Name: Ali ibne Abi
Abu Talib bin Abdul Muttalib bin Hashim.
Fatimah bint Asad bin Hashim bin Abd Munaf.
Abul Hasan and Husayn, Abu Turab
Al-Wasi, Amir al-Mu'minin
He was born in the Ka'ba , in thirty 'Am al-Fil (the year of the
He was martyred by the Khwariji named Abd al-Rahman ibn
Muljam at Kufa during the month of Ramadhan in the fortieth year of
Hijrah and is buried in Najaf on the outskirts of Kufa.
Amir al-mu'minln Ali (upon whom
be peace) was the son of Abu Talib, the Shaykh of the Banu Hashim. Abu Talib
was the uncle and guardian of the Holy Prophet (sawas) and the person who
had brought the Prophet (sawas) to his house and raised him like his own
son. After the Prophet (sawas) was chosen for his prophetic mission, Abu
Talib continued to support him and repelled from him the evil that came from
the infidels among the Arabs and especially the Quraysh.
According to well-known
traditional accounts Ali was born ten years before the commencement of the
prophetic mission of the Prophet (sawas). When six years old, as a result of
famine in and around Mecca, he was requested by the Prophet (sawas) to leave
his father's house and come to the house of his cousin, the Prophet (sawas).
There he was placed directly under the guardianship and custody of the Holy
A few years later, when the Prophet (sawas) was endowed with the Divine gift
of prophecy and for the first time received the Divine revelation in the
cave of Hira', as he left the cave to return to town and his own house he
met Ali on the way. He told him what had happened and Ali accepted the new
faith. Again in a gathering when the Holy Prophet (sawas) had brought his
relatives together and invited them to accept his religion, he said the
first person to accept his call would be his vicegerent and inheritor and
deputy. The only person to rise from his place and accept the faith was Ali
and the Prophet (sawas) accepted his declaration of faith. Therefore Ali was
the first man in Islam to accept the faith and is the first among the
followers of the Prophet (sawas) to have never worshipped other than the One
Ali was always in the company of
the Prophet (sawas) until the Prophet (sawas) migrated from Mecca to Medina.
On the night of the migration to Medina (hijrah) when the infidels had
surrounded the house of the Prophet (sawas) and were determined to invade
the house at the end of the night and cut him to pieces while he was in bed,
Ali slept in place of the Prophet (sawas) while the Prophet (sawas) left the
house and set out for Medina. After the departure of the Prophet (sawas),
according to his wish Ali gave back to the people the trusts and charges
that they had left with the Prophet (sawas). Then he went to Medina with his
mother, the daughter of the Prophet (sawas), and two other women.
In Medina also Ali was
constantly in the company of the Prophet (sawas) in private and in public.
The Prophet (sawas) gave Fatimah, his beloved daughter from Khadijah, to Ali
as his wife and when the Prophet (sawas) was creating bonds of brotherhood
among his companions he selected Ali as his brother.
Ali was present in all the wars
in which the Prophet (sawas) participated, except the battle of Tabuk when
he was ordered to stay in Medina in place of the Prophet (sawas). He did not
retreat in any battle nor did he turn his face away from any enemy. He never
disobeyed the Prophet (sawas), so that the Prophet (sawas) said, "Ali is
never separated from the Truth nor the Truth from Ali."
On the day of the death of the
Prophet (sawas), Ali was thirty-three years old. Although he was foremost in
religious virtues and the most outstanding among the companions of the
Prophet (sawas), he was pushed aside from the caliphate on the claim that he
was too young and that he had many enemies among the people because of the
blood of the polytheists he had spilled in the wars fought alongside the
Prophet (sawas). Therefore Ali was almost completely cut off from public
affairs. He retreated to his house where he began to train competent
individuals in the Divine sciences and in this way he passed the twenty-five
years of the caliphate of the first three caliphs who succeeded the Prophet
(sawas). When the third caliph was killed, people gave their allegiance to
him and he was chosen as caliph.
