Tasks After Emigration
Madinah entered a new era of its history with the arrival of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.). There he erected the pillars of the realm of the Qur'an, and fortified it so as to be a lighthouse radiating the beacon of Truth to all horizons, and dispersing the dense darkness of the Age of Ignorance (Jahiliyah).
After the higrah (emigration), the Mission transformed into a state providing much means of protection and might. This did not imply that an end had come to the enemy's menace and plots to extinguish the light of Islam however. On the contrary, the forces of ignorance, with their diverse aspects, resolved to wage war against Islam and its state. Many tribes entered the arena against Islam and the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), as they realized that their very existence was endangered by this religion and code of life. Now that Islam had organized into a state, with a governing head and an army for defense, it was catering to its needs and carrying out its objectives. it was more a threat the ever to the idol worshippers' dominance over the lands of Arabia.
Therefore, the post emigration period placed before the Muslims wider and more important tasks such as strengthening the state and guarding it, building a society and consolidating it, repelling the enemy, spreading the message of Islam and its unique way of life.
The nature of the struggle changed from being a struggle among individuals and tribes, or the nobility and unarmed commoners who possessed nothing but their religion and faith in Allah, to an organized military conflict between forces brought together by common interests and desires, even if temporarily on the one side, and the great blossom of Islam as the danger which would destroy their very existence on the other This military conflict exploded in an unprecedented way in history.
It suffices to know that the state, built on the Qur'an, witnessed, within the ten years that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) spent in Madinah, dozens of military operations, defensive and offensive wars, in which the Muslims made numerous sacrifices and faced all kinds of difficulties. But, at last, the existence of Arab Ignorance was overcome, and the state of Islam prevailed over the whole Arab Peninsula.
Going over the history of those crucial early years of the Final Message, we realize that the role of Imam Ali bin Abi) was unsurpassed. In all the wars Islam fought against Talib (a.s., its enemies, Imam Ali (a.s.) was always the victor, not merely through taking part in the excursions in person, but by his sacrifices and bravery which surpassed all others. His combat skills and feats of daring were so well known that many of the enemy would not face him, knowingly, on the battlefield.
It is worthwhile to refer to some of the battles fought by the Islamic forces in those days and Imam Ali's (a.s.) specific role in each of them.
1. THE BATTLE OF BADR:
Badr lies 200 miles from Mecca and 80 miles from Madinah. It was the site of the first battle fought by the forces of the Islamic state. The Muslims were outnumbered by 3:1 by an army of Meccans led by Abu Jahl. In the winter of 2 A.H. (after higrah) his army was proceeding toward Madinah when the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) sent out his forces of 313 to prevent bloodshed inside the city limits.
The provisions of the Muslims was scanty. Three or four men had to share one camel, taking turns riding. The standard bearer of this small courageous band was Imam Ali (a.s.).(38) There was a single horseman-- Miqdad bin Aswad Kindi. Some of the Muslims were armed only with sticks made from palm trees.
Warfare in those days was quite different than what we know today. Before the general battle began, a number of duels were fought between the leading warriors Of each side. When the Muslims reached the fertile vale of Badr, a favorite watering place and camping ground on the caravan route, three stations northwards from Mecca, the Prophet ordered a halt, taking suitable positions near a stream of fresh water, to await the arrival of the infidel army On the next day, Friday, the 17th of Ramadhan, the enemy blowing their trupets, approached the Muslims.(39)
Three of the infidel warriors, Utbah, the father-in-law of Abu Sufyan, his brother, Shaibah, and Al-Walid came out of the ranks and arrogantly challenged the Muslims. Three Ansars of Madinah immediately stepped out to accept the challenge. The Meccans were outraged and refused to fight the Ansars saying: "We have not come all this way to cross arms with the Madinites, against whom we bear no grudge. We challenge the people of Mecca who have the courage to defy us."
Upon hearing this Imam Ali (a.s.) and Ubaidah, both cousins of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), and Hamzah, his uncle, responded to the challenge. Sir Thomas Bodley (1545-1613), the English diplomat and founder of the Bodleian Library, says: "At the taunt of the Quraishites, Ali dashed out of the Muslim ranks glittering in breastplate and helmet. He was soon followed by Ubaidah bin al-Harith, a paternal cousin of Muhammad, and Hamzah who wore an ostrich feather in his cuirass. The three companions were thus closely related to Muhammad and fulfilled the Quraish demand for Hashimite blood!"
