Khalifa Ali bin Talib


Birth of Ali


Ali was the son of Abu Talib, a prominent Quraish chief and custodian of the Holy Kaaba. Abu Talib was so called because he was the father of "Talib", the eldest brother of Ali. The real name of Abu Talib was Abd Manaf. He was however more popularly known by his surname than by his real name. Abu Talib was the son of Abdul Muttalib. Abdul Muttalib was also a surname, his real name being Shaybah. Abdul Muttalib was the son of Hashim. Hashim was a great man of the line, and his descendants came to be known as Hashimites.

The mother of Ali was Fatima. She was the daughter of Asad who was a son of Hashim. Fatima was a cousin of Abu Talib. Thus both the father and mother of Ali were Hashimites, and that was a great honor.

Ancestry of Ali and the Holy Prophet

The Holy Prophet was the son to Abdullah who was the son of Abdul Muttalib. Abdullah and Abu Talib were real brothers. Abu Talib was thus the real paternal uncle of the Holy Prophet of Islam. Ali was the first cousin of the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet and Ali had a common grandfather Abdul Muttalib.

Abdul Muttalib was the son of Hashim who was the son of Abd Manaf who was the son of Qussay who was the son of Murrah, who was the son of Kaab, who was the son of Luayy, who was the son of Ghalib, who was the son of Fihr, who was the son of Malik who was the son of Nadr, who was the son of Kananah. Beyond Kananah the ancestry extended to Ismail, and Ibrahim, who flourished some 2500 years earlier.

Date of birth

The exact date of the birth of Ali is not known with any degree of certainty. According to traditions, Ali was born on the thirteenth of "Rajab" in the 28th year of the Elephant Era. The Elephant Era according to the annals of Arabia commenced when Abraha the Christian Viceroy of Yemen invaded Makkah with the intention of destroying the Kaaba, and shifting the center of pilgrimage to Yemen. The invasion failed and the Christian army had to beat a retreat without achieving its object. That marked the retreat of Christianity from the heartland of Arabia and paved the way for the rise of Islam. The Holy Prophet of Islam was born in the Year of the Elephant. According to scholars the Year of the Elephant corresponds to the year 571 of the Christian era. On this basis, the year of the birth of Ali would have to be placed around 599 or 600 C.E. Anyhow Ali was at the junction of the two centuries, the sixth and the seventh.

Birth of Ali

Ali was born under unusual circumstances. On the thirteenth of the holy month of "Rajab", Fatima, the mother of Ali, visited the Kaaba for performing the pilgrimage. During the course of the pilgrimage while circumambulating the Kaaba, Fatima felt the pangs of childbirth. She retired to a secluded place in the precincts of the Holy Kaaba, and there Ali was born. Ali had thus the unique honor of being born in the House of God. This unparalleled honor has endowed Ali with a halo of sanctity, which has become the subject of many legends. A hundred years later, Zain-ul-Abidin a grandson of Ali (son of Husain) met as Arab woman at Najaf who told him that her grandmother had helped on the occasion of the birth of Ali. She narrated that according to the account of her grandmother, the child was beautiful, a smile played on his lips, it did not cry like other children, and its birth did not cause any pain to his mother.

The Name

Fatima wanted to name the child "Asad" after the name of her father. Abu Talib wanted to name him Zaid. When the mother and the child came home, the Holy Prophet, and Khadija came to see the newborn child. Since his birth, the child had not opened his eyes, and that worried Fatima and Abu Talib. As the Holy Prophet took the child in his lap he opened his eyes. The first person that Ali saw after his birth was the Holy Prophet. When the Holy Prophet was asked whether he approved of the child being named as Asad or Zaid, he said that as the child was born in the House of God, he should be named Ali, the word Ali being a derivative of Allah. Ali had thus the distinction of being named after Allah. No person before him had ever been so named. The name acquired further sanctity as it was proposed by the Holy Prophet.

Years of Childhood

The Holy Prophet and Ali

The Holy Prophet was a posthumous child, and he was born after the death of his father Abdullah. He lost his mother Aamina when he was hardly six years old. Thereafter he became a ward of his grandfather Abdul Muttalib. He lost his grandfather when he nine years old. The Holy Prophet next lived with his Uncle Abu Talib who a real brother of his father. In the house of Abu Talib, the Holy prophet was well cared for. Abu Talib loved the Holy Prophet more than his own sons. Fatima the wife of Abu Talib gave the Holy Prophet the love of mother. The Holy Prophet accompanied Abu Talib on his trade journeys. It was under the loving care of Abu Talib and Fatima that the Holy Prophet grew into manhood. At the age of twenty-five, some time around 596 C.E., the Holy Prophet married a rich lady Khadija and shifted to her house. There was not much distance between the two houses and the two families visited each other frequently. The Holy Prophet cold never forget the love that Abu Talib and Fatima had born for him. Even after his marriage, the Holy Prophet regarded himself as a member of the family of Abu Talib. In this context, it is probable that the Holy Prophet and Khadija would have rejoiced at the birth of Ali and would have some function to celebrate the occasion.

Life in the desert

No detailed account of the early years of the childhood of Ali is available, and where the source books are silent the story has been reconstructed on the basis of the laws of plausibility and probability. It was a custom of the Quraish of Makkah that they entrusted their new born sons to the care of foster parents belonging to the tribes of the desert, and it was in the open air of the desert that the young sons of the Quraish were bred during the first few years of their childhood. We know that the Holy Prophet spent the first five years of his childhood with his foster parents in the desert. We do not know who the foster parents of Ali were. Ali had a strong constitution, and after the Holy Prophet, he was the most eloquent person among the Quraish. This provides evidence to the effect that like the Holy Prophet, Ali spent the first few years of his childhood in the desert. It appears that the necessary arrangements in this behalf were made by the Holy Prophet, and he paid for the maintenance of Ali in the desert.

Induction of Ali as a member of the family of the Holy Prophet

As the Holy Prophet had arranged for the stay of Ali in the desert, it appears that on return from the desert, the young Ali was brought to the house of the Holy Prophet, and he arranged some function to mark the occasion which was attended by Abu Talib and his family, and other close relatives. The Holy Prophet had looked after the young Ali since his birth and he developed a great liking for him. It was against this background that the Holy Prophet requested Abu Talib that Ali be entrusted to his care, and be allowed to live with him as a member of his family. Abu Talib agreed as he felt that the Holy Prophet would look after Ali in a much better way than he could.

Most of the writers have expressed the view that the Holy Prophet took over the responsibility for the maintenance of Ali to provide financial relief to Abu Talib whose financial position had grown weak. It is difficult to accept this view. Abu Talib was a Quraish chief and he enjoyed reputation as such and commanded great influence. Like the other Quraish he undertook trading activities. There is no evidence to the effect that he was involved in any financial difficulty. Abu Talib had really any financial difficulty, the Holy Prophet who was in affluent circumstances could have supplemented the financial resources of Abu Talib by providing financial assistance as a son would help a father in old age. The truth of the matter is that Ali was entrusted to the Holy Prophet, not because of any financial considerations, but because the Holy Prophet had developed a liking for the child, and wanted to have him by his side. In entrusting Ali to the care of the Holy Prophet, Abu Talib did not part from Ali. Ali visited the house of his parents every day, and he was as much a member of the house of Abu Talib as that of the Holy Prophet. Indeed the house of the Holy Prophet was an extension of the house of Abu Talib, and the young Ali lived with the Holy Prophet as a younger brother would live with an elder brother without any break with the paternal house.

The Umayyads versus the Hashimites

It appears that most of the accounts of the period were written when the Umayyads had wrested power from the Hashimites. Because of the rivalry between the Umayyads and the Hashimites, most of the writers during the Umayyad period tried to create the impression that the Hashimites were not good managers, and that the financial position of Abu Talib had deteriorated because of his inefficiency. This view is uncharitable. The Muslims are under great obligation to Abu Talib for his guardianship of the Holy Prophet and for his support of Islam, and such views which cast an indirect aspersion on Abu Talib have to be rejected because of the bias of the writers.

Ward of the Holy Prophet

Biographical study

Ali became the ward of the Holy Prophet at the age of five. No account is available from the source books about the life of Ali during this period. As Ali came to be attached to the Holy Prophet during this period, we can derive help from the life of the Holy Prophet in order to undertake a biographical study of Ali. There are three turning points in the life of the Holy Prophet. The first turning point was his marriage with Khadija in 596 C E. when he was twenty-five years old. The second turning point was the call to prophethood in 611 C.E. when he was forty years old. The third turning point was the migration to Yathrib in 622 C E. when he was fifty-one years old. The life of the Holy Prophet is thus divisible into four periods. The first period of 25 years extends from 571 to 596 C. E the second period of 15 years extends from 596 to 611 C.E. The third period of 11 years extends from 611 to 622 C.E. The fourth and the last period covering ten years extends from 622 to 632 C.E. We have sufficient details about the third and fourth periods. A few details are available about the first period, but there are practically no details in any source book pertaining to the period from 596 to 611. These were the formative years preliminary to the call to prophethood, and in order to get a complete picture of the life of the Holy Prophet we will have to reconstruct the life story of the Holy Prophet during this period on the basis of further research. The law of plausibility and probability will also have to be pressed into service to set the narrative in proper perspective. As Ali became the ward of the Holy Prophet, during this period we cannot reproduce an account of the life of Ali during this period from any source book. We will have to undertake an exercise in the reconstruction of the biography of Ali during this period.

The house of the Holy Prophet

When Ali came to live with the Holy Prophet that was some time in the year 604 C.E. By this time eight years had passed since the marriage of the Holy Prophet and Khadija. At the time the Holy Prophet was thirty-three years and Khadija was forty-eight years old. During these eight years, Khadija had given birth to seven children. Out of these three were sons and four were daughters. All the three boys died during infancy. The girls survived. These were Zainab, Ruqayya, Umm Kulthum and Fatima. There were no more births thereafter. All the source books that have come down to us are silent as to the activities of the Holy Prophet during this period. We know that Khadija was a rich lady and when the record is silent about any business activity of the Holy Prophet that tends to create the impression that the Holy Prophet depended on the wealth of his wife. The Holy Prophet being the greatest of all men of all times, and a personification of perfection in all spheres of human activity could not be supposed as living on the wealth of anybody else, howsoever close. Years later in a verse of the Holy Quran, Allah said, "Were thee not poor, and did We not enrich thee?" A person who depends on the wealth of another person cannot be regarded as a rich man. The test of richness is that such richness should be on his own account and because of his own efforts. We know that the Holy Prophet was a skilful Manager, and a man endowed with such qualities could not be expected to sit idle. We know that the Holy Prophet was known as "Amin". This means that he was a banker, and a person who practiced banking must necessarily be a rich man. The Holy Prophet undertook some trade journeys before his marriage, and such journeys proved to be profitable from the business point of view. There appears to be no ground to believe that the Holy Prophet stopped all business activity after marriage. On the other hand, the plausibility is that he undertook such activities on a still bigger scale. It appears that during this period, the Holy Prophet headed a trade organization whereof his wife and some other friends were partners. We can thus conclude that when Ali came to live with the Holy Prophet, he found in the house of the Holy Prophet, all the comforts that are found in the house of a rich man.

Education of Ali

As the Holy Prophet was rich, it is certain that on taking over the responsibility for the maintenance of Ali, the Holy Prophet made the best possible arrangement for his education. Later in life, Ali came to enjoy reputation for being the most learned man of his age in Arabia. This points to the fact that the Holy Prophet took particular care in educating Ali, Ali was a precocious child, at an early age he came to master knowledge which others could hardly understand.

Trade journeys

Though there is no record to show that the Holy Prophet undertook any trade journeys during this period, there are strong plausible grounds to hold that the Holy Prophet was very active in business enterprises, and that he undertook at least one or two journeys every year. These journeys were generally undertaken to Yemen and Syria. There are indications that the Holy Prophet undertook some sea voyages as well and visited Egypt and Abyssinia. We know that when the Holy Prophet was a child, he accompanied his uncle Abu Talib on trade journeys. Against this background, we would not be far from the truth to hold that the young Ali often accompanied the Holy Prophet on such trade journeys. These journeys were highly educative and contributed a good deal to the broadening of the outlook of Ali.

Ali and the Kaaba

Ali knew that he was born in the Kaaba. He had, therefore, a fond attachment for the Kaaba. Some time in 605 C.E. the Quraish reconstructed the Kaaba. A dispute arose about the placing of the Holy Stone as each section of the Quraish wanted to have this honor for itself. It was ultimately decided that on the appointed day whosoever was the first to enter the Kaaba should decide as to how the dispute was to be resolved. On the appointed day the Holy Prophet was the first to enter the Kaaba. He decided that the Holy Stone should be placed in a mantle, and this mantle should be upheld by a representative of each section of the Quraish. The stone was carried in this way to the place where it was to be fixed in the wall. There the Holy Prophet lifted the stone from the mantle and fixed it at the appropriate place in the wall. Young Ali was present in the Kaaba on this occasion and he watched the proceedings with great interest. Ali felt a sense of pride at the association of his family with the Kaaba. He himself was born in the Kaaba, and his guardian had presided at the ceremony of laying down the Holy Stone. The Kaaba was verily the House of God, but he wondered why it was studded with over three hundred and sixty idols made of stone. The people worshipped these idols and slaughtered animals at their altar. He young Ali wondered why these deaf and dumb idols were worshipped and propitiated when they were not capable of conferring any benefit or inflicting any wrong on the people.

Ali and the Holy Prophet

At this impressionable period of his life, the young Ali was most impressed with the personality and character of the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet was the paragon of virtues, and the personification of human perfection. The Holy Prophet, Abu Bakr, and some other friends often met at the house of the Holy Prophet. The young Ali listened attentively to such talks. From these talks the young Ali gathered that the Holy Prophet was in quest of a new order of things. Ali resolved in his young mind that in any adventure in the discovery of a new order of things, he would stand by the side of Muhammad (peace be on him). He came to know from Abu Talib how a Christian monk in Syria had prophesied many years ago that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was destined to be a prophet of God. He heard from Khadija that her dream signified that great destiny awaited Muhammad (peace be upon him),and that he was to be a great leader of men and the savior of humanity. The young Ali anxiously longed to see that day when such dreams would be realized. He moved by a strong determination that as and when Muhammad (peace be upon him) was lifted to the status of prophethood he, as the ward of the Holy Prophet, Ali regarded the Holy Prophet not merely as a brother or a guardian, but as his guide and preceptor. Availing of the company of the Holy Prophet, the young Ali took pains to acquire most of the attributes, which were the distinguishing features of the character of the Holy Prophet. It was a result of this training received because of close association with the Holy Prophet that Ali in due course grew to be the alter ego of the Holy Prophet.

Conversion to Islam

Turning point in history

The year 611 C.E. was a turning point in the life of Muhammad (peace be upon him) for it was in this year that he was commissioned as a prophet of God to communicate the message of Islam to mankind. It was a turning point in the life of Ali for in this year he was converted to Islam. This was a turning point in the history of Islam. In fact it was a turning point in the history of mankind. It marked the end of the age of ignorance, and the dawn of a new era of enlightenment.

The call to Prophethood

Just as the clouds appear before the rain, thus Muhammad (peace be upon him) had some indications before hand of the things to come. He had frequent dreams, in some dreams he saw himself flying to the heavens in the great void of space. In some dreams he saw the stars bow to him. In some dreams he heard the trees, the rocks and the ether inanimate objects calling to him. In some dreams he saw himself standing at the summit of a mountain, and calling to the people assembled below in the valley. These dreams foretelling of some great things to come motivated Muhammad (peace be on him) to contemplate and meditate. To seek enlightenment through contemplation and meditation, Muhammad (peace be on him) sought the solitude of a cave in Mount Hira, some distance away from the city of Makkah. Muhammad (peace be on him) spent long hours in the cave absorbed in thought and meditation. When the stay in the cave extended to a long time Ali brought food for Muhammad in the cave. Ali kept watch on the cave and patrolled the neighborhood. One day in the year 611, the angel Gabriel appeared in the cave, and gave Muhammad (peace be on him) the tidings that God had commissioned him as a prophet and charged him to communicate the message of God to the people. The visitation of the angel, an unusual occurrence was a novel experience which upset Muhammad (peace be on him) and made him highly nervous.

Converts to Islam

When the Holy Prophet returned home he was highly agitated and most nervous. He told of the occurrence in the cave to his wife Khadija. She consulted her cousin Waraqa b Naufal who was versed in religious lore. Waraqa said that the angel who had appeared before Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the same angel who had appeared before Abraham, Moses and other prophets. Waraqa added that the visiting of the angel was a great event, and she should rejoice that her husband had been chosen by the Almighty God as His Messenger. When Khadija told Muhammad (peace be on him) what Waraqa had said, Muhammad (peace be on him) said that the burden of prophethood would be too heavy for him to bear, and he did not know who would accept conversion to the new faith at his hand. Khadija consoled him and said that the Almighty who had chosen him as His Messenger would Himself guide him in fulfilling His mission of prophethood. Khadija offered herself as the first person to owe allegiance to Muhammad (peace be on him) as the prophet of God. When Ali came to know of the conversion of Khadija he hastened to offer his allegiance to the Holy Prophet. Ali was the first among the youth to be converted to Islam. In some books it is written that when Muhammad (peace be upon him) invited Ali to the new faith, he showed some hesitation and said that he would consult Abu Talib in the first instance. This version of what happened is far from the truth. There was no hesitation on the part of Ali in accepting the truth. Ali had indeed been longing for the day when the call from the Almighty would come and when the call came he was so much overwhelmed with joy that there could be no question of any hesitation. The acceptance of the new faith on the part of Ali was spontaneous and without any hesitation, for Ali had the firm conviction that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the true prophet of God.

Early years of Islam

During the first three years, Islam remained a private affair and no attempt was made to proclaim Islam publicly. The message of Islam was during this period conveyed privately to his friends by the Holy Prophet. Among the persons outside the family of the Holy Prophet, Abu Bakr was the first to be converted to Islam. Abu Bakr in turn brought some of his friends to the fold of Islam. Those who accepted Islam persuaded their friends to accept Islam. In this way the chain came to be extended, and the progress of Islam though not spectacular was quite satisfactory. The early Muslims prayed in secluded glens, or other solitary places. On one occasion Abu Talib happened to see the Muslims praying behind the Holy Prophet in a glen out side Makkah. Ali was one of the congregation. Abu Talib asked Ali as to whom they were praying, and what was the religion they had adopted. Ali told his father that they were praying to Allah, the Lord of the world and the universe. There was no god but Allah and Muhammad (peace be upon him) was His prophet. Abu Talib pondered for a while and said, "If Muhammad has become the prophet, hold fast to him for he cannot but be right. I know that his elevation to prophethood was expected many years ago". When the Holy Prophet and Ali visited the house of Abu Talib, they had a more detailed discussion about the new faith. Abu Talib was sympathetic, but as he was one of the tribal chiefs he could not abandon the faith of his forefathers. He warned the Holy Prophet that he would have to face the opposition of the Quraish. He promised that though he would not accept the new faith, he would stand by him through thin and thick, and he would enjoy his full support. Fatima the wife of Abu Talib was more sympathetic. She said that she had mothered Muhammad, and Muhammad (peace be on him) was not the man to make a false claim. She observed that it was yet too early for her to make a decision whether she was going to accept Islam or not. Jafar, a brother of Ali put a few questions to the Holy Prophet, who answered them satisfactorily. Jafar wanted some more time to consider over the matter.

Invitation to Banu Hashim

After three years of the call to prophethood, the Holy Prophet received the command of God that he should publicly proclaim the message of Islam, and that he could make a beginning with his relatives, belonging to the house of Banu Hashim. The Holy Prophet invited the Hashimites, about forty men, to a feast. After the feast the Holy Prophet gave an account as to how he had been visited by the angel Gabriel who had conveyed to him the orders of Allah commissioning him as His prophet. He said that there was no god but Allah, and that he was His Messenger commissioned to call the people to the faith. He added that the members of the house of Hashim should feel proud that this honor had come to one of them. Waxing eloquent the Holy Prophet said that in the task of promoting the new faith he needed their support. He posed the question, "Who out of you would support me in this task? A silence fell on the guests and no one uttered a word. Young Ali thereupon rose to say, "Holy Prophet, I will be your support"? The Holy Prophet looked approvingly at young Ali, and thanked him for his support. The Holy Prophet posed the same question for the second and third time but, no one out of the guests promised any support. Each time the young Ali rose to offer his support in unequivocal terms. Abu Talib had already assured the Holy Prophet of his protection and he did not consider it advisable to make a public declaration of his support or protection at that stage. He, however, felt happy at the courage shown by the young Ali. He felt that there was something extraordinary in the new faith, which had motivated young Ali to the demonstration of such courage in public. Abu Lahab a step uncle of the Holy Prophet took a hostile attitude. He ridiculed the new faith, and felt sorry that his nephew had lost his sense, and was suffering from some hallucination. He wanted the guests to disperse. The Holy Prophet felt very unhappy at his failure to win the support of the Banu Hashim. Though disappointed the Holy Prophet was not daunted. He knew that the course of the Truth could not be anything but rough and that in order to fulfil his mission he should prepare himself to face difficulties. After his disappointment with the Banu Hashim the Holy Prophet decided to make a public declaration of his faith. One day he mounted the hillock, Mt Safa, and called the people to come and listen to him. Ali was by the side of the Holy Prophet. In response to the call a large crowd gathered at the foot of the hill to listen to the Holy Prophet. Addressing the people, the Holy Prophet said: "O people, if I tell you that on the other side of this hill there were the forces of an enemy coming to attack you, would you believe me"? They said, "Yes, we would believe in you, for you are known to be truthful. " Thereupon the Holy Prophet said, "if I tell you that there is no god but Allah, and I am His prophet, would you believe me. " The people made no reply and the crowd dispersed. The people steeped deep in ignorance were not yet in the mood to know the Truth. As the Holy Prophet and Ali came down from the hill they felt that they would have to carry a great struggle in the cause of their mission before any results could be achieved.


In the accounts of this period that have come down to us there is no mention of Ali. By this time Ali had come of age. He was well educated, highly intelligent, most enterprising and brave. It is difficult to believe that if the accounts make no mention of Ali, the inference is that he was idle and had nothing to do. When Abu Talib decided to espouse the cause of Muhammad (peace be on him), Ali most probably played an important part in prevailing upon Abu Talib to take the decision he did. We know that when the Holy Prophet migrated to Yathrib, he entrusted the responsibility for winding up the business in Makkah to Ali. In the accounts that have come down to us the Holy Prophet is shown as a good manager and businessman, but in the accounts of the post-prophethood period there is no account of any business activity on the part of the Prophet. The writers of the period apparently harbored the delusion that any business undertaking was repugnant to prophethood. An impression is tried to be created that in the post-prophethood period the Holy Prophet undertook no business and depended on the wealth of his followers, Abu Bakr, Othman and others. This is an erroneous presentation, for Islam is not a religion for the next world alone, it is a religion for this world as well. To abstain from business may be the Christian or the Buddhist concept of piety, but that is not the Islamic concept of prophethood. The Holy Prophet is the greatest man of all times and such a man perfect in every way cannot be without independent sources of income. It appears that when Ali came of age, the Holy Prophet entrusted the responsibility for running the business to Ali. It appears that during the period of the social boycott Ali continued to run the business of the holy Prophet (SAW). The boycott agreement merely restricted the sale or purchase by the Quraish; it did not and could not apply to business transactions elsewhere. It appears that Ali undertook business journeys during this period, and the necessary provisions procured from outside Makkah were duly supplied to the Banu Hashim in the glen.

Year of Sorrow

The Holy Prophet and the Quraish

The troubles of the Holy Prophet and the Muslims did not come to an end with the end of the social boycott. Frustrated at the failure of the boycott, the Quraish were in a sullen and hostile mood, and they began to think of the adoption of more stringent measures which could bring the Muslims to their knees. In the meantime Abu Talib fell sick. He was already eighty years old and the strain of the confinement during the boycott had proved too heavy for him and had undermined his health. The malady grew worse, and when no hope was left of his survival, a deputation of the Quraish visited him at his deathbed. They said that as he was going to depart from the world, out of regard for him they were inclined to offer terms of peace to Muhammad. Abu Talib summoned the Holy Prophet to his presence, and the Quraish were asked to name their terms. They said that if Muhammad desisted from maligning their faith and criticizing their gods, they would let him alone to have his own way without any interference by the Quraish. The Holy Prophet said that the way of the Quraish was the way of many gods, while his way was the way of the Oneness of God "hereunder there is no god but Allah, and all other gods are false. As the two ways crossed each other no agreement could be reached between the parties. The Quraish, thus foiled, began to prepare for another major offensive against the Holy Prophet and the Muslims to be launched after the death of Abu Talib.

Bequest of Abu Talib

Before his death, Abu Talib recorded a bequest, and had it hung in the Kaaba According to "Rauza-tu's-Safa", this bequest reads as follows: "O thou people of Quraish! Thou art the chosen race of God, and the best in the world. In my dying behest I will ask you to be kind and well disposed towards Muhammad because he is a trustee from among the Quraish, and most truthful from amongst the whole population of Arabia. He has in his person all those things, which compel me to leave a will in his favor. He has tidings to reveal which your heart accepts although for fear your lips do not respond to confirm the call of your heart. I find that the half-barbarians of the Arabian desert, in contrast to you, respond to the call and obey his orders and verily these are the people who will be exalted in this world and the hereafter. Mark me when I say that your chiefs will be dishonored, and stiff necked though they now are, they will soon be humbled. I see the entire country has sincerity and enthusiasm for his message, and the people have widened their hearts to receive that love. In short they are willing to follow and obey him. O thou Quraish! It is high time that you should befriend him, support him and follow him in the path that he treads. I swear by God that only those who desist to follow him who are not destined to reform, and only those will follow in his footsteps who are destined to be great, pious and noble. If there is some respite or delay in my death, and I survive a few more days I will support his cause. As far as it lies within my power I will protect him from the evils of the enemy." This bequest was written by Ali and was dictated by Abu Talib.

