Mr. Ghulam Imamain, a respected Sunni merchant, came to the meeting
place before sunset. He mentioned the reason for his coming. He
said that he and some others were greatly influenced by the Well-Wisher's
remarks. He said that he heard facts he had never heard before.
He and some other Sunnis had an unpleasant discussion with their
ulema, who could not refute Well-Wisher's arguments but who stuck
stubbornly to their position. When the time for Maghrib prayers
came, Mr. Ghulam Imamain offered both Maghrib and Isha' prayers
led by Well-Wisher. When the others arrived, the discussion began
with a comment by Nawab Sahib.
Nawab: Please continue last
night's discourse. The interpretation of the verse was incomplete.
Well-Wisher: (Looking toward
the Sunni ulema.) Provided you so allow.
Hafiz: (A bit angrily) No harm.
If something remains to be said, we are prepared to listen.
Well-Wisher: Last night I proved,
from the grammatical point of view, that the statement of some
commentators that this verse refers to the manner of determining
the caliphate was unacceptable. Now I will argue from another
point of view.
Sheikh Abdu's-Salam Sahib said last night that there are four qualities mentioned in this verse. These qualities, he said, indicate that the verse was revealed in reference to the first four caliphs and that the verse indicates the order of the caliphate. My response to this argument is, first, reliable commentators have never made such a statement about the significance of this verse. Second, you all know that when a quality attributed to a person corresponds precisely with his characteristics, only then is it worth considering. If we consider the facts objectively, we find that it is only Ali who had possessed the attributes described in this verse. These qualities in no way correspond with those named by Sheikh Sahib.
Hafiz: Weren't all those verses
you have already narrated about Ali sufficient? Do you now wish
through your rhetorical cleverness to prove that this holy verse
was also revealed in praise of Ali? If so, let us know how it
does not fit in with the caliphate of the first four caliphs.
Well-Wisher: I haven't falsely
attributed verses of the Holy Qur'an in praise of Ali. You are
confused. Can you ignore the fact that well known commentaries
and reliable books written by your own ulema mentioned many verses
of the Holy Qur'an to be in praise of Ali? How can you regard
it as being peculiar to me? Were Hafiz Abu Na'im Ispahani, the
author of "Ma Nazala mina'l-Qur'an Fi Ali," and Hafiz
Abu Bakr Shirazi, the author of "Nuzulu'l-Qur'an Fi Ali,"
Shias? Were the great commentators, like Imam Tha'labi, Jalalu'd-din
Suyuti, Tabari, Imam Fakhru'd-Din Razi, and other high-ranking
ulema, like Ibn Kathir, Muslim, Hakim, Tirmidhi, Nisa'i, Ibn Maja,
Abu Dawud, Ahmad Bin Hanbal, and even the intolerant Ibn Hajar,
who collected in his Sawa'iq the verses of the Holy Qur'an revealed
in praise of Ali, Shias? Some of the ulema, like Tabari, and Muhammad
Bin Yusuf Ganji Shafi'i, in the beginning of his Part 62, narrating
on the authority of Ibn Abbas, and Muhaddith of Syria in his Ta'rikh-e-Kabir,
and others have recorded as many as 300 hundred verses of the
Holy Qur'an in praise of Ali. Were these men Shias or did they
belong to your great ulema? We do not need to falsely attribute
a verse of the Holy Qur'an for proving the rank of the Commander
of the Faithful, Ali. His enemies (Amawis, Nawasib, and Khawarij)
suppress his virtues, and his friends hesitate to report his excellence
for fear of consequences. Still, books are full of his merits,
and they cast light on all aspects of his attainment. So far as
this verse is concerned, I have not indulged in "rhetorical
cleverness." I have revealed the truth, arguing from your
own books. You have observed so far that I have not argued from
the reports of Shia authors. Even if Shia books are left aside,
I will prove Ali's unique superiority. What I have said regarding
this verse agrees with the views of your own ulema. Muhammad Bin
Yusuf Ganji Shafi'i, quoted the "Hadith of Similarity"
in his Kifayatu't-Talib, Chapter 23, from the Prophet to the effect
that Ali was similar to the prophets. He says that the reason
Ali was called similar to Noah in wisdom was that Ali was vehement
against the unbelievers and kind to the believers. Allah has mentioned
these attributes in the Holy Qur'an. Ali, who was always with
the Prophet, was "vehement against the infidels and compassionate
to the believers." And supposing, as Sheikh Sahib says, that
the phrase "and those who are with him" refers to Abu
Bakr because he remained for a few days with the Prophet in the
cave. Can such a man equal him who remained with the Holy Prophet
from childhood and received instruction from him?