Col. Bodley continues, "The three duels were as rapid as they were murderous. Hamzah killed Shaibah, while Ali killed Al-Walid. Ubaidah was mortally wounded, but before he fell, Ali and Hamzah were able to come to his rescue. Hamzah hurled himself at Utbah, and with a sweep of his sword cut off his head. In a few minutes three of Mecca's most important warriors had been sent to find out the truth about the hell which Muhammad had promised them!"
"Three more Meccans ventured forward from Abu Jahl's army to challenge Imam Ali (a.s.) and Hamzah. They too went down before the sword of Islam. A further three were dealt the same fate. In a moment of hesitation, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) sent his soldiers charging into a general attack."(40)
The Muslims invoked Allah to help them and give them victory over their enemy. Allah, the Exalted, responded by supplying them with angels: "When you sought aid from your Lord, so He answered you: I will assist you with a thousand of the angels following one another." Holy Qur'an (8:9)
The line of Quraish wavered and a number of their bravest and noblest fell; they took to flight ignominiously. in their haste to escape they threw away their armour and abandoned their transport animals with all their camp and equipment. The battle ended with the death of seventy of the unbelievers, almost half of them killed by Imam Ali (a.s.) alone.(41)
2. THE BATTLE OF UHUD:
Thirteen months later, the Messenger Of Allah (s.a.w.), had given the standard of the Muhajirin (the emigrants) to Imam Ali (a.s.) once again. This time at Uhud. It was the 7th of Shawwal in the year 3 A.H. Again the soldiers of Islam faced the treacherous Quraish of Mecca.
The Quraish, led by Abu Sufyan, advanced in the form of a crescent and the right wing of their cavalry was led by Khalid bin Walid, a notorious warrior. Abu Amru, a Meccan champion, stepping forward with his fifty archers, showered arrows towards the Muslims who retaliated promptly. Thus the fight began. The Meccan archers withdrew and their standard bearer, Talha bin Abi Talha, coming forth, challenged the Muslims. Imam Ali (a.s.) stepped forward and struck off one of his legs. He fell and another champion hoisted the standard. He was killed by Hamzah. A third now took the standard and was slain by Imam Ali (a.s.) Thus nine or ten standard bearers fell, one after the other, by Imam Ali's (a.s.) sword alone.
It is narrated by many authorities that when Imam Ali (a.s.) struck off the leg Talha, as he fell to the ground his lower garment became loosened and fell off. Instead of finishing him off, Imam Ali (a.s.) turned away from him and the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) questioned him about his behavior he said that the man was nude and entreated for the sake of Allah to spare his life.(42)
Imam Ali (a.s.) and Hamzah, the champions of Badr, unsparingly dealing out death, worked havoc among the enemy. Hamza, however, while duelling with Saba bin Abd-al-Uzzah, a Meccan champion, was treacherously speared from behind by Wahshi, an Ethiopian slave, who lurked behind a rock for this very purpose, having been promised his freedom by Hind, the wife of Abu Sufyan. She was present at the battle and looking for revenge for the death of her father and brother slain by Imam Ali and Hamzah in the battle of Badr.
Imam Ali (a.s.) and two other Muslim champions charged the enemy. The force of the charge broke the enemy's ranks, they wavered and Imam Ali (a.s.) and his aides gained the enemy camp. The Meccans turned and fled, leaving their camp to the Muslims who at once proceeded to appropriate it.
It appeared victory was on the Muslims' side. But the warriors whom the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) had ordered to cover them from the back at Mount Uhud, seeing defeat of the disbelievers and urged by their greed, left their posts to get their portion of the booty. This gave a golden opportunity to Khalid bin Walid, to mount an attack on the Muslims' rear. The situation turned against the Muslims and in favor of the disbelievers. The Muslims lost many of their best. The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) himself was wounded in the face. A rumor began that the Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.) had been killed.
