|The gateway to knowledge|
Ali was regarded as a living encyclopaedia, as knowledge personified, drawing his learning ostensibly from the Holy
Prophet, but in reality direct from God. Thus Ali's knowledge was of Divine Origin. To learn was so natural for him that its love had almost become instinctive in his character. Ali was imbued with virtues right from his birth. As he was sent by God specifically to enlighten the world, his commentaries, his theological speculations, ceremonial prayers, his pronouncements on social laws and ethics could not fail to enlighten mankind. The Holy Prophet used to say, "If I am the city of knowledge, verily Ali is the gate by which people can enter that city." On another occasion the Prophet said, "Of my followers, Ali surpasses all in the possession of knowledge. Wisdom and knowledge have been divided into ten parts, one part being given to the entire world while Ali alone possesses the other nine." On another occasion, the Prophet remarked, "The relationship of my other companions to Ali in matters of knowledge is that of a single drop to a mighty ocean."
Ali used to say that the Holy Prophet never failed to answer his questions and that, if he remained silent, the Apostle of God, used to insist on his entering into a dialogue. At one of the gatherings of the Medinite Ansars and the Meccan Muhajirs Ali said, "My inner self is so full of knowledge that it is bursting forth to illumine others. Alas, there are few who could derive benefit from it. 0 ye men! Ask me any problems now, before death overtakes me. This is the knowledge which the Holy Prophet has imparted to me by his tongue from my infancy. Mine is the knowledge which relates to the beginning and the end." Similarly, on another occasion, Ali claimed that he was familiar with the ways of heaven (celestial knowledge) rather than of this earth (secular knowledge); although few people of his time have known so much about the secular sciences.
Ali as founder of the science of commentary
The credit of founding the "Ilm-ul-Tafseer" or "The science of Commentary" on the Quran, also goes to Ali. The analysts unanimously declare that when any chapter or verse was revealed to the Holy Prophet he used to acquaint Ali with it. Thus as Ali was intimately connected with the source of the Quran at first hand, Ali's expositions and interpretations were authoritative and binding. It was in imitation of Ali that later commentators promoted the exposition of the Quran into a regular science. The elaboration of the various doctrines and dogmas which have since enlightened the Muslims, was thus chiefly due to the initiative taken by Ali.
Ali an authority on the Scriptures
There is ample evidence to show that. Ali was well acquainted with both the Old and New Testaments, which he applied frequently when deciding judicial cases involving Jews and Christians respectively. He was similarly well-versed in the Quran, (the fountain-head of the teachings of Islam) and the prerogative of interpreting the Quran could only be entrusted to a learned scholar of Divine choosing and Ali's commentaries on the Holy Book are the only authoritative ones.
Despite his extreme intellectualism, he employed the language of the common man, using everyday phraseology and imagery such as could be understood by the layman. His commentaries gave a new conception and strength to Islamic creed, for which they formed a doctrinal basis; it was his expositions which transformed Islam into a practical code for everyday living. Islam ceased to be a mere collection of beliefs and formulae and came to stand
for the principles of life. As an intimate of the Prophet he knew at what time and under what circumstances each Verse of the Holy Quran had been revealed and to the work of the Holy Prophet he was able to add eloquent and illuminating adornments and explanations. His legal knowledge was also most useful in the exposition of the Quranic laws.
It was his knowledge of these laws which made him refuse to agree to the Kharijite slogan, "the kingdom and decision belong to God alone." Ali would not negotiate with the rebels, recognising a seditious purpose behind their quasi-religious sentiments. Instead, he assembled leading scholars of the Quran and said to them, "Has not the Quran ordained that a judge be appointed to act as arbiter in the case of differences between husband and wife and the like, then how can it be that at the occurrence of a rift between the ranks of Islam and its followers, God can withhold the appointment of arbiters? Is the position of a nation of less importance than of an individual couple? How can a matter of such magnitude he left unattended by God?"
"The Almighty God has collected the whole Quran in the heart of Ali." The duty of the collection and codification of the Quran was entrusted to Ali.
Ali dedicates his life to the propagation of truth
A careful study of the biographies of great men reveals that they lived for a central idea and that their life's work consisted of delivering that message to humanity. History tells us that when such men met with obstacles in their path, they intensified their efforts. The greater the opposition they had to overcome, the more determinedly they
held aloft the torch of truth which burned with eve' increasing brightness against the darkness that enveloped all other objects. ,Juch single-minded zeal characterised the life of Ali, who bore his torch safely through a multitudinous throng of woes and enemies. It cannot be said that Ali thrived on difficulties and opposition for there is abundant evidence that they caused him much distress of heart and mind, but they never, at any time, caused him to deviate from the right or to give up hope. Where any another man would have become a wily intriguer or a fierce and bloody tyrant, Ali retained undiminished sincerity and true gentleness of spirit. Where other believers might have lost faith, so many were the trials that beset him, Ali held fast to his belief in Islam and preserved a stoic resignation to God. The example of his saintly life, remarkable as it was for its sobriety, piety and continence, has since furnished an ethical code of behaviour for millions of believers. Nor did he effect a reformation in Islamic thought by example alone. He consciously re-organised the religious doctrines and systematised them; clarifying by his commentaries the problems of Islamic jurisprudence, the Hadithes, and the Quran. Himself combating with evil forces, Ali dedicated his life to the propagation of Islam. Through his exalted personality, the ideals, for which he stood and which he embodied in his own saintly life, have continued to flow through Islam in a mighty stream.
The late George Gordon was a famous Christian historian, linguist, philosopher and poet of Egypt. Arabic was his mother tongue, at the same time he was well versed in English, French, German, Persian and Latin, and he
used to contribute to historical and philosophical magazines of France, Germany and England.
About Hazrat Ali he said:
"None can praise Ali to the extent that he deserves. So many instances of his piety and fear of God are cited that one starts loving and venerating him. He was a true, strict and scrupulous follower of Islam. His words and deeds bore stamps of nobility, sagacity and courage of conviction. He was a great man having his own independent views about life and its problems. He never deceived, misled, or betrayed anybody. In various phases and periods of his life he exhibited marvelous strength of body and mind which were due to his true faith in religion and in his sincere belief in truth and justice. He never had a servant and never allowed his slaves to work hard. Often he would carry his household goods himself and if anybody offered to relieve him of the weight he would refuse."
