The Life of Imam Al-hasan Al-mujtaba
Chapter Ix : At the Time of Imam Ali
The Muslim masses received the caliphate of Imam Ali (a.s) with delight, rejoicing, hopes, and expectations. They were sure that the Imam would return to them the plundered freedoms, destroy the pillars of slavery established by the demolished Umayyad government, and return to them the brilliant time of the Prophethood when mercy, justice, and hope spread. They thought that they would, without doubt, lead a life of comfort under his just government, which did not know preference, and selfishness, and did not make a distinction between one community and another. They were sure that the Imam would achieve to them the noble objectives for which they had yearned such as social and political justice, the principles and regulations that Islam had brought, and putting an end to all the differences and distinctions that Uthman had brought. They, from all classes, hurried to the Imam and cheered his name. They announced their urgent wish that he had to undertake their affairs, that he might lead them to the clear truth and the straight path. We will put before dear readers a brief picture of the pledge of allegiance and the events that accompanied it.
The Pledge of Allegiance
The Muhajireen, the Ansar, the revolutionaries, the rest of the masses, Talha, and al-Zubayr held a meeting. Then they hurried to Imam Ali (a.s) who isolated himself in his house. They surrounded him from all sides and said to him: “O Abul Hasan, this man (Uthman) has been killed, and there is no escape from that the people should have an Imam. Today we find none worthier of this matter (the caliphate) than you, nor older in precedence, nor closer in kinship to Allah’s Apostle (than you are).”
However the Imam refrained from responding to them and he said to them: “I am in no need of your matter. I will be pleased with whomever you choose.” Yet they all said: “We will choose none other than you!”
The masses very much insisted on the Imam, but he did not respond to them. So they left him with no use. The military forces held a special meeting where they discussed the dangerous events that faced the community if it remained without an Imam (leader) to manage its affairs. As a result they decided to bring the people of Medina and force them to elect an Imam over the Muslims. They said to them: “You are the people of consultation. You appoint the Imam. Your decision is valid among the community. Therefore, think of a man to appoint him (as an Imam). We will follow you. We have given you a day to decide. By Allah, if you do not do, we will kill Ali, Talha, al-Zubayr, and a group of people.”[^1]
After this warning and threatening the people of Medina hurried to Imam Ali. They all said: “Allegiance! Allegiance! Have you not seen what has befallen Islam and that with which we have been afflicted by the villagers?” The Imam calmly answered them: “Leave me and look for someone else!”
Then he told them why he refrained from undertaking the caliphate, saying: “O people, we will face an affair having different faces and colors. The hearts will not undertake it nor will the minds maintain it!”[^2]
The Imam (a.s) knew the evil that crept into the souls of people, and the desires that prevailed their leaders, especially as it concerns Uthman’s governors, his family, and relatives. He came to know that they would oppose him, come between him and achieving his wide objectives, and brought about to his government problems and hardships. For this reason, he insisted on refraining from undertaking the caliphate. The Imam thought about the affair and said to them: “If I responded to you, then I would lead you according to my knowledge. If you left me, I would be as one of you and be the best of you in listening and obeying him whom you would appoint as a ruler.” However they all said: “We will not leave you until we pledge allegiance to you!”
The Imam (a.s) has described their coming to him and their strong insistence on him, saying: “At that moment, nothing took me by surprise, but the crowd of people rushing to me. They advanced towards me from every side like the mane of the hyena so much so that al-Hasan and al-Husayn were crushed and both the ends of my shoulder garment were torn. They gathered around me like the herd of sheep.” The Imam postponed them to the following day that he might reflect on the matter. They separated from him according to that. The night spread over Media and its houses. The people of Medina restlessly spent the night. When the morning came, the people gathered in the Great Mosque. The Imam came and went up the pulpit. He delivered a speech, saying: “O People, none has the right to undertake this affair of yours except one whom you have invested
[^1] Ibn al-Atheer, Tarikh, vol. 3, p. 80. [^2] Sharh Nahj al-Balagha, Muhammad ‘Abda, vol. 1, p. 182.
with authority. Yesterday, we separated (from each other). I hated your request, but you refused except that I would be an Imam over you. Therefore, I have no right to take a dirham without you. If you wished, I would undertake you; otherwise, I would be blamed for none.” The masses said: “We are insisting on what we had agreed on with you yesterday!” “O Allah, bear witness,” retorted the Imam. The people pushed each other like choppy waves. Talha walked towards the Imam and pledged allegiance to him with that hand through which he quickly broke the covenant with Allah.[^1] After him al-Zubayr came and pledged allegiance as his friend had done. The Egyptian and the Iraqi delegations paid homage to him. The common people pledged allegiance to him. None of the previous caliphs had won such a general pledge of allegiance. All the Muslims were happy.
