Amir Al-mu'minin Imam Ali Ibn Abu Talib (a.s.)
NAME AND PARENTAGE
From the family of Abraham and the tribe of QURAISH, IMAM ALI, a descendant of HASHIM, was the illustrious son of ABU TALIB son of ABD AL-MUTTALIB, the latter being the grandfather both of IMAM ALI and Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.). Ali father ABU TALIB is the person who raised Prophet Muhammad (p), and Ali's mothers is Fatima daughter of ASAD, also a lady of the HASHEMITE clan. She treated Prophet Muhammad (p) so affectionately that the Prophet considered her as a second mother.
BIRTH AND TITLES
IMAM ALI enjoyed the unique honor of being born within the precincts of the KA'BA, on the thirteenth of RAJAB, thirty years after the Invasion of the Elephant (May, 600 A.D.), twenty-three years before the HIJRAH. His parents, ABU TALIB and Fatima daughter of ASAD, were overjoyed by such a blessing of God, and Prophet Muhammad (p), then 30 years old, was very anxious to see his newborn cousin. Probably he read in the babe's face that he would strengthen the Cause of Islam and provide his right hand in the sacred mission ahead. Due to his accomplishments, he earned several titles the most famous of them include: AMUR AL-MU'MININ (Commander of the Faithful), AS-SIDDIQ AL-AKBAR (The Greatest Testifier), IMAM AL-MUTTAQIN (Leader of the Righteous), AL-FARUQ AL-A'ZAM (The Greater Distinguisher between Right and Wrong), YA'SUB AL-MUSLIMIN (The Elite among the Muslim),
AL-MURTADA (The One whom God Pleased), AL-WASI (The Vicegerent) WALIIALLAH (The Friend of God), SAYYID AL-WASIYYIN (Master of the Successors of Prophets), QASIM AN-NAR WAL-JANNAH (Distributor of Hell and Paradise), WARITH RASUL-ALLAH (Heir of the Messenger of God), KHALIFAT RASULLALLAH (Successor of the Messenger of God), HAIDER AL-KARRAR (The Oft-charging Knight), KHATAM AL-WASIYYIN (The Seal of the Successors of Prophets), AS-SAFI (The Pure), SAQI AL-KAWTHAR (Waiter of the Pool of KAWTHAR), YADALLAH (The Hand of God), ASADALLAH AL-GHALIB (The Victorious Lion of God).
UPBRINGING AND INSTRUCTION
IMAM ALI was brought up and instructed under the direct care of the Prophet (p) who spent most of his time imparting knowledge and teaching the principles of morality to his young cousin. IMAM ALI (A.S.) himself said: "I followed the Prophet (p) like the little one of the camel following its mother". Ali was a gifted child, with physical and mental potentials. Contrary to the common custom prevailing then, Imam Ali never prostrated before an idol; this is why Muslims say "KARRAMA-ALALHU WAJHAHU" that is, Allah safeguarded his face against prostrating before idols, after mentioning his name. The instruction of the Prophet (p) soon turned him into an accomplished, learned and highly intellectual youth. At the age of ten, he was wise enough to bear testimony to the Prophet-hood of Prophet Muhammad (p) and to promise him his full assistance.
But the occasion was not all merry. Prophet Muhammad (p) was to bring such radical changes in the prevailing religion, culture, society and thinking that none could be expected to help him in his mission. The environment, age, atmosphere, his nation - all were hostile to him. It was only Ali who bore testimony to his claims and promised to support his cause. The Prophet (p), too, declared that 'Ali was his minister and the executor of his will. He enjoined on all the believers to obey 'Ali. The second person to support his mission was his wife KHADIJA, the first lady of Islam, who promoted the cause of the faith through her wealth for a long time.
HARDSHIPS AND AGONIES
As soon as Prophet Muhammad (p) declared his mission of Prophet-hood, all the town residents turned against him. The same MECCANS who, until then, called him "truthful" and "trustworthy", now began to label him as "mad", "magician", "insane", and the like. They jeered and hurled stones and rubbish at him. In those days of misery and misfortune, it was Imam Ali (as) who did not shrink from helping and protecting the Messenger of God.