Death of Abu Talib

Abu Talib did not live long after the recording of his bequest. The Quraish felt annoyed at the bequest, and said that Abu Talib had lost his senses in old age. When Abu Talib died there was rejoicing in the camp of the Quraish. Ali composed elegiac verses on this occasion. Some of these verses read: "Abu Talib is no more. His passing away is a great loss. He was the protector of the poor and the weak. Whenever there was a famine, He liberally aided those in distress. Whenever there was a difficulty he resolved it. He could distinguish the truth from falsehood. He was generous, kind hearted and sympathetic. Men of his caliber are rare. A vacuum has been created because of his death. The Quraish are happy at his death. They have forgotten that man is mortal and no one can tarry in this world for long. Because of their mental deficiencies the Quraish have made plans to destroy the Muslims, but we will teach them a lesson. It will be a war to the finish. Either they will destroy us; Or we will destroy them. "

Death of Khadija

A few days after the death of Abu Talib, Khadija also passed away. The deaths of Abu Talib and Khadija marked the end of an epoch. Abu Talib had been more than a father to the Holy Prophet. In spite of the strong pressure of the Quraish, he had protected the Holy Prophet to the last, and had left a bequest in his favor. Abu Talib was of course the father of Ali, and although Ali lived with the Holy Prophet, he was not denied the paternal love of Abu Talib.

Khadija had been for the Holy Prophet more than wife. She placed all her wealth which was considerable at his disposal. She gave him love. She was the mother of his children. She supported him through thick and thin. She was indeed the first person to be converted to Islam. To Ali she had been more than a mother.

The passing away of Abu Talib and Khadija created a great vacuum in the life of the Holy Prophet. He felt very lonely and disconsolate. His grief was so intense that the Muslims called the year "619 C. EL," the year of the deaths of Abu Talib and Khadija as the "Year of Sorrow. "

Ali shared this grief with the Holy Prophet. In heart-rending verses he mourned the deaths of Abu Talib and Khadija. He said: both my eyes weep, weep for that chief of the Bateha valley whose name was Abu Talib; and weep for that flower of womanhood whose name was Khadija. The woman first to accept Islam and first to pray. Both Abu Talib and Khadija were pure souls. Their passing away has created a great void. At the pain of their separation I spend the whole night in weeping. They helped the Holy Prophet. They were a source of strength to Islam. After them the world has been plunged into darkness. From God they came and to God they have returned; may their souls rest in peace.

Life in Madina

Ali arrived in Yathrib renamed as Madina-tun-Nabi or Madina in the honor of the Holy Prophet towards the close of September in the year 622 C.E. The Holy Prophet welcomed him to Madina, and appreciated his services for risking his life for him at Makkah in facing the fury of the Quraish. The Holy Prophet was glad to note that the task allotted to Ali at Makkah had been properly and satisfactorily done by him.

The world of Madina was quite different from the world of Makkah. At Makkah the Muslims were a persecuted people; at Madina they were the masters of their destiny. At Makkah they were surrounded by enemies; at Madina they were in the midst of friends. The life at Madina marked a break with the past. The days of trials, tribulations and tortures were over and the Muslims were now set on the path of fulfillment. The Muslims were now to build a new society and a new common wealth.

The climate of Makkah was dry, but the climate of Madina was damp. The landscape of Makkah was marked by barren rocks, and stony wastes; the landscape of Madina was market by agricultural fields, gardens, and groves of date palms. The change in the physical scene affected the health of the emigrants, and some of them including Abu Bakr fell sick. Ali withstood the climatic change without being affected in health. He spent most of his time in nursing the sick and helping them in adjusting themselves to the new environments.

Implications of the pairing of the Holy Prophet and Ali

The pairing of the Holy Prophet and Ali was a matter of great significance, and it had deep implications and repercussions. In the various source books that have come down to us, no light is thrown on such implications. We will, therefore, have to undertake an exercise on our own account in spelling out the underlying implications. In the process of brotherhood-formation every emigrant from Makkah was paired with an Ansar of Madina. The Holy Prophet was himself an emigrant from Makkah, and the question that arises for consideration is: why did the Holy Prophet not pair himself with any Ansar of Madina ? To be paired with the Holy Prophet was a great honor, and many Ansars coveted this honor. If the Holy Prophet had shown preference for some particular Ansar that would have been a cause for jealousy on the part of the other Ansars who equally coveted the honor. In Madina the status of the Holy Prophet was that of a ruler, and if he had shown preference for some particular Ansar, that would have been a cause of heart burning for the other Ansar. The Holy Prophet did not pair himself with any Ansar because of his impartiality.

A consequence of the pairing of the emigrants and the Ansars was that the emigrants shared with the Ansar their income and property. If the Holy Prophet did not pair with any particular Ansar the question is what was the source of income of the Holy Prophet in Madina? When the Holy Prophet in order to maintain his impartially did not choose to have a share in the income and property of a particular Ansar, it implies that he had his share in the income and property of all Ansars. It is a common practice with religious fraternities that each person belonging to the fraternity contributes a certain percentage of his income to the common fund of the fraternity which is places at the disposal of the head of the fraternity. It appears that the Ansars of Madina constituted some common fund of similar nature and placed it at the disposal of the Holy Prophet. Presumably some property was also placed at the disposal of the Holy Prophet the income whereof could be utilized to meet his expenses as well as other common needs. The emigrants from Makkah were traders, and in Madina as well they undertook trading activities. Indeed Madina offered more trading opportunities than Makkah. The Holy Prophet ran some sort of business at Makkah which was managed by Ali. It appears that the same business was continued in Madinah. As the Holy Prophet had to devote a good deal of his attention to the affairs of the State, the responsibility for running the business enterprise rested a good deal on Ali. The Holy Prophet and Ali were already cousins and the brotherhood constituted signified that the ties between the Holy Prophet and Ali became still closer and stronger, and they shared each other's property.


In 623 C.E. the Holy Prophet decided to build a mosque in Madina which was to be a prayer house as well as a community center. The Holy Prophet asked the Muslims to offer their services in labor as well as capital towards the construction of the mosque. Ali was the first person to offer his services as laborer. He shoveled the earth when the foundations were being laid and later carried on baskets of brick and mortar which he passed on to the masons. Ali composed some verses for the occasion, and he recited them as he worked as a laborer. Some of these verses which have been preserved are: "Whoever builds a mosque and works whether sitting or standing puts up with the pain of labor, while others shirk work for fear of dust and pain. Both of these verily cannot equal each other". As the other Muslims labored they chanted: "There is no life but the life of the next world, O God have mercy on the Muhajireen and the Ansar". Within a few months the mosque was completed. It was square in form, and each side measured fifty yards. The mosque faced towards the north, and had three gates on each of the remaining three sides. Adjoining the mosque apartments were constructed for the household of the Holy Prophet. Ali also had an apartment in the mosque. The mosque was a monument of simplicity. The walls were made of mud bricks and the roofs were supported by trunks of palm trees. The apartments for the household were hung with blankets of camel hair as doors. The courtyard in each case was hardly six to seven paces in length, and the length of the rooms did not extend ten paces.

Marriage of Ali


When the Holy Prophet migrated to Yathrib he left his family at Makkah. When the Muslims had settled in Yathrib (renamed Madina) the Holy Prophet and the other Muslims called their families to Madina. At the time of migration, Sauda an elderly lady was the only wife of the Holy Prophet whom he had married after the death of Khadija. About a year after his arrival in Madina, the Holy Prophet married Ayesha, a daughter of Abu Bakr.

By this time, Fatima, the youngest daughter of the Holy Prophet had come of marriageable age, and the Holy Prophet had to consider the question of her marriage. Abu Bakr waited on the Holy Prophet, and asked for the hand of Fatima. The Holy Prophet made no answer. Thereafter Umar asked for the hand of Fatima and the Holy Prophet maintained silence. In the Arabian society of the day, the disparity in the age of the bride and the bridegroom did not matter. The Holy Prophet married Khadija when he was twenty-five and she was forty, fifteen years older than him. Later the Holy Prophet, when over fifty, married Ayesha yet within her teens. When the Holy Prophet did not respond to the requests of Abu Bakr or Umar he was not bothered about the age question; his silence was due to the fact that he had to wait for the guidance of God which was wont to get in all matters of importance affecting his person.

After the Battle of Badr, Ali made his suit. The Holy Prophet told Ali that he would give his reply after consulting Fatima. The Holy Prophet consulted Fatima, and she maintained silence signifying her assent. In the meantime the Holy Prophet received the revelation that God approved of the marriage of Fatima with Ali. When Fatima the mother of Ali called on the Holy Prophet to press the suit on behalf of Ali, the Holy Prophet was pleased to announce his acceptance.

Preparation for the Marriage

According to the accounts available in the source books, Ali had no money to meet the expenses of the marriage. He had to sell his armor to raise the necessary funds. Othman who enjoyed reputation for his wealth agreed to purchase the armor for five hundred dirhams. After the transaction had been completed, and the amount had been paid, Othman presented the armor to Ali as a marriage gift saying that the armor would be more useful for a warrior like Ali than for a trader like him. Ali was reluctant to accept the gift, but Othman prevailed to accept it in the name of God, for thereby it would serve the cause of Islam in fighting against its enemies. That made Ali accept the gift with many thanks. When Ali told of the transaction to the Holy Prophet, the Holy Prophet praised the conduct of Othman and prayed for him.

The Marriage Khutba

On the day fixed for the marriage, the Muslims assembled in the mosque, and the Holy Prophet delivered the Khutba solemnizing the marriage. The Holy Prophet said that all praise was due to God who should be extolled for His various bounties; who should be worshipped for His power and majesty and who should be obeyed for His omnipotence. The Holy Prophet observed that it behooves the people to seek refuge God for fear of His wrath. Dwelling on the might of God, the Holy Prophet said that His are the ordinances which prevail in Heaven and earth. He is the One who by His might ordained the existence of all creation. Through His commandments He gave us the power of discrimination. He honored us giving His religion, and commissioning Muhammad as His Prophet. Referring to the importance of marriages in human society the Holy Prophet said that undoubtedly the Almighty Lord made matrimonial alliances as the means of a fresh relationship which is a fundamental necessity and a just affair which is made incumbent on all and sundry, and through which creation is linked. The Holy Prophet observed that verily Allah is He Who has created human beings from a drop of blood. For this end He has created the relations of the in-laws. Surely God is Omnipotent. His decrees are enforced according to His decisions. His judgements decree the fate, and every fate is governed by an appointed time. Every appointed time is pre determined. Over and above this, God can obliterate or keep intact whatever He likes. The original record of all this is with Him. After these introductory remarks the Holy Prophet declared:

"Now in obedience to the Will of God I perform the marriage ceremony of Fatima with Ali, and ask you to bear witness that I have given Fatima in marriage to Ali against a dower of 400 pieces of silver coin. May God create love between the pair, bless them, purify their offspring, make their progeny a mine of wisdom, and a source of God's blessing and solace to the believers in faith. "

The Holy Prophet ended the Khutba by asking for the forgiveness of God for himself and for the Muslims.

Ideal Marriage

According to all accounts that have come down to us, the marriage of Ali and Fatima was an ideal marriage. It was a union of two great souls. Hafsa, a daughter of Umar and later a wife of the Holy Prophet wrote some verses highlighting the greatness of the pair. She said: Fatima is superior to womankind in the world; she is the lady whose face shines as the full moon; she is the bride whose groom excels all in Scholarship.

According to some authors Ali was twenty-one years old at the time of marriage, while Fatima was sixteen years old. According to my research the date of the birth of Ali is to be placed around 599 C.E. and on this basis he was 24/25 years old at the time of marriage. Fatima was born around 604 C.E. and on this basis she was 19/20 years old at the time of marriage. There appears to be a tendency with the writers of old to under estimate the ages of persons particularly women. In most of the books, for example, it is said that at the time of her marriage with the Holy Prophet, Ayesha was a child barely nine years old. Ayesha was more or less of the same age as Fatima or very nearly so, and was well within her teens at the time of her marriage.

Undoubtedly the marriage of Ali and Fatima was an ideal marriage as the marriage was performed by the Holy Prophet in accordance with the will of God, it could not be anything but an ideal marriage. As an ideal marriage it should have been a happy marriage. In this context two aspects of the case need special consideration. One is the economic factor and the other is the temperamental factor.

The economic aspect of the matter is that all writers of old are unanimous on the point that Ali was very poor. In his book Ali, the Superman, Dr. Ata Mohyuddin observes that Ali was extremely poor, and the young couple were obliged from the first, to live from hand to mouth. It is observed that often days passed without any fire being lit in their hearth. It is further observed that his bed sheet was so small, that if he covered his head, his legs remained uncovered, and if he covered his legs his head was exposed the account provides that Fatima had to work too hard. She did not have the wherewithal to wash her clothes which were blackened and soiled on account of dust and dirt. The shoulder on which she carried pitchers of water from the well was swollen, and the hands with which she worked the handmil1 to grind corn were often covered with blisters. There is a story that she requested the Holy Prophet to give her a maid slave to assist her, but he turned down the request. According to another story Ali hired himself as an ordinary manual laborer. One day he hired himself as a laborer to draw water from the well for a date per bucket. He drew sixteen buckets when his hands were blistered. He was given sixteen dates which he took to the Holy Prophet and both of them had their meal of these dates. I have long pondered over the question of the poverty of Ali and even the Holy Prophet. It appears to me that such accounts are highly exaggerated, and remote from the truth. I have prayed to God to show me light whereby I could ascertain the truth. Islam is not a religion for the next world alone; it is a religion for this world as well. Islam does not favor accumulation of riches and the hoarding of wealth, but it does not commend poverty either. It stands for the middle course marked neither by richness nor by poverty. The Holy Prophet before an ideal Prophet had to set an example in this respect. As such while the Holy Prophet could not be very rich, he could not be poor either. Islam stands for simplicity and austerity but simplicity and austerity are not another name for poverty. How could Allah permit his beloved to starve. When the Muslims migrated to Madina, Ansars shared all their resources with the Muslims. Under the circumstances how could the Ansar permit Ali and Fatima the beloved daughter of the Holy Prophet to live from hand to mouth on the verge of starvation. Ali and Fatima were after all human beings, and how could they be happy when they had to starve for days. When selecting husbands for their daughter even ordinary persons take steps to insure that their daughter is married in a family which is quite well off. This is a parental obligation, and it is unbelievable that the Holy Prophet would have married his beloved daughter to a person who had no source of income. The Holy Prophet married his two daughters to Othman, one after the other, and Othman was the richest person among the Quraish. The Holy Prophet could not discriminate between his daughters by marrying two daughters to a very rich man, and marrying the daughter whom he loved most to a man who was extremely poor. Ali was the greatest warrior of the age. He was also the greatest jurist, grammarian and scholar of the age. When the Muslims set up a polity at Madina it was an obligation on the part of the State to provide means of sustenance for Muslims according to their qualifications and utilize their services in the interests of the State. Under the circumstances the accounts that Ali was very poor are not correct.

It appears that there were some temperamental differences between the husband and wife. Ali is said to be hot tempered while Fatima was cool-headed. It is related that one day Ali picked up a quarrel with Fatima, Fatima felt aggrieved and she went to the Holy Prophet to complain of the conduct of Ali. Ali followed her and hid himself behind a wall to listen what transpired between the Holy Prophet and Fatima. The Holy Prophet advised Fatima to have patience and submit to her husband. When Ali saw the Holy Prophet later, the Holy Prophet counseled him to be kind to his wife. Due to the wise counsels of the Holy Prophet, both Ali and Fatima succeeded in making adjustments which insured mutual happiness. Hasan, their first child was born in 625 C.E. and Husain, the second child was born in 626 C.E. The Holy Prophet had great love for Hasan and Husain and treated them as his own sons.

Ali and the Jews

In the original accounts that have come down to us there is no mention of the activities of Ali with reference to the Jews. The silence of the authorities in this respect does not mean that Ali was inactive, and he took no part in the cold war that prevailed between the Muslims and the Jews. The Jews boasted of their superior knowledge and argued that as Muhammad (peace be upon him) was illiterate he could not be a prophet of God. Ali was the most learned scholar among the Muslims, and it appears very probable that Ali met the arguments of the Jews at intellectual level, and exposed their perfidies and transgressions during the course of history. Ali was a prominent poet as well, and we will not be far from the truth when we say that Ali composed verses vindicating Islam. Islam is a missionary religion, and when the Muslims had established a polity at Madina, they took steps to convert the unbelievers and the people of the Book to Islam. As Ali was the most eloquent person among the Muslims, excepting the Holy Prophet, it appears that Ali played a prominent role in propagating the message of Islam. In spite of the general hostility of the Jews to the Muslims, Ali succeeded in converting some of the Jews to Islam. The Holy Prophet as the Head of the State, had to adjudicate on disputes among the people, including the Jews. Because of his great learning and vast legal knowledge, Ali assisted the Holy Prophet in settling the disputes. Certain persons in Madina had accepted Islam for considerations of self-interest and expediency. Such persons led by Abdullah b Ubayy owed nominal allegiance to Islam. These hypocrites and dissemblers aimed at the subversion of Islam from within. The Holy Prophet made Ali responsible for keeping a watch on the activities of the hypocrites. The Jews aided and patronized the hypocrites in violation of the terms of the agreement between the Muslims and the Jews.

Ayesha and her Necklace

While returning from the campaign against Banu Mustaliq an incident took place which cast its shadow on 
the future course of Islamic history. Each time the Holy Prophet went on a campaign, one or two of his 
wives accompanied him, and the decision was always taken by the drawing of lots. On the Banu Mustaliq 
campaign, Ayesha accompanied the Holy Prophet. She traveled on the back of a camel in a closed litter. 
On the way to Madina the returning army followed by its long procession of supplies, captives and 
thousands of beasts after travelling throughout the night broke camp at dawn. Ayesha left her litter to 
satisfy a natural need and returned to her camel. Back in the litter she noticed that she had lost her 
necklace of Yemenite agates. Returning in her footsteps she sought the necklace for some time, and at 
last finding it, returned to the caravan. But the spot was deserted and the caravan had left. The camel 
rider seeing the litter closed, and thinking that it was occupied had placed it on the camel and departed 
with it. Ayesha called aloud but no one responded to her call. She decided to lie there covering herself 
hoping that some one would come to fetch her. Soon she fell asleep. "We belong to God and to Him we 
return" fell on the ears of Ayesha and she awoke with a start. A young man stood there holding a camel 
by its tether. The young man Safwan bin Muattal following the army in the rear noticed a young woman 
sleeping in the desert, and upon approaching her recognized her as the wife of the Holy Prophet. Ayesha 
quickly covered herself with a veil, Safwan adjusted the camel's saddle-girth, and made it kneel. Ayesha 
mounted the camel. Holding the beast by the bridle, Safwan took the road to Madina. After a long and 
tiring journey, Ayesha caught up with the army at noon. The arrival of Ayesha attended by a young man 
caused some rumors in the camp. 

Back in Madina, the calumnies of the slanderers gained publicity. Safwan swore that in his lifetime he had 
never touched a woman. Ayesha fell sick. She realized that the behavior of the Apostle of God towards 
her had changed. She went to the house of her father. Amidst sobs, Ayesha asked her mother "Mother, 
what story are the people relating about me". Her mother replied, "do not be distressed. By Allah, there is 
not a handsome and noble woman whom her husband loves, but has other wives besides her, that such 
tales are bandied about". This did not console the young lady. She knew no rest, and her tears did not 
cease to flow. The Holy Prophet consulted his friends about divorcing Ayesha. Umar said that he was 
certain that the hypocrites were speaking lies. He added, "By reason of God not allowing a fly to settle 
upon your blessed skirts, because it alights also on impure things, how then God would not preserve you 
and your name from a worse defilement". The other Companions advised the Holy Prophet to keep his 
exalted mind at ease, for they were certain that God would cause the innocence of the young lady to 
become manifest. Ali was of the view that there was no dearth of women for the Holy Prophet and 
Ayesha could be divorced even though she was innocent.

The Revelation

One day, Ayesha was sitting in the house of her parents and was weeping when the Holy Prophet 
appeared all of a sudden, and after the usual salutation spoke to his wife, "O Ayesha if you are innocent, 
God will come to your help; if you are guilty repent, and ask forgiveness". Ayesha said that she had to 
wait till God cleared her of the insinuation for He alone was her witness. Before the Holy Prophet could 
leave the house of his father-in-law, the signs of divine revelation manifested themselves on the Holy 
Prophet. His mother-in law placed a cushion under his head and covered him with a Yemeni cloak. When 
the revelation was over, drops of perspiration trickled down his face. He smiled and said, "Glad tiding to 
you Ayesha, God the Most High has exculpated you, and borne witness to your innocence". Ayesha 
thereafter returned to the house of the Holy Prophet and those who had slandered were punished.

Bitterness between Ayesha and Ali

This incident led to some bitterness between Ayesha and Ali. Ali had not levied any charge against 
Ayesha. He only said in a casual way that she could be divorced even if she was innocent. The grievance 
of Ayesha was that Ali should have defended her like Umar. The Holy Prophet had great love for Ayesha 
and that became a matter of some jealousy with others. It appears that even Fatima had some grouse on 
this account. The Holy Prophet offered her the advice: "If your father loves a person, why should you not 
love that person as well."

Ali's operations

Ali was commissioned by the Holy Prophet to undertake an expedition against the Banu Sa'ad and Banu Bakr. It was not to be a regular battle it was to be a tactical raid to be carried with utmost secrecy, with a view to springing a surprise on the enemy. Ali had a small force of a hundred persons with him. The force did not march in battle array, the party traveled as a caravan of traders in order to avoid suspicion. A series of forced marches conducted at night to conceal the movements brought the party in close proximity to Fidak, some distance from Khyber. Here they came across a scout of the enemy. He was taken captive. He volunteered to lead Ali and his men to the camp of Banu Saad and Bakr provided he was given amnesty. Ali gave him the amnesty, and the scout led Ali and his men to Fidak where the forces of Banu Sa'ad and Banu Bakr were camping oblivious of any danger. Ali and his men made a surprise attack on the enemy. The attack was so unexpected, sudden and furious that the forces of the tribes could not take a stand and were scattered after suffering heavy losses. So intense was the slaughter that the tribes laid down arms and sought for terms. The tribes undertook to remain faithful to the Muslims and offered a tribute of 100 camels and 2000 goats. Ali and his men returned triumphant to Madina where the Holy Prophet appreciated their services. One fifth of the booty was placed at the disposal of the Holy Prophet as state share, and the rest of the animals were distributed among the men who had participated in the foray.

Some points about the operations

In the various accounts that have came down to us, there is some confusion about this operation. In some accounts Banu Sa'ad and Banu Bakr are stated to be Jews. This does not appear to be correct. They were Arab tribes who were pagans. In some accounts it is said that Fidak was conquered as a result of these operations. This is not correct. Fidak was conquered a year later after the conquest of Khyber. In the Atab annals this operation is referred to as Sariya Fidak. The term Sarya is used to denote the operations in which the Holy Prophet did not participate in person. Such operations which were led by the Holy Prophet himself were known as Ghazwas. The Sarya-i-Fidak neutralized the Arab tribes of Banu Sa'ad and Banu Bakr and paved the way to the Hudaibiya pact of the Muslims with the Quraish of Makkah.

The siege of Taif

From Autas, the Muslim forces set out for Taif. The people of Taif were a proud people with traditions of bravery. They were a rich people and considered themselves to be superior to all other tribes in Arabia. Sometime in 619/620 C.E., when the Holy Prophet was persecuted by the Quraish of Makkah, he had visited Taif to seek refuge. The people of Taif had maltreated the Holy Prophet and had turned him out of their city. Now the tables were turned. The people shut themselves in the fort and could not face the Muslims in the open. The Holy Prophet decided to lay a siege to the city. The Muslim catapults began to throw stores in the fort, but this did not lead to any tangible result. The Muslims tried the Tetsudou device whereunder a group of soldiers shielded by a cover of cowhide advanced to set fire to the gate. The enemy threw red-hot scraps of iron on the Tetsudou which made it ineffective. The siege dragged on for two weeks but still there was no sign of the fall of the fort. The Holy Prophet had other business to attend, and he could not afford to remain at Taif for long. The Holy Prophet raised the siege and returned to Makkah.

Operations of Ali

The Holy Prophet commissioned Ali to undertake operations against the tribes in the neighborhood of Taif who were feudatories to Taif. Ali began his operations by destroying the idols in the temples in the neighborhood of Taif. The principal god of the people was Al lat, and when Ali destroyed this idol, he was involved in a skirmish with the men of Banu Khusbam. Shahab, the leader of Banu Khusham and a formidable man enjoying reputation as a great warrior challenged Ali to a duel. Ali killed Shahab. With the murder of their leader Shahab and the destruction of their god Al lat, the men of Banu Khusham were unnerved. They laid down arms and accepted Islam. The other tribes in the neighborhood of Taif were similarly subdued and converted to Islam.

Conversion of the people of Taif to Islam

With the conversion to the tribes around Taif to Islam, the position of the people of Taif became precarious when Ali advised them to accept Islam, they agreed to send a deputation to Makkah to wait on the Holy Prophet. The deputation agreed to accept Islam, but they wanted that a respite should be allowed to them to continue to worship their idols for some time. They begged for a respite for one year, and reduced the period of grace to six months, three months, and one month. The Holy Prophet rejected the demand outright on the ground that he who had accepted Islam could no longer worship the idols. The deputation next asked for exemption from prayers. This demand was rejected on the ground that there could be no faith without prayers. Thereupon the deputation urged, "then at least give us exemption from the payment of Zakat". The Holy Prophet rejected the demand on the ground that Zakat was a compulsory levy. The Holy Prophet made the deputation bear in mind that Islam was a matter of faith; if one had faith in Islam he had to accept all that Islam had enjoined. There could be no compromise in the matter of the injunctions of Islam. The Holy Prophet made them realize that it was open to them not to be converted to Islam, but once they accepted Islam, they had to strictly follow all the commandments of Islam. The deputation understood the position, and accepted Islam for themselves and for the people of Taif whom they represented.