Imam Ali has described the people’s delight, saying: “The people were so pleased with their allegiance to me that the young were glad with it, the old shambled to it, the sick forced themselves (to come) to it, and the heels were bared for it.” The Muslims rejoiced at their pledge of allegiance to the guardian of Allah’s Apostle. Joys spread all over the country, for the government of justice and equality towered over the world of existence. The caliphate was undertaken by the true Imam, who was the supporter of the oppressed and father of the orphans. He took part in the hunger and ordeals of the poor and the deprived. He said during the period of his government: “Shall I be satisfied with my own soul that it is said (to me) the commander of the faithful and I do not associate with them in the misfortunes of the time or be an example to them in the coarse life?”
On that immortal day, the great flags of justice were spread, and the genuine objectives that Islam wanted were achieved. There were no selfishness, no deception, no dictatorship, and no yielding to inclinations and sentiments. All these things were achieved by Ali bin Abi Talib during the period of his caliphate.
[^1] Talha’s hand was paralyzed, so the Imam saw an evil omen in it and said: “He is worthy of breaking (his pledge of allegiance).” That happened as he had predicted. This has been mentioned in the book Al-Iqd al-Fareed, vol. 3, p. 93.
The Prophet’s Companions support the Imam
The great companions of the Prophet and the leading Muslims from among those, who believed in the right of Imam Ali (a.s) of authority since the death of the Prophet, were so delighted with this pledge of allegiance. They fully supported his government, and urged the Muslims to strengthen it. They are as follows:
- Thabit Bin Qays
Thabit bin Qays, the orator of the Ansar, rose and addressed Imam Ali, saying: “By Allah, O commander of the faithful, if they had preceded you in authority, they had not preceded you in the religion. If they were a head of you yesterday, you have caught up with them today. They were and you were. Your place was not hidden and your position was not ignored. They were in need of you in respect of that which they did not know, while you were in no need of anyone because of your knowledge.”
- Khuzayma Bin Thabit
The great companion of the Prophet, Khuzayma bin Thabit, the one of two testimonies, said: “O commander of the faithful, we are not right in choosing anyone to this affair of ours except you, and our return was not to anyone except you. If we believe our souls in respect of you, then you are the first of people in faith, the most knowledgeable in Allah, and the most appropriate for Allah’s Apostle (a.s). You have what they do not have, and they do not have what you have.”
Then he recited some poetry through which he addressed the people, saying:
If we pledge allegiance to Ali; therefore, enough for the future troubles we fear is Abul Hasan. We have found him the most appropriate of people for people; he is the most learned of Quraysh in the Book and the Suna. And that Quraysh is unequalled to him when he someday runs on the slender camels. He has what they have from among all the good, and they do not have what he has of any good.[^1]
[^1] Al-Hakim, Mustadrak, vol. 3, p. 115. In his book al-Fusool al-Mukhtara, Al-Sayyid al-Murtada has mentioned an addition to the poetry line as follows:
The guardian of Allah’s Apostle with the exception of his family; and he was his knight in the bygone time. He was the first of all the people to pray with the exception to the best of women; 3. Sa’sa’a Bin Souhan
Sa’sa’a bin Souhan rose and said to the Imam: “By Allah, O commander of the faithful, you have adorned the caliphate, while it has not adorned you. You have raised it, while it has not raised you. It is in need of you, while you are not in need of it.”[^1]
- Malik al-Ashtar
The great leader Malik al-Ashtar addressed the Muslims, saying: “O people, this is the guardian of guardians (Ali). He is the inheritor of the prophets’ knowledge, the great in bravery, and the good in toil, for whom Allah’s Book has borne witness in faith, and His Apostle in the Garden of al-Ridwan. It is he whose merits are perfect. Neither the first nor the last have doubt about his precedence, knowledge, and excellence.”
- Uqba Bin Amr
Uqba bin Amr rose and praised the Imam’s outstanding merits, saying: “It is he who has a day like the day of al-Aqaba, pledge of allegiance like that of al-Ridwan, the most rightly-guided Imam, whose injustice is not feared, and the learned whose ignorance is not feared.”[^2] The companions successively lauded Abu al-Hasan’s merits, mentioned his laudable deeds and his achievements, and urged the Muslims to support his government.
Quraysh becomes silent with Fear
Quraysh and the rest of the devious forces received the caliphate of Imam Ali (a.s) with fear, worry, and disorder. The Imam had warred against them for Islam and killed many of their leading personalities. He killed the prominent persons of Umayya such as Utba bin Rabee‘a (Mu’awiya’s grandfather), al-Waleed bin Utba (his uncle), and Hanzala (his brother). He killed other than them from among the chiefs and pillars of the polytheists and the atheists. This kindled rancor in their hearts and aroused spites toward him. Besides, the and Allah is the possessor of favors.
He was the escape-goat of the people at every battle where the soul of the brave was at the chin. That was he through his name the small fingers were bent; (he) was their Imam until he was made absent in the shroud.