During the Battle of UHUD, the tables were turned and the victory turned into a defeat. MUS'AB IBN UMAYR, the Muslims' standard-bearer who bore facial resemblance to the Prophet (p), was killed, and the cry went that the Prophet (p) was killed. Most Muslim combatants were disheartened and they ran away for their lives, yet Imam Ali (as) remained to protect the Prophet (p) who had fallen into a pothole after 'ABDALALH IBN QAMI advanced towards him and struck him with his sword on the head with such force that two links of his own helmet were stuck in his face. Two of the Prophet's upper teeth were broken by the stone of another infidel. It was Imam Ali (as) who dashed like a lion to fight ABDALLAH IBN QAMI and all others alone and subdue them. When the Prophet (p) saw such a sacrificing spirit of Imam Ali, he asked him why he did not flee like others. Imam Ali (as) replied: "should I become KAFIR after accepting Islam?" The fighting was so intense that Imam Ali's sword broke down under the weight of the battle, and the Prophet (p) gave him his own sword "DHU AL-FIQAR". It was then some eye-witnesses reported, that a voice was heard from above saying: "LA FATA ILLA ALI; LA SAYFA ILLA DHU AL-FIQAR", that is, "There is no brave youth like 'Ali; there is no sword like DHU AL-FIQAR".
After three years of painful exile in the ravine of SHI'B ABU TALIB, ABU TALIB died in Mecca. The death of such an affectionate and sacrificing protector passed very heavily on the Prophet's heart and he resolved to migrate to Medina. The enemies came to know about his intention and they planned to assassinate him after besieging his house at night. It was decided by the pagan MECCAN clans that every clan should provide one man and that they should collectively assault the Prophet (p) as soon as he came out of is house. The Prophet (p) was apprised of the danger and he explained the situation to Imam Ali (as) asking him to stay behind. Sleep in his bed, wrap himself in his green covering-sheet, in order to fool the blood-thirsty foes and thus provide the Prophet (p) with the chance to safety. When Imam Ali (as) heard that his life was to be the ransom for the holy Prophet's life, he at once prostrated to God to thank Him for this unique honor.
It was the first SAJDAH of SHUKR (prostration of thanks) in Islam. Imam Ali (as) hated to part with the Prophet (p), so he asked him why he decided to let him stay in Mecca and not accompany him. The Prophet (p) said: "Are you not pleased that you are to me like Aaron to Moses, except that there will be no Prophet after me?" Imam Ali (as) slept soundly on the bed of the Prophet (p) while the Prophet (p) walked out of the house under the infidels' very noses. Coming out of the house, the Prophet (p) recited the first few verses of SURAT YASIN (Chapter 36 of the holy QUR'AN), and threw a handful of dust over their heads so none of the enemies could see him going out. He made his way safely to Medina. The enemies, armed with swords and lances, were resolved to assault at the first breath of dawn. When they did, they were puzzled to find Imam Ali (as) wrapped in the sheet of their intended victim. Sternly they asked Imam Ali (as) to tell them the whereabouts of Prophet Muhammad (p), and sternly Imam Ali (as) replied that the Prophet (p) had gone where his God wished him to be. This act of chivalric sacrifice is approvingly mentioned by God in his holy Book in verse 207 of Chapter 2. Imam Ali (as) remained in Mecca for three days. He returned the trusts, kept by the Prophet (p), to their owners; then, taking the ladies of the family with him, he too set out for Medina. He journeyed on foot for days the entire distance and joined the Prophet (p) at QIBA while his feet were bleeding. The Prophet (p) had full trust in the faithfulness of Imam Ali (as) and Imam Ali (as) proved that he was worthy of his trust.
On the fifteenth of RAJAB of the first year of HIJRA, Fatima (as) daughter of the Prophet (p) was married to Imam Ali (as) as instructed by God. The marriage of the daughter of that Master of the world and of the Hereafter was performed in the simplest manner. Her dowry, which was 47 ounces of silver, was paid by Imam Ali (as) for which he sold his armor. It was thus demonstrated that the Muslims should never commit extravagance when they marry. The Prophet (p) could not afford to give his cherished daughter a marriage gift other than two earthen pitchers, a pair of palm-leave pillows, a leather-bed, a spinning wheel, a hand-mill and a water-skin.