Moreover, on the crucial occasion of the declaration of his prophethood, no one supported Muhammad except Ali. Your eminent ulema, like Bukhari and Muslim, in their Sahihain, Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal in his Musnad, and many others, such as Ibn Abdi'l-Birr in Isti'ab, Volume III, page 32, Imam Abu Abdu'r-Rahman Nisa'i in Khasa'isu'l-Alawi, Sibt Ibn Jauzi in Tadhkira, page 63, Sheikh Sulayman Balkhi Hanafi in Yanabiu'l-Mawadda, Chapter 12, on the authority of Tirmidhi and Muslim, Muhammad bin Talha Shafi'i in Matalibu's-Su'ul, sub-chapter I, Ibn Abi'l-Hadid in Sharh Nahju'l-Balagha, Volume III, p. 258, Tirmidhi in
Jam'-e-Tirmidhi, Volume II, page 314, Hamwaini in Fara'id, Mir
Seyyed Ali Hamadani in Mawaddatu'l-Qurba, and even the fanatical
Ibn Hajar in Sawa'iq-e-Muhriqa, and other prominent scholars have,
with slight variation of words, related from Anas Bin Malik and
others that "the Holy Prophet was ordained Prophet of Allah
on Monday and Ali, declared his faith in him on Tuesday."
It is also narrated that "The prophethood of Allah was declared
on Monday and Ali offered prayers with the Holy Prophet on Tuesday."
And again, "Ali was the first man who declared his faith
in the Prophet." Also Tabari, Ibn Abi'l-Hadid, Tirmidhi,
and others narrate from Ibn Abbas that "Ali was the first
to offer prayers."
I ask you to consider what your own learned theologian, Nuru'd-din Bin Sabbagh Maliki in his Fusulu'l-Muhimma, Chapter "Tarbiatu'n-Nabi," page 16, and Muhammad Bin Talha Shafi'i in his Matalibu's-Su'ul, Chapter 1, page 11, and others have reported. During a famine in Mecca, the Prophet told his uncle, Abbas, that the latter's brother, Abu Talib, had too many children and that his means of livelihood were narrow. Muhammad recommended that each of them ask Abu Talib for one child to support so that the heavy burden on him would be reduced. Abbas agreed. They went to Abu Talib with their offer, and he accepted. Abbas took Ja'far-e-Tayyar under his guardianship, and the Prophet took Ali. Maliki continues, "Ali remained continuously with the Holy Prophet until the latter was formally declared the Prophet of Allah." Ali declared his belief in him, and followed him as a prophet of Allah when Ali was only thirteen. He was the first male to accept Islam. The Prophet's wife Khadija was the only person to accept the Prophet before Ali. In the same chapter, Maliki reports that Ibn Abbas, Jabir Ibn Abdullah Ansari, Zaid Ibn Arqam, Muhammad Ibn Munkadar, and Rabi'atu'l-Mara'i said that the first person after Khadija who believed in the Prophet was Ali. He says that Ali referred to this fact, which has been narrated by your ulema. He said: "Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah, is my brother and son of my uncle; Hamza, the chief of the martyrs, is my uncle; Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet, is my wife; and his daughter's two sons are my sons by Fatima. Who of you has shared such distinction as I have? I was the foremost in accepting Islam when I was only a child. The Prophet declared on the day of Ghadir-e-Khum that it was obligatory to accept me as your guide. (Then he said three times) 'Woe be to him who faces Allah tomorrow (on the Day of Judgement), if he has subjected me to cruelty.'" Muhammad Bin Talha Shafi'i in his Matalibu's-Su'ul, Part 1, Chapter 1, page 11, and many others of your learned men, have reported that these statements were in reply to Mu'awiya's letter to Ali, in which the former had boasted that his father was the chief of his tribe during the "time of ignorance," and that in Islam he (Mu'awiya) was the King. Mu'awiya also said that he was the "maternal uncle of the faithful," the "writer of the Wahi" (revelations), and a man of virtuous merits." After reading the letter, Ali said: "A man of his character - the son of the woman who chewed livers - boasts before me! (in reference to Mu'awiya's mother, Hind, who, after the Battle of Uhud, in a fit of rage, ripped open the dead body of Hamza, tore out his liver, and chewed it). Mu'awiya, even though he was bitterly opposed to Ali, could not deny these merits.