During his caliphate of nearly
four years and nine months, Ali followed the way of the Prophet (sawas) and
gave his caliphate the form of a spiritual movement and renewal and began
many different types of reforms. Naturally, these reforms were against the
interests of certain parties that sought their own benefit. As a result, a
group of the companions (foremost among whom were Talhah and Zubayr, who
also gained the support of A'ishah, and especially Mu'awiyah) made a pretext
of the death of the third caliph to raise their heads in opposition and
began to revolt and rebel against Ali.
In order to quell the civil
strife and sedition, Ali fought a war near Basra, known as the "Battle of
the Camel," against Talhah and Zubayr in which Ummul Mu'mineen A'ishah,
was also involved. He fought another war against Mu'awiyah on the border of
Iraq and Syria which lasted for a year and a half and is famous as the
"Battle of Siffin." He also fought against the Khawarij at Nahrawan, in a
battle known as the "Battle of Nahrawan." Therefore, most of the days of
Ali's caliphate were spent in overcoming internal opposition. Finally, in
the morning of the 19th of Ramadan in the year 40 A.H., while praying in the
mosque of Kufa, he was wounded by one of the Khawarij and died as a martyr
during the night of the 21st of Ramadan.
According to the testimony of
friend and foe alike, Ali had no shortcomings from the point of view of
human perfection. And in the Islamic virtues he was a perfect example of the
upbringing and training given by the Prophet (sawas). The discussions that
have taken place concerning his personality and the books written on this
subject by Shi'ites, Sunnis and members of other religions, as well as the
simply curious outside any distinct religious bodies, are hardly equalled in
the case of any other personality in history.
In science and knowledge Ali was
the most learned of the companions of the Prophet (sawas), and of Muslims in
general. In his learned discourses he was the first in Islam to open the
door for logical demonstration and proof and to discuss the "divine
sciences" or metaphysics (ma'arif-i ilahlyah). He spoke concerning the
esoteric aspect of the Quran and devised Arabic grammar in order to preserve
the Quran's form of expression. He was the most eloquent Arab in speech (as
has been mentioned in the first part of this book).
The courage of Ali was
proverbial. In all the wars in which he participated during the lifetime of
the Prophet (sawas), and also afterward, he never displayed fear or anxiety.
Although in many battles such as those of Uhud, Hunayn, Khaybar and Khandaq
the aides to the Prophet (sawas) and the Muslim army trembled in fear or
dispersed and fled, he never turned his back to the enemy. Never did a
warrior or soldier engage Ali in battle and come out of it alive. Yet, with
full chivalry he would never slay a weak enemy nor pursue those who fled. He
would not engage in surprise attacks or in turning streams of water upon the
enemy. It has been definitively established historically that in the Battle
of Khaybar in the attack against the fort he reached the ring of the door
and with sudden motion tore off the door and cast it away. Also on the day
when Mecca was conquered the Prophet (sawas) ordered the idols to be broken.
The idol "Hubal" was the largest idol in Mecca, a giant stone statue placed
on the top of the Ka'bah. Following the command of the Prophet (sawas), Ali
placed his feet on the Prophet (sawas)'s shoulders, climbed to the top of
the Ka'bah, pulled "Hubal" from its place and cast it down.
Ali was also without equal in
religious asceticism and the worship of God. In answer to some who had
complained of Ali's anger toward them, the Prophet (sawas) said, "Do not
reproach Ali for he is in a state of Divine ecstasy and bewilderment.
" Abu Darda'', one of the
companions, one day saw the body of Ali in one of the palm plantations of
Medina laying on the ground as stiff as wood. He went to Ali's house to
inform his noble wife, the daughter of the Prophet (sawas), and to express
his condolences. The daughter of the Prophet (sawas) said, "My cousin (Ali)
has not died. Rather, in fear of God he has fainted. This condition
overcomes him often." There are many stories told of Ali's kindness to the
lowly, compassion for the needy and the poor, and generosity and munificence
toward those in misery and poverty. Ali spent all that he earned to help the
poor and the needy, and himself lived in the strictest and simplest manner.
Ali loved agriculture and spent much of his time digging wells, planting
trees and cultivating fields. But all the fields that he cultivated or wells
that he built he gave in endowment (waqf) to the poor. His endowments, known
as the "alms of Ali," had the noteworthy income of twenty-four thousand gold
dinars toward the end of his life.