Ali's views on charity
Ali was always extremely poor, yet he was as renowned for his charity as he was for his piety. Because he never owned any money or goods of his own, he had to be exempted from the Zakat, the obligatory alms tax levied on every male and female Muslim of means, but whenever his share of the "Ghanima" (booty) or "Fay" came into his hands, he immediately distributed it amongst the poor and destitute, giving not a proportion of it but all till nothing remained for himself or his family. His deeds of charity were on the lips of every one.
'A beggar once received a ring while Ali lay prostrate on his prayer-mat.' There are confirmed traditions that
the angel Gabriel appeared to the Holy Prophet at that time and revealed the following verse of the Quran:
"Your friend is only Allah and His Messenger and the Believers who observe prayers and charity, even in prostration when worshipping God alone."(5 : 55)
Another story relates how somebody presented 300 gold coins to the Holy Prophet who made a present of them to Ali. Ali immediately decided to give them away in three instalments of 100 pieces. On his way home, after finishing his night prayers, he saw a harlot, to whom he gave the first one hundred coins. Early next morning the whole town was gossiping about Ali's misplaced charity and how he had squandered money on a woman of ill repute. Returning home the next night, after prayers he met a man, who was to all intents and purposes a thief, yet he gave him the money. Again the people started to gossip. saying that this time Ali had given the money to a worthless and good-for-nothing person. On the third night he met a rich man to whom he gave the remainder of the money. At this the people again murmured against Ali saying that he had wasted the money on a worthless miser. Now no money was left and Ali repaired to the Holy Prophet, to whom he related what had transpired. The Holy Prophet told Ali that the angel Gabriel had visited him and informed him that God had accepted Ali's charity on all the three occasions. The harlot after getting the money had given up prostitution and had resolved to lead a chaste life; the thief after getting the money had resolved to give up larceny and had entered into honest business, and the rich man had been so ashamed at receiving alms from someone as poor as Ali that he had decided to cease hoarding wealth and give all he possessed to the poor.
That Ali's charity had proved acceptable to the Almighty God was also revealed in the following Quranic Verse :
"Men, whom neither merchandise nor business diverts from the remembrance of Allah and the observance of the prayers and the giving of alms. They fear a day in which hearts and eyes will be agitated." (24 : 37)
On another occasion as related by Tabrani, Wahidi in Tafseer-e-Kashaf page 286 and Suyuti in Dur-e-Mansoor Vol. I page 363, Ali had Dirhams (about rupees two and fifty paise), with a view to spending it in a manner most agreeable to God, he gave one Dirham in charity at night in a hidden manner and one Dirham in the night openly and one Dirham in the daytime hiddenly and one Dirham openly. According to the same authority, God praised Ali in verse 274 of Sura Baciar approving all the four manners of his charity.
Not only did Ali practise charity himself but he preached it to others. A great many of his sermons stress the importance of alms giving. In one of these he said, "Of the various meritorious acts of a Believer, one of the most acceptable is "Zakat". It behoves every one to give charity because from amongst the acts of worship this is the one most pleasing to God." In another set mon he emphasised that God had sent men in this world only to test them. When a man dies his relatives ask how much wealth -he has left, while the angels look to see how much he had given in charity, in the path of God. "O thou people! Send a part of your wealth in the way of God so that it may stand you in good stead in the next world. Do not leave your entire wealth here so as to be a source of annoyance to you (in the world to come)."
Whenever Ali learned that someone was hungry or thirsty, without clothes or in debt, he would provide food,
water, clothes and money for him. He would go to the houses of ,.the sick, nurse them and give them money and medicines. Although Ali's shirts, wearing apparel and shoes were full of patches, yet he felt the greatest pleasure in providing others with clothes. Whenever Ali used to visit the bazars of Kufa, he would help the travellers, the aged and the infirm. He was particularly kind to the elderly who could not support themselves and the widows who were left destitute.
Once Ali saw a woman who was carrying on her shoulders a waterskin which was too heavy a load for her feeble body. Ali took the load on to his own shoulder and accompanied her to her house. She had a number of children who awaited her arrival anxiously. In the course of talks, Ali came to know that her husband was a Kharijite who had fallen in a battle fighting against him (Ali). The widow tended the destitute children and earned her living by doing odd jobs and working for others. The next day Ali again repaired to the hut of the widow with a basketful of eatables. On his way towards her house, Ali met a number of people who wanted to carry the basket for him but the Caliph refused to take any one's help saying, "You will share my burden today but who will be there to share it on the Day of Judgment." Thus carrying the basket on his shoulders the Caliph reached the widow's house, knocked at her door and put the provisions before her. The poor woman was overjoyed and in great excitement said, "May God bless you. Let the Alimghty decide between me and Ali". At this Ali said,
"Either let me bake you some bread with this flour that I have brought you or you bake it and I will play with your children and try to cheer them up." The woman replied, "I will do the baking if you will light the oven
for me." Ali, who had been distributing dates to the children immediately apologised for his discourtesy in not having offered to light the fire. When it flamed up and he felt the heat of the oven scorching his face, he said, "Taste the heat of this fire; imagine what punishment awaits one who has neglected the widows and orphans." In the meantime the next door neighbour had come in and had recognised Ali as the Caliph. "Cursed be thou", she said, reprimanding the widow, "How dare you talk so insolently to the Commander of the Faithful?" The widow in great shame fell prostrate to the ground, begging forgiveness, but Ali said, "It is Ali who must feel ashamed at having neglected you."
Ali was humble and hated pomp and arrogance. Even as Caliph he used to sweep the floor of his own house, chop wood for fuel, carry water on his shoulders, mend his own shoes, wash his own clothes and milk his goat, Ali's wife Fatima did similar domestic jobs with her own hands, grinding wheat in the hand-mill, baking bread, lighting the oven, washing the dishes and tending to her children.
