Martyrdom of Ali – 661 CE

The Kharijite plot

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

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

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

Muawiyah and his assassin

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

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

‘Amr b Al-A’as and his assassin

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

Assassination of Ali

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

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

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

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

Will of Ali

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

Hasan’s oration on the death of Ali

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

His burial

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

Fate of the assassin of Ali

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

Elegy on the death of Ali

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

Life of Ali, General overview
The Biographer and his hero

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

Biography and History

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

Greatness of Ali

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

Periods in the life of Ali

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

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

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

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

Opposition of the Quraish

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

Ali, The Man
Physical appearance

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

Wives and children of Ali

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Distinctions of Ali
Man of many distinctions

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

His birth

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

His relationship with the Holy Prophet

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

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

His valor

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

His knowledge

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

His spiritual attainments

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

His Appellations

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

Murtada – he with whom God is pleased.

Maula – the master.

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

Asad Allah – the lion of God.

Al-Ghalib – the victorious.

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

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

Shah-i-Awlia – the king of saints.

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

Abu Turab – Father of the Earth.

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

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

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

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

Al Wasi – the testamenter.

Al Hadi – the guide.

Al Zahid – the chaste.

Al Abid – the pious.

Al Salah – the reformer.

Ali in the Holy Quran
References to Ali in the Holy Quran

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

Verse 33, Sura 33

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

Verse 61, Sura 3

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

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

Verse 23, Sura 42

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

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

Verse 21, Sura 45

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

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

Verse 17, Sura 11

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

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

Verse 4, Sura 66

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

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

Verse 18, Sura 32

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

According to Ibn Abbas “believer” in this verse refers to Ali, and ‘evil doer” refers to Walid b Utba.

Verse 54, Sura 25

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

According to traditions “kindred by blood” and “kindred by marriage” refers to Ali.

Verse 36, Sura 24

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

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

Verse 55, Sura 5

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

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

Verse 12, Sura 58

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

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

Verse 181, Sura 7

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

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

Verse 57, Sura 43

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

Verse 29, Sura 48

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

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

Verse 43, Sura 13

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

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

Verse 64, Sura 8

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

Ali, The Gate of Knowledge
The learning of Ali

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

His concept of Knowledge

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

Superiority of knowledge over wealth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ali’s generosity

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

Preference for the supplicant to one’s own Deeds

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

God accepted Ali’s charity

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

Manifold return for chartiy

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

A legend of the generosity of Ali

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

He gave his gold ring to the beggar

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

He undertook to pay the debt of a dead Muslim

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

He paid for the dates

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

Judgments of Ali
Ali as a Judge

Ali was the most learned man of the age in Islamic law. He acted as a Judge during the time of the Holy Prophet, and the Caliphs Abu Bakr and Umar. Some of the judgements delivered by Ali are on record, and show his highly developed sense of discerning the truth, and doing justice.

The story of loaves

Once two companions went on a journey. One of them had five loaves with him, and the other one had three loaves. On the way they were joined by a stranger who shared the loaves with them. On departure the stranger gave them an amount of eight dirhams. A dispute arose between the two companions about the division of the amount. The man who had five loaves wanted to keep five dirhams for himself and give three dirhams to his companion. His companion did not accept this decision and insisted that the amount should be divided equally between them, and that each one of them should get four dirhams. The men wanted Ali to decide their dispute. While entertaining the suit, Ali asked the man who had three loaves that he should accept what his friend offered him namely three dirhams. He did not accept the offer, and wanted that the matter should be adjudicated so that due justice was done. Ali asked whether at the time of the sharing of loaves all the three persons concerned had equal share. He was told that it was so. Ali thereupon gave the judgment that the man with three loaves was entitled to one dirham while the other man who had five loaves was entitled to seven dirhams. This bewildered the man with three loaves who would not accept even three dirhams. He wanted Ali to enlighten him as to the basis of his judgment. Ali explained the position thus: “You had three loaves and your companion had five loaves. There were thus 8 loaves in all. As all the loaves were shared equally between three persons, divide each loaf into three pieces. That would make 24 pieces. Your companion owned five loaves or fifteen pieces while you owned three loaves or nine pieces. As these 24 pieces were shared equally, this means that each one of you ate eight pieces. You had nine pieces, and out of these you ate eight pieces yourself. Thus the stranger ate only one piece from your loaves. Your companion had fifteen pieces. Out of these he ate eight pieces himself leaving seven pieces which were eaten by the stranger. Thus the stranger ate one piece from you and seven pieces from your companion. It is therefore plain arithmetic that for one piece you are entitled to one dirham and your companion is entitled to seven dirhams for seven pieces.”