LIFE AT HOME
The marriage life of Imam Ali (as) and Fatima (as) was the finest example of the behavior of a Muslim family. They both demonstrated how husband and wife can be each other's companion till death. They divided house work between them and helped each other with domestic chores. Their unfurnished house was totally void of any luxury or decoration except the composure and flavor of mutual love and confidence. Imam Ali (as) used to go in the morning to water the gardens for the Jews of Medina and come back in the evening with the hard-earned wages to buy barley so that Fatima (as) might grind it into rough flour then bake it. She swept the house, spun the cotton for the garments of the family, partaking in the struggle of life.
A complete volume can be written about the contributions of Imam Ali (as) in the martial field. He proved his mettle in the battles of BADR, UHUD (which took place in the next year after BADR), in the battles of the Trench (5 A.H), KHAYBER (7 A.H.) and HUNAYN (8 A.H.). He performed deeds of matchless bravery and swordsmanship. In nearly all these battles, he was also the standard-bearer. There were other encounters as well, where the Prophet (p) sent him single-handed and he displayed great gallantry, fortitude and courage. He also served in the armies raised by the three preceding caliphs (to whom he was more of an advisor than a soldier) without any distinction in ranks. AR-RIYAD AL-NADIRA, vol. 2, p. 149 records that the second caliph 'UMER used to say: "O Almighty God! Don't involve me in any difficulty when Ali (as) is not with me". IZALAT AL-KHAFA', vol. 2, p. 268 quotes 'UMER saying: "LAWLA ALI (AS) LA HALAKA 'UMER", that is, "Had it not been for Ali (as), UMER would have perished". The third caliph, UTHMAN, relied on Imam Ali (as) in his bid to compile the holy QUR'AN, and Imam Ali (as) discharged his responsibility most faithfully, thus preserving and protecting the text of the holy QUR'AN for all Muslim generations till the Day of Judgment. During the caliphate of Imam Ali (as) he had to fight during the battles of JAMAL and SIFFIN
The MECCAN infidels did not let the Prophet live peacefully in Medina where he had taken shelter. They harassed, beat, imprisoned and killed his followers in Mecca. In addition, they made preparations to attack him in Medina with a well-equipped and trained army. The Prophet was morally bound to save his MEDENITE supporters from the flames of war, for they h ad given him shelter under the most precarious circumstances. He avoided being besieged while in the city since that would have disturbed the peaceful life of its inhabitants especially the women and children. The Messenger of God had a limited number of three hundred and thirteen brave though poorly armed supporters who had to face a well-equipped and trained army of one thousand strong. So he decided to battle the enemy outside the city limits. It was on the 17th of Ramadan, 2 A.H. (624 A.D.) that the first battle was fought at BADR, in which the Prophet arrayed his relatives in the foremost rank. His dear cousin 'UBAYDAH IBN AL-HARITH IBN 'ABD AL-MUTTALIB fell fighting. Imam Ali (as), then twenty-five, appeared in the field for the first time in his life but it was he to whom Islamic history owes its first victory. Seventy dead MECCANS was the toll, of whom thirty-five were killed by Imam Ali (as).
In the Battle of the Trench, besides showing dauntless courage before his distinguished enemy AMR IBN ABD WUDD, the acknowledged warrior of Arabia, he displayed feats of chivalrous nobility. Having struck down the great warrior 'AMR, who in desperate hatred spat on his victor's face, Imam Ali (as) backed away from the fatally wounded foe. The insulting act of 'AMR had infuriated Imam Ali (as), so, in order to keep the sacred JIHAD unbolted from the sentiments of personal indignation, he left his enemy for a few moments till his fury dissipated. Having subdued his fury, he slew him.
Yet Imam Ali (as) took away neither the costly armor nor the clothes of his opponent as was the common custom in Arabia then. He did not like to insult the slain warrior by leaving his dead body unburied. So when AMR'S sister came to mourn her brother and she saw him lying on the ground with his magnificent armor and garments on, she could not help admiring the nobleness of the slayer. She grew calm and said: "Had someone else killed my brother, I would have kept weeping for the rest of my life; but I am patient and composed to find that he has been slain by such a noble person as Ali who did not like to disgrace a fallen foe". On other occasions, too, Imam Ali (as) never hurt the women or children, nor did he ever think of taking booty. The true disciple of the Prophet kept his escutcheon spotless, and observed the rituals of battle gallantly.