Returning one day with some dates from the bazar he received many offers from people anxious to carry them for him. Ali refused them all, saying, "Whosoever is responsible for looking after his children, has the bigger responsibility of carrying the burden himself." Ali was often seen walking barefooted and on one occasion when he happened to be riding a horse he was distressed to find people following him on foot. Asking them what they wanted, he was told that they felt elated by walking in his retinue. To this Ali replied, "Go back to your
business. By walking behind a rider, you will breed feelings of inferiority in yourselves and infect me with arrogance."
On another occasion when Ali was discussing the essential qualities of a ruler in a sermon, a member of the congregation rose and praised Ali for his eloquence. Ali said that his subjects ought not to praise him, for he wanted no flattery, being all too conscious of his own unworthiness. Concluding his sermon he said, "To a person who has been influenced by the superb Majesty of God, everything else appears petty and frivolous. He looks upon all other things as shallow and trivial. The worst ruler is one who is given to pride and arrogance and hears flattering words from other. All praise is due to God. You should not praise me because I herewith declare before God and all of you that are here that I have many responsibilities which still lie undischarged. In the face of this how can any one applaud me and consider me praiseworthy ? You should not accord me that treatment which is only befitting to tyrants. Neither become afraid of me nor ever hesitate to tell the truth. Do not show any consideration to me if you feel that I am wanting in justice, and never conceal the truth from me. I cannot trust any flatterer because he might mislead me and his tempting talk might beguile me into vainglory. I pray to God to save me from an erroneous path. We men are all alike and there is no other Master than God."
Reforms and social justice
Ali's ideas of social justice were all based on the laws which had been revealed in the Holy Quran. He discarded many of the pagan practices which belonged to the
'Age of Ignorance', and had begun to creep back into Arab life after the death of the Holy Prophet.
The core of Ali's ethical pronouncements was his interpretation of "Ummah", the Islamic community, which he conceived of as an organic entity capable of possessing moral and spiritual qualities. An individual could not lead his life in isolation but ought to live as part of the "Urnmah", safeguarding the "Hooqooqul-Aybaad" (duties of individuals towards their fellow men), as ordained in the Quran. This could only be achieved by developing a sense of group-solidarity and loyalty and by each person striving to live in harmony with his fellows without encroaching upon or usurping the rights of others.
"Mankind" said Ali, "with all its spiritual faults and vices would move to a crisis of the nations and could only survive by a corporate sense of responsibility. Individual responsibility would positively avouch solidarity."
On the other hand, Ali realised that personal traits of character in individuals could exercise an influence over the life of the community. For this reason Ali urged upon the strong not to transgress the rights of the weak and he passed many decrees to safeguard the interests of the weaker members. He further held that a good government should not only be regulative but also reformative in its application. He defined the State as "a community in action" and considered the government as instrumental in achieving that end. A righteous government meant a righteous Caliph, for the Caliph was the head of the community, charged to fulfil the responsibilities imposed on him by its moral laws.
Only by rightfully observing the "Hooqooqul-aybaad" or "the social duties of the individuals" could a man per
form "Hooqooqullah" (duties and obligations to God). If men were found wanting in their duties towards God, in His mercy He may forgive them ; but the violation of the rights of individuals involved infringements of the laws of society and the guilty parties could only be forgiven by those whom they had wronged.
Ali's submission to law
The fame of Ali's impartiality as Chief justice spread far and wide. Had circumstances allowed him to reign peacefully the world would have witnessed a unique combination of divine and secular justice. In the cases which were brought to his court, Ali made no distinction between friend and foe, between his own relatives and persons unknown to him.
An interesting story is told of a case in which Ali was himself the plaintiff. It concerned a coat of mail, lost by Ali at Siffin and picked up by a Christian who then wore it himself. Ali recognising his armour on the Christian, took the miscreant to the Qazi of the city, demanding that the culprit should be dealt with according to the law. When the Qazi asked the Christian if it belonged to him, he pleaded "not guilty" saying, "My possession of it is a clear proof of my ownership."
The Qazi then asked Ali to substantiate his charge by producing a witness. Ali produced his son Hasan as a witness but the Qazi refused to accept his evidence saying that he was a close relative of the plaintiff. Ali did not do anything more than saying that it was surprising that the Qazi did not accept the evidence of one who was pronounced by the Prophet as the Head of the Youth of Paradise. The Qazi was now in a great fix for he was
loath to accuse Ali of having brought a false charge against the Christian yet unable to convict the accused for lack of proof. Seeing the dilemma in which the Qazi found himself, Ali however said, "The judge ought not to be influenced by the dignity of any party; merit alone as the judge takes it to be, should be the criterion for deciding the issue." The Qazi then pronounced judgment as follows:
"In the absence of any conclusive evidence, and this the Caliph has failed to produce, the suit is dismissed."
The Christian merrily walked out of the court, but after going only a few paces he turned back, and going up to Ali, said, "O Commander of the Faithful, verily the coat of mail is yours. got it -on the battlefield of Siffin. I only wanted to see how judical cases are decided in your courts. My Lord, pray stretch forth your hand for I intend to take the oath of allegiance and accept Islam at your hands." So saying he took the oath of fealty to Ali, and accepted Islam. Ali then presented to him that same coat of mail and also a horse, saying, "Blessed art thou indeed. Previously thou wert a soldier of a secular king but henceforth thou past accepted enlistment as a soldier of God." The new convert is said to have joined Ali's army, fighting in all the battles in which Ali was involved until on the battlefield of Nahrwan he was killed, thus obtaining a martyr's crown.
Ali was also very particular that his magistrates should also follow the principle of strictest impartiality, issuing very strict instructions that they should never take bribes and never pronounce judgments until they were fully satisfied with the merits of the case.
Ali's code of chivalry
Ali's lion-heartedness on the field of battle seems at first sight to be strangely at odds with his gentleness on all other occasions, but one must remember that although his mighty blows frequently cleft his enemies in two. he never departed from his own chivalrous code. This code of chivalry is admirably summed up in the instructions which he gave to his son, Muhammad ibn Hanafia, on presenting him with the flag of command at the battle of Siffin:
"O son ! Let the mountains move from their places but your foot should not falter from that place that has been assigned to you in the battlefield. Install your foot firmly on the ground as though a nail had been driven into it. Let your one jaw rest firmly on the other. Keep an eye on the last rank of your enemy. Enter the battle with a firm determination that you have lent yourself to the cause of God. With all this, always think that success lies in the hands of God. Above all never raise your hand against the sick, women. aged and children. Even if they abuse you, it behoves you to give them refuge. Never mutilate the limbs of the enemy or any other person. Give a decent burial to the dead bodies of your enemies."