[^1] In this meaning Ahmed bin Hanbal has said: “Most surely the caliphate did not adorn Ali, rather Ali adorned it.” This has been mentioned by Ibn al-Jawzi in (his book) Manaqib Ahmed, p. 163. [^2] Al-Ya‘qubi, Tarikh, vol. 2, p. 155.
Imam’s policy opposed their interests and advantages. He warred against preference and selfish use. Under all circumstances Imam Ali (a.s) did not accept the policy of plundering and favoritism that Uthman had followed. For this reason, Quraysh mutinied against his government. Al-Waleed announced all these things when he and the Umayyads were forced to pay homage to the Imam. He said to him: “You had wronged us. As for me, you killed my father at the Battle of Badr. As for Sa’eed, you killed his father at the Battle of Badr, while his father was a brilliant Qurayshi. As for Marwan, you cursed his father, and you criticized Uthman when he joined him to him. We pledge allegiance to you provided that you remove from us what had befallen us, let us have that which in our hands, and kill those who killed our companion (Uthman).”
The Imam refused his speech. He answered him saying: “As for that which you have mentioned in respect of my killing your men, it is the truth that has killed them. As for my removing that which were in your hands, I have no right to remove Allah’s right. As for my letting you have that which in your hands, justice encompasses you in respect of that which belongs to Allah and the Muslims. As for my killing those who killed Uthman, if it is incumbent upon me to fight against them today, it is incumbent upon me to fight against them tomorrow. But it belongs to you that I must incite you to follow Allah’s Book and the Sunna of His Prophet. Whoever is annoyed with the truth is more annoyed with the falsehood. And if you wish, you can follow your ancestors.”[^1]
Quraysh intended to bargain with the Imam in respect of the properties of the community. They wanted him to deviate from his straight plan seeking the public interests, and guiding the people to the clear truth and the straight path. However the Imam had promised Allah and the Muslims to put into practice the Qur’anic precepts, give new life to the Islamic features, and behave in the light of the Sunna of the Prophet (a.s). He had promised them not to yield to the events and circumstances whatever hard and severe they were, to watch all those who wronged the Muslims and aggressed against them. For this reason, Quraysh harbored strong malice against his government. They, their allies, and their children announced mutiny and disobedience. Ibn Abi al-Haddeed has described their disorder and worry, saying: “Their state was as if that the caliphate reached him on the death of his cousin. They showed what was in their souls and their excitement of that which was in their hearts. They all became disordered even the allies from Quraysh and the youths who did not
[^1] Al-Ya‘qubi, Tarikh, vol. 2, p. 155.
witness his battles and attacks against their ancestors and forefathers. They did that of which the ancestors fell short if they were living.”
The Imam was severely tried by those tyrants whose hearts and feelings Islam did not penetrate, and whose souls were full of malice against him. It was because he stood beside the Prophet (a.s) to protect his message, and protect him from the aggression of the traitors and the aggressors, and because he cut off the heads of the infidels and the atheists. He expressed his strong displeasure with them, saying: “There is a great difference between me and Quraysh. I killed them because they were infidels, and I will kill them because they are trouble- makers. By Allah I will split open the falsehood that the truth may appear from its waist. So say to Quraysh: ‘Let them clamor their clamor!’”
Most surely Quraysh were angry with Imam Ali and came between him and his right after the death of the Prophet (a.s). They turned the caliphate away from him. They onetime handed it over to Taym (Abu Bakr), onetime to Adiy (Umar), and onetime to Umayya (the Umayyads). They were earnest in making riot and mutiny, that they might put an end to his government. They showed that during the battles of al-Jamal and Siffin.
Some persons refrained from paying homage to Imam Ali. Al-Mas’udi has named them al-Qu’aad.[^1] Abu al-Fida’ has given them the name of al-Mu;’‘tazila.[^2] Imam Ali was asked about them, and he answered: “Those are the people who tarried the truth and did not rise for falsehood!”[^3] They were Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas, Abdullah bin Umar, Hassaan bin Thabit, Ka‘ab bin Malik, Muslima bin Mukhalad, Abu Sa’eed al-Khidri, Muhammad bin Muslima, al-Nu‘man bin Basheer, Zayd bin Thabit, Rafi‘ bin Khudayj, Fudhala bin ‘Ubayd, Ka‘ab bin ‘Ajra, Abdullah bin Salam, Suhayb bin Sinan, Salama bin Salama, Usama bin Zayd, Qudama bin Madh‘un, and al-Mughira bin Shu‘ba.[^4] They deviated from the truth and lost the way. The Muslims agreed unanimously on the pledge of allegiance to the Imam. They had no excuse for refraining from paying homage to him. Their refraining violated the Muslim consensus and mutinied against the community’s will. Through that they opened a door to rebellion and mutiny against the government of the Imam, and they kindled the fire of the discord in the country. Sa’d bin Abi
[^1] Murujj al-Dhahab, vol. 6, pp. 78-79. [^2] Abi al-Fida’, Tarikh, vol. 1, pp. 178-179. [^3] Al-Isti‘ab, vol. 3, p. 55. [^4] Ibn al-Athir, al-Kamil, vol. 3, p. 74.
