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Newsletter October 2006 - the Message Continues ... 3/62
Imam Ali ibne abi Talib (a)
(excerpt from Dr. Syed Haider Hussain Shamsi's book: The Twelve Imams from the Ahle Bait)
LIFE OF ALI DURING THE TIMES OF THE PROPHET
The birth of Imam Ali took place under unique circumstances inside the holy Ka'ba. It is considered unique because no prophet or saint has ever been born in a holy sanctuary. Fatima binte Asad, the expectant mother of Ali was praying outside the Ka'ba when she suddenly felt the labor pains. Just then the wall of the holy sanctuary opened. As she stepped in, the wall closed behind her. Shortly after that she gave birth to her baby. When they came out, Muhammad took the newborn in his arms and named him Ali. The infant looked at his face and smiled.
Muhammad nurtured Ali in his childhood, and the child fully assimilated the habits and the qualities of the Prophet. When he grew up, Ali accompanied Muhammad wherever he went, and followed him like his shadow. This early association blossomed in his devout love for the Prophet whom he emulated in every manner, and assisted him in the delivery of the Message at every step.
The association between the two was not accidental. Muhammad himself was born in the /Shabe Abi Talib /(the house of Abu Talib just out side Makkah) and was raised and nurtured by Ali's parents, Abu Talib and Fatima binte Asad. Abu Talib took special care of his nephew Muhammad, and protected him against all odds as long as he lived.
Ali came into focus as a young lad of about I I years when he became known as one the first to witness Muhammad as Allah's Messenger. The *other *person to acknowledge the Prophetic mission of Muhammad was his wife Khadija.
Now that Muhammad was commanded by Allah to proclaim his Prophet-hood and invite his kinsmen to Islam, he asked Ali to act as his messenger. Ali called on the elders of Quraish to extend the Prophet's invitation. He and his father arranged a feast known as dhil-Asheera. The Prophet delivered the Message, asking them to forsake the idols and worship Allah alone. In the face of great hostilities, when he asked if any one would help him in his work, none other than Ali stood up and declared his unconditional and unfettered support of the Prophetic Mission.
The Quraish of Makkah unleashed their torment to *the *early believers, but the Prophet continued to convey the Message undaunted by the* *insults and the harsh treatment of the Makkans. All protected and defended the Prophet at every opportunity despite his young age. Along with handful of the early believers, Ali endured the harsh economic and social blockade of his parent's house by the arrogant Quraish when the
Prophet refused to abandon his mission. On the night of Hijra, when the enemies of the Prophet were lying in wait for him, he willingly and gratefully undertook the hazardous task of sleeping in the bed of the Prophet so that the Messenger of Islam would not be hurt. It helped the Prophet escape the assassins in the darkness of the night. Allah recognized this service of Ali in the Qur'an: “And there is the type of man who gives his life to earn the pleasure of Allah; and Allah is full of kindness to (His) devotees." 11: 207.
After the departure of the Prophet for Madinah, Ali acted on behalf of the Prophet and returned to the Makkans the valuables that they had placed with the Prophet for safe keeping.
