Imam Ali (a.s.)
by: Sayed Fadhil Bahr-ul-ulum

Amir Al-Mumineen Imam Ali (AS) was the son of Abu Tablib bin Abdul Mutalib and the cousin of the Holy Apostle of God, Mohammed bin Abdul Mutalib al-Hashimi. His father, Abu Talib, the chief of the Bani Hashim, was the uncle and the guardian of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and the person who had brought the prophet to his house and raised him as his own son. After Muhammad was chosen for his prophetic mission, Abu Talib continued to support and protect him from the evil of the infidels among the Arab's and the Quraysh.

His mother was the Holy Fatema(AS), daughter of Asad bin Hashim bin Abd Manaf. She was also like a mother to the messenger of the of God, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and indeed Muhammad was brought up under her care. The prophet was grateful for her kindness and she was among the first to believe in his message. She emigrated with him in the great hija (flight of emigration). When she died, the prophet shrouded her with his own shirt in order to protect her from the insects of the earth, and he laid her to rest in her grave.

Imam Ali was born in the Sacred House (kabah). His mother stayed in the Kabah for three days and, as the fourth day approached she went out from those confines carrying her new-borne baby in her arms. To her great surprise, she found the Holy Prophet anxiously waiting to receive the child.

The birth of Imam Ali in the holy Kabah is unique and he was brought up under the care and affection of the Holy Prophet himself. As Imam Ali stated "The Holy Prophet brought me up in his own morsel. I followed him wherever he went, like a baby-camel following its mother. Each day a new aspect of his character would beam out of his noble person and I would accept it and follow it as a command". (Nahjul-Balaghah)

When the prophet Muhammad was receiving revelation from the mouth of the archangel Gabriel in the cave of Hira, Imam Ali was the first to witness the birth of the new message. At an early age, between ten, he became the first person to accept Islam, Imam Ali was at the right hand of the Holy Prophet, and was his bravest and most useful supporter.

The emigration, or Hijra , from Mecca to Medina was the first opportunity for the believers to escape from their opposition. The prophet decided to emigrate while the leaders of the Quraysh were planning to assassinate him in the dark of the night. Imam Ali slept in the prophet's bed so that the men stationed to kill the Messenger of God would think that he was still within their grasp. Thus, Imam Ali provided sufficient time for the Holy Prophet to escape to safety under the cover of darkness. Imam Ali has thus given us one of the first examples of self-sacrifice in Islam.

After the departure of the Prophet Muhammad, Imam Ali gave back to the people all the trusts and charges that they had left with him. Later, he left for Medina with his mother and the daughter of the Prophet, Fatema(AS), and two other noble ladies. In Medina, Imam Ali was always in the company of the Holy Prophet both in private and in public. The Prophet gave Fatema away in marriage -his sole , beloved daughter - to Imam Ali. When the Holy Prophet was creating bonds of brotherhood among his companions, he selected Imam Ali as his brother.

Ali was present in all the wars in which the Prophet participated, except the Battle of Tabuk , when he was ordered to stay in Medina in the Place of the Holy Prophet. He did not retreat in any battle nor did he turn his face away from the enemy. He never disobeyed the Prophet and the Prophet said "Ali is never separated from the truth nor the truth from Ali".

When Muhammad was coming back from his farewell pilgrimage he stopped at Ghadhir Khum, on the 18th of the month of Dhul-Hijja (10th March 632 AD), in order to make an announcement to the pilgrims who had accompanied him from the Mecca. After the noon prayers, the Prophet sat on the pulpit and made his last public address to the large gathering before his death three months later. Taking Imam Ali by the hand, Muhammad asked his followers whether he was not superior in authority, awlah, to the believers. The crowd cried out that he was. He then declared, " He of whom I am the Mawla' (the patron, master, leader) Ali is also the mawla'. O God the friend of he who is his (Ali's) friend, and be the enemy of he who is his (Ali's) enemy".

On the day of the demise of the Holy Prophet, Imam Ali was thirty-three years old. Although he was foremost in religious virtues, and the most outstanding among the companions of the Prophet, he was pushed aside and was cut off from most public affairs. He retreated to his house where began to train competent individuals in the Divine Sciences, and in this way he passed twenty-five years of the caliphate of the first three caliphs. When the third caliph was killed, people gave their allegiance to Imam Ali and he subsequently became the fourth caliph.

During his caliphate, which lasted for nearly four years and nine months, Ali followed the path of the Holy Prophet and gave his caliphate the form of spiritual movement and renewal, initiating many reforms. Naturally, these reforms were against the interests of certain parties that sought their own personal benefites. As a result, a group of sahaba (foremost among whom were Talha and Zubair, who also gained the support of Aisha , the Prophet's wife, and especially Muawiya, a long time and committed enemy of the Prophet Muhammad during his lifetime) made a pretext on the death of the third caliph, Uthman, and raised their heads in opposition. They began a serious revolt and rebelled against Imam Ali.

Imam Ali had to fight a number of wars, such as that near Basra which was known as the Battle of Siffin against Muawiyah on the borders of Iraq and Syria and another one against the Khawarij in the battle known as Nahrawan.

The death of Imam Ali occurred before dawn on Friday 21st of Ramadhan, in the year 404AH. He was the victim of the sword of Ibin Muljuim al-Muradi , may God curse him, who attended the mosque of Kufa which he had come out of in order to wake the people up for prayers on the night of the nineteenth of that holy month. Mulkim had been lying in wait for Imam Ali from the beginning of the night. When the Imam passed by, the assassin pretended to be asleep amid a group of others. Suddenly, he sprang out and struck Imam Ali on the top of the head with a sword which was poisoned. The Imam lingered on for nearly three days in a very poor state. Soon after, he died. His two sons, the Holy Imam s Hasan (AS) and Hussain (AS) washed and shrouded him according to his own bequest. Then they carried him to al-Ghari in Najaf where they buried him quickly.

During the four years and nine months of his caliphate, Imam Ali was not able to eliminate the disturbed conditions which were prevalent throughout the Islamic world, but he was successful in many ways. As a result of his just and upright manner of living he revealed once again the beauty and attractiveness if the way if of live of the Holy Prophet and Islam, especially to the younger generation. In contrast to the imperial grandeur and ostentatious habits offered and exhibited so vainly by the likes of Muawiyah and other Umayyad offspring, Imam Ali lived in simplicity and humility, never favouring his friends or relations and family above others, nor preferring wealth to poverty or brute force to weakness. Despite cumbersome and strenuous difficulties which absorbed much of his time he left behind among the Islamic community a valuable treasure of divine sciences and Islamic intellectual discipline. Nearly 11,000 of his proverbs and sayings on different intellectual, religious and social subjects have been recorded. He established Arabic grammar and laid the basis for Arabic literature. He was the first in Islam to delve directly into the questions of metaphysics combining intellectual rigour and logical demonstration. He taught a large number of Islamic servents and religious scholars, among whom are found a number ascetics and Gnostics, who were the forefathers of Sufis. Such men included Uways al-Qarani , Kmail al-Tammar, others among hid disciples became the first teachers of jurisprudence , theology , Quranic commentary and recitation.