Ali's own behaviour at the Battle of the Ditch also illustrates his adherence to this code. While fighting a duel Ali had thrown his opponent, Amar, on the ground and had drawn his sword to cut off his head, when the latter spat on his face. Ali then left his enemy and sheathed his sword. Asked why he left such a dangerous foe alive, Ali said, "I would have killed Amar in the way of God, but when he spat on my face, I got enraged and his
death at that juncture would have been attributed to a motive of retaliation rather than in the spirit of Jehad."
Muslim scholars unanimously agree with the fact, "that none of the companions of the Holy Prophet was so widely praised by God (through the verses of the Quran) and His Prophet for his virtues and excellence as was Hazrat Ali".
Ahmad ibn Hanbal says, "there hath not come down to us regarding the merits of any one of the Companions of the Apostle of God what hath been transmitted concerning Ali. At times they are represented as so astounding that it was for this reason that the Bani Umayyah were jealous of him and came to hate him. That he did enjoy the special confidence of Muhammad is acknowledged by all."
Numerous sayings of the Holy Prophet exalting the virtues and personal attributes of the first Apostolical Imam have been quoted both by Shia and Sunni scholars, "After the Holy Prophet," says Allama Ibne abil Hadid al-Motazali, 'it was Hazrat Ali who devoted most of his time to the worship of God and spent the nights in silent devotion and the days in fasting. He was brave and forgiving, strong and understanding, religious and secular, He was the only person of his time who mastered ',the Ho,y Scriptures. Wise men from East and West came to quench their thirst from his unfathomable spring of Divine :Knowledge."
Ali's role in Meraj
The most amazing instances of the exaltation of Ali are to be found in the descriptions of the Meraj or Ascension of the Prophet to Heaven, in accordance with the Verse of the Quran (xvii. I) : "Glory to him who carried His servant by night from the sacred temple (of Mecca) to the temple that is more remote, whose precinct We have blessed, that We may show him our signs."
The second volume of Majlisi's Hayatu-l-Kulub has been translated into English under the title the .Life and Religion of Muhammad,' by Rev. James L. Merrick, Majlisi says (P. 190) that both Shia and Sunnee traditions declare that the Ascension was bodily, and not merely in the Spirit; in the state of wakefulness, not of sleep. On this point, among the old Ulama of the Shias there is no disagreement. The doubts which some have entertained on whether the Ascension was in body or merely in spirit have arisen from lack of knowledge of the subject, or from lack of belief in its Divine Attestations, and from listening to people who are without faith themselves. In his portrayal of all that the Holy Prophet Muhammad heard and saw on this great night journey through the seven heavens, Majlisi mentions what was heard and seen of Ali :
"It is related that Muhammad declared that on the night of Ascension, the Most High commanded me to inquire of the past prophets for what reason they were exalted to that rank, and they all testified, "We were raised up on account of your Prophetical Office, and the Imamate of Ali ibn Abu Talib, and the Imams of your posterity". A divine voice then commanded, 'look on the right side of the empyrean'. I looked and saw the similitude of Ali, and Hasan, and Husain, and Ali ibn
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al-Husain, and Muhammad Bakir, and Jafar as-Sadiq, and Musa Kazim, and Ali ibn Musa-ar-Reza, and Muhammad Taki, and Ali Naqi, and Hasan Askhari, and Mahdiall performing prayers in a sea of light. 'These', said the Most High, -are my proofs, Vicegerents, and friends, and the last of them will take vengeance on my enemies."
"The Prophet declared that when he performed the Ascension, the angels inquired very particularly about Ali. 'When I arrived,' he continued, 'at the fourth heaven, I saw the angel of death, who said that it was his office to take the soul of every creature by God's command ; but in the case of you and Ali, I will have to take your consent.' When I came under the empyrean, I saw Ali ibn Abu Talib standing there, and said to him, '0 Ali have you got there before me ?' 'Whom are you addressing'. asked Gabriel. 'My brother', I replied. 'This is not Ali,' said he, 'but an angel of the Merciful God, whom he created in the likeness of Ali and when those of us privileged to approach near the Deity wish to behold Ali, we visit this angel."
And so Jesus and Moses and Abraham all inquired about Ali and congratulated Muhammad on having left so good a Caliph in his place. The Apostle further related, "On the night of MERAJ, on every one of the curtains of light and on every one of the pillars of the empyrean to which I came, I saw written, There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is the Apostle of God, and Ali ibn Abu Talib is the commander of the Faithful."
Ibne-abil-Hadeed on Hazrat Ali
Allama Ibne abil Hadid al-Motazali, the commentator of Nahjul Balagha, says : "Hazrat Ali had a personality
in which opposite characteristics had so gathered that it was difficult to believe that a human mind could manifest such a combination. He was the bravest man that history could cite, such brave persons are always hardhearted, cruel, and eager for blood-shed, but Ali was a kind-hearted sympathetic and warm-hearted person, qualities quite contradictory to the other phase of his character and more suited to pious and God-fearing persons."
"He was a very pious and God-fearing man and often such religious persons avoid society and do not care to mix with men of sin and men of wrath; on the other hand warriors, kings and dictators are usually arrogant and haughty; they consider it below their dignity to mix with the poor, lowly and humble people. But Ali was different. He was a friend to all. As a matter of fact he had a tender spot in his heart for the poor and humble, and for orphans and cripples. To them he always was a kind friend, a sympathetic guide and a fellow sufferer; he was meek with them but haughty and arrogant towards famous warriors and generals, so many of whom he had killed in hand-to-hand combats. He was always kind but strict with wayward persons, sympathetically teaching them the ways of God. He always smiled and passed happy and witty rejoinders, it was difficult to overcome him in debates or repartees ; his rejoinders and retorts always bore a distinct mark of culture, education and knowledge."