Return to Madina

With the conversion of the people of Taif to Islam, the mission of Makkah was completed. The Holy Prophet and his companions performed the "Umrah", and thereafter returned to Madina. Eight years earlier the Muslims had escaped from Makkah and oppressed people, now they were the masters of Makkah, Madina, and a greater part of Arabia. That was verily a positive proof of the truth of Islam. Thus God fulfilled all the promises that He had made with His prophet.

The Declaration of Discharge

Abu Bakr as Amirul Hajj

In 631 C. E the Holy Prophet sent from Madina, a delegation of three hundred Muslims to perform the Hajj. Abu Bakr was appointed as the leader of the delegates. Abu Bakr had thus the honor of being the first 'Amir-ul-Hajj" in the history of Islam

The Revelation

Some time after Abu Bakr and trio party had left for the Hajj, the Holy Prophet received revelation about the regulation of the Hajj, and the ordering of relationship between the Muslims and the infidels. It is related that when the revelation came some one suggested to the Holy Prophet that he should send news about the revelation to Abu Bakr. The Holy Prophet said only a man of his own house could proclaim the revelation.


The Holy Prophet summoned Ali, and asked him to proclaim the revealed verses to the people on the day of sacrifice when they assembled at Mina. Ali went forth on the Holy Prophet's slit-eared camel, and soon overtook Abu Bakr and his party. When Ali joined the party, Abu Bakr wanted to know whether he had come to give orders or to convey them. Ali said that he had not come to replace Abu Bakr as "Amir ul-Hajj", and that his mission was merely to convey a special message to the people on behalf of the Holy Prophet,

Declaration of Discharge

At Makkah on the occasion of the Hajj, Abu Bakr presided at the Hajj ceremony while Ali read the verses of the revelation which came to be known as the Declaration of Discharge. According to the Declaration it was provided that henceforward the Muslims were discharged of all obligations that they had undertaken with the non-Muslims. All treaties or agreements with them were to be no longer effective. Henceforward the non-Muslims were not to be allowed to visit the Kaaba or perform the Hajj. New rules for the performance of the Hajj were proclaimed. No one was to circumambulate the Kaaba naked. Polytheism was to be no longer tolerated a grace period of four months was laid down and thereafter all agreement with the non-Muslims were to stand as abrogated.

Importance of the Declaration

The Declaration of Discharge was really the declaration of the victory of Islam, the victory of the truth over falsehood. The battle between the truth and falsehood began in 611 C.E., with the proclamation of the prophethood of the Holy Prophet. This battle was waged for twenty years in one form or the other. It came to an end with the Declaration of Discharge signifying the ultimate victory of Islam from the day this proclamation was made. A new era dawned in Arabia. Henceforward Islam alone was to be the faith of the Arabs.

Ali's claim to the caliphate

In some quarters, an argument is advanced to the effect that as on this occasion the declaration of discharge was read by Ali, while Abu Bakr was the Amir ul Hajj. This established the precedence of Ali over Abu Bakr, and as such when on the death of the Holy Prophet, Abu Bakr became the Caliph in disregard of the claim of Ali he was a usurper. I will discuss this aspect of the matter in detail in a later part of the book. Here we may pause to consider two questions, firstly why was the proclamation read by Ali when Abu Bakr was the Amir ul Hajj, and secondly whether this established the precedence of Ali over Abu Bakr and others in the matter of caliphate. The revelations emanating from God were particularly sacrosanct, and these had to be proclaimed to the people either by the Holy Prophet himself or by some member of his house in whom he had particular confidence. The choice of Ali to read the proclamation was not relevant to the question of succession. The question of succession had to be considered in the context of other considerations. This did not establish the precedence of Ali over Bakr for Ali did not replace Abu Bakr as Amir ul Hajj. Ali's role was merely confined to the delivering of a special message. This established the precedence of Ali over other Hashimites with whom the Holy Prophet had blood relations. Ali was the first among the Hashimites to profess Islam, and among the Hashimites he remained closest to the Holy Prophet.

Expedition under Ali

After the failure of three expeditions, the Holy Prophet ordered the fourth expedition under the command of Ali. In the earlier expeditions, the Muslim army had failed to reach the stronghold of the tribe, and had to withdraw without actual confrontation with the tribe. Ali changed the tactics. Instead of following the established route, Ali led the Muslim army along mountainous tracks, where they hid themselves during the day, and advanced during the night. Ali succeeded in beating the Banu Ramla at their own game. After several nights march the Muslim army reached the stronghold of the tribe, and made a surprise attack on the enemy. The mountainous tribe could never imagine that the men of the plains could ever penetrate through the depth of the mountains and reach their stronghold. In the confrontation that followed many persons of the tribe were killed, and they were ultimately forced to surrender. Ali returned triumphant to Madina carrying an immense booty, and a large number of prisoners. Heretofore all battles that the Muslims had fought had been fought in the plains. The battle against Banu Ramla was the first battle that the Muslims had to fight in mountainous terrain. The Muslims had no experience of fighting in hilly tracts, and as such the first three expeditions undertaken by the Muslims against the people of the hills failed. The people of the hills were expert in guerilla warfare. They could hide in the mountain recesses and fall upon the Muslims in surprise at all odd hours. By these tactics the Banu Ramla warriors prevented the Muslims from reaching their main settlement in the hills. Ali was the first Muslim General to score a victory in a mountainous territory. When Ali returned triumphant to Madina, the Holy Prophet and the Muslims welcomed him a few miles outside the city. The Holy Prophet appreciated the services of Ali in superlative terms. According to the Shiite traditions, the Holy Prophet addressed Ali on this occasion in the following terms: "O Ali ! If I were not apprehensive that the Muslim community would exaggerate your deeds like the Christians who extolled the achievements of Jesus Christ by ascribing divinity to him. I would have narrated the superiority of your character today in such a way that wherever you went, the people would have worshipped the very dust of your feet".

The mission of Ali

The Holy Prophet thereafter commissioned Ali to proceed to Yemen. A force of three hundred soldiers assembled at Quba outside Madina. The Holy Prophet tied the turban on the head of Ali with his own hands, and handed him the standard. The Holy Prophet prayed to God to enlighten the mind of Ali, to make his tongue eloquent, to make his talk impressive, and to make his conduct a source of attraction for others. Although Ali proceeded to Yemen at the head of a force, he was commanded not to use force. The force was only meant for defense in the case of any attack. It was a voyage of enlightenment. People were to be converted to Islam not by an appeal to arms but by an appeal to their hearts.

Strategy of Ali

On reaching Yemen, Ali realized that the people of Yemen were very much under the influence of the Christian priests and Jewish Rabbis, and unless such priests and Rabbis were effectively tackled, there was little likelihood of any success with the common men. The Christian priests and Jewish Rabbis were proud of their religious knowledge. They challenged Ali to a debate. Ali was used to fighting duels with his adversaries in the case of battles, now he had to fight an intellectual duel. The first challenge came from a Christian priest renowned for his learning and piety. A public debate was held. The Christian priest advanced arguments in favor of the perfection of Christianity, and of Jesus Christ being the son of God. It was observed that in such circumstances there could be no question of another faith. Ali smashed these arguments one by one. He quoted from the Christian scriptures wherein Jesus Christ had himself spoken of the advent of a prophet after him. Ali took pains to explain that Islam acknowledged Jesus Christ as a prophet, but did not regard him as a son of God. He maintained that Islam was a perfected form of all previous religions. The debate lasted for several days and at last Ka'ab admitted the superiority of Islam and was converted to Islam. With his conversion many Christians were also converted to Islam.

The Jewish Rabbis felt concerned at the success of Islam. They challenged Ali to a public debate. This debate lasted for several days, and ended in the victory for Islam. Some of the Jewish Rabbis accepted Islam, and following them many Jews accepted Islam. Thereafter Ali spread his men throughout the length and breadth of Yemen to carry the message of Islam to the people. When the people came to know that their priests and rabbis had accepted Islam, they lost the will to resist Islam and accepted the new faith willingly. Within a few months most of the people in Yemen were converted to Islam. These people came to look to Ali as a great hero.

And Allah rewarded the Thankful

The effect of the address of Abu Bakr was eletrica1. It appeared as if the people did not know of this verse of the Holy Quran until Abu Bakr had recited it.

According to the will of the Holy Prophet Ali and Abbas washed the body of the Holy Prophet and prepared it for burial. The Holy Prophet was buried in the chamber of Ayesha, where he had died. Ali was overwhelmed with grief at the death of the Holy Prophet. He expressed his grief in heart reading verses. He said: "May my parents be sacrificed on you, O Messenger of God, with your death things have come to an end which could not end thus with the death of any other person. The process of prophethood has come to an end. News of the Unseen have ceased, Revelations from Almighty have ceased. You gave a message of hope to the people. You showed them the right path. You are the savior of humanity. You established a new order. You established equality among the people. You ushered in a revolution. You were a guide when alive; you would be a guide even after death. If you had not ordered patience in hour of grief I would have shed tears of blood from my eyes. The entire world is dark without you. Your passing away is a great loss but we resign ourselves to the will of God. From God you came, and to God you have returned, May your soul rest in peace in proximity to God."

Ali's reaction to the election of Abu Bakr

In Nahj-ul-Balagha we come across certain passages which indicate the reaction of Ali to the election of Abu Bakr as the Caliph. When the meeting at Saqffa Bani Saada was brought to the notice of Ali by some one, Ali asked him as to what did the Ansar ask for. He was told that the Amir should be elected from them, and if the Muhajireen also desired the office, one Amir might be elected from the Ansar and one from the Muhajireen. Thereupon Ali said, "Was it not brought to their notice that the Holy Prophet had willed that after him the Ansar should be well treated, and if they made any lapse it should be overlooked. Ali was asked how did this will establish that the Caliph was not to be elected from among the Ansars. Ali said that if the Ansar were to have the caliphate there was no point in asking those in power to pay due regard to the Ansars did not arise. Ali then inquired as to what argument the Muhajireen had advanced in support of their claim to the caliphate. He was told that the Muhajireen based their claim on the ground that they belonged to the tree to which the Holy Prophet belonged. Thereupon Ali said, "What a pity that they look to the tree, but overlooked its fruit". The implication was that the Muhajireen should have offered the caliphate to him and not to anyone else.

In a passage in Nahj-ul-Balagha, Ali is said to have expressed his reaction to the election of Abu Bakr in the following terms: "The son of Abu Qahafa has assumed the mantle of the caliphate forcibly although he knew that I was essential for the caliphate as the handle is for the grinding stone which moves it. In Islamic learning I excel everyone else, and the caliphate should have come to me as a matter of course. At this disregard of my right I became confused. I began to think whether I should assert my claim, or whether I should practice forbearance and patience after a good deal of thinking I decided to adopt the later course".

Fatima Zahra

Death of Fatima

Fatima took the death of the Holy Prophet to heart, and she passed away in early 633 C E, barely six months after the passing away of the Holy Prophet. She was only twenty-nine years old at the time or her death. Her marriage lasted for a short period of eight or nine years only. During this period she gave birth to five children, three sons and two daughters. Her three sons were Hasan, Husain, and Mohsin. Mohsin died during infancy. Hasan was about seven years old while Husain was about six years old at the time of her death.

Ali's grief at the death of Fatima

Ali was much grieved at the death of Fatima. Her passing away so soon after the death of the Holy Prophet was a great blow for Ali. He felt disconsolate. He poured his grief in the following elegiac verses: "Afflicted as I feel with many a worldly disease. Verily, men in this world would suffer as long as they live in this vale of tears and sorrow. Verily, after the demise of the Holy Prophet, Fatima's loss has shown, that friends do not last forever. " In this hour of grief, Ali addressed the soul of the Holy Prophet in the following terms: "O Messenger of God please accept my greetings, and the greetings from your daughter who has hastened to join you. O Prophet of God my patience has been exhausted at her death. I am most distressed and disconsolate. At your death I suppressed my grief with great difficulty. I laid you in the grave with my own hands. Verily, from God you came and to God you have returned. We all belong to God and to Him we have to return. Fatima was a trust with me, which has now been taken away from me. My state of affairs will be told to you by your daughter. Please do inquire about me from her. Much time has not elapsed to your death, and the memory of your passing away is very much alive with me. I pay my greetings and respects to you. As I can expect relief in my distress only from you. If I move away from your grave, it will not be because of any indifference on my part and if I stay here, it will not be so because of having lost confidence in the promise that God has made to those who are patient." Ali used to visit the grave of Fatima frequently, and used to write verses to express his grief. On one occasion he wrote: "O thou grave, to thee I resort for paying homage to thee. "O thou, the repository of my beloved Thou answer me not. "O thou beloved tomb, what ails thee Thou respondeth not to my supplications. Art thou, out of humor, Because of the love that I bear thee. "

Married life of Ali and Fatima

The married life of Ali and Fatima did not extend beyond nine years. It was a happy union. Nevertheless there were differences between the pair occasionally. Once, after having quarreled with Fatima, Ali went to the mosque, and lay on bare earth. That made the Holy Prophet call Ali by the appellation of Abu Turab, Father of the earth. At one time, Ali entertained the idea of marrying a daughter of Abu Jahl. Fatima complained to the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet felt annoyed, and while addressing the people in the mosque he said that verily Fatima was part and parcel of him. If Ali wanted to marry the daughter of Abu Jahl, it was open to him to do so, but he should divorce Fatima in the first instance for the daughter of the Prophet, and the daughter of Abu Jahl could not live under the same roof. Thereupon Ali dropped the idea of marrying the daughter of Abu Jahl. There were some temperamental differences between Ali and Fatima, and the Holy Prophet always controlled Fatima to fall in line with the wishes of her husband for after her father he was the best of men.

Fatima Zahra-assessment

Fatima Zahra is regarded as one of the four perfect women of all times, the other three women being: Asiyah the wife of the Pharaoh of Egypt who mothered Moses; Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ; and Khadija the first wife of the Holy Prophet of Islam, and the mother of Fatima Zahra. One day Fatima inquired of the Holy Prophet why she was called Fatima. He said that it was so, because fire would not touch her soul. She was also called 'Batool", because she devoted herself all out to Allah and fervently followed the dictates of the Holy Prophet (pbub). Fatima resembled the Holy Prophet in countenance, in elegance of speech, and in general deportment. Whenever Fatima paid a visit to the Holy Prophet, he would kiss her on the forehead, and would make her sit on his seat. He would say, "Fatima is part of me, and whoever angers her angers me, and whoever injures her injures me. " It was the customary for the Holy Prophet that when he went on a journey the last person of whom he took leave was Fatima, and when he returned from the journey the first person he would see was Fatima. When the Holy Prophet was about to die, Fatima visited him. The Holy Prophet whispered to her something that made her weep. Then he again whispered something and Fatima laughed. She was asked what made her weep and laugh in succession. She did not disclose the secret but later. After the passing away of the Holy Prophet. Ayesha asked her about it and she said that she had wept on being informed of the impending end of the Holy Prophet, but laughed on his assurance that she was to join him soon.

When the Holy Prophet died, the whole world became dark for her. She wept and mourned the death of the Holy Prophet in pathetic verses She said: It is not wondrous that whoever smells the fragrance of Muhammad's tomb will never smell another perfume. Destiny hurt me with bereavement. So sad, and so dark, that if it had fallen on the days they would have been turned into eternal nights".

Ali's Oration on the Death of Abu Bakr

Ali's Oration

When Abu Bakr died in 634 C.E., Ali delivered an oration which was not only a faithful summing up of the character and personality of Abu Bakr, but was also a masterpiece of oratory. The speech has been preserved, and quoted hereunder in full Mercy of God on you O Abu Bakr! You were an affectionate Companion and friend of the Prophet of Allah, a source of joy to him, and who knew his secrets, and enjoyed the privilege of being consulted by him. You were the first person to embrace Islam. You had the purest faith, and your belief in Islam was unshakable. Of all, you feared Allah most, and you were the source of the greatest advantage to his faith. You had been with the Prophet more than any one else, and your love for Islam was superior to others. A blessing to the Companions, you were the best of associates, master of many virtues, excelling others in accomplishments, and superior to all in position. You resembled the Holy Prophet more than any other person in the uprightness of character and conduct and in kindness and excellence. Your rank was noble, and your position sublime and you enjoyed the greatest confidence of the Prophet. May God reward you for your services to Islam and the Prophet. For the Prophet you were like his very sight and hearing. You corroborated the truth of his message at a time when everybody belied him; and so you were called "As-Sadiq' (the veracious) by Allah in His revelations. He says, 'The one who came with the Truth and the one who corroborated the truth. The One who came with the Truth was Muhammad, and the one who corroborated the Truth was Abu Bakr. You supported him when others had deserted, and you remained firm in helping him in misfortunes when others had withdrawn their support. In the days of hardship you were his best companion; you were the second of the two, and his companion in the Cave. You were the person on whom God conferred tranquillity of mind. You were the only companion of the Prophet in his migration to Madina, and you were his Caliph among his followers, and in the religion of Allah. You discharged the functions of the Khilafat in a most excellent manner at a moment when the people had taken to apostasy, and exhibited much firmness in enforcing the commands of Allah as had never been exhibited by the Khalifa of any other prophet. You rose to the occasion when your colleagues showed lassitude, and you became bold when they exhibited weakness. You were strong when they were weak. You retained your adherence to the ways of the Prophet when others had deviated from them. You were his true Caliph with no dispute or difference, although this gave offense to hypocrites, and umbrage to the infidels. You stuck to the commands of Allah when others showed cowardice. You remained firm when others went astray. You had the lowest voice, and the highest distinction. Your conversation was most salutary, and your reasoning was forceful. Your silence was longest in duration, and your speech was most eloquent. You were bravest among men, You were well informed about matters. Your action was most dignified. You were the leader of the believers. You came towards the faith when others were away from it. Indeed you acted 1ike a kind father to the believers, and your filial affection made them your children. You bore the heavy burden which they could not, and you preferred to do what they had omitted. You preserved that what they had lost. You taught them what they knew not. You took the risk when they were helpless. You did not lose patience, when they were inpatient. You redressed the grievances of those who asked for justice. They turned to you for guidance, and you guided them to success. They got through you what they had never dreamt of. For the infidels you were a source of terrible punishment and great fear. For the believers you were all kindness, affection and protection. You fed in the atmosphere of piety, you attained its noble reward, and won in superiority. Your argument was never weak and your judgment was never faulty. You were never guilty of cowardice, and your heart was never crooked or misdirected. You were like a rock which stands firm in the face of hard blows of dashing winds and waves. You were as the Prophet of Allah has said, the most generous of men in friendship and in giving money. Again as he said, you were weak in body, but strong in enforcing the commands of Allah. You were humble in your manners, but dignified in the estimation of God. You were great in the eyes of men, and you commanded respect with them. No one could even as much as wink at you, nor could any one taunt you. You were kind to all and partial to none. The weak and the humble were strong with you as you made secure their rights. The strong were weak and humble with you as you made them surrender the rights of others. No matter those who were near you, and those who were far from you were all equal. Those who obeyed and feared Allah were nearest to you. Your dignity lay in righteousness, truth and benevolence. Your word was imperative and definite. Your command was mild and cautious. Your judgment was fair and wise. You extirpated evil and made way for the Truth clear. You solved difficulties. You extinguished the fires of evil and discord. You brought moderation to the Faith, strength to belief, firmness to Islam and the Muslims, and triumph to the command of Allah. You were a source of grief to the infidels. Because of your extraordinary qualities, you have created difficulties for your successors who would have to work hard to maintain the standards set by you. Evidently, you attained a high position in doing good. You are far above mourning and lamentation. Mourning for you is great in the Heaven. Your death has broken the back bone of the people, and we recite the verse 'From God you came, and to God you have returned'. We submit to what has been ordained by Allah, and are ready to obey His commands. By Allah never shall the Muslims suffer after the death of the Prophet, a calamity greater than your death. You were a source of honor, protection and support to the Faith and for the believers you were a stronghold and a place of refuge. For the hypocrites you were all strictness and terror. May Allah take you near to your Prophet, and may He not deprive us of the fruits of your efforts and may we not be misled after you. We recite once again 'From God you came and to God you have returned'. May your soul rest in peace!"

Ali's observations on the death of Umar

When Umar passed away, Ali mourned his death in the following terms: "May God bless the soul of Umar. He made things straight. He cured the malady. He enforced the Shari'ah. He established law and order. He was noble, virtuous, and free from faults. He availed of what was good of the caliphate and avoided what was evil thereof. He obeyed God, and served His cause well. After his passing away the people have taken to different paths where those who have strayed cannot find the way, and those who have followed the straight way cannot long keep it."

Activities of Ali during the caliphate of Othman

During the caliphates of Abu Bakr and Othman, Ali held the dual offices of Chief Justice as well as Chief Secretary. Othman conferred the office of the Chief Secretary on his cousin Marwan. Ali remained as the Chief Justice. He continued to be a member of the Majlisi-Shura. The accounts that have came down to us are mostly silent about the activities of Ali. In the various history books we come across the judgments that Ali delivered during the caliphate of Umar, and marvel at the highly developed sense of judgment of Ali. I have not come across any judgment delivered by Ali during the caliphate of Othman though Ali is said to have held the office of the Chief Justice during this period. Although the Hashimites and the Umayyads belonged to the same stock, there was rivalry between the two houses. After the death of Abdul Muttabb, power passed on to Umayyads who enjoyed greater wealth. When the Holy Prophet declared his mission, the Umayyads led the Quraish in hostility against the Holy Prophet and the Muslims. The Umayyads accepted Islam after the conquest of Makkah in 680 C.E. thereafter the Umayyads acknowledged the superiority of the Hashimites. This position lasted for a short period of two years only as the Holy Prophet died in 632 C.E. Abu Bakr and Umar who were elected as the Caliphs thereafter did not belong either to the Hashimite or Umayyad section of the Quraish. Othman was an Umayyad and during his caliphate the Umayyads gained in power at the cost of the Hashimite. There is a passage in Nabj-ul-Balagha wherein Ali complains that the Umayyads were withholding from him what was his due as the camelman withholds the like of the she camel from her young one. It appears that during the caliphate of Othman, Ali led a more or less retired life, and did not take any active part in politics. By this time Ali had four wives and a number of children. During this period Ali devoted most of his time to religious exercises and domestic activities. After the death of the Persian emperor Yezdjurd his daughters were taken captive, and brought to Madina. When put to open auction the oldest princess slapped the auctioneer on the face. Ali advised that it was not proper that such distinguished persons should be put to open auction. The proper line of action was that the standard price should be faced, and whosoever paid the amount should get the princess. Ali purchased two princesses. He married one of them to his son Husain and the other to his step son Muhammad bin Abu Bakr. This shows that by this time the financial condition of Ali had considerably improved.

Election of Ali as the Caliph


After the assassination of Othman, a state of anarchy came to prevail in the affairs of Madina. There was no government. The rebels let loose a reign of terror, and the peaceful citizens of Madina chose to remain indoors. The rebels were divided into three groups, namely the Egyptians, the Kaufmanns, and the Basrites. Although they had made common cause in the Assassination of Othman they differed among one another on other points. After four days, the rebels decided to return to their homes, but they felt that in their interests it was necessary that the new Caliph should be chosen before they left Madina. In the matter of the election of the Caliph, there were differences among the rebels. One group favored the election of Ali, another group favored the election of Talha and yet another group favored the election of Zubair. It appears that at this stage, the people of Madina themselves hat lost the initiative, and they were completely at the mercy of the rebels. Among the rebels themselves there was no outstanding leader whose opinion could prevail. Things were in a state of complete confusion.

No Candidate for Election

The Egyptians waited on Ali, and requested him to accept the office of the Caliph. He declined the offer and said that someone else should be elected as the Caliph. He assured them that whosoever was elected as the Caliph he would pay allegiance to him. Some prominent companions of the Holy Prophet also waited on Ali, and tried to persuade him to accept the office. Ali thanked them for their regard of him, but did not agree to accept the office. On the refusal of Ali, the rebels contacted Zubair and Talha, and offered them the caliphate. Like Ali, they also refused to accept the office. The rebels next approached the Ansars, and requested them to choose a Caliph from among themselves. They too refused the offer. They were of the opinion that in the presence of Ali, no one else deserved to be elected as the Caliph. The rebels waited on Ali again, and tried to persuade him to reconsider his decision. He maintained his previous decision and persisted in declining the offer. The rebels next approached Saad b Abi Waqas, Saeed b Zaid, and Abdullah b Umar to accept the caliphate. All of them refused to accept the office. There was now a complete deadlock in the matter of the election of the Caliph. The rebels thereupon gave the ultimatum that unless the people of Madina chose the Caliph within the next twenty-four hours they would be forced to take some drastic action.

Election of Ali

In order to resolve the deadlock, all the Muslims assembled in the Prophet's mosque. The people raised slogans in favor of Ali. The leader of the Egyptian rebels took the stage. He said they had risen against the caliphate of Othman because the administration had become loose, and the grievances of the people had piled up. He added that it was necessary that the Muslims should choose a new Caliph in succession to Othman, and the man they should choose for the office should be conspicuous for his learning, bravery, piety and nearness to the Holy Prophet. He observed that Ali was the only person who fulfilled these qualities. Thereafter he went to Ali, requested him to stretch his hand. When Ali stretched his hand the people rushed to offer allegiance to him. This process went on for several hours, and the people vociferously welcomed the election of Ali as the Caliph.