When the Prophet arrived in Madinah, he initiated the foundation of a cohesive society in the form of Brotherhood in Islam. He assigned one /Muhajir /(migrant) from Makkah as a brother unto one resident /Ansar (helper) /in Madinah. Since Ali was delayed in Makkah carrying out the duties entrusted to him by the Prophet, he was unable to participate in the newly formed brotherhood. On his arrival in Madinah, when Ali asked the Prophet who would be his 'brother' according to the new rule, the Prophet told him: /"You and I are brothers in this world and the Hereafter. "
The idolaters of Makkah could not bear the escape of a handful of Muslims from under their noses. They wanted to kill the Prophet as well as his followers. In the second year of al-Hijra (the Islamic calendar year) they came out in Badr, in the outskirts of Madinaf4 well equipped with arms, eight hundred and fifty strong on foot, and one hundred on horseback. They were almost three times larger in number than the poor of equipped and hastily raised 'army' of just three hundred and fourteen. Muslims defenders (80 Muhajirs and 234 Ansars). Of these, only seventy were on camels and only two were on horseback! This was the first of the several confrontations the early Muslims had to face against the pagans in* *defense of their faith and property. The soldiery of Ali was unknown and untested until this first battle. With a resounding victory for Islam seventy of the bravest Quraish were slain and forty-five were taken prisoners of war. Ali emerged as the undisputed hero for the Muslims. He alone was responsible for almost one half of the carnage of the pagans in that battle. There was no family in Makkah that was not affected by Ali's sword in the Battle of Badr. Ali was to be looked upon as a deterrent and a formidable force in the future. He was not only the 'brother' of the new Prophet but also his fighting hand. The Prophet hardly ever used his sword himself Pleased with his unparalleled bravery as well as chivalry, the Prophet declared All openly as Asadullah (the Lion of Allah), and Yadullah (the Hands of Allah).
The Battle of Badr had far reaching consequences for Ali.
Whereas this son of Abu Talib intimidated the pagans of Makkah,
some among the believers carried grudges and jealousy, even
animosity against him. The nascent faith had not yet cleansed
their hearts of the old bias they had carried against the man
who had, with his sword, cut down their kinsmen, even their
closest relatives, their fathers, uncles, sons and husbands.
This hostility, which they were unable to express during the
life of the Prophet, for fear of annoying Allah's Messenger,
showed up immediately after his death. The history, in the years
to come, was to witness how the anti-Ali faction came out of
*the *hole, succeeded in isolating the 'brother of the Prophet’
from the affairs of the Islamic State for 25 years. Even in his
own Caliphate, the same group rose in rebellion with one pretext
or another, and finally plotting to end his life with a sword.
In the years that followed, the might and valor of Ali in the
service of Islam was to be avenged by his adversaries in killing
his sons, his grandsons and kinsmen in the battle of Karbala in
an effort to get even with Ali, the Lion of Allah.
After the battle of Badr, the Prophet gave his only daughter
Fatima in marriage to the virtuous Hashimite hero of Islam.
Together they had two sons, Hasan and Husain, who succeeded as
Imams after him, and they laid down their lives upholding and
defending the values of Islam.
In later years, Ali continued to be the victorious champion of
Islam while others had failed in some of the most threatening
battles the Prophet had to undertake in defense. of Islam, the
Muslims and the nascent Islamic State that was emerging in
Yathrib. As a consequence, Ali received many valedictory titlcs
from the Prophet, and wide acclaim among the believers. Only a
few of these are briefly narrated below.
The enemies of lslam did not wait long to avenge their shameful
defeat at Badr. The following year, they came back at Uhod under
the command of Abu Sufyan, the chief of the Makkan infidels.
They laid their siege right at the outskirts of Madinah with
three times the force they had mustered previously at Badr. This
time they were determined to exterminate Islam by killing the
Prophet and his followers. Here again the Muslims were
outnumbered three to one and poorly supplied. However, All and
Hamza raged havoc in the ranks of the infidels, and Ali felled
each of the seven standard bearers of the Makkan pagans
successively. Together with the valiant believers, the enemy was
routed and scattered in all directions. The battlefield
resounded with the voice /"There is none victorious other than
Ali and there is no equal to the sword Zulfiqar."/
Hamza was targeted by Hinda, the wife of Abu Sufyan, who had him
killed by the spear of her Abyssinian slave, and she savagely
mutilated his body personally.
With the apparent victory, the Muslims ignored the warning of
the Prophet not to move from their appointed strategic place and
ran to loot the battlefield. They were caught unaware by the
spare contingent of the pagan army under Khalid bin Walid, and
many perished in the act of looting, while others fled for their
lives. Many of the senior companions of the Prophet used to
reminisce saying that they never ran faster in their lives than
in the battle of Uhod!
