The First Imam
He is Imam !Al: the son of AbY ھ"lib (a.s.) and F"tima bint Asad. !Al: is the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Mu9ammad (N) since he married his daughter F"Uima. !Al: is the Prophet’s successor to follow him and is the ‘commander of the believers’ and the father of the Imams (a.s.).
Imam !Al: ibn AbY ھ"lib was born inside the holy house of the Ka!ba in Mecca on a Friday, the evening of the 13th of Rajab in the 30th year of the Prophet’s life. He was martyred on a Friday evening in the mosque of KYfa in Iraq while praying in the prayer niche, by the sword of the accursed Kharijite Ibn Muljam who struck him on the head on the night of the 19th Rama+"n. After three days he died from the blow at the age of sixty-three. His funeral was conducted by the two Imams .asan and .usayn (a.s.) and he was buried at Najaf, Iraq where his tomb stands to this day.
The Virtues of Ali
Imam !Ali ibn Abi talib, commander of the believers (a.s.) had innumerable merits and virtues. Firstly, his faith and belief in Almighty Alla>h – he was the first man to submit to and believe in the message of Mu9ammad the Messenger of Allah (N)204 He never prostrated to any idol whatsoever. He took part in several battles in defence of Islam including the battles of Badr, U9ud, Khaybar, .unayn, The Confederates (al-ahz"b) and others. Victory was under his banner in all his battles and he was never defeated. On the night of the Prophet’s (N) migration from Mecca to Medina, !Al: (a.s.) slept on the Prophet’s (N) bed to make those who wanted to kill the Prophet (N) think he was in bed.
He had abundant knowledge. So much so that the Prophet (N) said:
‘I am the abode of wisdom and !Al: is its gate.’205 The Prophet (N) also said: ‘I am the city of knowledge and !Al: is its gate.’206 This tradition has been related by many scholars including A9mad ibn .anbal.
His good legal judgement was so far-reaching that it the Prophet (N) said of him: ‘!Al: is the best judge amongst you.’207 The Prophet also said of him: ‘!Al: is with the truth and the truth is with !Al:.’208 He was just, fair and equitable with the people, and abstinent in the things of this world. He would go to the public treasury and look at the gold and silver and say: ‘O yellow stuff, O white stuff, tempt someone else.’209 Then he would distribute it to the people. He would be merciful to the indigent people, would sit with the poor and needy and help people in their needs. He would judge with truth and justice. In essence he was like the Prophet (N) in all respects except the station of prophethood to the extent that – as in the Qurv"nic verse 3:61 – Almighty Alla>h considers him to be the same ‘self’ as the Prophet (N).210
There is also the tradition of the ‘station’ (manzila). This is the tradition that the Prophet (N) said to !Al: (a.s.): ‘Your station to me is as the station of Aaron to Moses, except that there will be no prophet after me.’ This tradition has been narrated by many scholars including Bukh"r:, Muslim, and many others.211 Ibn .ajar al-Haytham: relates212: ‘A9mad relates that a man asked Mu!"wiya about an issue. He said: ‘Ask !Al: about it for he is more knowledgeable.’ The man said: ‘I would prefer your answer to that of !Al:.’ Mu!"wiya said: ‘What you say is foul, you have disdained a man that the Prophet honoured with knowledge and said to him: ‘Your station to me is as the station of Aaron to Moses, except that there will be no prophet after me’, and whenever !Umar [ibn al-Khat}t}a>b] found a problem he would refer to him.’
There is also the tradition of the ‘barring of the doors’. This came about when the Prophet (N), at the command of Almighty Alla>h, barred all the doors of the houses which led on to the mosque at Medina except the door of the house of !Al: (a.s.). A collection of scholars have related this including al-."kim in the mustradak213. It was such that !Umar [ibn al-Khattab used to say: ‘!Al: ibn Ab: ھ"lib has been given three things any one of which would be more dear to me than red camels: his wife F"Uima daughter of the Messenger of Alla>h, his dwelling in the mosque so that what is lawful for the Messenger of Allah is lawful for him too, and the banner on the day of the battle of Khaybar.’214 There is also a consensus of Qurv"nic exegetes215 that the verse eIndeed your patron is Alla>h and His messenger and those who believe; those who establish prayer and give alms while they bow down in prayer g And whoever takes Allah and His messenger and those who believe as his allies . . . for indeed the party of Allah are the triumphant onesf216 Many books have been written by Sunni scholars about the virtues of !Al: (a.s.) including al-man"qib of al-Kh"razm: al-.anaf:, and yan"b:! al-mawadda of al-QandYz: al-.anaf:, and others.
