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The First Imam, Ali ibn Abi Talib (a)

This is an account of the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, the first of the Imams of the believers, of the rulers of the Muslims and of God’s appointed successors in religion after the Apostle of God, the truthful one and the trusted one, Muhammad son of Abd Allah, the seal of the Prophets, blessings on him and his pure family.

(This part gives) an account of the Commander of the faithful, peace be on
him, the first of the Imams of the belicvers, of the rulers (wulat) of the
Muslims and of God’s (appointed) successors in religion after the Apostle of
God, the truthful one and the trusted one, Muhammad b. Abd Allah, the seal of
the Prophets, blessings on him and his pure family. (He was) the brother of the
Apostle of God and his paternal cousin, and his helper (wazir) in his affair,
his son-in- law (being married) to his daughter, Fatima the chaste, mistress of
the women of the universe. (The full name of) the Commander of the faithful is
Ali b. Abi Talib b. Abd al Muttalib b. Hashim b. Abd Manaf. (He was) the Lord of
the testamentary trustees of authority (wasiyyin), the best of blessing and
peace be on him. His kunya was Abu al-Hasan.

He was born in the Sacred House (i.e. the Kaba) in Mecca on Friday, the
thirteenth day of the month of Rajab, thirty years after the Year of the
Elephant (c.570). Nobody before or after him has ever been born in the House of
God, the Most High. (It was a mark) of him being honoured by God, the Most High,
may His name be exalted, and of his position being dignified in its greatness.

His mother was Fatima, daughter of Asad b. Hashim b. Abd Manaf, may God be
pleased with her. She was like a mother to the Apostle of God, may God bless him
and his family, and he (the Apostle) was brought up under her care.

He was grateful for her kindness and she was among the first to believe in him
and she emigrated with him in the group of the emigrants. 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 in order that, through that,
she might be protected from (the crushing pressure of) the narrow space within
the grave. He dictated to her her last words (which were) the statement of the
authority (wilaya) of her son, the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him,
so that at the examination after burial, she would be able to reply with those
words. He singled her out with this great favour because of her position with
God, may He be magnified and exalted, and with him, peace be on him. The report
of that is well known.

The Commander of the faithful, Ali b. Abi Talib, peace be on him, and his
brothers were among the leading members of the second generation of descendants
of Hashim. In this way he gained two marks of nobility, through his growing up
under the care and education of the Apostle of God, may God bless him and his
family. He was the first of the family of the House and of the Companions to
believe in God and His Apostle. He was the first male whom the Prophet, may God
bless him and his family, summoned to Islam and who answered. He never ceased to
support the religion and to strive against the polytheists. He constantly
defended the faith and fought against those who supported deviation (from the
truth) and despotism. He spread the teachings of the sunna (the practice of the
Prophet) and the Qur’an, judged with justice and enjoined (people) to do good.

He was with the Apostle of God, may God bless him and his family, twenty-three
years after the (coming) of the (prophetic) mission. Of these, thirteen years
were in Mecca before the migration when he shared with him all the persecutions
and bore most of his hardships. Then there were ten years in Medina after the
emigration when he defended him against the polytheists and strove with him
against the unbelievers. He protected him with his own life from the enemies of
religion until the time God, the Exalted, took (the Prophet) to His heaven,
raised him to the highest place in heaven and bestowed His blessings and peace
on him and his family. On that day the Commander of the faithful, peace be on
him, was thirty-three years of age.

On the day of the death of the Prophet, may God bless him and his family, the
community differed over his Imamate. His Shia who were all the Banu Hashim,
Salman, Ammar, Abu Dharr, al-Miqdad, Khuzayma b. Thabit – the man who is known
as the possessor of two testimonies – Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, Jabir b. Abd Allah
al-Ansari Abu Said al-Khudri and people like them among the important emigrants
and Ansar, (all these) maintained that he was the successor (khalifa) after the
Apostle of God, may God bless him and his family, and the Imam. (They did this)
because of his outstanding merit (fadl) above all mankind, through the fact that
there were gathered in him the qualities of outstanding merit, judgement and
perfection, such as him being the first of the community to enter the faith, his
superiority over them in knowledge of the laws, his precedence over them in
fighting (jihad) and the distinction which set him apart from them in the extent
of his piety, asceticism and righteousness.

Furthermore he had been specially singled out by the Prophet from among (all)
his relations because of (the qualities) which no other relation, apart from
him, shared with the Prophet and because of the nomination (nass) of his
authority (wilaya) by God, may God be magnified and exalted, in the Qur’an where
He, may His name be exalted, says:

Your authority (wali) is God and His Apostle and those believers who perform the
prayer and pay alms (zakat) while they are bowing (in prayer). [ V 55 ]

It is known that no one except him paid alms while bowing (in prayer).

It has been established in language that wali means "the most appropriate for
authority" (awla), without there being any opposition (to this definition). If
the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, was, by the stipulation of the
Qur’an, more appropriate for authority among the people than themselves because
of his being their wali according to the textual nomination (nass) in the Clear
Explanation (i.e. the Qur’an, tibyan), it was obviously necessary for all of
them to obey him, just as obedience to God, the Most High, and obedience to His
Apostle, peace be on him and his family, was required because of the information
about their authority (wilaya) over creatures which is given in this verse with
clear proof.