Moreover, Hakim Abu'l-Qasim Haskani, one of your learned ulema,
narrates from Abdu'r-Rahman Bin Auf, regarding the above verse
of the ten Quraish who accepted Islam, that Ali was the foremost
among them. Ahmad Bin Hanbal, Khatib Khawarizmi, and Sulayman
Balkhi Hanafi narrate from Anas bin Malik that the Prophet said:
"The angels blessed me and Ali for seven years, for during
that time no voice proclaimed the oneness of Allah except mine
and Ali's." Ibn Abi'l-Hadid Mu'tazali, in Sharh-e-Nahju'l-Balagha,
Volume I, pages 373-5, recorded several hadith narrated through
your scholars to the effect that Ali was the foremost of all others
in the matter of Islam. After recording the various versions and
narrations he concludes: "So the sum total of what we have
stated is that Ali is the first of all men regarding Islam. The
view contrary to it is rare and not worth our attention."
Imam Abu Abdu'r-Rahman Nisa'i, author of one of the six books of authentic hadith, has recorded in Khasa'isu'l-Alawi the first six hadith on this topic and has confirmed that the foremost person in Islam and the first to offer prayers with the Prophet was Ali. In addition, Sheikh Sulayman Balkhi Hanafi in Yanabiu'l-Mawadda, Chapter 12, recorded 31 hadith from Tirmidhi, Hamwaini, Ibn Maja, Ahmad bin Hanbal, Hafiz Abu Nu'aim, Imam Tha'labi, Ibn Maghazili, Abu'l-Muwayyid Khawarizmi, and Dailami, the conclusion of which is that Ali was the first in the entire Muslim community to have accepted Islam. Even the intolerant Ibn Hajar Makki has in Sawa'iq Muhriqa, Chapter 2, recorded hadith on the same issue, some of which have been accepted by Sulayman Balkhi Hanafi in his Yanabiu'l-Mawadda. Further, in Yanabiu'l-Mawadda, towards the close of chapter 12, he related from Ibn Zubair, Makki and he from Jabir Ibn Abdullah Ansari, a hadith about Ali's merits, which I would like to present here with your permission in order to conclude my argument. The Prophet said: "Allah Almighty chose me as a Prophet and revealed sacred scriptures to me. I said to Him, 'O Allah,
My master, You sent Moses to Pharaoh, Moses asked you to make
his brother, Aaron, his vizier to strengthen his hand, so that
his words might be witnessed. Now I ask you, O Allah, that you
appoint for me from among my family a vizier who may strengthen
my hand. Make Ali my vizier and brother, infuse gallantry into
his heart, and give him power over the enemy. Ali was the first
person to believe in me and to witness my prophethood and the
first person to declare the oneness of Allah along with me.' Afterward
I continued to pray to Allah. Therefore, Ali is the chief of the
successors. To follow him is a blessing; to die in obedience to
him is martyrdom. His name appears in the Torah along with my
name; his wife, the most truthful, is my daughter; his two sons,
who are the chiefs of the Youth of Paradise, are my sons. After
them all the Imams are vicegerents of Allah over His creation
after the prophets; and they are the doors of knowledge among
my people. He who follows them is rescued from Hellfire; he who
follows them is guided to the right path; he who is endowed by
Allah with love for them will surely be sent to Paradise. So,
enlightened people, take heed."
