IMAM ALI  IBN ABU TALIB (A.S.) – PART #1

Sources: “Shia Islam At A Glance” By: Molana Sheikh Abdul Jalil Nawee, and Shia Youth Inc. website: www.Shia-youth.org.  

 

Under miraculous circumstances, Hadhrat Abu Talib’s wife, Fatima bint Asad, gave  birth to a baby boy in the most sacred sanctuary of Ka’bah, Mecca, on 13 Rajab 21 BH (Before Hijrat). Ka’bah is the holiest place in Islam. It was only two or three days after the birth, the Holy prophet (pbuh) took the new born into his arms.  The child immediately opened his eyes and the first person he saw was the Prophet of Islam (pbuh). The Holy  prophet named him “Ali” meaning the exalted one.  Imam Ali’s father, Abu Talib, who was uncle of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), was at that time custodian of Ka’bah and a Sheikh of Banu Hashm tribe. Imam Ali’s mother, Fatima bint Asad, also belonged to Banu Hashim, thus making Imam Ali a descendent of Prophet Ishmael (pbuh) who was the son of Prophet Abraham (pbuh).

When the Holy prophet was orphaned and later lost his grand father, Abdul Muttalib, Abu Talib took the nephew to his home and shouldered full responsibility of supporting him. The Holy prophet (pbuh)  thus had close relationship with his uncle Abu Talib. Imam Ali was born approximately three years after the Holy Prophet had married Khadija bint Khuwaylid. When Ali was five or six years old, a famine occurred in and around Mecca affecting seriously the financial conditions of his father Hadhrat Abu Talib.  The Holy prophet brought Ali to live with him in his home. Upon the Holy prophet’s declaration of Islam, Imam Ali was the first young male who accepted Islam.

For ten years the Holy prophet (pbuh) propagated Islam and guided the community in Medina. Imam Ali (a.s.) was active in his services as Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) deputy, serving in Muslim armies as bearer of banner in almost all battles. In the year 623 the Holy Prophet told Imam Ali (a.s.) that God had ordered him to give his daughter Fatima Zahra to Imam Ali (a.s.) in marriage.  After the marriage, the prophet said to Fatima, “I have married you to a noble person who is dearest to me”. Imam Ali (a.s.) had four children born to Fatima. The family is glorified by the holy prophet by declaring it his Ahlul-Bayt (holy household) in events such as Mubahila or the Hadith of Event of Cloak (referred to above). The family was also glorified in the Quran in several cases such as “The verse of purification”.  Imam Ali (a.s.) and Fatima’s two sons, Hasan and Husain, were cited by the Holy prophet as his own sons, and honored them numerous times in his life time, and titled them “the leaders of the youth of Jannah (the Heaven)” .Imam Ali’s (a.s.) and Fatima’s marriage lasted until Fatima’s death ten years later. Although polygamy was permitted, Imam Ali (a.s.) did not marry another woman while Fatima was alive. After Fatima’s death, Imam Ali (a.s.) had taken other wives and had fathered several children.

With the exception of Battle of Tabouk, Imam Ali (a.s.) took part in all battles fought for Islam. He distinguished himself as a superb warrior in 624 AH at the Battle of Badar by, defeating the Umayyad champion, Wali ibn Utba, and killing approximately 30 enemy soldiers.

Imam Ali (a.s.) was also prominent in the ”’Battle of Uhud”  which  was fought on 3 Shawwal  3 AH in the valley located in front of Mount Uhud, in what is now northwestern Arabian Peninsula. It occurred between a force from the Muslim community of Medina led by the Holy prophet (pbuh) and a force led by Abu Sufyan ibn Harb from Mecca, the town from which many of the Muslims had previously immigrated to Medina. The Battle of Uhud was the second military encounter between the Meccans and the Muslims, preceded by the Battle of Badr which had occurred 17 Ramadhan, 2 AH, where a small Muslim army had defeated a larger Meccan army.

Marching out from Mecca towards Medina on March 11, 625 AD, the Meccans desired to avenge their losses at Badr and strike back at Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his followers. The Muslims readied themselves for war soon afterwards, and the two armies fought on the slopes and plains of Mount Uhud.

Whilst outnumbered, the Muslims gained the early initiative and forced the Meccan lines to retreat, thus leaving much of the Meccan camp unprotected. When the battle looked to be only one step away from a decisive Muslim victory,  a serious mistake was committed by a part of the Muslim army, which altered the outcome of the battle. A breach of Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) orders by the Muslim who left their assigned posts to despoil the Meccan camp, allowed a surprise attack from the Meccan cavalry, led by Meccan war veteran Khalid ibn al-Walid, which brought chaos to the Muslim ranks. Many Muslims were killed, and even Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself was badly injured. The Muslims had to withdraw up the slopes of Uhud. The Meccans did not pursue the Muslims further, but marched back to Mecca declaring victory.