The Prophet was injured in the onslaught led by Khalid bin
Walid. Ali hastened to the rescue and stood by to protect the
Prophet. At that station, he repelled several attempts by the
pagan contingent. Finally, the pagans were driven away. Fatima
(the wife of Ali and the daughter of the Prophet) tended to the
wounds of her father. The Prophet asked Ali why he did not flee
for his life like the others had done. Ali replied that his life
belonged to the Prophet, and he had no business with the others,
and being a believer would not want to become a disbeliever!
In the fifth year of /al-Hijra /the arch enemy of lslam, Abu
Sufyan, the Umayyad chief of the pagans of Makkah raised an army
'of about ten thousand confederates of Jewish and other tribes
of the Arab idolaters and marched on to Madinah. With this
force, he was confident that he could wipe out Islam and its
Prophet. However, the Prophet learning of the mighty force
marching towards the home of the Muslims, had a ditch dug out
between the city of Madinah and the advancing force of the
infidels. Whereas this kept back the general advance of the
confederate army, a hand full of the infidels jumped across the
ditck led by Amr bin Abd Wudd. They jeered and slung abuses at
the Muslims and challenged them to send their best for a duel.
Ali was a gallant warrior, and the Muslims were frightened of
his armor clad gigantic personality. It was Ali who repeatedly
asked permission of the Prophet to allow him to face the
challenge. When none else dared to come out, the infidels*
*flung further abuses and provocative language at the Muslims.
Finally Ali was allowed to face the enemy. The Prophet prayed
Allah for Ali and said: /"today total Faith has gone out to face
Ali had a brisk duel with Amr and cut down the challenger with
one stroke of his famous sword. Prophet declared, /"the single
stroke of Ali's sword is superior to years of ibada (obedience
to Allah)." /The Muslims initially watched the encounter from a
distance. However, some believers got encouraged with the
success of Ali and joined him to eliminate the remaining threat
from the infidels who had crossed over the ditch. Ali perused
Ikramah bin Abu Jahl into the ditch and killed him.
In the month of Zi-Qa'd, in the sixth year of /al-Hijra, /the
Prophet undertook journey to Makkah for Haj accompanied by about
fourteen hundred unarmed Muslims. It was traditional in all of
Arabia to suspend all kinds of hostilities during the months of
Haj. However, the Makkans came out armed to stop the advance of
the pilgrims. The Prophet made a halt at the well of /Hudaybiya.
/After tense negotiations (from within his own ranks of the
Muslims, and-from that of the pagan Makkans) a treaty was
concluded under which the Prophet had to carry out his rituals
of a lesser Hajj at the very campsite, and would return the
following year for a full ritual Haj. Ali represented the
Muslims and wrote the contents of the Treaty of Hudaybiya.
Early in the seventh year of /al-Hijra, /the Prophet learned
that the Jewish tribes in the valley of Khaybar, about eighty
miles north of Madinah, were planning mischief against the
Muslims. He decided to march to Khaybar and eliminate the threat
to their homes and lives. He took about 1600 believers with him
but Ali was unable to go with the Muslim army at that time
because of sore eyes.
The Muslims took the smaller fortresses one by one, and laid
siege over the grand citadel of Khaybar. Each of the repeated
attempts made by the Muslims was repulsed effectively by the
ferocious Jewish warriors. Even the most senior and trusted
companions of the Prophet failed to break into the defenses of
the citadel. By this time the Muslims were getting somewhat
discouraged and demoralized. Finally, the Prophet declared,
/"Tomorrow I shall hand over my flag to one who loves Allah and
His Prophet, and who is beloved of the Lord an d His Prophet, a
fearless champion who n ever turns his back upon a foe; and at
his hands the Lord will give victory. " /Hopes ran high in the
hearts of all potential commanders to earn that benediction.