I could quote similar hadith all night, all of which have been
recorded by your own scholars. But I think this is enough. Ali
alone associated with the Holy Prophet from childhood, and therefore
it is fitting that we consider him the person referred to in the
words "those who are with him," and not the one who
accompanied the Prophet on a few days' journey.
Hafiz: You have proven your
point, and no one has ever denied that Ali was foremost in accepting
Islam. But this fact does not qualify him as pre-eminent in comparison
with other companions. True, the high caliphs professed faith
in Islam years after Ali, but their faith was different from his
and better. The reason is that Ali was only a child, and these
people were mature. Obviously, the faith of older, wise men was
superior to that of a child. In addition, Ali's faith was only
blind following, and the faith of these people was based on reason.
Faith acquired by reason is better than blind faith. Since a child,
who is not under a religious obligation to perform duties, does
not profess faith except by blind following, so Ali, who was only
a child of thirteen, professed his faith only through blind following.
Well-Wisher: Such talk is really
surprising coming from a learned man like you. I wonder how to
refute such an argument. If I were to say that you adopt such
a position out of malice, it would be against my disposition to
attribute such a motive to a learned man. Let me put a question
to you: was Ali's acceptance of Islam based on his personal wish
or on the invitation of the Prophet?
Hafiz: Why do you take such
a severe view of the way we talk since, when we have doubts, we
must discuss them. In reply to your question, I admit that Ali
accepted Islam at the invitation of the Holy Prophet.
Well-Wisher: When the Prophet
invited Ali to accept Islam, did the former know a child is not
bound by religious commitments? If you say that he did not know
it, you attribute ignorance to him, and if he did know it and
invited Ali anyway, then his action was absurd. Obviously, to
attribute absurdity to the Prophet is infidelity since a prophet
is infallible. Allah says about him in the Holy Qur'an: "Nor
does he speak out of desire. It is naught but revelation that
is revealed." (53:3-4)
The Prophet considered Ali a person worthy to be invited to accept
Islam. Apart from this, youth does not necessarily preclude wisdom.
Maturity is taken into consideration concerning discharge of religious
obligations, but not for matters connected with wisdom. Faith
is concerned with matters relating to wisdom and not religious
laws. So Ali's faith during childhood is a virtue for him just
as Allah tells us in the Holy Qur'an about Jesus in these words:
"He said: Surely I am a servant of Allah; He has given me
the Book and made me a prophet." (19:30) Also in this chapter
He says about Prophet Yahya: "...and We granted him wisdom
while yet a child." (19:12)
Seyyed Ali Humairi Yamani, (died 179 A.H.), points to the same
fact in his couplets. He says: "Just as Yahya reached the
rank of prophethood in his childhood, Ali, who was the successor
of the Prophet and the father of his sons, was also ordained Vicegerent
of Allah and guardian of the people while only a child."
Virtue and dignity bestowed by Allah do not depend on age. Wisdom
and intelligence depend upon an inborn tendency. I am surprised
by your comment since such arguments were made by the Nasibis
and Kharijis at the instigation of the Umayyads. They denigrated
Ali's faith as being mere blind adherence to what he was taught.
Even your own scholars have acknowledged Ali's merit in this respect.
Muhammad Bin Talha Shafi'i, Ibn Sabbagh Maliki, Ibn Abi'l-Hadid
and others have quoted Ali's couplets. In one of his couplets
he says: "I was first and foremost among you in embracing
Islam when I was only a small child." If Ali's faith at such
a tender age had not been meritorious, the Prophet would not have
characterized it as such. Sulayman Balkhi Hanafi in his Yanabiu'l-Mawadda,
Chapter 55, page 202, narrates from Ahmad Bin Abdullah Shafi'i,
quoting from the second Caliph, Umar Bin Khattab, who said, "Abu
Bakr, Abu Ubaida Jarra, and a group of people were present in
the company of the Prophet of Allah when he patted Ali on the
shoulder and said: 'O Ali! You are the first and foremost among
all believers and Muslims in embracing Islam. You are to me as
Aaron was to Moses.'"
