"…ALLAH ONLY DESIRES TO KEEP AWAY FROM YOU UNCLEANNESS, O PEOPLE OF THE HOUSE,…" Holy Qur'an (33:33)
"And We desired to bestow a favor on those who were deemed weak in the land, and to make them Imams, and to make them the heirs," Holy Qur'an (28:5)
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, Who sent His Prophet, Muhammad bin Abdullah al-Mustafa (s.a.w.), as a Mercy to the Worlds. Praise be to Allah, the Most Generous, Who also gave to mankind, the Guides, who would continue to keep us on the Straight Path after the death of the Seal of the Prophets (s.a.w.).
This idea of guidance is called Imamate, and without adherence to it, one has no hope to gain Divine Satisfaction for any of his prayers or deeds in this world, and no reward in the hereafter.
Why is Imamate so important that if we do not believe in the Guides and follow them we cannot hope for life after death? Imam Ali (a.s.) is referred to in the Holy Qur'an many times. All of these references are positive, praising, and respectful. How could it be that the final word of Allah, Almighty, praises this Imam, and yet for centuries he was cursed on the minbars of the mosques throughout the Muslim empire?
The answer to these questions can be found by any sincere researcher with an open heart who earnestly wishes to know. As for the Muslims, they have been misguided to the point that only through Allah's intervention can they throw off their useless and evil alliances and affiliations of the past which will only lead them to a place where repentance will do them no good.
May Allah, for the sake of His Prophets and Imams, bring them out of the darkness they have fallen into because of treachery, ignorance, greed, jealousy and pride.
This book, which you now hold in your hands, is such a small and weak attempt to explain the person of Amir al- Mu'minin Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.) that only volumes of work could begin to do him justice. And the whole question surrounding this great man is grounded in exactly that one word "Justice".
A note of importance is the difference in the meanings of Imam and Caliph. The Imams refer exclusively to Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.) and his sons Imam Hasan and Imam Hussein (a.s.) and the nine sons descended from Imam Hussein (a.s.). They were chosen by Allah, the Almighty and were not selected by the people.
Whereas the caliphs were elected to their offices in a political role. Unfortunately, Islam does not divide politics from other parts of life including religion and since the elected ones were not always qualified to interpret the religious aspects of their rule, many deviations have occurred and continue to occur in the Muslim community. With this in mind, the position of Imam Ali (a.s.) becomes all the more esteemed as you will find in the reading of this small book.
Islamic history is probably one of the most colorful, intriguing, mysterious and brilliant records of all. As Muslims, or those who are interested in Islam, we find that to have a clear understanding of the fundamentals of the religion we must know its history. For no other religion is steeped in so many mysterious happenings that brought about innovations in thc precepts taught by its Prophet (s.a.w.) and at such a rapid pace.
When studying and researching Islamic history, no name or personality is more discussed than that of Amir Al-Mu'minin Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.). So much has been said of him, in truth and in falsehood, that we can become quite confused over this one personality and the implications of the mark he left on history.
Western writers have admired him and written many word about him. Eastern writers have revered him. In some places he is erroneously worshipped. Islamic writers have tried to present a clear picture of him and the historical facts that surrounded him from his birth to his death. Much dialogue between the different sects of Islam has taken place about him. Still we have only been able to touch the "'tip of the iceberg" when speaking about Imam Ali (a.s.).
At the time of the death of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), Imam Ali's (a.s.) position became one of controversy and self-imposed isolation. He was selected by Allah and nominated by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) at a place called Ghadir Khum to take up the reins of leadership after the Prophet (s.a.w.). More than 100,000 Muslims witnessed this selection and nomination and gave their allegiance to him at that time and place. Still, it was nearly 25 years before he could take his rightful position. He ruled for less than 5 years before he met martyrdom at the hands of a paid assassin. At 63 years of age his earthly light was extinguished and his heavenly light shone once again.
His singular distinction is that he was the Imam and Caliph of the Muslims. His descendants were Imams, guiding the Muslims in religious matters, but none were able to truly take the political position of Caliph during their lifetimes. When it looked as though they might become such by popular choice, they were brutally assassinated except for the last of them, Imam Mahdi (a.s.), on whom we await.