However, All arrived at the scene with sore eyes. The Prophet
healed them with his saliva, and gave him the Standard of *die
*Muslim army. He faced his first adversary *in *Marhab, a
formidable warrior, and cut him into two with one stoke of his
famous sword. This was followed with successful duels with six
other Jewish warriors. He then led the Muslims to a general
attack, and won the day by subduing the fort of Khaybar. Some
miraculous feats are reported in the books of history concerning
the way Ali pulled out the gate of the fort and, first used it
as a shield for himself and then threw it as a bridge over the
ditch for the Muslims to cross over. The Prophet did not evict
the vanquished people from their homes. The people ceded half of
their property to the Muslims for submission, and in return,
they were allowed to continue to cultivate the land for their
subsistence. The grove of Fadak was retained by the Prophet, and
gave it to his daughter Fatima for her family to use.
In the eighth year of /al-Hijra, /the pagans of Makkah violated
the peace treaty signed with them two years earlier. The Prophet
took ten thousand believers with him and marched to Makkah. The
city was subdued without active fighting, and the archenemy of
Islam had to embrace Islam along with other infidels of Makkah.
Upon the conquest of Makkah, the holy Ka'ba was cleansed of
hundreds of idols. The grand idol, Hubal, treated as a deity by
the pagans of Makkah was fixed on a high position, beyond reach.
The Prophet asked Ali to mount his shoulders to reach it and
destroy it. Ali initially hesitated but complied on second
command, and standing on the shoulders of the Prophet, he pulled
the heavy idol from its high place and knocked it down to the
floor where it crashed to pieces. The Prophet recited: /"Truth
has come and falsehood being perishable, has vanished. / X'VH: 82.
It was the same year of /al-Hijra /when the Prophet sent Ali to
Yemen as his envoy to replace Khalid bin Walid. Khalid had
earlier been sent to Yemen to collect the obligatory taxes. He
ransacked the place and caused havoc amongst the southern tribes
with loss of life and dignity, in his pre Islamic ruthless
style. The news of this event caused much grief to the Prophet.
Khalid was recalled and rebuked for his conduct. To compensate
the families of *the *victims, the Prophet dispatched Ali to
Yemen with money. On arrival there, he distributed the
compensation according to the needs of each family. There was
still some money left which was also given away to the needy.
The people were impressed by this true soldier of Islam and
admired him for his generosity, kindness, piety and knowledge.
By virtue of the verse *in *Qur'an, /_Ayae _/tat-heer.......
/And Allah only wishes to remove all abomination from you, ye
Members of the Family, and to make you pure and spotless."
/XXXIII: 3 3, the Prophet included Ali as a member of his family
/(Ahle Bait). /It is reported in numerous /ahadith /that the
Prophet laid his woolen blanket over himself, his daughter
Fatima, her husband Ali, and her sons Hasan and Husain, and
said, /"O Allah., these are my _Ahle _/Bait."
The following year, the Christians of Najran came to Madinah to
see and to verify the Truth of the Prophet of the Muslims. They
remained adamantly opposed to all arguments, or to accept
evidence from the scriptures. In the end, they opted to go out
in* *the open /for Mubahela /(a method employed in *the *olden
times to invoke the curse of Truth over Falsehood).
Allah revealed in al-Quran: /"The similitude of Jesus before
Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to
him Be, and he was. The Truth (comes) from Allah alone; so be
not of those who doubt. If anyone disputes in this matter with
thee, now after (full) knowledge hath come to thee, say: come!
Let us gather together our sons, and your sons, our women and
your women, ourselves and yourselves: then let us earnestly pray
and invoke the curse of Allah on those who lie!" /III: 59-61.
Ali accompanied the Prophet with Fatima and their two sons,
Hasan and Husain (the five infallible members of the /_Ahle
_/Bait of the Prophet) at the /Mubahela /representing the men,
the women and the children of all Muslims to face the Christian
challengers fi7om Najran for the test of the Truth. Seeing *the
*Prophet and his /_Ahle _/Bait, their faces glowing with the
light of *the *Truth, the Christians withdrew from /Mubahela
/and returned home, not converted as Muslims, but in peace with
the Muslims and the Islamic State.
