning a deceit.  To me he was like a guiding star and I used to follow his actions and deeds carefully.  I was attached to him like a foal of camel attached to its mother.  He used to place before me high values of morality, and used to advise me to follow them;  every year, he would spend some days at the grotto of the Mt. Hira and I used to be with him, I was his only companion then and none else could meet him at Hira, there I used to see the light of revelation, and used to smell the fragrance of Prophethood.  Once the Holy Prophet (SA) told me:  “Ali!  You have attained a very eminent place.  You see what I see and you hear what I hear.” (5)  (See also Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 190)


Once the Holy Prophet (SA) told Imam Ali, “O Ali!  Allah has ordered me to keep you near me.  You are to me like an ear that retains everything, because yours are the retaining ears that the Holy Book (Quran) has praised”. (6)


Ibn Abil Hadid, the commentator of Nahjul Balagha cites Abdullah ibn Abbas saying,

 “Once I asked my father, ‘Sir, my cousin Muhammad had many sons, all of whom died in infancy, which of them he loved the most?”  He replied, “Ali ibn Abi Talib”.  I said, “Sir, I was inquiring about his sons.”  He replied:  “The Holy Prophet (SA) loved Ali more than all of his sons.  When Ali was a child, I never saw him separated from Muhammad for half an hour, unless Muhammad went out of the house for some work.  I never saw a father love his son so much as the Holy Prophet loved Ali and I never saw a son so obedient, so attached and so loving to his father as Ali was to Muhammad.”


Jubayr ibn Mut’im, the companion of the Prophet said: 

 “Once his father addressed him and some young men of his family, Have you noticed the child (Ali) loving, venerating and obeying that young man (Muhammad) instead of his own father, what an intensity of love and veneration!  I swear by our gods, the Lat and the Uzza, that instead of having so many offspring of Nawfal around me, I had a son like Ali.”


Once the Holy Prophet (SA) said:  “O Ali!  I wish to achieve every such thing for you that I desire to acquire myself and I want to keep you away from all those things which I abhor.” (7)


Whenever the Holy Prophet was in anger, nobody dared to address him except Ali. (8)


Abbas, the uncle of the Holy Prophet (SA) used to say that they (the Holy Prophet and Ali) loved each other intensely.  The Prophet (SA) was so fond of Ali that once when Ali was a child, he sent him out on some errand.  He took a long time to return.  He started getting worried and anxious and in the end he prayed to Allah, “O Lord don’t let me die unless I behold Ali once again.” (9)


Ali started acting as the bodyguard of the Holy Prophet (SA) even when he was about fourteen.  The young men of Quraish, under instigation of their parents, used to pelt the Holy Prophet (SA) with stones.  Ali took up the work of acting as his defender, he fell upon those young men, broke the nose of one, knocked down the teeth of the other, pulled the ears of the third and threw down the fourth.  He often fought against those who were older than him.  He was often himself hurt, but he never forsook the self-imposed duty.  After some days, he got the nickname of Qazim (the breaker or thrower) and nobody dared throw anything at the Prophet when Ali was with him and he would not allow the Holy Prophet (SA) to go out of the house alone.


Offering his sacrifice at the night of Hegira and his subsequent behaviour in all the battles are enough proofs of the intense love of Imam Ali (AS) for the Holy Prophet (SA).


 Jurjy Zaydan (George Jordac) who died recently was a famous Christian historian, linguist, philosopher and poet of modern Egypt.  Arabic was his mother tongue, but he was so well-versed in English, French, German, Persian and Latin that he used to contribute his work to historical and philosophical magazines of France, Germany and England.  Regarding, Imam Ali (AS) he says: 


“No one can praise Ali to the extent that he (Ali) deserves.  So many instances of his piety and fear of Allah are cited that one starts loving and venerating him.  He was a true, staunch and devout follower of Islam.  His words and deeds bore stamp of nobility, sagacity and courage of convictions.  He was a great man having his own independent views about life and its problems.  He never deceived, misled, or betrayed anybody.  In various phases and periods of his life, he exhibited marvelous strength of body and mind which were due to his firm belief in religion and his abiding faith in truth and justice.  He never had a servant and never did he allow his slaves to work hard.  Often he would carry his household goods himself and if anybody offered to relieve him of the load he would refuse.”


Allama Muhammad Mustafa Beck Najib, the famous Egyptian philosopher and Professor of Islamic Studies at Al-Azhar University, in his equally famous book “Himayatul Islam”, says: 


“What can be said about this Imam?  It is very difficult to fully explain his attributes and qualities.  It is enough to realize that the Holy Prophet (SA) had named him the gateway of knowledge and wisdom.  He was the most learned person, the most brave man and the most eloquent speaker and orator.  His piety, his love of Allah, his sincerity and fortitude in following religion were of such high standard that no one could aspire to reach him.  He was the greatest politician because he hated diplomacy and loved truth and justice, his was the policy as taught by Allah.  On account of hi sagacity and thorough knowledge of human nature, he always arrived at correct conclusions and never changed his decision.  His was the best judgement, and had he no fear of Allah, he would have been the greatest diplomat amongst the Arabs.  He is loved by all, and everyone has a place for him in his heart.  He was a man of such surpassing and pre-eminent characteristics and such transcending and peerless qualities that many learned men got perplexed about him and imagined him to be an embodiment of Allah.  Many amongst the Jews and Christians loved him, and such philosophers who had come to know of his teachings bowed down before his incomparable vast knowledge.  Roman kings would have his pictures in their palaces and great warriors would engrave his name on their swords!”


Another philosopher and historian of Egypt, Ustad (Professor) Muhammad Kamil Hatha, pays his tributes to Imam Ali (AS) in the following words: 


 “His life is an agglomeration of pleasing incidents, bloody encounters and sad episodes.  His personality is very prominent on account of his transcending and high qualities.  Each aspect of his life is so lofty and glorious that a study of one phase makes you feel that it was the best phase of his character and the most beautiful picture of his personality, while contemplation of any other phase will enchant you more and you will come to conclude that no human being can attain that height, and a third aspect will fascinate you equally and you will realize that before you is a personality of such sublime eminence that you cannot fully appreciate its greatness and you will feel that Ali was an Imam (leader)  in the battlefield, was an Imam in politics, was an Imam in religion, was an Imam in ethics, in philosophy, in literature, in learning and in wisdom.  It is not difficult for Allah to create such a person!” (10)


John J. Pool, the historian (author of the life of H.M. Queen Victoria) in his book, “Studies in Muhammadanism” says: 


 “This prince (Imam Ali) was a man of mild and forbearing character, wise in counsel and bold in war.  Muhammad had given him the title of the “Lion of God”.  Ali and his sons, Hasan and Husain were truly noblemen — men of righteousness, men of brave, humble and forgiving spirit.  Their lives deserve to be commemorated; for there was a peculiar pathos about them (their lives) which were not spent selfishly or in vain.  as Mathew Arnold in Essay in Criticism says:  “The sufferers of Karbala had aloft to the eyes of millions — the lesson so loved by the sufferer of Cavalry (Representation of Crucification):  “Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and Ye shall find rest unto your souls”.  He further says that Ali was the First Caliph to protect and encourage national literature.  This prince was a scholar himself and many of his wise sayings and proverbs are published in a book.  It is a remarkable work and deserves to be more widely read in the West”.


Ibn Abil Hadid says: 


 “Imam Ali (AS) had a personality in which opposite characteristics had so gathered that it was difficult to believe that a human mind could manifest such a combination.  He was the bravest man that history could cite and such brave persons are always hard-hearted, cruel, and eager for bloodshed.  On the contrary, Ali was kind, sympathetic, responsive and warm-hearted person, qualities quite contradictory to the other phase of his character and more suited to pious persons.  He was very pious but more often pious and religious persons avoid society and do not care to mix with corrupt and sinful persons.  Similarly warriors, kings and dictators are usually arrogant and haughty.  They consider it below their dignity to mix with poor, lowly and humble persons.  But Ali was different.  He was a friend to all.  As a matter of fact he had a soft corner in his heart for poor and humble and for orphans and crippled.  To them he always was a kind friend, a sympathetic guide and a fellow sufferer;  he was meek towards them but haughty and arrogant against notorious warriors and generals, so many of whom he had killed in hand to hand combats.  He was always kind but strict with wayward persons, sympathetically teaching them the ways of Allah.  He always smiled and passed happy and witty rejoinders.  It was difficult to overcome him in debates or repartees, his rejoinders and retorts always bore high mark of culture, education and wisdom.


He was a scion of a very illustrious, rich and noble clan, as well as son-in-law and great favourite of the Holy Prophet (SA), at the same time, the greatest warrior and marshal of his time.  Yet, in spite of his riches, he ate, dressed and lived like a poor man.  To him wealth was for the use of other needy persons, not for himself and his family.  Change of times and change of circumstances did not bring any change in his bearing, mien or character.  Even when he ascended the throne of Arabia, and was acclaimed as the caliph, he was the same Ali as the people had found him during the previous regimes.”


Once when in the presence of Abdullah ibn Imam Malik ibn Hanbal, a discussion took place about Imam Ali (AS) and his Caliphate, Abdullah brought the discussion to an end by saying: ” The Caliphate did not bring any honour or glory to Ali, but it was the Caliphate, honoured and glorified by Ali, and it received the status actually due to it.”


I want to add one more point to the points discussed by Ibn Abil Hadid.  World cannot quote an example other than that of Imam Ali (AS) of a first class warrior, and a marshal who is also a philosopher, a moralist and a great teacher of religious principles and theology.  A study of his life shows that his sword was the only help that Islam received during its early days of struggle and its wars of self-defence.  For Islam, he was the first line of defence, the second line of defence and the last line of defence!  Who was with him in the Battles of Badr, Uhud, Khandaq, Khaybar and Hunayn?  This is one aspect of his life. 


While the other phase of his character is portrayed by his sermons, orders, letters and sayings.  What values of morality they teach, what ethics they preach, what intricate problems of monotheism they elucidate, how rich they are in philosophy, how they train us to be good, kind, benevolent and pious rulers, and faithful, sincere and loyal subjects;  how they persuade us to be warriors who can fight only for Allah, truth and justice, and not mercenaries, murdering and plundering for riches and wealth; and how they instruct us to be teachers who can teach nothing injurious and harmful to mankind.  Was there any such combination before and will there ever be??   (See also “Imam Ali’s wonderful character — contradictory virtues and qualities”)


To Oelsner, (the famous French Orientalist and author of Les Effects de La Religion de Mohammed), Ali was an embodiment of chivalry; and personification of gallantry and generosity.  He says: 

 “Pure, gentle and learned without fear, and without reproach, he presented to the world the noblest examples of Chivalrous grandeur of character.  His spirit was a pure reflection of that of Muhammad, it overshadowed the Islamic world and formed the animating genius of succeeding ages”.


Osborne, in “Islam under the Arabs” says: 


 “Ali had been advised by several of his counsellors to defer the dismissal of the corrupt governors previously appointed until he himself was sure against all enemies.  The pillar of Islam, the hero without fear and without reproach, refused to be guilty of any duplicity or compromise with injustice.  This uncompromisingly noble attitude costed him his State and his life; but such was Ali, he never valued anything above justice and truth”.


Gibbon (in “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. V) says: 


 “The zeal and virtues of Ali were never outstripped by any recent proselyte.  He united the qualifications of a poet, a soldier and a saint.  His wisdom still breathes in a collection of moral and religious sayings; and every antagonist in the combats of tongue or of sword was subdued by his eloquence and valour.  From the first hour of mission to the last rites of his funeral, the Prophet (Muhammad) was never forsaken by this generous friend (Ali) whom he delighted to name his brother, his vicegerent and the faithful Aaron of second Moses”.


Mas’udi, the famous historian of Islam says: 


 “If the glorious name of being the first Muslim, a comrade of the Prophet in exile, his faithful companion in the struggle for the faith, his intimate associate in life, and his kinsman, if a true knowledge of the spirit of his teachings and of the Book, if self-abnegation and practice of justice, if honesty, purity and love of truth and if knowledge of law and science constitute a claim to pre-eminence, then all must regard Ali as the foremost Muslim.  We shall search in vain to find either among his predecessors except the Holy Prophet, or among his successors, those virtues with which Allah had endowed him”.


Imam Ali’s faith


As has been declared by all historians of Islam, Imam Ali (AS) from his infancy was adopted and looked after by the Holy Prophet (SA).  Therefore, naturally his religious tendencies from his very childhood were those of the Holy Prophet (SA).  The question as to when he embraced Islam is out of consideration.  He was a Muslim from the very beginning!  His religion was the religion of the Prophet Muhammad (SA).  At the age of 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th, and 14th year, he was following the religion which the Holy Prophet (SA) had at his 35th, 37th, 40th, 42nd and 44th year of his life!  (this being the difference between the respective ages of the Holy Prophet (SA) and Ali, about 30 years).  If the Holy Prophet (SA) at any period of his life was a non-Muslim, then Ali at that period was also a non-Muslim.  This is the logic of facts!  Ali was like a son to the Holy Prophet (SA) therefore his religion from the very beginning was the religion followed by the Holy Prophet (SA).


Mas’udi further says:  “The general consensus of opinion amongst the Muslim historians and theologians is that Ali was never a non-Muslim and never did he worship idols, therefore, the question of his embracing Islam does not and cannot arise”. (11)


 Marriage to Hazrat Fatima (SA)


“Imam Ali was married to Lady Fatima, the only daughter of the Holy Prophet (SA) from Lady Khadija.  He had been betrothed to her several days before the expedition to Badr.  But the marriage was solemnized three months later, Imam Ali (AS) being in his 21st year and Lady Fatima in the 15th year of her life”. (12)


It was the happy marriage.  The inherent distinctiveness of their respective characters blended so well with each other that they never quarreled and complained of each other and they led a happy and contented life.  Each one of them was rich in his own rights.  All that they owned went to the poor, the crippled and the orphans and they themselves often starved.  Their only luxury in life was prayers and the company of each other and their children.  They willingly shared the sorrows and sufferings of the poor.  They were given a slave girl, Fizza; and the Holy Prophet (SA) had made arrangement that every alternate day was the off day of Fizza and her mistress would do all the household work.  Even when Lady Fatima (SA) was ill on Fizza’s off day, Fizza would not be allowed to attend to her duties, but Imam Ali (AS) would work; and the hero of the battles of Badr, Uhud, Khandaq, Khaybar and Hunayn was seen grinding oats, igniting the oven, baking the bread and looking after the children.


Salman Farsi says:  “What a household, the only daughter of the Holy Prophet (SA) and wife of vicegerent leading the life of a poor labourer.  If they had spent one-tenth of what they were distributing daily, they would have led a life of ease and comfort”.


From Imam Ali (AS), the Lady of Light (Fatima) had four children and the fifth (Mohsin) was a still birth.  The causes of this mishap and also that of her death are very sad and tragic incidents of their lives.  The names of their children were Hasan, Husain, Zainab (wife of Abdullah ibn Ja’far) and Umme Kulthum (wife of Ubaydullah ibn Ja’far).


During the lifetime of Lady Fatima, Imam Ali (AS) did not marry another woman.  After her death he married Yamamah and at her death another lady, having the name of Hanafia, from whom he had a son, Muhammad Hanafia, and after her death, he married again, thus he had many children some of whom had unparalleled places in the history of mankind, e.g. Hasan, Husain (the hero of Karbala), Zainab (the defender of Islam in Kufa and Damascus), Abbas (the commander of Husain’s army) and Muhammad Hanafia, (the hero of the Battle of Naharwan).

Imam Ali’s noble behaviour towards enemies

I have cited below  few cases which go to show what type of man was Imam Ali (AS). He was as Pool says:  “Truly a noble man, a man of righteousness and a man of brave, humble and forgiving spirit”, and as Oelsner says:  “Pure, gentle and learned, without fear and without reproach, setting the nobles example of character to the world”.  Out of hundreds and hundreds of cases to select I find it rather difficult which to choose and which not to choose.  I have selected a few according to the standard of my knowledge and visualization.


Talha ibn Abi Talha was not only a bitter enemy of Islam, but was also hostile towards the Holy Prophet (SA) and Imam Ali (AS).  His exertions to harm these two and their mission is a historical fact.  In the Battle of Uhud, he was the standard-bearer of the army of Quraish.  Ali (AS) faced him and in a hand to hand encounter, dealt him such a severe blow that he reeled and fell down.  Imam Ali left him like that and walked away from him.  Many Muslim warriors ran up to Ali and advised him to finish Talha, saying that he was Ali’s worst enemy.  Ali replied:  “Enemy or no enemy, he can’t defend himself now, and I cannot strike a man who is not in a position to defend himself.  If he survives he is welcome to live as long as his life lasts”


In the Battle of Jamal, in the thick of the encounter his slave Qambar brought some soft drink saying, “My master!  The sun is very hot and you have been constantly fighting, have a glass of this cold drink to refresh yourself”.  He looked around himself and replied:  “Shall I refresh myself when hundreds of people around me are lying wounded and dying of thirst and wounds?  Instead of brining soft drink for me take a few men with you and give each of these wounded persons a soft drink”.  Qambar replied:  “My master!  They are all our enemies!”  He said:  “They may be, but their are human beings, go and attend to them.”


In the Battle of Siffin, Muawiyah reached the river Euphrates before the army of Imam Ali (AS) and took position of the river.  When Imam Ali’s army reached there, he was informed that they would not be allowed a drop of water from the river.  Imam Ali (AS) sent a messenger to Muawiyah, saying that this action was against the canons of humanity and orders of Islam.  Muawiyah’s reply was that, “A war is a war, hence one cannot accept principles of humanity and doctrines of Islam.  My sole aim is to kill Ali (AS) and to demoralize his army and this stoppage of water will bring about these results quickly and easily”.  Imam Ali (AS) ordered his son, Husain (AS), to resume the attack and get back the river.  The attack took place and the river was captured.  It was then Muawiyah’s turn to beseech permission to get water from the river.  His messengers arrived and Imam Ali (AS) told them to take as much water as they liked and as often as they required.  When Imam’s officers told him that those were the very people who had refused water to them, should they be allowed a free run of the river?  He replied, “They are human beings and though have acted inhumanly, yet I cannot follow their example and cannot refuse a man food and drink just because he happens to be my sworn enemy!”


In the Battle of Naharwan, Imam Ali (AS) himself was fighting like any other ordinary soldier.  During this battle, a man came to face him and in the encounter lost his sword.  He realized his hopeless plight of standing before Ali without any weapon in hand.  Ali’s hand was raised for a blow when he saw the opponent trembling with fear, he lowered his hand slowly and said:  “Run away, friend, you are not in a position to defend yourself”.  This attitude made the man bold and he said: ” Ali!  Why don’t you kill me, it would have made one enemy less for you”.  Ali replied, “I cannot strike a man, who cannot defend himself.  You were begging for your life and it was spared”.  The opponent got bolder, and said, ” I am told that you have never refused a beggar.  Now I beg you of your sword, will you grant it to me?”  Ali handed him over the sword!  Taking possession of the sword he said:  “Now Ali!  Who is going to defend you against me and save you from my killing-blow?”  He replied:  “Of course Allah will defend me if He so wills!  He has appointed my death to be my guarding angel, no one can harm me before it is due and no one can save me when it arrives”.  Nobility of though and action affected the foe and he kissed the bridle of Ali’s horse and said:  “O master!  You are a great man indeed!  You cannot only forsake the life of your enemy in a battlefield but also you can grant him your sword.  May I have the honour to act as your body guard and to fight for you?  Imam Ali replied:  “Friend!  Fight for truth and justice and don’t fight for individuals!”


During 39 and 40 A.H., Muawiyah, organized bands of murderers and brigands to enter the border-towns and to carry on loot, plunder, arson and rape.  Kumail was at that time the Governor of Hiyat.  He asked Imam’s permission to organize similar bands and carry plunder in the province of Qirqisya, which was under the control of Muawiyah.  Imam Ali (AS) replied to him:  “I never expected such a suggestion from a man like you.  It is more noble and more moral to guard your people and province then to plunder others.  They might be our enemies but they are human beings.  They consist of civilian population comprising of women and children, how can one kill, loot and plunder them??  No, never!  Don’t even dream of such a venture!”  (See Nahjul Balagha, Letter 61)

It was the month of Ramazan, the month of fasting. It was the time of the morning prayers.  Masjid Kufa was overcrowded.  Imam Ali (AS) was kneeling down before Allah and when he raised his head, a terrible blow fell upon it making a very deep cut.  There was a great disturbance and commotion in the masjid.  The assassin ran for his escape.  The Muslims chased him and brought him before Imam Ali (A)S who was on the prayer carpet that was soaked in blood and he was reclining upon his sons.  He knew the blow was fatal and that he would not survive it but when the assassin was brought before him, he saw that the rope which had bound him was so tightly tied that it was piercing in to his flesh.  Imam Ali (AS) turned towards the Muslims and said: “You should not be so cruel with your fellow-beings, slacken his ropes, don’t you see that they are cutting his flesh and he is in agony?”  Such was Ali!  History is replete with incidents of his chivalrous and kind treatment towards his enemies.   (See also “The cursed assassin and the noble martyr”)


Imam Ali to his friends and subjects

Let us see what history says about his behaviour with his friends and relatives.


Abdullah ibn Ja’far was his nephew, whom he had brought up since the death of his father, Ja’far ibn Abu Talib and to whom he had given his beloved daughter Zainab, in marriage.  Once Abdullah came to him requesting for an advance installment of his share from Baitul Mal (Public Treasury).  Ali (AS) refused and when the young man persisted, he said:  “No, my son!  Not until all the others get their share.”


Aqeel, Imam Ali’s elder brother, was financially not in sound condition.  He asked for something more than his due share before the time. The Imam refused by saying that he could not resort to dishonesty.  Aqeel must wait till the time of disbursement and he must bear the sufferings patiently.  Imam Ali (AS) cited this incident in one of his sermons.  (Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 221)


Ibn Hunaif, was his trusted disciple, and a faithful follower.  He was governor of a province and was once invited to a function which was followed by a sumptuous dinner.  When Imam Ali (AS) heard of this, he sent him a very strong letter, criticizing his action.  He wrote:  “You went to a dinner where only rich people were invited and the poor were scornfully excluded”. (Nahjul Balagha, Letter 45)


Imam Ali (AS) had two slaves, Qambar and Sa’id.  After his demise, Qambar related that very seldom he had the occasion to serve his master.  The noble Imam used to do his work by himself, used to wash his own clothing, used even to stitch patches on them whenever needed.  He would give them good food and descent dresses and would himself eat and dress like a simple man.  Let alone whipping or beating, he never even got angry with them.  He never used a can, even on his horse, camel or mule.  These animals apparently understood his mood and desire and would trot and walk as he wished them to do.  His regular phrase with them was, ‘Go easy, child’. 


Continuing, Qambar said:  “One and only once, he got annoyed with me.  It was the occasion when I showed him the money that I had hoarded.  It was from my share of income given to me like others from the Public Treasury and the gift I had received from the members of his family.  I had no immediate use of it and thus had saved the amount.  It was not much, being barely 100 dirhams.  When I showed him the amount, he looked and annoyed and what pained me more, he looked very sad.  I inquired as to why he was so sad.  He said:  “Qambar, if you had no use of this money, were there not people around you who were in need of it, some of them might have been starving and some might have been ill, could you not have helped them?  I never thought that you could be so heartless and cruel, and could love wealth for the sake of wealth.  Qamber, I am afraid you are not trying to acquire much from Islam, try more seriously and sincerely.  Take these coins from here”.  Qambar went out and distributed the money amongst the poor in Masjid Kufa.