The Dissidents

Although Ali was elected by an overwhelming majority there were some persons who abstained from offering him their allegiance The Umayyads by and large abstained from participating in the process of election. After the assassination of Othman most of them had escaped to Syria. The few Umayyads who were still in Madina remained in their homes. Saad b Abi Waqas did not offer any allegiance, but he assured Ali that he had no ill will against him, and his failure to take the oath of allegiance should not be construed as an act of any disloyalty to him. Abdullah b Umar abstained from offering allegiance, but he assured Ali that no harm could be expected from him. The men of "Ahl-i-Safa" of the Sufi bent of mind abstained from offering allegiance as they were not interested in politics. Talha and Zubair remained absent. There is some difference in the account pertaining to the allegiance of these two companions. According to one account they did not offer any allegiance to Ali, and slipped away from the city at the time when the other people had gathered in the mosque. According to another account, the rebels fetched Talha and Zubair to the mosque, and made them offer allegiance to Ali. According to one account the hand that Talha offered in allegiance to Ali was maimed and disfigured because of wounds received in the various wars. This was regarded as a bad augury by some of the persons assembled in the mosque.

Address of Ali

After his election, Ali addressed the people. He said that he had no intention to accept the office of the Caliph, but as the office had been forced on him he would do his best to discharge the duties of the office according to the commandments of God and the traditions of the Holy Prophet. He pointed out that a generation had passed since the demise of the Holy Prophet, and during this period the Muslim polity had come to be plagued with dissension and discord. He observed the events that had culminated in the assassination of Othman were most deplorable and regrettable. He said that it would be his endeavor to purge Islam of all the evils from which had come to suffer in the past. He made it clear that towards this end he would have to administer law and order with a stern hand. He warned all concerned that he would tolerate no sedition and found guilty of subversive activities would be dealt with harshly. He advised the people to mend their ways and behave as true Muslims. Ali was not the man to mince words. He felt disgusted with the state of political affairs and spoke in strong bitter terms.

Helplessness of Ali

The caliphate of Ali had a shaky start. In spite of his determination to set things right, Ali soon found that he was helpless, and was the prisoner of forces which he could not control. When after his inaugural address, Ali was about to retire to his house, the rebels approached him and said: "O Caliph, beware that we are the people who would pursue things to the bitter end. We can turn things upside down and wreck regimes." Ali asked them not to indulge in such vainglorious boasts and should return to their camps. The rebels chose to remain quiet, but Ali could very well see a look of defiance in their eyes.

As Ali came home, he felt very unhappy. The caliphate had taken very long to come, and when it came, it came in the wrong way. The caliphate had come to him as the gift of the rebels and he could not take any action against them. On the other hand he was so helpless at the outset of his caliphate that he could not do anything against the wishes of the rebels.

At his house his son Imam Hasan, and his cousin Abdullah b Abbas advised him to leave Madina and retire to some place of safety in the desert. Their view was that he should let things settle down and in course of time the people would themselves come to him and assure him of their loyalty. There was a good deal of weight in what Abdullah b Abbas and Imam Hasan said, but Ali could not make up his mind to fall in line with the action proposed by them. Ali a man conspicuous for his valor thought that it would be an act of cowardice on his part to run away from the office which he had once accepted. He said that he would face the situation, however grim, in complete trust in God.

The Caliphate Issue

The Controversy

Unfortunately, after the death of the Holy Prophet, the caliphate issue became a source of controversy among the Muslims, and has led to sectarian differences thereby adversely affecting the solidarity of the Ummah. There is a school of thought which holds that Ali alone had the right to succeed the Holy Prophet, and that the three Caliphs Abu Bakr, Umar, and Othman were usurpers. Another school of thought which commands majority does not subscribe to this view. We may examine some salient aspects of the issue.

Right to succeed

The basic point for consideration is, whether any right in fact accrued to Ali to succeed the Holy Prophet. It may be recalled that when Abu Bakr was deputed by the Holy Prophet as "Amir-ul-Hajj" (the Leader of the Pilgrimage), and the verses of the Holy Quran entitled "Declaration of Immunity" were revealed subsequently, Ali was commissioned to proceed to Makkah to announce these verses to the people assembled on the occasion of the pilgrimage. Abu Bakr remained the "Amir-ul-Hajj", and he presided over all the ceremonies connected with the Hajj, but the verses about the "Declaration of Immunity" were announced by Ali. It was later clarified by the Holy Prophet that a divine message had to be communicated to the people either by himself personally or by a member of his family. That brings out the point that while a divine message could be communicated by a member of the household of the Holy Prophet alone, any other office could be held by any other person. As the Holy Prophet was the last of the prophets, and there was to be do prophet after him that was the end of the divine mission. As the divine mission came to an end with the death of the Holy Prophet the grounds with reference to which Ali could claim preference in the matter of succession ceased to exist.

Will of the Holy Prophet

We have next to consider whether the Holy Prophet made any will about his succession. Everything about the activities of the Holy Prophet including the minutest details is fully documented. No will of the Holy Prophet is on record, and as such it is a fact that the Holy Prophet made no will. 1t is alleged in some quarters that before his death the Holy Prophet had expressed the desire to record his will, but Umar frustrated the attempt by declaring that the Holy Quran was enough for them. Ayesha refuted this allegation and observed that the Holy Prophet did not express any desire to record his will.

It may be recalled that oven during his illness the Holy Prophet attended the mosque on two occasions, and addressed the people. On one occasion he reprimanded the people for their objection to the command of an expedition against Syria by Usama b Zaid. If the Holy Prophet in spite of his illness could advocate the causes of Usama's command, he could have advocated the cause of the successor of Ali as well, if he had so desired.

Another point that arises for consideration in this respect is whether the failure to record the will was an omission or was it deliberate? The Holy Prophet did not pass away suddenly; he had ample time to settle his affairs before his death. Even at the Farewell Pilgrimage three months before his death, he knew that his end was near. He had been sent by God to complete his mission. If the nomination of a successor was to be a part of the divine mission with which he had been entrusted, he would have nominated a successor to complete his mission. As he did not nominate a successor, and as his mission had been completed, it means that the nomination of a successor was no part of his mission. After him, whosoever was to succeed him was to be temporal ruler only, and the right to choose such ruler vested in the people this means that the Holy Prophet did not nominate his successor deliberately. Obviously the intention was that the people should elect their leader themselves. Allah Himself declared that He had chosen Islam as the religion for the people, and the Muslims were the best of community. It cannot, therefore, be said that what happened in the matter of succession was an omission on the part of the Holy Prophet or disinterestedness on the part of Allah (God forbid).

Will of Allah

It is our faith that all that happened had the sanction of Allah and was in accordance with His Will. This is evident from the fact that during the caliphate of Abu Bakr and Umar, extensive conquests were made which changed the course of history. It was nothing short of a miracle that the Arabs of the desert overpowered the mighty kingdom of Persia in the east, and the empire of the Byzantines in the west. This would not have been possible if the blessings of God were not with the regime, which had come to be established after the death of the Holy Prophet. When God favored these Caliphs, it hardly lies in the mouth of anyone to say that they were usurpers.

Islamic Concept of office

According to the traditions, the Holy Prophet said in definite terms that he who seeks an office does not deserve it. It is, therefore, difficult to believe that Ali coveted the office of the caliphate at any stage. There are some passages in Nahj-ul-Balagha which show that Ali did not covet the office, but he held that the caliphate was his right. There is ample evidence in Nahj-ul-Balagha to the effect that Ali felt embittered at the election of Abu Bakr, Umar, or Othman. According to one passage, Ali is reported to have said that the son of Abu Qahafa (Abu Bakr) had worn the mantle of the caliphate forcibly although he knew that he (Ali) was as essential for the caliphate the handle is necessary for moving the grinding stone. There is some confusion on the point whether Ali considered himself to be the most deserving person to be the caliph. If the Holy Prophet had nominated Ali as his successor he would have automatically become the Caliph, and question of election by the people would not have arisen. As the Holy Prophet had made no nomination, the caliph had necessarily to be chosen by the people. Where the choice vested with the people, it was for the people to elect whosoever they deemed fit, and no person can claim to have the right to be chosen. In the circumstances, the position of Ali vis a vis the caliphate is vague. it is not clear on what basis it can be held that Ali had the right to be elected as the Caliph, and that if any other person had been elected as the Caliph, his right had been usurped.

Relationship of Ali with his predecessors

It appears that Ali did not take the oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr immediately. He however took the oath after some time. In his oration at the funeral of Abu Bakr, Ali spoke in glowing terms about Abu Bakr both as man and a caliph. When Abu Bakr nominated Umar as his successor Ali did not feel happy at the nomination. He, however, took the oath of allegiance to Umar. Ali even married his daughter to Umar, and the relationship between Ali and Umar was throughout cordial. When Othman was elected as the caliph Ali took the oath of allegiance to him. When Ali offered allegiance to his predecessors the implication is that he acknowledged their caliphate, and waived his own right to the caliphate even if he had any claim. When Ali himself acknowledged these Caliphs, it is not clear how does it lie in the mouth of anyone to say that these Caliphs were usurpers.

Nature of the issue

In our study of the issue of the caliphate, we have to consider the question of the nature of the issue. That question to be considered is whether the election of the Caliph is a religious or a political issue. The commandments of religion are contained in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah. There is no mention about the Ca1iph in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah. In the Holy Quran the word "Caliph" has been used with reference to Man in general when he is said to be the Caliph of God. This means that the people in general are the Caliph of God. The Caliph to be the Head of the State is a political functionary only. Political issues must necessarily be limited to the milieu in which they arise, and political issues cannot be kept alive for indefinite period. In Islam the State and the Church are not separate. This merely means that in an Islamic State the political affairs would be administered in accordance with the injunctions of Islam. It does not mean that every political issue would become a religious issue. A religious issue must be directly based on the Quran and the Sunnah, and any political issue cannot become part of religion. Election of a functionary is for a limited period, and when that period is over all disputes about the election come to an end. Even if it is conceded that Ali should have succeeded the Holy Prophet in preference to any other person, the controversy should have ceased with the close of the rule of the rightly guided Caliphs. To keep this political issue alive for all times and make it a ground for sectarian differences does not appear to be in accord with the spirit of Islam. Even if Ali did not get the caliphate, he did get the caliphate after all, and with his assumption of the caliphate, the controversy about the validity or otherwise about the election of the previous Caliphs should have come to an end being time barred.

Vengeance for the Blood of Othman

Cry for vengeance for the blood of Othman

After Ali had assumed office, the rebels left for their home towns. The departure of the refuels brought no peace to the city of Madina. The Umayyads who bad consolidated their position in Syria raised the cry of vengeance for the blood of Othman. The blood stained clothes of Othman, and the fingers of his wife, Naila, which had been cut by the rioters while she defended were exhibited in the mosque at Damascus. The Umayyads incited the emotions of the people to a high pitch and they declared with due solemnity that they would not rest content until the death of Othman had been avenged. The cry of the Umayyads raised in Damascus found its echo in Madina and Makkah as well, and many persons in Madina and Makkah also joined the chorus for vengeance for the blood of Othman. Talha and Zubair two prominent companions who had taken the oath of allegiance to Ali supported the call for vengeance. Even Ayesha, the favorite wife of the Holy Prophet joined the camp which raised the cry for vengeance.

Nature of the crime of the assassination of Othman

The assassination of Othman was a very tragic event in the annals of Islam. Particular sanctity is attached to the office of the Caliph, and if the Caliphs were to be murdered in cold blood as in the case of Othman, that boded ill for the Muslim polity. According to the Islamic law the heirs of a dead person have the right to claim blood money (Qasas) for such murder. It is the obligation of the State to enforce such right. In view of this legal position, the heirs of Othman had a prima facie case to claim vengeance for the murder of Othman. The law of "Qasas" applies in a normal case of murder when the person committing the murder can be apprehended. When the case is complex, and murder cannot be attributed to a particular person or persons, the law of Qasas would not apply in the conventional sense. The assassination of Othman was not a simple murder, it was in fact a revolt and coup d'etat. The natural law is that where a revolt fails, the rebels have to pay for such revolt with their lives. On the other hand where the revolt succeeds, the rebels capture power, and there is no question of taking any action against them for they are the victors, and the victors cannot be galled to account for any bloodshed that they might have caused necessary for their victory. In this case the revolt against Othman had been successful; Othman had been killed and the power had been captured by the rebels. The rebels voluntarily transferred the power captured by them to the people, and asked them to elect the Caliph. The people elected Ali as the Caliph. The people in this case exercised the power delegated to them by the rebels, and as such Ali owed his election to the rebels. In the circumstances the cry for vengeance for the blood of Othman had become infructuous and it could not be raised before Ali.

Purpose of the cry for vengeance

As in view of the circumstances referred to above, the cry for vengeance was infructuous, the purpose of the cry was really not to seek "Qasas", but to cause confusion and create difficulties for Ali. If those who raised the cry wanted Ali to take action against the rebels, that was not possible as the revolt had succeeded, and Ali owed his election to the rebels. If the purpose of the cry was to accuse Ali of the murder it was sheer perversity for Ali was not even remotely connected with the murder. And if for the sake of argument he was involved in the murder in any way, he could not be called to account as he was himself in power. As a matter of fact those who raised the cry for vengeance were themselves responsible for the murder of Othman and they raised the cry merely to disguise their own guilt. When Othman was the Caliph all authority vested in him and Ali had no authority. As such Ali could not suppress the revolt, it was for Othman to take the necessary action. Othman, a noble soul, followed the policy of drift which culminated his assassination. As such Othman was himself responsible for his own assassination. When the house of Othman had been besieged he had in fact called for aid from the provincial governors. All the Governors including Muawiyiah delayed the dispatch of relief. That provided an opportunity to the rebels to assassinate Othman. Thus Muawiyiah was himself guilty of the murder of Othman and it did not lie in his mouth to raise the cry for vengeance and demand such vengeance from Ali. Talha who later defected from the oath of allegiance to Ali was indeed with the rebels when they besieged the house of Othman.

Alterior motive

The cry for vengeance was a mere subterfuge and the real purpose was to dethrone Ali. The rivalry between Banu Hashim and Banu Umayya existed since long. The Banu Umayya had led the Quraish of Makkah in the various battles against the Muslims. In the battles of early Islam, Ali had killed the maternal grandfather, maternal uncle and brother of Muawiyiah. Ali had killed several other men of the Banu Umayya. Ali had killed the father of Umru. The Banu Umayya thus bore a personal grudge against Ali. After the conquest of Makkah by the Muslims, the Banu Umayyah accepted Islam, and acknowledged the supremacy of Banu Hashim. When Othman became the Caliph, the tables were turned and Banu Umayyah took steps to establish their supremacy over the Banu Hashim. There is a passage in Nahj-ul-Balagha which shows that during the caliphate of Othman, the Banu Umayya withheld from Ali what was due to him just as the milkman withholds the milk of the she camel from its young one. Ali is reported to have said on the occasion that if he came into power he would deal with the Banu Umayya as the butcher removes the skin from a dead animal. As such it was the endeavor of Muawiyiah to create difficulties for Ali with a view to dethroning him from power. Othman was a capitalist and during his caliphate most of the Muslims took to the luxurious way of life in preference to the austere way of Islam. Othman had awarded capital to many persons. When Ali was elected as the Caliph, a generation-term has elapsed since the death of the Holy Prophet and a well to do class had sprung up among the Muslims. Ali was known for his revolutionary views. The well to do class among the Muslims which included Talha, Zubair, Muawiyiah and other men of Banu Umayya were afraid that under Ali their interests were likely to be adversely affected. They accordingly joined in the call for vengeance for the blood of Othman with a view to safeguarding their personal interests by creating troubles for Ali. The real aim of those who raised the cry for vengeance for the blood of Othman was to capture power for themselves by means fair or foul.

Challenge for Ali

The failure of the nominees of Ali to assume office as the Governors of Syria and Kufa was a great challenge for Ali. Musa, the Governor of Kufa, tried to temporize though he acknowledged the authority of Ali. In Syria the story was different. To start with the stand of Muawiyah was that he would acknowledge the caliphate of Ali after those who were responsible for the assassination of Othman had been brought to book. Ali sent an emissary to Muawiyah to explain to him the position. He assured him that every possible effort would be made to trace the murderers of Othman. He observed that this would need some time. He wanted the support of Muawiyah in tracing the culprits. He advised that in the meantime, Muawiyah should step aside from the office of the Governor and cooperate with the nominee of the central government in the interests of the solidarity of Islam. He pointed out that any dissentions among the Muslims at the stage would work to the advantage of the enemies of Islam.

Muswiyah detained the emissary of Ali for over three months. In the meantime he whipped up his propaganda campaign exploiting the murder of Othman. He sent his agents to Makkah, and other parts of the country to relate the story of the assassination of Othman in pathetic terms, and win the sympathy of the people. As the propaganda gathered momentum Ali came to be accused of being an accomplice in the murder of Othman. The burden of the propaganda was that as the hands of Ali were dyed with the blood of Othman he was not qualified to be the Caliph, and those who had withheld their allegiance to him were justified in their refusal to acknowledge his authority.

After three months, Muawiyah allowed the emissary of Ali to return to Madina. He said that he would be sending his own emissary with a message for Ali. The letter of Muawiyah was brought to Madina by a Bedouin chief Kabisa. The cover bore the address "From Muawiyah to Ali". When the cover was opened, it contained a blank paper with no writing thereon. In a fit of anger, Ali asked the bearer what did that mean? Kabisa pleaded for the safety of his life before he could answer the question. Ali said that he was free to speak, and he had his promise of safety. On this assurance the messenger said: "Know you then that there are no less than 60,000 Syrians whose beards are wet with tears, and who are rallying around Othman's bloody shirt which they have made their war standard, have armed themselves and are bent on avenging the murder of Othman".

On hearing these words the anger of Ali knew no bounds but he controlled his anger and said, "This is pure sedition." Someone from among the congregation shouted "Kill the Syrian messenger for his impudence," At this Kabisa took to heels and retorted, "Four thousand chosen warriors are near at hand. Take care of your homes and hearths." Ali said to the envoy, "Be gone, for I have promised you the safety of your life".

Kabisa went away, but the defiant attitude of Muawiyah was a great challenge for Ali. To those of the Muslims who were present in the mosque, Ali addressed in the mosque in the following terms: "Beware! Satan has gathered his forces. His army is multiplying. By his wiles, Satan is attracting the people to him. Their propaganda is a tissue of lies. Their accusations against me are most unjust and unfair. They demand from me the right which they themselves had abandoned. They demand from me blood for blood which they themselves have shed. Their repeated demand for taking vengeance from the murderers of Othman is like demanding milk from a woman which has dried up. He who invites me to war should know that under all circumstances I will follow the teachings of the Holy Quran and the Prophet. If they refuse to abide by the injunctions of Islam the sword which helps the upholders of truth, and destroys the mischief makers would decide the issue. It is surprising that in spite of their stand on falsehood they give me the challenge of war. May God curse them. War can never frighten me to abandon the truth. I am not afraid of death. I will live for Islam and die for Islam. "

Proclamation of Jihad

In order to meet the challenge of Muawiyah Ali ordered the raising of levies with a view to undertaking an expedition against Syria. Dispatches were sent to the various provincial governors to send reinforcements and provide whatever succor they could. Ali as Caliph issued the decree of Jihad and exhorted the people to join the campaign in large numbers for the vindication of the truth of Islam. When the Muslims of Madina gathered in the mosque, he addressed them in the following terms: "Now or never If you fail to fight you will lose power, and these accursed schismatics will destroy the solidarity of Islam. I have, however, high hopes in the mercy of God, Who will set right that which these people are bent on setting wrong."

The appeal did not have the desired result, and the response to Ali's call to arms in the defense of Islam was poor. Ali felt grieved at the apathy of the people of Madina to Jihad. He called a special gathering of the people of Madina in the Prophet's mosque, and addressed them on the importance of Jihad. His speech is preserved in the collection of his writing bearing the title Nahj-ul-Balagha. He addressed the people in the following terms: "Jihad is one of the doors of heaven. God opens it for his friends. It is the dress of piety. It is a useful and beneficial armor with which the faithful should be equipped. It is a strong shield for the believers. If a man gives it up, God will make him wear the robes of disgrace and shame. He will be the victim of misfortune. He will be dishonored. Beware! I urge you to take up arms against the upholders of falsehood. I want you to attack them before they attack us. By God! Know that those who shift their responsibilities to others court ruin and disaster. Know that Muawiyah has attacked Amber with his cavalry and has killed Hasan b Hasan Balcri the chief of that place. I am told that one of his soldiers entered a house, and took away ornaments and jewels of the lady of the house. It is both surprising and heartrending. Followers of Muawiyah are misguided and mistaken, yet they are united, and though you are the upholders of a true cause, you are disunited and divided. How sad that they kill you and you cannot destroy them. They fight against you and you evade fighting. The commandments of God are being defied and sins are being committed in open daylight, and you see these things as passive onlookers. When I ask you to march in the summer season, you request me to delay the expedition till the hot season is over, when I ask you to march in the winter, you complain of excessive cold, and want me to postpone the campaign till the cold season is over. These are lame excuses. If you are afraid of the excessive heat or cold, you are apt to run away at the sight of the sword. O men, you do not deserve to be called men. By God, I am ashamed at the sight of you. May God destroy you. You have broken my heart you have made me lose my temper. You have upset all my plans through your sins and disobedience. You have always made me drink the draught of sorrow. The Quraish now say that the son of Abu Talib is undoubtedly brave, but he is ignorant of the art of war. Is there any one from amongst their ranks who was more steadfast in war than me? I have been fighting in wars when I was barely twenty years old and now I am sixty. I do not know what should I do with you, for suggestions and plans are of lime value to men who do not act upon them."

From the historical accounts and the biographies of Ali that have come down to us, it is not very clear what exactly happened which made Ali address the people of Madina in such strong and bitter words. Reading between the lines of the speech of Ali, it seems that he felt annoyed with the attitude of the people of Madina, and he even reproached and cursed them. It appears that Ali had a plan for an immediate attack on Syria. But the plan did not materialize as adequate response from the people of Madina was not forthcoming. From the account of Tabari it appears that Ali had in fact given an order for the march to Syria. He had handed over the war standard to his son Muhammad b Hanifa. He had appointed Abdullah b Abbas, Umar b Abi Salma, and Abu Laila b Umar b Al Jarah as his Generals to command the various wings of the army. Ali was to lead the army in person and he had appointed Qatam b Abbas as the Governor of Madina during his absence. The people of Madina were loath that the Muslims should fight among themselves, and before the army of Ali could march to Syria many persons chose to withdraw. In the circumstances for one reason or the other, the expedition to Syria was delayed, and this delay worked to the advantage of Muawiyiah and the disadvantage of Ali. Things became further difficult when Ali had to face another crisis, namely the defection of Talha and Zubair who had sworn allegiance to him.

Ayesha and Ali

Ayesha was the favorite wife of the Holy Prophet. In 633 C.E. in one of the expeditions, Ayesha accompanied the Holy Prophet. On the way back she lost her necklace, and when she went to search for the necklace in the desert where she had earlier gone for the call of nature, the caravan left in her absence. Her camel man was under the impression that she was in the litter on the camel. Later, she was picked by a camel man and brought to Madina. The mischief mongers, and the enemies of Islam made this incident the subject of calumny, and Ayesha was accused of unseemly conduct. Because of the virulent propaganda campaign waged by the evil doers, The Holy Prophet became estranged to Ayesha and she left for the house of her father. During the period of estrangement, Ali advised the Holy Prophet that there was no dearth of women, and he could divorce Ayesha, and marry some other beautiful woman. Later, Allah revealed that Ayesha was innocent and no blame rested on her. As a consequence the Holy Prophet and Ayesha were reconciled. Ayesha bore grudge against Ali for the advice that he had given to the Holy Prophet to divorce her. Ayesha was a step-mother of Fatima, the wife of Ali. Both of them were more or less of the same age, While Ayesha was the favorite wife of the Holy Prophet, Fatima was his favorite daughter resulting in a natural jealousy. Once Fatima complained to the Holy Prophet for favoring Ayesha, The Holy Prophet advised her, "Then my dear daughter, why should you not love the person whom your father loves". This relationship came to be further strained when after the death of the Holy Prophet, Fatima and Ali claimed the estate of Fidak as an inheritance, but Abu Bakr did not accept the claim and declared the estate to be public property. After the death of Abu Bakr his wife Asma, a stepmother of Ayesha, married Ali. Ayesha felt unhappy at this marriage.

Ayesha in Makkah

When Othman was assassinated, Ayesha was not in Madina. She had gone to Makkah a few weeks earlier for performing the pilgrimage. She came to know of the assassination of Othman and the election of Ali as the Caliph when she was on the way back to Madina. She was much shocked at the murder of Othman. She felt unhappy at the election of Ali, with whom she had outstanding differences. On hearing of the news instead of proceeding to Madina, she retraced her steps, and returned to Makkah. Othman had been a popular figure among the Quraish of Makkah. When in Syria, Muawiyyah raised the cry for the vengeance of the blood of Othman, the cry was echoed in Makkah as well. The people of Makkah temporized in taking the oath of allegiance to Ali. The tendency of the people of Makkah was to wait and watch further developments. The people of Makkah had at that stage no leader with them under whose direction they could take a specific course of action.