The Muslims were checked. They found themselves surrounded by the Meccans, fearing the death of their leader, confused and off-guard. Discipline could not be restored. Some were saying that Muhammad would not have been killed had he been a true Prophet, others were talking about seeking pardon from Abu Sufyan and taking refuge with him. The following verses were revealed about these 'Muslims':
"And Muhammad is no more than a Prophet; the Prophets have already passed away before him; if then he dies or is killed, will you turn back upon your heels? And whoever turns back upon his heels, he will by no means do harm to Allah in the least; and Allah will reward the grateful." Holy Qur'an (3: 143)
"O you who believe! if you obey those who disbelieve, they will turn you back upon your heels, so you will turn back losers. "Holy Qur'an (3:148)
"Remember when you ran off precipitately on the heights and looked not back any of you, while the Prophet was calling you from the rear! So He has inflicted on you with anguish after anguish, that you might not grieve at what you lose, nor at what befell you; and Allah is Aware of what you do." Holy Qur'an (3:152)
These verses refer to the behavior and conduct of the majority of the Muslims at the battle of Uhud. An enquiry into the details as to who is Who in Islam with reference to the reports about the conduct of the companions in the several defensive battles fought to save Islam and the Muslims, would disclose as to the legitimacy of the claim to companionship of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) of many of those who later on, with selfish motives managed to become the leaders of the Muslims and consequently misled them also in religious matters.(43) Of course, many true believers resolved to fight for their sincere belief even though their beloved prophet might be dead. Their thirst for martyrdom was quenched.
Now the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) was deserted by his main force, only Imam Ali (a.s.), Abu Dajjanah and Sahl bin Hunaif surrounded the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) to defend him from attack by the forces of Abu Sufyan. Imam Ali (a.s.) was fighting hard to save the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) and Islam. His gallantry was such that he was praised by Arch Angel Gabriel (a.s.) whose voice was heard saying:
"There is no (victorious) youth save Ali! There is no sword (weapon of success) except the 'Dhulfiqar'! (the sword of Imam Ali (a.s.)) (44)
Imam Ali (a.s.) received sixteen wounds in this battle, four of which were so serious that he was falling down from his horse. On each occasion a beautiful youth took hold of him, lifted him up to his saddle and soothed him by saying: "Go on fighting, O hero! Allah and His Prophet appreciate your services." This was none other than Gabriel the Evangel (a.s.), who praised Imam Ali (a.s.) to the Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.) for his zeal and ardent devotion to him at the time when all others had deserted him. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) told Gabriel (a.s.):
"No wonder! Ali comes from me and I myself come from him." Whereupon Gabriel (a.s.) remarked that he also came from both of them. (All were created from the same Light.)(45)
On finding out that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) was only wounded and not killed, the Muslims began to rally around him. The Meccans, having no courage to rout them, contented themselves with the honor of snatching back the victory from the Muhammad (s.a.w.); and left the field after mangling and mutilating the bodies of the Muslims. Halting at Rowha, 8 miles from Uhud, Abu Sufyan felt uneasy at the utter fruitlessness of his campaign having taken the biggest loss of men, and began to contemplate a raid on Madinah. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), suspecting some treachery, resolved on immediate action and pursued them the next morning as far as Hamra al-Asad. He was informed that the Meccans, receiving intelligence of his advance, had already taken their road homeward.
3. THE BATTLE OF AHZAB (THE ALLIES):
Again in the month of Shawwal, two years later in 5 A.H., another great war was on the rise. The Jews allied themselves with the unbelievers of Mecca led by Abu Sufyan, the Bedouin tribes of Ghatafan, Solaim, Bani Qais and Bani Asad as well as the Jews of Kaibar to destroy Islam and its Prophet in a final escapade.
This battle is historical in its nature and an example of the excellent defensive capabilities of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.). it is known also as the Battle of Khandaq (ditch or trench) because of the innovative strategy of digging a trench fifteen feet wide and as deep along the undefended north-west edge of the city. The enemy soon approached and were struck dumb with astonishment. This mode of defence was unknown to the Arabs, and they were at a loss to understand how to overcome this obstacle so they laid seige.
Madinah was besieged by 10,000 idolators (46) from diverse clans. Banu Quraidah severed their peace agreement with the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) and joined the ranks of the unbelievers. Thus, the balance of forces changed in favor of the enemy. The Muslims were deeply frightened. The Qur'an describes them saying:
"When they came upon you from above you and from below you, and when the eyes turned dull and the hearts rose up to the throats, and you began to think diverse thoughts concerning Allah." Holy Qur'an (33:10)
More than a fortnight elapsed, when a party of the besiegers' horsemen found the narrowest and weakest guarded part of the ditch. Amru bin Abd Wid, Nawfal bin Abdullah and Dzarar bin Al-Khattab, led by Ikrimah bin Abu Jahl, spurring their horses leaped forward towards the Muslims and challenged them to single combat.
Amru bin Abd Wid, on horseback, strolled conceitedly on the other side of the trench, taunting the Muslims and taking pride in his heroic deeds. He, then, shouted: "Is there anyone among you who will challenge me in a single combat?" Imam Ali (a.s.) asked the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) to permit him to accept the challenge, but the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said: "Sit down. It is Amru."