In the same year, /Sura Tauba /was revealed to the Prophet. He
sent Abu Bakr to Makkah to deliver it to the pilgrims. But soon,
the Archangel Gabriel reappeared with instructions that the
Message must be delivered by the Prophet himself or one of his
family. The Prophet hastened to dispatched Ali on his personal
camel. Ali caught up with Abu Bakr, took charge of the important
Divine Proclamation and arrived in Makkah. He proclaimed in the
name of Allah the early verses of the /Sura Tauba, /stating that
the city of Makkah would, from then on, be a sanctuary for all
Muslims, and forbidding all idolaters and polytheists to enter
the Holy Precinct, and forbidding the carrying of idols in the
In the tenth year of /al-Hijra, /the Prophet of Islam arrived in
Makkah /for Hajj /with thousands of his followers. Ali was in
Yemen at that time. He also arrived in Makkah in time to
participate in the Haj, personally conducted by the Prophet.
This was one of the most important events in the history of
early Islam, and every Muslim wanted to perform Haj with the
Prophet. After completion of the Haj, and on the way back to
Madinah, the Prophet of Islam was ordained by Allah to carry out
the last duty of his Prophetic Mission thus: /"O Apostle!
Proclaim the (Message) which hath been sent to theefrom thy
Lord. If thou didst not, thou wouldst have not fulfilled and
proclaimed His Mission. And Allah will defend thee from men (who
mean mischief. For Allah guideth not those who reject Faith."
He made a stop at the well called /Ghadire Khumm /and gathered
all those who could be recalled. A makeshift pulpit was erected
and the Prophet addressed the congregation: /"It seems as if I
would soon be summoned to go to Allah and I have responded to it
I entrust you with two very precious and grand things,.one of
which is greater than the other: the Book of Allah and my Ahle
Bait. Take heed of the way you treat these two trusts, because
the Qur'an and the /_Ahle _/Bait will never separate until they
return to me by the Hawd al-Kawthar (the pond). " /He then said:
/"Allah is my master and I am the master of every believer. "
/Then he took the hand of Ali and raising his arm high above his
shoulders for all to see, and said: " /Ali will be the maula
(master) of whoever deems me his (maula) master. 0 Allah! Place
within Your own vilayah whoever accepts the vilayah of Ali and
be the enemy of whoever shows animosity to him. " /All those who
attended the congregation under the hot mid-afternoon sun
congratulated Ali on the honor that had just been bestowed upon
him by the Will of Allah. This event has been recorded in both
Shiite and Sunni books.
It was at this place and occasion when the last revelation of
the Qur’an was delivered to the Prophet: /"... This day have/
/those who rejected Faith given up hope of your religion: yet
fear them not but fear me. This day have I perfected your
religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen
for you Islam as your religion. " /V:4. This completed the Book
of Allah as well as the long and onerous task of the Prophet.
Soon after his return to Madinah the Prophet became ill and
passed away. However, while the members of the /_Ahle _/Bait
were busy making arrangements for *the *burial of the Prophet,
the senior companions hurried to a heated conference that was
being held at /Saqueefa Banu Saada /to determine the successor
to the Prophet. At the conclusion of the meeting, Abu Bakr was
elected as the first Caliph.
*ALI IS THE IMAM OF GUIDANCE*
Allah says in Qur'an that there is no compulsion in Faith.
However Allah favored Man with guidance and intelligence so that
he may choose what he wishes to believe and to set his own
course for the conduct of his life. In the end, those who choose
virtuous conduct will enjoy the everlasting bounty of Allah in
the gardens of Paradise, while those who follow evil ways will
have to endure the everlasting wrath of Allah in the doom of Hell.
Allah has ordained: "O /ye who believe! Obey Allah, obey the
Apostle and those charged with authority among You. If ye differ
in anything among yourselves, refer to Allah and His Apostle, if
ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: that is best, and most
suitable for final determination." IV:59./
To obey Allah, there is the Word of Allah: the Book, /al-Qur’an./
To obey the Prophet, there is the word of the Prophet:
/al-Hadith. /Allah authenticates the word of the Prophet: /"Nor
does he say (aught) of(his own) desire. It is no less than
revelation sent down to him. He was taught by one Mighty in
To obey those charged with authority are by Allah's Will. The
Qur'an says: /"And We made them leaders, guiding (men) by Our
Command, and We sent them inspiration to do good deeds, to
establish regular prayers, and regular charity; and they
constantly served Us (and Us only)." /XXI: 73.