Also Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal narrates from Ibn Abbas, who said that
he, Abu Bakr, Abu Ubaida Bin Jarra, and others were with the Prophet
when he put his hand on Ali's shoulder and said: "You are
foremost in faith in Islam among all the Muslims, and you are
to me as Aaron was to Moses, O Ali! He who thinks he is my friend
while he is your enemy is a liar."
Ibn Sabbagh Maliki records a similar hadith in Fusulu'l-Muhimma,
p. 125, from Khasa'isu'l-Alawi as a narration of Abdullah bin
Abbas, and Imam Abu Abdu'r-Rahman Nisa'i reports in Khasa'isu'l-Alawi
that he said: "I have heard Umar bin Khattab saying 'Mention
Ali's name with respect because I have heard the Prophet saying
that Ali has three qualities. I (Umar) wished that I had only
one of them because each of those qualities is dearer to me than
anything in this world.'"
Ibn Sabbagh has narrated the following in addition to what others
have recorded. The Holy Prophet said about Ali, "He who loves
you loves me, and he who loves me, Allah loves him, and whomever
Allah loves, He brings to Paradise. But he who is hostile to you
is hostile to me, and he who is hostile to me, Allah is hostile
to him and condemns him to Hell."
Ali's declaring himself a Muslim even while he was still a boy
establishes the excellence of his wisdom and merit, which no other
Muslim can attain. Tabari in his Ta'rikh quotes from Muhammad
Bin Sa'ad Bin Abi Waqqas, who said: "I asked my father whether
Abu Bakr was the first of the Muslims. He said, 'No, more than
fifty people embraced Islam before Abu Bakr; but he was superior
to us as a Muslim.'" He also writes that Umar Bin Khattab
embraced Islam after forty-five men and twenty-one women. "As
for the foremost one in the matter of Islam and faith, it was
Ali Bin Abi Talib."
Besides the fact that Ali was foremost in embracing Islam, he
possessed another merit, peculiar to him, and more important than
his other merits: Ali's Islam derived from his nature, while that
of others occurred only after previous unbelief. Unlike other
Muslims and companions of the Prophet, Ali was never an unbeliever.
Hafiz Abu Nu'aim Ispahani in his Ma Nazalu'l-Qur'an Fi Ali, and
Mir Seyyed Ali Hamadani in Mawaddatu'l-Qurba narrate that Ibn
Abbas said, "I swear by Allah that there was no one who had
not worshipped idols before embracing Islam except Ali. He accepted
Islam without having ever worshipped the idols."
Muhammad Bin Yusuf Ganji Shafi'i in his Kifayatu't-Talib, Chapter
24, quotes the Prophet as saying, "Those who took the lead
in accepting faith in the oneness of Allah among the followers
of the Prophets were three people who were never polytheists:
Ali Bin Abu Talib, the man in the Sura Ya Sin, and the believer
of the people of Pharaoh. The Truthful Ones are Habib-e-Najjar,
among the descendants of Ya Sin, Ezekiel among the descendants
of Pharaoh, and Ali Bin Abu Talib, who excelled all of them."
Mir Seyyed Ali Hamadani in Mawaddatu'l-Qurba, Mawadda 7, Khatib
Khawarizmi in Manaqib, and Imam Tha'labi in his Tafsir narrate
from the second Caliph, Umar Bin Khattab: "I bear witness
that I heard the Prophet say, 'If the seven heavens were put in
one balance and Ali's faith in the other, Ali's faith would surely
outweigh the other.'"