Dispute about a child

Once a dispute arose between two women about the possession of a child. Each woman claimed to be the mother of the child. No proof could be adduced from either side, but each woman insisted emphatically that the child belonged to her. In the absence of any satisfactory evidence, Ali was unable to decide to whom the child actually belonged. Exasperated addressing the women, Ali said that there is no satisfactory evidence had been produced and as both the women insisted on the motherhood of the child, he had no option but decide that the child be cut in two parts, and thus the child be divided among them. Hearing this decision, one of the women burst into tears and said, “My Lord, do not kill the child. You may very well award it to the other woman”. Thereupon Ali declared that she was indeed the mother of the child, and delivered the child to her.

Dispute about the custody of money

Once two friends proceeded on a journey. Before departing on the journey they kept some money in custody with a woman. She was enjoined not to return the money unless both of them came together to claim it. After some time, one of them came to the woman and said that as his other partner had died, the amount kept in custody be returned to him. He produced some sureties, and the woman returned the amount to him. After some time the other man who was reported to be dead appeared and claimed the money from the lady. She said that his other friend had taken away the money on the grounds that he had died. The man insisted on payment on the grounds that she was committed not to return the amount unless both of them were present. The dispute dragged on, and the man brought the suit in the court of Ali. Addressing the plaintiff Ali asked, “Your stand is that the money was not to be returned unless both of you were present?” The plaintiff said, “Yes, my lord, that is so”. Ali said, “Then go and bring your partner, so that the amount may be delivered to you.” The man actually wanted to play a ruse, and at this wise decision of Ali, the attempt to fleece the poor woman was frustrated.

How Ali detected the murder

Once seven persons went on a journey. After some time six of them returned, and they could give no news about the seventh man. They gave conflicting accounts about him. Sometimes they said that he had died. Sometimes they said that he had quarreled with them and left their company. The wife of the man suspected that they had killed her husband. She accordingly lodged a complaint in the court of Ali. Ali summoned the six men. Each one of them was kept in a separate room where a security guard was posted. Thereafter one of them was called to the presence of Ali. The man was charged with murder, but he insisted that he was innocent and knew nothing about the man. Thereupon Ali ordered the court crier that he should give the “Azan”. As the “Azan” sounded, the other persons segregated in the various rooms shuddered and thought that their companion had confessed the murder. Accordingly, when they were summoned and presented before Ali, they confessed their guilt. Ali accordingly ordered them to pay “Qasas” to the widow of the murdered person.

The Cow and the Ass

Once, a complaint was lodged in the court of Ali by a man that the cow of another person had killed his ass. Ali summoned the owner of the cow and asked him to offer his defense if any. He said that as a matter of fact the ass had attacked the cow first and the cow had killed the ass in retaliation. Ali asked the owner of the cow, “Where were you when the ass attacked the cow?” He said that he was driving the cow. Then he asked the owner of the ass, “Where was the ass at the time?” He said that it was tied. Addressing the owner of the cow Ali said that as the ass was tied, and the cow was untied. His plea that the ass had first attacked the cow was untenable. He accordingly decreed that the owner of the cow should compensate the owner of the ass.

Mad woman accused of adultery

Once a mad woman was brought to the court of Umar. The charge of adultery was established against her. Umar was inclined to sentence her to the penalty of being stoned to death but he deemed it necessary to consult Ali before delivering the judgment. Ali advised that the penal law of Islam was applicable only in such cases where the person concerned was in proper senses, and could be held responsible for his action. Where a person was not in proper senses, he could not be held accountable for his actions. The view of Ali was accepted and the mad woman was let off.