Allah has further clarified His ordinance: /"..fight ye the
chiefs of Unfaith: for their oaths are nothing to them..."IX:12.
"And We made them (but) leaders inviting to the Fire; and on the
Day of Judgment no help shall they find"XX'VIII: 41. "But those
who were blind in this world will be blind in the Hereafter, and
most astray from the Path. /" XVII:72.
It is Allah's grace that He gave mankind the will to choose
their path, including the choice of a leader (Imam) for
guidance-.- For making such a choice, Allah warns in the Qur'an:
/"One day We shall call together all human beings with their
(respective) Imams: those who are given their records in their
right hand will read it (with pleasure), and they will not be
dealt with unjustly in the least." /XVII: 7 1.
To the believers, the Prophet warned, /"Choose your Imams
wisely, for those who died without recognizing the Imam of their
Time died the death of the Times before the Truth came to them."/
The Prophet spared no effort to illustrate to the believers that
Ali was the Imam of Guidance after him. Ali was nurtured by the
Prophet from the very beginning of his life. By his own words,
Ali lived his life like *the *shadow of the Prophet, /"like a
baby camel follows its mother!" /He protected the person of the
/Messenger of Allah /on numerous occasions and defended the
/Message of Islam /from its very inception. His gallant feats of
soldiery were exemplary to the believers and a source of
encouragement and have remained unmatched throughout history. It
is beyond the scope of this book or even this chapter on the
First Imam to describe all the events, the circumstances or the
/ahadith /quoted from the Prophet about him. Only a few of the
major events of his life have been described above along with
the relevant /ahadith /of the Prophet. A few other important
/ahadith /are given below to highlight the life of the Patriarch
of the Imams of /_Ahle _/Bait during the life of the Prophet of
Islam. For details and for research, the reader is referred to
the sources listed in the Bibliography.
*_THE PROPHET'S AHADITH ON IMAM ALI_*
/ On Relationship of /Imam /Ali with /the /Prophet (pbuh)/
* "*I* *am to you like Musa (Moses) was to Harun (Aaron) except
that there shall be no prophet after me".
"O Allah! Befriend those who befriend Ali, be enemy to those who
exhibit animosity towards All."
"O Ali! You are the foremost among the believers. You are the
wisest and the most faithful in honoring a pledge. You are the
best in giving justice. You are the kindest of the Muslim ummah.
You are the most patient in adversity. You are my right arm. You
will wash by body, and you will give me burial ' On the Day of
Judgment, you will carry the banner of Islam, and you will drive
away the unworthy from Hawdhe Kawthar/ /(the Pond)." "Whoever
parts company with Ali parts company with me; whoever parts
company with me parts company with Allah."
*LIFE OF IMAM ALI AS A CALIPH *
On becoming the Caliph of the Islamic State, Ali had a stonny
five years long career. The rising against the new Caliph had a
catchy slogan:'to avenge the murder of Uthman'. In this rising
Talha and Zubayr enlisted the support of Aycsha, who by her own
admission in later years, was 'gravely misled by the mischief
mongcrs'. Muawiyah who had been a governor of the provinces of
Palestine and Syria for nearly twenty five years, had enjoyed
virtual autonomy during the rule of the preceding three caliphs.
Taking advantage of the situation, he refused to accept Ali as
the Caliph. In fact, he wanted to have the seat of Caliphate for
himself Muawiyah fuelled the revolt by the three leaders in
Madinah, and they marched on to the province of Basrah and took
it after a bloody massacre.