Abd Wid repeated his challenge debasing the Muslims and mocking them, saying: "Where is your Paradise to which you allege to go if you were killed? So, why don't you send me a man accepting my challenge?" As none of the Muslims showed willingness to accept his challenge, Imam Ali (a.s.) repeated his request: "I am for him, O Messenger of Allah!" The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) again declined saying:
"Sit down, it is Amru!" Imam Ali (a.s.) showed little respect for Amru and others like him, and said, "What if he is Amru!". At this stage the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) agreed to let him go. He gave Ali (a.s.) his own sword, Dhulfiqar, dressed him with his own armor, and put his own turban on his head, and then he said,
"O Lord! this is my brother and cousin. So, my Lord, do not let me alone. You are the best of inheritors!"(47) Ali went to the battle-field and talked to Amru, saying:
"you had made a promise to God that no man of the Quraish would give you two courses without you choosing one of them." "Indeed," replied Amru, "What is that""
"I summon you to Allah, His Messenger and to Islam," Imam Ali (a.s.) said.
"I have no need of that,", he answered.
"Then I summon you to fight, said Imam Ali (a.s.).
"Go back,", he told him, "There was great friendship between me and your father, and I do not like to kill you." "But, by Allah, I like to kill you."
Amru became angry and darted at Imam Ali (a.s.), who faced him boldly, as usual, and killed him. The voice of Imam Ali (a.s.) was heard heralding "Allahu Akbar" (Allah is the Greatest!) which indicated victory.(48)
When Imam Ali (a.s.) returned from the battlefield, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) received him and said:
"The fighting of Ali bin Abi Talib with Amru bin Abd Wid is greater in measure than the actions of my people until the Day of Resurrection."(49) After the killing of Amru bin Abd Wid, Imam Ali (a.s.) had the gap in the trench which Amru had breached blocked, and took his post at that point(50) with the intention of confronting anyone who might try to cross the trench. Otherwise, the army of the disbelievers, with their thousands, would have invaded Madinah and beaten the Muslims.
Thus, Imam Ali's (a.s.) heroism in the Battle of Ahzab was the most decisive factor in victory for the Muslims, and in defeating the army of the disbelievers. The death of Amru struck terror in the hearts of the enemy and they began to abandon the fight group by group. Soon Abu Sufyan, as well, had to retreat.
The crushing defeat suffered by the unbelievers in the Battle of Ahzab at the hands of Imam Ali (a.s.) so shattered their power and pride that they never afterwards thought of advancing towards Medinah with any sinister design. This battle also showed them beyond doubt that with a selfless supporter, and a dauntless warrior like Imam Ali (a.s.) to protect the Holy Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.) and his Mission, Islam had come to stay.(51)
Following the Battle of Ahzab, several minor wars took place in which the reputation of Imam Ali (a.s.) gained great notoriety and fear in the hearts of anyone who opposed him. Many great warriors would refuse to face him on the battlefield and sometimes Imam Ali (a.s.) in order to put an end to a battle would disguise himself or move stealthily at night so that the enemy would not recognise him. The battles of Banu Quraidah, Banu Mustalaeq and Fadak are some of these.
4. THE BATTLE OF KHAIBAR:
Khaibar is situated about 100 miles to the north east of Medinah, and means, literally, a fortified place. The Jews of Khaibar constituted a serious threat to the Muslims. The Jews who had lost their fights against the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) had slowly and imperceptibly collected in the vicinity of this fort and had begun to incite their brethen to wage war against the Muslims.
The valley surrounding Khaibar was considered as one of the most fertile of the desert oases and its great gardens of date palms were most jealously guarded by the various Jewish tribes whose territory it was. The Jews of Khaibar were considered the bravest warriors, and they posed a most powerful challenge to the supremacy of Islam. The valley of Khaibar was studded with fortresses strongly situated on rocky hillocks, which numbered about ten. Many of these strongholds were considered impregnable.(52)
The Jews, counting on their large numbers and upon their valor as well as their strongholds, resolved to resist. When the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) heard of this he set out with 1,400 Muslims to face them. The Jews, about 10,000 strong, all armored, collected themselves in their forts. But, when besieged in any of their citadels, they could not resist very long and eventually evacuated it after one or two sorties. The Muslims advanced fighting and subduing the forts until the last one appeared to be invulnerable.