In legend, the exclamation ”lā fata ʾillā ʿAlī lā sayf ʾillā Ḏū l-Fiqār” is attributed to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), who is said to have uttered it in the Battle of Uhud in praise of Ali’s exploit of splitting the shield and helmet of the strongest Meccan warriors, shattering his own sword in the same stroke. Thereafter, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is said to have given his own sword Dhu-l-Fiqar to Imam Ali (a.s.) to replace the broken sword.

According to the Shia Twelvers, Dhū al-Fiqār is currently in possession of the “hidden” Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi (a.s.)

Imam Ali (a.s.) was commander of Muslim army in the Battle of Khyber. Following this battle, the Holy prophet (pbuh) gave Imam Ali (a.s.) the name Asadullah which in Arabic means “Lion of God”. Imam Ali (a.s.) is also known by other titles such as Al-Murtadha (The Chosen One), Amir Al-Mu’minin (Commander of the Faithful),  Bab-e-Madinatul-ilm (Door to the City of Knowledge),   Abu Turab (Father of the Soil), and Hyder (Brave Heart).

Imam Ali (a.s.) also defended the prophet of Islam in the Battle of Hunayn in the year 630 AD. After the death of Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Imam Ali (a.s.) had expected to be the leader and the first Khalifa of the Muslim Umma based on the Holy Prophet’s (pbuh) pronouncement at Ghadir-e-Khum. Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had prepared Imam Ali (a.s.) to take the responsibility of protecting the Quran, preserving the principles of Islam, and guiding the Ummah to the right path.

 

Succession 

Saqifah:  After Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) death, a sudden panic overcame the many tribes within the Arabian Peninsula. The question was of succession as to who would receive the caliphate. Though it was well known through many traditions related by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and in the Quran as to who was to succeed Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), viz. Imam Ali (a.s.), a small number of prominent companions went to the “Saqifah Banu Sa’ida” or Saqifah, a roofed building used by the tribe of Sa’ida, in the city of Medina, to decide amongst themselves as to who was going to lead the Muslims. Companions such as Abu BakrUmar ibn al-Khattab, and Sa’d ibn Ubadah, who was killed later, were present at the Saqifah. The small secret band of companions exchanged arguments until the majority gave their bay’at (allegiance) to Abu Bakr. All these maneuverings took place in a hurry while Imam Ali (a.s.) and the rest of Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) close family were washing his body for burial. The choice of Abu Bakr as the first caliph was disputed by some of Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) companions, who held that Imam Ali (a.s.) had been designated his successor by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself.

An 18th century mirror writing in Ottoman calligraphy depicts the phrase, ‘Ali is the vicegerent of God’, in both directions. Later when Fatima (s.a.) and Imam Ali (a.s.) sought aid from the companions in the matter of Imam Ali’s (a.s.) right to the caliphate, they answered, “O daughter of the Messenger of God! We have given our allegiance to Abu Bakr. If Imam Ali (a.s.) had come to us before this, we would certainly not have abandoned him. Imam Ali (a.s.) said, ‘Was it fitting that we should wrangle over the caliphate even before the Prophet (pbuh) was buried?'”

Following his election to the caliphate, Abu Bakr and Umar, with a few other companions, headed to Fatimah’s house to force Imam Ali (a.s.) and his supporters who had gathered there to take their allegiance for Abu Bakr as a Caliph. Thereafter, it is alleged that Umar Ibn Khattab threatened to set Imam Ali’s (a.s.) house on fire, unless they came out and swore allegiance to Abu Bakr. It is also alleged that Umar Ibn Khattab set the house on fire and pushed the burnt door on Fatimah (a.s.), who was pregnant at the time, causing her to miscarry. Some sources say, upon seeing them, Imam Ali (a.s.) came out but was put in chains by Umar and his companions. Fatimah (s.a.), in support of her husband, started a commotion and threatened to “uncover her hair”, at which Abu Bakr relented and withdrew. Imam Ali (a.s.) is reported to have said repeatedly that had there been forty men with him he would have resisted. When Abu Bakr’s selection to the caliphate was presented as a fait accompli, Imam Ali (a.s.) withheld his oath of allegiance even after the death of Fatimah (s.a.) . Imam Ali (a.s.) did not actively assert his own right because he did not want to throw the nascent Muslim community into strife.

Fatimah (s.a.) had asked Imam Ali (a.s.) not to allow the caliphate or any of his followers to join in her burial. Six to seven months after her father’s death, Fatimah (a.s.) herself died. As Imam Ali (a.s.) was readying her body for burial, he felt her broken ribs (broken when she was wounded by Umar and those who tried to burn her house) and started crying. In the darkness of the night, Imam Ali (a.s.) took her body for burial. The next day the Caliph and his followers wanted to disinter her body to pray over it, but Imam Ali (a.s.) did not allow this. 

