ALI IBN ABI TALIB ( RadhiAllaahu Anhu)
`Ali ibn Abi Talib (R A) was Cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad(SAWS). In 656 he became the last of the “rightly guided” caliphs. The fourth of the caliphs or successors of Muhammad(SAWS) , was born in Mecca. His father, Abu Talib, was an uncle of the Prophet (SAWS) , and Ali himself was adopted by Muhammad(SAWS) and educated under his care.
While a boy, he distinguished himself by being one of the first to declare his adherence to the cause of Muhammad(SAWS). Some years afterwards he married the Prophet (SAWS) ‘s daughter Fatima Zahra. Ali (R A) proved himself to be a brave and faithful soldier, and when Muhammad(SAWS) died without a male heir, some thought Ali (R A) to have the best claim to succeed Muhammad(SAWS) . Not until 656, after the murder of Uthman, the third caliph.
`Ali ibn Abi Talib ( Amîr al-Mu’minîn), the first male believer in Islam, the Prophet (SAWS) ’s standard-bearer in battle, the Door of the City of Knowledge, the most judicious of the Companions, and the “Possessor of a wise heart and enquiring tongue.” The Prophet (SAWS) nicknamed him Abu Turâb or Father of Dust. His mother was Fatima bint Asad, whom the Prophet (SAWS) called his own mother and at whose grave he made a remarkable intercession. He accepted Islam when he was eight, or nine, or fourteen, depending on the narrations, but it is established from Ibn `Abbas that he was the first male Muslim after the Prophet (SAWS) , Khadija(R Anha) being the first Muslim. He was killed at age fifty-eight.
From him narrated Abu Bakr, `Umar, his sons al-Hasan and al-Husayn, Ibn `Abbas, `Abd Allaah ibn al-Zubayr, and countless others(RadhiAllaahu Anhum):
`Ali was a skilled and fearless fighter, and the Prophet (SAWS) gave him his standard to carry on the day of Badr and in subsequent battles. At the same time he was the repository of Prophet (SAWS) in wisdom among the Companions. The latter, when asked about difficult legal rulings, deferred to others the responsibility of answering, while `Ali, alone among them, used to say: “Ask me.” `Umar (R A) said: “I seek refuge in Allaah from a problem which Abu al-Hasan (R A) cannot solve.” Similarly `A’isha (R Anha) said: “He is the most knowledgeable about the Sunna among those who remain,” and Ibn `Abbas(R A) : “If a trustworthy source tells us of a fatwa by `Ali, we do not seek any further concerning it.” Sulayman al-Ahmusi narrated from his father that `Ali (R A) said: “By Allaah ! No verse was ever revealed except I knew the reason for which it was revealed and in what place and concerning whom. Verily my Lord has bestowed upon me a wise heart and a speaking tongue.” At the same time `Ali (R A) humbly declared: “What cools my liver most, if I am asked something I know not, is to say: ‘Allaah knows best’.”
Imam Ahmad (R) said: “There is no Companion concerning whom are reported as many merits as `Ali ibn Abi Talib.” Following are some of the hadiths to that effect.
On the eve of the campaign of Khaybar, the Prophet (SAWS) said: “I shall give the standard to a man who loves Allaah and His Messenger, and whom Allaah loves and also His Messenger.” `Umar(R A) said: “I never liked to be entrusted leadership before that day.” The next day the Prophet (SAWS) summoned `Ali (R A) and gave him the flag.
Salama ibn `Amr (R A) narrated that the day of Khaybar, the Prophet (SAWS) summoned `Ali who came led by the hand, as he was suffering from inflammation of the eyes. The Prophet (SAWS) then blew on his eyes and gave him the flag. Another version states that Ibn Abi Layla told his father to ask `Ali why he wore summer clothes in winter and winter clothes in summer. `Ali said: “The day of Khaybar the Prophet (SAWS) summoned me when my eyes were sore. I said to him: ‘O Messenger of Allaah ! I have ophtalmia.’ He blew on my eyes and said: ‘O Allaah ! remove from him hot and cold.’ I never felt hot nor cold after that day.”