The Jews rallied around their chief, the king of their nation, Kinanah bin Al-Rab. He lived in this strongly fortified citadel of Khaibar named Al-Qamus, built on a steep rock and considered totally unapproachable. Three times the Muslim army returned unsuccessful from this fort. Ultimately, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) made his famous announcement which marks one of the most brilliant additions in the laurels of Imam Ali (a.s.).
Realising that the Muslim leaders present there were unable to subdue this last fort which occupied the key position for the Jews, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), pointing to the banner of the Muslim army, announced:
"Tomorrow I shall hand over this banner to a man who attacks relentlessly and never flees away; he loves Allah and His Prophet and Allah and His Prophet love him, and he would not return until Allah grants him victory."(53)
This announcement kindled a desire in the heart of every Muslim present to be the man who was "beloved of God and His Prophet." The most covetous for this unique honor was Sa'd bin Waqqas and Umar bin Khattab. No one thought of Imam Ali (a.s.), the cousin and Vicegerent of the Prophet. The hero of all previous wars was suffering badly from sore eyes and could not see anything.
Imam Ali (a.s.), who had been left behind in Medinah because of his illness, could not remain there and despite his loss of sight, left for Khaibar reaching there just on the eve of this great day.
The longed for morning dawned, but the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) appeared not to take notice of anyone. When he broke the silence he asked for Imam Ali (a.s.) and all, in one voice, answered that he was at a considerable distance and was suffering badly from sore eyes so that he was utterly unable to see. The Prophet commanded them to bring Imam Ali (a.s.) to him. On being informed of the Prophet's (s.a.w.) call, Imam Ali (a.s.) presented himself to the Prophet (s.a.w.) led by Selma bin Akuas he himself could not see his way.
The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), taking Imam Ali's (a.s.) head into his lap, applied the saliva of his mouth to his eyes and prayed for his recovery. Instantaneously, his eyes became so clear as if he had never suffered from the disease. It is said that throughout his life he never had any more trouble with his eyes again.
The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) handed over the banner to Imam Ali (a.s.), armed him with Dhulfiqar, and thus designated him as the man whom Allah and His Prophet loved. He directed him to lead the assault and to fight until the Jews submitted. Imam Ali (a.s.) with his force scrambled up the stony rock in front of the fortress and planted the banner over its top resolving never to recede until the citadel was taken.
The Jews sallied forth to drive down the assailants. A Jewish priest asked Imam Ali (a.s.) his name which he gave as Ali bin Abi Talib or Haidar (the name his mother gave him).The priest, hearing the name, warned his men that the assailant would not withdraw without capturing the citadel. However, Harith, a Jewish champion, who had vigorously repulsed the previous attacks, stepped forward and killed several of the Muslims. Imam Ali (a.s.) advanced and killed Harith in hand to hand combat. The brother of Harith was a gigantic man with a huge form. He was unequalled in valor among the Jews. To revenge the death of his brother he came out covered from his neck to his waist with a double coat of mail wearing a helmet for protection against the stroke of a scimitar. He had a huge gird on both his sides and brandished a big spear with tripleforked sharp pointed heads.
Stepping forward from the Jewish lines he challenged his adversaries to single combat.
"I am Marhab," he cried, "as all Khaibar knows, the greatest warrior in the world." None among the Muslims would dare to go forward to confront him. Imam Ali (a.s.) himself advanced wearing a scarlet vest covered with a breastplate of steel saying: "I am he whom his mother named Haidar, a lion of the wilderness; I weigh my foes in a gigantic balance." Imam Ali's word were not meaningless. He knew, through inspiration, that Marhab had lately dreamt of a rugged lion tearing him to pieces; so he reminded Marhab of the dream.
The words had their effect. As they closed in on each other, Marhab made a thrust at Imam Ali (a.s.) with his three-pronged lance. Imam Ali (a.s.) warded off the strike and before Marhab could recover, he dealt him a blow with Dhulfiqar which divided his buckler, passed through his helmet right down to his chest severing him in half. He fell lifeless to the ground and the winner announced his victory in his usual manner of shouting, "Allahu Akbar".
The Muslims rushed forward in a body, seven of the Jews' most distinguished warriors fell by Imam Ali's (a.s.) sword. The Jews retreated into the citadel with the Muslims hotly in pursuit. In the heat of the battle, a Jew dealt a blow on Imam Ali's (a.s.) arm knocking down his shield which another Jew ran away with. Imam Ali (a.s.), being enraged, performed superhuman feats of prowess, he jumped over a trench, approached the iron gate of the fortress, wrenched if off its hinges and used it as a buckler for the remained of the battle.
