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The First Imam, ‘Ali (as) Ibn Abu Talib


Imam Ali (a.s.)
Father’s Name
Hazrat Abu Talib Ibn Abdul Muttalib (a.s.)
Mother’s name
Janabe Fatema binte Asad (a.s.)
Date of Birth
13th Rajab, 23 years before Hijrat
Place of Birth
Holy Kaabah, Makkah
Abul Hasan, Abul Aimmah
Murtaza, Haider
63 years
21st Ramzan, 40 A.H.
Najaf, Iraq


And I have made your successor superior over all the other successors.

The life of Imam Ali (a.s.) from the birth and to his martyrdom is full of unparalleled splendors. During the last days of the pregnancy of Janab-e-Fatema binte Asad in one of her visits to the Holy Kaaba, the wall of Kaabah split miraculously and she entered on divine command. There she gave birth to the successor and the defender of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.). (This opening in the Holy Kaaba is visible even today but covered WITH silver). On divine command, Janabe Abu Talib (a.s.) named his son “Ali” and his mother called him “Hyder”.

We will study the life history of Imam Ali (a.s.) in three different periods

The First Period – Contemporary Life
WITH the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)

The Second Period – During the Caliphate of the three Caliphs

The Third Period – His Rule

The First Period – Contemporary Life
WITH the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)

This period comprised of 33 years of Imam (a.s.)’s life in the service of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Islam. The life of Imam Ali (a.s.) was the result of divine training under the tutelage of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) who
said: Allah trained me and I trained Ali.

The aim of the life of Imam Ali (a.s.) whether in Makkah or in Madinah was to defend Islam and the Muslims. In Makkah, he was the first man to believe in the Prophethood of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). He was the lone defender of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) shielding him from the taunts of Quraish. He (a.s.) was the one who slept on the bed of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in the night of migration.

His famous words on the night of migration still bear witness about his love towards Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) when he (a.s.) slept on his (s.a.w.a.) bed. He (a.s.) enquired from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.): “By this act (sleeping on the bed of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)) will your life be saved?’ After the affirmative reply of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), he slept peacefully in the night.

He (a.s.) remained in Makkah for few days after the migration as a trustee of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). After returning all the trusts in the custody of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), he (a.s.) left
WITH a few ladies from Makkah towards Madinah. The disbelievers even attacked him on the way but fled on his courageous counter-attack.

In Madinah, he was always in the forefront to defend Islam in the wars. He (a.s.) has the exclusive honor of being the brother of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).

WITH Janab-e-Zahra (a.s.) is another exclusive and unparalleled merit and virtue.

His bravery was praised by the enemies as well. When the sister of Amr Ibn Abdawud – killed by Hazrat Ali (a.s.) in the Battle of Khandaq – came to the corpse of her brother, she was surprised. For, Ali (a.s.) had not removed anything from his body, as was the customs among the Arabs. She composed a

If anyone other than Ali had killed my brother I would have wept my whole life over the infamy. But now I will not cry. My brother has been killed by
an honorable and an upright man.”

The character of a true Muslim is worthy of praise by friends as well as enemies.

The position of Imam Ali (a.s.) was further elevated by his inclusion in the ‘Verse of Purification’(Ayat-e-Tatheer), ‘Verse of Malediction’ (Ayat-e-Mubaahelah) and the ‘Verse of Love for Near Relatives’ (Ayat-e-Mawwadah) by the command of Allah, the High.

Imam Ali’s (a.s.) positionWITH the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was like that of Prophet Haroon (a.s.)WITH Prophet Moosa (a.s.). The doors of all houses opening in the Masjid were closed except that of Ali (a.s.).

Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) described him as the ‘Gate of the City of Knowledge’ and ordered the people to come through the gate to acquire knowledge and wisdom.

Imam Ali (a.s.)’s honor and glory peaked at Ghadeer Khum when the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) declared him to be his immediate successor and master of believers. He (s.a.w.a.) said to Ali (a.s.) Your flesh is my flesh, your blood is my blood, peace WITH you is peace WITH me and war WITH you is war WITH me.