The same point has been included in couplets composed by Sufyan
bin Mus'ab bin Kufi as follows: "By Allah, I bear witness
that the Prophet said to us: 'It should not remain unknown to
anyone that if the faith of all those living on the earth were
placed in one scale of the balance and that of Ali in the other
scale, Ali's faith would outweigh the other.'"
Mir Seyyed Ali Hamadani Shafi'i has recorded many hadith in his
Mawaddatu'l-Qurba, which supported Ali's excellence. In the seventh
Mawadda he quotes from Ibn Abbas that the Holy Prophet said, "The
best of men of all the worlds in my period is Ali."
Most of your fair-minded ulema have accepted the superiority of
Ali. Ibn Abi'l-Hadid in his Sharh Nahju'l-Balagha, Volume 111,
page 40, says that Abu Ja'far Iskafi, the chief of the Mu'tazilite
sect, declared that Bashr Bin Mu'tamar, Abu Musa, Ja'far Bin Mubashshir,
and other ulema of Baghdad believed that, "The most excellent
person among all Muslims was Ali Bin Abu Talib, and after him
his son Hasan, then his son Husain, after him Hamza, and after
him Ja'far Bin Abi Talib." He goes on to say that his master
Abu Abdullah Basri, Sheikh Abu'l-Qasim Balkhi, and Sheikh Abu'l-Hasan
Khayyat had the same belief as Abu Ja'far Iskafi regarding the
superiority of Ali. He explains the faith of the Mu'tazilite sect
saying: "The best of the men after the Prophet of Allah,
is the successor of the Prophet, the husband of Fatima, Ali; after
him, his two sons, Hasan and Husain; after them, Hamza, and after
him Ja'far (Tayyar).
Sheikh: If you knew the statements
of the ulema in support of the excellence of Abu Bakr, you would
not have made such remarks.
Well-Wisher: All the reliable
Sunni ulema have acknowledged the superiority of Ali. For instance,
you may refer Ibn Abi'l-Hadid Mu'tazali's Sharhe Nahju'l-Balagha,
Volume 111, page 264, in which the same statement has been quoted
from Jahiz that Abu Bakr's faith was superior to that of Ali.
However, Abu Ja'far Askafi, one of the eminent ulema of the Mu'tazilite
sect, rejected this claim, saying that Ali's faith was superior
to Abu Bakr's and all other companions. Abu Ja'far said, "We
do not deny the excellence of the companions, but certainly we
do not consider any of them superior to Ali." Ali was of
such an exalted rank that to mention his name along with other
companions is unbecoming. In fact, the virtues of the companions
cannot be compared with the sublime merits of Ali. Mir Seyyed
Ali Hamadani narrates in his Mawadda VII from Ahmad Bin Muhammadu'l-Karzi
Baghdadi, who said that he heard from Abdullah Bin Ahmad Bin Hanbal,
who asked his father Ahmad Bin Hanbal about the rank of the companions
of the Prophet. He named Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman and stopped.
Abdullah then asked his father, "Where is the name of Ali
Bin Abu Talib?" His father replied, "He belongs to the
holy descendants of the Prophet. We cannot mention his name (being
of such prominence) along with those people."
We see in the holy Qur'an that in the verse of Mubahala Ali is
referred to as the 'self' of the Holy Prophet. There is a hadith
in support of this view, which is recorded in the same Mawadda
VII, narrated from Abdullah Bin Umar Bin Khattab. He said that
one day while counting the names of the companions, he named Abu
Bakr, Umar, and Uthman. A man said, "O Abu Abdu'r-Rahman!
Why did you omit the name of Ali?" He replied: "Ali
is one of the descendants of the Prophet. He cannot be included
with anyone else. He is in the same category as the Prophet of
Let me relate another hadith from the same Mawadda. It is narrated
from Jabir Bin Abdullah Ansari that one day in the presence of
Muhajirs (Meccan emigrants living in Medina) and Ansars ("helpers"
of Medina who received the Muslim emigrants into their community),
that the Prophet said to Ali, "O Ali! If a man offers complete
prayers to Allah, and then doubts that you and your family are
superior to all other beings, his abode shall be Hell."