Waqqas was one of the ten persons given good news of the Garden, as they say. However he apologized for isolating himself from the Imam and the Umayyads during the days of the great discord, saying: “I will not fight until they bring me a knowing, wise, speaking sword to tell me this is a Muslim and this is an unbeliever.” This is a silly apology which neither speech nor proof support. The pledge of allegiance to the Imam was lawful in the exact meaning of the word. The Imam undertook the caliphate. The Muslim masses paid homage to him. The pledge of allegiance to him was not falta (mistake) like that of Abu Bakr, nor was it according to the declaration of one man like that of Umar, nor was it based on a certain group of people like that of Uthman.
Therefore, the group of people, who mutinied against him, wrongfully acted. It was incumbent on the Muslims to fight against it, for Allah had commanded them to do that, saying: “And if two parties of the believers quarrel, make peace between them. But if one of them acts wrongfully toward the other, fight that which acts wrongfully until it returns to Allah’s command.”[^1] However Sa’d harbored malice against the Imam. It was he who gave his vote to Abdurrahman bin Awf to weaken the side of the Imam. We have previously explained that when we talked about the Consultative Committee. At last he repented of his deed and wished that he was with the Imam. Likewise Abdullah bin Umar felt remorse for that. He said when he was about to die: “Most surely I am going to leave the world. I have no regret in my heart except my refraining from (paying homage to) Ali.” Allah took vengeance on him. He showed him abasement and disgrace during the last days of his lifetime.
He made him live to the time of ‘Abd al-Malik. When al-Hajjaj came to take the pledge of allegiance to ‘Abd al-Malik, Abdullah came at the end of the people lest someone should recognize him. However al-Hajjaj recognized him. He disrespected him, made light of him, and said to him: “Why did you not pay homage to Abu Turab (Imam Ali), while you have come at the end of the people to pay homage to ‘Abd al-Malik? You are too low to stretch out my hand to you! My leg is in front of you, so pay homage!”
He stretched out to him his leg with his sandals, and he paid homage to it. Most surely those who refrained from pledging allegiance to the Imam came to know, without doubt, that the truth was with Ali, and that he was the most appropriate for the authority. He had precedence in Islam, knowledge, understanding, and clinging to the religion. But the low desires and vainglory made those people far from their religion, and they showed enmity toward the family of their Prophet and removed them from their ranks where Allah had placed them. To Allah we belong and to Him is our return!
[^1] Qur’an, 49, 9.
**Confiscating the plundered Properties The beginning of the deeds that Imam Ali (a.s) performed was that he issued his decisive decision in respect of returning the lands that Uthman had granted, the properties he had possessed alone, and the properties he had given to his relatives, for they were unlawfully taken. All Uthman’s possessions were confiscated even his sword and his breastplate. Concerning that, al-Waleed has said when he addressed the Hashimites:
O Banu Hashim, return the weapon of your nephew and do not plunder it. It is not lawful to loot it. O Banu Hashim, how does leniency take place among us while his breastplate and his outstanding things are with Ali? O Banu Hashim, how do you show affection while the clothes and war tools of Ibn Arwa are with you? O Banu Hashim, if you do not return (these things), then we regard as the same those who killed him and those who looted (his possessions). O Banu Hashim, we and that which issued from you are like the crack of al-Safa; no reformer will set right the crack. You killed my brother, that you might replace him, just as his guards one day betrayed Khosrau.
Abdullah bin Abi Sufyan bin al-Harith refuted him with some poetry lines of which are the following:
Do not ask us about your sword. Most surely your sword has been lost, and its owner threw it down out of fear. You have likened him to Khosrau, and he was like Khosrau in his conduct and his (collecting) taxes. These just procedures moved the displeasure of those who plundered the Muslims’ properties and enjoyed the world. Amr bin al-Aas wrote a letter to Mu’awiya. He has mentioned in the letter: “Do what you want to do. (Ali) bin Abi Talib has stripped you of your possessions as a stick is stripped of the bark.”[^1] Talha, al-Zubayr, and the like from among those, whom Uthman had granted lands and given enormous properties, were afraid of that what was in there hand would be confiscated. Accordingly, they showed opposition and aggression, and they announced mutiny against the Imam.
[^1] Al-Ghadir, vol. 8, p. 288.