Sa’id says, “It was a very hot day.  Imam Ali (AS) was writing some letters, he wanted to send me to call some of his officers, he called me once, twice and thrice and each time, I purposely kept silent and did not reply.  He got up to look for me and found I was not sitting very far away from him.  He asked me as to why I did not respond to his call.  I replied, ‘Sir, I want to find out when and how you get angry’.  He smiled and replied:  “You can’t rouse my anger with such childish tricks”.


Once Ubaydullah ibn Abbas, as governor maltreated Bani Tamim clan.  They complained to Imam Ali.  He wrote to Ibn Abbas,


 “You should not behave like a beast with your subjects.  They are respectable people and should be treated respectfully.  You are representing me and your treatment would be taken as that of mine.  Your first consideration should be the welfare of those over whom you rule and then to treat them with due respect”.  (Nahjul Balagha, Letter 18)


Once a group of non-Muslim subjects complained to Imam Ali (AS) that Abdullah ibn Abbas always treated them with contempt and scorn.  They were farmers and laboured hard.  It had then become a practice that non-Muslims were usually treated scornfully.  Imam wrote to Abdullah:



“The farmers complain about your harsh, contemptuous and cruel treatment.  Their complaints require careful consideration. I feel that they deserve better treatment than what was meted out to them, give them a better chance to approach you and treat them kindly and politely.  They may be heathens and polytheists but being our subjects, and human beings, they do not deserve to be driven away from us and treated harshly”.  (Nahjul Balagha, Letter 19)


Once Imam Ali was passing through Ambaz with his army.  The rich men of the province, as was the custom of those days, came out to greet him.  They offered the best Persian horses as presents and requested his permission to serve his army.  He met them courteously but politely refused to accept the gifts and said, “You have paid your taxes, to receive anything more from you, even when you offer it voluntarily and willingly, is a crime against the State.”  But when they persisted and pressed their request, he ordered that the horses could be accepted as their taxes and so far as the feast was concerned, it must be paid out of the war expenses.


The Russians in 1905 found an order of Imam Ali in his own hand-writing which was in Kufi script.  This was found in a monastery of Ardabail, chief town of Azar Baijan.  This letter was an amnesty deed to the monastery and the Christians of Ardabail.  Translation of this deeds appeared in the Russian newspapers and thence it was translated in the Turkish papers and in the Arabic Magazines of Cairo and Beirut, and several commentating articles on the spirit of toleration and the treatment of conquered countries by Islam were written by the Russians and Arab Christians.  Apparently from the magazine “Hablul Matin”, it was translated by the magazine “Al-Hakam”. (Vol. II, No. 47, 1906)


In this deed, Imam Ali (AS) says that as a caliph and a ruler, he promises safety and security of life, property, honour, social status and religious freedom of Armanian Christians.  This order should be obeyed by his officers and by his successors.  The Christians should not be maltreated or looked down because they are non-Muslims.  So long as they do not try to betray and injure the cause of the State of Islam, they should not be molested but should be allowed to practice their religion and to trade freely and openly.  Islam teaches us to carry a message of peace with us and improve the status of society wherever we go and the best way to achieve this is to create amity, friendliness and concord between human beings;  therefore, Muslims should try to develop friendship of these people and should never resort to wrong use of power, force and arrogance.  They should not be overtaxed, should not be humiliated and should not be forced out of their homes, lands, and trades.  Their priests should be treated with due respects, their monasteries should be protected and they should be allowed to carry on their lectures, teachings and preachings as usual and their religious ceremonies should not be banned.  If they want to build their places of worship then fallow and unclaimed lands should be allotted to them.  One, who disobeys this order is going against the orders of Allah, and the Holy Prophet (SA) and will deserve His Wrath.


Once when Harith ibn Suhayl, the Governor of Kufa, was riding through the city, saw Imam Ali (AS) also on a ride.  He got down from his horse to accompany the Imam on foot.  Imam Ali (AS) stopped his horse and said, “It does not behove a man to lower himself before anybody but Allah.  Please mount back on your horse.  Even if you had not been an  officer of the State, I would not have allowed you to lower yourself like this, the sight of such humiliation of man before man never pleases me.  It is the worst form of tyranny which can be practiced.”


There is a letter of Imam Ali (AS), which is actually a system of rules and regulations for the administration of a just government and a code for higher values of morality.  It is included in Nahjul Balagha (Letter 53) and is referred so often by historians of Europe, philosophers of Arabia and even by Justice Kayani in his presidential address at the Karachi Bar on April 16, 1960.  Thus it needs no introduction.  In this letter there are instructions which show that he wanted his officers to remember that the people over whom they rule are the trust entrusted to them by Allah, and they should be treated as such.


Imam Ali (AS) had a very soft corner in his heart for the old, the weak, the disabled and the poor and children were always his favourites.


It was the hottest day of the season, he had finished his noon-prayers in the masjid and was passing through the bazaar.  He saw a young slave-girl piteously weeping.  He asked her the reason.  She said that her master had given her some money to get dates from the bazaar. The dates which she brought were not liked by her master, he wanted them to be returned and get back the money.  The fruit-seller refused to take them back, her master was beating her for the money and the fruit-seller had also punished her for going to him over and over again.  She did not know what to do and whom to approach for help.


Imam Ali (AS) accompanied her to the fruit-seller to advise him to take the dates back.  He was a new-comer to Kufa and did not recognize the Imam and was rude to him.  Some passers-by intervened and introduced the Imam to him.  He jumped from his shop and begged of Imam Ali (AS) to excuse him and said that he would give back the money immediately to her.  The Imam replied that it was really mean of him to treat honest suggestion disdainfully and haughtily and to cow down before power and might so abjectly.  The owner of the slave-girl had also heard the news of this incident and ran to meet the Imam to apologize for the trouble caused to the slave-girl.  Imam Ali (AS) told him, “You have no mercy for a person who is under your power and you do not forgive her mistake, have you a right to expect mercy and forgiveness from the Lord?  You people have acquired nothing from Islam but its name.”


One day he saw an old woman carrying a heavy load of fire-wood which she could hardly lift, she was tottering under the weight.  Imam Ali (AS) relieved her of her weight, carried it to her house.  when Imam Ali (AS) told her about who he was, only then she realized that the one who had served her like an obedient servant was none but Imam Ali, the Caliph and the Commander of the Faithful.


It was after his death only that people came to know that he had provided a shelter to a leper in an advanced stage of the disease.  The shelter was outside the town, he used to go there daily, dress his wounds, feed him with his own hands (because the leper had lost his hands), wash him, put his bed in order and carry him out of the shelter for a little while so that he may get fresh air.  Incidentally, when the relatives and friends of Imam Ali (AS) came across this shelter and found a leper in it, they told him the Imam was assassinated as they had just then buried him.  The news so affected the man that he died on the spot.

Imam Ali’s simple lifestyle 

Imam Ali (AS) always ate and dressed in such a simple way that even the poorest could afford better.  It was not because he was poor, but it was because he wanted to lead the life of the poorest person and spend all that could thus be spared on the poor.  I have noted below certain cases quoted by the historians.  These incidents are of the time when he was the ruler of the entire Muslim Empire, except Syria.


Suwayda bin Ghafla says:  “One day I went to see Imam Ali (AS) in the Government House (Darul Imarah).  It was the time of breakfast and before him there was a cup of milk and some barley bread.  The bread was dry, stale, hard and did not contain any butter or oil.  It could not be easily broken into pieces. Imam Ali (AS) was exerting himself to break it and to soften it.  I turned towards the maid-servant, Fizza and said, ‘Fizza!  Have you no pity upon your old master, and why can’t you give him softer bread and add some butter or oil to it?’  She replied, “Why should I pity him when he never pities himself.  He has given strict orders that nothing is to be added to his bread and even chaff and husks are not to be separated from the flour.  We, ourselves eat much better food than this, although we are his servants.”  Hearing this, I told him, “O master!  Have pity on yourself, look at your age, your responsibilities, your hard work and your food.”  He replied, “O Suwayda!  You have no idea what the Holy Prophet (SA) used to eat.  He never ate his fill for three consecutive days.” (13)


Abdullah ibn Zurarah says:  “I went to see Imam Ali (AS) on an Eid (festival) day.  He asked me to join in his breakfast.  I consented.  A very simple kind of food was served before us.  I told him, “O master! You are such a rich man and a caliph.  I was expecting that a game would be served before us but what do I see?”   The great Imam replied, “Ibn Zurarah, you have heard of mighty kings who have led life of luxury.  Let me be a ruler leading the life of a poor and humble person — a humble labourer.” (14)


Ibn Abi Rafe’, the famous Tabe’i, says:  He went to Imam Ali (AS) on an Eid day and while he was sitting there, a bag was brought before the Imam, he thought it might contain jewels.  The Imam opened the bag, it contained dried pieces of bread, which he softened with water.  Ibn Abi Rafe’ asked him as to the reason of sealing such a kind of food which even a beggar would not care to steal.  The Imam (AS) smiled and said:  “I keep it sealed because my children try to substitute softer bread, containing oil or butter in it.”  Ibn Abi Rafe’ said, “Has Allah prohibited you to eat a better kind of food?”  He replied:  “No, but I want to eat the kind of food which the poorest of this region can afford at least once a day.  I shall improve it after I have improved their standard of life.  I want to live, feel and suffer like them”. (15)


Harun ibn Anza said that he accompanied his father (Anza) to meet Imam Ali (AS), in winter days and the winter was very severe.  He found the Imam in a very thin cotton garment, and the cold wind was making him shiver.  Anza asked him, “O Commander of the Faithful!  Allah has reserved a share for you and your family from Public Treasury why do you not make use of it?”  He replied:  “O Anza!  I don’t want anything from your treasury, this is the dress I have brought with me from Medina.” (16)


Zayd ibn Wahab said that once Imam Ali (AS) came out of his house and there were patches sewn to his dress.  Ibn Nu’aja, who was once a Kharijite and an enemy and yet he was allowed to lead a peaceful and comfortable life by Imam at Kufa, once taunted Imam Ali (AS) on the very poor and coarse kind of dress put on by him.  He replied:  “Let go, what have you to find objection in my dress, it is the kind which our masses can afford, why can’t you think of their lives and dresses!  I shall improve my standard after I have succeeded in improving theirs.  I shall continue to live like them.  Such a kind of dress makes one feel humble and meek and give up vanity, haughtiness and arrogance.” (17)


Amr ibn A’iz narrated that once he asked Imam Ali as to the reason of his having patches in his dress, he replied:  “O Amr, such type of dress makes you soft-hearted, vanishes vanity from your mind and it is the kind which poor Muslims can conveniently afford.” (18). (See alsoNahjul Balagha, Saying 103)


Hasan bin Jurmuz narrates that his father once saw Imam Ali coming out of Kufa Mosque in a shirt made of jute cloth and around him were people so well-dressed that compared to him they looked like princes, he was advising them as how to understand religion. (19)


Abu Nuziya, the draper of Kufa narrates that Imam Ali purchased two shirts from his shop, one was of superior quality, which he handed over to his slave Qambar to put on and the other which was cheap and coarse, reserved it for himself. (20)

 (See more about Imam Ali’s dress and food in Nahjul Balagha, Letter45  and Sermon207)


Imam Ali’s services to Islam

Dawat-Zul-Asheera — Prophet’s first public invitation       


The first occasion on which Imam Ali (AS) offered his services to the cause of Islam was when the Holy Prophet (SA) was first ordered by Allah to preach Islam publicly.


For three years, the Holy Prophet was preaching Islam under absolute secrecy, at the end of the third year of his mission, he received orders to preach his near relations and to admonish them.  “The Holy Prophet directed Ali to prepare an entertainment and to invite the sons and grandsons of Abdul Muttalib.  This was done and about forty of them came, but Abu Lahab, made the company break up before Muhammad had an opportunity to speak.  Next day, a second invitation was issued and when they came and the frugal meal was served the Holy Prophet rose and declared his sacred character, offered the treasures of time and of eternity to whomsoever should become his disciples, and concluded by demanding, who among you will aid me to bear this burden, who will be my Lieutenant, and Vazir, as Aaron was unto Moses?  The assembly remained mute with astonishment, not one venturing to accept the offered perilous office, until Ali, Muhammad’s cousin, stood up and exclaimed, “O Prophet!  I will, though I am indeed the youngest of those present, the most rheum of them as to the eyes, and the slenderest of them as to the legs.  O Prophet, I will be your Vazir over them.  On this, locking his arms around the generous and courageous youth, and pressing him to his bosom, Muhammad declared:  “Behold my brother and my Vazir and obey him.” (21)


Many historians are of the opinion that it was a momentous declaration at a momentous occasion.  The first and the greatest service done to the cause of Islam. If the appeal of the Holy Prophet (SA) was then left unanswered, the propagation of Islam would have been nipped in the bud. 


Carlyle is of the opinion that: 

 “Though all the people gathered there, were not enemies of the Holy Prophet, yet most of them were dead against this religion, and some were quite uninterested.  To them, the whole thin, (an adult person preaching a new religion and a young courageous youth offering his services vehemently) looked like a big farce.  They laughed at both of them, and dispersed advising Ali’s father (Abu Talib) to obey his youngest son from that day onward.  But these two people (Prophet Muhammad and Imam Ali) proved to the world that there was nothing laughable in their declaration and they had wisdom and courage enough to make their mission a success.  He further says that young Ali had really such a personality as could be liked, loved and venerated by everybody.  He was the man of excellent character, loving and lovable, so intensely brave that if anything stood against his bravery it was consumed as if by fire, yet he was so gentle and kind that he represented the model of a Christian Knight”.


As was said this was really the first and the greatest service to Islam.  From this day to the last day of his life, Imam Ali (AS) sincerely, bravely and nobly acted as the defender of the faith.

The Night of Migration

The second great occasion was when the Holy Prophet (SA) was forced to leave Mecca, making somebody stay in his place in such a way that his enemies would believe that he was still in his house and thus he might safely go away in the darkness of the night.  This departure to Medina is called Hegira, and the Muslim era is named after this event.  It took place during the month of September in 662 A.D. on Thursday, the 26th Safar of the 13th year of the Prophetic Mission.


People of Medina were favourably inclined towards Islam and some who had embraced this religion had promised every kind of support to the Holy Prophet (SA).  Many Muslims who had left for Medina were warmly welcomed by the people (Ansar) of Medina.  Quraish, realizing that Islam was gaining a good support with a firm hold on Medina and those who had fled Mecca were being happily settled there, decided to strike at the very root.  Their hatred of the Holy Prophet (SA) was so intense that nothing would satisfy them but his death.  They gathered at Nadva and decided that a few people from each clan of Quraish would jointly attack the Prophet (SA) and strike him with their swords at one and the same time.  Thus no individual of any single clan would be responsible for his death and Bani Hashim would not be able to kill any person or fight against any single clan and as they were not strong enough to fight against any one of Quraish, they would be forced to be content with blood-money (Diyat).  They further decided to besiege the house of the Prophet (SA) during the night in order to kill him next morning.


Thus forty men got ready and encircled his house.  Allah revealed to His Prophet (SA) of the intrigue planned against him and ordered him to leave Mecca the very same night.  It was a serious and dangerous occasion.  He was ordered by Allah to leave Mecca in such a way that none of his enemies might suspect his departure and if possible, none of his friends might know of it.  The walls of his house were barely seven feet high and anyone placing a stone and standing upon it could easily peep into the house.  He knew the house was surrounded.  Whom could he ask to sleep in his bed covering himself with his coverlet, such a person should not expose his identity till dawn (till the Prophet was out of danger) and should be unarmed, so that he might not rouse the suspicion of peeping enemies; he should thus be willing to bear the brunt of the enemies’ anger in the morning and be ready to be killed.  To whom but to Imam Ali (AS) the staunch and loyal supporter of Islam, could the Holy Prophet (SA) turn at this most perilous moment.  He informed Ali (AS) of the whole plan, and of the positive danger of taking his place, saying that the least could be expected of those enemies, would be death.  Imam Ali (AS) asked, “If I take your place, and leave you alone to go through the enemies, will your life be safe?”  “Yes”, replied the Holy Prophet, “Allah has promised me a safe passage through them.” 


Ali (AS) bowed down his head before Allah as a sign of thanksgiving.  He lied down on the bed of the Holy Prophet (SA) and covered himself with the Prophet’s mantle.  During the night many stones and arrows were aimed at him.  Stones hit him in the back, and on the head and arrows embedded in his legs, but he did not turn in his bed.  In the morning he was found out by the enemy only when one of them pulled the mantle.  When they wanted to attack him knowing that he was Ali and not Muhammad, only then the enemy unsheathed his sword.

Imam Ali — The Champion of Islam

In Medina, the Holy Prophet (SA) was forced to defend himself and his followers, and was thus forced to face many battles.  At each and every battle, Imam Ali (AS) was the hero.  And it was he who fought single-handedly with famous warriors of Arabia, defeated the enemies and brought victory to Islam.


Records of these battles carry with them chronicles of his bravery, courage and chivalry.  Even the enemies sang songs of his valour and gallantry.  Everyone of these battles was an outcome of very grave circumstances and conditions, and combination of very serious events and dangerous forces against the safety of the Muslims and Islam.  There were many such encounters, but I have briefly mentioned only five of those instances, where the events had far-reaching effects.  In each of them, Ali (AS) alone broke through evil combinations and carried the Muslims and Islam to a position of safety, eminence and power.


The Battle of Badr


The first of these battles was Badr.  It took place in the month of Ramazan, in 2 A.H.  Muslims were not prepared for a battle and could ill-afford to fight against superior forces.  But Medina was being invaded and the Holy Prophet (SA) was forced to defend himself and his followers.  He decided to leave Medina and fight out the battle in an open field.  He had only 313 Muslims who were not adequately armed for a battle, many of them were nervous of an encounter, and were suffering from inferiority complex.  The Quraish had come with an army of about 1000 warriors and had frightened the Muslims even more. The battle took place and 36 Quraish were killed by Imam Ali (AS), some of them were famous warriors of Quraish and most of them were the same who had surrounded the house of the Prophet (SA) on the night of migration.  During the encounter, he was wounded, but by his bravery and courage, he brought home to Muslims that he would act as the first line of defence for Islam, that they had no cause to suffer from inferiority complex and that Allah would defend them against heavy odds.  Amongst Quraish, there were two sworn enemies of Islam, Abu Jahl and Abu Sufyan and in this battle, Abu Jahl was killed.  Imam Ali was hero of this battle and brought the first victory to Islam in armed encounters with its enemies.


The Battle of Uhud


The second most important battle was that of Uhud.  Quraish and their leader, Abu Sufyan were smarting under the defeat of Badr and had sworn to retaliate.  The idolaters were burning for revenge.  They made formidable preparations for another encounter and succeeded in obtaining assistance of Tahama and Kinama tribes.  Abu Sufyan’s wife, Hinda, mother of Muawiyah, took keen interest in all arrangements and preparations.  She had written poems to excite Quraish against Islam and had organized a band of women minstrels who accompanied the army of Quraish to the battlefield.  Thus they had mobilized an army of 3000 infantry and 2000 cavalry.  The Holy Prophet (SA) could muster on 700 Muslims to face this horde.  They faced each other in the battlefield of Uhud.  The battle took place on the 11th Shawwal, 3 A.H.  The command of Muslim army was divided between Imam Ali (AS) and Hamza (RA), and Abu Sufyan had appointed Khalid bin Walid, Ikrima ibn Abu Jahl and Amr ibn Aas as the three commanders to command the right and left ranks and the front respectively.


The first encounter took place between Imam Ali (AS) and Talha ibn Abi Talha.  This encounter carries with it an incident of marvellous chivalry by Ali.  Talha suffered defeat at the hands of Ali and died.  He was the standard-bearer of Quraish’s army.  His death brought his four sons and one grandson to face Ali, and each one of them was killed by him, and other standard-bearers followed them and were in turn killed by Ali, then a general encounter took place in which Ali and Hamza carried the day and Muslims came out victorious.  But eagerness for spoils threw the ranks of Muslim army into disorder.  Ali (AS) however tried to keep them in order, but they were out of control.  Khalid bin Walid immediately attacked them from the rear and the flank, he wounded the Holy Prophet (SA) with a javelin;  and had also stoned hi, the face of the Prophet (SA) was also wounded and he had fallen down from the horse.  Khalid bin Walid started shouting with a loud voice, “The lying Prophet is slain”, upon which without stopping to ascertain, the followers of Islam fled panic-stricken.


The wounded Prophet (SA) was left in the battlefield with only, Ali, Hamza, Abu Dujana and Zakwan to defend him.  These brave warriors fought fiercely and during this encounter, Hamza was martyred, Zakwan and Abu Dujana lay seriously wounded and Imam Ali (AS) was left alone in the battlefield.  He had received 16 wounds but he searched and found the Holy Prophet (SA) lying wounded and surrounded by enemies under the command of Khalid who were trying to kill him.  Imam Ali (AS) fought against these six men, killed two of them and scattered the rest.  Then he lifted the Holy Prophet (SA) and carried him to a mount;  and continued attacking the rallying armies of the enemy; and kept on shouting that, the Holy Prophet is alive, and calling Muslims to come back.  Those Muslims who had not fled very far came back, saw the wounded Prophet (SA, saw his daughter Fatima (who had come out of Medina hearing the rumour of her father’s death) attending him.  The Muslims took heart and gathered again under the command of Imam Ali (AS) and started fighting again and victory was gained.  The most peculiar aspect of this battle was that the greed of the Muslim warriors had converted a hard-earned victory into an ignominious defeat and Ali had reconverted this defeat into a glorious victory.  He thus once again saved the day, saved the face of the fleeing Muslims and the most important of all, saved the life of the Holy Prophet (SA) without whom the Holy Prophet would have been killed.


Twenty eight famous warriors of Arabia were killed by Imam Ali (AS) in this battle, of whom seventeen were standard-bearers of Quraish.  The Holy Prophet (SA) declared that the angel Gabriel was extolling Ali and had said,



“There is no braver youth than Ali and no better sword than his Zulfiqar.” (22)


The Battle of Khandaq


The third momentous armed encounter of Muslims with Quraish is called the Battle of Clans (Ahzab) or the Battle of the Moat or Ditch (Khandaq).  It is so called because many clans of Arabs were persuaded by Abu Sufyan to help him to annihilate Islam and the Muslims; and because when these forces invade Medina, the Holy Prophet (SA) was obliged to dig a ditch around his army.  This battle also proved that the Holy Prophet (SA) was forced to take up arms in defence of his followers and his mission.  It took place on the 23rd Zil Qada, 5 A.H.


The defeat at Uhud was a great blow to Quraish and their leader Abu Sufyan.  While retreating from Uhud, he had promised that he will come back again to avenge the defeat.  He instigated the clans of Bani Nazir, Bani Ghatafan, Bani Salim and Bani Kinana and also succeeded in persuading Bani Khuza’a, who till then had not sided with any party, to join their forces against Islam.  Abu Sufyan was very sure of his success.  He specially relied upon the fame of Amr ibn Abdiwad, who was as famous in Arabia as Rustam was in Persia.  He had gathered an army of about nine to ten thousand soldiers under the command of this famous warrior.