Hadith from Amir-ul-Mu’minin (AS)
On the Almighty’s attributes Imam Ali peace be upon him states: “He cannot be conceived of by the imagination and He cannot be determined by comprehension. He cannot be perceived by the senses and He cannot be compared with any person. He is One but not numerable and He is Eternal without end. He is the One who supports without being supported.” Imam Ali (AS) also said:
‘He is Allah, the Clear Truth, truer and clearer than the eyes perceive. The intellects cannot reach Him by any definition, since that would be to compare Him; and the imagination cannot reach Him by any evaluation; since that would be to give Him a likeness. There is no beginning to His primacy and there is no end to His eternity. He is the First and the Eternal, and He is the Everlasting without end. Foreheads bow down before Him and lips declare His Oneness. He gave all things limitations when He created them, so as to make it clear that He is not like them.’ Amir-ul-Mu’minin (AS) also said:
‘Time never changes for Him so as to cause a change in His state, and He is never in any particular place so as to entail His moving to another place. He knows of the secrets in the minds of the secretive, and the intimate meetings of those who meet behind closed doors, and the thoughts and opinions of those who speculate.’
Amir-ul-Mu’minin, Imam Ali (AS) also said:
‘The eyes cannot perceive Him with the sense of sight, but the heart can perceive Him through the realities of trust. He is close to all things without being associated with them. He is remote from them without being distanced from them. He speaks yet without speech. He wills yet without wanting. He creates yet without physical means. He is Subtle yet obscurity cannot be attributed to Him. He is Great yet aloofness cannot be attributed to Him. He is Seeing yet sensory perception cannot be attributed to Him. He is Compassionate but sentimentality cannot be attributed to Him.’
Imam Ali (AS) also said:
‘The first part of the deen is knowledge of Him. The perfection of knowledge of Him is affirmation of Him. The perfection of affirmation of Him is affirming His Oneness. The perfection of affirming His Oneness is being sincere towards Him. He who makes a comparison to Him has set up a second with Him. He who sets a second with Him has divided Him. He who divides Him is ignorant of Him. Whoever tries to indicate to Him has given Him limitations, and whoever gives Him limitations has rendered Him finite.’ [On another occasion Imam Ali (A) says ‘The perfection of sincerity is avoiding disobedience’.] ‘No one accompanies the Qur’an except that when he departs from it he does so with a gain and a loss. (He leaves with) a gain of guidance (to the truth) and a loss of ignorance. Rest assured that there is no destitution for anyone after (knowing) the Qur’an, and no one has any riches before (knowing) the Qur’an.’
‘Do not enslave yourself to another person, for Allah has made you a free person.’ ‘Make your own self as a judge between yourself and others. Therefore, love for others whatever you love for yourself, and dislike for others whatever you hate for yourself.
Do not transgress just as you do not like to be transgressed upon, and be kind to others just as you like to see kindness from others. What you regard as bad and ugly to come from others also regard it bad and ugly (if it were) to come from yourself. If it pleases you what you do to others, then be pleased with that if they do it to you. Do not talk about what you do not know, still do not say all that you know.
Do not say (to others) what you do not like to be told.’ ‘Do not look at who is talking but look at what is said.’ ‘He who corrects his covert affairs, Allah would correct his overt (aspects of life). He who worked for his religious affairs, Allah would take care of his material life. He who enhances what is between him and Allah, Allah would improve what is between him and other people.’ ‘The example of the world is that of a snake; it is soft to touch but inside it carries a deadly poison. The ignorant one may be charmed by it, but the sage and the sane person would avoid.’ ‘How plenty are the lessons to learn from and how few are those who would learn from them.’ ‘Get rid of your wrong actions before they get rid of you.’ ‘Being thankful for every blessing is being careful to avoid what Allah has forbidden.’ ‘The least of what Allah demands of you is that you do not use His blessings to disobey Him.’
‘Be in awe of Allah in your dealings with His servants and His lands, for surely you are responsible, even if it is for a small piece of land and a few animals. Obey Allah and do not disobey Him. if you see good then take hold of it, and if you see evil then turn away from it.’
‘Beware of being disobedient to Allah when you are alone, for surely the One who witnesses is also the One who judges.’ ‘Well-being consists of ten parts; nine of them are in being silent – except in the remembrance of Allah – and one of them is in leaving the company of the foolish.’ ‘Supplication is the key to divine mercy.’ ‘Deflect the waves of misfortune by supplication.’ ‘Fortunate is he who remembers the promised Day of Judgement, and who acts with the Reckoning in mind, and who is content with what is just enough, and who is pleased with Allah.’