Child born in six months after marriage

In the time of Umar, a child was born to a woman six month after her marriage. When the case came to the notice of Umar he was of the view that it was a prima facie case of adultery and as such the woman should be sentenced to punishment for adultery. Umar referred the case to Ali. No evidence was forthcoming to the effect that the woman had any illicit liaison before marriage. Ali held that the mere fact that the child had been born six months after the marriage would not be a sufficient ground for convicting the woman. Ali pointed out that in the Holy Quran the period from conception to the weaning of the child is laid down at thirty months, and the period of the weaning of the child after birth is given as two years. This means that though under normal circumstances a child is born after nine months, a child may be born after six months under abnormal conditions. The woman was accordingly let off and absolved of the charge of adultery.

Share in the property of a deceased husband for a divorced wife

A companion had two wives. He divorced one of them. A little later he died. The divorced woman claimed a share in the property of her late husband. The suit was contested by the other wife on the grounds that the plaintiff could not claim a share as she had been divorced. It transpired that the husband had died within three months of giving the divorce, and since the divorce the divorced wife did not have more than two monthly courses. Ali accordingly awarded her a share in the property of her husband.

The man who stole his coat of mail

An interesting story is on record in a case in which Ali was himself the plaintiff. After the Battle of Siffin, Ali lost his valuable coat of mail. After some time, Ali saw his coat of mail in the possession of a Christian. When asked to return the coat of mail, the man insisted that the coat belonged to him. Ali filed a suit in the court of the Qadi of Kufa. The Qadi asked Ali to produce witnesses in support of his claim. Ali could produce his son and his slave as witnesses. The Qadi held that he could not accept such evidence as it was interested. Under the circumstances the Qadi rejected the suit of Ali. Instead of being aggrieved against the decision. Ali appreciated the integrity of the Qadi. After the judgment the Christian came to Ali and offered him the coat of mail saying that it in fact belonged to him. The man was so much impressed with the administration of justice under Islam that he hastened to accept Islam at the hands of Ali. Ali presented him the coat of mail as well as a horse. The man fought on the side of Ali against the Kharijites in the Battle of Nahrawan and was martyred.

Social and Ethical Thought of Ali
Thought of Ali

Ali was a great thinker. In his sermons, addresses, and other writings which have come down to us in the shape of his book Nahj-ul-Balagha we come across many a gem of precious thoughts. Some of these thoughts characterized by great depth are given hereunder.

Friends of Allah

Friends of Allah are they who look to its inward aspect when the ordinary people look to the outward aspect of the world, and when the other people are engrossed in the affairs of the world they get anxious about the Hereafter.

Momins and hypocrites

A Momin is he, whose neck if placed under my sword, would not think ill of me. A hypocrite is he whom even if I load with gold and silver he would not think good of me.

Faqih

A Faqih is one who would not make the people despair of the mercy of God.

Justice and mercy

The purpose of justice is to give a person what is due to him. Mercy goes a step further, and it gives a person something more than what is due to him.

The world and the Hereafter

He who seeks the world, death runs after him; he who seeks the hereafter the world runs after him.

Momin and an infidel

He who tells of his want to a Momin is as if he has requested God. He who seeks his want from an infidel is making a complaint against God.

Proximity to the ruler

He who is in proximity to the ruler is like a person riding on a lion, and there can be no knowing when the lion might overturn and devour him.

Haste

Haste is a kind of madness. One who does things in haste has to face shame, and if he is not ashamed his madness is confirmed.

Faith and faithlessness

Faith with the faithless is faithlessness before God, and faithlessness with the faithless is faith.

Philosophy

If what the philosopher says is correct, it is a cure; if what he says is incorrect it is a disease.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the Zakat of success if you wish to succeed in life, learn to forgive others.

Secret of success

Success depends on self-confidence. Self-confidence depends on due deliberation. Deliberation depends on protecting one’s secrets. He who cannot keep his secret cannot succeed.

Kinds of patience

Patience is of two kinds: Firstly patience at a thing which one does not like, and secondly patience at not getting a thing one desires.

Wealth and poverty

Wealth provides one with the facilities of home country while travelling in a foreign land. Poverty makes a person a stranger even in his homeland.

Faith

Faith lies in preferring truth to falsehood even when the truth might lead to any harm, and falsehood might lead to any advantage. And evidence of your faith is that what you say is in accord with that practice.