Abu Rafe, one of those who stormed the fort with Imam Ali (a.s.), testified that after the war he examined the gate and tried with seven other person to turn it over but the attempt failed. The citadel was captured and the victory was decisive. The Jews lost 93 men, while on 19 Muslims were martyred throughout the campaign.
According to Suyuti in "Tarikh al-Khulafa", Imam Ali (a.s.) held the gate in one hand, making his companions stand on the flat gate, went on placing them across the ditch by a movement of his hand. Suyuti adds that later the gate could not be moved by 80 persons! (54) After the victory, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) received Imam Ali (a.s.) with a warm embrace and a kiss on the brow. He said:
"Ali, had I not been afraid that the Muslims would start regarding you as the Christians regard Jesus, I would have said things about you which would have made the Muslims venerate you and to consider the dust of your feet as something worth venerating; but it will suffice to say that you are from me and I am from you; you will inherit me and I will inherit you; you are to me what Aaron was to Moses; you will fight for my causes, you will be nearest to me on the Day of Judgement; you will be next to me at the Fountain of Kawthar; enmity against you is enmity against me; a war against you is a war against me; your friendship is my friendship; to be at peace with you is to be at peace with me; your flesh is my flesh; your blood is my blood; who obeys you obeys me; truth is on your tongue, in your heart and in your mind. You have as much faith in Allah as I have. You are a door to me. As per the order of Allah, I give you these tidings that your friends will be rewarded in Heaven and your enemies are doomed for Hell."(55)
The terms of surrender of the Jews of Khaibar have been recorded as such: The inhabitants were free to leave the country after giving up their whole property to the victors, each one taking a camel load of food stuffs with him. Concealment of valuables was deemed an infraction of the conditions and the violator was subject to capital punishment. People preferring to live in the country might occupy and reside in the houses possessed by them and might also cultivate the land they occupied; but no immoveable property was to be owned by them, they being treated as tenants bound to cede half of their products to the conqueror who could put them in exile at his will and pleasure.
5. IN THE BATTLE OF HUNAIN:
It seems that the month of Shawwal was the month for wars. Again in this month in the year 8 A.H. the Battle of Hunain took place. The tribes of Banu Hawazin and Banu Thaqeef who lived outside of Mecca had remained outside of the growing state of Islam. They began mobilising their forces to attach the Muslims and had collected an army of 20,000. The Muslims marched out to meet them with 12,000 forces. The unbelievers hid themselves in the hilly area of Hunain between Ta'if and Mecca and the Muslims reached there in the early morning when the unbelievers gave them a surprise attack from their hiding places.
The Muslims, taken unprepared lost all courage and great confusion followed in their ranks. They began to run away. Nobody remained with the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) except Imam Ali (a.s.),(56) Al Abbas and some of Ahlul-Bait (the close relatives of the Messenger (s.a.w.)). Their steadfastness brought victory after the Muslims were urged on by their example to return to the battlefield.
These are a few examples of the heroic and miraculous achievements of Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.) recorded before the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), his leader, in the most critical moments of the early days of Islam.(57)
Imam Ali (a.s.) took part in all the wars faced by the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) except the Battle of Tabuk(58), where he did not participate in obedience to the Messenger's (s.a.w.) order. In all these wars he played the largest role, not counting those which he had led himself. Any researcher looking into the life of Imam Ali (a.s.), especially concerning his battles, will be spell-bound at his unrivalled bravery and the beneficial sacrifices he made. Yet heroism, as a mere attribute, was not the most prominent characteristic of his leading example for the sake of Allah (Jihad), though it was strategically employed and remains a feature of Imam Ali's (a.s.) personality. The most important aspect of his heroism was concerning his faithfulness to Allah and his sacrifice for Him.
Ali's faith in Allah was the only motive behind his great episodes of heroism which the history of Islam has recorded in its most illuminated pages, the like of which it has not been reproduced about anyone else.
Many of the elite Arab rulers, not to speak of the ordinary people, have at times shown, in many military situations, weakness and defeat, yet as far as Imam Ali (a.s.) is concerned, history records nothing on his account but resistance and triumph in all circumstances regardless of whether others remained to help him or deserted him at any stage of the battle. This is a fact which can be explained only through the merits which Imam Ali (a.s.) had been endowed with: true faith, seeking Allah's help and depending on Him, serving Him alone, and being indifferent to anything except Him, big or small. Further, Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.) enjoyed superior valor and resolution and was fearless and sublime.