The return of Ayesha to Makkah changed the situation. In view of the great prestige and respect that she commanded as the "Mother of the Faithful," she soon assumed the role of a leader, and the people assembled around her in large number. During the lifetime of Othman she had been critical of his policies, but after his death she decided to espouse his cause, and join in the cry seeking vengeance for his blood. Her address to the people of Makkah is on record. She said: "O ye people! The rebels from different provinces have murdered the innocent Othman. These people levied some allegation against the Caliph at the outset, and when they could not establish the charges against him, they rebelled against him. What had been ordained as unlawful by Allah was made lawful by the regicides. They violated the sanctity of the city of the Holy Prophet in the sacred month of "Haj" when the shedding of blood is prohibited. They plundered and looted the citizens of Madina. By God, a single finger of Othman was more precious than the lives of all the regicides. The mischief has not been crushed, and the murderers of Othman have not been brought to book. It befits you now to seek satisfaction on these murderers. It is vengeance alone for the blood of Othman that can vindicate the honor of Islam. "

The call to war

The fiery address of Ayesha was virtually the call to war. It set a match to the smoldering fire of discontent among the people. The first man to respond to the call of Ayesha was Abdullah b Aamar al-Hadhrami. He was the Governor of Makkah appointed by Othman. In view of the uncertain state of affairs in Makkah, Ali had not replaced him so far by a nominee of his own. He knew that with Ali as the Caliph he could not hold his office for long. He, therefore, placed all resources available to him as the Governor of Makkah at the disposal of Ayesha for any war that she might wage to seek vengeance for the blood of Othman. Yala b Umayya the ex-Governor Yemen who had been deposed by Ali responded enthusiastically to the call for war. On his deposition, he had brought all the treasure of the province of Yemen with him. He placed this treasure at the disposal of Ayesha for financing the war project. Abdullah b Aamar of the Umayyad section, the ex-Governor of Basra who had been deposed by Ali, also joined the confederates. All the Umayyads of Makkah, and those who had escaped from Madina after the assassination of Othman offered themselves for war service. These included Saeed b Al Aas, Mughira b Shuba, and Walid b Uqba. Talha and Zubair who arrived from Madina in the meantime also joined the confederates. Both of them were related to Ayesha. One of the sisters of Ayesha was married to Zubair and another was married to Talha. They became the right hand men for Ayesha, and the Commanders of the force of Ayesha.

The plan of war

Within a short time, Ayesha was able to set up a war organization in opposition to Ali. Though the confederates raised the cry for avenging the murder of Othman, their real aim was to dethrone Ali. After building up a war organization, Ayesha and her party had to consider where the blow was to be struck. Ayesha was personally of the view that an attack should be led on Madina as it was expedient that the malady should be uprooted root and branch. Apparently her idea was to overthrow Ali and capture power Most of her followers were of the view that it would not be advisable that the wife of the Holy Prophet should lead an expedition against the city of the Holy Prophet and violate its sanctity. The Umayyads proposed that they should proceed to Syria and join Muawiyah. This view was not favored by the non-Umayyad followers of Ayesha, as such a step was likely to shift the balance of power in favor of Muawiyah, and strengthen his claim for the caliphate. Another proposal was that they should advance to Kufa. This proposal was dropped on the ground that it was uncertain how far the people of Kufa would support the war against Ali, particularly when most of the rebels responsible for the assassination of Othman belonged to Kufa. Talha suggested that he had considerable influence in Basra, and if they advanced to Basra, most of the people there would join them. This proposal was supported by Abdullah b Aamar who had been the Governor of Basra and had been deposed by Ali. He said that be had many supporters in Basra and these people would join them in case they advanced to Basra. After a good deal of discussion and deliberation it was decided that they should in the first instance march to Basra, and should undertake further campaigns against Ali with Basra as the base. Addressing her followers Ayesha said: "A great tragedy has taken place, and the innocent Caliph of the Muslims has been assassinated by the miscreants for ulterior ends. They have captured power, and this is fraught with grave danger to the Muslim Ummah. As true Muslims, it is your bounder duty to rise to a man, and take vengeance for the blood of Othman. To seek this end let us in the first instance march to our brethren in Basra, and make that city our base for further operations. May God help us in our mission."

Ayesha's March to Basra

The Proclamation

Having taken the decision to open the campaign by a march on Basra, the confederates issued a proclamation in the following terms: "The Mother of the Faithful, Talha and Zubair, two eminent companions of the Holy Prophet, are leading an army to Basra and whosoever has any spark of faith in him should join the ranks to defend the faith, and fight to seek vengeance for the blood of Othman. Those who do not have the means of the journey will be provided with conveyance, arms and other necessities. It is an obligation on the part of the Muslims to rise to vindicate the truth. "

The Army

The proclamation had a good effect and many people joined the ranks. A majority of the people of Makkah favored the confederates. A section of the population led by Abdullah b Umar decided to remain neutral and favor no party. A small section favored Ali. Al Fazal, the wife of Abbas, and an uncle of Ali sent a letter to Ali through a special messenger informing him of the plan of Ayesha.

The confederates were able to raise an army three thousand strong from the people of Makkah. Envoys were sent to the tribes who inhabited the desert on the way to Basra to join the main army on the way.

Ayesha's address to the troops

As the troops assembled at Makkah, Ayesha addressed them. She exhorted them to fight for upholding the truth and the suppression of falsehood. She said that the assassination of Othman, the Caliph of the Muslims was a great challenge for the faithful, and they could not rest content till those guilty of the crime were brought to book and killed.

Talha and Zubair urged the troops to perform deeds of heroic gallantry which were the characteristics of Ghazis. They told them that they had left Madina and its people in a state of quandary. In Madina right had been mixed up with wrong in such a way that the people knew not in which way to turn.

Talha and Zubair made out the point that in the circumstances it was for the people of Makkah to give the lead, and teach a lesson to the traitors who had assassinated the innocent Caliph, Othman.

The confederates justified their cause on the basis of the following verse of the Holy Quran: And if two parties of the believers quarrel, make peace between them, but if one of them acts wrongly towards the other, fight that which acts wrongfully, until it returns to Allah's command. Then, if it returns, make peace between them with justice and act equitably, for Allah loves those who act equitably. "

The Day of tears

Ayesha mounting on a camel took command of the army, and it set off on the march to Basra. The prominent women of Makkah traveled with Ayesha for some distance outside Makkah to see her off. These included Hafsa, another wife of the Holy Prophet. Hafsa intended to accompany Ayesha to Basra, but her brother Abdullah b Umar persuaded her to return to Makkah, as in the war between the two parties of the Muslims it was expedient to remain neutral. As the women took leave of Ayesha, they wept bitterly because of the uncertainty of fortune that lay in store for the army of Makkah. Here a dead camel was sighted from which blood flew profusely. This was taken to be a bad omen indicating that as a result of the campaign they were undertaking much blood was likely to flow. According to the Arab chronicles the day of the departure of the army of the confederates for Basra came to be known as the "Day of Tears", on account of the heavy tears shed at the time of the departure of the troops.

Desertions from the army of the confederates

The army of the confederates had hardly proceeded a few stages from Makkah when the followers of Talha and Zubair began to quarrel among themselves on the point as to who out of Talha and Zubair should become the Caliph in the event of victory. Ayesha tried to end the dispute by declaring that the issue was premature, and that at the proper time it was for the people of Madina to choose the Caliph as they had elected the previous Caliphs. Ayesha appointed a neutral person to lead the prayers. The quarrel, however, did its damage. Some of the people who belonged neither to the party of Talha, nor to that of Zubair came to feel that the war was being fought because of personal motives of Talha and Zubair. Some persons suggested that as they had taken up arms to avenge the blood of Othman it was proper that a son of Othman should be chosen as the Caliph. This suggestion was turned down by the followers of Talha and Zubair on the ground that only some veteran companion could be chosen as the Commander of the Faithful. Because of these quarrels doubts began to assail some of the people who had joined the ranks under the impression that they were going to fight in the cause of Islam. They felt uncertain as to where the truth lay. Both the sides claimed to fight for the truth and it was obvious that both of them could not be in the right at the same time. One of them was bound to be in the wrong, but it could not be said who exactly was in the wrong. On one side was the "Mother of the Faithful", and on the other side was the "Commander of the Faithful." In the circumstances the proper course for the faithful was not to support either party until things appeared in their true color. Saeed b Al Aas an ex-Governor of Kufa who had joined the army of the confederates thought it advisable to desert and return to Makkah. Some other persons also returned with him. In response to the battle cry "On to Basra to kill the murderers of Othman", Saeed said. "Why go so far. The objects of your vengeance, Talha and Zubair are riding on their camels before you; kill them and return home".

Ayesha at Hau'ab

In the way some desert tribes joined the forces of the confederates. When the cavalcade reached the watering place of Hau'ab, the dogs of the village came out, and barked at Ayesha. She inquired about the name of the place, and when she was told that it was Hau'ab, a shudder ran through her. She recalled a prediction of the Holy Prophet, who while sitting among his wives one day had said that on one of his wives the dogs of Hau'ab would bark. That unnerved Ayesha. She felt much concerned at the revelation that she was the wretched woman about whom the Holy Prophet had made the unsavory prediction. The army camped at the watering place, and Ayesha gave expression to her desire to abandon the expedition and return to Makkah. The following morning Talha and Zubair played a ruse on Ayesha. They produced some witnesses who averred that the place was not Hau'ab. They also spread a false alarm that the forces of Ali were advancing on the road from Makkah, and there was no option with them, but to hurry forward to Basra, and occupy the city before an encounter with the forces of Ali.


After forced marches the troops of Ayesha reached Basra and camped outside the city. The die was cast. Basra, heretofore a peaceful city had to face a storm, and become the theatre of an unfortunate civil war which was to lead to blood shed, and destroy unity amongst the Muslims.

Ali's plan of action

Ali's original plan was to undertake an expedition against Syria. The implementation of the plan had to be deferred because the people of Madina had not favorably responded to his call for arms. The crisis deepened when Talha and Zubair escaped from Madina, and at Makkah, Ayesha raised the cry for the vengeance of the blood of Othman. Ali had thought that Ayesha's call would be a mere storm in the tea-cup and she would not or could not go to the extent of precipitating war. When All came to know that Ayesha had assembled a force, and was planning a march to Basra, he felt that no further time could be lost and immediate action was called for to frustrate the efforts of Ayesha in gaining further strength. It was with some difficulty that Ali was able to raise a small force at Madina. By and large the people of Madina shut themselves in their houses, and remained indifferent to the call of Ali. The force that Ali was able to muster comprised mostly of the Sabites who had participated in the revolt against Othman. Some people of Madina who were personally devoted to Ali, however joined the ranks. Abu Qatada a leader of the Ansars, and a veteran warrior waited on Ali and offered his services. Umm Salma, a wife of the Holy Prophet came to see Ali and said that if other women were to accompany him she would be glad to accompany. She had a son Umar by a former husband and he joined the army of Ali. Ali appointed Tamam b Abbas as the Governor of Madina. He sent an emissary to Makkah to recruit whatever volunteers he could from the people of Makkah. The strength of the force that Ali was able to muster in Madina did not exceed nine hundred. At the head of this force, Ali marched out of Madina. When Ali was about to depart, Abdullah b Salam, a veteran companion of the Holy Prophet, held up the reins of the horse of Ali and said: "O Commander of the faithful, do not go out of Madina. If you once leave Madina you will not be able to return to Madina again. Madina would thereafter cease to be the capital of the Muslim world."

The Sabite followers of Ali wanted to deal roughly with the old man, but Ali warned them not to touch the person of Abdullah b Salam for he was an eminent companion of the Holy Prophet. Ali assured Abdullah b Salam that he would soon return to Madina. That was, however, not to be. Ali never came back to Madina, and Madina ceased to be the capital of the Muslim commonwealth.

Ali at Rabda

After some forced marches, Ali reached Rabda. It was a junction from where one road led to Madina, one to Makkah, one to Kufa, and another to Basra. Here he came to know that the army of Ayesha had already reached Basra, and he had been late in intercepting the army of Ayesha half-way. Ali now felt that a battle would have to be fought at Basra. The army at the disposal of Ali was inadequate for the purpose. Imam Hasan the son of Ali advised his father not to play with fire. He said: "I fear that like Othman you will be assassinated. I have been advising you not to play with fire, but you have not listened to me." Ali wanted him to indicate what was his advice to which he had not listened. Thereupon Imam Hasan said: "When the house of Othman was besieged by the rebels I had advised you to go out of Madina, for the assassination of Othman while you were present in Madina was not in your interest. When Othman had been assassinated I had advised you not to accept the caliphate unless deputations came to you from various parts of the country to request you to accept the caliphate. When Talha and Zubair defected, I advised you to shut yourself in your house, and leave it to the people to decide the question of the vengeance for the blood of Othman themselves. I had advised you to keep aloof from the controversy, but you did not accept my advice." Ali said he did not leave Madina when the house of Othman was besieged for in that ease the rebels would have chased, and he would have met the same fate as had befallen to Othman. The caliphate was offered to me by the people of Madina. They alone were competent to do so, and other towns had to conform to the decision taken by the people of Madina. He explained that when he had accepted the office of the Caliph he could not shut himself in his house and evade the responsibilities of the office.

Ali's mission to Ayesha

In his quest for peace, Ali sent a peace mission to Ayesha. The peace mission was headed by Qa'aqa, a prominent leader from Kufa. He was a renowned warrior, and was well known for his heroic exploits in the wars against the Persians during the caliphates of Abu Bakr and Umar. The mission was instructed by Ali not to adopt a threatening or a patronizing attitude. No attempt was to be made to over awe the other side with the superior strength of the force at the disposal of the Caliphate. Ali desired that the negotiations between the parties should be a heart to heart dialogue, and every possible effort should be made to remove the misunderstandings between the parties. Ali instructed the members of the mission that due respect should be shown to Ayesha, the Mother of the Faithful. He sent a message of goodwill and great regards to Ayesha saying that in spite of the unfortunate misunderstandings that had cropped up between them he looked to her as a mother, and expected a motherly treatment from her.

The issues

The mission was received by Ayesha, Talha and Zubair with due courtesy. The message of Ali was duly delivered, and Ayesha said that she would be glad if the misunderstandings were removed and unity among the Muslims was restored. Qa'aqa inquired of Ayesha as to what were the objects before her which had prompted her to take to the field. She said that the objects before her were to seek vengeance for the blood of Othman, and to promote the cause of Islam.

Vengeance for the blood of Othman

With regard to the issue about the vengeance for the blood of Othman, Qa'aqa posed the question, "Mother, tell me, keeping God in view, whether you accuse Ali for the murder of Othman as a criminal or as an accomplice?" Ayesha said that she did not accuse Ali for involvement in the assassination of Othman; her grievance was that as Caliph, Ali had not taken any action to apprehend the murderers of Othman. Qa'aqa then asked whether such murder was the act of one man, or was it the act of a mob. Ayesha said that obviously it was the act of a mob. Qa'aqa next asked the question, "Have things settled down after the murder of Othman". Ayesha said that the things were still very much in a state of disarray. Qa'aqa thereupon said, "If things are still unsettled, how could Ali take action against the people who were still in control of the situation, and from whom another coup could be expected?" To this question, Ayesha, Talha or Zubair had no satisfactory answer.

Qa'aqa then posed another question, "Do you know that by rebelling against the authority of Ali you have done great harm to the cause for the vengeance of the blood of Othman?" "How was that?" asked Ayesha. Qa'aqa said, "By rebelling against the authority of Ali, you have forced Ali to deal with you instead of dealing with the murderers of Othman. In this crisis, Ali had naturally to seek allies, and when you have forsaken Ali those who had rebelled against Othman have come to the aid of Ali in large numbers, because they feel that the troubles of Ali are because of them. Things have thus moved in a vicious circle, and by rebelling against Ali you have thrown him in the lap of the persons from whom you seek vengeance. By your action you have strengthened the murderers of Othman, and weakened the Muslims." That set Ayesha thinking, and she could not know how the argument advanced by Qa'aqa could be met.

Promoting the cause of Islam

Qa'aqa then took up the question of promoting the cause of Islam. He pointed out that when the Muslims were united under Abu Bakr and Umar they made large conquests both in the east and the west. In the early years of the caliphate of Othman the process of conquests continued. When the Muslims rebelled against the authority of Othman, and came to be divided among themselves the process of conquest came to a grinding halt. He observed that the enemies of Islam were on the borders of the Muslim State ready to take advantage of any division in the ranks of the Muslims. Qa'aqa posed the question, "How can you promote the cause of Islam, if you seek to divide the Muslims for one cause or the other?" Addressing the confederates he asked, "Did you promote the cause of Islam when you killed six hundred men of Basra, and the mosque was dyed with blood? Did you thereby avenge the murder of Othman when such persons were not even remotely connected with the murder of Othman? If you killed them because rightly or wrongly you suspected them of being involved in the assassination of Othman, then is your demand for the 'Qasas' for the blood of Othman not yet satisfied?" Then he respectfully addressed Ayesha saying: "O Mother of the Faithful! Did God not enjoin you to sit quietly in your home? Did the Holy Prophet warn you that the dogs of Hu'ab would bark on you? Then how did you promote the cause of Islam by violating these instructions?" Addressing Talha and Zubair he said "Did you not take the oath of allegiance to Ali? If you took the oath of allegiance to Ali under some compulsion, tell us the man for whom you would have voted if you were free. Is any man more qualified, and more worthy to be the Caliph of the Muslims than Ali? Verily Ali is the best man to be the Caliph of the Muslims, and by putting difficulties in his way you do not promote the cause of Islam, you do great harm to Islam."

Reaction of Ayesha

The arguments advanced by Qa'aqa had their way. They were most effective and impressive Ayesha asked Qa'aqa, "Then, what do you suggest ?" He said, "I suggest that instead of fighting make peace. Strengthen the hands of Ali, and when law and order is fully established the Muslims acting in concert should determine how the vengeance for the blood of Othman could be taken. " Thereupon Ayesha said, "If that be the view of Ali as well, we agree to make peace on honorable terms. " Qa'aqa respectfully took leave of Ayesha, and returned to Ali to report the success of his mission.

Negotiations for peace

When Ali came to know of the success of the Mission of his emissary Qa'aqa to Ayesha, Talha and Zubair, he felt very happy. The two armies encamped in the "Wadi-us-Saba" (Valley of the Lion) near the village of Khuraiba outside Basra, facing each other. It was decided that the following day when the two armies assembled in the valley, the terms of peace would be negotiated, and the proclamation of peace would be issued.

The following day as the two forces assembled, Ali posted a man in the center carrying a copy of the Holy Quran on his head. This was indicative of the desire on the part of Ali to decide the dispute peacefully in the light of the teachings of the Holy Quran.

Ali rode to the center of the valley, and called upon Talha and Zubair to step forward to meet him. When Talha and Zubair came forward he asked them why they had rebelled against his authority when they had taken the oath of allegiance to him. They said that they had taken the oath under duress and it was not binding. He asked them, after all, what did they want. They said that they wanted "Qasas" for the assassination of Othman. Ali said that this matter could be considered under conditions of peace. Talha and Zubair said that if Ali was prepared to take "Qasas" from the murderers of Othman, they were prepared to make peace and acknowledge Ali as the Caliph. Ali said that he would consider their demand favorably.

Turning to Zubair, Ali said: "Have you forgotten that you are my cousin, being a son of my paternal aunt? Can you not recall that at one of our sittings with the Holy Prophet, he commended me to you? The Holy Prophet at that time predicted that I was to suffer harm at your hands, and you undertook to safeguard my interests and not to forsake me," At these words, Zabair shuddered and said "All of you have spoken the truth. I had forgotten the interview with the Holy Prophet. Now that you have reminded me of that, I will not harm your interests and would be prepared to make peace with you."

The meeting ended in an atmosphere of goodwill from both the sides. Thereafter the two armies retired to their camps, and the general impression was that peace would be made, and war would be avoided. Emissaries were exchanged between the two sides, and by the evening the general impression was that the terms of peace had been mutually agreed upon, and that the necessary peace treaty would be executed the following day.

The Regicides

The armies on the two sides heaved a sigh of relief on coming to know that peace was to be made the following day. At nightfall the men of the two armies retired to rest with easy hearts. The case with the regicides, the persons who had participated in the assassination of Othman was however different. In the army of Ali there were two to three thousand men of Kufa, who were involved in the revolt against Othman. When the confederates had occupied Basra they had executed all such men of Basra who were involved in the assassination of Othman as "Qasas" for the blood of Othman. The regicides of Kufa apprehended that in case peace was made between Ali and the confederates the terms of the agreement of peace were likely to be that the confederates would acknowledge the caliphate of Ali, and Ali would in turn order the execution of the regicides of Kufa like the execution of the regicides belonging to Basra. The leaders of the regicides of Kufa met in conference secretly to decide what course of action they should take to save their skins. It was proposed that Ali, Talha and Zubair should be killed. This proposal was turned down on the ground that such action on their part was likely to reunite the confederates and the followers of Ali, and they would together fight not only for the "Qasas" of Othman, but for the "Qasas" of Ali, Talha and Zubair as well. Many other proposals were considered. It was ultimately decided that they should take steps to insure that the two sides were locked in battle before the peace agreement was executed. In pursuance of this plan before the daybreak the regicides attacked the army of the confederates. When this attack came to the notice of Talha and Zubair they ordered their forces to meet the attack. They said that they knew before hand that Ali did not really mean to execute an agreement of peace. When the army of the confederates made a counter attack the regicides made Ali believe that the confederates had made a surprise attack. Ali asked his forces to take up arms and beat back the attack. Ali said that he already knew that Talha and Zubair were not serious in their peace proposals.

The Battle

Before it was day break the two armies had taken the field and engaged in a life and death struggle. The regicides fought most desperately, and their attacks were resisted by the confederates. The battle accordingly took a sanguinary turn. It was a deplorable engagement, when the Muslims cut the throats of Muslims. It appeared that the injunctions of Islam had been forgotten, and the people reverted to the pre-Islamic practice of settling their disputes through the arbitration of the sword. According to chronicles when the opposing sides came together breast to breast with a furious shock the noise that was produced was like the sound of thunder. The forces of the two sides fought with the ferocity of lions and men fell on the battlefield from both the sides like the fall of autumn leaves. Talha fought bravely, and he killed many warriors of the army of Ali. He was however mortally wounded by the arrows that hit him. He was carried in an unconscious state to a house in Basra where he soon expired. By noon the tide of the battle began to turn against the confederates at this stage. Zubair is also reported to have escaped from the battlefield, and taken the road to Makkah. When Ayesha came to know of the state of the battle, she came to the battle seated in a litter on a camel. She exhorted the people to stop fighting. She posted Kasb b Sur the Qazi of Basra in the center of the battlefield with a copy of the Holy Quran on his head. He exhorted the men of the army of Ali to stop fighting in the name of God. Some men of the army of Ali were inclined to listen to the call of Kaab b Sur well known for his piety and learning. The regicides who were in the forefront of the fight cried "He is the man who reported that Talha and Zubair had not taken the oath of allegiance to Ali voluntarily. Kill him." The regicides rained arrows on Kaab b Sur, and he fell dead. The confederates shot arrows in return killing some of the regicides. The frenzy of the combatants appeared to know no bounds the appalling carnage continued unabated, and the dead and the dying lay pilled in heaps. Ayesha seated in a litter on a camel became the main target for attack by the forces of Ali. The followers of Ayesha flocked round her camel to protect her. A devoted follower held the reins of the camel, and as any one from the army of Ali advanced to attack the camel, the man holding the reins of the camel cut him with his sword. In such duels many persons fell on both the sides. Over two dozen persons of the army of the confederates lost their heads while holding the bridle of the camel of Ayesha. The casualties in the case of the warriors of the army of Ali who dashed against the camel were much heavier. Ali felt that as long as the camel of Ayesha stood, the battle would continue. In order to end the battle, Ali directed his men to slip behind the camel and cut off its legs. Some warriors of the forces of Ali managed to slip behind the camel and cut off its legs. As the beast fell on the ground dead, it gave such a shriek that made the men shiver in their shoes. Ayesha escaped with her life although the litter in which she had been sitting was pierced with arrows. Ayesha was lifted out of the litter, and borne to a house is Basra.

End of the battle

With the fall of Ayesha's camel, the battle ended in the victory of Ali, and the defeat of the confederates. As in this battle, the camel of Ayesha became the main target of attack. The battle came to be known as the Battle of the Camel. The loss on both the sides was considerable. Over ten thousand persons were killed in the battle. Among the dead on both the sides, there were many prominent companions of the Holy Prophet who had fought in the wars under the Holy Prophet, and the rightly guided Caliphs, Abu Bakr, Umar, and Othman.

Talha the confederate leader died because of the wounds received in the battle; Zubair escaped from the battlefield and he took the road to Makkah. He had proceeded for some distance from Basra when he came across a detachment led by the Banu Qais chief Ahnaf b Qais. Here Zubair halted to offer prayers. When Zubair prostrated himself in prayers, one of the men of Ahnaf cut off the head of Zubair with the blow of his sword. Ahnaf brought the head of Zubair to Ali hoping to be awarded for killing his enemy. At they sight of the gory head of his cousin, Ali burst into sobs and turning to Ahnaf said, "You have done a ghastly deed, and verily your lot is hell fire, Ahnaf was surprised at the remarks of Ali. Addressing Ali he said, "You are an evil judge of men. If some one delivers you from your enemies you pronounce the penalty of hell fire on him. " Bitterly resenting what he felt to be a great injustice, Ahnaf drew his sword, and plunged it into his own breast.

Testament of Ali

Testament of Ali

After the Battle of Siffin, Ali wrote a detailed testament in favor of his son Imam Hasan. It is a brilliant code of counsel, which provides guidance for every Muslim. The testament is found in Nahj-ul-Balagha, and its running translation is given hereunder: "Son, I enjoin on you that you should fear God. Follow His commandments. Enliven your heart with His remembrance. Hold fast to His rope. No relationship is stronger than the relation that exists between you and God."  


The Hereafter

O son, enlighten the heart with prayers. Suppress all lust with piety. Strengthen your heart with faith. Brighten it with wisdom. Overpower it with the remembrance of death. Let it beware of its mortality. Frighten it with the vicissitudes of the times. Make it take lesson from the fate of the dead. Wander through the ruins of the settlements of the past. Ask these ruins: what did these people do, where have they gone, where they have settled now. This will make you realize that they have departed from their friends and relatives, and that they now rest in the wilderness of the graveyard where you will also have to go sooner or later. Rectify your lapses. Do not sell the Hereafter for the world. Do not speak in the state of ignorance. Refrain from unnecessary talk. Do not tread the path from which you can apprehend the danger of running astray. Withhold your step from evil for that is the way to safety.


Virtue and faith

If you will preach virtue, you will be among the virtuous. Counteract the evil with your tongue. Keep aloof from the wicked. Undertake Jihad in the way of God. In the affairs of God do not be afraid of the accusations of the evil mongers. For the vindication of the truth do not hesitate to face the storm of difficulties. Seek protection in faith.