Momin

A Muslim is he whose face wears a smiling look even though his heart is distressed.

Perfection

Perfection consists in three things: patience in affliction; moderation in pursuit; and offer of assistance to a supplicant.

Heresy

Heresy has four aspects: Concealment of truth, waging of war against truth, going astray from the path of truth, and adoption of an inimical attitude to truth.

Seven things of the devil

There are seven things of the devil: excessive anger, excessive sneezing, excessive yawning, vomiting, bleeding of the nose, clandestine discourse and sleeping during devotional exercise.

Generosity

Generosity lies in affording relief to the needy without his asking for it. When the supplicant is assisted when he asks for it, that is liberality and munificence and not generosity.

Tauhid

Tauhid is a conviction of the heart which is above doubt.

Justice

Justice is determination against which there can be no accusation.

Broadmindedness

Learning and good dispositions go together and lead to broadmindedness.

Wealth and health

One cannot trust two things: wealth and health. One does not know when they might forsake him.

Two types of subsistence

There are two types of subsistence, one after which you run and the other which runs after you.

Truth and falsehood

There is a distance of four fingers between truth and false hood. Falsehood is that you say that you heard it from someone else. The truth is that you say that you saw it with your own eyes.

Things that are the best

Resignation to the will of God is the best policy. Knowledge is the best inheritance. Good conduct is the best ornament. The best wealth is the suppression of desires. The middle course is the best course.

Things to which nothing is better

No honor is more respectable than the sword. No religion is better than Islam. No citadel is stronger than piety. No one is a better interceder than repentance. No treasure is richer than contentment.

Success and failure

When you succeed do not feel proud. When you fail do not lose patience.

Person doomed to ignominy

Two persons are deemed to ignominy, firstly he who creates dissentions and secondly he who levies false accusations.

Three friends

Your three friends are: your friend, a friend of your friend, and an enemy of your enemy.

Three foes

Your three foes are: your foe, the foe of your friend, and the friend of your foe.

Two types of men

There are two types of men in the world: one who sells himself to the world and the world destroys him, the other is the one who ransomed himself for the world and has released himself from its captivity.

Greetings and favor

If somebody greets you, greet him in better terms. If somebody favors you confer a greater favor on him.

Humiliation

Accept death, but do not accept humiliation.

Two hungry persons

There are two hungry persons whose hunger is never satisfied: firstly he who seeks knowledge and secondly he who seeks the world.

Miser

A miser lives in the world as an indigent, and he will be called for in the Hereafter to give account as a capitalist.

Offshoots of patience

Desire, fear, and piety are the offshoots of patience.

Miserliness, patience, piety and cowardice

Miserliness is dishonor. Patience is bravery. Piety is a shield against hell. Cowardice is an inferiority complex.

The greatest and the vilest

Wisdom is the greatest treasure. Folly is the greatest poverty. Of all things pride is the vilest. The greatest excellence is good disposition.

Companies to be avoided

Avoid the company of a fool for he will harm you while trying to benefit you. Avoid the company of a liar for he will bring you near what is undesirable and remove you from what is desirable. Avoid the company of a miser for he would withhold from you what you stand in need of. Avoid the company of a libertine for he will sell you for a trifle.

Two things to be afraid of

Two things of which you should be afraid of are: firstly giving way to your lust; and secondly harboring high and far-fetched hopes.

The worst enemies

Before God two persons are the worst enemies, firstly the man who makes innovations, and secondly the man who creates dissentions.

Things that are worse

There is no distress worse than ignorance. There is no enemy worse than self-adulation. There is no worse companion than bad conduct.

Ali’s prayer to God

Ali used to pray to God in the following terms: “O God, forgive my sins of which you know me more than me. And if I commit these sins again, even then because of Your munificence forgive me. If all the promises that I had made with myself to act according to Your command have not been fulfilled, kindly pardon my lapse. Moreover if I sought your proximity through my tongue, but my heart did not keep accord with my tongue even then forgive me, O God, forgive my acts of commission or omission, advertent or inadvertent. ”

He decried flattery

Once a person flattered Ali. Ali said: “Do not flatter me. I am not what you say, but I am more than what you think of me in your heart”.