(Another reason for their support for the Commander of the faithful was) because
of what the Prophet, may God bless him and his family, said on the day (of the
assembly) at his house. He had especially gathered the Banu Abd al-Muttalib
there in order to make the (following) solemn pledge:

Whoever helps me in this matter will be my brother, my testamentary trustee (wasi)
my helper (wazir), my heir and my successor after me.

Then the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, stood up before him among
all the gathering of them, and on that day he was the youngest of them, and he
said:

O Apostle of God, I will help you.

Then the Prophet, may God bless him and his family, said:

Sit down, you are my brother, my trustee, my helper, my inheritor and successor
after me.

This is a clear statement about the succession (after the Prophet).

In addition, there is also what (the Prophet), peace be on him and his family,
said on the day of Ghadir Khumm. The community had gathered to listen to the
sermon (in which he asked):

Am I not more appropriate for authority (awla) over you than yourselves?

Yes, they answered.

Then he spoke to them in an ordered manner without any interruption in his
speech:

Whomsoever I am the authority over (mawla), Ali is also the authority over.

Thus he (the Prophet) required for him (Ali), through laying down obedience to
him and his authority (over them), the same authority as he had over them, and
which he made them acknowledge and which they did not deny. This is clear
(evidence) of the nomination (nass) of him for the Imamate and for succession to
his position.

Furthermore there is (the Prophet’s), peace be on him and his family, statement
to him at the time of setting out to Tabuk:

You are in the same position with respect to me as Aaron (Harun) was to Moses (Musa)
except that there is no prophet after me.

Thus he required him (to have) the office of helping (i.e. administering) and to
be characterised by love and outstanding merit over everyone. (He also required)
his deputising for him both during his life and after his death. The Qur’an
gives evidence for all that coming to Aaron (Harun) from Moses, peace be on
them, when God, may He be magnified and exalted, said in giving a report of what
Moses, peace be on him, said:

Make Aaron, my brotherly a helper for me from my family. Give me support through
him and make him participate in my affair so that we may glorify You much and we
may remember You frequently in that You have been a watcher over us. [ XX 29-35]

God, the Most Exalted said:

Your request is granted Moses. [ XX 36 ]

This (verse) confirmed that Aaron had a share with Moses in prophecy, and in
helping in delivering the message and his support was strengthened through him
by his aid. (Moses) also told him of deputising for him (when he said):

Deputise for me among my people. Act for (their) benefit and do not follow the
path of the corrupters. [ VII 142 ]

This confirms his succession by the precise statement of revelation. Therefore
when the Apostle of God, may God bless him and his family, gave all the ranks
which Aaron had from Moscs to the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, in
the same extent, except for prophecy, (all such things) were required of him as
helping the Apostle, giving him support, outstanding merit and love, because
these qualities were definitely required by that. Then by the clear statement
there is his deputising for him during his life and "after the prophethood"
which (gives evidence of his succession) by specification of the exception, (of
Prophethood) when he excludes him from it by mentioning "after".

The Imamate of the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, was for thirty
years after the Prophet, may God bless him and his family. For twenty-four years
and six months of these he was prevented from administering the laws (of the
office) (and had to) exercise precautionary dissimulation (taqiyya) and
withdrawal. For five years and six months of these, he was troubled by wars
against the hypocrites, those who broke their pledges, the unjust and those who
deviated (from the religion) and he was plagued by the seditions of those who
had gone astray. In the same way the Apostle of God, may God bless him and his
family, had been prevented from (administering) the laws (of his office) through
fear and through being spied upon, and through being a fugitive and through
being exiled, so that he had no power to fight the unbelievers and no means of
defending the believers. Then he emigrated and for ten years after the
emigration he remained making war on the unbelievers and being troubled by the
hypocrites until the time that God, may His name be exalted, took him unto
Himself and made him dwell in the gardens of Paradise.

The death of the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him occurred before dawn
of Friday, the twenty-first of the month of Ramadan, in the year 40 A.H. He was
a victim of the sword. Ibn Muljim al-Muradi, may God curse him, killed him at
the mosque of Kufa, which he had come out to in order to wake the people for the
dawn prayer on the night of the nineteenth of the month of Ramadan. He had been
lying in wait for him from the beginning of the night. When he (the Commander of
the faithful) passed by him while the latter was hiding his design by feigning
sleep amid a group of people who were asleep, he (Ibn Muljim) sprang out and
struck him on the top of his head with his sword which was poisoned. He lingered
through the day of the nineteenth and the night and day of the twentieth and the
first third of the night of the twenty-first. Then he, peace be on him, died a
martyr and met his Lord, Most High, as one who has been wronged. He, peace be on
him, knew of that before its time and he told the people of it before its time.
His two sons, al- Hasan and al-Husayn, peace be on them, performed (the tasks)
of washing him and shrouding him according to his bequest. Then they carried him
to al-Ghari at Najaf in Kufa and they buried him there. They removed the traces
of the place of his burial according to his bequest which was made about that to
hath of them by him, because of what he, peace be on him, knew about the regime
of the Umayyads (which would come) after him, and their hostile attitude towards
him. (For he knew) the evil action and abuse to which they would be led by their
wicked intentions if they had been able to know that (place). His grave, peace
be on him, remained hidden until al-Sadiq Jafar b. Muhammad, peace be on them,
pointed it out during the Abbasid regime. For he visited it when he came to
visit Abu Ja’far (al-Mansur) while the latter was in al-Hira. Then the Shi’a
knew of it and they began from that time to make visitation to his (grave),
peace be on him and on his pure offspring.

On the day of his death he was 63 years of age.

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