"He was a scion of a very illustrious, rich and noble clan, as well as the son-in-law and a great favourite of the Holy Prophet (A.S.) ; at the same time he was the greatest warrior and marshal of his time; yet, in spite of his riches, he ate, dressed and lived like a poor person; to him wealth was for the use of other needy persons, not for himself and his family. Change of times and change of circum
stances did not bring any change in his bearing, mien or character. Even when he was acclaimed as the Caliph, he was the same Ali as they had found him to be during the previous regimes."
"Once in the society of Abdullah, son of Imam Malik-ibne-Hunbal, a discussion took place about Ali and his Caliphate; Abdullah brought the discussion to an end saying that the Caliphate did not bring any honour or glory to Ali, but it was itself honoured and glorified by Ali and it received the status actually due to it."
"The world cannot quote an example other than that of Ali of a first class warrior and a marshal who is also a philosopher, a moralist and a great teacher of religious principles and theology. A study of his life shows that his sword was the only help that Islam received during its early days of struggle in its wars of self-defence. For Islam he was the first and the last line of defence; who was there to stand by him in the battles of Badar, Ohad, Khandaq, Khyber and Hunain ? This is one aspect of his life. While the other facet of his character is reflected in his sermons, orders, letters and sayings. What high values of morality they teach, what ethics they preach, what intricate problems of unitarianism they elucidate, how rich they are in philosophy; how they imbibe the spirit of righteousness and teach rulers to become kind, good, benevolent and God-fearing rulers, and subjects to be faithful, sincere and law abiding, how they persuade men to be warriors who can fight only for God, truth and justice, and not mercenaries murdering and plundering for wealth and riches; and how they instruct teachers to teach nothing injurious and harmful to mankind. These are but undisputable proofs of his greatness and spiritual superiority. Has history ever produced
a more splendid personality incorporating such variegated characteristics of mind and heart !"
Ali the first in many fields
Ali was the possessor of unique virtues and was the first and foremost person in a number of things. He had no match in the following attributes, to mention only a few :
1. He was of noblest birth for both his father and mother were Hashimites.
2. He was the only person to be born in the Kaaba (the house of God).
3. He was the only Divinely authorised witness and Attestor that Prophet Muhammad is the Messenger of God. (Sura Raad Verse 43, Sura Hood Verse 17 and Sura Saha Verse 6.).
4. He was the first to offer prayers after the Holy Prophet.
5. He was the only one to offer his assistance to the Holy Prophet at the gathering of Dawat-e-Asheera.
6. Ali was the only one (except the Holy Prophet) whom God inspired with Divine Secrets.
7. He was the first to compile and codify the Quran.
8. He had the distinction of being styled as "Brother" by the Prophet on both the occasions of "before Hijrat" at Mecca and after Hijrat at Medina.
9. Ali was the only one named by the Holy Prophet to bathe his body after his death.
10. He was the only warrior to stick to his post on the battlefield in all battles and who never once turned his back.
11. It was he who was appointed Commander in all the battles in which the Holy Prophet did not participate personally and was the Standard Bearer when the Prophet participated.
12. He was the great warrior who succeeded in killing all adversaries who fought against him.
13. It was Ali who caught and conquered pagan 'Jinns' many of whom accepted Islam.
14. The honour of the propagation of the Quranic Sura "Al-Baraat" (the Immunity) fell to Ali's lot, the Prophet saying that either he himself or Ali could do it and no one else, thereby raising him Supreme above all others.
15. It was he on whom the Holy Prophet bestowed the title "a Second Aaron,"
16.The privilege of removing the symbols of Arab paganism from the Kaaba, (after the conquest of Mecca) was also reserved for Ali.
17. Ali had the good fortune to have the sublimest woman of the world Fatima as his wife and a unique father-in-law like the Prophet and sons like Hasan and Husain.
18. Ali had the honour of being nominated by the Holy Prophet as his Successor, Testator and Vicegerent.
19.Ali was also honoured by being styled "Moula" (Master) of the "Ummah" (nation) by the Holy Prophet, by the mandate of God.
20. Ali is the one who (long before the creation of the universe ) came into being along with the Holy Prophet each of them being a fragment of the same 'Noor', (Light). Muhammad having the Prophet-hood and Ali having the Wilayath' (Authority).
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21. Ali while in the stage of 'Noor' has been the Divine Professor who imparted knowledge to Gabriel and other angels - hence known as the Teacher of Gabriel.
22. Ali is the only one who continues in himself the attributes of all the Prophets put together.
23. Ali is the Head of all the Spiritual Lines of the Ahle-Tariqat and Sufis.
24. Ali is the replica of the Holy Prophet and is to him what the head is to a body.
25. The Prophet and Ali alone could come to the Mosque when under the obligation of a bath.
26. Ali's door, like that of the Prophet, that opened in the Mosque was retained while the doors of all others were closed under a Divine Mandate.
27. Ali is the one who was ordained to assist all Messengers of God from Adam to Jesus, hiddenly and to come out openly to assist the Holy Prophet.
28. Ali is the sole one Divinely designated as the Hand of God, Face of God, Eye of God, Ear of God, Tongue of God and Symbol of God.
29. He is the only one, acknowledgment of whose Wilayath' (authority) along with the Prophethood of Muhammad is the basic requisite for the Prophethood of any Messenger of God.
30. Like the Holy Prophet, Ali was bestowed upon with miracles, such as on two occasions he made the sun come back from the west when it had already set.
31. Besides the Holy Pi ophet, Ali is the only one, departure of whose soul depends on his own will.
32. He is the distributor of Kausar and will allot Heaven or Hell as deserved.
Further proofs of Ali's greatness
Qais Bin Hazim records :
"I was wandering in the streets of the bazar in Median, when I saw men clustering around one who rode a cow and stood cursing Ali. In the meantime Saad Abi Waqaas happened to pass that way and asked him what made him curse Ali. "Was he not the first to accept Islam? Was he not the first to say his prayers with the Prophet? Was he not the most pious of all? Was he not the greatest scholar?" Waqaas went on recounting Ali's distinctions and in the end said, "Was he not the son in-law of the Prophet? Was he not the Commander-in Chief of the Prophet's forces in all the wars that the Pro phet had to fight?" Then Waqaas turned to the House of Allah and raised both his hands in prayers, "O Allah ! This man is cursing one of Thy beloved; before these people disperse, show them how Mighty Thou art !"