(After hearing this hadith, all those present, particularly Mr.
Hafiz, showed repentance, lest they should be among the doubtful
ones). I have referred to only a few hadith. Your choice seems
to be to reject all these authentic hadith, which are recorded
in your own books, or to acknowledge that Ali's faith was superior
to that of all the companions, including Abu Bakr and Umar. I
also ask you to consider the hadith (acknowledged by both sects)
in which the Holy Prophet said on the occasion of Ghazawa-e-Ahzab
(also known as the Battle of the Trench), when Ali killed Amru
Ibn Abd-e-Wudd with one stroke of his sword: "One stroke
of Ali in the Battle of Khandaq (the Trench) has earned more merit
for him than the reward for good deeds of the whole community
(jinn and men) until the Day of Judgement." If only one stroke
of his sword was better in merit than the prayers of jinn and
human beings combined, certainly his preeminence cannot be questioned
by anyone except malicious fanatics.
Had there been no other proof of Ali's superiority to all the
companions and to humanity at large, the verse of Mubahala is
sufficient to prove his excellence. It refers to Ali as the 'self'
of the Prophet. The Holy Prophet was admittedly superior to all
of humanity from beginning to end. Hence, the word "anfusana"
(ourselves) in the verse referring to Ali proves that he was also
superior to all of humanity from beginning to end. Perhaps now
you will admit that in the phrase "And those who are with
him," the reference is to Ali. He was with the Prophet before
anyone else from the beginning of Islam.
As to why Ali did not accompany the Prophet on the night of his
migration from Mecca, it is clear that the Prophet entrusted Ali
with more important duties. No one was as trustworthy as Ali.
He was left behind to return to its owners the property entrusted
to the Prophet. (Ali's second responsibility was to send members
of the Prophet's family and other Muslims to Medina. And even
though Ali was not with the Prophet in the cave that night, he
performed a more important duty as he lay in the Prophet's bed.)
Your own scholars have mentioned Ali's merit in their commentaries. For instance, Ibn Sab'i Maghribi in Shifa'u's-Sudur, Tibrani in Ausat and Kabir, Ibn Athir in Usudu'l-Ghaiba, Volume IV, page 25, Nuru'd-Din Sabbagh Maliki in Fusuli'l-Muhimma Fi Ma'rifati'l-'aimma, page 33, Abu Ishaq Tha'labi Fazil Nishapuri, Fakhru'd-Din Razi and Jalalu'd-Din Suyuti, each in his Tafsir, Hafiz Abu Nu'aim Ispahani, the well known Shafi'i traditionist in Ma Nazala'l-Qur'an fi Ali, Khatib Khawarizmi in Manaqib, Sheikhu'l-Islam Ibrahim bin Muhammad Hamwaini in Fara'id, Muhammad bin Yusuf Ganji Shafi'i in Kifayatu't-Talib, Chapter 62, Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal in Musnad, Muhammad bin Jarir through various sources, Ibn Hisham in Siratu'n-Nabi, Hafiz Muhaddith of Damascus in Arba'in Tiwal, Imam Ghazali in Ihya'u'l-Ulum, Volume III, page 223, Abu's-Sa'adat in Faza'ilu'l-Itrati't-Tahira, Ibn Abi'l-Hadid in Sharhe Nahju'l-Balagha, Sibt Ibn Jauzi in Tadhkira and others of your prominent ulema, report that when the Holy Prophet intended, by divine command, to leave Mecca for Medina, he asked Ali to wear his (the Prophet's) green cover sheet and to sleep in his bed. Accordingly, Ali slept in the Prophet's place. Then Allah Almighty told the angels Gabriel and Michael that He had made them brothers, and that one of them would live longer than the other. He asked them which was prepared to give his brother his excess life, the extent of which neither of them knew. They asked Him whether the choice was obligatory. They were told it was not obligatory. Neither of them chose to part with his excess life. Then followed the divine words: "I have created brotherhood between my vicegerent Ali and my Prophet Muhammad. Ali has offered to sacrifice his life for the sake of the Prophet's life. By sleeping in the Prophet's bed, he is protecting the Prophet's life. Now both of you are ordered to go to the earth and save him from the enemy's evil designs."