Deposing the Governors
Imam Ali went on establishing the procedures of justice in the country. He ordered Uthman’s governors to be removed from their offices one by one, for they had displayed tyranny and corruption in the land. He refused to let them stay in the government even for one moment. Letting them stay meant accepting oppression and tyranny. So he immediately removed Mu’awiya from his office. Some loyal persons advised the Imam to let Mu’awiya go on practicing his work until the conditions went well with him. However he refused that and refrained from flattering in his religion. Ziyad bin Handhala came in to him to know his viewpoint about Mu’awiya, and he said to him:
-Get ready, O Ziyad. -For what, O Commander of the faithful? -To invade al-Sham. -Leniency and patience are better.
So the Imam answered him: When you gather a clever heart, a sword, and a zealous nose, oppressions will avoid you. As a result he mobilized his troops to invade al-Sham that he might put an end to the Umayyad government ruling there. But he was surprised by the mutiny of Talha, al-Zubayr, and A’isha. He was busy with putting an end to their rebellion. We will explain that in detail in the following chapters.
The Pioneer of the great, social justice on the earth (Imam Ali) announced justice and equality among the Muslims, whether in giving or any other thing. He was blamed for that, and he said: “Do you ask me to seek support through oppressing those over whom I have been appointed as ruler? By Allah, I will not do so as long as the world goes on, and as long as one star leads another in the sky. Even if it were my property, I would equally distribute it among them, then why not when the property is Allah’s? Beware, most surely that giving of wealth without any right is wastefulness and lavishness. It raises its doer in the world but it lowers him in the next world. It honors him before the people but it disgraces him before Allah.”[^1]
The equality that the Imam announced aimed at finding a society where racism and nationalism would never prevail, there would be neither miserable [^1] Muhammad ‘Abda, Sharh Nahj al-Balagha, vol. 2, p. 10.
nor deprived nor out of work people, and there would be neither oppression, nor tyranny, dictatorship, or selfishness. Certainly the equality that the Imam applied during his rule was based on the Islamic constructive concepts aiming at putting into practice political and social justice, and putting an end to all kinds of oppression, tyranny, and autocracy. Accordingly, the opportunists opposed them as they opposed the Prophet’s principles and objectives.
Spreading of Justice
Imam Ali (a.s) achieved justice in all its horizons. He realized the social and political justice, and ruled people with right policy with no any bit of partiality or crookedness. He tried his best to achieve justice and deny all selfish pleasures and limited interests. Historians say that he was the first one in Islam to build a house for complaints (court) where the oppressed and the wronged offered books in which they explained the wrong and aggression they received. Imam Ali (a.s) himself was in charge of this task. He took their rights back to them and defended them against injustice and aggression.[^1]
It was never mentioned that once he preferred one of his children, family, or relatives with anything from the treasury of the state. Once, he entered the treasury to divide the wealth. One of al-Hasan or al-Husayn’s children came and took something from it. When he saw that, he follow after the child, opened her hand, and took it from her. His companions said to him, ‘O Ameerul Mo'minin, she has a right in it (the treasury).’ Imam Ali (a.s) said, ‘When her father takes (his right) from it, let him give her whatever he likes…’[^2]
Historians say that Khalid bin Ma’mar ad-Dousi narrated, ‘One day, I interceded with Ameerul Mo'minin to increase a little the gift of al-Hasan and al-Husayn that they might somehow improve their difficult living. He denied, became angry, and refused to do anything.[^3] Al-Hakam said, ‘Once, I saw that Ali brought some vessels of honey and invited the orphans to eat, until I wished that I were an orphan.’ He also said, ‘Once, I saw him when some pomegranates were brought to him and he divided them among people. The share of our mosque was ten pomegranates.[^4]
[^1] Subh al-A’sha. [^2] Ansab al-Ashraf, vol. 1 p.160. [^3] Sharh Nahjol Balagha, vol. 10 p.250. [^4] Ansab al-ashraf, vol. 1 p.161.
Imam Ali (a.s) was utmost pious in his religious and political behavior. He made his policy submit to his religious and moral values, and consequently he tired himself too much.
Al-Aswad bin Qays said, ‘Ali offered food to people in Kufa in the yard (of the mosque). When he finished, he went home to have food there. One of his companions said, ‘I thought that Ameerul Mo'minin ate at home food better than what he offered to people. On that day, I did not eat with people and I went with him (Imam Ali). He asked me: did you have dinner? I said: no. He said: then come with me! I went with him to his house. When we were inside the house, he called out, ‘O Fidhdha!’ She (his servant) came and he said to her, ‘Bring us food!’ She fetched some pieces of bread and a vessel of yogurt. She poured the yogurt into a plate and cut the bread into pieces and mixed it with the yogurt. There was bran in it. I said to him, ‘O Ameerul Mo'minin, you may order the flour to be sieved for you!’ Imam Ali (a.s) began crying and then said, ‘By Allah, I have not known that there was a sieve in the house of the Messenger of Allah at all.’[^1]
The books of history and Hadith are full of stories about the justice of Imam Ali (a.s) that have astonished the minds and confused the reasons. I do not think that the history of man can find an equal to him in piety, sensitive conscience, and fear of Allah in all his deeds.