* THE BATTLE OF /JAMAL /(CAMEL) *
Ali invited the instigators of the revolt to avert the civil
war, avoid the inevitable killing of more Muslims on either
side, and to resolve the dispute through negotiation. As the
three leaders had gained victory at one front, they were
confident of continued success at other fronts as well. Ali had
to draw his sword when his ambassador with an invitation for
peace was killed by the order from one of the revolting three
leaders. This started the disgraceful Battle of the Camel. This
was the first time that Muslims drew their swords against each
other in battle. There were companions of the Prophet on both
sides. People had forgotten the Prophet's famous saying, /"Ali
is with the Truth, and the Truth is with Ali."/
However, at the open confrontation, Imam Ali was victorious.
Although Zubayr had withdrawn from the battle, he was
assassinated on his way back to Madinah. Talha bled to death
from an arrow shot at him by the Uma@ad Marwan, who was a
soldier in their army. At the end of the battle, Ayesha was
escorted back to Madinah with great respect.
THE BATTLE OF SIFFEEN
After dealing with the revolt headed by Ayesha, Ali invited
Muawiyah to come under the direct rule of the Caliph. Having
enjoyed virtual autonomy and power for over two decades,
Muawiyah declined to abide by the Caliph's advice. He gathered
his army of regular soldiers and declared war against the
Caliph. This important event took place at Siffeen.
The army of the Caliph consisted of believers whojoined forces
with him as volunteers. They fought with vigor and faith but the
confrontation turned out to be a long drawn out one. When
Muawiyah saw that his defeat was inevitable, he resorted to a
clever trick. He ordered his army to hoist copies of the Qur'an
atop their spears and cry out aloud to stop the war in the name
of Allah and turn to the Qur'an to resolve their differences.
EMERGENCE OF THE KHARJITES
The soldiers of the Caliph fell to the clever ploy by Muawiyah
and asked Ali to resolve this matter through arbitration.
Whereas Muawiyah got the arbitrar of his choice, the Caliph had
to accede to the choice by the majority of his soldiers. By a
deceitful maneuver during arbitration, the representative of
Muawiyah gained advantage over the Caliph's camp. This sent a
wave of dissent in his an-ny and caused a large portion of them
to abandon allegiance to him. In fact, they took up the position
of open confrontation and took up arms against him. This group
of deserters is known as the /Khawarij /(the Khadites).
THE BATTLE OF NAHRAWAN
With an eloquent lecture to the dissenting soldiers, Ali was
able to convince a large section of them to abandon their
hostility and open confrontation against him. A remaining force
of about four thousand soldiers persisted in their resolve to
fight him. A bloody battle ensued at Nahrawan, and all but a
handful of them perished. At a later date they regrouped and had
a second attempt against the Caliph, but lost with massive
bloodshed. Despite such grave losses, the Kh@ite movement
persisted and could not be totally wiped out. The survivors
retreated to the mountains to brew further mischief.
*THE SEQUELAE OF SIFFEEN AND NAHRAWAN *
After the battle of Nahrawan, Ali invited his army to head for
Syria to subdue the rebel governor Muawiyah for his deceit. The
soldiers asked Ali to return to Kufa briefly so that they could
visit their families and refurbish their supplies. Having
returned to Kufa, the army of volunteers simply disappeared.
Thus, the righteous Caliph was unable to regroup a substantial
force to bring the revolting governor of Syria under the rule of
Muawiyah took this opportunity and started a systematic scheme
to weaken the hold of the Caliph over the provinces. He invaded
and took the western province of Egypt. Muhammad bin Abu Bakr,
the governor of the province was captured on his way between
Madinah and Egypt and was killed.
Muawiyah sent his army on a wild rampage in Hijaz, and all the
way down to the province of Yemen, leaving in their wake
indiscriminate looting and burning of property. He sent down
swarms of his army contingents to the province of Basra and
weakened their allegiance to the Caliph. As part of his
demeaning propaganda against Ali, he introduced an ignoble
practice of cursing Ali on the pulpit in the Friday
congregational prayers, held throughout the territory controlled
The Caliph addressed his subjects during the congregational
prayers and at other occasions and appraised them of the deeds
of the rebel governor. He tried to awaken their conscience and
induce in them the spirit of individual dignity and
self-respect. He advised them that if they remained placid, they
would be the next on the rampage of Muawiyah. The untiring
efforts of the Righteous Caliph in his eloquent sermons again
roused his followers to regroup, and a respectable army gathered
for the defense of the province of Iraq.