SERVICES TO ISLAM
Besides JIHAD, Imam Ali (as) was always ready to serve the community, the Prophet, and the cause of Islam. The drafting of treaties, the writing of letters, the compilation of the holy QUR'AN, the recording of the revelations, etc. were mostly done by him. When the Messenger of Allah sent him to Yemen on a propagation mission, he performed his duty so well that the entire country embraced Islam. When the QUR'ANIC Chapter of BARA'A was revealed, the Prophet was instructed by God to send Imam Ali (as) to convey its injunctions to the infidels, which he did. He also served the Prophet and even thought it an honor to stitch his shoes.
The status Imam Ali (as) enjoyed in Islamic theology is quite lofty. There are numerous verses in the holy QUR'AN which praise him. The following are excerpts which represent a mere drop in the ocean: According to the most authoritative books of traditions, one day the Prophet of Islam assembled Imam Ali (as) Fatima (as), Imam HASAN and Imam HUSAIN (AS) under a robe and prayed God to purify his household (AHL AL-BAYT) whereupon verse 33 of Chapter 33 was revealed. It is referred to as the verse of purification and it states: "God only wishes to remove all abomination from you, ye Members of the Family (of Muhammad, AHL AL-BAYT) and make you pure and spotless". (QUR'AN: 33:33)
In his grand exegesis, IMAM AL-THA'LABI, who quotes ABAN IBN TAGHLIB citing IMAM JA'FAR AS-SADIQ (AS, IMAM ALI (AS) and his descendants are referred to in the holy QUR'AN as:
1- "Allah's Rope" concerning whom He has said: "Hold ye together to Allah's Rope and do not be divided" (QUR'AN: 3: 103). Chapter 11 of IBN HAJAR'S AL-SAWA'IQ AL-MUHIRQA cites this verse as number 5 of the QUR'ANIC verses revealed in praise of Imam Ali (as) and the rest of the Prophet's AHL AL-BAYT.
2- "the truthful": The HAFIZ ABU NA'IM, and also MUWAFFAQ AHMED, as quoted by IBN HAJAR on p. 90 of the same work, testify that Imam Ali (as) and the Imams among his offspring are "the truthful" concerning whom the Almighty has said: "Be ye all with the Truthful" (QUR'AN: 9:119).
3- "Allah's path" about which He has said: "Do not follow different paths lest they should divert you from Allah's Path" (QUR'AN: 6:153)
4- The ones "entrusted with authority": According to AL-KULAYNI, IMAM ALI (AS) and the Imams among his offspring are described by the Almighty as the ones "entrusted with authority among you" (QUR'AN, 4:59)
5- The "custodians of Revelation". According to 'ALLAMA AL-BAHRANI, IBN MARDAWAYH, AL-AYYASHI, AL-THAN'LABI, AL-QAWSHAJI, AL-SAFI, ALI (AS) IBN IBRAHIM, AL-HAMAWAINI, IMAM AL-WAHIDI, AL-SHIBLINJI, AL-DAYLAMI, ABU NA'IM, IBN AL-MAGHAZILI, IBN HAJAR, AL-KULAYNI, MUJAHID, YA'QUB IBN SUFYAN, IBN AL-NAJJAR, SHAIKH AL-TUSI, AL-BUKHARI (p. 107, vol. 3, of original Arabic text), AL-HAKIM, KA'B IBN AJRA, who all are the most reliable SUNNI traditionalists, authors, scholars, researchers and historians, in modern and ancient times, IMAM ALI (AS) and the Imams among his progeny are the "Custodians of Revelation" about whom the Almighty says: "Ask the custodians of Revelation when you do not know" (QU'AN, 21:7).