He (s.a.w.a.) also gave glad tidings to his followers (Shias) in these words: (O Ali!) Your Shias
WITH shining faces will sit on the pulpits of light (Nur) in Paradise around me and they will be my neighbors.

History bears witness that throughout his 33 years of his life WITH Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) none was as close to Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) as Ali (a.s.). Nobody can claim to be superior in faith over him nor can anyone match his virtues. All his actions were in consonance WITH that of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). He (a.s.) fought for the interpretation of the Holy Quran just as the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) fought for its descent. No accuser or mocker could stop him from the path of Truth.

Ameerul Momineen Ali (a.s.) was the most aware and knowledgeable about Islam at the time when Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) left this world. WITH Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) death, the first stage of Imam Ali’s (a.s.) life came to an end. It was the effect of his immense love for the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) that when others were busy in deciding about and usurping the caliphate, he was busy in the bath and burial of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Nothing could take him away from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)

The Second Period – During the Caliphate of the three Caliphs

As we have seen in Lesson 5, the events after the demise of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) deprived him (a.s.) for 25 years from his exclusive right to rule over the people. Some people wrongly think this period of Imam’s (a.s.) life as confinement at home. If this was true, we would not have seen Islam today. Imam Ali (a.s.) was always in the forefront in guiding the Caliphs despite bearing the deep pain of not being given his right. He describes his pain thus: I adopted patience although there was a thorn in my eye and a bone in my throat. I was seeing my inheritance being plundered.

The most important work of Imam Ali (a.s.) in this period was the compilation and explanation of the Holy Quran. Ali (a.s.) was the writer of revelation and he always stayed in the company of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and had an encompassing knowledge about the revelation of Holy Quran. He (a.s.) completed the task of collecting the Quran in 6 days.

The Caliphs used to refer to him in their difficulties and to solve their queries. Keeping in view the overall benefit of Islam, Imam (a.s.) helped them and replied to their queries. The second caliph regularly
If Ali would not have been there Umar would have perished.

The excellence of Imam Ali(a.s.) were so famous that Abu Bakr, himself confessed his(a.s.) superiority by declaring: Leave me, leave me, because I am not the best amongst you
while Ali is in your midst.

The few trusted companions of Imam Ali (a.s.) like Salman, Miqdad, Ammar-e-Yasir, Abuzar, Malik-e-Ashtar etc. remained steadfastly on his (a.s.) leadership and mastership. They kept their hearts enlightened by his (a.s.) love and adoration.

Imam Ali (a.s.) was pained to see that on one hand, Islam was setting its foot in Iran and Rome and on the other hand, the ignorant prejudices of race, caste, nationality, etc. were rearing their ugly heads and contaminating the pure teachings of Islam.

The duration of 25 years in the life of Imam Ali (a.s.) is a lesson of the sacrifice of one’s rights for achieving the aim i.e. safety of Islam. Imam Ali (a.s.) did not wage a warWITH the usurpers of his rights because he was afraid. Never! Rather, he did so because there was a danger to Islam from internal enemies like Abu Sufyan and external enemies like Rome who were waiting for an opportunity to destroy Islam.

This is clear from the reply of Imam Ali (a.s.) to Abu Sufyan when the latter had come to him
WITH a plan to acquire for him his rightful claim. He (a.s.)
retorted: You have always been an enemy of Allah, His Islam, and its followers.

I do not need your help or sympathy. You have always tried to harm Islam. By Allah, your only purpose of coming to me is to
create dissension among the Muslims.

His concern for Islam and unity among the Muslims can be vouched from his following words: I swear by Allah that
if there was no fear of discord and division among the Muslims, the return of infidelity to the Islamic land and the violation of religion of God, I would have been in a place other than the present one – (sarcastically indicating that he had the position of leadership in hand).

Imam Ali (a.s.) chose patience in order to become a shield for Islam, Quran and the Muslims and thus protect them.
WITH the death of the third Caliph, the second stage of life of Imam Ali (a.s.) came to an
end. Let us now have a brief look at the third phase.