The Prophet (SAWS) left `Ali behind in the campaign of Tabuk. The latter said: “O Messenger of Allaah! Are you leaving me behind with the women and children?” The Prophet (SAWS) replied: “Are you not happy to stand next to me like Harun next to Musa, save that there is no Prophet (SAWS) after me?”
The Prophet (SAWS) said: “I am the city of knowledge and `Ali is its gate.” Another version states: “I am the house of wisdom and `Ali is its gate.”
When Allaah revealed the verse: “Come! We will summon our sons and your sons, and our women and your women, and ourselves and yourselves, then we will pray humbly and invoke the curse of Allaah upon those who lie” (3:61), the Prophet (SAWS) summoned `Ali(R A) , Fatima(R Anha) , Hasan(R A) , and Husayn(R A) , and said: “O Allaah ! These are my Family.”
The Prophet (SAWS) said: “Anyone whose protecting friend (mawla) I am, `Ali is his protecting friend.” `Umar (R A) said: “Congratulations, O `Ali! You have become the protecting friend of every single believer.”
The Prophet (SAWS) said: “`Ali is part of me and I am part of `Ali! No-one conveys something on my behalf except I or he.”
Some people complained to the Prophet (SAWS) about `Ali, whereupon he stood and said: “Do not accuse `Ali of anything! By Allaah, he is truly a little rough (la’ukhayshan) in Allaah’s cause.”
When the Prophet (SAWS) sent `Ali (R A) to Yemen the latter said: “O Messenger of Allaah , you are sending me to people who are older than me so that I judge between them!” The Prophet (SAWS) said: “Go, for verily Allaah shall empower your tongue and guide your heart.” `Ali(R A) said: “After that I never felt doubt as to what judgment I should pass between two parties.”
The Prophet (SAWS) said: “The most compassionate of my Community towards my Community is Abu Bakr; the staunchest in Allaah ’s Religion is `Umar; the most truthful in his modesty is `Uthman, and the best in judgment is `Ali.” `Umar said: “`Ali is the best in judgment among us, and Ubayy is the most proficient at the Qur’anic readings.” Ibn Mas`ud similarly said: “We used to say that the best in judgment among the people of Madina was `Ali.” It is a measure of al-Hasan al-Basri’s greatness that `Ali once followed his recommendation in a judicial case.
`Amr ibn Sha’s al-Aslami (R A) complained about `Ali(R A) upon returning from Yemen where he had accompanied him. News of it reached the Prophet (SAWS) who said: “O `Amr! By Allaah , you have done me harm.” `Amr (R A) said: “I seek refuge in Allaah from harming you, O Messenger of Allaah !” He said: “But you did. Whoever harms `Ali harms me.” The Prophet (SAWS) also used the terms “Whoever harms Ali (R A) has harmed me” about his uncle al-`Abbas(R A) .
Umm Salama (R Anha) said to Abu `Abd Allaah al-Jadali(R A) : “Is Allaah ’s Messenger (SAWS) being insulted among you?! [in Kufa]” He said: “Allaah forbid!” She said: “I heard Allaah ’s Messenger(SAWS) say: ‘Whoso insults `Ali, insults me.’”
`Ali (R A) said: “In truth the Prophet (SAWS) has made a covenant with me saying: ‘None loves you except a believer, and none hates you except a hypocrite.” Abu Sa`id al-Khudri subsequently said: “In truth we recognized the hypocrites by their hatred for `Ali.” Jabir said: “We did not know the hypocrites of this Community except by their hatred for `Ali.”