They marched upon Medina.  The Holy Prophet (SA) could barely muster 2000 Muslims to face this army.  For nearly a month, the armies stood facing each other and one day Amr jumped over the ditch, faced the Muslim army and challenged them for an encounter.  He was accompanied by Ikrima ibn Abu Jahl, Abdullah ibn Mugheera, Zirar ibn Khattab, Nuwfal ibn Abdullah and others.  His bravery, his valour and courage were so well-known in Arabia that none of the Muslims except Ali dare face him.  The assemblage of famous warrior tribes and the presence of Amr ibn Abdiwad as their commanders had made the Muslims so nervous that even the Holy Quran says: 


“Their eyes were petrified and their hearts were beating violently and they were thinking of running away” (Surah al-Ahzab, 33:11)


Thrice Amr ibn Abdiwad challenged them to come out and every time none but Imam Ali (AS) stood up and asked the permission of the Holy Prophet (SA) to face him.  Twice the Prophet refused him that permission, but in the end, he allowed him, saying that, “Today faith in embodiment is facing embodied infidelity”; then he raised his hands in supplication saying, “Lord!  I am sending Ali alone in the battlefield, do not allow me to be left alone, you are the best companion and the best guardian”.  The Muslims were so certain of Ali being killed by Amr, hence, some of them came forward to have a last look at his face. 


The encounter ended in Ali’s success and Amr’s death.  After Amr, he faced Abdullah ibn Mugheera and Nuwfal ibn Abdullah and killed them both.  Thus a victory was won without any Muslim, except Ali, coming out of the ranks. 


In the encounter with Amr, and the defeat and death of this great warrior, Imam Ali (AS) again exhibited such a chivalrous attitude that the sister of Amr composed a poem in praise of the man who faced her brother, fought bravely against him and paid such a noble and chivalrous tribute to his victorious enemy.  In it she said, “If anyone else than Ali had killed her brother, she would have wept over the infamy throughout her life, but not now”.  The death of Amr had completely demoralized the various clans gathered and they started leaving the army and going back to their homes.  Quraish and Abu Sufyan felt that they cannot carry on the battle without the help of other clans and went back to Mecca, sad and dejected.


Thus Ali, brought an end to the hostilities of Quraish in three encounters of Badr, Uhud and Khandaq.  Their best warriors were killed, their unity against Islam was crushed, their pride was humiliated and their prestige before Arab clans was lowered by him.


He further raised the status of Muslims among the haughty, merciless and wild tribes of Arabia.  In all these three battles not more than sixty Muslims were killed, and he alone had killed more than seventy enemies of Islam, everyone of whom was the head of some clan or a subclan, a warrior famous for his bravery or an enemy of the Holy Prophet (SA) and Islam. (23)


In their struggle for existence, Muslims had to face a very serious opposition from Jews.  In the beginning they tried to help Quraish against Islam surreptitiously and then openly.  But when Ali broke through the enmity of Quraish, and when the Holy Prophet (SA) was forced to banish the Jews from Medina, they decided to try their fate against Islam with the help of various tribes of Bani Asad, Bani Kinana and Bani Ghatafan.


 The Battle of Khaybar


Khaybar was the province, which the Jews had occupied since the times of their banishment from Palestine.  It contained a few fortresses, the biggest of them was called Qamus which was on a steep hill.  In these fortresses they started gathering in large number and in the end they raised an army of about ten to twelve thousand warriors and were scheming to march on Medina.  Hearing these serious news the Holy Prophet (SA) decided to face them at Khaybar only.  He marched at the head of an army of 3000 soldiers.  This battle took place in Muharram in 7 A.H.


Imam Ali (AS) then was suffering from sore eyes and was left at Medina.  The Muslim army succeeded in defeating the Jews in minor skirmishes but when they tried to capture the main fort of Qamus, they had to face a retreat;  they could not succeed though they tried for days at a stretch.  The defeats sustained there were sadly demoralizing the Muslim army.  The Holy Prophet (SA) had allowed every important person to command the Muslim forces day by day, but each day the result was fresh defeat, fresh demoralization, fresh boldness of Jews and increasing danger of some more clans, emboldened by the weakness and defeat of Muslims, joining hands with the Jews.  There were still many such tribes who were very hostile against Islam and wanted to harm it, but the victories at Badr, Uhud and Khandaq had made them nervous.  The news of the defeat at Khaybar were making them bold.  “The Jews of Khaybar united by an ancient alliance with Bedouin horde of the Bani Ghatafan were incessantly working for the formation of a powerful alliance against the Muslims, and the Holy Prophet (SA) knew fully well the power possessed by the desert races to harm Muslims.” (24)


There was further danger of Munafiqin (hypocrites and double-dealers) staging a revolt in Medina.  Prompt measures were needed to avert these evils.  Only a victory could have saved the situation which was getting more and more critical day by day.  The Prophet himself was ill and sadly felt the need of Ali at his side.  He knew that though ill, yet Ali had not left him alone and had followed him, therefore whether ill or healthy, Ali had come to come to the succour of Muslims, Islam and the Prophet (SA).  When the news of the last disastrous repulse of the Muslims were brought to him, the Holy Prophet (SA) said,


“Tomorrow I shall give the command (the standard) of this army to a man who is brave, who will keep on attacking, who will not run away from the battlefield, who loves Allah and His Prophet and is loved by Allah and His Prophet and who will not come back to me without success”


Next day Ali was called from his bed and was handed over the command.  He took the fort by storm; killed Marhab, Antar, Murra, Harith and four other chieftains of the Jew tries in hand to hand combats, broke open the doors of the fort single-handedly, carried his army inside the fort and within four hours, he hoisted the flag of Islam on the biggest fortress of Arabia and once more, saved Islam from a disastrous end.


 The news of the success so pleased the Prophet (SA) that he, though ill, came out to greet the victor, embraced him, and said,


“Ali!  Had I not been afraid that Muslims will start regarding you as the Christians regard the Christ, I would have said things about you which would have made the Muslims venerate you and to consider the dust of your feet as something worth venerating;  but it will suffice to say that you are from me and I am from you;  you will inherit me and I will inherit you;  you are to me what Aaron was to Moses; you will fight for my cause; you will be nearest to me on the Day of Judgement; you will be next to me on the fountain of Kauthar; enmity against you is enmity against me;  a war against you is a war against me;  your friendship is my friendship;  to be at peace with you is to be at peace with me; your flesh is my flesh; your blood is my blood; who will obey you will obey me.  Truth is on your tongue, in your heart and in your mind.  You have as much faith in Allah as I have.  You are door to me.  As per orders of Allah I give you these tidings that your supporters will be rewarded in Paradise and your enemies will be punished in Hell.” (25)


The victory which Imam Ali (AS) brought to Islam in Khaybar proved of great consequence to its mission and its followers.  It gave Islam such an importance and prestige over the infidels of the Quraish who till then had complete control and sway over Mecca and who had not even allowed the Holy Prophet (SA) and his followers to come for Hajj and Umra and who had forced them for the Treaty of Hudaybiya, were now obliged to surrender the city to him.  Thus Mecca fell before the superior forces of Islam.


The causes of this invasion and fall of Mecca are not to be discussed here; suffice it to say that Abu Sufyan who has brought it upon all the heads of Quraish, later leaving the country and countrymen to the devil started running for his life to ensure his own and his family’s security of life and property from the Holy Prophet (SA) and through the meditation of Abbas (uncle of the Holy Prophet) he received the pardon sought for.  The behaviour of the Holy Prophet (SA) against these murderers of Muslims and the enemies of Islam was so kind and humane, that he pardoned everyone of them, a clemency and kindness which shall ever remain unparalleled in the history of mankind.  After Mecca was taken over by the Muslims, the precincts of Ka’bah were cleared of all idols by the Holy Prophet (SA) and Imam Ali (AS), and it ceased to exist as the pivot of infidelity and polytheism in Arabia.


The fall of Mecca which took place in the month of Ramazan in 8 A.H. (January 630 A.D.) was entailed serious repercussions.


The success of Islam since the migration had brought many adherents to its fold.  Those were of three types, some had seen the truth in its preaching and had accepted it sincerely and faithfully, some were such that they wanted to bask in the glory of a religion which was fast becoming a mighty temporal power and they wished to make their worldly positions good through its influence and had accepted it with those ulterior motives, while there were some whose conversion was under false impression that unless they had accepted Islam their lives and properties were not safe.  The fall of Mecca had a very sad effect upon those two latter groups.  They were not expecting that Abu Sufyan and Quraish would succumb so easily to the pressure of Muslim invasion.  Clearing of idols from the precincts of Ka’bah and closing its doors to the infidels was a severe blow, it became more poignant when they found that their persistence and old enemy, the man whose valour and whose sword brought all these victories to Islam and disastrous defeats to their side, that is, Imam Ali (AS) was the standard-bearer (commander) of the Prophet’s forces on the occasion of the fall of Mecca, and along with the Holy Prophet (SA), he was the man who cleared Ka’bah of its idols.  There still were many polytheist clans in Arabia, to them Mecca was the center of worship, amongst them there were two powerful bedouin tribes of Bani Hawazin and Bani Thaqif.  They now were joined by Bani Nasr, Bani Sa’d, Bani Hashim and Bani Hilal.  Those tribes decided to stage a comeback and the hypocrites promised them to come to their aid.


The plot was arranged so quickly and so stealthily that by the time the Muslims could rejoice their victory over Mecca, there was an army of 20,000 warriors at Ta’if ready to face them.  The Holy Prophet (SA) marched to Ta’if at the head of an army of 15,000 Muslims.  Some of them were freed slaves of Muslim conquest of Mecca and many more were they hypocrites of the types mentioned above, and there were few thousand of those Muslims who had accompanied him from Medina.


The Battle of Hunayn


The hostile tribes decided to attack the Muslim army at a point of vantage at Hunayn and selected two prominences where they concealed their archers.  The Muslims were very proud of their strength and were proud of their success, but their behaviour during the encounter was shamelessly timid and cowardly.  The Almighty Lord showing their attitude in this battle says: 


 “Allah has helped you on many occasions including the day of Hunayn; though you were proud of the numberof your soldiers, they proved to be of no help.  You could not find any place of shelter, and started fleeing.” (Surah Tawbah, 9:25)


This encounter took place in the month of Shawwal 8 A.H. (January, February 630 A.D.).  When the Muslim army marched towards the place where archers were concealed, the enemy opened the campaign with such a severe onslaught of their archery that the Muslim army could not stand it.  The assault was fierce and the confusion in the Muslim ranks made the archers bolder and they came nearer and attacked from both the flanks and from the front.  Muslims could not stand the attack any longer.  They started deserting the Holy Prophet (SA) without putting up resistance and did not bother leaving him alone. (26)


The first battalion which attacked the Muslims was the one in command of Khalid bin Waleed.  He was accompanied by Bani Salim, a freshly converted Quraish of Mecca.  This was followed by such a disorderly and tumultuous flight of the Muslims that only ten persons out of an army of 15,000 were left with the Holy Prophet (SA).  Eight of them were from Bani Hashim (Abbas and his two sons, Imam Ali (AS), Aqeel and three other cousins of the Prophet). (27)


 Abbas was shouting at the Muslims to come back, reminding them of the oaths of allegiance taken and promises made, but it was of no avail.  Those who has accepted Islam for wealth and power or under false fears were not willing to risk their lives.  They fled as fast as they could.  Many of them who had carefully hidden their enmity of the rising power of Islam were happy at the defeat, they gathered around Abu Sufyan, started congratulating him, and said, “The magical spell of the lying Prophet is broken”.  They were wishing for the come-back of polytheism. (28)


Again it was Imam Ali (AS) who saved the Holy Prophet (SA) and Islam.  Armies of Bani Hawazin and Bani Thaqif under the protection of their arches were rushing down the hillock, and were getting ready for a fierce onslaught.  Ali (AS) divided the small band of faithful Muslims in three divisions, (i) to Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, Abbas ibn Abdul Muttalib and his nephew Abu Sufyan bin Harith (ii) He assigned the duty of guarding the Holy Prophet (SA) to three others, (iii) he ordered to guard the rear and he faced the onslaught with only three warriors along with him.  He restlessly combated the enemy and though he was wounded he faced the commander of the hostile army, Abu Jardal in a hand to hand combat and killed him with one stroke of the sword.  He attacked the enemy’s rank once again, bringing the number of those whom he had slain on that day to forty.  His aides had a glorious example before them, they also fought bravely and killed thirty soldiers.


The day was saved, the commander of the enemy’s army was killed, their ranks were broken, they had no courage to face Ali (AS) and started retreating.  The sight of a powerful enemy under retreat, made the fleeing Muslims bold and they returned after a victory was won for them. (29)


During the lifetime of the Holy Prophet, Imam Ali was sent on many occasions for propagation of Islam and on many missions of mercy and peace.  He carried these duties to the satisfaction of the Holy Prophet and Allah.  For instance, in the words of “The Spirit of Islam”, “The men of Khalid bin Walid, under the order of this newly converted warrior killed Bani Jazima Beduin.  The news of this wanton bloodshed deeply grieved the Prophet and he prayed:  “O Lord! I am innocent of what Khalid done”.  He immediately dispatched Imam Ali (AS) to make every possible preparation for the outrage committed.  Such mission was congenial to Ali’s nature and he executed it faithfully.  He made careful inquiries as to the number of persons killed, their status, and the loss incurred by their families and justly compensated.  When every loss was made, he distributed the rest of the money among the kinsmen of the victims and other members of the tribe, satisfying everyone by his kindness, carrying with him the blessings of all the people, he returned to the Holy Prophet who overwhelmed him with thanks and praises.


Similarly in 8 A.H. when other missions failed to bring the powerful Yemeni tribe of Bani Hamadan to the fold of Islam, Ali (AS) was sent there.  Ibn Khaldun says that on the first occasion, he gathered the tribesmen, some of whom were very learned, and spoke before them of the truths which Islam preached. This sermon was so effective that some of those learned persons immediately embraced Islam.  This was followed by long discussions with others, he made them realize the rationality of the doctrines of Islam.  The discussions ended in the whole-hearted conversion of Bani Hamdan, who followed their learned leaders.  These news so pleased the Holy Prophet (SA) that he bowed down before Allah in thankfulness and thrice said:  “Peace be to Bani Hamdan and to Ali!”


Again in 10th A.H. his preachings proved so effective that the whole province unitedly embraced Islam. 


Declaration of Imam Ali (AS) as Vicegerent

“It is generally supposed that the Holy Prophet (SA) had not expressly designated anyone as his successor in the spiritual and temporal government, but this notion is framed on an incorrect comprehension of fact, for there is abundant evidence that many a time the Prophet had openly indicated Imam Ali for Vicegerency.”  (The Spirit of Islam, p. 292)


The First Occasion was when the Holy Prophet was ordered by Allah to invite his kith and kin to Islam openly.  This occasion is called Da’wat Zul Ashira (propagation of the religion amongst the relatives).  In the words of Rev:  Sale, the Holy Prophet said:  “God had commanded me to call you unto Him; who therefore, among you will be assisting me herein and become my brother and my vicegerent?  All of them, hesitating and declining the matter, Ali at length rose up, and declared that he would be his assistant and threatened those who should oppose him.  Muhammad upon this embraced Ali with great demonstration of affection, and desired all those present to hear him and to obey him as his Deputy.”


Thus at this occasion of the introduction of Islam as a religion, Imam Ali (AS was declared by the Holy Prophet (SA) as his Deputy.  The value of Ali’s support to the Holy Prophet and his designation as a vicegerent at this stage is fairly well assessed by theologians, historians and thinkers. (30)


 The Second Occasion was that at the time of Ali’s conquest of Khaybar.  The words of the Holy Prophet (SA) quite clearly, positively and expressively give out his opinion about Imam Ali and his desire to leave him as the guardian and the propagator of this mission.  He said, “You are from me and I am from you, you will inherit me….. You are to me what Aaron was to Moses…. You will be nearest to me on the Day of Judgement and next to me on the fountain of Kauthar, enmity against you is enmity against me, a war against you is a war against me…. You have as much faith in Allah as I have..  You are door to me”.   What more can one say?  Can there by anything more forceful, more eloquent, more poignant with clear indications and more categorical than the words which the Holy Prophet (SA) has used?  Do they leave any shadow of doubt??  Has the Prophet (SA) ever used such words for anybody else?


The Battle of Tabuk:  The Third instance was the event of the occasion of Tabuk.  To understand the occasion and the cause of remarks of the Prophet (SA) it is necessary to know the historical background of the incident.  It was the summer of 9 A.H. and the Holy Prophet (SA) had received the information that the Roman King who was mobilizing his forces to invade the Islamic State and many Arab tribes were gathering around him.  He decided to face them in their own land and not to allow them to trample the Muslim State so that they might not destroy the lands through which they pass.


The situation had become very critical because there was famine in Hijaz, Ta’if and Yemen.  The Munafiqin (the hypocrites) were carrying on intensive propaganda campaign and trying to make the people believe that the famine was the sign that Allah was displeased with Muslims and wants to exterminate them with the worst form of death (cannibalism).  And in case of a defeat against the Roman armies there was eminent danger of revolt.  It was imperative that the State should be left in the hands of a faithful and powerful guardian otherwise there was every possibility of being crushed between the two enemies.  The Prophet therefore decided that Imam Ali should act as a regent in his place and the people might also realize that in the opinion of the Holy Prophet (SA), none could look after the temporal as well as spiritual welfare of the Muslims during his absence, except Ali (AS).  He called Ali and told him that he would have to  act as the last line of defence for him and Islam, saying “O Ali!  Nobody could guard the Muslim State but you or I”. (31)  


Imam Ali’s stay at Medina disappointed the hypocrites and as they constituted the majority of those left behind by the Holy Prophet (SA) they started a cold war.  They started their propaganda by saying that the Holy Prophet (SA) had lost faith in Imam Ali (AS) and had therefore left him behind and that it was certain that the Prophet (SA) was going to suffer a defeat.  Imam Ali naturally felt anxious for the Prophet and annoyed at aspersions against him.  He left Medina immediately, met the Prophet at the place of Juraf and told him all that was said in his absence.  Thereupon, the Holy Prophet (SA) said:  “Ali!  They are lying against you as they have lied against me, they have called me an epileptic, a magician, a sorcerer and a necromancer, and have always styled me as a liar.  I have appointed you as my vicegerent and successor over all which I have left behind. Are you not satisfied to realize that you are to me what Aaron was to Moses.” (32)


Ghadir Khum:  The Fourth time was — “Notably the occasion of the return journey from the performance of the “Farewell Pilgrimage”, during a halt at a place called Khum, he had convoked an assembly of the people accompanying him, and used the words which could leave no doubt as to his intentions regarding a successor.  “Ali,” said the Prophet, “is to me what Aaron was to Moses.”  The Almighty Allah be a friend to his friends and a foe to his foes;  help those who help him and frustrate those who betray him.” (33)


I would be doing a great disservice to the cause of truth and to the history of Islam if I do not sketch an outline of this incident because more than 50,000 people had gathered on the occasion of Ghadir Khum and many of them narrated all that took place there, among those narrators, we find such luminaries as Caliph Abu Bakr, Caliph Umar, Caliph Uthman, Zubair ibn Awam, Abdullah ibn Umar, Abdullah ibn Abbas, Ummul Momineen Ayesha, Hassan ibn Thabir.  From these narrators, about 153 historians, biographers, collectors of the Prophet’s traditions and authors of Seeras, Mu’jums and Masanid from the First Century A.H. right upto 1300 A.H. have narrated the whole incident in details and have drawn practically the same inference as the author of “The Spirit of Islam”.


The Holy Prophet (SA) was returning from the Farewell Pilgrimage and had reached the place of Khum, (which in the words of ibn Khallakan, the famous historian and geographer, is a valley lying between Mecca and Medina and in the vicinity of Ju’fa).  It contains a pond (Ghadir) near which the Prophet pronounced his invocation.  This took place on the 18th of Zil Hijjah and on this day, the anniversary of Ghadir (Eidul Ghadir) is celebrated every year by the Muslims.


At Ghadir Khum, the Holy Prophet (SA) suddenly made his camel stop and said that just then a message of Allah was revealed to him which must be immediately conveyed to the Muslims.  He dispatched messengers towards those who had gone ahead and those who were following him gradually to join him at once.  When all of them were gathered he performed the Noon-prayers in that blazing hot summer sun.  Then a pulpit was erected for him and from this eminence, he delivered a sermon which is considered as a masterpiece of Arabic literature and a brief survey of what the Holy Prophet (SA) had taught and achieved for the Muslims.


There he said that he had just then received the revelation which said: 


 “O Prophet! Proclaim the message which has been sent down to you from your Lord, for if you fail to conveyit, it would be as if you have not at all performed the duty of Prophethood.  Allah will protect you, (yourmission) from evil persons.  Indeed Allah does not guide the unbelievers.”  (Surah Maida, 5:67)


The Holy Prophet was standing there to convey that message to the Muslims and to perform the duty he was ordered to perform.  Continuing the sermon, he said:


 “O people!  Shortly I shall be called (to the Heaven) and if I go back, I shall have to give an account as to how I have conveyed His Message to you and you (in your turn) will also be asked as to how you have accepted and carried my teachings.  Now tell me what you will say”.  Thereupon all the people with one voice declared, “O Prophet of Allah!  We testify and declare that you have conveyed the message of Allah in details, you have strived your utmost to guide us to the right path and taught us to follow it.  You were most kind to us and you never wished for us but good.  May Allah repay you for all that”.


Thereupon he asked the gathering, “Do you not testify that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad is His creature, His servant and His Prophet, that there is Paradise and Hell, that death will overtake everyone of you, that you will be brought back from your graves, that the Day of Resurrection will surely dawn and human beings will be resurrected from their graves to account for their deeds?”  The people declared, “We believe and testify to all of this”.  Hearing this declaration he said: 


“I am leaving amongst you two most important things worthy of obedience, the Quran and my progeny (theChosen descendants).  Take care how you treat them, they will not separate from each other till they reachme on the Fountain of Kauthar”.


Then he added, “The Almighty Allah is my Lord (Maula) and I am the guardian of all the Muslims and have more right and power on their lives than their ownselves; do you believe in this assertion of mine?”  They all in one voice replied,  “Yes O Prophet of Allah!”  Thrice he asked the same question and thrice he received the same reply.  On this solemn affirmation he said:  “Hear and remember that of whomsoever I am the guardian, Ali too is his guardian.  He is to me what Aaron was to Moses.  Oh Allah!  Be a friend to his friends and a foe to his foes, help those who help him and frustrate those who betray him”, while saying this he raised Imam Ali so that people may have a look at him, He will be the master and guardian of those who believe the Holy Prophet to be their master and guardian.  Thereupon the Prophet (SA) received the revelation: 


“On this day, I have perfected your religion, completed My favours to you and have chosen Islam as yourreligion.”  (Surah Maida, 5:5)


After performing this ceremony and receiving the above revelation, the Holy Prophet (SA) came down the pulpit, prostrated before Allah in prayers and ordered to pitch a tent.  In this tent Imam Ali (AS) was made to take his seat and people were ordered to pay homage to him and to address him as “Ameerul Momineen”  (The Commander of the Faithful).  The first person to congratulate and address him as such was Umar ibn Khattab who said, “I congratulate you, O Ali!  Today you have become my master and commander of every Muslim man and woman”.  (34)


Imam Ali’s life from the First Year of Migration to Prophet’s demise

When the Holy Prophet (SA) left his house at Mecca in the night and Imam Ali (AS) was left to defend himself, the idolaters gave up the idea and dispersed in search of the Holy Prophet (SA).