The Third Period – Imam Ali’s (a.s.) Rule And Apparent Caliphate

After the murder of the third Caliph, Muslims were tired of nepotism and favoritism and were in need of the original Islam. Hence, they flocked to the rightful successor of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Ali (a.s.) was not interested in power and preferred to have a role of an advisor and guide to the Muslims, as he was well aware of the spoiled habits of the people and knew their character well. However, when the pressure increased and everyone was eager to pay their allegiance to him WITH all types of promises, he accepted the apparent caliphate to complete the argument on the people.

After accepting the Caliphate, Imam Ali (a.s.) made clear the policy of his (a.s.) government: By Allah, even
if I had found that by such money women have been married or slave maids have been purchased I would have returned it (to its owners from what Usman has given).

He made it clear that he will not tolerate injustice in the distribution of public wealth.

In another sermon, he(a.s.) said: The low in my view is worthy of honor till I secure (his) right for him
while the
strength in my view weak till I take (other’s) right from him.

People who had become used to favouritism and nepotism did not like this attitude of justice and equity, giving rise to opposition and hatred. Among these, Talha and Zubair were also seen. They realized that they would not be successful in the reign of Imam Ali (a.s.) and their ill-gotten wealth would be confiscated for the benefit of Muslim Treasury.

Another group of opposition was formed when Imam Ali (a.s.) dismissed Moaviyah, a representative of the Bani Umayyah from the governorship of Syria.

Imam Ali (a.s.) made it clear to the people that he would not give any opportunity for oppression in his rule.

Imam Ali (a.s.) in his short duration as a ruler over the Muslims was involved in three major warsWITH different factions of Muslims.

Talha and Zubair, on getting the opportunity, fled to Makkah and joined hands
WITH Ayesha. They were joined
WITH few others from Yemen and Basra and alleged that Ali (a.s.) was the root cause of the third caliph’s murder. This slogan became the cause for the first internal battle amongst the Muslims i.e. Battle of Jamal,
while Talha and Zubair were well aware that Ali (a.s.) had no role in the third Caliph’s murder.

Meanwhile, according to the need of the time Ali (a.s.), shifted his capital from Madinah to Kufa.

Following the order of his dismissal, Moaviyah prepared an army to fight Imam Ali (a.s.), who also prepared for the confrontation. Taking advantage of the situation, Talha and Zubair proceeded towards Basra along WITH Ayesha. She rode a camel and entered the battlefield. This encounter became famous as the Battle of Jamal (Camel). When Imam Ali (a.s.) heard this, he changed his plan of going to Syria and departed towards Basra. Finally, a severe battle took place in Basra leaving Talha and Zubair dead and the camel of Ayesha maimed. This battle took place in 36 A.H.

Talha and Zubair were associated
WITH Islam from the age of 23 years and 25 years respectively but were killed fighting against the truthful successor of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). This incident teaches us that one should not be deceived into personality worshipping. The truth should be the criteria and not persons. Also, one should never consider himself more important than the Divine Proof, otherwise destruction of this world, as well as the Hereafter, is guaranteed.

The second military encounter took place in 37 A. H. between the army of Imam Ali (a.s.) and Moaviyah. The battle took place at Siffeen, which is between Kufa and Syria. This battle was about to
end in Moaviyah’s defeat but the situation suddenly turned on its head due to the scheming suggestion of Amr Ibn Aas. The Syrian army put the Quran on the spear and asked for arbitration thereby deceiving the soldiers of Imam Ali (a.s.), who tried convincing them that it was not more than a ruse but to no avail. The situation worsened and some people from Imam Ali (a.s.)’s army bared their swords and threatened to kill Imam (a.s.) if he did not call back Maalik-e-Ashtar (a.r.), the commander of the army.

At that moment, Maalik-e-Ashtar(a.r.) was moving swiftly towards the enemy camp and was on the verge of capturing the tent of Moaviyah. Finally, Maalik-e-Ashtar (a.r.) was called back and Imam (a.s.) accepted the arbitration.