He denounced praise

One day Ali delivered a sermon, which was most impressive and eloquent. Some one praised him for his sermon. He said: “Do not praise me. That would mislead me and beguile me into vainglory. Remember that all praise is for God alone.”

He would carry his own burden

One day Ali purchased some provisions in the market. It was a heavy load and he carried it himself. Many persons offered to carry the load for him. He refused the offer saying that every one should carry his burden himself.

He did not want the people to follow in his retinue

One day Ali was riding a horse. Some people followed him and began to walk in his train. He asked them why they were following him. They said that they felt elated to walk in his retinue. He said: “Go back to your business. By walking behind me you will breed feelings of inferiority in yourselves, and infect me with arrogance.”

He prayed for patience to bear suffering

At the Battle of Uhud, Ali received over a hundred wounds. In spite of these wounds he continued fighting and said: “May God grant me patience to bear this suffering. It is a favor of God that He gave me the courage to stand and fight, and not to leave the battlefield”.

His complaint against his people

One night Ali saw the Holy Prophet in a dream. He complained to the Holy Prophet that he had received much trouble from his people. The Holy Prophet said that he might invoke the curse of God on them. When it was day, be lifted his hands after the Morning Prayer and said: “O God. Give me a better people, and give these people a worse ruler then me”.

He rode on a mule instead of a horse

When going to battle, Ali used to ride on a mule instead of a horse. He was asked why he preferred a mule to a horse when the horse would carry him faster. He said that it was so he did not wish to fly from the battlefield.

He would never turn his back to the enemy

Ali always wore the armor on the front part of his body. He was asked why he did not wear the armor on his back. He said that it was because he did not want to turn his back to the enemy.

He would not seek a concession

Once Ali went to the market to purchase some cloth. He went to a shop and a shopkeeper recognizing him offered the cloth at a confessional rate. Ali refused to make the purchase.

He preferred his slave to himself

Once Ali went to the bazaar to purchase some cloth for himself and his slave. One piece was purchased at a higher price, and the other at a lower price. He gave the costlier piece of cloth to his slave and kept the cloth of inferior quality for himself.

He had no ambition for the caliphate

It is related that when on the way to Basra, Ali and his troops were camping at Rabdha, Ibn Abbas came to see him. At that time Ali was mending his shoe. Ali asked Ibn Abbas as to what would be the value of the shoe. Ibn Abbas said that the old shoe had hardly any value and its value would at the most not exceed a quarter of a dirham. Ali thereupon said, “By God, this shoe is more valuable to me than the caliphate. I have no ambition to rule.”

He freed the slave who did not respond to his call

Once Ali called his slave, but the slave did not respond to his call. He called him thrice, but the slave kept silent. Thereafter Ali went to the slave and said, “Did you not hear my call?” He said that he had heard to his call, but was at that time calling upon God who had subjected him to the humiliation of slavery. Thereupon Ali said, “I release you from slavery forthwith in the name of God.”

He saw God with inward eyes

Once Ali was asked whether he had seen God. He said that verily he had seen God because he could not worship Him without knowing Him. He was asked how he had seen Him, and he said that He had seen him with the inward eyes of the heart.

He lost consciousness while praying

Once an arrow stuck in the feet of Ali. It could not be taken out because of the intensity of the pain felt. When Ali stood up in prayers, he was so much absorbed in the devotional exercise that the surgeon pulled out the arrow without Ali feeling any pain.

He would not pay the enemy in its own coin

At the battlefield of Siffin, the forces of Muawiyah had the control over the source of water supply, and they would not allow thereto the troops of Ali. When the troops of Ali overpowered the enemy and got control over the source of water supply, Ali was advised that he should deny access of water to the enemy. He repudiated the advice saying that he would not pay the enemy in its own coins, but in the coins of Islam.

He preferred his men to himself

During the water shortage in Siffin, he refused to quench his own thirst saying that the water should be given to those of his men who were more thirsty than him.

Two wrongs cannot make a right

When, after the Battle of Siffin, Muawiyah began harassing the people by making raids into the territory adjoining Syria, the Governor of Ali, Kameel b Ziyad, suggested that he should be authorized to lead retributive expedition into Syria. Ali turned down the suggestion saying, “Two wrongs cannot make a right. Let Muawiyah take pleasure in harassing innocent people. I cannot resort to such measures.”