Imam Ali (AS) by the orders of the Prophet, stayed three days at Mecca and handed back all the articles which were entrusted to the Holy Prophet (SA) for safe custody, mostly by his enemies, secured their receipts.  He was also entrusted by the Prophet (SA) for a safe transport of Prophet’s daughter, Lady Fatima, Hazrat Hamza’s daughter another Fatima, his own mother — a third Fatima, and his aunt, who was the daughter of Abdul Muttalib — a fourth Fatima.  The Quraish wanted to prevent the departure of these four ladies.  Eight prominent people came out to fight.  Ali (AS) fought single-handedly with them.  He killed Junah with a stroke of his sword and dispersed the rest and continued the journey.  On account of scarcity of mounts, he had to travel on foot and thus he reached Medina with bleeding feet.  Awaiting the arrival of Imam Ali (AS) the Holy Prophet (SA) had stopped at Quba, two miles away from Medina.  When Imam Ali (AS) reached Quba, on the 12th of Rabiul Awwal, the Holy Prophet embraced him, dressed his bleeding feet and entered Medina alongwith him.


Before his migration to Medina, the Holy Prophet (SA) had created a bond of brotherhood between the Muslims.  He had fraternized Abu Bakr to Umar, Uthman to Abdul Rahman ibn Awf, Hamza to Zaid ibn Harith and Talha to Zubair.  On that occasion, he had fraternized Imam Ali (AS) to himself, saying “O Ali!  You are my brother in this world as well as in the next”.  (35)


First Year of Migration


Five months after his arrival at Medina, the Prophet (SA) fraternized the Muhajirs (immigrants) with the Ansar (the citizens of Medina).  On that occasion again he called Ali (AS) and said:  “O Ali!  You are my brother in this world and the Hereafter”.  Ibn Hisham says: 


 “The Holy Prophet (SA) held the hand of Imam Ali and said, “He alone is my brother”.  Thus the Prophet of Allah, who was actually the leader of all the prophets as well as of all the pious men of the world and who had no parallel among human beings by fraternizing with Imam Ali (AS) showed that Ali also had no parallel among mankind except the Holy Prophet (SA).” (36)


Second Year of Migration


During this year, Imam Ali’s marriage took place with the Holy Prophet’s daughter, Lady Fatima.  The Holy Prophet (SA) was receiving many offers for his daughter from very rich people of Medina, from some of the Muhajirs and from chiefs of mighty clans of Arabia.  He had refused even to consider these offers and sometimes felt annoyed at them and at the end, he closed the door by saying that he was awaiting the orders of Allah.  A detailed account of these offers and the way of refusal by the Prophet (SA) is narrated in “Usudul Ghabah fi Tamizis Sahaba”.  Some of the Ansar suggested to Imam Ali (AS) to place a proposal for himself before the Holy Prophet (SA).  Imam Ali (AS) visited the Prophet (SA) modestly.  This was the first time in his life that he talked reservedly to a man who was like a father to him and to whom he was like a dear son.  When the Holy Prophet (SA) heard the proposal he was so pleased that he smiled and said, “Ahlan wa Marhaba” (it is a welcome and happy proposal). (37)


The Holy Prophet (SA) took the consent of Lady Fatima (AS) for this proposal.  The marriage ceremony was very simple and without pomp and ostentation.  There was a sermon from the Holy Prophet (SA) in which he praised Allah mentioning some of His attributes and citing verses of the Holy Quran and concluding with the remarks that he was ordered by Allah to give Lady Fatima (AS) into marriage with Imam Ali (AS).  This was followed by a sermon from Imam Ali (AS), praising Allah and the Holy Prophet (SA) and desiring the gathering to witness his marriage with Lady Fatima.  After the marriage ceremony, somebody reminded the Holy Prophet (SA) of his late wife, Lady Khadija (AS), the mother of Fatima.  The Holy Prophet (SA) said:  “Khadija!  Where is Khadija, who can be like Khadija, she testified me when the world was falsely accusing me as a liar, she relieved me of much of my weight, she was my partner in my work and she helped me when others were creating obstructions in my mission.”


After reaching Medina, the Holy Prophet (SA) with Imam Ali (AS) stayed in the house of Kulthum ibn Hadam for seven months.  When the Prophet (SA) finished the construction of the mosque, he built houses for his wives around it and in the center of them, he built a house for Imam Ali (AS). (38)  Following his example, many of his companions except Abu Bakr built their houses around the mosque.  Caliph Abu Bakr was staying in the locality of Bani Abd Awf where the marriages of both of his daughters took place and later on he shifted to Sukh. (39)  The doors of all the houses built around the mosque opened in the mosque.  One day the Holy Prophet (SA) ordered that except the doors of his house and that of Ali, all the other doors should be claimed.  Some of the companions requested him to allow them to keep a small window open.  He replied, “No, not a pin-hole, Allah so willed it”. (40) 


Third Year of Migration


The first child to Imam Ali (AS) and Lady Fatima (AS) was born and he was named Hasan (AS) by the Holy Prophet (SA).  In the same year, the Battle of Uhud took place which was followed by despatch of expeditionary force to Hamara’ul Asad under Imam Ali (AS).


 Fourth Year of Migration


Imam Ali (AS) and Lady Fatima (AS) had the second child Husain (AS), who was also named the by Holy Prophet (SA).  In the same year a battle took place with Bani Nazir and Imam Ali (AS) brought it to a successful end and Bani Nazir were forced to vacate their fortress.


 Fifth Year of Migration


Three battles took place, battle with Bani Mustaliq, Battle of Khandaq and battle with Bani Khansa.  In all three of them, Ali (AS) was the commander of the Muslim army.  Most important of them was the Battle of Khandaq.


 Sixth Year of Migration


An expedition to Fadak was sent under the command of Imam Ali (AS) and without a battle or skirmish, he brought the whole province under control of the Holy Prophet (SA).


In the month of Ziqad, the Holy Prophet (SA) alongwith 1400 Muslims left for Mecca with the intention of pilgrimage.  He had no desire to fight and had left all the armaments at Medina.  When Quraish came to know about this intending pilgrimage, they refused to allow the Holy Prophet (SA) to enter Mecca.  Khalid bin Walid came out with a force of well-equipped 200 cavalry-men to obstruct the Holy Prophet and if necessary to fight over the issue.  At an oasis called Hudaybiya, the opponents faced each other.  A chieftain named Urwa from Quraish came out to discuss the situation with the Prophet (SA) and instead of a battle, a treaty was arranged, which was written by Imam Ali (AS).  The last clause of the treaty was that the present intention of the pilgrimage should be given up but next year the Holy Prophet (SA) and the Muslims can come for Umra.


Seventh Year of Migration


The Battles of Khaybar and the Wadi’ul Qura’ took place.  The more important of them was Khaybar.  In the same year, the Holy Prophet (SA) along with the Muslims went to Mecca to perform Umra, it was a very peaceful mission.  The Holy Prophet (SA) and many of the Muslims had their wives and children with them.  The Umra was performed peacefully.


 Eighth Year of Migration


This year had some important events in its fold.  The first of them was the fall of Mecca.  The terms of the treaty of Hudaybiya were dishonoured by the Quraish.  Within two years of the treaty they killed twenty persons of the tribe of Bani Khuza’a without rhyme or reason.  Representatives of the clans came to the Holy Prophet (SA) asking for his promised support, he was annoyed at this flagrant dishonouring of the Treaty and said, “I may not be helped if I do not help them.”


The arrangement for the invasion of Mecca was being carried on by the Muslims, in the meanwhile, Hatab, a companion of the Prophet (SA) informed them of the intention of Muslims.  The espionage, under orders of the Holy Prophet (SA) was detected by Imam Ali (AS) and he brought this letter to the Prophet (SA).  It was being sent through an Abysinnian slave-girl.  Hatab confessed his crime and was mercifully pardoned by the Holy Prophet (SA). (41)


When all the arrangements were ready, the army of about 10,000, as an advance party, marched towards Mecca.  Sa’d ibn Ubada Ansari, the commander of the army entering Mecca, said, “Today is going to be a great day, a day of retaliation, a day when Mecca will be looted.”  Abbas, the uncle of the Holy Prophet (SA), hearing this, came to the Holy Prophet (SA) and said, “O Prophet of Allah! Sa’d has very severe intention against Quraish.  He may carry on a massacre.”  The Holy Prophet (SA) called Imam Ali (AS) and said, “O Ali!  Go and take the command from Sa’d.  He would not be unhappy in handing over the command to you.”  Imam Ali (AS) took over the command of the expedition and entered the city, declared perfect amity and peace and waited for the Prophet (SA).  When the Prophet (SA) entered Mecca, he went straight to Ka’ba and started removing the idols.  Some of them were placed on a very high platform where his hands could not reach, he asked Ali (AS) to mount on his shoulders and remove the idols. 


Ali obeyed the order;  while removing the idols, the Holy Prophet (SA) asked, “O Ali!  How do you find yourself?”  Imam Ali (AS) replied, “O Prophet of Allah!  I find myself on such an eminent place that I feel as if my hand is resting on the Empyrean of Allah the Almighty”.  Thereupon, the Holy Prophet (SA) said:  “O Ali!  How fortunate you are, doing the work for the cause of Allah, and how fortunate I am that I am bearing your burden.” (42)


Regarding the above event, a poet composed the following verses in praise of Imam Ali (AS):


“I am asked to praise Ali in verses,

Because recital of his praises will

Release a man from Hell.

I replied to them, how can I praise,

A man whose attributes are so sublime

That men got confused over these attributes

And started apotheosising him.

 He has placed his foot at such an eminent

Place, that according to the Holy Prophet

It is the place on which, on the night of

Me’raj (Divine ascension), Allah has placed His Hand of Grace and Mercy.”


Hearing these poetic verses, the Holy Prophet (SA) rewarded the poet handsomely.


The second important event was the massacre of Bani Jazima by Khalid ibn Walid and reparation carried by Imam Ali (AS) under orders of the Holy Prophet (SA).


The month of Shawwal this year witnessed the Muslims facing certain powerful tribes of Arabs on the battlefield of Hunain.  Imam Ali (AS) again got a victory over them.  Hunain was followed by an expedition to Ta’if under command of Imam Ali (AS).  Those who had fled Hunain and now gathered at Ta’if wanted to measure their strength once again.  The commander of their army who was the chief of Bani Zaygham clan was killed by Imam Ali (AS), which broke their influence and various parties of hostile clans started dispersing.  Seeing this the Holy Prophet (SA) lifted the siege and brought the expedition to an end.


In the same year, Imam Ali (AS) was sent to Yemen on a missionary service, he carried on this work so successfully and his speeches there proved so effective that the tribe of Bani Hamdan unanimously embraced Islam.

  Ninth Year of Migration


Four important incidents relating to Imam Ali (AS) took place in this year. 

 The first was the expedition to Zatus Salasil.  Imam Ali (AS) brought it to a successful end, defeated the clans gathered there to invade Medina and brought the happy news to the Holy Prophet (SA).  The Prophet of Allah, came out of Medina to welcome the brave and staunch warrior.  Imam Ali (AS) was riding a horse at the head of his army, saw the Holy Prophet (SA) walking towards him, jumped from his horse.  The Prophet (SA) told him, “Keep on riding, don’t dismount, Allah and His Prohpet are really pleased with your services” and made him remount his horse and he walked along with the horse.


The second event was the Prophet’s expedition to Tabuk.


 The third important even in the life of Imam Ali (AS) and in the history of Islam was the recitation of the ninth chapter of the Holy Quran, Surah al-Bara’at (Tawbah) before the infidels of Mecca.  This chapter declares that Allah and His Prophet in future will have nothing to do with the infidels and polytheists.  All the treaties which existed till then are now annulled and cancelled.  No polytheist or infidel will in future be allowed to enter the city of Mecca, or the precincts of Ka’bah.


“The Holy Prophet (SA) first ordered Caliph Abu Bakr to carry this chapter to Mecca and to recite it at the Ka’bah but immediately after him, he sent Imam Ali (AS) to replace Abu Bakr on the mission.  When Abu Bakr complained about this change, the Prophet of Allah replied, “I have done it under the orders of Allah which came explicitly that either I should perform this duty myself or somebody who is like me”.  (43)


 The fourth important event which took place during this year was the event of “Mubahila” (imprecation).


Najran was a city in the province of Yemen.  It was the center of Christian Missionary activities in Southern Arabia.  The Holy Prophet (SA) had written to Harith, the chief priest of the city to realize the blessings of Islam.  In reply he wrote that he would like to discuss personally the teachings of this new religion.  He was invited and came with a retinue of fourteen priests.  These priests stayed at Medina as guests of the Holy Prophet (SA).  Long discussions about monotheism versus trinity took place and it was realized that these priests were not open-minded, on the contrary were prejudiced against Islam.  The Almighty Lord ordered the Holy Prophet (SA) to explain to them that:


“To Allah, the case of Jesus is as that of Adam whom He created from the earth and then said, “Be and hecame into existence”.  This is the truth from Your Lord; be not therefore one of those who doubt; and whoevershall dispute with you after the knowledge which has been given you, say to them, come let us call togetherour sons and your sons, our women and your women, and ourselves and yourselves; then let us makeimprecations and lay the curse of Allah upon those who lie.”  (Surah Ale Imran, 3:59-61)


According to Amir ibn Sa’d and Ummul Momineen Ayesha, when the above verses were revaled to the Prophet of Allah, he called Imam Ali, Lady Fatima, Hasan and Husain, and said, “Lord! This is my family and progeny (Ahlul Bait).” (44)


 Fakhruddin Razi says that when the above verses were revealed, the Prophet of Allah covered himself with a black mantle, took in it Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husain and said, “Lord!  This is my progeny, my household and my family (Ahlul Bait)”.  Thereupon the Prophet of Allah received the revelation, (45)


“People of the house, Allah wants to protect you from all kinds of uncleanliness and to purify youthoroughly.”  (Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:33)


Hearing the glad tidings of the Divine purification, sanctification and consecration, the Holy Prophet (SA) decided to take only these four persons along with him for the ceremony of trail by imprecations as ordered by Allah; that is Imam Ali (AS) representing the “selves” as mentioned in the above verses, Lady Fatima representing “Women” and Hasan and Husain representing “sons”.


The Christian priests were then informed of these orders by Allah.  Rev. Sale says: 

“They agreed next morning to abide by the trial as a quick way of deciding which of them were in the wrong.  Muhammad met them accordingly accompanied by his daughter Fatima, his son-in-law Ali and his two grandsons Hasan and Husain and desired them (the Christian priests) to wait till he had performed his prayers.  But when they saw him kneel down, their resolution failed them and they dared not venture to curse him and his party, but agreed to sign a treaty and pay tribute to him.”


Ahlul Bait, people of the household of Muhammad (SA) is the designation usualy given to Fatima, Ali and their children and descendants.  This is the name by which Ibn Khaldun invariably designate them, and followers and disciples, Shi’as or supporters of the “People of the House”.  Sanai, the famous Sufi poet whom Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi praises, represents the general feeling with which the descendants of Muhammad (SA) were regarded in the following poetic verse:


“Excepting the Book of Allah and his family (the Chosen Descendants) nothing has been left by Ahmad the Prophet;

Memorials such as these can never be obtained till the Day of Judgement.” (46)


While discussing this event, and the Quranic verses referred above, the Holy Prophet (SA) by indicating the word “selves” for himself and Ali, the word “women” for Fatima and the words “sons” for Hasan and Husain, have shown to the Muslims the estimation in which these four persons were held by Allah and by himself, and that they and they alone are his Ahlul Bait, who deserve the Divine purification, sanctification and consecration. (47)


Tenth Year of Migration

 During this year, Ali was sent once gain on a propagation mission to Yemen and thence on an expedition against Amr ibn ma’di Karib.  He performed both the duties successfully. 

  “From the latter expedition, Khalid ibn Walid sent a letter containing complaints of Imam Ali to the Holy Prophet (SA).  This letter was carried by Buraida, a companion of the Holy Prophet (SA).  On receipt of this letter, the Prophet of Allah was annoyed and got angry and said, “You are fabricating lies and fictitious complaints against Ali, he is from me and I am from him, he is your guardian (Wali) after me.  Wheover annoys him actually annoys me and whoever forsakes him, forsakes me.  He is made of the same material that I am made of and I am made of the same material that Abraham is made of and my status before Allah is superior to that of Abraham”.  (48)


In the end of 10 A.H., the Holy Prophet (SA) performed the Farewell Pilgrimage (Hijjatul Wida) and while returning from there, he designated Imam Ali as his vicegerent.


 Eleventh Year of Migration

 This year was the saddest year of Imam Ali’s life.  He lost two of his best companions.  One of whom he loved and venerated like a father, like a master and like the dearest friend, the Holy Prophet (SA) who died during the early months of this year.  His demise was followed by the demise of Imam Ali’s dearest companion, his wife, Fatima, the Lady of the Light.


The last year of the Holy Prophet’s life was spent at Medina.  An envoy of his was killed by the Syrians and he had ordered an expedition against the Byzantines under Usama bin Zaid and he had ordered all his companions except Imam Ali (AS) to join this expedition, and had ordered the troops to be encamped outside the city. (49)  


Though he was ill, yet in spite of his weakness he came out, arranged the standard (the insignia of the command) with his own hands and handed it over to Usama.  He felt that people were not willing to join this expedition, because of the young age of Usama, he got annoyed and said, “Curse of Allah be on those who forsake the army of Usama”. (50)


The cause of the Prophet’s illness was the poison which had been given to him and it had slowly penetrated into his body and had now begun to show its effect, and it became evident that he would not live long.  The news of his approaching end led to the stoppage of the expedition.


“At the last stage of illness, the Holy Prophet (SA) was staying at the house of Ummul Momineen Ayesha.  From there he came out for the last time to lead the prayers.  He was so weak that he was carried there by the sons of Abbas ibn Abdul Muttalib.  He, himself led the prayers.” (51)


This exertion proved too much for the Prophet of Allah and when he returned home from the mosque, he fainted.  His condition was very serious at that time and fainting-fit was of long duration.  His children, members of family and his companions started weeping and lamenting.  He came out of the swoon and looked at those tear-sprinkled faces around him and said, “Bring pen, ink and paper so that I may write a will for you that will keep you on the straight path” 

 Some of his companions wanted to offer the pen and paper while Umar ibn Khattab was of the opinion that he was talking insanely on account of the intensity of illness; they have the Holy Quran with them which would suffice them.  This discussion took a serious turn and people started contention.  The Prophet of Allah got annoyed at this and asked them to go away and to leave him alone.” (52)


It was Sunday the 27th of Safar, 11. A.H.  The Prophet of Allah after the above incident, called Imam Ali and said:  “Ali! You will be the first to meet me on the fountain of Kauthar.  After me, when hardships and reverses face you, then do not lose patience and when you find people running after worldly gains then you busy yourself in the way of truth and Allah.” (53)


Next day, Monday, the 28th of Safar, the Prophet of Allah passed away to the realm of Allah’s Grace, Blesings and Majesty.

 Ibn Sa’d relates that, “During the regime of Umar, once the famous Jew, Ka’bul Ahbar (who later embraced Islam) asked of the caliph, “Sir! Please tell me what were the last words of the Prophet (SA)”.  The caliph told him to ask Imam Ali (AS) about it.  Ka’b came to Imam Ali and asked him the same question.  Imam Ali (AS) replied:  “During the last moments of the Holy Prophet his head was resting on my shoulder and his words were al-Salat al-Salat (prayers, prayers)”. 

 Ka’b declared, “Verily the last moments of Prophets have always been thus, they are ordained for it and they carry the message even with their last breath.”

 Then Ka’b returned to Caliph Umar and asked him, “Sir!  Who performed the bathing of the Prophet after his death?”  The caliph told him to ask Imam Ali about that also.  He again came to Imam Ali and repeated the question.  Imam Ali replied:  “The Prophet of Allah had willed that none but I should perform at his bathing ceremony, because if any other person looked at his nude body, he would get blind.  A curtain was hanged and from the other side of the curtain, Fazl ibn Abbas and Usama, blind-folded were handing over water to me and I was performing the washing.” (54)


These facts that Imam Ali was the only person to be with the Holy Prophet (SA) at his last moments and to have performed the last rites, are recorded in authentic historical Books. (55)


After the last rites of bathing and shrouding the august body of the Prophet of Allah as per his will, first Imam Ali (AS) offered “Salatul Mayyit” (prayers for a dead body) alone and then Muslims in groups came and offered the prayers without any leader (Imam).  Allama ibn Abdul Barr in Isti’ab says that after Imam Ali (AS) offered his “Salatul Mayyit” alone then Bani Hashim, the immigrants and then the Ansar offered the prayers.


When the prayers for the dead body were offered, Imam Ali, Abbas, Fazl ibn Abbas and Usama ibn Zaid got busy with the burial ceremonies of the Prophet of Allah and at the request of Ansar, Aws bin Khawli Ansari who was also a Badri, was allowed to join them.  Usama dug the grave in the house of Ummul Momineen Ayesha.  Aws got into the grave and Imam Ali lifted the august body in hands and lowered it into the grave.  He stayed in the grave for sometime, he was weeping bitterly,


Usama says, “I have never seen Ali weeping like that before or after this occasion”, and then he came out of the grave and lifting his hands said, “Lord!  He was your first creation, he lifted the gloom prevailing before the creation started, he was a proof of Your Glory and Benevolence, he had come to us from the realm of Your Love and Glory, and was our guide towards that realm.  His soul was the emblem of Your Supreme Might, his body was the masterpiece of Your creation and his mind was Your treasure house”.  Then he closed the grave. (56)


Imam Ali and the Election for Caliphate 

When Imam Ali with Bani Hashim were busy with the last rites of the burial of the Prophet of Allah, some immigrants and some Ansar gathered at Saqifa, and decided that Abu Bakr be the First Caliph.  Imam Ali (AS) was asked to accede to this decision.  He refused.


Abu Sufyan came to Medina and went to Abbas (uncle of the Prophet) and said, “These people have taken away the caliphate from Bani Hashim. You are uncle of the Prophet of Allah and oldest among the Quraish, you have been kind to them also, they will accept your lead.  Let you and I swear allegiance to Ali.  If anybody opposes us we shall kill him.”


They both came to Ali and Abu Sufyan said, “Ali if you accept our proposal, put out your hand and let us swear the oath of allegiance.”  Hearing this Imam Ali (AS) replied: “Abu Sufyan!  I swear by Allah the Almighty that you, through this proposal, want to create serious dissension amongst the Muslims.  You have always tried to harm Islam, I do not need your sympathies and your help.” (57)   

 (See also Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 5)


Imam Ali (AS) realized that any serious dissension at this stage would harm the cause of Islam considerably.  He had before him the example of the Holy Prophet (SA) and the Treaty of Hudaybiya and had been foretold by the Holy Prophet of all that would happen.  “The Holy Prophet had told Imam Ali:  “Your position is like that of Ka’bah.  People (Muslims) go to Ka’bah but that august House never approaches anyone.  Therefore after my death, if people come to you and swear the oath of allegiance you accept it and if they do not come to you and swear the oath of allegiance, then you do not go to them.”  (58)


The Holy Prophet had advised Imam Ali (AS) that, “After me you will have to face severe sufferings, but do not get disheartened and do not lose patience; and when you find people craving for and trying their utmost to secure worldly gains, you mould your life for the Hereafter.” (59)


 Imam Ali (AS) loved Islam as intensely as the Holy Prophet (SA) had loved it.  He could not, therefore for the sake of worldly kingdom endanger Islam.  He knew thoroughly well that a civil war at that stage would give chances to the Jewish clans of Bani Nazir and Bani Qurayza on one side and the Christian tribes of Najran and Syria supported by the Byzantine armies on the other, and the Munafiqin (hypocrites) and fresh converts on the third to simply take advantage of the situation.  When they would find the Muslims busy killing each other they would literally cut them to pieces and Islam would totally disappear as a Message of peace.  He wanted the Arabs to remain in the fold of Islam even with the desires of making their worldly position good, and wanted the enemies of Islam to realize that Islam was powerful enough to defend itself even after the sad demise of the Holy Prophet (SA).  Therefore he was willing to accept every calamity for Islam and to retire to seclusion.  The advice he gave to his uncle Abbas to be found in Nahjul Balagha wherein he told him not to join the turmoil.