Imam Ali (a.s) granted freedom to all the citizens. He granted them the freedom of speech, of thought, and criticizing the rule. He granted them the political freedom in the full sense of the word. He did not force anyone to pay homage to him. He permitted Talha and az-Zubayr to leave Yathrib (Medina), and did not impose on them house arrest though he knew that they would renounce the homage, fight against him, and cause separation among the Muslims.
He saw that all people were free in their thoughts and beliefs, and that the government had no right to prevent them on condition that they would not cause sedition or mischief in the land.
Historians mentioned too many examples on the political freedom that he had granted to people even to his opponents and enemies. They mentioned that Abu Khaleefa at-Ta’iy narrated, ‘When we came back from (the battle of) an-Nahrawan, we met, before reaching al-Mada’in, Abul Ayzar at-Ta’iy who believed in the Kharijites. He said to Adiy bin Hatim, ‘O Abu Tareef, are you [^1] Ansab al-Ashraf, vol. 1 p. 168.
(after the battle) safe and successful or sinful oppressive?
Adiy said, ‘But safe and successful.’ The man said, ‘It is up to you.’ Al-Aswad bin Yazid and al-Aswad bin Qays suspected him. They arrested him and said, ‘You did not say that except out of evil. We know that you believe in the Kharijites.’ They took him to Imam Ali (a.s) and told him what happened.
Imam Ali (a.s) asked them ‘What shall I do to him?’ They said, ‘You kill him,’ The Imam said, ‘Shall I kill one who did not fight me?’ They said, ‘You imprison him.’ Imam Ali (a.s) said, ‘He has committed no crime. Set him free!’[^1]
He did not impose anything on anyone. He did not force anyone to obey him, and he did not oblige people to do what they did not like.
His Recommendations to his Son al-Hasan
Imam Ali (a.s) gave his son al-Hasan some educational commandments full of high values, and noble, humanitarian ideals. The most important of them was his commandment that he had written at Hadhireen[^2] when he left Siffin. It is full of valuable lessons and social manners. Indeed Muslims must write them on the pages of their hearts and regard them as a constitution for them during their individual and social behavior. We will mention to gentle readers some of them:
“From the father who is about to die, who acknowledges (the hardships of) the time, has turned away from life, has submitted himself to the (calamities of) time, who dispraises (the evils of) the world, who will live in the abodes of the dead, and who is going to leave it (the world) tomorrow. To the son who yearns for what is not achieved, follows the path of those who have died who were the victim of ailments, entangled in the (worries of the days), a target of hardships, a salve of the world, a trader of its deception, a debtor of wishes, a prisoner of mortality, an ally of worries, a neighbor of grief, a victim of distresses, who has been overpowered by desires, and who is a successor of the dead.” [^1] Tareekh Baghdad, vol. 14 p.364-365. [^2] Hadhireen was a village in Siffin.
In these golden words Imam Ali has announced his submission to the time and turning away from the world. When he wrote these commandments, he was over sixty years old. This is the age of one who is about to leave the world and goes to the next world. The Imam has described all those who are born in the world as yearning for that which is not achieved while they follow the way of the perishable, are the victims of ailments, and allies of worries and sorrows.
After this, the Imam (a.s) has mentioned the reasons why he has written these commandments:
“Now (you should know that) what I have learnt from the turning away of this world from me, the disobedience of the time to me, and the advancing of the next world towards me is enough to prevent me from remembering anyone except myself and from thinking beyond myself. But when I confined myself to my own worries leaving the worries of others, my intelligence saved me and protected me from my desires. It clarified to me my affairs and led me to seriousness wherein there was no trickery and truth which was not tarnished by falsehood. Here, I found you a part of me, rather I found you my whole, so much so that if anything befell you, it was as if it befell me, and if death came to you, it was as if it came to me. Consequently, your affairs meant to me what my own matters meant to me. So I have written this piece of advice (to you) as a mean of seeking help through it, whether I remain alive for you or cease to exist.”
After the Imam had mentioned the factors that urged him to write these commandments, he began explaining the perfect ideals to which his son had to cleave and follow. He has said:
“I advise you to fear Allah, abide by His commands, fill your heart with remembering Him, and to cling to hope from Him. No connection is more reliable than the connection between you and Allah provided that you should take hold of it. Enliven your heart with preaching. Kill it by renunciation, strengthen it with firm belief, enlighten it with wisdom, humiliate it by recalling death, make it believe in mortality, make it see the misfortunes of this world, and make it fear the assault of the time and the severity of some changes during the nights and the days. Place before it the events of the past people, recall to it what befell those who were before you and walk among their cities and ruins, then see what they did and from what they have gone away and where they have gone and stayed. You will find that they departed from their friends and remained in loneliness. Shortly, you too will be like one of them. Therefore, plan for your place of stay and do not sell your next life for this world.