Qais relates, "By Allah ! we had hardly dispersed when his mount plunged into the solid earth, flinging him on to a rock. His head was fractured and he died instantly."
Mustadrak Vol. 3, p. 499.
The Prophet ordered, "Send for the Emir of the Arabs !" "Aren't you yourself the Emir of the Arabs," inter posed Ayesha.
"No !" replied the messenger of Allah. "I'm the the Emir of the entire mankind."
When Ali put in an appearance, he ordered Ali to call the Ansars, and when they arrived, the Prophet announced, "O Ansars ! If you hold fast to one whom I point out to you, you will never go astray."
"Do point out to us, 0 Messenger of Allah," they said. "That man is Ali," said the Prophet. "Regard him 242
as deeply as you regard me; honour him as highly as you honour me. Whatever I'm declaring to you is not from me, but it is all from Allah. Gabriel just conveyed this to me."
1. Riaz-un-Nazarah Vol. 3, p. 177. (2) Izalat-ul-Khifa Maqsad 2, p. 362.
"Ali !" said the Prophet of Allah, "The pride of your place is like that of the House of Allah. People of themselves go to the House of Allah, the House of Allah does not go after the people. So when I am no more, if these people, of themselves, elect you as their Caliph, do become their Caliph. If they do not approach you, never go to them so long as they themselves do not come up to you."
(1) Usd-ul-Ghaba Vol. 4, p. 31. (2) Kunooz-ul-Haqaique p. 173.
"Ali and I will be the last word on the Day of Judgment!"
Selections from Kanz-ul-Ummal p. 34.
Salman reports, having heard the Prophet saying :
"Ali and I, fourteen thousand years before the creation of mankind, were one Light. When Allah created Adam, He split this Light into two, one of which I am and the other is Ali."
Riaz-un-Nazarah Vol. 2, p. 164.
Some of the Companions of the Prophet were of the opinion that Ali was blessed with such individual traits of character and distinctions that if a single one of them was possessed by all the peoples of the world it was more than enough for their betterment.
Usd-ul-Ghaba Vol. 4, p. 23.
Hazrat Omar records that the Prophet said :
"None of those bent on achieving distinctions had such advantages to their credit as Ali possessed. He guides
his friends on to the straight path and saves them from getting lost."
Riaz-un-Nazarah Vol. 2, p. 214.
"If all the seven planets," declared Hazrat Omar, "and all the seven heavens are put in one scale of the balance and the faith of Ali in the other, Ali's pan will turn the scales."
(1) Riaz-un-Nazarah Vol. 2, p. 226. (2) Izalat-ulKhifa Maqsad Vol. 2, p. 259 & p. 265.
Ibn-e-Abbas records :
"A mad woman was produced before Omar on the charge of having committed adultery. Omar ordered her to be stoned to death. Ali, passing that way, was informed that a woman belonging to such and such tribe was going to be stoned by the order of Omar. Learning that, Ali sent her back and came up to Omar demanding, 'Don't you know that three kinds of persons cannot be held responsible for any offence? You cannot punish one who has lost his reason until he is cured of madness ; no punishment can be meted out to one sleeping until he is wide awake; nor a child can he held responsible for a crime so long as he does not attain maturity'...At this, Omar ordered her release and recited Allah-o-Akbar."
(1) Sunan Abi Dawood Vol. 2, p. 227. (2) Musnad Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal Vol. 1, p. 154. (3) Istee'ab Vol. 2, p. 474. (4) Selections from Kanz-ul-Ummal p. 412. (5) Riaz-un-Nazarah Vol. 2, p. 194. & p. 196. (6) Izalat-ul-Khifa Maqsad 2, p. 268.
Abul Aswad relates :
"I called on Ali and found him lost in some deep thought, his head hanging on one side."
He said, 'In this town I've heard people speaking the language incorrectly. I should do a book on the grammar of it.' Three days after I paid him a visit again, and he put into my hands a booklet in which he had laid the foundations of the language on which was raised the structure of syntax and conjugation, and other parts of speech saying, 'here is the foundation on which you can build up the structure.'
Selections from Kanz-ul-Ummal p. 51.
Anas Bin Malik, the companion of the Prophet relates :
"Some one sent a roast bird as an offering to the Prophet, and the Prophet prayed, '0 Allah ! Send that one to me whom Thou lovest the most to partake of the roast along with me.' (The prayer was answered) and Ali made an appearance to join the Prophet in the eating of the roast."
(1) Jame's Tirmizee p. 461. (2) Khasais Nasaee p. 21. (3) Mustadrak Vol. 3, p. 131. (4) Selections from Kanz-ul-Ummal p. 53. (5) Riaz-un-Nazarah Vol. 2, p. 160. (6) Usd-ul-Ghaba Vol. 4, p. 30. (7) lzalat-ul-Khifa p. 262.
Ali records :
In his illness, the Prophet sent for me, saying, "Call my brother.' When I came near to him, he asked me to come nearer, as I went closer to him, he reclined against me and continued like that, holding conversation with me until some spittle fell from his mouth on me. Then he was in his last moments and died in my arms."
(1) Selections from Kanz-ul-Ummal p. 115. (2) Tabaqat Ibn-e-Sad Vol. 2, Qism 2, p. 51.
In the words of Ameer Ali-Hitti-Davenport and Allama Mustafa Beg
"Mild, beneficient, and humane, ready to help the weak and distressed, his life had been devoted to the cause of Islam. His forebearance and magnanimity were misunderstood, and his humanity and love of truth was turned by his enemies to their own advantage."
"Ali is dectibed as a man of ruddy complexion, not very tall but extremely strong, inclined to stoutness, with a flowing beard, soft grey eyes, and a look of great amiability and kindness. His bravery had won him the title of the 'Lion of God', his learning that of the 'Gate of Knowledge.' Chivalrous, humane, and forbearing to the verge of weakness, as a ruler he came before his time. Most of the grand undertakings initiated by Omar for the welfare of the people were due to his counsel. Ever ready to succour the weak and to redress the wrongs of the injured, the accounts of his valorous deeds are recited with enthusiasm from the bazars of Cairo to those of Delhi. How the mailclad knight rescued a stranger beset by lions in the desert; how the poor woman, captured by brigands with her wounded and dying husband, wailed for the succour which never failed, and how the "Lion of God" appeared and saved them, such stories bring back to Arab life the chivalry of the Arabs-personified in their greatest hero. With his dying breath he inculcated lessons of charity, love, humility and self-abnegation to his sons. He expressly ordered that no harshness should be used towards his murderer, who should be executed with one blow."