6- "The Believers" about whom He says: "Whoever differs from the Messenger, after guidance has been made clear to him, following paths other than those of the Believers. We shall leave him in the path he has chosen and place him in Hell, what an evil refuge" (QUR'AN, 4:115)
7- The "guides" about whom He says: "You are a Warner, and for each nation there is a guide" (QUR'AN, 13:7). They are among those upon whom Allah has showered His blessings and to whom he has referred in the FATIHA and throughout the Glorious QUR'AN in saying: "Guide us unto the Right Path, the Path of those You have blessed", (QUR'AN, 1:6-7).
8- The Almighty has also said: "These are with those whom Allah has blessed from among the prophets, the truthful, the martyrs and the righteous" (QUR'AN, 4:69).
9- These and other scholars testify that Imam Ali (as) and the Imams among his offspring are also referred to in this verse: "Your Master is Allah and His Messenger and the Believers who uphold prayers, and pay the ZAKAT even while prostrating; whoever takes for his Master Allah and His Messenger and the Believers, then the Party of Allah are indeed the victorious" (QUR'AN, 5:55-56). God has made salvation for those who repent and do good deeds dependent upon accepting their guided authority, saying: "I am most Forgiving towards those who repent, believe, do good deeds, and receive guidance" (QUR'AN, 20:82). Their WILAYAT is part of the "trust" about which the Almighty says: "We offered the trust unto the heavens, the earth and the mountains, but they all refused to bear it out of extreme fear, then man bore; he is most unjust, most ignorant" (QUR'AN, 33:72). 10- They are the "peace" wherein Allah has commanded everyone to enter, saying: "O ye who believe! Enter in peace all of you, and do not follow the steps of Satan" (QUR'AN, 2:208).
11- Imam Ali (as) and his chosen descendants are the "blessing" concerning whom Allah the Sublime has said: "You will be questioned on that Day about the Blessing" (QUR'AN, 102:8).
12- The incident of GHADIR KHUMM is referred to in the section about the holy Prophet in the holy QUR'AN when the Almighty God emphasized the conveying of His Message there and then, in tone which sounded like threatening, saying: "O Messenger! Convey that which has been revealed unto you from your Lord, and if you do not do it, then you have not conveyed His Message at all, and Allah shall protect you from (mischievous) people" (QUR'AN, 5:70).
The Messenger of God, peace be upon him and his Progeny, conveyed it on the Day of GHADIR KHUMM, having reached its plains and delivered the Message, whereupon God revealed this congratulating verse. 13- "Today have I completed your religion for you and perfected My blessing unto you and accepted Islam as your religion" (QUR'AN, 5:4) thus making it clear that in order to have a perfect faith in Islam, one must follow Imam Ali (as) and his progeny, the holy AHL AL-BAYT. The Prophet, too, expressed his appreciation of Imam Ali (as) and had the greatest regard for him in view of his conspicuous services and rare merits. Among his sayings praising Imam Ali (as) are these:
- Ali is from me, and I am from Ali.
- I am the city of knowledge, and Ali is its gate.
- The best judge among you is Ali.
- You are in the same position with respect to me as Aaron (HARUN) was to Moses (MUSA).
- Ali is more loved by God and His Messenger than anyone else.
- Whoever fights Ali fights me.
When the doors of all the houses overlooking the Prophet's Mosque were closed, that of Imam Ali (as) was permitted to remain open just as that of the holy Prophet (p) When the Fraternity was established between each MECCAN emigrant and a MEDENITE ANSAR, the Prophet declared that Imam Ali (as) was his brother in this life and the life Hereafter. Upon returning from his last pilgrimage (HIJJAT AL-WADA'), he proclaimed before the numerous multitude that: "Ali is the master of whomsoever I have been the master". All Muslims present there congratulated Imam Ali (as) and realized that the Prophet had proclaimed him to be his successor.
THE PROPHET'S DEATH
It was ten years after the HIJRAH when the Prophet suffered from a fever which proved fatal. During that time of great calamity for the Prophet's family, Imam Ali (as) was always by is side, nursing and looking after him. The Prophet, too, did not part from him. Just before breathing his last (on May 25, 632 A.D.), he called Imam Ali (as) to get closer to him. He hugged him, talked with him slowly for a long time and conveyed to him his last will. When the Prophet passed into the Mercy of God, Imam Ali's hand was on his bosom.