‘Perfect happiness comes with knowledge, and partial happiness come with abstinence. Worship without knowledge and without abstinence merely exhausts the body.’ ‘The most excellent worship is refraining from disobedience . . ‘Wherever there is wisdom, there is fear of Allah, and wherever there is fear of Allah, there is His mercy.’ ‘The most glorious thing to come down from the heavens is divine succour, and the most glorious thing to rise up from the earth is sincerity.’ ‘There are three things that set you free:
Fear of Allah in secret and in public, Moderation in times of poverty and wealth, and Being just in times of anger and contentment.’ ‘He who takes his self into account will profit, and he who is heedless of it will loose. He who is fearful will be secure, and he who reflects will discern, and whoever discerns will comprehend, and whoever comprehends will have knowledge.’ ‘The best way of life is the one that does not make you do wrong or make you distracted.’
‘Always observe your appearance in the mirror, and if it looks good consider it repulsive to associate an ugly action with it and so spoil it, and if it looks ugly consider it even more repulsive by combining the two forms of ugliness!’ ‘Train yourself in good behaviour with regard to what you dislike in others.’ ‘The devil of everyone is his own self.’
‘I am amazed at the heart of man: It possesses the substance of wisdom as well as the opposites contrary to it . . . for if hope arises in it, it is brought low by covetousness; and if covetousness is aroused in it, greed destroys it. If despair possesses it, self-pity kills it; and if it is seized by anger, this is intensified by rage. If it is blessed with contentment, then it forgets to be careful; and if it is filled with fear, then it becomes preoccupied with being cautious. If it feels secure, then it is overcome by vain hopes; and if it is given wealth, then its independence makes it over-extravagant. If want strikes it, then it is smitten by anxiety. If it is weakened by hunger, then it gives way to exhaustion; and if it goes too far in satisfying its appetites, then its inner becomes clogged up. So all its shortcomings are harmful to it, and all its excesses corrupt it.’ ‘Ask your hearts about friendship, for surely it is a witness that cannot be bribed.’
‘Kindle your heart with courteous behaviour just as you kindle a fire with fuel.’ ‘Surely hearts grow tired just as bodies grow tired, so seek out the novelties of wisdom for them.’ ‘The most self-sustaining wealth is the intellect.’ ‘The intellect is a king and the characteristics are its subjects, so if it is weak in governing them, disorder overtakes it.’ ‘The intellect is better than desire, for the intellect makes you king over your destiny, and desire makes you a salve of your destiny.’
‘Bodies are sustained by food, and intellects are sustained by wisdom, and whenever either of them is deprived of its sustenance then it perishes and disintegrates.’ ‘Keep company with the people of intellect, whether they are your enemies or your friends, for surely one intellect is only confirmed by another intellect.’ ‘If the intellect is given a free reign, and if it is not imprisoned by the desires of the self or by religious customs or by partisanship, then it will lead the one who possesses it to salvation.’
‘When Allah wishes to remove a favour from His servant, the first thing He changes in him is his intellect.’
‘The spirit gives life to the body, and the intellect gives life to the spirit.’ ‘Knowledge is the most precious of treasures, and the most beautiful. It is easy to carry, tremendously useful, beautiful in its completeness, and delightful in its uniqueness.’ ‘Life is too short for you to learn all the knowledge that find attractive, so learn what inspires you, only what inspires.’ ‘Knowledge is accompanied by action, for whoever has knowledge (should) act (accordingly). Knowledge calls out for action: if it responds to the call then it lives on . . . otherwise it perishes.’ ‘Nobility of characters consists of ten qualities: generosity, modesty, sincerity, and fulfilment of trust, humility, selfesteem, courage, forbearance, patience, and gratitude.’ What others have said about Imam Ali AbY Bakr [ibn Abu Quh}a>fah] said to Amir al-Mo’mineen (Commander of the Faithful) Imam Ali: ‘O son of AbY ھ"lib, you have become the mawl" (authority/patron) of every Muslim man and woman.’217 !Umar ibn al-KhaUU"b used to say: ‘May Alla>h not allow me to live after !Ali ibn Ab: ھ"lib has died.’218 And he said: ‘He is my mawl" (authority/patron)219.’ He said also: ‘Congratulations to you O son of AbY ھ"lib, you have become my mawl" (authority/patron) and the mawl" of every Muslim.’220 !Uthm"n ibn !Aff"n used to say: ‘Were it not for !Al:, !Uthm"n would have perished.’221
!wvisha bint Abu Bakr said: ‘I never saw a man more beloved to the Messenger of Allah than him.’222 ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar said to a man who had said I loathe ‘Ali, “May Allah loathe you! Do you loathe a man one of whose virtues is superior to the world and whatever is in it?”223 Mu!"wiya ibn Ab: Sufy"n used to ask !Al: ibn Ab: ھ"lib about difficulties he would come across and when he heard news of !Al:’s death he said: ‘Knowledge and understanding have died with the death of !Al: ibn Ab: ھ"lib.’224 .asan of Basra said of !Al: that he was: ‘a straight arrow from Allah’s bow against His enemies, and he was the divine of this nation.’225