Protection of God

In all that you do, seek the protection of God, for thereby you will be in a citadel which is strongly fortified and invincible. In seeking anything do not make any partner with God, for all bounty is in the hands of God in all matters. Pursue the right. Do not covet what is undesirable.


The elders

Son, show no lapse in the fulfillment of your obligations. Follow in the footsteps of your elders. As you see yourself today they saw themselves likewise yesterday. As you think, they also thought. Experience taught them that they should tread the right path.


Your own way

If you are inclined to follow your own way as a result of your own experience you may do so but it should be done with due care and wisdom. Do not get yourself involved in doubts and debates. Before embarking on such adventure seek the support and help of God. Step into this valley only when you are convinced that your heart is receptive, your intelligence has matured, and your intellect is sufficiently developed to distinguish the right from the wrong. Without such pre-requisites the way will be dark, and you will be liable to stray. It is necessary for the seeker of truth that he should neither stray from the right path, nor be assailed by any doubts.


Tests of God

Son, understand that He in Whose Hand is death has control over life as well. He Who brings about birth brings about death as well. He tests you by putting you to troubles. He is our final refuge. See that you do not fail in His test. Believe that the world is subject to the well-established law of God that in the world man is awarded bounty as well as subjected to trials and tribulations. The final award is made in the Hereafter of which we have no knowledge.


Resignation to the Will of God

Son, if there is anything which you cannot comprehend do not repudiate it, but you should meditate over it and attribute your failure to understand it to the limitations of your intellect. It may be appreciated that when you are born you are devoid of understanding, and knowledge comes to you steadily as you grew up. Even when grown up, it cannot be said how many things there are still, of which you are ignorant. There are things, which excite your wonder, but knowledge about them dawns on you gradually. Therefore your attachment should be to that Being who has created you, and who has given you sustenance. Your prayers should be for Him, and you should resign yourself to His Will. Son, no one has taught about God as the Holy Prophet. Make him your guide, and seek your salvation through him.


Allah is One

Son, if there had been any god other than Allah, their prophets would have also come, and they would have also established their dominions. There is, however, no sign of any such dominion. Verily Allah is one. He has no partner. He exists since eternity and will live forever. He is the first and the last. He has no beginning and no end. He is almighty, omnipotent and omniscient. Thus you should act in such way as a humble servant would act with reference to his mighty master. Remember that God has enjoined you to do good things, and refrain from bad things.


Picture of the world

Son, I have presented to you a picture of the world. I have given you an account of its insignificance. So it is for you to keep this in mind and act accordingly. The people who have tested the world do not feel distressed on leaving it they are in fact like persons who migrate from a famine struck land to land of plenty. These people bear the ordeal of the journey, and separation from friends and relatives so that they may arrive at a land where they can enjoy plenty. Their every step is a step forward bringing them closer to their destination. The people who are attached to the world cannot bear separated from it. They are like those people who leave a land of plenty for a famine struck land. Their journey would be most troublesome and their end would be most tragic.


Balance between yourself and the people

Son, make yourself a balance between yourself and the people. Whatever you like for yourself, like it for others. Whatever is undesirable to you, consider it undesirable for others as well. If you do not want to be oppressed by any one, do not oppress anybody. Treat others as you wish to be treated by them. If the people behave with you as you behave with them, consider this to be a proper state of affairs. Do not say any thing without proper knowledge. Do not say anything, which you do not like to be heard against yourself.


Self adulation

Self-adulation is a folly and a cause of destruction for self. Do not become a treasurer for others. Seek enlightenment from God and fear God alone. Son, you have before you a long and hazardous journey. During this journey, good conduct should be your greatest asset. During this journey you should not carry with you a burden larger than what is necessary. If you carry a burden which is heavier than what you can bear that will be a source of great embarrassment for you. Do as much good as you can. If while you are rich someone asks for a loan from you, give it so that it is returned to you when you are in straitened circumstances.  


The journey to the Hereafter

Son, you have a steep rock to ascend. For climbing such height, a man without burden is at an advantage as compared with a person carrying a heavy burden. Thereafter there will be hell or paradise. Before reaching your destination send your goods in advance to insure a comfortable accommodation when you arrive at your destination.  


Access to God

After death, no apology will avail, nor any return to the world would be possible. Have faith that He Who holds the treasures of the earth and the heavens has permitted you to ask for anything you want. Whatever you ask for, you will get. If you seek mercy you will have it. You can have free access to Him. No functionary stands in the way between you and Him. Worldly goods are of little value. They are for you; you are not for them.


Preparations for death

Son, you are born for the Hereafter. Death lies in wait for you. Howsoever you may run from it, it will overreach you. You have to fall a victim to death sooner or later. Therefore be careful lest death comes to you before you have had the opportunity to repent. In that case you will be deemed to destruction. Son, you should be well prepared so that when death comes you have no regret.


Temptations of the world

Son, do not be tempted by the world for God has revealed its worthlessness. Even the world itself is aware of its transitory nature. Those who are devoted to the world are like barking dogs and ferocious animals who fall at one another, the strong devouring the weak. Some of such beasts are tied down, and are devoid of the power to harm. Some of them run amuck like camels, which roam about causing mischief. They are devoid of intelligence. They tread the path of destruction, and are enveloped in darkness. They cannot see light. They have got themselves lost in the labyrinths of the world. They are enamoured of the world and have made it their God. The world is playing with them and they are playing with the world. They have completely forgotten the Hereafter.


Counsels to follow

Son, all your hopes cannot be realized. You cannot live for a period longer than what has been ordained for you. You have to tread the way, which was trodden by the people before you. Be moderate in your desires. Do not transgress the limits. Do not become a slave of your desires. That good is no good, which leads to evil. That wealth is no wealth, which brings dishonor. Take care that ambition and greed do not lead you to destruction. Do not seek the favor of any one for whatever is ordained for you, you will get it at all cost.


Speech and silence

Whatever harm accrues because of silence can be remedied, but whatever harm is done by speech cannot be remedied. Have you not seen that water is kept in the water skin by tying the mouth of the water skin. It is better to restrain your desires then to stretch your hand before others. A little that is earned because of honest labor is better than larger amount gained through dishonest means. Guard well your secret. Sometimes one is apt to harm himself by his own act. He who speaks more than what is necessary indulges in error.


Man and God

God is most merciful, when you violate your repentance He does not take any vengeance. When you turn to Him again He does not taunt you, nor does He take cognizance of your faults. He does not hesitate in accepting repentance. He does not make you despair of His mercy. He regards repentance as a virtue. Any dereliction minor or grave is counted as one, but every good deed is treated as ten virtues. Lie has kept the door of repentance open. He listens to your plaint. When you praise Him, He listens to you. It is He to Whom you tell your difficulties and afflictions and seek health, longevity, and the fulfillment of desires. No one other than Him can fulfil your desires. If there is any delay in the acceptance of your prayer, do not give way to despair. The acceptance of the prayer depends on your bona fides. Sometimes there is delay in the acceptance of the prayer so that you may have a greater reward. Sometimes your prayer is not accepted for what you ask for is not in your interests. Therefore you should ask for such things which are really to your advantage.  



Keep the company of the virtuous. Refrain from the company of the wicked. To oppress the weak is the worst tyranny. When softness becomes hardness, hardness becomes softness. Sometimes cure becomes malady and malady becomes cure. Sometimes an evil wisher does what is good for you, and a well wisher does what is harmful to you. Do not bank on false hopes for that is the capital of the dead. Intelligence is the application of experience. The best experience is that which bears a lesson. Avail of the opportunity before it turns against you.  


The fate

Everyone who goes on a journey may not return. Do not waste things. Do not spoil your prospects of the Hereafter. The fate of man is previously ordained. Whatever is the decree of your destiny will come to pass. A trader is a gambler in some way. Sometimes scarcity may be more beneficent than plenty.


The times

As long as the times favor you, march with the times. Beware that ambition does not blind you, and enmity does not deprive you of your intelligence. If a friend loosens the bond of friendship, you should strengthen such bond. If he keeps distance from you, you should try to come closer to him. If he adopts a stiff attitude against you, you should adopt a gentler attitude towards him. If he makes a mistake you should find an excuse for him. Behave with a friend as if he is your master, and you are his slave. Do not befriend the enemy of your friend. Do not refrain from tendering advice to your friend even though it might be bitter. Do not give way to anger. He who is harsh with you, be kind to him. He who has a good opinion about you, see that such opinion is not falsified. Do not ignore the rights of a friend under the false notion that he is a friend, for where rights are ignored, friendship suffers. Do not despair because of the oppression of a tyrant, for by such oppression he digs his own grave.



Son, sustenance is of two types, one that you seek, and the other that seeks you. Thus if you do not seek sustenance it will seek you. In the world your share is to that extent which can stand you in good stead in the Hereafter. If you grieve even what you have lost, then you should grieve over everything, which you have not got. Do not be like those people who are not impressed by any advice, but are moved by accusations. A wise man takes a lesson from even an ordinary lapse.


Patience and faith

Overpower desires and suspicions by patience and faith. He who does not take the middle course strays. A friend is like a relative. A true friend is he who looks after your interests in your absence. A stranger is he who has no friend.


Words of counsel

He who leaves the path of the truth treads the dark way. He who lives within his means keeps his honor safe. The strongest bond is that which binds man to God. He who does not care for you is your enemy. When hopes are frustrated, despair becomes the way of life. Every lapse may not be noticed. Nor can every opportunity be availed of. Sometimes he who has eyes may stumble, while the blind may tread without any mishap. He who trusts the world, the world betrays him. When there is a change in the ruler, the times also change. Before undertaking a journey look at the persons who are to be your companions. Before occupying a house, look to the persons who are to be your neighbors. Take care that in your talk you do not indulge in ridiculing anyone. Do not consult women. Their intelligence is limited and their resolves lack strength. Keep them in seclusion. Let no stranger come in contact with them. Do not encourage them to take recommendations. Treat your servants well. Allot them distinct jobs, so that each servant knows his duty. Respect your clan. It is the source of strength for you.



Son, I entrust your world and your Hereafter to God and pray for your welfare both in this world and the Hereafter. "

Helplessness of Ali

When Ali came to know of the end of Muhammad b Abu Bakr and the fall of Egypt, his grief knew no bounds. In a latter addressed to his cousin Abdullah b Abbas, Ali mourned the death of Muhammad b Abu Bakr in heart rending terms. The loss of Egypt was a grievous blow to the prestige of Ali. Addressing the people from the pulpit in the main mosque of Kufa Ali said: "O ye people! In the hour of need you have forsaken me. Falsehood has overcome the truth, and also no one is forthcoming to take up cudgels on behalf of the truth. I have lost Egypt. I have lost a loyal son. Who will avenge his death? Is no spark of faith left in you to fight for cause? What has happened to your oath of allegiance to me when you are not listening to me? Why have you become so deaf and dumb?" Day after day, Ali ascended the pulpit, and poured out quotations from the Holy Quran and the traditions of the Holy Prophet, enjoining upon the Muslims their obligation to undertake Jihad. These harangues and exhortations had no effect on the people. Somehow they felt that the star of Ali was waning, and they were in no mood to worship the sun that was about to set. The state of the helplessness of Ali is described by Dr. Ata Mohyuddin in the following words in his book Ali the Superman: "Ali now lost heart completely, despair overwhelmed him, crippling his energies and paralyzing all initiative. He completely lost faith in human nature, and withdrew to a life of retirement. He no longer had any control over the army or over the people and presented the spectacle of a beaten man."

Martyrdom of Ali - 661 CE

The Kharijite plot

Ali defeated the Kharijites at the Battle of Nahrawan, but that was not the end of the Kharijites. Because of the reverse met at Nahrawan they became all the more fanatic. Those who survived the disaster of Nahrawan burnt with the desire to seek vengeance for the blood of their comrades who had fallen in the Battle of Nahrawan.  

After the Battle of Nahrawan, many Kharijites went to Makkah and sought sanctuary in the Kaaba. At Makkah they saw that the occupation of the city by the Syrians, the people repudiated their oath of allegiance to Ali, and transferred their allegiance to Muawiyah, later they saw that when the Syrians were driven away from Hijaz, the people of Makkah recanted from their oath of allegiance to Muawiyah, and took the oath of allegiance to Ali again. The Kharijites felt sore that in this way the sanctity of the process of oath taking was violated, and instead of establishing the kingdom of God on earth, the parties were trying to establish their own kingdoms. That was revolting to the way of thinking of the Kharijites. According to their view all those who were fighting for power had committed sin and had ceased to be Muslims. Fanatics as they were, they had the conviction that they would be serving the cause of God, if they murdered all such persons who were the principal characters in the struggle for power. They singled out three men for such murder: Ali, Muawiyah and 'Amr b Al-A'as.  

The Kharijites in Makkah met at the Kaaba, and commissioned three young men to carry the plot of murder into effect. Abdur Rahman b Maljam al Sarimi was chosen to assassinate Ali at Kufa. Barq b Abdullah was entrusted with the task of murdering Muawiyah. Amr b Bakr was assigned the task of putting an end to 'Amr b Al-A as at Fustat. These young men whitened their swords with deadly poison. Thereafter they were required to proceed to the places assigned to them, and there wait till the seventeenth of the month of the Ramadan, when all the three assassins were to fall on their victims and kill them.


Muawiyah and his assassin

On the appointed date, Barq b Abdullah attacked Muawiyah at Damascus while he was leading the Fajr prayers. The murderer was caught red handed. His feet and tongue were cut off in the first instance. He was thereafter subjected to other tortures, and ultimately put to death.  

The wound that Muawiyah received was not fatal. His physicians offered him two alternative cures, one being cautery, and other was the drinking of a draught which would neutralize the poison, but would render him impotent. Muawiyah adopted the second alternative, and he was duly cured after a few days. The Kharijite plot to murder Muawiyah thus came to naught.


'Amr b Al-A'as and his assassin

At Fustat, the Kharijite assassin Amr b Bakr went to the main mosque on the appointed day to assassinate 'Amr b Al" A'as. 'Amr b Al-A'as was a child of fortune, and during his life luck favored him miraculously at critical moments. That day because of his illness due to colic pain, he did not attend the Fajr prayers in the mosque. Instead the prayers were led by his deputy Kharja b Hudhafa. The assassin had not seen 'Amr previously, and he took Kharja to be 'Amr. Dashing on Kharja, the assassin slew him with the stroke of the poisoned sword. Amr was caught red handed, and produced before 'Amr. 'Amr asked the assassin about his motive for killing Kharja. Amr said that he had really intended to kill him ('Amr), and Kharja had been killed because he took him for 'Amr. Under the orders of 'Amr, the Kharijite assassin was tortured and put to death. The Kharijite plot of murdering 'Amr b Al-A'as thus came to naught.


Assassination of Ali

Abdur Rahman b Muljam al Sarimi, the designated assassin of Ali, reached Kufa well before the appointed date. Here he fell in love with a Kharijite girl Qataum by name. According to chronicles she was an outstanding beauty. She had a face as beautiful as the moon, and her flowing jet black tresses were most captivating. Her father and brother had been killed in the Battle of Nahrawan, and she was fired with the desire to avenge their death. She agreed to marry Abdur Rahman if he could present to her the head of Ali as her dower. As he was already committed to the assassination of Ali he readily accepted the condition laid down by his beloved. At the instance of Qataum, two more Kharijites joined with Abdur Rahman in the conspiracy to assassinate Ali. One of them was Werdan, who was related to Qataum. The other was Shaubib b Bijrah who belonged to the tribe of Anjah.  

On the Friday morning of the seventeenth day of the month of Ramadan, the three conspirators went to the main mosque of Kufa just before the break of dawn. Here they took up their position in the narrow passage leading to the prayer hall. A little later Ali came, the mosque when it was still dark and there was no one else in the mosque. When Ali stood to pray, Werdan struck at Ali, but missed his mark. Then Abdur Rahman struck Ali on the forehead with this poisoned sword which penetrated on the brain through the scar of an old wound. Thereafter the assassins fled from the mosque.  

When the faithful assembled in the mosque for prayers they found Ali lying wounded on the prayer mat. A hunt for the assassins was made. Werdan resisted being taken captive and was killed. Abdur Rahman was apprehended and taken into custody. The third conspirator escaped from Kufa. Abdur Rahman confessed his guilt. He said that he had struck his blow at Ali in the name of God for he considered that in seeking power, Ali had sinned and was guilty of killing thousands of innocent people. Ali cursed Abdur Rahman for his misguided views. He, however, instructed his men that the assassin should be kept in custody and should not be subjected to any hardship. He observed that if he recovered from the wound, he would himself decide what punishment should be awarded to him. If he died the assassin was to lose his life. He was, however, to be killed in one stroke, and was neither to be mutilated nor made to suffer languishing death.  

The wounds of Ali proved to be fatal. No antidote could be found to counter affect the poison that had penetrated into the body of Ali. The condition of Ali steadily deteriorated and he breathed his last on the 24th of January 661 C.E. From God he came and to God he returned.  


Will of Ali

Before his death, Ali made his will in the following terms: "I declare in my will that except for God there is none who deserves to be worshipped. He is unique. He has no partner. Muhammad (peace be on him) is His Prophet and Messenger whom [i.e. commissioned to give the people guidance through the religion Islam. Islam is the most perfect religion and it is destined to prevail over all other faiths. All our prayers, our sacrifices, our life, our death, our everything is for God. I require all my children and family members to fear God. I wish that all of you should die in Islam. Hold fast to the faith of Islam. Remain united, for according to the Holy Prophet unity in ranks is better than prayers. Be kind to your relatives so that Allah may be kind to you. Remain steadfast in piety and resign yourself to the will of God. Never aspire to do anything which is beyond your reach. Be truthful always. Be kind to the orphans, and in their affairs fear God. Do not wait for their seeking your help. See that in your presence they should not be overcome by any care or anxiety. Be afraid of God in respect of the rights of your neighbors over you. The Holy Prophet always willed for the right of the neighbors indeed to such an extent that we were afraid lest the neighbors be declared as heirs. Follow the Quran in letter and spirit, and see that nobody takes precedence over you in the matter of the observance of the injunctions of the Holy Quran. In the matter of prayers be very particular for it is the basic pillar of Islam. As long as you are alive do not miss your prayers. Undertake Jihad with your life and property. Fear Allah in the matter of Zakat for it extinguishes the wrath of God. Fear God in respect of your regard for the companions of the Holy Prophet for the Holy Prophet made particular mention of them in his will. Be afraid of God in the matter of the poor and the needy. Make them share your wealth. Your slaves have rights on you. Fulfil your obligations. Those who disparage your religion, do not be afraid of them. If they wish to harm you, Allah will be enough to protect you. Try to live in the world in a way which may help it become better. Stop the tyrant from his oppression. Act upon the commandments of God. Face the realities of life with courage and fortitude. Do not be ruffled by the obstacles that stand in your way. Help each other in the doing of good. Do not help those who rebel or do mischief. May God be merciful to all who belong to the House of the Holy Prophet! I entrust you to the protection of God".


Hasan's oration on the death of Ali

Hasan delivered the following oration on the death of Ali: "O misguided men of the Banu Murad, you have killed a man who was so dear to the Holy Prophet and Allah. Your crime is most heinous. You have orphaned the Muslim community. You have deprived the faithful of their commander. You have killed a man who was an ideal man, who stood heads and shoulders above the people around him. He was the man who was the bravest man of the age. He was the most learned man of the times. His services to Islam cannot be forgotten. In the Holy Quran there are references to his greatness. There are numerous traditions of the Holy Prophet which speak of his outstanding qualities as a great Muslim. Also you killed a great man on the day when the Holy Quran was revealed. It was on this date that Jesus Christ was lifted to the heavens. Verily I swear by God in Whose Hand is my life that but for the Holy Prophet no person who has gone by, and no person who is to follow can excel Ali in the matter of virtue and faith. May his soul rest in peace."


His burial

Ali instructed that his burial place should remain a secret. He had many enemies, and he feared lest his body might be subjected to some indignity. According to legend, the dead body of Ali was placed on a camel which was driven from Kufa. The camel stopped a few miles west of Kufa, and here the dead body of Ali was buried secretly. No tomb was raised, and nobody knew of the burial place except a few trusted persons. It is narrated that more than a hundred years later, the Abbasid Caliph, Harun-ur Rashid, went deer hunting outside Kufa, and the deer sought sanctuary at a place where the hounds would not pursue it. On inquiry as to why the place was a sanctuary, Harun-ur-Rashid was told that it was the burial place of Ali. Harun-ur Rashid ordered a mausoleum to be built on the spot. In due course, the town of Najaf grew around the mausoleum.


Fate of the assassin of Ali

Ali had willed that his assassin should not be subjected to any torture but should be killed with one stroke of the sword. The assassin was a fanatic, and instead of being remorseful at his ghastly deed and heinous crime he continued to boast of his services to Islam in assassinating Ali. That annoyed the Muslims, and contrary to the will of Ali his assassin was subjected to torture. His eyes were seared, and his limbs were cut off. Thereafter his dead body was put in a sack and burnt.


Elegy on the death of Ali

Abul Aswad Al Dusli wrote the following elegy on the death of Ali: "And now. O eye, alas for thee, come to my aid. Now weep for the Prince of the Faithful; And let Umm Kulthum weep for him with her flowing tears, for verily she has beheld death. Now say to the schismatics wheresoever they may be, may the eyes of the envious never be refreshed. In the month of fasting you have made us grieve. For the best of all men universally. You have slain the best of those that have mounted steeds and tamed them or put foot upon a vessel of those who wear and adjust sandals, and of those who read the Quran and its perspicuous verses and in him were the noblest virtues and the love of the Apostle of God of the created things. Verily the Quraish know wheresoever they were that you were the best of them in ancestry and faith. When I stood before the face of the father of Husain, I saw the radiance that shone above his eyes and before his death were happy beholding the son-in-law of the Apostle of God among us establishing the truth in which there was no thought of evil and acting equitably between enemies and kinsmen. Knowledge with him was not hidden, nor was he created among the proud of heart. The people because when they lost Ali, like unto the ostrich, bewildered in a country bare of herbage. Rejoice not, Muawiyah, son of Sufyan. For verily the continuance of the Caliphate is with us."

Life of Ali, General overview

The Biographer and his hero

A biographer is in some way an alter ego of the hero, whose biography he writes. There is some communion between the biographer, and his hero transcending considerations of time and space in writing this biography of Ali, I have had some communion with the soul of Ali, and in some mysterious way, I had the necessary guidance in appreciating such events in the life of Ali which were otherwise obscure. Just as a lover locks the image of his beloved in his heart, thus a biographer locks the image of his hero in his heart, and he can enter into a dialogue with such image.  


Biography and History

There is some difference in the approach of a biographer and a historian. A biography is usually an exercise in hero worship. A biographer is prone to paint the picture of his hero in bright colors. The approach of a historian is basically objective and constructively critical. Every hero of a biographer may not necessarily be a great man from the point of view of history. Where the hero is a great man in history, his biography has to be projected in the context of history. Ali is verily a great man of the history of mankind in general and history of Islam in particular. In undertaking this study in the life of Ali, I have to act not merely as a biographer but as a historian as well. This means that besides narrating the main events in the life of Ali, I have to examine the impact of such events on history. As such I have to subject the main events in the life story of Ali to critical examination to ascertain their causes and effects. Of course such criticism has to be constructive.  


Greatness of Ali

Greatness is a phenomenon whereunder specially gifted persons endowed with extraordinary qualities appear on the world stage from time to time. History is the science which studies the phenomenon of greatness. Usually every person who scales the heights of greatness and acquires a place in history is a success from the worldly point of view. There is some peculiarity in the greatness of Ali. He is great, indeed very great, but he was not a success from the worldly point of view in the conventional sense in which the word "success" is understood. We have thus to undertake a study to probe into the causes that militated against the success of Ali from the worldly point of view in spite of his greatness. We will also have to consider how he is great when he did not succeed from the worldly point of view.  


Periods in the life of Ali

The life of Ali can be divided into three distinct periods. The first period comprises the first thirty-two years of the life of Ali and extends from 600 to 632 C.E. I call this period the period of education and action. It was during this period that Ali received his education under the loving care of the Holy Prophet; imbibed the values of Islam; and acquired all the attributes that contribute to greatness. In the post-Hijri years he emerged as the greatest warrior of the age. He distinguished himself as a great warrior in the battles of Badr, Uhud and the Ditch. His crowning success was his conquest of the Khyber. In the battles he killed more men than any other single man in history. All those who fought in the duels against him were invariably killed. He came to be known as the "Lion of God". He acted as a Justice, and acquired fame for his wise and well reasoned judgments. He acted as the Governor of Yemen, and acquired good deal of experience as an administrator. He had the honor of announcing the verses of the Holy Quran about the "Declaration of Immunity" to the people on behalf of the Holy Prophet on the occasion of the Hajj. When the Holy Prophet died, Ali was in the prime of his youth, enlightened, experienced, wise, valiant, and an embodiment of virtues. He had expected that because of his outstanding qualities and his relationship to the Holy Prophet, he would be chosen as the Caliph, He was however, passed over, and this state of affairs continued for 24 years when the office of the caliphate was held by Abu Bakr, Umar and Othman. This period constitutes the second period of the life of Ali. During this period although Ali acted as a counselor to the Caliphs he generally kept aloof from active politics. I call the period as the "Period of inaction and contemplation." It was a period of inaction from the political point of view because he kept aloof from politics. It was the period of contemplation from the spiritual point of view, for this period was spent by Ali mostly in prayers, religious exercises and dialogues with God. The farther he went from the world, the nearer he got to God. The third period began when Ali was elected as the Caliph. This period lasted for five years only. I call this period as the period of frustration Ali found the caliphate to be a bed of thorns. During five years he had to fight three battles, the Battle of the Camel; the Battle of Siffin; and the Battle of Nahrawan. All these battles were fought against the Muslims and led to considerable bloodshed. It was a matter of the greatest shock for Ali that instead of fighting against the non-Muslims he had to fight against the Muslims. During this period, Ali had to suffer from frustration because of repeated and continuous betrayals, even by men close to him. At the outset of his caliphate, he was betrayed by the Banu Umayya, when Muawiyah defied him and accused him of involvement in the murder of Othman. He was betrayed by the people of Madina who did not respond to his call to undertake "Jihad" against Muawiyah. He was betrayed by Talha and Zubair who took the oath of allegiance to him and later defected. He was betrayed by Ayesha, his mother-in-law, who took up terms against him. He was betrayed by the people of Basra who had taken the oath of allegiance to him but later defected. At Siffin he was betrayed by his own army who would not fight when the victory was in sight. In the matter of arbitration he was betrayed by his umpire Abu Musa Ashari, who instead of defending his cause deposed him. He had to face the secession of the Kharijites who had originally fought on his side at the Battle of Siffin. He was betrayed by Khurrit b Rashid who had been his ally, but later revolted against him, and created trouble in Basra. He was betrayed by his own brother Aquil, who was not satisfied with the allowance that Ali gave him, and joined Muawiyah who rewarded him handsomely. He was betrayed by his cousin Abdullah b Abbas when he had appointed as the Governor of Basra, and who left his post after misappropriating heavy funds from the Bait-ul-Mal. The final act of betrayal came when Ali was martyred by a fanatic Kharijite.  