This contentious issue caused Muslims to later split into two groups, Sunni and Shia. Shias believe that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) explicitly named Imam Ali (a.s.) as his successor at Ghadir e Khumm and at many other occasions. Shia believe that Muslim leadership belonged to Imam Ali (a.s.) which had been determined by divine order.

The two groups also disagree on Imam Ali’s (a.s.) attitude towards Abu Bakr, and the two caliphs who succeeded him: Umar Ibn Khattab and Uthman Ibn Affan. Sunni Muslims tend to stress Imam Ali’s (a.s.) acceptance and support of their rule, while the Shia Muslims claim that he distanced himself from them, and that he was being kept from fulfilling the religious duty that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had assigned him. Sunnis maintain that if Imam Ali (a.s.) was the rightful successor as ordained by God Himself, then it would have been his duty as leader of the Muslim nation to make war with these people (Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman) until Imam Ali (a.s.) established the decree. Shias contend that Imam Ali (a.s.) did not fight Abu Bakr, Umar or Uthman, because he did not have the military strength and, if he had decided to, it would have caused a civil war amongst the Muslims. Imam Ali (a.s.) also believed that he could fulfill his role of Imam’ate without fighting. Imam Ali (a.s.) defended his position on Caliphate in his book, Nahjul Balaga, Khutba or the Sermon (3) of ash-Shiqshiqiyyah, Amir al-mu’minih’s view about the First three Caliphs’rule, troubles created by the opponents during his own rule, p.105-118.

Imam Ali (a.s.) himself was firmly convinced of his legitimacy for caliphate based on his close kinship with Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), his intimate association with and his knowledge of Islam and his merits in serving its cause.

According to Shia historical reports, Imam Ali (a.s.) maintained his right to the caliphate and said:

“By Allah the son of Abu Quhafah (Abu Bakr) dressed himself with it (the Caliphate) and he certainly knew that my position in relation to it was the same as the position of the axis in relation to the hand-mill…I put a curtain against the caliphate and kept myself detached from it… I watched the plundering of my inheritance till the first one went his way but handed over the Caliphate to Umar Ibn al-Khattab after himself”.

 

Ali’s Proclamation to Infidels:

Imam Ali (a.s.) recalled one of the divine revelations pertained to him. In the end of the ninth year after migration (631 AD), Prophet Muhammad (pbuh and his Progeny) sent from Medina a delegation of over 50 Muslims to perform the Hajj according to the new Islamic way. Abu Bakr was appointed as the leader of the delegates.

Some time after Abu Bakr and his party had left for Hajj, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) received  a revelation through Archangel Gibrael about the regulations of the Hajj, and the ordering of disgust towards the infidels. It was also revealed (Qur’an Chapter IX) that the proclamation to infidels should come from Prophet himself or by one from him.

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) summoned Imam Ali (a.s.), and asked him to proclaim the revealed verses to the people on the day of Eid al-Azha when they assembled at Mina, Saudi Arabia.  Imam Ali (a.s.) immediately went forth on Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) slit-eared camel, and overtook Abu Bakr. Abu Bakr thought Imam Ali (a.s.) had brought special order or message of the Prophet (pbuh). Imam Ali (a.s.) said that he had  come to replace Abu Bakr and that his  mission  was to make a proclamation to the infidels.  

At Mecca, on the day of Eid ul-Adha, Imam Ali (a.s.) read the proclamation on behalf of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The main points of the proclamation were:

  1. Henceforward the non-Muslims were not to be allowed to visit the Ka’bah   or perform    the pilgrimage.
  2. No one should circumambulate the Ka’bah naked (as was a pagen custom).
  3. Polytheism was not to be tolerated. Where the Muslims had any agreement with the polytheists, such agreements would be honored for the stipulated periods. Where there were no agreements, a grace period of four months was provided and thereafter no  extention was to be given to the polytheists.

 

From the day this proclamation to infidels was made, a new era dawned in Arabia. Hence forward, Islam alone was to be supreme in Arabia.

Shia scholars advance an argument  that as on this occasion the proclamation was read by Imam Ali (a.s.) on behalf of  Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), this establishes the precedence of Imam Ali (a.s.)’s over Abu Bakr for the succession as Khalifa. Therefore, after the death of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), when Abu Bakr became the Khalifa, in disregard of the claims of Imam Ali (a.s.), Shia scholars claim Abu Bakr was an usurper………….

 

TO BE CONTINUED IN PART #2 NEXT WEEK. The Status of Free Ziyaraat Plan will also be provided next week  insha’Allah.
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