He (a.s.) was compelled to accept Abu Musa Ashari as an arbitrator instead of Janabe Maalik-e-Ashtar (a.r.) whom Imam (a.s.) had proposed. As expected, Amr Ibn Aas deceived Abu Musa Ashari. A sure victory converted to defeat for the army of Imam (a.s.) due to one person. This battle resulted in unbearable losses for the Muslims. Some of the loyal companions of Imam (a.s.) were martyred in this battle. Among them was Janab Ammar Yasir (a.r.), who was fighting alongWITH Imam Ali (a.s.) at a very old age. The martyrdom of Janab Ammar (a.r.) was prophesied by Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) when he (s.a.w.a.) said to him: “O Ammar, you will be killed by an unjust group”.

Ali (a.s.) was very sad on his martyrdom. He (a.s.) kept the head of Ammar (a.r.) on his lap and
said: “O death which will finally seize all, now that you are taking all my friends away from me, embrace me too”.

Old age is no barrier to obedience, sacrifice, and steadfastness on the right path.

The war ended but not before laying the foundation of a third military confrontation. The same group who had pressurized Imam (a.s.) to accept arbitration blamed Imam (a.s.) for the defeat and raised the slogan that that Imam (a.s.) has gone out of religion and has brought disgrace to the Muslims (we seek refuge in Allah!!). Abdullah Ibn Wahb, the leader of this group raised an army of 10000 soldiers. They were called as Khaarijis. Imam (a.s.) convincingly defeated these foolish and fanatical people in Naharwan. The battle of Naharwan was a clash between two groups of Muslims
WITH opposite Islamic beliefs.

Every idea, ideology, view, and action which is not approved by the infallible Imam (a.s.) is void, even though those who hold such ideology are apparently Muslims. Fanaticism and religiousness without any essence lead to defeat and disgrace.

After the war, Imam (a.s.) once again was busy thinking about Moaviyah but due to the short span of his (a.s.) rule, he could not take effective action against Moaviyah. In addition, the dealing of Moaviyah WITH the people was very much different from the dealings of Ali (a.s.). Imam (a.s.) did not show the slightest consideration even to the near and dear ones while Moaviyah bribed people through different ways and means just to make them switch loyalties. Such people were like parasites; they prayed WITH Imam (a.s.) and ate WITH Moaviyah.

During the five years of rule, Imam (a.s.) was put to all kinds of physical and mental persecution and troubles. The sermons of Nahjul Balaaghah are full of remembrances of his sorrows.

He possessed distinct qualities at one and the same time – A valiant warrior and sympathetic and emotional person towards the poor people. He was a great statesman who would not neglect observance of religious knowledge. He was a great orator who in his speeches would very beautifully express wise matters and difficult concepts of Islam. In brief, he was the model of Islam and Quran and having the same behavior as the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).

The speeches, letters, and sayings of Imam (a.s.) have been collected by the Shia Scholar Sayyed Razi (a.r.) in the book Nahjul Balaghah.

Finally, in the morning of 19th of Ramazan, 40 A.H., the sun that rose from the House of Allah
SET in the House of Allah when Imam (a.s.) was martyred by Ibn Muljam (l.a.) in the prayer-niche of Masjid-e-Kufa.


The First Period: Contemporary life
WITH the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).

Imam Ali (a.s.) was the first man to express his belief in the Prophethood of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).

He (a.s.) slept on the bed of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in the night of migration.

He (a.s.) was always in the forefront to defend Islam in the wars, viz. Badr, Ohad, Khandaq, Khaibar, etc.

According to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), he (a.s.) is the ‘Gate of the City of Knowledge.’

The Second Period – During the Caliphate of the three Caliphs

After the demise of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), he (a.s.) was kept away for 25 years from his right to rule over the people.

The most important work Ali (a.s.) undertook after the demise of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was the compilation of the Holy Quran.

He (a.s.) guided the Caliphs in various matters.

The Third Period – His (a.s.) Rule

On the insistence of the Muslims, he (a.s.) was forced to take charge of the government after the assassination of the third caliph.

From day one, he (a.s.) made clear his government’s policy of working that led to rising of several opposition groups.

His (a.s.) first confrontation was the Battle of Jamal against Ayesha, Talha, and Zubair.

The second military encounter was against Moaviyah. Disobedience to Imam (a.s.) turned victory into defeat.

Imam (a.s.) was martyred in Masjid by Ibn Muljim (l.a.)