As regards his gallantry and boldness, Hitti, a famous European scholar, remarks, "Valliant in battle, wise in counsel, eloquent in speech, true to his friends, magnani
1 Syed Ameer Ali-A short history of the Saracens. p. 52,
mous to his foes, he became both the paragon of the Moslem nobility and chivalry and the Solomon of the Arabic tradition around whose name poems, proverbs, sermonettes and ancedotes innumerable have clustered. His Sabre Dhu-al-Faqar, wielded by the Prophet on the memorable battle-field of Ohad, has been immortalized in words of verse found engraved on many medieval Arab swords, 'La Saifa Illa Dhu-al-Faqar wa-La Fata Illa Ali' (No sword can match Zulfiqar and no young warrior can compete with Ali)."
"He was equally celebrated for his eloquence and valour", says Davenport, while his surname of "The Lion of God", sufficiently attests his prowess and renown of which one out of many instances is that at the siege of Khaiber in 628 A. D. In Ali we find the example of a brave and worthy prince than whom a better is not to be found throughout the Mohammaden World."
Allama Mustafa Beg, a famous Egyptian Scholar, writes in Humatul-Islam, "What can be said about such a Holy personage as Hazrat Ali, who excelled all the companions of the Holy Prophet in his attributes and qualities. He was the most learned person, the bravest man and the most eloquent speaker and orator. His piety, his love of God and his sincerity and fortitude in following religion, were of such a high order that none could aspire to reach him. He, due to his sagacity and thorough knowledge of the human mind, always arrived at correct conclusions and never changed his decisions. He possessed such transcending and peerless qualities which caused many scholars to imagine him to be an incarnation of God. He hated tricks and diplomacy and loved truth and justice; and had it not been for the fear of God, he would have been renowned as the greatest Arab politician."
His food and dress
The food that Hazrat Ali ate and the dress he wore were such as even the poorest could afford. It was not because he was poor but it was his desire to lead the life of the poorest person and spend all that could thus be spared for the poor. Below are given a few incidents at the time when he was the Caliph.
1. Imam Ahmad Ibne Hanbal in his 'Musnad' as quoted by Sowaeda-Ibne-Ghafla :- "One day I went to see Ali in the Government House (Darul Imrah). It was the time of breakfast and before him there was a cup of milk and some barley bread. The bread was dry, stale and hard, and did not contain any butter or oil. It could not be easily broken into pieces, and Ali had to exert himself to break and soften it. I turned towards his slave Fizza and said, '0 Fizza, have you no pity on your master, that you allow him to eat this sort of bread ?' She replied, 'He has given us strict instructions that nothing is to be added to his bread and even chaff and husk are not to be separated from the flour. We ourselves eat much better food than this though we are his slaves.' Hearing this, I told Ali, '0 Lord, have pity on yourself, look at your age, your responsibilities, your hard work.' He replied, '0 Sowaeda, you have no idea what the Holy Prophet used to eat. He hardly ate anything for three consecutive days."
2. Allama Kamal-ud-din Mohamed-lbne-Talha-e-Shafeyee in his book 'Matalib-ul-Sour quotes Abdullah Ibne Zurare as saying, "I went to see Hazrat Ali on a day of Id. He asked me to join him in his breakfast, to which I readily agreed. I was surprised at the poor kind of food that was served to us and said, '0 Lord, you are a Caliph and a King. I was expecting that game would
he served to us.' Ali replied, '0 Ibne-Zurare, you have heard of mighty kings who have led lives of luxury. I prefer to be near to God and lead the life of a poor and humble person - a humble labourer.'
3. Millance in his book 'Seer and' and Imam Ahmad in his 'Musnand' quotes the famous 'Tabayee' Ibne AbeeRafay, that he went to Ali on the day of Id and while he was sitting there a bag was brought before him. He -thought that the bag might contain jewels. Ali opened the bag, it contained dry pieces of bread, which he softened with water. Ibne-Abee Rafay asked him the reason for sealing such a bag which even a beggar would not care to steal. Ali smiled and said, 'I keep it sealed because my children try to substitute softer bread containin_ 0,1 and butter.' Ibne Abee Rafay then asked Hazrat Ali, 'Has God prohibited you from eating better kind of food ?' 'No' lie replied, 'but I want to eat the kind of food which the poorest of this realm can afford to eat at least once a day. I shall only improve upon it after I have made them more comfortable. I want to live, feel and suffer like them.'
Imam Ahmad in his book 'Almunaaquib' and Ibne Aser in his history, quotes Haroon Ibne Anzaa as saying that he accompanied his father Anzaa, to the 'Khorenique' castle to meet Hazrat Ali. It was a very cold day is winter had set in, and he found Ali in a very thin cotton garment, and the cold was making him shiver. Anzaa asked him, "O Commander of the Faithful ! God has reserved a share for you and for your family from the Baitul Mal (Government Treasury), why do you not make use of it ?" He replied, "O Anzaa ! I do not want anything from the treasury and this is the dress which 1 have brought with me from Medina."
Proofs regarding the merits of Ali.
(From Tarikh-al-Khulafa of Jalaluddin-as-Suyuti- as translated from the orignal Arabic by Major H. S. Jarret, Culcutta edition, 1881)
1. The Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal says : There hath not come down to us regarding the merits of any one of the Companions of the Apostle of God, what hath been transmitted concerning Ali. (Al Hakim).
2. Ibn Asakir from Ibn Abbas says : There hath not been revealed in the Book of God (Quran) regarding any one what bath been revealed concerning Ali, and that three hundred verses have been revealed concerning Ali.
3. At-Tabrani and Ibn Abi Hatim record from Ibn Abbas that he said : The Lord never revealed the words '0 True Believers' but that Ali was understood to be the Lord and chief of them; and verily the Lord hath reproved the Companions of the Prophet in various places, but bath never mentioned Ali save with approval.