In Part Two of the Biography of Imam Ali (a.s.), in the series of biographies of the Ahlul-Bait (a.s.), we will cover the Imamate and Caliphate of Amir Al-Mu'minin Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.). His wisdom was unmatched and not overlooked during the rule of the first three caliphs as we illustrated in Part One. As caliph, all of the finer points of his knowledge and ability came to the forefront and his rule was marked with sternness in the face of the enemy and gentleness in the face of the oppressed, kindness toward the orphans and poor, generosity toward the needy, honor toward his responsibility, and love toward his children. He was all and everything as no ruler after him could achieve.
We have implored Imam Ali (a.s.) to help us in the task of relating his story to those who do not know him at all, and to those who deny him justice. May Allah, the Most Merciful, help us all.
We bear witness that there is no god but Allah, the One, and that Muhammad bin Abdullah (s.a.w.) is His Prophet and that Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.) is His Vicegerent. We ask Allah, Most Beneficent, to send our greetings to the Messenger of Allah and Amir al- Mu'minin Imam Ali bin Abi Talib.
We pray to Allah, Most High, for His assistance in this work. With Allah comes success.
"O Ali, you were the first among the believers to believe, you were the first among the Muslims to embrace Islam, and you are to me like Aaron to Moses."*
Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.)
______________________ *Al-Muhib Al-Tabari, Dhakhair Al-'Oqba, Cairo ed , 1356 A. H , p 58, quoting Umar bin al- Khattab.
"No one has ever suffered from his people as I have."(1)
Imam Ali (a.s.)
No great person of history has endured injustice and selfishness as much as Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.) did during his lifetime and even after his departure from this world.
His life was full of feats and glory, yet injustice was poured on him and continued after his death. For a long time after his martyrdom, he was deprived of the simplest rights, such as having his biography and unique place in history written fairly and truthfully. For many generations, after the departure of the Imam, the Islamic ummah (nation) was subjected to unprecedented deceitfulness, so that it might forget Imam Ali (a.s.) and his effective role in pioneering the Islamic movement towards greatness and glory. If they could not forget him, they were subjected to a distorted and misleading portrait of him.
It suffices to know that for decades the oratory pulpits-then the most important means of education and disseminating information in the Muslim world--were used to abusing Imam Ali (a.s.) and his unique part in history. Such perniciousness was motivated by the enemies of Islam and to avenge the idolators killed in the Battle of Badr.
Friday Prayer Sermons, for example, during the Umayyads, used to start with cursing Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.) in such words which even history declined to write on its pages.(2)
This act of heresy effectively defaced the character of Imam Ali (a.s.). it devised and backed by certain forces and regimes and taken up by mercenary narrators, traditionists, court historians and the like.
Yet, despite the pervasive attempts to defy truth with fabrications and falsifications, nobody, whosoever, could prevent the reality from emerging through the clouds of conspiracy owing to the heroic nature of Islam. The duration of lies and deceit became short-lived together with the evil plot that invented then.
Thus, the groups of mercenaries, with their hired pens, who tried to twist Imam Ali's (a.s.) biography according to their own desires, interests, and mischievous aims, miscalculated their devious intentions. They were ignorant of the fact that truth cannot be concealed forever; that "the foam passes away the scum onto the banks."
Al-Balagh Foundation--with the help of Allah and within the scope of its undertaking to spread original Islamic thought; and to place the facts of its history before the Muslim ummah in order to remove the camouflage of obscurity-- presents in this book a study on the life of Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.) and his fundamental role in the construction of Islam and its glorious past.
The study is in three sections of two volumes. The first is a brief biography of Amir Al-Mu'minin (the Commander of the Faithful) (a.s.) during the life of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) and during the era of the first three caliphs.
The second part of the study concerns itself with the period during which Imam Ali (a.s.) undertook the leadership of the Muslims. We have tried to cover his heroic and noble attitudes in the fields of politics, administration, economics, society and issues of war and peace. The third part, published in volume two, outlines the prominent features of the personality of Amir al-Mu'minin (a.s.), covering his closeness to Allah, and to the people around him, and his ideological, informative and intellectual offerings to the Islamic ummah and, in fact, the whole of mankind.
We ask Allah's direction, support, guidance and help in order to devote all our energies and true possibilities of belief to the arena of the current ideological conflict between Islamic ummah and its bitter enemies, until the great Islamic religion prevails. He is the Hearer, the Responder.