Causes for the non success of Ali from the worldly point of view

The usual phenomenon of greatness is that men succeed in life, and because of such success they acquire greatness. The usual law is that greatness is a consequence of success. Nothing succeeds like success and nothing fails like failure. This means that if you succeed you become great, but if you fail, you are pushed aside and are forgotten. In case of Ali we come across an extraordinary exception to the law of success and greatness. Ali's greatness is of a different species. His greatness did not flow from any success in life. Such greatness was inherent in him; it preceded his encounter with the world, and it outlived his death, although he did not succeed in his worldly life as the word "Success" is understood in the conventional sense. As a matter of fact, Ali became more famous after death than when he was alive. We may next proceed to consider the causes which militated against the success of Ali in spite of his greatness As a matter of fact the greatness of Ali was of such dimensions that he towered very high above the people around him. It was the case of Gulliver in the land of dwarfs. He was so high that he could not bend to meet the people, and the people were so low that they could not rise to meet him. As such a proper equation could not be established between Ali and the people around him, and that was the main cause why he was frequently betrayed, and why he did not succeed in the affairs of the world as the ordinary men succeed. Ali was very much in advance of his age, and the people of the age could not keep pace with him.  

By the time Ali came to office, a generation had passed since the death of the Holy Prophet. During this period the Muslims had made large conquests. That had brought great wealth, and wealth had changed the life of the people. A capitalist class sprang up among the Muslims. Ali, a great Muslim of the old type wanted to enforce the austere discipline of original Islam. He himself led a very simple life, and aimed to follow in the steps of Umar. Ali, however, lacked the harshness of Umar and could not enforce the reforms he had in view. There was a gulf between Ali, and the capitalist class who wielded considerable influence. Ali was very parsimonious in the spending of public funds while, Muawiyah who himself led a luxurious life was very liberal in spending public funds. The capitalist class among the Muslims given to the worldly way of life preferred Muawiyah to Ali because of personal considerations. While Ali was more concerned with the Hereafter than this world, the people around him were more concerned with the world than the Hereafter. This difference in outlook could not be bridged, and that is why there are many betrayals in the camp of Ali. These betrayals weakened the position of Ali considerably. Ali was a man of strong principles, and he would not compromise with principles. The people opposed to him were masters of propaganda, and they did not hesitate to adopt any means fair or foul to gain their end. Ali lost she game because he would not abandon his principles at any cost.  


Opposition of the Quraish

In the extension of the Muslim dominions, the Quraish had played the leading role. Ali was a Quraish, but he could not win the support of the Quraish. In his book Ali, the Superman, Dr. Mohyuddin has observed as follows about the opposition of the Quraish to Ali: "Ali hoped to establish a world-Islamic empire, a kingdom of God on earth, where peace was to reign supreme and mankind could move steadily towards perfection. That he failed so completely, is one of the enigmas of Islamic history. The student is perplexed, and indeed despondent, when he discovers that the entire tribe of the Quraish gave whole hearted support to the first two Caliphs. Abu Bakr, who belonged to the tribe of the Banu Adi, but not to their two successors, also belonged to the Quraish tribe. It is teaming indeed that they obeyed Abu Bakr and Umar blindly, but deserted Othman and Ali, whom they bitterly opposed and finally murdered. From the moment that Ali came to power, he was resisted and obstructed by the Quraishite, in spite of the fact that the aristocratic Quraish knew that Ali had noble blood in his veins, blood which had cowed in the veins of the Holy Prophet, and that in addition he had those personal traits of character, which made him unique amongst all the persons of his age. Ali's knowledge, piety, bravery, generalship, services for the propagation of Islam, and his achievements on the battlefield for the defense of Islam, made him superior to the first two Caliphs. He was superbly equipped to fill the office of the Caliph, yet the entire race seemed to have taken up arms against him. In spite of his qualities of mind and spirit, he seems to have been sacrificed to the prevailing tribal spirit of his countrymen. Perhaps it was his superiority, more than anything else, which lead to his downfall. He knew himself to be superior to his contemporaries, and he hated the petty tribal chiefs of the Quraish who were interested only in their self-aggrandizement. What is more, he let them know his contempt for them, seldom bothering with the formalities of consulting them and frequently acting independently of them, in defiance of established custom."  

Ali, The Man

Physical appearance

Ali was of medium height. He had a superb head with a face as noble as the man himself. His nose was straight, and his mouth was beautifully formed. His eyes were most commanding, being full of light and luster. There was a note of music in his voice. There was an aura of spirituality, and a strong personal magnetism about him. In his youth, he was handsome, and full of fiery vigor. In his latter age, he became corpulent and bulky. His gray hair of the head gave way to baldness. His beard, however, remained thick and luxuriant, and he often dyed it red. He was stout, genial, charitable, meditative, reserved-a man who towered high above the people around him because of his intellectual and spiritual attainments. Ali, the man was endowed with all qualities that make a man great. He is not only great, he is regarded as a superman, an ideal man. He was a paragon of virtue. He enjoyed fame for his piety, and religious devotions. He was en embodiment of Islamic values. In his love of God and His Messenger, he was second to none. While praying to God, his absorption was so intense that he often lost consciousness. His mind was so pure that he could hold communion with God. He had learnt the Holy Quran by heart, and he could quote appropriate verses to suit every occasion. He was most truthful and honest. He most humble he was simple in his habits. He avoided display and luxury. He lived the life of an ascetic. Even when Caliph, he lived in an ordinary house. The doors of his house remained open for all at all times. He was most generous. He was most liberal in giving charity. He always came to the help of those who were distressed and involved in any difficulty. He looked after widows and orphans as if they were the members of his own household. He was a warrior, a General, and a man conspicuous for his bravery and valor. Indeed he was braver than any other man in history. He fought hundreds of duels in his lifetime, and in all such encounters his rivals were worsted. In the various battles he killed a record number of enemy. He was a skilful swordsman. His sword would never miss its mark. In the various battles that he fought he never turned his back. He was an embodiment of patience. In the Battle of Uhud he received so many wounds that the nurses were unable to dress such wounds. He bore the pain with great patience. The people around him misunderstood him, but he did not lose patience. He was most chivalrous, and forgiving. He would forgive even his worst enemies. He was a great scholar. His book Nahj-ul-Balagha is a living proof of his scholarship and erudition. There was a sense of humor about him, and sometimes he said things in a lighter vein to bring home the point he had in view. He was a master of similes and metaphors, and when bringing home a point he always illustrated it with appropriate metaphors and similes. He was a great philosopher, and there is great depth in his thoughts expressed in his writings. He was known for his wisdom. He was indeed wiser than Solomon. Most of his wise sayings have attained the dimensions of proverbs. He was a great orator. His sermons were most impressive. He was the master of rhetoric. He is regarded as the father of Islamic learning. He has left a deep mark on Islamic theology. He was the founder of Arabic grammar. He was a great poet. He was the Father to Sufism. He was the Father of Islamic jurisprudence. He was an impartial judge His famous judgements are the most valuable assets of Islamic jurisprudence. He was a skillful administrator. He introduced numerous reforms. He was an eminent political thinker, and his political thought has an air of modernity about it. The greatness of Ali as a man is multi-dimensional in character, and after the Holy Prophet he is the greatest Muslim whose memory is honored by the Muslims, all over the world.  


Wives and children of Ali

The principal wife of Ali was Fatima, the favorite daughter of the Holy Prophet. During the lifetime of Fatima, Ali at one stage proposed to marry a daughter of Abu Jahl. When the Holy Prophet came to know of this proposal, he felt annoyed and declared that if Ali wanted to marry another wife, he should divorce Fatima in the first instance. Thereupon Ali abandoned the idea of marrying another wife. Fatima was the mother of three sons and two daughters. The sons were Hasan, Husain, and Mohsin. Mohsin died during childhood. The daughters were Zainab and Umm Kulthum.  

After the death of Fatima, Ali married a number of wives. These were:  

  1. Umm-ul-Bunian who was the daughter of Hazam b Khalid. Ali had five sons from her: Abdullah, Jafar, Abbas, Othman, and Umar. All of them except Abbas were martyred in the Battle of Karbala along with Husain.  

  2. Khaula who was the daughter of Jafar Hanfiyah. She was the mother of a son known as Muhammad b HanSyah.  

  3. Umm Habib who was a daughter of Rabiah She gave birth to a son Umar, and a daughter Ruqiya.  

  4. Asma who was the daughter of Umais. She was in the first instance married to Jafar, an elder brother of Ali. On the death of Jafar, Abu Bakr married her. After the death of Abu Bakr she married Ali. She had two sons from Ali: Yahya and Muhammad Asghar.  

  5. Laila, who was the daughter of Masud. She was the mother of two sons: Ubaidullah and Abu Bakr.  

  6. Umama, who was a daughter of Abi Al Aa's, and Zainab, an elder sister of Fatima. Her son from Ali bore the name of Muhammad Aswat.  

  7. Umm Saeed who was a daughter of Urwa. She bore Ali two daughters, namely: Umm-ul-Hasan and Rumla.  

  8. Muhyat was a daughter of the famous Arab poet Imra-ul-Qais. She gave birth to a daughter who died in infancy.  

Ali married nine wives in all including Fatima. The number of wives at a time, however, did not exceed four. He had a few slave girls of whom Humla and Umm Shuaib bore him 12 daughters: Nafisa, Zainab, Ruqiya, Umm-ul-Kaream, Humaira, Umm Salma, Sughra, Khadija, Umm Hani, Umm Kulthum Jamana and Maimuna. Ali was, in all, the father of fifteen sons and eighteen daughters.  


Distinctions of Ali

Man of many distinctions

Ali was a man of many distinctions. He owed his distinctions to his relationship with the Holy Prophet, his valor, his knowledge and his spiritual attainments.  


His birth

He had the distinction of being a Hashimite both on the side of his father as well as his mother. He had the distinction of having a name which as a derivative of the name of Allah, no other person before him bore the name of Ali.  


His relationship with the Holy Prophet

On opening his eyes after his birth the first person that he saw was the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet named him. As an infant he had the honor of sucking the tongue of the Holy Prophet. He was the first cousin of the Holy Prophet. He became a ward of the Holy Prophet, and was brought up as a family member of the household of the Holy Prophet. He received his training under the loving care and guidance of the Holy Prophet.  

When the Holy Prophet declared his mission, Ali was the first teenager to be converted to Islam. Khadija and Ali were the first two persons to pray after the Holy Prophet. When the Holy Prophet invited the Hashimites to a dinner and asked them to aid him in his mission, Ali was the only person to respond to the call of the Holy Prophet. He risked his life for the sake of the Holy Prophet and slept on his bed when the Holy Prophet left for Madina, and the Quraish youth besieged the house with a view to killing the Holy Prophet. When the Holy Prophet left for Madina he entrusted to Ali the task to return the belongings of the people to them which they had placed in the custody of the Holy Prophet. When the Holy Prophet joined the Muhajjirs and the Ansars in fraternity in Madina, he allied himself in fraternity with Ali. The Holy Prophet married his beloved daughter Fatima Zahra to Ali. He was commissioned by the Holy Prophet to write the agreement which came to be known as the Hudaibia Pact. After the conquest of Makkah he had the unique distinction of standing on the shoulders of the Holy Prophet and destroying the idols in the Kaaba. He was entrusted by the Holy Prophet with the special mission of announcing the Quranic Surah "Al Bara'at" (Immunity) to the people on the occasion of the pilgrimage. He was the only person to whom the Holy Prophet referred to as the Maula' of the Ummah. When the Holy Prophet proposed "Mubahala" with the Christians of Najran, he chose Ali as his "second man". The progeny of the Holy Prophet descends through Ali. He was the only person to whom the Holy Prophet imparted "inward knowledge". The Holy Prophet conferred many appellations on Ali such as Haidar-i-Karrar, Abu Turab, Asad-ullah, Syedul Arab etc. The Holy Prophet declared his relationship to Ali as those of Moses and Aaron. When the Holy Prophet died, Ali washed him and prepared his dead body for burial.  


His valor

He participated in all the wars of early Islam fought under the command of the Holy Prophet. In all the battles, Ali was the flag bearer of the forces of the Muslims. He was the bravest man among the Muslims. For his unusual bravery he won such titles as "Asad Allah," the lion of God, or "Haidar e Karrar" the warrior whom nobody could match. During his lifetime he killed over a thousand persons of the enemy. In the Battle of Badr alone he killed two dozen persons. He fought over a hundred duels, and in all the duels his adversaries, however strong, were killed. He was the Conqueror of Khyber.


His knowledge

He was the most learned man of his age. He was a living encyclopaedia of knowledge and learning. After the Holy Prophet he was the most eloquent person of the age. Because of his knowledge and wisdom he is known as the "Second Solomon". His wise sayings and aphorisms have attained the status of classical proverbs. He was the first person to write a grammar of the Arabic language. Among the early Muslims he is the only person whose collections of writings have come down to us under the title of Nahj-ul-Balagha. He was a distinguished poet. He enjoys fame as the "Father of Rhetoric". He was an authority on Mathematics. He was a master of the science of Physics. He had deep medical knowledge. After the Holy Prophet he is regarded as the greatest philosopher of Islam. He was a calligrapher and wrote a beautiful hand.  


His spiritual attainments

He was the first person to learn the Quran by heart. According to commentators there are at least three hundred verses in the Holy Quran which have an implied reference to Ali. After the Holy Prophet he was the chief judge among the early Muslims. He is regarded as the "Father of Fiqh". He is the first revivalist among the Muslims. He interpreted the doctrines of Islam and systematized them. He is regarded as the "Father of Sufism". All schools of Tasawwuff trace their origin to him.  


His Appellations

Because of his multi-dimensional greatness, and outstanding qualities, Ali is known by many appellations, and each appellation projects some particular aspect of his greatness. Some of these appellations are as follows:

  • Murtada - he with whom God is pleased.  

  • Maula - the master.  

  • Haidar-i-Karrar - the brave warrior against whom no one could stand.  

  • Asad Allah - the lion of God.  

  • Al-Ghalib - the victorious.  

  • Sher-i-Yazdan - the bravest man of the age.  

  • Mushldl Kusha - one who resolved the difficulties of the people.  

  • Shah-i-Awlia - the king of saints.  

  • Shah-i-Mominin - the king of the pious.  

  • Abu Turab - Father of the Earth.  

  • Amir-ul-Momineen -the leader of the faithful.  

  • Amin-ul-Momineen - the trustee of the faithful.  

  • Imam-ul-Muttaqeen - the leader of the god-fearing.  

  • Sayyid-ul-Arab - the chief of the Arabs.  

  • Al Wasi - the testamenter.  

  • Al Hadi - the guide.  

  • Al Zahid - the chaste.  

  • Al Abid - the pious.  

  • Al Salah - the reformer.  

Ali in the Holy Quran

References to Ali in the Holy Quran

According to the commentators of the Holy Quran there are numerous verses in the Holy Quran which have implied references to Ali. According to the Shia commentators there are as many as three hundred verses of the Holy Quran which have an implied reference to Ali. According to the Sunni commentators, the number is much smaller. Some of the verses which according to the consensus of the commentator refer to Ali are given hereunder:  


Verse 33, Sura 33

Verse 33 of Sura 33 of the Holy Quran {33:33} reads: "Allah's wish is to remove uncleanliness far from you O'Folk of the Prophet's household, and cleanse you with enough cleaning". Ali is obviously included in the expression "Folk of the Prophet's household".  


Verse 61, Sura 3

Verse 61 of Sura 3 provides {3:61}: "And who so disputes with you concerning God after the knowledge which has come to you say to him: Come, we will summon our sons, your sons, our women and your women and ourselves and yourselves. Then we will pray humbly to our Lord, and solemnly invoke the curse of Allah upon those who lie."  

This verse alludes to the deputation of the Christians of Najran who came to Madina to hold discussion with the Holy Prophet about the truth of Islam. In this verse, the reference to "Our sons, and our women" includes reference to Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husain. Verse 3, Sara Verse 3 of Sura 9 provides: And a proclamation from God and His Apostle to the people on the day of 'Greater Pilgrimage' that Allah is free from obligation to the idolaters and so is His Messenger. So, if you repent it will be better for you; but if you are averse, then know that you cannot escape Allah. Give tidings O Muhammad of a painful doom to those who disbelieve". In pursuance of this verse, the Holy Prophet commissioned Ali to go to the 'Greater Pilgrimage' to announce the verses of the Sura of "Immunity" wherein God absolved the Muslims from all obligations under the treaties previously concluded with the idolaters.  


Verse 23, Sura 42

Verse 23 of Sura 42 reads {42:23}: "Say O Muhammad to mankind: I do not ask of you any reward for it, but love for relatives, and whosoever earns good".  

According to traditions when the Holy Prophet was asked as to who were the relatives alluded to in the verse, the Holy Prophet said, "Verily, the reference is to Ali, Fatima, Hassan and Husain".


Verse 21, Sura 45

Verse 21 of Sura 45 reads {45:21}: "Do those who commit evil deeds suppose that We shall treat them like those who believe and do good deeds-that their lives and their deaths shall be equal. No, bad is their judgment".  

According to Ibn Abbas "the doers of good" referred to in this verse refer to Ali, Hamza and Ubaydah b Harith.  


Verse 17, Sura 11

Verse 17 of Sura 11 reads {17:11}: "Is he to be counted equal with those who rely on a clear proof from his Lord and a witness from Him recites it, and before it was the Book of Moses, an example and a mercy ? Such believe therein. Whoso disbelieves therein the Fire is his appointed place. So be not you in doubt concerning it. Lo, it is the truth from your Lord, but most of mankind believe it not".  

In one of his sermons, Ali said that there was hardly a man from amongst the Quraish who had not been referred to in the Holy Quran. Ali was asked to recite some verse which alluded to him. Thereupon he recited the above verse.


Verse 4, Sura 66

Verse 4 of Sura 66 reads {66:4}: "Now if both of you turn to Allah repentant it will be better for you, as your hearts are already so inclined. But if you back up each other against him, surely Allah is his helper, and Gabriel and the righteous among the believers, and furthermore all other angels too are his helpers".  

According to Ibn Abbas, the Holy Prophet said that the "righteous men" alluded to as "helper" in this verse refers to Ali.  


Verse 18, Sura 32

Verse 18 of Sura 32 reads {32:18}: "Is he who is a believer like him who is an evil doer? Verily, they are not equal".  

According to Ibn Abbas "believer" in this verse refers to Ali, and 'evil doer" refers to Walid b Utba.  

Verse 54, Sura 25

Verse 54 of Sura 25 reads {25:54}: "And He it is Who created man from water, and has appointed for him kindred by blood, and kindred by marriage and your Lord is all powerful".  

According to traditions "kindred by blood" and "kindred by marriage" refers to Ali.


Verse 36, Sura 24

Verse 36 of Sura 24 reads {24:36}:"The lamp of light is lit in houses which Allah has allowed to be exalted so that His name be remembered in them. Therein He is glorified in the mornings and evenings."  

According to traditions, the Holy Prophet said that the "houses" referred to in this verse include the house of Ali and Fatima.  

Verse 55, Sura 5

Verse 55 of Sura 5 reads {5:55}: "Your friend is only Allah and His Messenger, and the believers who observe prayer and pay the poor rate."  

According to traditions "believers" referred to in this verse includes a reference to Ali.

Verse 12, Sura 58  

Verse 12 of Sura 58 provides {58:12}: "O ye who believe! When you consult the Messenger in private, give alms before your consultation. That is better and purer for you. But when you do not find the wherewithal, lo! Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. "  

According to traditions when this verse was revealed the Holy Prophet wanted to fix an amount, which every person who consulted the Holy Prophet should pay. Ali represented that, as the people were generally poor no amount should be fixed, and the option should rest with the person concerned to pay whatever alms he could.  

Verse 181, Sura 7  

Verse 181 of Sura 7 reads {7:181}: "And of those We have created there are people that guide men with truth, and do justice therewith."  

According to traditions, the reference to "people that guide men with truth" in this verse includes a reference to Ali.  

Verse 57, Sura 43  

Verse 57 of Sura 43 reads {43:57}: "And when the son of Mary is cited as an example, behold, the people jeer thereat". According to traditions, the Holy Prophet is said to have told Ali one day that his example would be like that of Jesus Christ. A section of the people would love him so much that they would willingly die for him, while there would be some people who would fight against him.  

Verse 29, Sura 48  

Verse 29, of Sura 48 reads {48:29}: "Muhammad is the Apostle of God and those with him are firm against the disbelievers, and merciful amongst themselves. Thus see them bowing down, and prostrating themselves in prayer, seeking grace from Allah and His pleasure. Their mark is upon their faces, being the traces of prostration. Such is their description in the Torah. And their description in the Gospel is like a seed that sends forth its sprout, then makes it strong; it then becomes thick, and stands on its stem, delighting the sowers, and causing the disbelievers to burn with rage at the sight of them. Allah has promised to those of them who believe and do good works, forgiveness and a great reward."  

According to the commentary of Imam Abu Musa this verse was revealed in favor of Ali.  

Verse 43, Sura 13

Verse 43 of Sura 13 reads {13:43}: "And those who disbelieve say 'You are not a Messenger'. Say to them Sufficient is Allah as a witness between me and you, and so is he who possesses knowledge of the Book".  

According to commentators, the phrase "Whosoever has the knowledge of the Book", alludes to Ali.  


Verse 64, Sura 8

Verse 64 of Sura 8 reads {8:64}: "O prophet! Allah is sufficient for you and for such of the followers as follow you." According to commentators the phrase "such of the followers as follow you", alludes to Ali.  

Ali, The Gate of Knowledge

The learning of Ali

Ali was the most learned man of the age. He was a living encyclopaedia of knowledge. The Holy Prophet said, "If I am the City of Knowledge; verily Ali is the Gate of it". He was the first person to have learnt the Holy Quran by heart. He possessed a prodigious memory. He was a keen observer; he was a deep thinker; he had an enlightened mind and he carried in his brain a vast storage of knowledge. He was a versatile genius and he exhibited extraordinary talents in all disciplines of knowledge. He was a master of philosophy and rhetoric. He was a distinguished poet. He was a great preacher and teacher. His knowledge extended to such disciplines as: logic, mathematics, physics, astronomy, medicine and history.  


His concept of Knowledge

Ali held that the principal aim of knowledge is the inculcation of virtue, promotion of faith, and understanding of God. He held that knowledge enlivens the soul; it is health and life; it kills ignorance. He defined knowledge as the sum total of excellence. He held that the pursuit of knowledge is better than the pursuit of riches, that knowledge is the ornament of the rich and the richness of the poor and that knowledge is better than riches. He held that the learned live even after their death. He maintained that the learned are the living ones in the dead mass of ignorance. He observed that to respect the learned is to respect God. About the respect of the teacher he held that one who teaches you a letter binds you with the fetter of gratitude. He maintained that the talk of a learned man carried with it the fragrance of the garden of Paradise.  


Superiority of knowledge over wealth

It is related that once ten learned men approached Ali, and wanted to know how knowledge was better than wealth. They requested that each one of them be given a separate answer. Ali answered them as follows:

  1. Knowledge is the legacy of the Prophets; wealth is the inheritance of the Pharaohs. As the Prophets are superior to the Pharaohs, so knowledge is better than wealth.  

  2. You have to guard your wealth, but knowledge guards you. Therefore, knowledge is better than wealth.  

  3. When knowledge is distributed it increases. When wealth is distributed it decreases. As such knowledge is better than wealth.  

  4. A man of wealth has many enemies, while a man of knowledge has many friends. Therefore knowledge is better than wealth.  

  5. A learned man because of his wider outlook is apt to be generous while a rich man because of his love for money is apt to be miserly As such knowledge is better than wealth.  

  6. Knowledge cannot be stolen, while wealth is constantly exposed to the danger of being stolen. Accordingly knowledge is better than wealth.  

  7. With the lapse of time, knowledge gains in depth and dimensions. Hoarded coins get rusty, or cease to be legal tender. Therefore knowledge is better than wealth.  

  8. You can keep account of wealth because it is limited, but you cannot keep account of knowledge because it is boundless. That is why knowledge is better than wealth.  

  9. Knowledge illuminates the mind, while wealth is apt to blacken it. Therefore knowledge is better than wealth.  

  10. Knowledge is better than wealth, because knowledge induced the humanity in the Holy Prophet to say to God "We worship Thee as we are Thine servants", while wealth engendered in Pharaoh and Nimrod the vanity which made them claim Godhead.