THE MARTYRDOM OF IMAM ALI
Imam Ali had many enemies from his first battle against the
/Kuffar /(non-believers) during the early days of Islam down to
the recurring conflicts against the charlestons who declined to
accept his Caliphate, including Muawiyah bin Abu Sufyan, the
rebellious governor of Syria. The new faction of the /Khwarij
/in his own caliphate were his new enemies, who wanted to have
him killed. Abd ar-Rehman ibne Mulji@ a previously unknown
/Kharji /hid in the mosque over night during the month of
Ramadhan. He struck the Imam on the head with a poison-dipped
sword while he was prostrate in Ms prayers. The Imam suffered
from the poisonous deep cut wound for three days and died at
home surrounded by his grief-stricken family.
Before he died, he called his elder son Hasan to his bedside and
appointed him to be the Imam after him. On his deathbed, Imam
Ali gave his last advice to his children as well as Muslims,
which is summarized here: -Keep piety your foremost goal in life.
-Be organized, and always be prepared to further the cause of Islam.
-Do not forget the orphans among you.
-Remember your neighbors at all times.
-Make al-Qur'an your guide.
-Maintain prayers as your foremost discipline *in *life because
this is the strongest pillar of your faith.
-Give freely in the name of Allah, including your lives when
needed to defend Islam.
-Remain united, and protect each other from sin, because if you
fail to do so, others will become your overlords.
Reflections FROM THE LIFE OF IMAM ALI
Upon the death of the third caliph, Imam Ali became the Caliph
of a vast nation of new Muslims who had not been introduced to
the /Ahle /Bait and who had poor knowledge of the feats of Imam
All or the teachings of the Prophet. However, among the
companions of the Prophet, the towering personality of hnam Ali
dwarfed them all. This provoked feelings ofjealousy among those
who saw the opportunity slip away from their hands for the high
position. Consequently the Caliphate of Imam Ali suffered a
series of betrayals by many friends, companions and even Ayesha
binte Abu Bakr, a wife of the Prophet. He was frustrated when he
had to draw his sword against the Muslims who had previously
protected and defended against the infidels. Many were confused
when they saw the close companions of the Prophet come out in
open confrontation in bloody battle. It was among these unsure
and skepfic people that the Khaji faction emerged. It was these
people who failed him in his efforts to subdue Muawiyah bin Abu
Sufyan, the ambitious rebel governor of Syria. When this group
of people rebelled against the Imam, it further compounded the
problem of dissention, dissatisfaction and division among the
Muslims already spearheaded by Muawiyah.
There were others in the Imam's army who expected large
gratuities from him for their services, as practiced in the
preceding era. The Imam did not give in to favoritism or
nepotism, and considered the public treasury to be a sacred
trust that could not be violated by using it to win loyalty or
services. Many of them became dissatisfied and left the Imam
when he refused to meet their expectations. Even in the
battlefields, he had forbidden his soldiers to loot or strip the
fallen in the opposite camp.
Imam Ali had planned major reforms for the state since it had fallen into general abuse towards the end of the rule of the third caliph. These were delayed due to the civil disorder he had to deal with. There was only a brief period of relative
peace in his province after the battle of Nahrawan in which he could institute his reforms. They illustrate his great foresight, wisdom and organization. It is not within the scope of this book to discuss or describe them here. For this, the reader may refer to *Nahjul-Balagha, *a collection of the Imam's Sermons, letters and sayings.
The sermons and lectures of the lmwn are highly eloquent and full of knowledge and wisdom. The style in which he delivered them reminded people of the times of the Holy Prophet. The people attended the congregational prayers led by him and sat to savor the sermons he gave for their spiritual as well as worldly improvement.
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