“Give up discussing what you do not know and speaking about what does not concern you. Keep off the track from which you fear to go astray because refraining when there is fear of straying is better than embarking on dangers. Ask others to do good, and you will thus be among the good doers. Desist evil with your action as well as your speech and keep away from whoever commits it. Struggle for Allah as is His due, and the reviling of a reviler should not deter you in matters of Allah. Leap into dangers for the sake of right wherever it be. Acquire insight into religious law. Habituate yourself to endure hardships since the best trait of character is endurance in matters of right. In all your affairs resign yourself to your Lord, because you will thus be resigning yourself to a secure shelter and a strong protector. You should ask only from your Lord because in His hand is all the giving and depriving. Seek good (from Allah) as much as you can. Understand my advice and do not turn away from it, because the best saying is that which benefits. Know that there is no good in that knowledge which does not benefit, and if knowledge is not useful, then its acquisition is not justified.”
Most surely these wise commandments that this speech has included are the programs of happiness, and the extract of wisdom, morals, and education. In his following words, the Imam (a.s) has indicated that he became an old man, and that he feared that death would surprise him without saying these wise commandments to his son. He has said:
“O my little son, when I noticed that I was of goodly age and noticed that I was increasing in weakness, I hastened with my will for you and wrote down salient points lest death should overcome me before I divulged to you what I have in my heart. Or lest my wit should be affected as my body has been affected, or the forces of passions or the mischief of the world overtake you making you like a stubborn camel. Certainly, the heart of a young man is like uncultivated land. It accepts whatever is strewn in it. So I hastened to mould you properly before your heart hardened up and your mind became occupied, so that you might be ready to accept through your intelligence the results of the experience of others and be saved from going through these experiences yourself. In this way, you would avoid the hardship of seeking them and the difficulties of experimenting. Thus, you are getting to know what we had experienced and even those things are becoming clear to you which we might have missed.”
When the Imam was advanced in years, he wanted to place in his son’s soul what had settled in his own holy soul from among good manners and perfection. He wanted to supply him with wise sayings, to teach him the most important lessons that took place in the world of existence, whose extract the wise and the men of experience had taken. He wanted to put before his son all these things that he might come to know all things, and especially as it concerned the important extract of them. Then the wise Imam went on saying his commandments:
“O my little son, even though I have not reached the age which those before me had reached, yet I looked into their behavior and thought over the events of their lives. I walked among their ruins till I was as one of them. In fact, by virtue of those of their affairs that have become known to me it is as though I have lived with them from the first to the last. I have therefore been able to discern the impure from the clean and the benefit from the harm.
“I have selected for you the choicest of those matters and collected for you their good points and have kept away from you their useless points. Since I feel for you affairs as a living father should feel and I aim at giving you training. I thought it should be at a time when you are advancing in age and new on the stage of the world, possessing upright intention and clean heart and that I should be with the teachings of Allah’s Book, its interpretation, laws and precepts of Islam, the lawful and the unlawful. I should not go beyond that for you. Then I feared lest you should get confused as other people had been confused on account of their passions and (difficult) views. Therefore, in spite of my dislike for your being so warned, I thought it was better for me to make this position strong rather than leaving you in a position where I do not regard you safe from falling into destruction. I hoped that Allah would help you in your straight-forwardness and guide you in your resoluteness. Consequently, I wrote this piece of my will for you.”
O my master, O cognizant of the conditions of people, knowing of the clear and unclear affairs, versed in the essence of things, tell us about the most lovable things to you and the most important of them in your viewpoint:
“You should know, O my little son, that what I love most for you to adopt from my will is to fear Allah, to confine yourself to what Allah has made obligatory on you, and to follow the actions of your forefathers and the virtuous people of your household, because they did not fall short in seeing for themselves what you will see for yourself, and they did about their affairs as you would like to think (about your affairs). Thereafter, their thinking led them to discharge the obligations they came to know of and to desist from what they were not required to do. If your heart does not accept this without acquiring knowledge as they acquired it, then your search should first be by way of understanding and learning and not by falling into doubts or getting entangled in quarrels.
“And before you probe into this, you should begin by seeking your Allah’s help and turning to Him for competence and keeping aloof from everything that throws you into doubt or flings you towards misguidance. When you have made sure that your heart is clean and humble and your thoughts have come together and you have only one thought which is about this matter, then you will see what I have explained to you. But if you have not been able to achieve that piece of observation and thinking which you would like to have, then know that you are only stamping the ground like a blind she-camel and falling into darkness while a seeker of religion should not grope in the dark or create confusion. It is better to avoid that.”