AFTER THE PROPHET'S DEATH
Imam Ali (as), who always kept company with the Prophet, could not leave his sacred body unattended. Assisted by a number of HASHEMITES and a few true companions, therefore, washed it and covered it with the burial shrouds. Imam Ali's saddest moment ever was when he finally lowered the corpse of his beloved Prophet and cousin into the grave. Having performed this last burial service, he came to know that some companions, who did not bother to even attend the Prophet's funeral, had managed to proclaim ABU BAKR as the Prophet's successor, or caliph.
Yet Imam Ali (as), who had always kept a keen eye on the progress of the Cause of Islam, publicly showed no signs of indignation at being deprived of his right to succeed the Prophet as the Prophet himself had proclaimed in the presence of a great multitude only two months earlier. He, therefore, suffered the shock patiently, avoiding to be drive him. Instead of fanning the flames of battle among the Muslims themselves who had only recently lost their Prophet, he sought shelter in patience and fortitude. ABU SUFYAN provokingly instigated him to recover his right, but he remained silent, rejecting his offer of military assistance. Imam Ali (as) knew fully well ABU SUFYAN'S real and evil intentions. Besides being calm and patient while in the company of shrewd and cunning people, Imam Ali (as) expressed his readiness to cooperate with the new regime, however artfully it was established. Deprived of the power and prominence, lavished upon him as long as the Prophet lived, he offered his sound counsel whenever ABU BAKR, UMER or UTHMAN, solicited him. Yet these caliphs never gave him a chance to display his talents in the field of administration or in commanding an army, for which job he was so obviously qualified.
Imam Ali (as), therefore, silently busied himself in the domains of spiritual and scholarly services to Islam. He arranged the QUR'AN chronologically, with references to the abrogating as well as the abrogated verses, the clear and the multi-faceted ones. He encouraged the Muslims to develop a taste for academic and scientific researches. He wrote useful treatises on jurisprudence, commentary and KALAM (rationalistic interpretation). Some of his sermons, speeches, lectures and directives have been compiled by AS-SAYYID ASH-SHARIF AR-RADI in the form of a volume commonly known as NAHJ AL-BALAGHA (the path of eloquence). This book contains the best masterpieces of Arabic oratory. It abounds in wisdom,
knowledge and spiritual inspiration. Its eloquent phrases are endowed with the vigor of sublime oratory, reinforced by pairs of rhythmic rhymes. It contains rules and regulations of conduct for the individual as well as the society. It contains codes of moral virtues and guidance for civil administration and military tactics. Imam Ali (as) also prepared a group of such scholastically inclined disciples as could pave the path to the academic and scientific development of the nation. He laid the foundation of syntax, regulated the grammar and formulated the rhetoric. Thus he taught the lesson that even in the days of adversity, a great mind, though robbed of power and prowess, should not neglect its intellectual duty. He also instructed that in his quest for personal dignity, honor or position, a person should not trample upon national interests; rather, he ought to serve his nation and faith with all his might and means.
The way in which the first and second caliphs were "elected" encouraged to a great extent the spirit of tribalism which Islam vehemently fought. Even the second caliph, UMER IBN AL-KATTAB, himself admitted once, as quoted by AL-SHAHRISTANI in his AL-MILAL WANN-NIHAL, saying: "The allegiance to ABU BAKR was a calamity the oath of allegiance to another man without consulting all Muslims, then it will be a calamity which requires both men to be killed". For twenty-five years after the Prophet's death, Imam Ali (as) led a secluded life. After UTHMAN'S murder in 35 A.H. (655 A.D.), the much-troubled residents of Medina requested Imam Ali (as) to accept the caliphate. He strongly rejected their offer. Being fully aware of the circumstances which left nothing in the caliphate to be desired for, he answered them, as we read on p. 217, vol. 1, of NAHJ AL-BALAGHA, saying: "Leave me alone and seek someone else, for we are approaching an event the facets and hues of which are not pleasant to the heart nor to the mind. The horizons have been clouded, and evidences have been distorted.