The innovations of those who bore excessive love and admiration for `Ali appeared in his own lifetime and he himself fought them in word and deed. To those that claimed that the Prophet (SAWS) had appointed him as successor after him he said: “In truth, Allaah ’s Messenger did not appoint any successor” and: “The Prophet (SAWS) was taken from us, then Abu Bakr (R A) was made the successor, so he did as the Prophet (SAWS) had done and according to his path until Allaah took him from us; then `Umar was made the successor, so he did as the Prophet (SAWS) had done and according to his path until Allaah took him from us.” To those that claimed that he deserved the Caliphate better than Abu Bakr (R A) and `Umar (R A) he said: “The best of this Community after its Prophet (SAWS) are Abu Bakr and `Umar.” To those that either hated him or overly loved him `Ali (R A) said: “Two types of people shall perish concerning me: a hater who forges lies about me, and a lover who over-praises me.” To those that claimed that he or his family possessed other than the Qur’an which all Muslims had he said: “Whoever claims that we have something which we read other than the Qur’an has lied.” Finally, when a group of people came to him saying: “You are He, you are our Lord! (anta Hû anta Rabbuna)” he had them executed and then ordered the bodies burnt.
His Contributions :
Ali (R A) was the victor of the battle of Badr. He alone killed half the number of all the Makkans who were killed in that battle.
In the battle of Uhud, most of the Muslims fled from the battlefield. One who did not flee, was Ali(R A) . He saved the life of his master, Muhammad(SAWS), that day.
At the siege of Medina, Ali (R A) killed Amr bin Abd Wudd, and thereby saved Medina from being overrun, and its people from being massacred.
Ali (R A) captured Khyber. With Khyber’s conquest, Islam became a state with territory. Until the conquest of Khyber, Islam was only a city-state, confined to the walls of Medina.
Ali (R A) was the secretary who indicted the Treaty of Hudaybiyya.
When Makkah capitulated to the Prophet(SAWS), Ali (R A) rode his shoulders, and smashed the idols in the Kaaba. He and his master, Muhammad(SAWS), purified the House of Allaah for all time by removing all vestiges of idolatry and polytheism from it. In this manner, Ali (R A) collaborated with Muhammad(SAWS), the Messenger of Allaah, from beginning to end, in constructing the framework of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.
In the battle of Hunayn, the Muslims fled once again. Ali(R A) put himself between the Apostle (SAWS) and the pagan warriors who wanted to kill him. He fought against them until the Muslims rallied.
In October 630 (9 A.H.) the Apostle led an expedition to Tabuk, and he appointed Ali (R A) his viceroy in Medina.
Among all the companions of the Prophet(SAWS) , Ali(R A) was the most knowledgeable. He had thorough knowledge of the Qur’an, and its interpretation. He was the best of all judges, and he was the most eloquent orator of the Arabs.
Just before his death, the Prophet(SAWS) equipped and organized an expedition to Syria, and he appointed Usama bin Zayd bin Haritha(R A) , its general. With the exception of Ali(R A) , he ordered all the Muhajireen to serve under Usama(R A) . Ali (R A) was to stay with him in Medina.
In the defence of Islam, it was Ali’s (R A) family which offered the greatest sacrifices. Obaidullah ibn al-Harith (R A) who was killed in the battle of Badr, and was the first martyr of Islam in the battlefield, was his first cousin. Mus’ab ibn Umayr(R A) and Hamza (R A) were killed in the battle of Uhud, and both of them were his uncles. Jafar Tayyar (R A) who was killed in the battle of Mootah was his elder brother.
When Muhammad Mustafa (SAWSS) died, Ali (R A) performed his obsequies, and gave him burial. He knew what the other companions were doing when he was busy with these duties but he did not allow anything to distract him. He kept his duty ahead of his interests, and his principles ahead of politics.
REIGN OF ALI (R A ) :
After the murder of Uthman, fear and panic seized the companions of the Prophet(SAWS). The members of Umar’s (R A)electoral committee retreated into the safety of anonymity. The fate of Uthman (R A) had struck terror into their hearts. The whole country was seething with agitation, and no one, no matter how daring and ambitious, was willing to put his neck into the loop by accepting the responsibility of running the government. It was a responsibility fraught with the gravest perils.