According to Ave Sena (Abu Ali Sina), the famous Arab philosopher, mathematician and physician, Imam Ali (AS) and the Holy Quran were the two miracles of Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah.  Life of Imam Ali (AS) at every stage was a mirror — like reflection of the life of the Holy Prophet (SA).  The days of Badr, Uhud, Khaybar and Hunain were not long passed and the hero still had the same courage, valour, bravery and strength with him, he could have jumped at the proposal of Abu Sufyan.  But had he done so, he would not have been Ali ibn Abu Talib, the man “Who loved Allah and His Prophet and was loved by Allah and His Prophet”.  (60)  But unfortunately his feelings were not reciprocated. 


Grave events took place when Imam Ali (AS) refused to accede to the decision of Saqifa. (61)


The sad events of the demise of Hazrat Fatima (SA) 

What one could gather, from various accounts which are recorded in history books, is a sad and pathetic episode.  It appears that though Imam Ali (AS) had decided to confine himself to his house, and not to take part in power-politics, yet his house was burnt down on the Lady of the house, his beloved wife, Lady Fatima, the daughter of the Holy Prophet (SA), and either the burning door or a hard hit from the hilt of a sword or a heavy push or all together, broke her ribs and hand and caused her such a serious injury that the baby she was carrying was a still-brith.  “There was nobody in the house but Ali, Fatima and their children” (who were between the ages of 4 to 8). (62)   

 (See also in Nahjul Balagha, Hazrat Fatima’s sufferings mentioned by Imam Ali.)



Apparently the assault was sudden and unexpected, nobody was ready for it.  The resulting confusion could be better imagined than narrated.  The Lady of the House was seriously hurt, and had fainted, the house was full of smoke and the children were frightened.  When Ali (AS) was attending to his wounded wife and suffocating children, he was overpowered and dragged from the house.   (See Imam Ali’s reply to Muawiyah, Nahjul Balagha, Letter 28)


Later Lady Fatima was refused her heritage.   (See Nahjul Balagha, Letter45  andits Explanation).


The physical injury and the mental shock laid her low and after a short illness, she passed away on the 14th of Jamadiul Awwal, 11. A.H.  She was buried in the dead of the night.  Besides Bani Hashim, only some chosen companions of the Holy Prophet (SA) like Salman, Abuzar, Ammar and Miqdad attended her funeral.  Before her death, she had expressed her sufferings in a poem, a verse of which has come down in the Arabic as a proverb.  She says:  “So many sufferings have descended upon me that if they had descended upon bright days they would have been turned into dark nights.”


The account of the last day of her life clearly shows what kind of a Lady was this daughter of the Holy Prophet (SA). She told the household that she was feeling better, the pain in her ribs and in her hands was not so severe and that her fever had come down.  Then she started bathing the children, immediately Ali and Fizza came to her assistance.  She got those children bathed, dressed and fed, then sent them away to her cousin.  Then she called Imam Ali to her side, and said:  “Ali, my dear husband!  You know very well why I did all that.  Please excuse my fussiness, they have suffered so much during my illness that I want to see them happy on the last day of my life  Ali! You know better that my troubles will shortly be over and I shall meet my father and I am sorry to part with you.  Please Ali!  Remember what I say and do as I wish you to do.  After me you may marry anybody you like but you must marry my cousin Yamama, she loves my children and Husain is very much attached to her.  Let Fizza remain with you even after her marriage, if she so desires, she was more than a mere servant to me.  I loved her like my daughter.  Ali!  Bury me in the night and do not let those who have been so cruel to me, attend my burial.  Let my death do not dishearten you, you have to serve Islam and humanity for a long time to come.  Let not my sufferings embitter your life, promise me Ali!”  Imam Ali (AS) said, “Yes Fatima, I promise”.  She continued, “Ali!  I know how you love my children but be very careful of Husain.  He loves me dearly and will miss me sadly, be a mother to him.  Till my recent illness, he used to sleep on my chest, he is already missing it.”  Ali was caressing the broken hand while his tears rolled on her hand.  She looked up and said, “Do not weep, Ali!  I know what a tender heart you possess.  You have already suffered much and will have to suffer more.  Farewell my lord, farewell my dear husband, farewell Ali!  Say farewell to me”.  Sorrow had choked Ali, his words were mixed with his tears, he said, “Goodbye Faima”.  Hearing this she said, “May the Merciful Lord help you to bear these sorrows and sufferings patiently.  Now let me be alone with my Allah.” 


Saying this, she turned towards her prayer-carpet and prostrated before Allah.  After a while Imam Ali (AS) entered the room and found her still in prostration but the soul dhad departed to join her Holy father in the realm of Allah’s Grace, Mercy and Might.


Lady Fatima died very young, as Imam Ali (AS) says:  “A flower nipped in the bud, it was from the Heaven and it went to Heaven, but has left its fragrance in my mind”.  (See also Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 200)


Imam Ali during the reigns of the first three Caliphs

The events of the 12 A.H. upto 35 A.H.:  Imam Ali (AS) led a very simple and secluded life.  In the beginning, he spent his days compiling the verses of the Holy Quran as they were revealed upon the Holy Prophet of Allah.


Once when Abu Sufyan found that Imam Ali (AS) was not paying attention to him, he tried to get in the good books of the government and his eldest son Yazid was appointed as the Governor of Syria and on his death, his brother Muawiyah was appointed on the same post.


During the regime of Abu Bakr, and more often during the regime of Umar, whenever Imam Ali (AS) was consulted, like a true Muslim, he offered his sincere advice.


Though Bani Hashim were never given any post or place of honour in the government, yet Imam Ali (AS) did not mind this indifference and whenever a critical problem arose and his counsel was sought to be cooperated whole-heartedly.


The author of “The Spirit of Islam” says:  “From the commencement of the Islamic preaching, Imam Ali had extended the utmost consideration and friendship to the conquered.  After the Battle of Qadsiya, Ali used to devote his share of prize money to redemption of captives, and repeatedly with his counsels and persuasive intervention, he induced Caliph Umar to lighten the burden of the citizens and the captives”.


The historians say:  “Till 17 A.H. no era was fixed by the Muslims to designate their years.  Somtimes Amul Fil, (year of Abyssinian invasion of Mecca) was considered as the beginning of the era, at other times the Battle of Fijar (a pre-Islamic encounter between Arab clans), while a period of repairs carried on to Ka’bah was considered the year to mark the era.  When this confusion was brought to the notice of Caliph Umar, he consulted Imam Ali (AS) who told him to begin the Muslim era with the commencing of the year of Migration (of the Holy Prophet) to Medina.


Once people went to call Caliph Umar, saying that a lot of jewels and valuable articles and attachment are in Ka’bah; if this could be converted into currency, and be used for arming the armies, it would prove to be a very useful asset.  When Imam Ali’s advice was sought, he said: 


 “These articles were there during the times of Prophet Muhammad (SA) but he did not touch them.  Though Muslims were poorer than they are now, and though they were in more need of arms and mounts, than you are in need of, yet the Holy Prophet (SA) did not make use of these ornaments for such purposes.  It shows that the Prophet of Allah did not appreciate such appreciation.  You also do not do it”.  (See Nahjul Balagha, Saying 265)


Hearing this Caliph Umar said:  “O Ali!  Had you not been here, we would have suffered a disgrace.” (63)   


 On the occasion of the invasion of Rome, when Caliph Umar sought his counsel as to the feasibility of heading the army as the Commander-in-Chief, he advised him to be at the helm of State affairs and to send some experienced general as a commander.  This advice is narrated in Sermon 132 in Nahjul Balagha.  Similarly at the time of invasion of Persia, he counselled Caliph Umar not to leave the capital and to send somebody else.  (See Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 144)


The historians have cited several such cases (64) where Imam Ali’s counsel was sought for and he sincerely gave his advice. Here I want to relate only one case which shows in what high esteem Ali held the value of the knowledge acquried, collected and preserved by man in the fields of philosophy, science, history, geography and ethics.


There was a fairly large library at Iskandria in Egypt.  It contained between five to seven thousand books on papyri leaves and parchments, a very large library indeed when compared with the standard of literacy and education of those days.  It contained books on chemistry, astronomy, irrigation, engineering, physics, philosophy and on various religions. (65)


When Amr ibn Aas, conquered Egypt, he enquired as to what was to be done with those books.  Orders were issued from the Center, that “If these books are according to the Holy Quran, (i.e. they say the same things which this Holy Book has said) then we do not need them and if they say anything contrary to the Holy Quran, then we do not want them.  Hence, in any case, they ought to be burnt”. (66)


“When Imam Ali (AS) heard the news of this, he tried to pursue them to refrain from issuing such an order.  He told them, “These books are treasures of knowledge and they do not contradict the Holy Quran, on the contrary, the knowledge contained therein would act as commentaries of this Holy Book and would assist and help in further explanations of the knowledge as presented by the Holy Prophet.  Knowledge is an asset for human beings and a birth right of man.  It should not be destroyed.” (67)


Akhbarul Ulama further states that his suggestion was not accepted and those books were distributed among one thousand hot-water baths of Alexandria to be burnt as fire-wood.


 Events of 11 A.H. upto 33 A.H.:  At his death, Caliph Abu Bakr nominated Caliph Umar as his successor to the caliphate and Caliph Umar on his death had appointed a board of six members to select his successor; the board consisted of Abdur Rahman ibn Awf, Sa’d ibn Abi Waqas, Usman ibn Affan, Talha ibn Abdullah, Zubair ibn Awam and Ali ibn Abi Talib.  The following were the terms of reference for this council:


(i) If they unanimously select a person he will be designated as the caliph.

(ii) If there is no consensus, then that person will be the caliph for whom Abdur Rahman ibn Awf and his party vote.

(iii) If any five of them select one person and the sixth disagrees then the dissenter should be immediately killed.

(iv) If any four of them select one person and the two disagree then those two should be killed.

(v) If there is equal division then the casting vote would be that of Abdullah ibn Umar (his son).  Abdur Rahman ibn Awf was the cousin of Caliph Usman and husband of the aunt of Sa’d ibn Abi Waqas and Zubair was son-in-law of Caliph Abu Bakr.  Abdul Rahman ibn Awf declared that he is not standing as a candidate to the caliphate. (68)


In the council, opinions were equally divided in favour of Imam Ali (AS) and Usman ibn Affan.  Abdur Rahman ibn Awf asked Imam Ali, “If you are selected as a caliph, do you promise that you will act according to the Holy Quran and the traditions and orders of the Holy Prophet and according to the rulings and decisions of the previous two caliphs?”


Imam Ali (AS) replied, “So far as the Holy Quran and the orders and traditions of the Holy Prophet are concerned, I agree to abide by them and follow them faithfully and sincerely, but so far as the rulings and decisions of the previous two caliphs are concerned, if these are according to the orders of Allah or the Holy Prophet who could dare arefuse them and if they are against the orders of Allah or the Holy Prophet, who would dare accept and follow them?  I refuse to bind myself with those rulings and decisions.  I shall act according to my knowledge and my discretion.”


Then Abdur Rahman asked the same question to Usman.  He agreed not only to act according to the Holy Quran and the traditions of the Holy Prophet but also to implicitly follow the rulings and the decisions of the previous two caliphs.  Then Abdur Rahman declared that Usman is selected as a caliph.” (69)


Justice Sayyid Amir Ali says: 


 “That the choice of electorate fell upon Usman, a member of the Umayyid family.  (1st Muharram 24 A.H. / 7th November 644 A.D).  His election proved in the end the ruin of Islam.  He fell at once under the influence of his clan.  He was guided entirely by his secretary and son-in-law Marwan who had once been expelled by the Prophet (SA) for the breach of trust.  With his usual patriotism and devotion to the faith, Ali gave his adhesion to Usman as soon as he was elected.  Usman dismissed most of the lieutenants employed Umar and appointed in their place incompetent and worthless members of his own family.  The weakness of the center and the wickedness of the favourites was creating great anxiety among the people.  Loud complaints began pouring into the capital.  Imam Ali (AS) pleaded and expostulated several times with the caliph the manner in which he allowed the government to fall into the hands of the unworthy favourites but Usman under the influence of his evil genius Marwan, paid no heed to these counsels.” (70)


Twice Imam Ali (AS) was asked to leave Medina and to go to a village near it and twice he was called back to intervene between the ruler and the ruled, in a few sermons in Nahjul Balagha he has related these facts.  (See Sermon 237) 


To continue the version of “The Short History of the Saracens”,


 “At last a deputation from the provinces arrived in Medina to demand redress.  They were sent back with promises.  On their way home, they intercepted a letter of Marwan, purporting to bear the seal of the caliph, containing directions to the local governors to behead the leaders of the deputation on their arrival at their destinations.  Furious at this treachery, they returned to Medina and demanded the surrender of Marwan.  And this demand was enforced even by members of the house of Umayya. (71)  The ill-fated Usman met this demand with stern refusal.  Enraged at what they believed to be the complicity of the caliph, they besieged him at his home”.


Narrating the details of the siege and the murder of Caliph Usman, the historians say, “At this hour of peril, the Umayyads deserted the old chief and some fled towards Syria and that Muawiyah, though ordered by the caliph, did not come to his help, on the contrary, the contingent which he sent to Medina came under instructions to stop and stay at a place thirty miles away from Medina and wait for further orders which never arrived until the caliph was killed, and then the contingent was called back.  But Imam Ali (AS) sent water and food to the caliph during the siege and later as per his orders, Caliph Usman was bravely defended by his sons and dependants, and the insurgents had great difficulty in making any impression on the defenders.  Hence, on the 18th Zilhid, 34 A.H., some of these besiegers scaled a wall of a neighbour’s house, entered the house of the caliph and killed him inside his house”. (72)


The people who were furious against Caliph Usman were:  Talha, Zubair ibn Awam and Amr ibn Aas.


 Talha:  He played an important role in the siege and the stoppage of water.  He was commanding the group of the people who were bent upon killing Caliph Usman and on that account Marwan killed him later in the Battle of Jamal. (73)  He later came out as the avenger of the murder of Usman and carried on the propaganda that Imam Ali (AS) was responsible for his murder.  He was one of the chief instigators of the Battle of Jamal.  He had insinuated people to kill Caliph Usman with the hope of succeeding to Caliphate, and when he was frustrated in it, he instigated a revolt against Imam Ali (AS).  (See Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 172  and its Explanation.)


Zubair ibn Awam:  He was the sworn enemy of Caliph Usman.  Later Zubair with motives like those of Talha, staged a revolt against Imam Ali and was the prime mover for the Battle of Jamal.  In the battlefield of Jamal, when Imam Ali (AS) reminded him of the orders given to him by the Holy Prophet (SA) about him (Ali), he left the battlefield, and while he was riding away to Medina, he was killed by Amr ibn Jurmuz, who was neither in Imam Ali’s army nor his companion.  Imam Ali (AS) felt sad at Zubair’s death and said:  “Though he later turned into a bitter enemy of mine yet in early days of Islam, he was a good defender of the cause of religion.” (74)


Amr ibn Aas:  He was the third bitter enemy of Usman.  Tabari gives a detailed account of the way he insulted the caliph in the mosque and says, “Nobody was more pleased at the murder of Caliph Usman then Amr ibn Aas.”  The reason was that he had been deposed from the Governorship of Egypt by the third Caliph.  Later Amr ibn Aas joined Muawiyah, as a claimant for retribution of the murder of Caliph Usman.


When the events from the year 11 A.H. upto 34 A.H. were moulding their course, Imam Ali (AS) took no part in the affairs of the State.  In the words of “The History of Saracens”,


“He was endeavouring in Medina to give an intellectual turn to the newly developed energy of the Saracenic race.  In the public mosque at Medina, he delivered weekly lectures on philosophy, logic, history, explanation of the traditions of the Holy Prophet and the verses of the Holy Quran as well as on Muslim law and rhetorics.  Thus he formed the nucleus of the intellectual movement which displayed itself in such great force in the later days.” 


Those lectures and sermons were compiled within forty years of his death by Zayd ibn Wahb Juhni. (75)  Many of them were lost, but some of them are preserved in Nahjul Balagha. (76)

Five days after the death of Caliph Usman, by a unanimous election, in which representatives from Basra, Kufa, Egypt and Hijaz took part, Imam Ali (AS) was selected as a caliph.  This event took place on the 24th Zilhij, 34 A.H.  (See Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 226)


 Eric Schroeder says: 

 “Five days after the murder of Caliph Usman, the people gathered together and decided, “We know no fitter man to be Imam than Ali but he will not take the burden of Imamate.”  Answered some, “press him home till he consents”.  They all gathered at Ali’s house with such eagerness that they were pushing and crushing each other, they called Ali out and said, “If we go our homes again without an Imam and a caliph, such a strife will stir as will never again be stirred, you will have to consent to be our Imam and Vicegerent of Allah”.  Ali replied, “Small longings have I for this authority, yet the believers must have a chief; and right gladly will I accept temporal authority of another of Talha”.

 “Nay thou hast more right than I”, said Talha.  One who stood by, forced open Ali’s palm and Talha swore the oath of allegiance to Imam Ali (AS).  Zubair did the like and from his house , they brought Ali to the mosque and everybody once again thronged round him to swear the oath of allegiance to him as their Imam and caliph.” (77)


The Battle of Jamal


Justice Amir Ali in “The Spirit of Islam” says,

  “It might have been thought that all would submit themselves before the glory, so fine and so grand.  But it was not to be, Zubair and Talha, who had hoped that the choice of people might fall on either of them for caliphate, balked in their ambitious design and smarting under the refusal of the new caliph to bestow on them the Governorship of Basra and Kufa, were the first to raise the standard of revolt.  They were assisted by Ummul Momineen Ayesha, who had taken a decisive part in the former elections.  She was the life and soul of the insurrection and herself accompanied the insurgent troops to the field riding on a camel.  Imam Ali (AS) with his characteristic aversion to bloodshed, sent his cousin Abdullah ibn Abbas to adure the insurgents by every obligation of the faith to abandon the arbitrament of war, but to no avail.  Zubair and Talha commenced the battle at a place called Khorayba and were defeated and killed.  The battle is called the Battle of Jamal (camel) — from Ayesha’s presence in a litter on a camel.  Ayesha was taken prisoner, was treated with courtesy and consideration and escorted with every mark of respect to Medina.  She was sent under escort of her brother Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr.” (78)


After the battle when Ummul Momineen Ayesha felt that though she had brought about this rebellion yet Imam Ali (AS) was treating her with utmost courtesy and kindness, she requested that her nephew Abdullah ibn Zubair, who had been Commander-in-Chief of the rebel forces and was taken prisoner, to be forgiven and freed.  Imam Ali (AS) granted the request.  Marvan got nervous and thought that two worst enemies of Imam Ali, (Talha and Zubair) were killed, one (Abdullah ibn Zubair) was excused and pardoned, the burden of vengeance might fall on him.  He requested Imam Hasan and Imam Husain to plead for his cause, they requested for his pardon, and he was also pardoned, (year afterwards the very same Marwan made his archers shoot arrows on the dead body and bier of Imam Hasan and later he persuaded the Governor of Medina, though unsuccessfully, to immediately kill Imam Husain on his refusal to accept Yazid as the caliph).  Then an order for general amnesty, peace and forgiveness was issued, every opponent was forgiven and every prisoner was released. (79)


Imam Ali’s officers and commanders in this battle, besides his sons, Imam Hasan, Imam Husain and Muhamamd Hanafia, were the following companions of the Holy Prophet:  Abdullah ibn Abbas, Ammar Yasir, Abu Ayub Ansari, Khuzayma ibn Thabit Ansari, Qays ibn Sa’d ibn Ubada, Ubaydullah ibn Abbas, Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, Hujr ibn Adi Kindi and Adi ibn Hatim Ta’i.


The victory gave Imam Ali time to consolidate his influence in Egypt, Hijaz and Iraq.  And according to Mas’udi with the honesty of purpose which always distinguished him, he disregarded all advice for temporizing.  Several of his advisers counselled him to defer the dismissal of the corrupt officers previously appointed until he was himself sure of his enemies, but his hero without fear and without reproach, refused to be guilty of any duplicity or compromise with injustice and inequity.  Therefore, immediately after his accession he had given orders for the dismissal of corrupt and cruel governors, for the resumption of fiefs and states which had been previously bestowed at public loss among the principle favourites of the rulers and for the equal distribution of the public revenues amongst the Arabs and non-Arabs, blacks and whites, masters and slaves, heads of clans and paupers.  These orders gave great offence to those who had enriched themselves under former administrations, and his endeavours to remedy the evils, which had crept into administration, raised against him, host of enemies.  No sooner the rebellion of Talha and Zubair was supressed then Muawiyah, an Umayyid by descent, who had held the Governorship of Syria, from the time of Caliph Umar, raised the standard of revolt.


Abu Sufyan, his son Muawiyah and his clan Bani Umayya had little sympathy and no faith in Islam.  Mas’udi says, “When Abu Sufyan had grown old and blind, he was sitting in the mosque and there were Imam Ali (AS), Abdullah ibn Abbas, and many other Muslims besides them.  The Mu’azzin (the man who calls for prayers) started Azan, (the invitation for prayers) and when he reached the part “I testify that Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah”, Abu Sufyan said, “Look at my cousin (meaning the Prophet), where he has placed his name.”  Imam Ali (AS) got annoyed and said that it was done by the order of Allah. (80)


“Abu Sufyan advised Bani Umayya to treat the caliphate like a ball and to pass it on from one to another of their clan and never let the ball go out of their possession, because “I swear that there is neither punishment, nor judgement, neither the Heaven nor Hell, and neither the Resurrection, nor the Day of Reckoning”.  His son and his clan accepted his teachings, followed his faith, adopted his advice and obeyed his orders.” (81)


The Battle of Siffin    

In the very beginning, Muawiyah had made fools of Talha and Zubair.  According to Ibn Abil Hadid, when Muawiyah learnt that people had sworn the oath of allegiance to Imam Ali, he wrote to Zubair that he had taken the oath of allegiance for him and for Talha as his successor.  The whole of Syria was ready to back them and they should try to overthrow Imam Ali’s regime and accept the caliphate which was awaiting them in Damascus.  Thus by exciting these two old men he got Imam Ali (AS) busy with their rebellion and secured time to make his government more powerful in Syria.


Talha and Zubair by their rebellion had done a great service to his cuase, but they were no more in the world to serve his purpose any longer, he therefore gathered around him Mughira ibn Shu’bah (who had originally tried to approach Imam Ali but was repulsed by him), Marwan ibn Hakam, Walid ibn Uqba, Abdullah ibn Umar, Abu Hurayra and Amr ibn Aas.  His favourite companion and adviser was Amr ibn Aas.  Though Muawiyah had to pay a heavy price (Governorship of Egypt and more than one million Dinars) to purchase the fidelity and faith of Amr ibn Aas, yet the later events proved that it was the best investment that Muawiyah had made in his life. He also collected proofs that Ziyad, ibn Abiha, was actually the illegitimate son of Abu Sufyan and not the son of a slave named Ubayd.  This change of fatherhood was officially (though shamelessly) proclaimed and Ziyad proudly became the legitimate brother of Muawiyah.  He was Muawiyah’s second best companion.  With these henchmen at his back, Muawiyah staged a revolt against Imam Ali (AS).  The accounts of these facts have been mentioned in details by the historians. (82)


After settling Chaldea and Mesopatenisce, Imam Ali (AS) was forced to march towards Syria to face Muawiyah’s forces at a place called Siffin.  Many Muslim historians (83)  and Simon D. Aucklay in the “History of the Saracens” depicted a detailed account of this battle which was a long-drawn one.  (See Explanation of Sermon 122, Nahjul Balagha)


Imam Ali (AS) issued orders in details to his officers and soldiers before the battle. (84)  As these orders give a clear indication of the principles and methods laid down by Imam Ali regarding Jihad (Holy War), I have breifly quoted them here:-


Never start a war yourself, Allah does not like bloodshed, fight only in defence.