He was dispirited because he had no guest

One day Ali felt unusually dispirited and dejected. When asked about the reason for his unusual dejection he said that he was feeling dispirited because he had received no guest for a week.

He wore dress of coarse cloth

Ali always wore clothing of coarse cloth. When asked why did he wear such shabby dress when he was the Head of the State, he said that it was so because coarse cloth softened the heart while fine cloth hardened the heart.

He wanted to travel light

The house of Ali was bereft of the usual furniture. When asked, why he, deprived himself of such necessities when he was the ruler of a state, he said, “This life is a journey, and while on a journey one should travel light. I have booked my luggage for the destination- the hereafter.”

He would not break open the lock of the shop of God

Once, Aqueel, a brother of Ali, asked him to provide some relief for him as he was feeling sore. Ali said that when he got his usual allowance from the Baitul Mal, he would give something out of it to him. They did not satisfy Aqueel. Ali thereupon said, “Then you may break open the locks of the of the ships in the market.” Aqeel said, “Do you want me to become a thief.” Ali retorted, “Then do you want to break open the lock of the Shop of God and become a brigand instead of the custodian of the Baitul Mal.”

He was not afraid of death

In the Battle of Siffin, Ali penetrated into the front ranks of the Syrian forces without any protective armor. One after another his assailants fell before the onslaught of his sword. His son Imam Hasan objected to such neglect to protect himself. Ali said, “It is immaterial to me whether I fall to death or death fall on me. I love death as much as a suckling loves the milk of his mother.”

He did not care for the booty

In the battle Ali killed a wealthy Quraish chief Umar b Ubda, but contrary to the Arab custom, he did not mutilate his body, nor take off his costly coat of mail. When asked why he had not taken his valuable coat of mail, Ali said, “The lion who enters the battlefield either kills himself or is killed he does bother about the booty.”

He would not own the treasure in the land that he had purchased

Once Ali purchased a plot of land from a person in Madina. When the plot was dug a treasure was found therein. Ali would not except the treasure, as it did not come from a part of his transaction with the original owner. He offered the treasure to the original owner, but he did not except it. Thereupon Ali distributed the entire treasure in charity.

He undertook to clear the debt of a dead Muslim

Once the Holy Prophet attended the funeral of a dead Muslim. Before leading the funeral prayer, the Holy Prophet inquired whether the dead man had to clear any debt. He was informed that the dead man had to pay the debt of a dinar. The Holy Prophet said that before he could lead the funeral prayer some one should undertake the responsibility of clearing the debt of the dead Muslim. It was Ali who stepped forward to undertake the responsibility for clearing the debt.

He would not accept the allegiance from whom he had released

Marwan a cousin of Muawiyah was a bitter enemy of Ali. He had played a great part in inciting revolt against the caliphate of Ali. He was taken captive in the Battle of the Camel at Basra. When brought before Ali he asked for mercy. Ali released him unconditionally. Thereupon Marwan offered to pay allegiance to him, but Ali said, “I did not want his allegiance. I released him for the sake of God, and not for securing allegiance to me.”

He did not believe in the prognostication of the astrologer

When Ali led his troops against the Kharijites at the Battle of Nahrawan, an astrologer advised him not to proceed to battle as the time was not propitious. Ali refused to act on the advice saying: “All knowledge of the unknown belongs to God. I cannot accept any person as a partner in the knowledge of God.”

He would take no precaution to protect himself

During the last days of his life, when Ali was asked to take protective measures against any murderous attack, he said, “The shield of God is around my body, and nobody can harm me against the will of God. And if God wills me to be martyred, no protective measures will avail.”

People stood in the way of his right

At Basra someone said to Ali that he was ambitious for the caliphate. Ali said, “I am not ambitious, what has happened is that there are people who stand in the way of my right. To strive for the right is no ambition.”

Spacious house

At Basra, Ali went to the house of one of his companions A’ala b Ziyad. He had constructed a spacious house. Ali was critical of the spaciousness of the house. He said, “A’ala what have you gained by constructing a spacious house in the world. You should have built a spacious house for yourself in the world Hereafter.”

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