The Rising Of The Dawn
On Friday, the 13th of the blessed month of Rajab, 12 years before the ordainment of Muhammad (s.a.w ) as Allah's Messenger, Fatimah bint Asad felt that she was about to give birth to her child. She came to the Sacred Ka'bah and began to circumambulate praying as she walked, "O Allah! I believe in You and in the messengers and the scriptures You have sent. I believe in what has been said by my grandfather, Abraham (a.s.) who built the Ancient House (the Ka'bah). So, for the sake of the builder of this House, and for the sake of the child in my womb, I implore You to make my labor easy "(3)
Fatimah bint Asad leaned against the wall of the Ka'bah to rest. Miraculously, the wall opened. Fatimah bin Asad entered and the wall closed behind her. 'Abbas bin 'Abd al-Muttalib, the Prophet's (s.a.w.) uncle witnessed this miracle. He and his companions rushed to the gate of the Sacred House, which was locked, and tried in vain to open it. Understanding that the Divine was at work there, he and his companions ceased to interfere. The news of this incident soon spread throughout Mecca.
Imam Ali (a.s.) was born within the Ka'bah with his eyes closed and his body in humble prostration before the Almighty Allah. Fatimah stayed in the Ka'bah for three days and as the fourth day approached, she stepped out, carrying her baby in her arms. She found the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) waiting to receive the newly-born child in his anxious arms. Then the Holy Prophet recited the Adhan and Eqamah in the ears of the baby.
Imam Ali's (a.s.) birth inside the honored Ka'bah is unique in the history of the world. Neither a prophet nor a saint was ever blessed with such an honor.(4) It is an undisputed historical fact recognised by all historians that the Holy Ka'bah is the birthplace of Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.). Glad tidings were brought to Abu Talib and his household. Upon their arrival at the Sacred House they saw Muhammad al-Mustafa (s.a.w.) there with the child in his arms.(5) He carried the baby Ali to the house of Abu Talib, where he, himself was brought up.
A great banquet was prepared, slaughtering many animals, in honor of the blessed new-born child.(6)
The party was attended by a crowd of people. They offered their congratulations, spent hours of merriment expressing their high feelings towards their chieftain, the sheikh of Al-Abtah, and towards his blessed child.
Days passed quickly as the blessed child grew up in the arms of his parents and his cousin, Muhammad (s.a.w.), who used to frequent his uncle's house, where he had formerly tasted the warmth of affection, and drank from the fountains of sincerity and loyalty during the years of his childhood and youth.
Muhammad (s.a.w.) continued to frequent his uncle's house, although he was now a married man, living with his wife, Khadijah, in their own house. He cherished Ali and surrounded him with affection and care, speaking to him tenderly, rocking his cradle or carrying him in his arms.
THE PATRONAGE OF THE MESSENGER OF' ALLAH
Six years passed after Ali's birth. The Quraish (Muhammad's tribe) suffered from an acute economic crisis which had a heavy effect on Abu Talib, who had to support a large family, as well as a host of poor people who used to come to him as a prominent figure in the community at Mecca. Could the "Chosen One" (s.a.w.) and Bani Hashim (his family) accept such a hard situation for their leader?
The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) went to his uncle, Al-Abbas bin Abdul-Muttalib, the wealthiest of the Bani Hashim, and said, "O uncle! your brother, Abu Talib, sustains a large family, and the people are badly afflicted by the situation. So, let us go to him to lighten his hammad though he to be sustained by us."(7)
The proposal from Al-Mustafa (the Chosen One) (s.a.w.) was gladly accepted by his uncle, Al-Abbas, and they both hurried to Abu Talib and talked him into accepting the suggestion.
Abu Talib said, "If you let me have Aqil and Talib, I will let you do as you see fit..."(8)
Al-Abbas took Ja'far, and Muhammad (s.a.w.) took Ali (a.s.), then six years old.(9)
Having chosen Ali (a.s.), the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said: "I have chosen whom Allah had chosen for me above you - Ali." (10) Thus, Ali (a.s.), from his early childhood, lived under the patronage of Muhammad (s.a.w.), grew up under his care and drank from the fountains of his affection and tenderness. The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) brought him up as his Lord had taught him. He never separated from him until he joined the Almighty .