Never be the first to attack your enemy, repulse his attacks but do it boldly, bravely and courageously.

Never waste your time in praising yourself and your deeds (in the battlefield by reciting epic verses) but instead extol Allah and the Holy Prophet.

Never chase and kill those who run away from the battlefield.  Life is dear to them, let them live as long as death permits them to live.

 Never kill wounded persons who cannot defend themselves.

Never bare a dead man for his coat of arms or dress.

Never cut nose or ears of dead men to humiliate them.

Never resort to loot and arson.

Never molest or outrage the modesty of a woman.

Never hurt a woman even if she swears at you or hurts you.

Never hurt a child.

Never hurt an old or an enfeebled person.


This battle was started on 1st Safar 38 A.H. and lasted for more than two months.  During the period, about eighteen encounters took place.


“In the beginning with his usual humanity, Imam Ali (AS) endeavoured to bring about a peaceful settlement.  But Muawiyah was inflated with pride and wanted Imam Ali to subdue to impossible conditions.  To avoid unnecessary shedding of blood, Imam Ali offered to end the quarrel by personal combat, but Muawiyah realizing who and what Imam Ali was, declined the challenge.  In spite of every exasperation, Imam Ali commanded the troops to await the enemy’s attack, to spare the fugitives and to respect the captives”. (85)


During the encounters one Amr ibn Aas and at other time Busr ibn Abi Artat faced Imam Ali in the battlefield.  They did not, until the encounter started, realize that the warrior facing them was Imam Ali.  One blow was sufficient to send them down from their horses.  When they found no way of escaping his sword immediately each one of them in his turn stripped himself naked and fell down turning their faces towards the earth and back towards the sky.  Both the armies laughed at those life-saving antics and somebody suggested Imam Ali (AS) to kill these arch-enemies.  In the case of Amr ibn Aas, he replied, “I cannot kill timid dogs, he has begged for his life though in a shameless and humiliating manner, yet it is granted to him”.  And when Busr ibn Abi Artat behaved in the same manner, he said, “I cannot desecrate my arms with the blood of such a cowardly and shameless person”.


These rebels were defeated in three successive battles and Muawiyah was ready to flee the field, when a trick of his accomplice, Amr ibn Aas, saved them from destruction.  He made his mercenaries rip the Holy Quran into so many pages and to tie those pages to their lances and flags and shout for quarters.  When even such pages were not available, mere rags were tied to the lances.  There were some persons in the army of Imam Ali who were bribed by Muawiyah for instance, Ash’ath bin Qays and as per orders of Amr ibn Aas, they and their soldiers desisted from the battle and forced other soldiers to desist from it.  They gathered around Imam Ali and called upon him to refer the dispute to arbitration. Imam Ali saw through the ruse practised by the rebels, and tried to make his soldiers realize it, but the clamour of the army led him to consent to the course granted.  He then wanted Abdullah ibn Abbas to represent his side in the arbitration, (See Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 235) but again a part of the army, under instigation of Ash’ath, demanded that “A weak and old man, named Abu Musa Ash’ari, who was also secretly hostile to Imam Ali be nominated as an arbitrator from this side”. (86)


There was immediate danger of serious factions arising in his own army, which might have developed in bloodshed, therefore Imam Ali acceded to the demand for Arbitration and Abu Musa was appointed as an arbitrator.  Muawiyah was represented by the astute and cunning Amr.  They both decided against Imam Ali, who was deprived of the fruits of victories by a group of his soldiers and faithless officers.  He returned in disgust with a part of his armies and faithful followers to Kufa.


In the Battle of Siffin, one of the famous companions of the Holy Prophet (SA), Ammar Yasir andanother great favourite of the Holy Prophet, Uways Qarani, fought for Imam Ali and both were killed in the battle.


The men who had been, with ulterior motives, most clamerous at Siffin for the reference to arbitration, when felt that their hopes could not be realized, repudiated the arbitration and denounced it as sinful.  They openly mutinied against Imam Ali (therefore they were called Kharijiites).  From Kufa, they withdrew to a place called Naharwan, which was on the border of the desert.  There they assumed threatening attitude, killed some officers of the government and many respectable men as well as women and children.  They refused to hear reasonable advice, to join duty or to return home.  Their conduct at last became so spurious that Imam Ali was forced to attack them at Naharwan, that encounter is called the Battle of Naharwan.  The majority fell fighting, a few escaped to Bahrain and Ahsa, where they formed the nucleus of a fanatical horde which later assumed various names and adopted various guises.


“Abu Musa had also retired to Medina where he subsequently received a handsome yearly stipend from the court of Muawiyah”. (87)


From the day of ascension to the rulership upto the last day of his life, Imam Ali did not get a day’s rest and peace.  It is a wonder that despite facing the heavy odds, he could get time to introduce reforms in the government, to lay out the fundamentals of Arabic grammar, to deliver sermons on theology, on rhetorics, on philosophy of religion, on wonders of creation and nature, and on duties of man to Allah and man; to advise people in the most persuasive style; to suppress the tendencies for innovation and schism, which had crept in the minds of Muslims, or to introduce and to bring into effect the principles of Divine government.


After dealing with the revolt of Kharijiites Imam Ali had to face the problem of consolidating his control over Egypt.  He had sent Qays ibn Sa’d as a governor there, but had to call him back and to send Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr instead.  Unfortunately, Muhammad though brave and sincere was no match to Muawiyah and Amr ibn Aas.  He was forced by Muawiyah into a battle.  He wrote to Imam Ali who sent Malik Ashar for his help.  But Malik could not reach Egypt, he was on the way poisoned to death by a henchman of Muawiyah. (88)  Muhammad was informed of this fact.  That young man faced Amr ibn Aas alone, was defeated in the encounter, was killed and by the orders of Muawiyah, his dead body was burnt and his ashes (89) were strewn.   Imam Ali’s words, at the news of death of Muhammad, show how he loved the young man and how the youth loved him.  (See Nahjul Balagha, Saying 320  andLetter 35).


After him, Imam Ali had to send some experienced officer to Egypt.  He therefore was busy with that problem when Muawiyah organized guerilla war with orders for loot, murder, arson and rape.  These bands were to attack, in the form of waves after waves, the provinces of Hijaz, Basra, Ra’y and Musil.  Imam Ali organized the defence of these provinces, defeated these bands and freed the country from their harassment.


It was very easy for Imam Ali to divert the minds of the masses towards foreign invasion and thus make them busy in murder and plunder.  It had always been done by rulers and is even today considered as the best form of employing energies of a rising nation as well as the easiest way to form Empire and to propagate religion.  But Imam Ali (AS) hated bloodshed, did not believe in Imperialism, and had no faith in propagation of religion with sword in one hand and the Quran in the other.  He believed Islam to be a message of peace and love and wanted mankind to be ruled on the basis of equity and justice.  Therefore after strengthening one province after another, and fortifying their defences, he got busy in introducing reforms to create a benign temporal State and never seriously thought of expanding his domain.


By the time he got complete control over those problems and could organize an army to liberate Syria and Egypt from the reign of terror which had held them in its sway, the fateful month of Ramazan 40 A.H. arrived.



Fortieth Year of Migration:  It was the 19th of the Ramazan, the month of fasting of that eventful year.  The time was that of morning prayers.  The place was the Mosque of Kufa, Imam Ali (AS) had arrived in the mosque long before the time of the prayers, had roused those who were sleeping in the mosque.  Amongst them was Abur Rahman ibn Muljam Muradi.  He was lying on his face and hidden under his garment a sword, the blade of which had been poisoned.  Imam Ali (AS) roused him, told him that it was an unhealthy way of sleeping, it hinders free breathing, and also told him that he had hidden a sword in his garment and an evil intention was in his mind.  Imam Ali (AS) then called the Muslims to morning prayers and led the service. 


It was the first part of the prayers and he was rising from the kneeling posture when the sword of Abdur Rahman descended on his head.  It was the same sword that Imam Ali (AS) had pointed out only half an hour ago, it gave him a very deep cut.  The prayers were disturbed.  Abdur Rahman started fleeing, but people chased him.  Nobody was attending the prayers and there was confusion everywhere.  But Imam Ali (AS) finished his two prostrations, and then reeled into the hands of his sons Hasan and Husain.  The wound which was bleeding profusely was attended to. His blood-drenched lips parted into thanksgiving supplication and he said, “Lord! I thank You for rewarding me with martyrdom; how kind You are and how Gracious!  May your Mercy further lead me to the realm of Your Grace and Benevolence!”


Abdur Rahman was caught by Sa’sa bin Suhan and was brought before Imam Ali.  Hands of the murderer were tied behind his back.  Imam saw the ropes were cutting into the flesh of the murderer.  He forgot the wound of his head, the blow which was to end his life.  He forgot that Abdur Rahman was his murderer.  All that he saw was a human being subjected to inhuman torture.  He ordered the Muslims to loosen the hands of Abdur Rahman and to treat the man more humanly.  The kindness touched the murderer and he started weeping.  Imam Ali (AS) smiled and in a faint voice said, “It is too late to repent now.  Was I a bad Imam or an unkind ruler?”


People carried the great Imam to his house and when he saw the bright day, he addressed it:  “O Day! You can bear testimony to the fact that during the lifetime of Ali, you have never dawned and found him sleeping”.


He lived two days after this event and in that interval whenever he found time, he delivered a few sermons. (See Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 147, Letter 47) 


In those sermons and with his dying breath, he expressly ordered that no harshness should be used towards his murderer, who should be executed, if the heirs of Imam Ali so desire, with one blow.  He should not be tortured before death.  His dead body should not be mutilated.  His family members should not suffer on account of his crime and his property should not be confiscated.  He designated his son Imam Hasan as his vicegerent.


Thus he closed the last chapter of a life which from the beginning to its end was full of noble deeds, pious thoughts and sublime words and every hour of which was a crowned hour of a glorious life.  “Had Ali been allowed to reign in peace”, says Oeslner, “his virtues, his firmness, and his sublime character would have perpetuated the basic principles of a good government and its simple manners.”  The dagger of an assassin destroyed the hope of Islam. 


“With him” , says Osborn, “perished the true-hearted and the best Muslim of whom Muhammadian history has preserved the remembrance”. 


“Seven centuries before” says Justice Amir Ali, “this wonderful man would have been apotheosised and thirteen centuries later, his genius and talents, his virtues and his valour, would have exerted the admiration of the civilized world.  Chivalrous, humane and forbearing to the verge of weakness, as a ruler he came before his time.  He was almost no match by his uncompromising love of truth, his gentleness and his merciful nature to cope with Umayyad’s treachery and falsehood”.  Justice Amir Ali further says, “To quote the modern French historian:  “But for his assassination the Muslim world might have witnessed the realization of the Prophet’s teachings, in actual amalgamation of the first principles of true philosophy into positive action.  The same passionate deovtion to knowledge and learning which distinguished Muhammad, breathed in every word of Ali.  With a literality of mind — far beyond the age in which he lived — was joined a sincere devotion of spirit and earnestness of faith.  His sermons, his psalms, his litanies portray a devout uplooking twoards the source of All Good, and an unbounded faith in humanity”. (90)


According to his will, he was buried at Najaf (Iraq), a place about two miles from Kufa.


 About Imam Ali (AS), his character, his wisdom, his teachings, his services to Islam, his love of mankind, his respect to duty, and adherence to piety, to truth and justice, more than 8000 books have already been written.  They are in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Urdu, English, Spanish, Italian, German, French, Gujrati, Hindi, Telegu, and Tamil, a sincere homage to the sincerity of his faith in the greatness and nobility of character inherent in man and in the possibility of human beings developing these traits by good thoughts and good deeds.


Imam Ali (AS) as a Ruler and Statesman

Before Imam Ali (AS) took charge of the State, the condition of the country was in a hopeless turmoil.  All the most important people and the companions of the Holy Prophet (SA) had lost sympathy with the government and were openly hostile to it.  Rank-favouritism and short-sighted greed of Marwan and his clan were responsible for this chaos.  People were emboldened to rise in arms against the mismanaged and malevolent rule.  Their uprising had succeeded.  They had lost every respect of authority, and had no desire to see the ruling regime back into power.  On the contrary, the members of the overthrown regime had sinister designs to gain back the control which had benefited them for so long, while some influential persons were hoping to gain caliphate for themselves.


For three days after the murder of Caliph Usman, there was anarchy in the capital and on the fifth day, Imam Ali was unanimously elected.  He neither claimed nor contested for the temporal kingdom. It was forced upon him.  But when he accepted it, he openly declared his policy in his very first speech.  And that was to the effect that they had elected him as their temporal ruler and so he would remain as long as they kept on obeying him.  But since he had no confidence in their sincerity, he had twice refused to accept their request to act as their ruler; but their hopeless plight and their repeated persuasions moved him to accede to their entreaties; yet he was under no obligation of them for their decision.  On the contrary, he had done them a service by agreeing to rule over them.  He knew fully well the reasons of their imploration for his rulership because they had been badly treated before by the malevolent, cruel and oppressive regime.  The ruling class had insulted them and had always refused to listen to their grievances and to come to their relief.  The masses had been kept ignorant about the true teachings of Islam, they had been made to concentrate on worldly benefits at the cost of religion and piety.  Consequently a despotic rule of which they were tired and wanted a sort of Divine rule that had been introduced by the Holy Prophet (SA).  That desire had made them look for somebody who could re-establish that type of government; and they realized that Imam Ali (AS) was the man in whom the Holy Prophet had confided and more than anybody else, he had entrusted his faith in him, and that he had been the trustee of the Holy Prophet’s legacies.  Hence, they had unanimously elected him as their ruler.


But they had not realized the responsibilities and obligations under which they had brought themselves by making him their Amri (ruler).  Imam Ali (AS) knew their weaknesses and also knew that they would lose confidence in him when they would find that he attached more importance to general welfare of the people than to individual’s interest, he would make them follow the path laid down by the Holy Prophet (SA), when with the introduction of equality and equity, he would make them accept the principles of brotherhood of man and general amity towards their fellow-beings, and when he would try to lead them towards selfless discharge of duties as laid down by Allah and His Prophet, and thus would make them a model to be adopted by those who desire peace and prosperity under the Divine rule.  


He was afraid that with introduction of such system of the government and the society, they would revolt against him, they would clamour for personal benefits, and would crave for comfort and pleasure as well as wealth and power which could not be possible in his government.  They did not realize that by allowing them carnal desires and simple pleasures, by granting them limited freedom and by keeping them in ignorance, the rulers had actually turned them into automatons to work for them, kind of slaves without vision, foresight and prospect of future life.  But Imam Ali (AS) would, try to make them follow the true path of religion of their own free will, to develop the habit of simple living and high thinking and to give up the desire of seeking undue favours and unjustifiable pleasures.  That was the kind of men that Allah wanted them to be and the Holy Prophet (SA) had tried to mould them likewise.  The task had not been easy then, the lapse of twenty five years had made it even more difficult, but he would try to achieve it.


Whatever ray of hope that was lurking in the minds of people, expecting wealth, prosperity and governorship, dissappeared by this very first speech of Imam Ali (AS).  They knew that they could not expect unholy and ungodly concessions from Imam Ali.  Their unreasonable claims on public wealth, their fiefs and their unjustifiable holdings of public prosperity will not remain with them.  The result was three rebellions against Imam Ali and a restless period of rulership for about four years.  But Imam Ali with the sincerity of purpose tried to do what he had promised, that is to raise the mental uplift of the masses.  This he successfully carried out against very heavy odds. 


The second thing was to create a Central Bureau, where he distributed the work of training the crude Arabs into educated and civilized beings.  To Abul Aswad Duwayli, he dictated basic principles and rules of grammar for the Arabic language with special instruction to concentrate on the syntax of that language.  Abdur Rahman Sulmi was made to look after the art of reading the Quran correctly.  Kumail ibn Ziyad was made responsible for mathematics, engineering and astronomy.  Umar ibn Sulma for Arabic language and literature (prose), Ubada ibn Samit for poetry and logic, Abdullah ibn Abbas for principles of administration and rhetorics, and he himself for philosophy of religion, ethics, commentary of the Holy Quran and the traditions of the Holy Prophet.  But actually he was the hub of the whole activity.  Though every hour of his glorious life was pre-occupied yet he found time to teach his subordinates, what to say, when and how to say it, what to teach and when and how to teach it.  Long after his demise everyone of his pupils proved a shining star in the firmament of Islamic civilization and have been considered as leaders.


The next subject which engaged his immediate attention was the improvement in administration.  To make due arrangements for security of the state from external attacks, to maintain law and order, to check corruption and bribery, to provide equal opportunities and to have equal distribution of public wealth among his subjects, to appoint honest and pious officers, to chastise and remove from service the dishonest ones, to organize a powerful army, to avoid enrolment of mere mercenaries in it, to take care of traders and trades, and to treat non-Muslims with deserving leniency and respect, were apparently the items of his system which he successfully implemented.


He divided the States into following sections:

(i) Public Finance   (ii)  Army     (iii) Central Secretariat    (iv) Judiciary and   (v) Provincial Oficers.


 Finance Department: 


The department of the Public Finance was divided into two sections:

(a) Collection section and    (b) Distribution section


Collection Section was sub-divided into three heads and only three kinds of taxes were allowed to be collected by Imam Ali:


(i) Land Revenue:  It was usually collected in coins of silver and gold or in bullion.  Officers collecting this revenue were some times appointed by the center, but the Imam had also authorized the governor to appoint such officers himself.


(ii)  Zakat (Religious Tax) and Sadaqa (obligatory alms):  It was usually collected in kind or in live-stock.  Officers who were to collect this revenue were always appointed directly by the Imam and he took great care to appoint honest and pious persons on these posts and to have a close watch on their activities and behaviour.


(iii) Jizya:  A tax from non-Muslims in lieu of Zakat, etc. and in return for the security and amenities provided to them.  Collection of no other kind of tax, from non-Muslims was allowed by the Imam.


Land survey was carried on by him whenever necessary.  Every tax payer had the right to appeal and an appellate court was founded.  Officers for this court were directly appointed by the Imam.


Imam Ali was the first man to introduce the budget system for collection of revenues and for its expenditure.  Each province had to present its budget directly to him for approval.  The income was divided into two heads, provincial and central.  Zakat and Sadaqa were items of the Central Revenue while, Land Revenue and Jizya were Provincial Revenue.


The schedule of rate for Land Revenue was fixed by him as under:


1. 1st class, (most fertile) land                 One and a half Dirham per Jarib

2. 2nd class, (fertile land)                One Dirham per Jarib.

3. 3rd grade land                             Half Dirham per Jarib

4. Vine yards, orchards, etc.             Ten Dirhams per Jarib.


(One Jarib being 2269 square yards, approximately)


Sadaqa and Zakat were the taxes which only Muslims had to pay.  It was a tax levied on personal income, landed property, hoarded bullions, currency and live-stock, and its rate was fixed by the tenets of Muslim Law.


Jizya was a personal tax, collected per head of a person irrespective of his income or property.  But such persons were divided into various classes.  It was an annual tax.  The division of classes was as under:


1st class:  Very rich persons and land-owners               48 Dirhams per head

2nd class:  Middle class people                                                42 Dirhams per head

3rd class:  Businessmen                                     42 Dirhams per head

4th class:  General public                                      12 Dirhams per head


There were strict orders that no Jizya was to be collected from beggars and persons falling unde following categories:


(i) Those who were above 50 years of age, 

(ii) Those who were below 20 years of age,

(iii) All women-folk,

(iv) All paralysed persons,

(v) All disabled persons,

(vi) All blind persons and

(vii) All insane persons


Income from the source of Zakat and Sadaqa was reserved for the following heads:


(i) Administration of the Departments of Collection and Distribution

(ii) Grants, donations and aids to the poor, destitue, orphans, aged widows and disabled persons.


(iii) Stipends to volunteers who fought for the State

(iv) Pensions to widows and orphans of soldiers and officers of the army

(v) To acquire and to set free slaves from the bondage

(vi) Reparation of government loans

(vii) To help Hajis (pilgrims) whenever and wherever they were found stranded


Items (iii) to (vi) were introduced for the first time by Imam Ali and so far as item (vi) was concerned, previously no ruler ever thought of his kingdom to be morally obliged to pay back a loan taken from somebody.


Imam Ali was the first man who declared that a ruler’s share of income from the State was equal to that of any commoner.


Income from Jizya was earmarked for the following items of expenditure:


(i) Maintenance of army

(ii) Construction and maintenance of forts

(iii) Construction and maintenance of roads and bridges

(iv) Sinking of wells and

(v) Construction of inns.


Land Revenue was the provincial income to be spent on maintenance of courts, offices, and other necessary items as per orders of the Center.  Before I bring to an end, the description of his system of Revenue Collection, I must mention a remark passed by him in this regard to one of his governors.  He said,


“So far as collection of Land Revenue is concerned, you must always keep the welfare of the tax-payer, which is of greater importance than the taxes themselves, and as acutal taxable capacity of people rests on fertility of land, therefore, more attention should be paid to the fertility of land and prosperity of the subjects than to the collection of revenues”.  (Nahjul Balagha, Letter 53)


Distribution of public wealth was a subject on which Imam Ali (AS) devoted much attention and which in return caused him to lose many supporters and followers.


The first reform that Imam Ali (AS) introduced was to recognize the Treasury and Accounts Department.  Dishonest officers were removed from the services.  A system of accounting was introduced.  Usman ibn Hunayf was appointed as the Chief Treasury Officer.  The principle of equal distribution of public money was introduced.  The system of weekly distribution was for the first time adopted.  Thursday was the distribution day so that Muslims could spend their holidays on Friday happily.  On every Thursday accounts were closed, and every Saturday fresh accounts were entered.


Impartiality and equity were the key-notes of his policy on distribution of wealth.  At the Center, (Kufa), he often supervised the distribution himself and after the work was over, and accounts cleared, he would perform his prayers in the Treasury and thank his Lord that he had discharged his duty faithfully.


Shu’bi says that as a young boy, once he passed by the Treasury at the time when Imam Ali was supervising the distribution, he saw negro-slaves standing in line with the Arab Sheikhs, and getting equal shares, and within a short time the heaps of silver and gold coins disappeared, the Treasury was cleared, Imam Ali said the prayers and left the office empty-handed.  That day he had given his share to an old woman who complained that her share was not sufficing her. (91)


Once, one of Imam Ali’s favourite and trusted companions, Usman ibn Hunayf, told him that by introduction of the principle of Equal Distribution of wealth and bringing important persons down to the level of commoners, and by raising the status of Negroes, and Persians to that of Arabs, by alloting shares to slaves equal to their masters, by depriving the rich persons of their land-holdings and by stopping special grants apportioned to them according to their status, he had done more harm to himself and his cause, than good.  Continuing he said, “Look Sir!  These are the reasons why the influential and rich Arabs are deserting you and are gathering around Muawiyah.  Of what use these poor persons, disabled people, aged widows and Negro slaves are to you?  How can they help and serve you?”