“Therefore, accept, O my little son, my advice and know that He Who is the Master of death is also the Master of life, that the Creator causes death as well, that He Who destroys is also the Restorer of life, and that He Who inflicts disease is also the Curer. This world continues in the way that Allah has made it with regard to its pleasures, trials, rewards on the Day of Judgments, and all that He wishes, and you do not know. If anything of this advice is not understood by you, then attribute it to your ignorance of it, because when you were first born you were born ignorant. Thereafter, you acquired knowledge. There are many matters of which you are ignorant and which your sight first wonders and your eye wonders, then after this you see them. Therefore, cling to Him Who has created you, your eagerness should be towards Him and your fear should be of Him.”
After this, Imam Ali (a.s) began mentioning the Oneness of Allah and giving proofs on it. Having finished that, he explained the social, good manners, saying:
“O my little son, make yourself the measure (for dealings) between you and others. Thus, you should desire for others what you desire for yourself, and hate for others what you hate for yourself. Do not oppress as you do not like to be oppressed. Do good to others as you like good to be done to you. Regard as bad for yourself whatever you regard as bad for others. Accept from others that which you like others to accept from you. Do not talk about what you do not know even though what you know is very little. Do not say to others what you do not like to be said to you.
“You should know that self-admiration is contrary to propriety (of action) and is a calamity for the mind. Therefore, increase your striving and do not be a treasurer for others (who will inherit you). When you have been guided in the right path, humble yourself before Allah as much as you can.”
If man followed these wise sayings, he would be the highest example of education, highness, and perfection, for they have the fundamentals of justice, and the basics of virtue and perfection. Some of these immortal, wise sayings are:
“You should know with certainty that you cannot achieve your desire and cannot exceed your destined life. You are on the trace of those before you. Therefore, be humble in seeking and moderate in earning because often seeking leads to deprivation. Every seeker of livelihood does not get it, nor is everyone, who is moderate in seeking, deprived. Keep yourself away from every low thing even though they may take you to your desired aims, because you will not get any return for your own respect which you spend. Do not be the slave of others, for Allah had made you free. There is no good in good which is achieved through evil, and no good in comfort that is achieved through (disgracing) hardship.
“Beware, lest bearers of greed should carry you and make you descend down to the springs of destruction. If you can manage that there be no wealthy person between you and Allah, do so, because in any case you will find what is for you and get your share. A little from Allah, the Glorified, is greater than the much from His creatures, although all is from Allah.”
“It is easier to rectify what you miss by silence than to secure what you lose by speaking. Whatever is in a pot can be retained by closing the lid. I should prefer you to retain what is in your hands rather than to seek what is in others’ hands. Bitterness of disappointment is better than seeking from people. Manual labor with chastity is better than the riches of a vicious life. A man is the best guard of his own secrets. Often a man strives for that which harms him. He who speaks much speaks nonsense. Whoever ponders perceives. Associate with the people of virtue, and you will be one of them. Keep aloof from the people of vice, and you will remain safe from them. The worst food is that which is unlawful. Oppressing the weak is the worst of oppression.
“Where leniency is unsuitable, harshness is lenience. A cure may be an illness, and an illness may be a cure. An ill-wisher may give correct advice while the well-wisher cheats. Do not depend on hopes because they are the mainstay of fools. It is wise to preserve one’s experience. Your best experience is that which teaches you a lesson. Make use of leisure before it changes into grief. Not every seeker achieves what he seeks, and not every departer returns. To lose provision and earn evil for the Day of Judgement means ruin. Every matter has a consequence. What is destined for you will shortly come to you. A trader undertakes a risk. Perhaps a small quantity is more beneficial than a large quantity. There is no good in an ignoble helper, nor in a stingy friend. Be lenient with the time as long as it is in your grip. Do not risk something expecting more than it. Beware of importunacy lest it makes you go astray.
“Retain kinship with your brother if he cuts it, when he turns away from you, be kind to him and drew near to him, when he withholds spend for him, when he goes away, approach him, when he is harsh be lenient to him, when he commits an error, find an excuse for his error, as if you are his slave and he has a favor on you. But take care that this should not be done inappropriately, and that you should not behave so with an undeserving person. Do not take the enemy of your friend as a friend because you will thus antagonize your friend. Give true advice to your brother, be it good or bitter. Control your anger because I did not find a thing sweeter than it in end and nothing more pleasant in the final result. Be lenient to one who is harsh to you, for it is likely that he will shortly become lenient to you. Treat your enemy with favors, for this is sweeter of the two successes (the success of revenge and that of doing favor).
“If you intend to cut relations with your friend, leave some scope for him in your self that he may come back to you some day. If anyone has a good idea about you, prove it to be true. Do not waste your brother’s interests depending upon the relation between you and him, for he is not your brother if you disregard his interests. Your household should not become the most miserable people through you. Do not lean towards one who turns away from you. Let your brother not be more in his disregard of kinship than you in retaining kinship, and you should exceed in doing good to him than his evil to you. Do not feel too much the oppression of a person who oppresses you, for he is only busy in harming himself and benefiting you. The reward of one who pleases you is not that you displease him.”