A PRODUCT OF THE PROPHETIC RAISING
Imam Ali (a.s.) referred to the vast dimensions of the education he received at the hands of his guide, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) in one of his speeches known by the title " Al-Qasi'ah" (censure):
"...you know what my relations with the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) were. From the very beginning of my life, he loved me and I loved him. He took me in his lap when I was a baby and thence I was always with him. He often kept me embraced to his heart. He used to lay me next to him. We used to be so close to each other that I felt the warmth of his body and smelled the fragrance of his odor. When I was a baby, he fed me with his hands, often chewing hard bits for me. He never found me lying nor weak and wavering. From the time of his (the Prophet (s.a.w.)) infancy, Allah had appointed the greatest of His angels to always be with him, and His Arch Angel was leading him towards exemplary qualities and high moral values, and I followed him (s.a.w.) step by step as a baby camel follows its mother.
Daily he used to place before me a fresh standard of efficiency and used to order me . to follow it. Every year he used to stay in a grotto of the Hara' for some time, and nobody used to be with him but I. None could then see or hear him but I. During those days Islam was the religion of only the Prophet and his wife, Khadijah. I was the third of the trio. Nobody else in this world had accepted Islam. Even then I used to see the divine light of revelation and prophethood and smell the heavenly fragrance of prophethood."(11)
In his own words, this text reveals how Imam Ali (a.s.), during his childhood, was treated by the Messenger (s.a.w.) with care, tenderness and self-denial. The Prophet went to the extent of chewing morsels of food and putting them in Ali's mouth, holding him in his arms and treating him as though he were his own beloved son.
During his boyhood and youth, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) exerted his efforts to form Ali's personality. He used to instruct him to do as he did, to follow his wake. Every day the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) would demonstrate a new example of high morality for Ali to follow, step by step, as is described in his speech.
Therefore, it is a mistake not to believe that Ali (a.s.) was initially and purposely chosen to come as an illustration of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) in his thought, attitudes and diverse aspects of his conduct, even in his way of walking.(12)
Imam Ali (a.s.) was so pure in spirit and straightforward in morality, according to the education he received from the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), that many shadows of the hidden future were lighted before him. He says: "...When the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) received the first revelation, Satan lamented so loudly that I asked the Holy Prophet: Who is lamenting and why? He replied, 'It is Satan who has given up hopes of acquiring complete sway over human minds. In his disappointment, he is lamenting over the chance lost. Verily Ali, you also hear whatever I hear, and you see whatever I see, only you are not a prophet. But you are my wazir (minister), successor and helper, and you will always hold the truth and justice."(13)
The path which he walked, in the proximity of Allah, the Exalted, to obey His commands and to enact His Messenger's practice, qualified him to be a minister to prophethood--the post that is entrusted only to those who already covered a long distance towards the peak of virtue and the fear of God. It was only the prophethood's calling that separated him from the Prophet (s.a.w.). So he deserved and rightly ascended to the ministerial platform. Thus was Imam Ali (a.s.)!
UNDER THE SHADE OF REVELATION
Although Imam Ali (a.s.) lived in the custody of his father and brothers for six tender years, with a prominent role played by the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) in attendance, it became a complete task of rearing him and educating him when the responsibility fell to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) from his sixth year. As already mentioned, it was then that he moved to the Prophet's house because of the financial crisis which befell his father, Abu Talib.
Since that early age, Imam Ali (a.s.) lived with the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.). It was there that he spent his teens and adolesence during which he was a close observer of all the developments that happened in the life of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.).
So, Imam Ali's (a.s.) education was not an ordinary one, nor one which a normal child receives from his father, or elder brothers. The training and instruction he received was very special and it suffices to know that he followed Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) like his shadow, even during periods of exclusive privacy inside the Hara' grotto where the mental and spiritual developments were witnessed through which Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) was passing.
Imam Ali (a.s.), remembering those momentus days, during a decisive period of his life, recalls "...Every year he used to stay in a grotto of Hira' Mountain for some time, and nobody would be with him but I..."(14) Yes, it was only Imam Ali (a.s.) who witnessed the tremendous spiritual change which had been ripening in the soul of Al-Mustafa (s.a.w.), until the blessed Divine revelation shined forward upon him.
Owing to the far-reaching extent of the spiritual and moral level to which his soul had attained, Imam Ali (a.s.) deeply felt the revolution that had taken place in the unseen world, where Satan had been defeated, after losing hope of being worshipped by hearing the final message revealed to the Seal of the Prophets (s.a.w.). He had seen the preliminary signs of prophethood personified in no one less than his tutor and guide, when the light of deliverance shone, and the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) received the first Divine Communique entrusting him with his mission for mankind:
"Read: In the name of your Lord Who created. Created man from a clot. Read: And your Lord is the Most Bounteous, Who teaches by the pen, teaches man that which he knew not."