He replied, “I cannot allow rich and influential persons to exploit the people of this Islamic State and to run an inequitable and unjust system of distribution of wealth and opportunities.  I cannot for a moment tolerate this.  This is Public wealth, it comes from the masses it must go back to them.  The rich and powerful persons have not created any wealth, they have merely sucked it out from the masses and after paying the taxes, etc. what is left to them is many times more than what they pay to the State and they are allowed to retain it.  Had all this been private property, I would have gladly distributed it in the same manner.  So far as their desertion is concerned, I am glad they have deserted me.  So far as the usefulness or services of these disabled persons and have-nots is concerned, remember that I am not helping them to secure their services, I know thoroughly well that they are unable to serve me.  I help them because they cannot help themselves and they are as much human beings as you and I.  May Allah help me to do my duty as He wishes me to do.” (92)


Imam Ali (AS) was a born soldier and had started his military career at the age of fourteen, when he acted as a bodyguard to the Prophet.  Then onward, he was the only military talent on whom the Prophet (SA) would rely and all arrangements for organization of defences and maintenance of an army of volunteers or soldiers were totally entrusted to him by the Holy Prophet (SA).  It was his ability and valour which brought such successes to Islam in its early days against such heavy odds.  Even Caliph Umar used to consult him regarding military problems. (93)


Time had not dimmed his valour or his ability to organize such an important section of the State.  At the age of sixty, in the battelfields of Jamal, Siffin and Naharwan he was as brave a soldier, as good a leader and as keen a marshal as he was in the prime of his youth in the battlefields of Badr, Uhud, Khandaq, Khaybar and Hunain!    (See Imam Ali’s words about it)


During his short period of rulership of about four years, he organized the department very carefully.


The first liability on the State exchequer was the army department.  Every governor of the province besides being chief finance officer of the province was also the Commander of the army.  When officers could not be found to look after the military as well as civil administration, then the functions would be divided.


Imam Ali (AS) did not tolerate mere mercenaries but did not let the services of volunteers go unpaid.  He hated murder and bloodshed and desired his soldiers to be soldiers in the service of Allah and religion.  His strict orders to the army were,


“Always keep fear of Allah in your mind, remember that you cannot afford to do without His Grace.  Remember that Islam is a mission of peace and love.  Keep the Holy Prophet (SA) before you as a model of bravery, valour and piety.  Do not kill anybody unless in self-defence.  Take care of your mounts and your arms, they are your best guards.  Work hard while you are at it and then devote some time to rest and relaxation. Rest and relaxation are as much necessary for you as hard work.  Do not let one overstep the time limit of the other. 


Do not pursue those who run away from an encounter, and do not kill fleeing persons. 

Do not kill those who beg for life, and mercy. 

Do not kill civilians. 

Do not outrage the modesty of women. 

Do not harm old people and children. 

Do not accept any gifts from the civil population of any place. 

Do not billet your soldiers or officers in the houses of civilians. 

Do not forget to say your daily prayers. 


Fear Allah.  Remember that death will inevitably come to everyone of you sometime or the other, even if you are thousands of miles away from a battelfield; therefore be always ready to face death.”


Imam Ali did not appreciate heavily armed and clad soldiers.  He liked lighter swords, lighter bows and arrows, lighter coat of arms and lighter chain of armours.  He preferred to have an agile and a mobile army. 


The historians (94) have discussed and narrated at some length his system of reorganizing the army, his principles of strategy and his tactics of war.  How he divided the army into six units, beginning from vanguard and ending a the rearguard; how he arrnaged to cover every possibility of a retreat with the help of these units; how he subdivided the cavalry into horse and camel units; and infantry into archers, swordsmen and Mata’in (soldiers armed with short lances which they threw with precision, skill and force); how he made the vanguard responsible for scouting, pioneering and performing duties of sappers and miners; how he used to arrange the army in a battlefield; how he never suffered a defeat in his life; how bold he was, how he used to fight without protecting his body with armour or shield; how he never delivered more than one blow (mostly his one blow was sufficient to kill his opponent, if not, he would give the opponent chance to get up and run away and how nobody ever dared stand before him for his second blow!)


To Imam Ali (AS), war was a pious duty to be performed only for the purpose of defence.  He often declared,


 “A Muslim’s life is a battlefield, where he is seldom required to defend his self or his cause and country at the point of sword, which is Jihad-e-Asghar (a Minor Holy War), however formidable be the forces he is to face, while in everday life, he is to struggle against evil desires, vicious cravings and inordinate wishes, which is Jihad-e-Akbar (Major Holy War), take care and do not suffer a defeat in this battle; remember it is a life-long struggle; a success here will be honoured with martyrdom, even if one dies in his bed surrounded by his relatives.”


The principle of keeping judiciary independent of and over and above the executive, administrative and military functions of the State was the main factor of the reforms introduced by him.  He was very particular about this.  So much so that historians narrate that once Imam Ali (AS) appeared before Qazi Shurayh, his Chief Justice as a complainant and the Chief Justice wanted to give him a place of honour in the court and to treat him like a king or caliph.  He reproached the judge for such a behaviour, (See also) saying that he was there as a plaintiff, and not as a king or caliph, and then he, cheerfully accepted the decision of the court against him.  The effect of upholding the prestige of the Court of Justice, and his adherence to the principles of equality and equity were so impressive that the person, against whom he had filed the case, and had lost it, ran after him, kissed the hem of his garment, and said, “My master!  Teach me Islam, I am a Christian and I want to be converted”. 


“Why?” enquired Imam Ali, “Did anybody force you to do that?” 


“No, my master”, he replied, “but your behaviour of treating even a non-Muslim subject as your equal, the prestige you have granted to justice and fair play, and your abstinence from use of power and authority made me feel that Islam is a great religion.  You are a ruler and a caliph, you could have easily ordered me to be killed and my property looted, and nobody would have dared to ask reasons of your actions, but you took the case against me to the court, and cheerfully accepted the decision against you; I have never heard of such a ruler before you.  Secondly, the thing that you claimed as yours is actually yours and not mine, but I know the persons who could provide proof of this are out of Kufa, therefore, I boldly said that it was mine, and not yours.  That was a lie, and now I am ashamed to feel that I have lied against such an honourable person.  You have heard me.  Will you not allow me to enter the fold of Islam?”


The great Imam enquired, “Are you of your free-will entering our fold?”


“Yes”, he replied, “Under your regime, I have nothing to lose by remaining in my religion and no worldly benefit to gain by embracing Islam and by confessing my guilt and sin.”


The code (See also Nahjul Balagha, Letter 53) which he laid down for selection and enrolment of judges, shows that he took care of even minute requirements of the post and position, it says:


(i) Only such persons should be selected who are well-versed in Islamic Law and know enough of the Holy Book and traditions of the Holy Prophet (SA) to decide according to the principles laid down therein, besides they must have knowledge of personal Laws of other religion followed in their provinces.


(ii)  They must be men of some standing and status.


(iii)  They must not lose temper or patience and treat litigants harshly and insultingly.  The litigants must feel that their interests are well guarded and well looked after, and the doors of justice are always open for them.


(iv) If they feel that they have made a mistake they should not obstinately stick to it, but try to undo the injustice done by them.


(v)  They should be able to probe deeply into cases before them and to reach the truth.


(vi)  They must be able to reach decisions quickly and must not unnecessarily prolong a case.


(vii) They must not accept recommendations and must not be influenced.


(viii) Their salaries should be so fixed that they are not tempted by bribes and gifts.


(ix) In audiences and levees of the governors, they should be given seats of honour.


(x) Greedy and avaricious persons, and those who are open to flattery and cajolery should also be avoided.


(xi)  The right of people’s appeals to the court should be honoured.  The ruler should always hear appeals against the decisions of the courts and should decide as per orders of Allah and the Holy Propeht (SA).


 Imam Ali (AS) has also laid down a code for the officers of the State which covers every aspect of their duties and obligations.  It is embodied in the form of a letter (Nahjul Balagha, Letter 53) written to one of his governors.


Abdul Masih Antaki, the famous Christian jurist, poet and philosopher of Beirut, who died in the beginning of the 20th Century, says that “It is by far, a superior and better code thant he ones handed down by Moses and Hamurabi.  It explains what a humane administration should be like and how it is to be carried on and it justifies the claims of Muslims that Islam wants to introduce a Divine administration of the people, by the people and for the people and it decrees that a ruler should not rule to please himself but to bring happines to the ruled, no religion before Islam tried to achieve this end.  Ali (AS) must be congratulated for having introduced these principles in his government and for having written them down for posterity.”


I quote here just a few points to illustrate what Abdul Masih meant by saying that it was a better code than the codes handed down by Moses or Hamurabi:


1) You must be kind and loving towards your subjects.  Do not behave with them as if you are voracious and ravenous beasts and do not think that your success lies in devouring them.


2) Muslims and non-Muslims should be treated alike.  Muslims are your brothers and non-Muslims are human beings just like you.


3) Do not feel ashamed to forgive.  Do not hurry over punishments.  Do not quickly lose your temper over errors and failures of those over whom you rule.  Anger and desire of vengeance are not going to be of much use to you in your administration.


4) Do not allow favouritism and nepotism force you to violate your duties towards Allah and to man, and drive you towards tyranny and oppression.


5) While selecting officers, take care that you do not select such people who have served cruel rulers and have been responsible for atrocities commited by the State.


6) Select honest and kind persons and from amongst them prefer those who speak out bitter truth to you unreservedly without fear or favour.


7) Appointments in the first place must be on probation.


8) Keep your officers well-paid so that they may not be tempted to corruption or mis-appropriation.


9) Appoint confidential officers to secretly watch the activities of your officers and staff and report to you about their conduct.


10) Your secretaries should be the cream of your civil, judicial or military service.  Choose the best amongst them irrespective of age or period of service.


11) All letters or applications should be dealt with by the officers and replies or orders about them should be drafted by them only, no subordinate must be allowed to work as the eyes and minds of these officers.


12) Take your subjects into your confidence and make them feel that you are their well-wisher and friend.


13) Never break a promise or go against the terms of a treaty.  It is a sin against Allah.


14) You must take care of your traders, but should never allow them to resort to hoarding, black-marketing, and profiteering.


15) Introduce handicraft, it reduces poverty and raises the standard of life.


16) Agriculturists are assets to the State and should be protected as an asset.


17) Remember that your sacred duty is to look after the poor, disabled and orphans.  Let not your officers humiliate them, ill-treat them or oppress them.  Help them, protect them and let them approach you whenever they are in need of your help.


18) Avoid bloodshed, do not kill anybody unless he deserves to be killed according to the canons of Islam.


Imam Ali (AS) and Philosophy of Religions 

A man enters a garden laid out into beautiful flower-beds, artistically and aesthetically arranged.  Flowers in each beds have been grown by persons who know the art and science of it.  The beauty of their colours and the delicacy of their forms and shades are pleasing to the eyes and their fragrance enchants the minds.  He knows that he has not the knowledge and capability and to produce flowers like that and the public have no time to go through the garden and enjoy the sights and fragrance of these beds at leisures.  He picks up a few flowers from each of these beds and arranges them in a bouquet as a humble homage to the gardener and beauty of the garden.  With this view I took up to write these chapters.  It is the best that I can do and I hope it will provoke minds superior to mine for better efforts.  Here I have dealt with the teachings of Imam Ali in the field of philosophy of religions.


With Imam Ali and the Imams of his descent, religion was a vital and positive force of life.  Their philosophy never sinks to that war of words without life and without earnestness which is the main feature of the schools under ptolemies or the vicious circles create by philsophers of the West and the East.  Their ardent love of knowledge, their devotion to the cause of humanity, their intense desire to improve the masses, their belief in evolution of human minds, their sincere faith in Allah, and in His Mercy, Love and Kindness, and their looking upwards beyond the literal interpretation of the law, show the spirituality and depth of their philosophy of religion.  Imam Jafar Sadiq defines Knowledge, “Enlightment of heart is its essence.  Truth is its principal object.  Inspiration is its guide.  Reason is its accepter.  Allah is its Inspirer and the words of man are its utterers.”


To them, evolution of mind was the essence of life and religion was the essence of the evolution of mind.


Imam Ali (AS) taught us that a man without mind is not a man, and a mind without religion is worst than the instinct of a beast, more harmful, more dangerous, and more carnivorous.  Devotion without understanding will not bring Blessings of Allah, it is useless.


He attaches so much value to mind and its correct ways of grasping the truth that he says your first leader and guide is your mind.  At another place he says that nothing is more useful to man than his intelligence, or there is nothing wealthier than wisdom, or there is no greater bounty of Allah than the intellect granted to you, or you can dispense with everything but your mind and intelligence, or there is no better guide towards truth than wisdom, or one hour of deep and sober meditation is better than a lifetime of prayers without understanding, or a wise man thinks first and speaks or acts afterwards.


Next to intelligence and wisdom, he taught us to attach importance, is sincerity of purpose in life.  Once explaining a certain Quranic verses to Abdullah ibn Abbas, he said:  “Ibn Abbas if you sincerely and intelligently go in search of truth or religion and if you wander out of the right path even then there is a reward for you.”


There is a sermon in Nahjul Balagha in which he says do not kill Kharijiites after me because to go in search of truth and to lose the true path is better than to spend the entire span of one’s life in pursuit of vicious pleasures and wickedness.”


The natural and logical sequence of the above two attributes is to take account of yourself, your knowledge, your thoughts, your intentions, your desires and your deeds.  He therefore advises us, “To judge your own soul before the time of judging your actions arrives.  Make an assessment of yourself before you are called upon to account for your conduct in this existence.”


To obtain favourable results of such judging and making an assessment of oneself, one must have done good deeds.  And so far as actions and reactions are concerned, Imam Ali (AS) wants us to understand that human conduct is not fortuitous, one act is the result of another, life, destiny and character are a connected series of incidents, events and actions which are related to each other, as a cause and effect of an Ordained Life.  Therefore, apply yourself to good and pure actions, adhere to truth, follow the true path to salvation before you leave this world.  If you do not warn yourself none else can direct you.  The Lord has shown to you the path of salvation and has warned you of the temptations of this world.  Abstain from foul thing though it may appear to you as good.  Avoid the evil however pleasant it might e, for you know not how far it takes you away from Him.


Imam Ali’s discourses in Nahjul Balagha about noble deeds are superb reading.  His warnings against sinful life are very persuasive teachings.  He says, “O you servants of the Lord!  Fulfil the duties that are imposed on you, for their neglect is abasement, your good work alone will render you an easy way to Paradise.  Remember each sin increases the debt and makes the chain heavier.  The message of mercy has come, the path of truth is clear; obey the command that has been laid for you;  live in piety and work with a noble purpose and ask Allah to help you in your endeavours and to forgive your past transgressions.  Cultivate humility and forbearance, comfort yourself with sincere truth.”


Next to sincere faith in the Oneness of Allah and the Prophethood of the Holy Prophet (SA), Imam Ali (AS) lays great stress on piety.  He wants us to realize that piety is not a delicious morsel to be swallowed easily not it is a dip in the river to clean dirts and filth from the body.  Piety means actions and those actions in the beginning may be sour, harsh and painful to perform.  Piety means to free oneself from vicious desires and wicked deeds.  This freedom cannot be obtained but by constant efforts and endeavours.  Such efforts are a continuous struggle and long-drawn combat against vicious cravings of mind.  Nobody can be free from vices and sins unless he develops the capacity to abhor them.  When once this capacity develops, adopting a pious and sober life becomes a habit and second nature.  Few things are forbidden to you and so many things are allowed, that no one is deprived of normal relaxations, ease and comfort and of sober and harmless pleasures and pursuits.


According to Imam Ali’s viewpoint, asceticism was a sin against self.  History cites many instances where he admonished the persons who had given up their homes and families, had severed every connection with society, had taken to a masjid, and had been praying, fasting and reciting the Holy Book morning, noon and night.  He sent them back to their homes, and told them that their duties lie among their fellow beings, and what they had taken to is not piety but fanatic asceticism which is not allowed in Islam.  He strongly disapproved the observance of asceticism and condemned the abandonment of the affairs of this life in fanatic pursuits of rituals.


Imam Ali says that he who acts with piety gives rest to his soul; he who takes warning, understands the truth and he who understands it, attains the perfect knowledge.


His teachings do not convey any impression of pre-destination; on the contrary, they portray a soul animated with living faith in Allah and yet full of trust in human development founded on individual exertion springing from human volition.  Somebody one day asked him the meaning of Qaza and Qadar.  He replied Qaza means obedience to commandments of Allah and avoidance of sin and Qadar means the ability to live a pious and holy life, and doing that brings one nearer to Allah and makes him shun that which throws him away from His Perfection.  Say not that man is compelled, for that attribution is tyranny to Allah, nor say that man has absolute discretion to decide what is wrong and what is right, we are furthered by His Help and Grace in our endeavours, to act righteously and we transgress because of our neglect of His commands.


Explaining the meaning of the verse, “There is no power nor help but from Allah”, he said, “It means that I am not afraid of Allah’s wrath but I am afraid of His Purity; nor have I power to observe His commandments, but my strength lies in His Help.  Allah has placed us on earth to test each according to his endowments.”


Explaining the verse, “We will test you to see who are strivers (after truth and purity) and who are forbearing and patient and We will test your actions as well as help you by degrees to attain what you know not!”  Imam Ali says, that these verses prove the liberty of human volition.


Explaining the verse, “Allah directs him whom He chooses, and leads him astray whom He chooses”, he says that, “This does not mean that He compels men to evil or good deeds, or that He either gives direction or refuses it according to His caprice, for this would do away all responsibility for human action, on the contrary it means that Allah shows the path to truth, and lets men choose as they will.”


In a sermon in Nahjul Balagha, he says, “The theory of compulsion, pre-destination or pre-determination of fate is a satanic insinuation and doctrine of faith amongst enemies of Allah.  On the contrary, Allah has ordained men to obey His commands and has given him freedom of will and action, he is at full liberty to obey His commands or to disobey.  There is no compulsion in accepting the religions preached by His prophets, and no compulsion to obey His commands.  Even his commands (like daily prayers, fasting, zakat, etc.) are not hard, harsh and unbearable and every leniency and ease on account of age, and health is granted to man.”


The freedom of human will, based on the doctrine that man should be judged by the use he had made of his reason, was inculcated in the teachings of the Holy Prophet (SA), along with an earnest belief in the Supreme Power ruling the Universe.  Imam Ail (AS) gave this idea a more definite form and it grew into a philosophy.  In reply to a question, he says, “Perhaps you consider predestination to be necessary and the particular decree to be irreversible; if it were so then reward and punishment would be in vain, and the promise and the threat would be of no account; and surely blame would not have come from Allah for the sinner nor praise for the righteous, nor would the righteous be more worthy of the reward of his good deeds, nor the wicked be more deserving of the punishment of his sin than the righteous.  Allah has ordained free will to men and putting them to test and trial He has neither laid down duties upon them by force, nor sent his prophets as a farce”.


When Imam Ali (AS) was asked, “What is pre-destination and particular decree which drove us?”, He replied, “The command of Allah, and therein His Purpose”. Then he repeated the verse, “The Lord has ordained (pre-destined) that you worship none but Him and show kindness to your parents.”


Mortality of life is another point which Imam Ali (AS) wanted men to realize fully, sincerely and rationally.  He wants us to understand that death is a biological incident of all forms of life and it is unavoidable, inevitable, and sudden.  Nobody knows when and how he is going to cross his barrier.  Therefore it is foolish to imagine that it can be avoided, sinful self-deception can forget it, and idiotically timid can be afraid of it.  He says, “I am as fond of death as a baby is fond of his mother’s breast”.  The natural sequence of the mortality of life is that everything connected with it and with this world is mundane, has no lasting value. Therefore, why concentrate on pleasure and take to vicious ways to acquire them, why not try to improve your lot for the Hereafter.


Imam Ali’s teachings are gospel for work.  He wants man to work, and to work honestly, sincerely and diligently and to work for the rewards reserved in Paradise.  He says, work work and do good work, while you still have life, health and opportunities.  Allah ordains you to work while there is still time to work.  Be thankful for the time and opportunities allotted to you and work for the good of mankind and for your own good.  A life without work is a life without worth.  A mind without sober thoughts and a life without a program of honest work is the most fertile soil for seeds of wickedness and vice.  Work with nobility of purpose is one of the forms of worship.  His advice to his son was: “Exert yourself to earn an honest living.  The worst form of folly is waste of opportunities.  Opportunities do not repeat themselves, make use of each one of them when it presents itself, and let piety guide you in all of your actions.”


Thus guiding us to the problems of man in respect of self, he leads us towards the solution of problems pertaining to man and his social life.  In a letter to Imam Husain (AS), he says, “My dear son, so far as your behaviour with other human beings is concerned, let your ‘self’ act as scales to help you judge its goodness or wickedness.  Do to others as you wish others to do to you.  Whatever you dislike to happen to you, spare others from such happening.”


At another place he advises, “Do not make yourself slave of anybody.  Allah has created you a free man.  Do not sell away this freedom in return for anything.  There is no real value of benefit that you derive by selling your honour, conscience and self-respect.  Do not run after him who tries to avoid you.  Remember that to oppress a weak or helpless person is the worst form of tyranny.  Do good to your brother when he is bent upon doing harm to you.  Befriend him when he ignores you.  Be generous to him if he is miserly to you.  Be kind to him if he is harsh and cruel to you.  But be very careful that you do not behave thus with undeserving, mean and wicked persons.”


Imam Ali (AS) had a very soft corner in his noble heart for the poor, disabled, aged and orphans.  To Malik Ashtar, he says, “I want to caution you about the poor.  Fear Allah about your attitude towards them.  Let it be remembered that their welfare is the first charge on a State and on well-to-do people.”


So far as the question of man and Allah is concerned, Imam Ali (AS) teaches us to believe in Allah Who has created us, Who loves us, nourishes us, helps us and is our well-wisher.  He should be loved, adored and venerated.


Through many of his supplications, Imam Ali (AS) has implanted in the minds of those who have faith in Allah, the highest devotional spirit.  He teaches us to love and adore him and to think of Him as “The Lord, the Adorable, the Eternal, the Ever-Existing, the Cherisher, the True Sovereign, Whose Mercy and Grace overshadows the Universe.  Who is the Master, the Loving and Forgiving.  Who bestows power and might on whom He pleases.  None can lower him whom He exalted.  Whose beneficence is all persuading.  Whose Forgiveness and Mercy is all embracing.  Who is the Helper of the afflicted, the Reliever of all distressed, the Consoler of the broken hearts.  Who is present everywhere to help His Creatures.  Who fulfils all needs, bestows all blessings.  Who is friend of the poor and the bereaved.”


At another place, he beseeches the Lord thus, “You are my Fortress — A Castle for all who seek Your Protection and Help; the Helper of pious and true; the Refuge of the weak; the Helper of those who seek Your Help.  Glory to You O Lord!  Whose Mercy extends to every sinner and Who provides for even those who deny You”.


This is how Imam Ali (AS) wants us to have faith in Allah, a Creator, a Nourisher, a Helper, a Refuge, a Protection.  One who loves you and One to be loved, adored, venerated, and worshipped.