Keep in mind that if I respond to your request, I shall direct you according to my own views, without listening to anyone who blames me for doing so. If you leave me, I will be just like anyone else, and I may endorse the appointment of the ruler of your choice, and it is better for you that I act as an advisor rather than as a ruler". But they continued insisting until he finally accepted, telling them clearly that he would act in accordance with the QUR'AN and the SUNNAH of the Prophet, showing no favor to anyone. The elderly chiefs of Medina accepted his conditions and the nation followed him. A few years later, however, their loyalty began to waver. The UMAYYADS and many others whose vile interests were endangered by his purely Islamic rule, plotted against him. Imam Ali (as) resolved, as his duty, to subdue them As a result, the battles of the Camel, SIFFIN and NAHRAWAN ensued in which Imam Ali (as) played the same role of a gallant warrior as he had done in the battles of BADR and UHUD, still remembered by many.
The first thing Imam Ali (as) did after being elected Caliph was to dismiss the corrupt governors previously appointed. They proved that they were not competent, and that their position was mainly due to their being relatives or fiends of the caliph who appointed them. Qualities of honesty and equity did not permit him to heed even the advice of his uncle IBN 'ABBAS who warned Imam Ali (as) of dire consequences. Some gave up the office without resistance while others revolted.
THE BATTLE OF JAMAL
TALHA IBN UBAYD-ALLAH, AZ-ZUBAIR IBN AL-AWWAM and 'A'ISHA, consort of the Prophet, who had all played an important role in the murder of UTHMAN, started accusing Imam Ali (as) of the same! 'A'ISHA was often heard saying; "UQTULU NA'THANAN FAQAD KAFAR", that is, "Kill NA'THAL (a bad name she chose for UTHMAN), for he has committed KUFR". With the help of the UMAYYADS, they collected an army and marched towards BASRAH. When Imam Ali (as) came to know about this hostility, he also marched there at the end of RABI' II, 36 A.H. A'ISHA was riding a huge camel and urging her men to fight,
hence "the Battle of Camel". A'ISHA'S army was composed of 30,000 well trained soldiers, while the men of Imam Ali (as) were 20,000. In vain did Imam Ali (as) try to convince A'ISHA to desist from waging a war between the Muslims. Victory was finally on the side of Imam Ali (as) who, when the war over, ordered his men to bury the dead and collect all the goods and weapons of the enemy at a certain place in the city. Then he made an announcement: "People may come and take their own goods and weapons back". In that battle, 13,000 of A'ISHA men and 5,000 of Imam Ali's men were killed as recorded on page 177, vol. 5 of MURUJ ADH-DHAHAB. Upon assisting her to alight from her camel, he said: "May God forgive you, Mother of the Believers…." Imam Ali (as) gave her 50,000 DIRHAMS and sent her very respectfully to Medina accompanied by forty women dressed in men's clothes.
THE BATTLE OF SIFFIN
Among the people who revolted against the Imam was MU'AWIYA IBN ABI SUFYAN, the powerful, wealthy and cunning governor of Syria. He had been governor since the days of UMER IBN AL-KHATTAB. At the time of the battle of JAMAL, he was inciting people against Imam Ali (as), and cursing him from the pulpit during Friday congregational prayers at which UTHMAN'S severed fingers were displayed before the congregation, attempting to thus convince people that Imam Ali (as) was responsible for the murder of UTHMAN. In reality, not only did Imam Ali (as) try to stop them but also sent both of his sons Imam HASAN and Imam HUSAIN (as) to try to stop the mobs when they assaulted UTHMAN'S house prior to murdering him. Imam HASAN received a sword-cut from his forehead while defending UTHMAN.