4. At-Tirmizhi, An-Nasai and Ibn Maja from Habshi b. Jonada say that the Apostle of God said : Ali is a part of me and I of Ali.
5. At-Tabrani records in the Awsat from Jabir b. Abdallah that the Apostle of God said : The people are of various stocks but I and Ali are of one stock.
6. At-Tabrani records in the Awsat and Saghir from Umme-Selma that she narrated, 'I heard the Apostle of God say : Ali is with the Quran and the Quran with Ali, they shall not be divided until they arrive at the fountain of Kausar in Paradise.'
7. Ibn Sa'd records on the authority of Ali that he said : By Allah a verse of the Quran was never revealed but I know regarding what it was revealed and where it'was revealed and concerning whom it was revealed, for my Lord hath given unto me a wise heart and an eloquent tongue.
8. Ibn Sa'd and others on the authority of Aby Tofail record that Ali said : Ask ye me regarding the Book of God, for verily there is not a verse but I know whether it was revealed by night or by day, in the plains or on the mountains.
9. At-Tirmizhi and Al-Hakim record from Ali that the Apostle of God said : I am the City of Knowledge and Ali is its gate.
10. Ibn Mas'ud says that the Prophet said : To look upon Ali is Devotion.
11. Ibn Asakir on the authority of Caliph Abubakr records that the Prophet said : Looking upon Ali is worship.
12. Muslim records on the authority of Ali that he said : By Him who hath cleft the seed and created the soul, verily the Prophet promised me that none but a true believer should love me, and none but a hypocrite hate me.
13. At-Tirmizhi from Abu Sa'id al Khudri says that he said : We used to distinguish the hypocrites by their hatred of Ali.
14. At-Tabrani from Umme Selma says that the Apostle of God said : He who hath loved Ali, verily he hath loved me, and he who hated Ali, verily he hath hated me, and who hath hated me, he hath hated the Lord.
15. Abu Ya'la and Al-Bazzar from Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas say that the Apostle of God said : Who grieveth Ali, grieveth me.
16. Ahmad records and Al Hakim verifies it on the authority of Umme Selma that she narrated, 'I heard the Apostle of God say : He who hath reviled Ali, verily, he hath reviled me.'
17. Sai'd b. Al-Mosyyeb says that Omar b. Al-Khattab used to beg God to preserve him from a perplexing case NA hen the father of Al-Hasan was not present to decide; and that Omar said : None of the Companions used to say 'ask ye of me', except Ali.
18. At-Tabrani says in the Awsat from Ibn Abbas that he said : Ali possessed 18 eminent qualities which belonged to no other of his people.
19. Al-Bazzar records on the authority of Sa'd, that the Apostle of God said to Ali : It is not lawful for anyone to be in the mosque, while under the obligation of performing a total ablution, except for me and for thee.
20. Abu Ya'Ia from Abu-Horeira says that Omar b. al-Khattab said : Verily, Ali hath been endowed with three qualities, of which had I but one, it would be more precious to me than were I given high bred camels. It was asked of him what they were; he replied : His marriage with Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet ; his remaining in the mosque while that is permitted to him, which is not lawful for me; and his carrying the Standard on the day of Khaibar.
21. The two Sheikhs (Bokhari and Muslim) record on the authority of Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas that the Apostle of God left Ali b. Abi Talib behind as his Viceregent
during the expedition of Tabuk, and Ali said, "O Apostle of God, dost thou leave me behind among the women and children ?" He replied : "Art thou not content to be to me in relation of Aaron to Moses, save that there shalt be no prophet after me?"
22. And from Sahl b. Sa'd that the Apostle of God said on the day of Khaibar : I will surely give the Standard tomorrow to a man, at whose hands the Lord will give victory, one who loveth God and His prophet and whom God and his prophet love; and the people passed the night in perplexity as to the one among them to whom it would be given. And when they entered upon the dawn, they went early to the Apostle of God, each one of them hoping that it would be given to him, but he said : Where is Ali the son of Abu Talib ? They said to him, 'He complaineth of pain in his eyes.' He replied, 'Then send for him,' and they brought him and the Apostle of God applied his saliva upon his eyes and prayed for him, and he was healed so that it was as if he had no pain, and he gave him the Standard.
23. Muslim records on II e authority of Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas, that when this verse 'Let us call together, our sons and your sons etc. Sur. iii-54 was revealed, the Apostle of God summoned Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husain, and said, '0 God! these are my family.'
24. At-Tabrani records in the Awsat and Abu No'aim in the Dalael on the authority of Zadan that Ali was relating a tradition when a man accused him of speaking falsely, and Ali said to him, 'Shall I curse thee if I have lied' and he said 'curse' and Ali cursed him, and he did not quit the place till his sight left him.
25. Abul Qasim-al-Zajjaji narrates in his Dictations that Ali wrote a work on the principles of the Arabic language and the Grammar of the Arabic language.
Ali's superiority recognised by the Holy Prophet
The Holy Prophet recognised the superiority of Ali in many of his sayings. The most important of them are :
1. "Ali would appear to the dwellers of paradise as a morning star."
2. Addressing his daughter, Fatima, the Holy Prophet said, "O thou daughter of mine! Of all the creatures in this world, God has selected two persons, one of them is your father and the other is your husband."
3. "Whosoever wants to make his life and death like that of mine and is desirous of entering heaven, it behoves him to befriend Ali because he would neither let his friends be ejected from paradise nor allow them to enter there in ignorance."
4. Addressing his companion. Omar, the Holy Prophet said, "O thou Omar ! Should you behold that Ali is on one side and the rest of the world on the other, surely it will be incumbent on you that you should follow Ali because he would never lead any one to the path of destruction and will never relinquish the path of right."
5. The Holy Prophet in one of his Khutbas said, "God has so much exalted my brother Ali that his numerous virtues could not be counted easily : whosoever from amongst you narrated one of his excellences, God will forgive his past and future sins; and whosoever
will record one of his excellences, the angels will bless him as long as his writing remains; whosoever will read about his virtues with eyes, the sins of the eye will be forgiven to him. Beware ! That man is not steadfast in faith who does not love Ali and does not shun his enemies."