As soon as Uthman died, all eyes turned to Ali(R A) . The companions of the Prophet (SAWS) could not think of anyone else who had the ability and the grit to put an end to graft in the government and to anarchy in the land, and to restore peace, and law and order to the Dar-ul-Islam which was battered by economic and social conflict, and was buffeted by a rapid succession of traumas.
All the leading Muhajireen and Ansar, therefore, gathered in the Mosque of the Prophet(SAWS) , and agreed, at a caucus, to ask Ali(R A) to take charge of the government, and to steer the ship of state to safety. A delegation then called on Ali(R A) , and requested him to accept this responsibility.
Ali, however, did not accept the offer of the companions, and said that he preferred to be an adviser rather than the caliph.
But the companions also did not accept Ali’s (R A) refusal, and said:
“No man has given more distinguished service to Islam, nor is anyone closer to Muhammad(SAWS) than you. We consider you to be the worthiest of all men to be our Khalifa.” (Tarikh Kamil, Vol. III, p. 98, Ibn Atheer)
Ali still did not agree, and the companions still persisted, and said:
“We appeal to you in the name of Allaah to accept the caliphate. Don’t you see the state of the umma? Don’t you see new perils rising everywhere in the lands of Islam? Who will check them if not you?” (Tarikh Kamil, Vol. III, p. 99, Ibn Atheer)
The institution of khilafat which was the legacy of Muhammad(SAWS), the Messenger of Allaah, and which, therefore, ought to have been the symbol of the moral and spiritual authority of Islam to the rest of the world, had become, instead, in the course of the quarter-century since his death, the symbol of undiluted materialism and naked imperialism. Profound changes had taken place in the lifestyle of the Muslims. Instead of imitating the pure and austere life of Muhammad(SAWS) , most of them imitated alien lifestyles. What propelled them now, was not the ideals of Islam but the lust to become rich and powerful at any cost. The pristine simplicity and the egalitarianism of the times of the Prophet of Islam, had become demoted. The quality of the life of the umma had visibly declined.
Ali knew all this better than anyone else. He had kept his finger on the pulse of the Muslim umma, and he had monitored its progress or its lack of progress in all directions.
Ali also knew that the caliphate was no longer something that one could take with “its roses and its thorns.” The roses were all gone; and all that was left, were the thorns. Accepting the caliphate now would only mean wearing a crown of those thorns.
In 656 the caliphate was little more than a legacy of turbulence and deficits.
On Friday, 18th of Dhil-Hajj, 35 A.H. (June 17, 656), Ali ibn Abi Talib (R A) entered the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina, and walked to the pulpit through the crowd of the Muslims. The crowd sat in an expectant mood, the currents of excitement flashing through it, and it appeared to heave convulsively. There was an almost palpable sense of tension and renewal in the “national” spirit of the Muslims.
Ali held a bow in his hand, and he leaned against the pulpit as the Muslims began to take the oath of allegiance to him. Between him and them, it was “an open covenant openly arrived at,” and there was nothing clandestine about it. Most of the Muhajireen and the Ansar who were in Medina, gave him their pledge of loyalty.
“The veterans of Badr said (to Ali):’No one is more worthy of khilafat than you. Put out your hand so that we may give you our pledge of loyalty.’ And they gave him the pledge of their loyalty.”
It was the first time, and the last time, in the history of Islam, that a ruler was not foisted upon the Muslims. They chose their own ruler, and their choice was spontaneous. Neither force, nor the threat of the use of force, nor pressure nor bribes, nor double talk, were employed in his election. There was no hysteria to grab power. Everyone was free to give or to withhold his pledge. Ali (R A) himself was accepting the pledges almost mechanically, lost as he was in the reverie of the times of his master, Muhammad(SAWS) , when he was accepting the pledges of the Quraysh just after the conquest of Makkah in 630.