Imam Ali (as) made all possible efforts to prevail upon MU'AWIYA to desist him from armed conflict but the latter paid no heed. They met at SIFFIN, a place on the river Euphrates. MU'AWIYA tried to deprive the army of Imam Ali (as) of access to water but could not succeed. From the first of SAFAR, severe fighting took place which continued for seven days and nights. One day, Imam Ali (as) shouted: "O son of HIND (MU'AWIYA) why are you shedding the blood of Muslims? Come to the battlefield yourself and let us decide it between you and me". But MU'AWIYA knew the military prowess of Imam Ali (as) and did not respond to his challenge. Imam Ali (as) came to the filed disguised and challenged the enemy to a duel. AMR IBN AL-'AS did not recognize him. AMR had been appointed by UMER as governor of Egypt, accumulating a vast fortune which included, according to MURUJ ADH-DHAHAB,
vol. 3, p. 23, three hundred and twenty-five thousand DINARS in animal wealth, one thousand DIRHAMS, two hundred thousand DINARS' worth of crops Egypt, and his estate in WASIT Egypt, estimated at ten thousand DINARS. Imam Ali (as) knew that this wealth had not been accrued from the man's salary alone; therefore, he had to force him to leave office. AMR, therefore, came from Egypt to assist MU'AWIYA in Syria against Imam Ali (as). AMR came and recited a couplet: Imam Ali (as), still in disguise, also recited one. At once the rogue knew that it was Imam Ali (as), and he ran away. Imam Ali (as) hit him with a spear; he fell from his horse and raised both legs. Imam Ali (as) said: "Go, for the exposure of your private parts is your deliverer!" when defeat was nearing him, MU'AWIYA decided to ask fro pardon. In the Syrian army, cries of "surrender" and "forgive" were heard all over. In short, a very fierce battle was being fought. Finally, the soldiers in the army of MU'AWIYA started fleeing. Suddenly, AMR IBN AL'AS played a trick which really worked. He ordered his men to raise their copies of the holy QUR'AN on spearheads and shout "This book of the Almighty is between us". He meant that they should postpone the battle and decide according to the commandments of the holy QUR'AN. Imam Ali (as) men, on the other hand, pressured their leader to accept a ceasefire and decide the conflict according to the holy QUR'AN. On this Imam Ali (as) said: "MU'AWIYA, AMR IBN AL-'AS and their companions have nothing to do with religion. I am fighting them alone only because I want them to become true Muslims. Their raising of the copies of the holy QUR'AN is simply a fraudulent trick, nothing else". But they did listen; therefore, a declaration of armistice suspending fighting was announced.
Being thus occupied with continuous warfare, Imam Ali (as) could not bring about his reforms as fully as he wished. Yet during his brief reign of five years, he brightened the worn-off outline of simple Islamic living, justice, equality and honesty, earning a livelihood by the sweat of his brow. He had practically the power of a king but he wore patched garments and ate the most simple food consumed by the poorest of his subjects. He equally distributed among the people the revenues and other incomes levied by the state treasury.
Once his brother AQIL asked him to give him a bit more than the common shares. Imam Ali (as) rejected his request and said: "Had I possessed some wealth of my own, I would have given you more of it; but I have no right to give my relatives anything above their lot from the common wealth". He always tried to give priority in the distribution of treasury funds to the deserving destitute. He did not even keep the treasury candle burning for his own personal use.
It is a sad fact that this model of peace, equality, and Islamic civilization could not be tolerated by dishonestly ambitious persons. At the dawn of Ramadan 19, 40 A.H. (January 26, 661 A.D.), while leading the morning prayers at the KUFA MOSQUE, he was mortally wounded by a stroke of a poisoned sword. None could help admire his manly fortitude and forgiveness when his murderer was brought before him. He saw the wretched fellow's pale face and he had mercy on him. There and then he directed his two sons Imam HASAN and Imam HUSAIN (as) to be lenient to him, saying: "He is now your prisoner; so, don't be harsh on him. Give him from your own food to eat. If I recover, I shall deal with him myself-punishing him or forgiving him- as I choose. If I die, and you want to avenge my murder, then slay him with only one single stroke of the sword. Do not ever think of severing his hands or legs for that is against the teachings of Islam.
For two days Imam Ali (as) suffered from extreme pain. The poison of the sword spread throughout his powerful frame. At last, though, on Ramadan 21, 40 A.H. (January 28, 661), at the hour of morning prayers, the sun of Islamic Knowledge had set. Imam HASAN and Imam HUSAIN (as) arranged his funeral and laid him to rest in the soil of NAJAF, then a suburb of KUFA. There reposes that king of humanitarianism, compassion, courage and wisdom, the man who brought back to the world the pattern of simple and sublime Islamic life which prevailed during the days of his cousin, the holy Prophet of Islam (P.B.U.H.).