Ali's generosity

Generosity was one of the main attributes of Ali. According to Ali when someone in need asks for your help and you help him that is liberality or munificence. When you help a man in need before he asks of your help that is generosity. In Arab annals, Hatim a Bedouin is known for his generosity. According to the accounts that have come down to us, Ali out-classed him in the matter of generosity. Ali used to say "Woe to that man who spends his wealth in buying male and female slaves, but spends not his money on the free-born who, with a little alms would become enslaved in gratitude to him for ever."  


Preference for the supplicant to one's own Deeds

Once a supplicant went to the house of the Holy Prophet to beg for food, but there was no one in the house. On being told of this by his wives, the Holy Prophet asked whether there was anyone who could give relief to the supplicant. Ali offered to take the beggar to his house. There Fatima said that there was nothing in the house except a few loaves that she had cooked for the children. She, however, gave the loaves to the supplicant saying that she would give them to the beggar, and would rather see her children go hungry. It was on this occasion that the following verse of that Holy Quran was revealed: "They prefer the supplicant to themselves even though they may be hungry themselves. And whosoever is rid of the covetousness of his own soul will be triumphant"{59:9}.  


God accepted Ali's charity

It is related that once, somebody presented 300 gold coins to the Holy Prophet, who made a present of them to Ali. On the way home, Ali saw a harlot to whom he gave one hundred coins. The next day the whole town was gossiping about Ali's misplaced charity for giving the money to a woman of ill repute. Ali felt offended and decided that he would give another hundred coins to a worthier person this time he met a thief and he gave him one hundred coins. The people were critical of Ali squandering the money by giving it to a brigand. Ali decided that whatever money was left with him he would give it to a deserving person. This time he gave the money to a person who happened to be rich man. The people became loud in the criticism of Ali in his charity to undeserving persons. It was, however, revealed to the Holy Prophet that God had accepted the charity of Ali. The harlot after getting the money gave up her profession and decided to lead a chaste life. The thief after getting the money gave up robbery, the rich man on getting the alms felt so repentant that he distributed all his wealth among the poor.  


Manifold return for chartiy

Once Fatima gave some yarn that she had spun to Ali to sell it in the market and buy therewith some provisions for cooking meals. Ali sold the yarn for a gold coin. He came across some beggars, and he distributed the entire amount among the beggars. He had gone a few steps when he came across a man with a camel who said, "Ali, would you buy the camel." Ali said that he had no money. The man said that he could sell the camel on credit. Thereupon the man gave the bridle of the camel to Ali and disappeared. Ali had gone a few steps when another person met him and purchased the camel for a hundred gold coins. Ali thus got a hundred fold return for his charity.  


A legend of the generosity of Ali

It is related that on one occasion a supplicant approached Ali and asked him to give him some bread. Ali asked his slave Qanbar to attend to the supplicant. Qanbar came to Ali and said that the bread was in a saddle bag. Ali said, "Give him the saddle bag". At this Qanbar said that the saddle bag was on the camel. Ali said, "Give him the camel". Qanbar said that the camel was in a row of camels. Ali said, "Give him all of the camels".  


He gave his gold ring to the beggar

It is related that at one time while the Holy Prophet and Ali were offering prayers in a mosque, a supplicant came and said, "O God, bear witness that I have asked everyone of the congregation to give me something in alms, but none has offered anything." Ali, who was prostrating on the prayer mat at that time, held out his finger which bore a gold ring, and pointed it out towards the beggar, who took it off.  


He undertook to pay the debt of a dead Muslim

Once a Muslim died in Madina. The Holy Prophet along with Ali attended the funeral. Before leading the funeral prayer, the Holy Prophet inquired whether the deceased had to pay any debt. He was told that the deceased had to pay a debt of a few dinars. The Holy Prophet desired that someone should undertake responsibility for clearing the debt of the deceased. It was Ali who undertook the responsibility for meeting the debt, and it was only then that the Holy Prophet led the funeral prayers.  


He paid for the dates

One day as Ali passed through the market of Kufa he found a slave girl weeping while sitting on the roadside. Ali inquired from the girl as to the cause of her distress. She said that she had purchased some dates from a date seller, but her master had not approved of the dates and when she wanted to return the dates to the date seller he refused to accept them. Ali paid her the amount involved, and asked her to eat the dates herself.  

Judgments of Ali

Ali as a Judge

Ali was the most learned man of the age in Islamic law. He acted as a Judge during the time of the Holy Prophet, and the Caliphs Abu Bakr and Umar. Some of the judgements delivered by Ali are on record, and show his highly developed sense of discerning the truth, and doing justice.  


The story of loaves

Once two companions went on a journey. One of them had five loaves with him, and the other one had three loaves. On the way they were joined by a stranger who shared the loaves with them. On departure the stranger gave them an amount of eight dirhams. A dispute arose between the two companions about the division of the amount. The man who had five loaves wanted to keep five dirhams for himself and give three dirhams to his companion. His companion did not accept this decision and insisted that the amount should be divided equally between them, and that each one of them should get four dirhams. The men wanted Ali to decide their dispute. While entertaining the suit, Ali asked the man who had three loaves that he should accept what his friend offered him namely three dirhams. He did not accept the offer, and wanted that the matter should be adjudicated so that due justice was done. Ali asked whether at the time of the sharing of loaves all the three persons concerned had equal share. He was told that it was so. Ali thereupon gave the judgment that the man with three loaves was entitled to one dirham while the other man who had five loaves was entitled to seven dirhams. This bewildered the man with three loaves who would not accept even three dirhams. He wanted Ali to enlighten him as to the basis of his judgment. Ali explained the position thus: "You had three loaves and your companion had five loaves. There were thus 8 loaves in all. As all the loaves were shared equally between three persons, divide each loaf into three pieces. That would make 24 pieces. Your companion owned five loaves or fifteen pieces while you owned three loaves or nine pieces. As these 24 pieces were shared equally, this means that each one of you ate eight pieces. You had nine pieces, and out of these you ate eight pieces yourself. Thus the stranger ate only one piece from your loaves. Your companion had fifteen pieces. Out of these he ate eight pieces himself leaving seven pieces which were eaten by the stranger. Thus the stranger ate one piece from you and seven pieces from your companion. It is therefore plain arithmetic that for one piece you are entitled to one dirham and your companion is entitled to seven dirhams for seven pieces."  


Dispute about a child

Once a dispute arose between two women about the possession of a child. Each woman claimed to be the mother of the child. No proof could be adduced from either side, but each woman insisted emphatically that the child belonged to her. In the absence of any satisfactory evidence, Ali was unable to decide to whom the child actually belonged. Exasperated addressing the women, Ali said that there is no satisfactory evidence had been produced and as both the women insisted on the motherhood of the child, he had no option but decide that the child be cut in two parts, and thus the child be divided among them. Hearing this decision, one of the women burst into tears and said, "My Lord, do not kill the child. You may very well award it to the other woman". Thereupon Ali declared that she was indeed the mother of the child, and delivered the child to her.  


Dispute about the custody of money

Once two friends proceeded on a journey. Before departing on the journey they kept some money in custody with a woman. She was enjoined not to return the money unless both of them came together to claim it. After some time, one of them came to the woman and said that as his other partner had died, the amount kept in custody be returned to him. He produced some sureties, and the woman returned the amount to him. After some time the other man who was reported to be dead appeared and claimed the money from the lady. She said that his other friend had taken away the money on the grounds that he had died. The man insisted on payment on the grounds that she was committed not to return the amount unless both of them were present. The dispute dragged on, and the man brought the suit in the court of Ali. Addressing the plaintiff Ali asked, "Your stand is that the money was not to be returned unless both of you were present?" The plaintiff said, "Yes, my lord, that is so". Ali said, "Then go and bring your partner, so that the amount may be delivered to you." The man actually wanted to play a ruse, and at this wise decision of Ali, the attempt to fleece the poor woman was frustrated.  


How Ali detected the murder

Once seven persons went on a journey. After some time six of them returned, and they could give no news about the seventh man. They gave conflicting accounts about him. Sometimes they said that he had died. Sometimes they said that he had quarreled with them and left their company. The wife of the man suspected that they had killed her husband. She accordingly lodged a complaint in the court of Ali. Ali summoned the six men. Each one of them was kept in a separate room where a security guard was posted. Thereafter one of them was called to the presence of Ali. The man was charged with murder, but he insisted that he was innocent and knew nothing about the man. Thereupon Ali ordered the court crier that he should give the "Azan". As the "Azan" sounded, the other persons segregated in the various rooms shuddered and thought that their companion had confessed the murder. Accordingly, when they were summoned and presented before Ali, they confessed their guilt. Ali accordingly ordered them to pay "Qasas" to the widow of the murdered person.  


The Cow and the Ass

Once, a complaint was lodged in the court of Ali by a man that the cow of another person had killed his ass. Ali summoned the owner of the cow and asked him to offer his defense if any. He said that as a matter of fact the ass had attacked the cow first and the cow had killed the ass in retaliation. Ali asked the owner of the cow, "Where were you when the ass attacked the cow?" He said that he was driving the cow. Then he asked the owner of the ass, "Where was the ass at the time?" He said that it was tied. Addressing the owner of the cow Ali said that as the ass was tied, and the cow was untied. His plea that the ass had first attacked the cow was untenable. He accordingly decreed that the owner of the cow should compensate the owner of the ass.


Mad woman accused of adultery

Once a mad woman was brought to the court of Umar. The charge of adultery was established against her. Umar was inclined to sentence her to the penalty of being stoned to death but he deemed it necessary to consult Ali before delivering the judgment. Ali advised that the penal law of Islam was applicable only in such cases where the person concerned was in proper senses, and could be held responsible for his action. Where a person was not in proper senses, he could not be held accountable for his actions. The view of Ali was accepted and the mad woman was let off.  


Child born in six months after marriage

In the time of Umar, a child was born to a woman six month after her marriage. When the case came to the notice of Umar he was of the view that it was a prima facie case of adultery and as such the woman should be sentenced to punishment for adultery. Umar referred the case to Ali. No evidence was forthcoming to the effect that the woman had any illicit liaison before marriage. Ali held that the mere fact that the child had been born six months after the marriage would not be a sufficient ground for convicting the woman. Ali pointed out that in the Holy Quran the period from conception to the weaning of the child is laid down at thirty months, and the period of the weaning of the child after birth is given as two years. This means that though under normal circumstances a child is born after nine months, a child may be born after six months under abnormal conditions. The woman was accordingly let off and absolved of the charge of adultery.  


Share in the property of a deceased husband for a divorced wife

A companion had two wives. He divorced one of them. A little later he died. The divorced woman claimed a share in the property of her late husband. The suit was contested by the other wife on the grounds that the plaintiff could not claim a share as she had been divorced. It transpired that the husband had died within three months of giving the divorce, and since the divorce the divorced wife did not have more than two monthly courses. Ali accordingly awarded her a share in the property of her husband.


The man who stole his coat of mail

An interesting story is on record in a case in which Ali was himself the plaintiff. After the Battle of Siffin, Ali lost his valuable coat of mail. After some time, Ali saw his coat of mail in the possession of a Christian. When asked to return the coat of mail, the man insisted that the coat belonged to him. Ali filed a suit in the court of the Qadi of Kufa. The Qadi asked Ali to produce witnesses in support of his claim. Ali could produce his son and his slave as witnesses. The Qadi held that he could not accept such evidence as it was interested. Under the circumstances the Qadi rejected the suit of Ali. Instead of being aggrieved against the decision. Ali appreciated the integrity of the Qadi. After the judgment the Christian came to Ali and offered him the coat of mail saying that it in fact belonged to him. The man was so much impressed with the administration of justice under Islam that he hastened to accept Islam at the hands of Ali. Ali presented him the coat of mail as well as a horse. The man fought on the side of Ali against the Kharijites in the Battle of Nahrawan and was martyred.  

Social and Ethical Thought of Ali

Thought of Ali

Ali was a great thinker. In his sermons, addresses, and other writings which have come down to us in the shape of his book Nahj-ul-Balagha we come across many a gem of precious thoughts. Some of these thoughts characterized by great depth are given hereunder.  


Friends of Allah

Friends of Allah are they who look to its inward aspect when the ordinary people look to the outward aspect of the world, and when the other people are engrossed in the affairs of the world they get anxious about the Hereafter.  


Momins and hypocrites

A Momin is he, whose neck if placed under my sword, would not think ill of me. A hypocrite is he whom even if I load with gold and silver he would not think good of me.  



A Faqih is one who would not make the people despair of the mercy of God.  


Justice and mercy

The purpose of justice is to give a person what is due to him. Mercy goes a step further, and it gives a person something more than what is due to him.  


The world and the Hereafter

He who seeks the world, death runs after him; he who seeks the hereafter the world runs after him.  


Momin and an infidel

He who tells of his want to a Momin is as if he has requested God. He who seeks his want from an infidel is making a complaint against God.  


Proximity to the ruler

He who is in proximity to the ruler is like a person riding on a lion, and there can be no knowing when the lion might overturn and devour him.  



Haste is a kind of madness. One who does things in haste has to face shame, and if he is not ashamed his madness is confirmed.  


Faith and faithlessness

Faith with the faithless is faithlessness before God, and faithlessness with the faithless is faith.  



If what the philosopher says is correct, it is a cure; if what he says is incorrect it is a disease.  



Forgiveness is the Zakat of success if you wish to succeed in life, learn to forgive others.  


Secret of success

Success depends on self-confidence. Self-confidence depends on due deliberation. Deliberation depends on protecting one's secrets. He who cannot keep his secret cannot succeed.  


Kinds of patience

Patience is of two kinds: Firstly patience at a thing which one does not like, and secondly patience at not getting a thing one desires.  


Wealth and poverty

Wealth provides one with the facilities of home country while travelling in a foreign land. Poverty makes a person a stranger even in his homeland.  



Faith lies in preferring truth to falsehood even when the truth might lead to any harm, and falsehood might lead to any advantage. And evidence of your faith is that what you say is in accord with that practice.  



A Muslim is he whose face wears a smiling look even though his heart is distressed.  



Perfection consists in three things: patience in affliction; moderation in pursuit; and offer of assistance to a supplicant.  



Heresy has four aspects: Concealment of truth, waging of war against truth, going astray from the path of truth, and adoption of an inimical attitude to truth.  


Seven things of the devil

There are seven things of the devil: excessive anger, excessive sneezing, excessive yawning, vomiting, bleeding of the nose, clandestine discourse and sleeping during devotional exercise.  



Generosity lies in affording relief to the needy without his asking for it. When the supplicant is assisted when he asks for it, that is liberality and munificence and not generosity.  



Tauhid is a conviction of the heart which is above doubt.  



Justice is determination against which there can be no accusation.



Learning and good dispositions go together and lead to broadmindedness.


Wealth and health

One cannot trust two things: wealth and health. One does not know when they might forsake him.


Two types of subsistence

There are two types of subsistence, one after which you run and the other which runs after you.


Truth and falsehood

There is a distance of four fingers between truth and false hood. Falsehood is that you say that you heard it from someone else. The truth is that you say that you saw it with your own eyes.


Things that are the best

Resignation to the will of God is the best policy. Knowledge is the best inheritance. Good conduct is the best ornament. The best wealth is the suppression of desires. The middle course is the best course.  


Things to which nothing is better

No honor is more respectable than the sword. No religion is better than Islam. No citadel is stronger than piety. No one is a better interceder than repentance. No treasure is richer than contentment.  


Success and failure

When you succeed do not feel proud. When you fail do not lose patience.  


Person doomed to ignominy

Two persons are deemed to ignominy, firstly he who creates dissentions and secondly he who levies false accusations.


Three friends

Your three friends are: your friend, a friend of your friend, and an enemy of your enemy.  


Three foes

Your three foes are: your foe, the foe of your friend, and the friend of your foe.


Two types of men

There are two types of men in the world: one who sells himself to the world and the world destroys him, the other is the one who ransomed himself for the world and has released himself from its captivity.


Greetings and favor

If somebody greets you, greet him in better terms. If somebody favors you confer a greater favor on him.  



Accept death, but do not accept humiliation.


Two hungry persons

There are two hungry persons whose hunger is never satisfied: firstly he who seeks knowledge and secondly he who seeks the world.



A miser lives in the world as an indigent, and he will be called for in the Hereafter to give account as a capitalist.


Offshoots of patience

Desire, fear, and piety are the offshoots of patience.


Miserliness, patience, piety and cowardice

Miserliness is dishonor. Patience is bravery. Piety is a shield against hell. Cowardice is an inferiority complex.


The greatest and the vilest

Wisdom is the greatest treasure. Folly is the greatest poverty. Of all things pride is the vilest. The greatest excellence is good disposition.


Companies to be avoided

Avoid the company of a fool for he will harm you while trying to benefit you. Avoid the company of a liar for he will bring you near what is undesirable and remove you from what is desirable. Avoid the company of a miser for he would withhold from you what you stand in need of. Avoid the company of a libertine for he will sell you for a trifle.


Two things to be afraid of

Two things of which you should be afraid of are: firstly giving way to your lust; and secondly harboring high and far-fetched hopes.


The worst enemies

Before God two persons are the worst enemies, firstly the man who makes innovations, and secondly the man who creates dissentions.  


Things that are worse

There is no distress worse than ignorance. There is no enemy worse than self-adulation. There is no worse companion than bad conduct.

Ali's prayer to God

Ali used to pray to God in the following terms: "O God, forgive my sins of which you know me more than me. And if I commit these sins again, even then because of Your munificence forgive me. If all the promises that I had made with myself to act according to Your command have not been fulfilled, kindly pardon my lapse. Moreover if I sought your proximity through my tongue, but my heart did not keep accord with my tongue even then forgive me, O God, forgive my acts of commission or omission, advertent or inadvertent. "  


He decried flattery

Once a person flattered Ali. Ali said: "Do not flatter me. I am not what you say, but I am more than what you think of me in your heart".  


He denounced praise

One day Ali delivered a sermon, which was most impressive and eloquent. Some one praised him for his sermon. He said: "Do not praise me. That would mislead me and beguile me into vainglory. Remember that all praise is for God alone."  


He would carry his own burden

One day Ali purchased some provisions in the market. It was a heavy load and he carried it himself. Many persons offered to carry the load for him. He refused the offer saying that every one should carry his burden himself.  


He did not want the people to follow in his retinue

One day Ali was riding a horse. Some people followed him and began to walk in his train. He asked them why they were following him. They said that they felt elated to walk in his retinue. He said: "Go back to your business. By walking behind me you will breed feelings of inferiority in yourselves, and infect me with arrogance."  


He prayed for patience to bear suffering

At the Battle of Uhud, Ali received over a hundred wounds. In spite of these wounds he continued fighting and said: "May God grant me patience to bear this suffering. It is a favor of God that He gave me the courage to stand and fight, and not to leave the battlefield".  


His complaint against his people

One night Ali saw the Holy Prophet in a dream. He complained to the Holy Prophet that he had received much trouble from his people. The Holy Prophet said that he might invoke the curse of God on them. When it was day, be lifted his hands after the Morning Prayer and said: "O God. Give me a better people, and give these people a worse ruler then me".  


He rode on a mule instead of a horse

When going to battle, Ali used to ride on a mule instead of a horse. He was asked why he preferred a mule to a horse when the horse would carry him faster. He said that it was so he did not wish to fly from the battlefield.  


He would never turn his back to the enemy

Ali always wore the armor on the front part of his body. He was asked why he did not wear the armor on his back. He said that it was because he did not want to turn his back to the enemy.  


He would not seek a concession

Once Ali went to the market to purchase some cloth. He went to a shop and a shopkeeper recognizing him offered the cloth at a confessional rate. Ali refused to make the purchase.  


He preferred his slave to himself

Once Ali went to the bazaar to purchase some cloth for himself and his slave. One piece was purchased at a higher price, and the other at a lower price. He gave the costlier piece of cloth to his slave and kept the cloth of inferior quality for himself.  


He had no ambition for the caliphate

It is related that when on the way to Basra, Ali and his troops were camping at Rabdha, Ibn Abbas came to see him. At that time Ali was mending his shoe. Ali asked Ibn Abbas as to what would be the value of the shoe. Ibn Abbas said that the old shoe had hardly any value and its value would at the most not exceed a quarter of a dirham. Ali thereupon said, "By God, this shoe is more valuable to me than the caliphate. I have no ambition to rule."  


He freed the slave who did not respond to his call

Once Ali called his slave, but the slave did not respond to his call. He called him thrice, but the slave kept silent. Thereafter Ali went to the slave and said, "Did you not hear my call?" He said that he had heard to his call, but was at that time calling upon God who had subjected him to the humiliation of slavery. Thereupon Ali said, "I release you from slavery forthwith in the name of God."  


He saw God with inward eyes

Once Ali was asked whether he had seen God. He said that verily he had seen God because he could not worship Him without knowing Him. He was asked how he had seen Him, and he said that He had seen him with the inward eyes of the heart.  


He lost consciousness while praying

Once an arrow stuck in the feet of Ali. It could not be taken out because of the intensity of the pain felt. When Ali stood up in prayers, he was so much absorbed in the devotional exercise that the surgeon pulled out the arrow without Ali feeling any pain.


He would not pay the enemy in its own coin

At the battlefield of Siffin, the forces of Muawiyah had the control over the source of water supply, and they would not allow thereto the troops of Ali. When the troops of Ali overpowered the enemy and got control over the source of water supply, Ali was advised that he should deny access of water to the enemy. He repudiated the advice saying that he would not pay the enemy in its own coins, but in the coins of Islam.  


He preferred his men to himself

During the water shortage in Siffin, he refused to quench his own thirst saying that the water should be given to those of his men who were more thirsty than him.  


Two wrongs cannot make a right

When, after the Battle of Siffin, Muawiyah began harassing the people by making raids into the territory adjoining Syria, the Governor of Ali, Kameel b Ziyad, suggested that he should be authorized to lead retributive expedition into Syria. Ali turned down the suggestion saying, "Two wrongs cannot make a right. Let Muawiyah take pleasure in harassing innocent people. I cannot resort to such measures."  


He was dispirited because he had no guest

One day Ali felt unusually dispirited and dejected. When asked about the reason for his unusual dejection he said that he was feeling dispirited because he had received no guest for a week.  


He wore dress of coarse cloth

Ali always wore clothing of coarse cloth. When asked why did he wear such shabby dress when he was the Head of the State, he said that it was so because coarse cloth softened the heart while fine cloth hardened the heart.  


He wanted to travel light

The house of Ali was bereft of the usual furniture. When asked, why he, deprived himself of such necessities when he was the ruler of a state, he said, "This life is a journey, and while on a journey one should travel light. I have booked my luggage for the destination- the hereafter."


He would not break open the lock of the shop of God

Once, Aqueel, a brother of Ali, asked him to provide some relief for him as he was feeling sore. Ali said that when he got his usual allowance from the Baitul Mal, he would give something out of it to him. They did not satisfy Aqueel. Ali thereupon said, "Then you may break open the locks of the of the ships in the market." Aqeel said, "Do you want me to become a thief." Ali retorted, "Then do you want to break open the lock of the Shop of God and become a brigand instead of the custodian of the Baitul Mal."  


He was not afraid of death

In the Battle of Siffin, Ali penetrated into the front ranks of the Syrian forces without any protective armor. One after another his assailants fell before the onslaught of his sword. His son Imam Hasan objected to such neglect to protect himself. Ali said, "It is immaterial to me whether I fall to death or death fall on me. I love death as much as a suckling loves the milk of his mother."  


He did not care for the booty

In the battle Ali killed a wealthy Quraish chief Umar b Ubda, but contrary to the Arab custom, he did not mutilate his body, nor take off his costly coat of mail. When asked why he had not taken his valuable coat of mail, Ali said, "The lion who enters the battlefield either kills himself or is killed he does bother about the booty."  


He would not own the treasure in the land that he had purchased

Once Ali purchased a plot of land from a person in Madina. When the plot was dug a treasure was found therein. Ali would not except the treasure, as it did not come from a part of his transaction with the original owner. He offered the treasure to the original owner, but he did not except it. Thereupon Ali distributed the entire treasure in charity.  


He undertook to clear the debt of a dead Muslim

Once the Holy Prophet attended the funeral of a dead Muslim. Before leading the funeral prayer, the Holy Prophet inquired whether the dead man had to clear any debt. He was informed that the dead man had to pay the debt of a dinar. The Holy Prophet said that before he could lead the funeral prayer some one should undertake the responsibility of clearing the debt of the dead Muslim. It was Ali who stepped forward to undertake the responsibility for clearing the debt.


He would not accept the allegiance from whom he had released

Marwan a cousin of Muawiyah was a bitter enemy of Ali. He had played a great part in inciting revolt against the caliphate of Ali. He was taken captive in the Battle of the Camel at Basra. When brought before Ali he asked for mercy. Ali released him unconditionally. Thereupon Marwan offered to pay allegiance to him, but Ali said, "I did not want his allegiance. I released him for the sake of God, and not for securing allegiance to me."  


He did not believe in the prognostication of the astrologer

When Ali led his troops against the Kharijites at the Battle of Nahrawan, an astrologer advised him not to proceed to battle as the time was not propitious. Ali refused to act on the advice saying: "All knowledge of the unknown belongs to God. I cannot accept any person as a partner in the knowledge of God."  


He would take no precaution to protect himself

During the last days of his life, when Ali was asked to take protective measures against any murderous attack, he said, "The shield of God is around my body, and nobody can harm me against the will of God. And if God wills me to be martyred, no protective measures will avail."  


People stood in the way of his right

At Basra someone said to Ali that he was ambitious for the caliphate. Ali said, "I am not ambitious, what has happened is that there are people who stand in the way of my right. To strive for the right is no ambition."  


Spacious house

At Basra, Ali went to the house of one of his companions A'ala b Ziyad. He had constructed a spacious house. Ali was critical of the spaciousness of the house. He said, "A'ala what have you gained by constructing a spacious house in the world. You should have built a spacious house for yourself in the world Hereafter."  

Sayings of Ali

His Sayings


Ali was an embodiment of knowledge and wisdom. Some of the sayings of Ali that breathe wisdom and have attained the dimensions of aphorisms are on record. Some of these are quoted hereunder:

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