The other aspect of his teachings is that he has clearly and emphatically condemned all anthropomorphists (who attribute human forms, qualities or personality to Allah) and anthropopathic (ascription of human passions and affections to Allah), conceptions of deity, Imam Ali say, “Allah is not any object that the human mind can conceive.  No attribute can be ascribed to Him which bears resemblance to any quality of which human being have perception from their knowledge of material objects.  The perfection of piety consists in knowing Allah; the perfection of knowledge is the affirmation of His Verity; and the perfection of verity is the acknowledgement of His Oneness in all sincerity; and the perfection of sincerity is to deny all attributes to the Deity.  He, who refers an attribute to Allah believe the attributes to be Allah, and he who so believes (an attribute to be Allah), regards Allah as two or part of one.  He who asks where Allah is, assimilates him with some object.  Allah is the Creator, not because He Himself is created.  Allah is Existent, not because he was non-existent.  He is with everything, not from resemblance or nearness.  He is outside everything not from separation or indifference towards His creatures.  He works and creates not in the meaning of motions or actions.  He sees and hears but not with the help of bodily organs or outside agencies.  He was seeing when there was nothing created to see.  He has no relation to matter, time and space, Allah is Omniscient because knowledge is His Essence, Loving because Love is His Essence, Might because Power is His Essence, Forgiving because Forgiveness is His Essence, and not because these are attributes apart from His Essence.”


At another place, Imam Ali (AS) says, “O my Lord! You are the Creator, I am the created; You are the Sovereign, I am only Your servant; I am the beseecher, You, my Lord are the Refuge.  You are the Forgiver, I am the sinner; You, my Lord, are the Merciful, Omniscient and Kind; I am groping in the dark, I seek Your Knowledge and Love.  Bestow my Lord, all Your Knowledge, Love and Mercy and let me approach You, my Lord!  You live in every heart and every soul.  Your Knowledge is ingrained in every mind.”




(1) Mustadrak Hakim;  Murujuz Zahab, Mas’udi, p. 125; Izalatul Khifa, p. 251;  Sharh-e-Ainiyah, Allama Alusi

(2) Sharh-e-Bukhari, Imam Nudi; Tazkirah Khawasul A’immah, Sibt ibn Jauzi

(3) Mustadrak Hakim, vol. III;  Kamil ibn Athir;  Tarikh Khamis; al-Isaba, Ibn Abdul Barr, vol. II, p. 486;  Riyazun Nuzrah, vol. II, pp. 202, 208.

(4) Ithbatul Wasiyah, Mas’udi, p. 119

(5) Hulyatul Aliya, vol. I, p. 67;   Tafsir Durre Manthur, Suyuti;   Ibn Abil Hadid.

(6) Hulyatul Awliya, Hafiz Abu Na’im, vol. I, p. 67; Tafsir Durre Manthur, Suyuti.

(7) Jame’ Tirmizi, vol. I, p. 38;  Miskhat Sharif, vol. II, p. 8; Musnad ibn Hambal, vol. I, p. 146

(8) Usas, Allama Tabrani;   Seerah-e Imam Hakim.

(9) Sharh-e-Nahjul Balagha, Ibn Abil Hadid, vol. III, p. 251.

(10) A review on the character of Ali, p. 40

(11) Seerah al-Halabiya.

(12) The Spirit of Islam.

(13) Musnad Ahmad ibn Hambal

(14) Matalibus Sual,  Allama Kamaluddin Muhammad ibn Talha Shafi’I

(15) Seerah Milani and Musnad Ahmad ibn Hambal

(16) Ahmad ibn Hambal; Al-Manaqib; and Tarikh ibn Athir;

(17) Musnad Ahmad ibn Hambal

(18) Kanzul Ammal, Ali Muttaqi;Riyazun Nuzrah,  Tabari.

(19) Abdul Barr, Al-Isti’ab.

(20) Musnad Ahmad ibn Hambal

(21) John Davenport, An apology for Muhammad and Quran

(22) “La fata illa Ali, La sayfa illa Zulfiqar” Tarikh Waqidi;  Shah Ismal Hamvini; Tarikh Abdu   Fida;  Tarikh Tabari 

(23) A detailed account of this Battle is given in Izalatul Khifa, Shah Waliullah Dehlavi; Tarikh Kamil, Ibn Athir; Tarikh Tabari  and Durre Manthur, Suyuti.

(24) The Spirit of Islam,  Justice Syed Amirali.

(25) For details of this tradition and Battle of Khaybar, refer to: Ma’arijun Nubuwwah,  vol. IV, p. 216; al-Manaqib, Akhtab Khazrami; Yanabi’ul Mawaddah, Mullah Ali Hamdani; Seerah ibn Hisham, p. 187;  Tarikh Tabari.

(26) Sahih Bukhari

(27) Rawzatus Safa, vol. II, p. 137;Tarikh Ambiya, vol. II, p. 388.

(28) Abul Fida,  p. 349;  Rawzatus Safa, vol. II, p.136; Tarikh Ambiya, vol. II, p. 389.

(29) A detailed account of this encounter is to be found in: Rawzatus Safa, vol. II, p. 136;  Tarikh Ambiya, vol. II, p. 388; Seerah Ibn Hisham, vol. II, p. 621;  Kanzul Ammal, vol. V, p. 307.

(30) Tarikh Tabari, vol. IXX, p.68;   Tafsir Ma’alimut Tanzil, p.663; Musnad Ahmad ibn Hambal, vol. I, p.163;   Tarikh Tabari, vol. II, p. 216; Mustadrak Hakim, vol. III, p. 133;   TarikhKamil, vol. II, p. 26; Tarikh Abul Fida,  vol. I, p. 116

(31) Mustadrak Hakim;   Isti’ab, Allama ibn Abdul Barr; Izalatul Khifa, Shah Waliyullah;  Kanzul Ammal, Allama Ali Muttaqi; Tazkiratul Khawasul A’aimma,  Sibt ibn Jawzi.

(32) Sahih Bukhari, para 145, p. 387 and para 18, p. 89.

(33) The Spirit of Islam, p. 292.

(34) The remarks of Imam Ghazali about this event and the inferences he has drawn are instructive readings.  The following is the list of some out of the famous 153 historians and books which contain the above event:

Ibn Shihab Zuhari (125 AH);  Muhammad ibn Ishaq (152 AH);  Ibn Rahuya (238 AH); Musnad, Imam Ahmad ibn Hambal vol. V, p. 281 (243 AH);  Jarir Tabari (310 AH); Hakim Tirmizi (320 AH);  Mustadrak, Imam Hakim (400 AH);  Sirrul Alamin, Imam Ghazali (505 AH);  Sibt ibn Jawzi (654 AH);  Ibn Subbaq Maliki (855 AH);  Suyuti (911 AH); Shaykh Abdul Haq Muhaddith Dehlavi (1052 AH); Shah Waliyullah (1176 AH); Allama Muhammad Mu’in (1280 AH).

(35) Tarikh Khamis,  vol. I, p. 398

(36) Seerah ibn Hisham, vol. II;  Abul Fida, vol. I, p. 127; Mustadrak Hakim,  vol. III; Fathul Bari,  commentary on Sahih Bukhari, vol. VII, p. 211.

(37) Tarikh Khamis,  vol. I, p. 407;  Tabaqat Ibn Saad, vol. VIII, pp. 11-12; Usudul Ghabah fi Tamizis Sahaba.

(38) Sahih Bukhari,  para 14, p. 387.

(39) Bukhari,  Vol. I

(40) Musnad Ahmad ibn Hambal;   Mustadrak Hakim;  Khasais Nisai.

(41) Sahih Bukhari

(42) Musnad Ahmad ibn Hambal, Vol. I, p. 151.

(43) Mustadrak Hakim, vol. III, p. 32;     Riyazun Nuzrah, vol. II, p. 203; Musnad Ahmad ibn Hambal, vol. I, p. 331;  Isaba-fi-Ma’arifatis Sahaba, vol. IV, p.270; Izalatul Khifa,  Shah Waliyullah Dehlavi, section 2, p. 261.

(44) Sahih Bukhari,  part VII, p. 77;   Sahih Muslim, vol. II, p.278; Jame’ Tirmizi, p. 421;   Mishqat Sharif, vol. VIII, p. 129

(45) Tafsir Kabir, vol. II, p.701 (printed in Egypt);   Tafsir Kashshaf, vol. I, p. 308.

(46) The Spirit of Islam, p. 313; note.

(47) Kanzul Ammal,  vol. VI, p. 159;   Tafsir Kashshaf, vol. I, p.308; Mawaddatul Qurba, Ali Hamdani;  Sawaiq Muhriqa, Allama ibn Hajr Makki.

(48) Musnad Ahmad ibn Hambal, vol. V, p. 356;  Khasa’is Nisai;Sawa’iq Muhriqa, Allama ibn Hajar Makki, chap. II.

(49) Tarikh Tabari;    Tarikh Kamil ibn Athir;   Tabaqat ibn Saad; Seerah Halabiya  and  Madarijun Nabuwwah, vol. II, p. 766.

(50) Al-Milal wan-Nahal, Allama Shahristani;

(51) Fathul Bari,  commentary on Sahih Bukhari, para 3, p. 372.

(52) For details of this event, refer to   Sahih Bukhari, para 12, p. 126,  para 8, p. 100, para 23, p. 384; Minhajus Sunnah, Allama ibn Taymiya;  Sharh-e-Sahih Muslim, Allama Nudi.

(53) Rawzatul Ahbab, vol. I, p.559;  Madarijun Nabuwwah, vol. II, p. 511.

(54) Tabaqat ibn Saad, vol. II, section 2, pp. 51 and 61

(55) Tazkirah Khasa’ilul A’immah,  chap. II, p. 16;   Kanzul Ammal, vol. IV, p. 55; Mustadrak Hakim, vol. III, p. 139;  Riyazun Nuzrah, p. 80 (printed in Egypt);  Mu’jamul Kabir, Tabrani.

(56) Kitab-al-Irshad, Shaykh Mufid

(57) For detailed account of this event refer to:  Tarikh Tabari, vol. III, pp. 202, 303; Tarikh Khulafa, p. 45;   Kanzul Ammal, vol. III, p. 140.

(58) Usudul Ghabah fi Tamizis Sahaba, Allama Ali ibn Muhammad, vol. IV, p.31;

(59) Madarijun Nabuwwah, Abdul Haq Muhaddith Dehlavi, vol. II, p. 511.

(60) Ma’arijun Nabuwwah

(61) Tabari, vol. III, p. 198;  Iqdul Farid, Ibn Abdu Rabbihi, vol. II, p. 179 (printed Egypt); Al-Imamah vas Siyasah, Allama ibn Qutayba, vol. I, p. 20; (this book gives a detailed account Tarikh Abul Fida, vol. I, p. 156 (printed Egypt);  Murujuz Zahab, Shahristani, vol. I, p. 2 (printed Bombay, India);   al-Farooq, Allama Shibli Nomani (printed India); Sharh-e-Nahjul Balagha, Allama Ibn Abil Hadid.

(62) Al-Milal wan-Nahl, Allama Shahristani, vol. I, p. 25.

(63) Rabi’ul Abrar, Allama Zamakhshari

(64) Izalatul Khifa, sub. II, pp. 268-9;  Riyazun Nuzrah, vol. II, pp. 194-9;  Musnad Ahmad ibn Hambal, vol. II, p. 231; Al-Ist’ab, Allama Abdul Barr, vol. II, p. 474;  Ihya’ul Ulum, Imam Ghazali.

(65) Tabaqatul Umam, Qazi Abdul Qasim Saad ibn Ahmad Undulusi, (462 AH); Kashfuz Zunun, Hani Khalifa Kulpi, vol. I, Preface, p. 24, (printed Egypt); Al-Fahrist, ibn Nadim, p. 334, (printed Egypt);  Akhbarul Ulama wa Akhbarul Hukama, Jamaluddin alias Ibn Qitfi, pp. 232-3 (printed Egypt and Liepzieg, Germany);  Kitab Imamul Azam, Hafizuddin Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Shahal alias Ibn Bazzazul Kurmi (827 AH), vol. I, p. 37, (printed Hyderabad, India);   Miftahus Sa’adah and Misbahus Siyadah, Allama Ahmad ibn Mustafa,vol. I, p. 241 (printed Hyderabad, India).

(66) Akhbarul Ulama wa Akhbarul Hukama, Ibnul Qufti, pp. 232-3, (printed Egypt and Germany)

(67) Tabaqatul Umum, Qazi Said Undulusi;  Ayatul Bayyinah, Mohsinul Mulk;  The History of
Muhammad ibn Abduh, edited by Allama Rashid Raza, Editor of Almanar, vol. I, p. 535.

(68) Akhbarul Ulama wa Akhbarul Hukama, Ibnul Qufti, pp. 232-3, (printed Egypt and Germany)

(69) Tabaqatul Umum, Qazi Said Undulusi;  Ayatul Bayyinah, Mohsinul Mulk;  The History of
Muhammad ibn Abduh, edited by Allama Rashid Raza, Editor of Almanar, vol. I, p. 535.

(70) Al-Imamah vas Siyasah, Muhammad ibn Muslim ibn Qutayba Daynuri (270 AH) p. 26;
History of Ibn Khaldun, second part pp. 134-136 (printed Egypt)

(71) Tarikh Tabari, vol. V, pp. 35-38 and vol. XIV, p. 590;  Ibn Khaldun, pp. 134-136; Tarikh Abul Fida, p. 349;  Rawzatus Safa, vol. II, p. 98

(72) A Short History of the Saracen, Justice Amir Ali, p. 46

(73) Murujuz Zahab, Mas’udi

(74) Tarikh Khamis, vol. II, pp. 261-2;  Tarikh Khulafa, Jalaluddin Suyuti, p. 108; Murujuz Zahab, Mas’udi;   Riyazun Nuzrah, vol. II, p. 125

(75) Mustadrak Hakim, vol. II, p. 118;  al-Imamah vas Siyasah, vol. VI, p. 58; Murujuz Zahab, Mas’udi, vol. II, p. 11

(76) Rijalul Kabir

(77) Mas’udi

(78) Muhammad’s People, Eric Schroeder, printed in England, 1955.

(79) A’tham Kufi, p. 147;  Tarikh Tabari, vol. IV, pp. 548-65;  Rawzatus Safa, vol. II; Tarikh Zahabi, pp. 1-21;  Tarikh Abul Fida, pp. 518-520

(80) Murujuz Zahab, Mas’udi, p. 28

(81) Murujuz Zahab, vol. VI

(82) Tarikh Khamis,  vol. II, p.97

(83) Tarikh Tabari;  Rawzatus Safa, A’tham Kufi;  Murujuz Zahab;   Tarikh Abul Fida;  Kamil ibn Athir

(84) Tarikh Tabari;  Rawzatus Safa, A’tham Kufi;  Murujuz Zahab;  Tarikh Abul Fida;  Kamil ibn Athir

(85) Tarikh Tabari, vol. VI, p.577;  Rawzatus Safa, vol. II, p. 425;  Tarikh Abul Fida, p. 425

(86) Tarikh Tabari, vol. VI, p. 577;  Rawzatus Safa, vol. II, p. 425;  Tarikh Abul Fida, p. 425

(87) A Short History of the Saracen

(88) Tarikh Tabari;  Tarikh Abul Fida;  A’tham Kufi;  Rawzatus Safa;  Murujuz Zahab; Kamil ibn Athir;   A Short History of the Saracen

(89) Tarikh Tabari, vol. IV, p. 521

(90) Tarikh Tabari, vol. IV, p.592

(91) The Spirit of Islam

(92) Kitabul Gharat

(93) Sirajul Mubin;  al-Murtaza;   Kitabul Gharat.

(94) Kitabul Gharat;  Sirajul Mubin;  al-Murtaza;  Kitabus Siffin;  Sharh-e-Nahjul Balagha, Ibn Abil Hadid


The Effect of the Tongue

Busr ibn Arta’ah and the Hamdan Tribe

When Mu`¡wiyah sent Busr ibn Arta`ah to the Hamdan Tribe to rule, Busr ibn Arta`ah exercised so much oppression and committed so many crimes that no one dared to object. At this time, a brave lady called Sawdah went to Sham (Syria) to defend the sacred religion and the people. When Mu`¡wiyah was informed of her arrival he was surprised. He said that he had been trying to arrest her with no result. Now she had gone there on her own. He admitted her to the court. When she entered, she bitterly greeted Mu`¡wiyah.


Mu`¡wiyah said: “See! You had to come and greet me.” She replied: “Do not be proud of your rule. There is a term for everything. It will soon end. Do not be so attached to your position since it will not last.” Mu`¡wiyah said: “O’ Sawdah! Do you remember the days of war when you sang heroic poetry among the soldiers of Ali? What was your goal then? Was it not my destruction? Sing them now.” Sawdah said: “Your oppression has made me forget everything. Now I have come to complain against the oppression of Busr ibn Arta`ah. He has oppressed us. He has confiscated the people’s property, and has murdered the men.” Mu`¡wiyah said: “Now I will send you to him to treat you as he pleases.”


Then Sawdah said: “May God bless the pure body that is buried, with whom justice was buried too.” Mu`¡wiyah said: “Whom are you referring to?” She replied: “I am referring to my Master, Imam Ali (MGB). You should know that I had a similar complaint that I expressed to Imam Ali (MGB) before. He was alone, and wanted to start his prayer. When he noticed me, he asked the reason. When I told him that I had come to complain against his governor, he touched his beard and his eyes overflowed with tears and he said: “O’ God! Be a witness that I did not send my governor to oppress your servants.” He then wrote the order to fire the governor and handed it to me. Now you threaten me instead of considering my complaint. This is the difference between Imam Ali (MGB) and you.”


Mu`¡wiyah got upset and wrote a letter to Busr ibn Arta`ah to stop his crimes and acts of oppression. Thus, we can see that the tongue can be used as an effective tool. It is so effective that it can even be used to change the views of a cruel man such as Mu`¡wiyah. Then Mu`¡wiyah said: “It was Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib who made you too proud by saying: If I were the gatekeeper of Heaven I will tell the Bani Hamdan tribe to safely enter Heaven.[1]

[1] A’alam an-Nisaa,v.2, p.270; Zanan-i-Ghahreman, v.1, p.169.


Lesson from A N T

One morning Ahmed spent an hour watching a tiny ant carry a huge feather cross my back terrace. Several times it was confronted by obstacles in its path and after a momentary pause it would make the necessary detour.

At one point the ant had to negotiate a crack in the concrete about 1 cm wide. After brief contemplation it laid the feather over the crack, walked across it and picked up the feather on the other side then continued on its way.

Indeed Ahmed was fascinated by the ingenuity of this ant, one of Allah’s (SWT) smallest creatures. It served to reinforce the miracle of creation. Here was a minute insect, lacking in size, yet equipped with a brain to reason, explore, discover and overcome. But this ant, like the two-legged co-residents of this planet, also shares human weaknesses.

After some time the ant finally reached its destination – a flower bed at the end of the terrace and a small hole that was the entrance to its underground home. And it was here that the ant finally met its match. How could that large feather possibly fit down small hole?

Of course it couldn’t. So the ant, after all this trouble and exercising great ingenuity, overcoming problems all along the way, just abandoned the feather and went home.

The ant had not thought the problem through before it began its epic journey and in the end the feather was nothing more than a burden.

Isn’t OUR LIFE like that?


We worry about our family, about money or the lack of it; we worry about work, our homes, about all sorts of things. These are all burdens – the things we pick up along life’s path and maneuver them around the obstacles that life will bring, only to find that at the final destination they are useless and we can’t take them along with us …

Big Hands!!!

 Once a boy went to a shop with his mother.

 The shop keeper looked at the small cute child and showed him a bottle

 with sweets and said ‘Dear Child..u can take the sweets… but the
 didnt take. The shop keeper was surprised.. such a small child he is
 why is he not taking the sweets from the bottle. Again he said take the

 sweets…. now mother also heard that and said.. beta take the sweets..

 yet he didnt take…

 The shopkeeper seeing the child not taking the sweets… he himself
 the sweets and gave to the child…… the child was happy to get two

 hands full of sweets ….

 When returned to home Mother asked child…

 Why didnt you take the sweets… when shop keeper told you to take…

 Can you guess the response:-

 Child replies… Mom! my hands are very small and if i take the sweets
 I can only take few.. but now you see when uncle gave with his big

 how many more sweets i got!

 When we take we may get little but when God gives… HE gives us more
 beyond our expectations…. more than what we can hold………………….

We should ask to GOD rather individuals as He is the one who has given to every one with his power.

How Pure & self-discipline should we be ?

How Purity & self-discipline should we be ?


Once Muqdis Ardbeli wanted to travel from Najaf e Ashraf to Kazimain for Ziarat. He went to the person in Najaf who used to hire the animals for traveling. Those days there were no buses or trains for transport. This event took place in his younger day when Muqdis Ardbeli didn’t have his own animal of transport.


He went to the animal hirer and asked for an animal for his travel. The man asked him how much material he would carry along on his journey. Muqdis said that he would just go himself and he wouldn’t have any luggage with him. The man offered to give an animal for the journey at a certain hiring charge.


Muqdis Ardbeli traveled to Kazimain and was getting ready to return after the ziarat. One man met him there and requested him to carry an envelop containing some urgnt documents for his brother in Najaf. He said that he wasn’t able to find any dependable courier to take his papers and requested Muqdis to help him. Muqdis thought that it was a Momin’s request and agreed to carry the papers with him.


When he entered the ramparts of Najaf, people were already worrying that he was expected to arrive back much earlier. They were worrying if he had met with some accident on the way. They took a sigh of relief when they noticed him arriving. But they expressed concern on seeing him that he looked very tired as if he walked all the way from Kazimain. In fact, he entered the town walking and the animal was trailing behind him.


They asked him, “Did you walk all the way from Kazimain?”

He said, “I did walk all the way!”


Surprised, the persons asked, “Why did you have to walk when you had a transport animal with you?


You have already paid the hiring charges and it was your right to use the animal for the journey!”


Muqdis Ardbeli replied, “yes,I did walk! The reason is that there was a clash of two rights and I didn’t want to contravene any of the two rights!”


The men asked, “What were the two rights that you tried not to contravene?”


He said, “A Momin (Believing Brother in faith) from Kazimain gave me an envelope to be carried to his brother in Najaf. If I refused, I would have denied the right of a Momin.


If I mounted the animal with that letter, I would have countervened the right of the animal hirer because he had determined the hire charges for my riding it without any material with me! Before fixing the charges he had ascertained from me that I would travel without any material with me!”


Today’s modern people would be surprised at this precaution exercised by Muqdis Ardbeli, but it was his piety that he wasn’t willing to contravene the agreement with the hirer of the animal that no material would be carried on the animal during the journey without his permission!

Recognition of God

Man’s turning to God during times of calamities is a sign of our inclinations to Godliness. Man gets involved with his position and status so much that he forgets about God. He gets fully entangled in his sins and disobedience. Once a calamity befalls upon man, he suddenly remembers God and turns to Him for help. Thus, we realize that this sense of Godliness is intrinsic in humans, but man’s involvement in worldly affairs results in his forgetting God.

There is a well-known tradition that states that a man went to see Imam Sadiq (MGB) and expressed his amazement about the recognition of God.

 He said: “I have discussed this issue with many knowledgeable people, but they have not been able to help me.” Imam Sadiq (MGB) ended his amazement using his intrinsic human Godliness and asked him:

“Have you ever been aboard a ship?” 

The man said: “Yes.”

Then Imam Sadiq (MGB) asked: “Have you ever been on a sinking ship, and reached out for a narrow piece of board to stay afloat?”

The man said: “Yes. I have.”

Then Imam Sadiq (MGB) said: “Then while you could not see any dry land or anyone there to save you, were you not really attracted to some power to rescue you?”

The man replied in the positive and was finally relieved of his amazement about God’s recognition.”[1]

[1] Al-Shafi, v.1, p.40.



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