Accordingly, both of them came to the earth. Gabriel sat at Ali's
head and Michael at his feet. Gabriel said, "Congratulations,
O son of Abu Talib! in whom Allah Almighty takes pride in the
presence of His angels." After this, the following verse
was revealed to the Prophet: "And there is the type of man
who gives his life to earn the pleasure of God; and Allah is full
of kindness to (His) servants." (2:207)
Now I entreat you, respected gentlemen, to consider this verse
carefully when you return home tonight and to draw your own conclusion.
Does superiority rightly belong to him who remained with the Prophet
on a few days journey, expressing fear and grief, or to him who
risked his life the same night valiantly and joyfully, for the
safety of the Holy Prophet. Imam Ja'far Askafi, one of the great
ulema and chiefs of the Mu'tazilites, proves, as recorded in Abi'l-Hadid's
Commentary on Nahju'l-Balagha, Volume III, page 269-281) that
Ali's sleeping in the Prophet's bed was superior to the short
stay of Abu Bakr with the Holy Prophet. He says: "The Muslim
ulema unanimously hold that, in reality, Ali's excellence on this
night is so exalted that no man could reach it except Ishaq (Isaac)
and Ibrahim (Abraham) when they were prepared to sacrifice their
lives in obedience to Allah's will." (Most commentators,
ulema, and historians believe that it was Isma'il who offered
himself for sacrifice and not Ishaq.)
On page 271 of Sharhe-Nahju'l-Balagha the statement of Abu Ja'far
Askafi in reply to Abu Uthman Jahiz Nasibi is recorded. He says:
"I have already proved earlier that Ali's sleeping in the
Holy Prophet's bed on the night of the migration was superior
to Abu Bakr's remaining in the company of the Prophet in the cave.
In order to emphasize my point, I will prove it from two other
points of view. First, the Prophet of Allah having old and close
associations with Ali, loved him dearly. Therefore, he felt the
loss of love when they separated. On the other hand, Abu Bakr
enjoyed the privilege of going with the Prophet. Since Ali was
suffering the pangs of separation, his recompense increased because
the greater the agony in service, the greater is the recompense
for it. Secondly, since Abu Bakr intended to leave Mecca, and
had even left it once alone, his situation as a citizen there
became increasingly difficult. So when he left Mecca along with
the Prophet, his longing to depart was fulfilled. Hence, no such
moral excellence is due to him as to Ali, who suffered utmost
anguish in risking his life before the drawn swords of the enemy."
Ibn Sab'a Maghribi says in his Shifa'u's-Sudur about the bravery
of Ali: "There is complete unanimity among the Arab ulema
that on the night of Hijra (migration), Ali's sleeping in the
Prophet's bed was superior to going out with him. Ali made himself
the Prophet's representative and risked his life for the Prophet's
sake. This point is so clear that no one has ever denied it except
those afflicted with insanity or fanaticism."
I stop here and come to my main point. You said that the Qur'anic
phrase "Vehement against the infidels" (48:29) refers
to the second Caliph, Umar Bin Khattab. But this claim cannot
be accepted merely because you say so. We must determine whether
or not this attribute is characteristic of him or not. If it is,
I am willing to accept it. Obviously vehemence can be displayed
in two ways: in religious debates in which, through the force
of argumentation, the ulema of the opposite side are silenced.
Second, it can be shown on the battlefield. So far as learned
discussions are concerned, there is not a single instance in history
when Umar showed any vehemence. At any rate, I have not seen any
historical records indicating that Umar displayed vehemence in
learned discussion. I shall be obliged to you if you can cite
any such instance.
In fact, your own ulema have agreed that it was Ali who solved
difficult legal and religious problems during the period of the
first three Caliphs. Although the Umayyads and the blind followers
of Abu Bakr fabricated innumerable hadith on their behalf, they
could not hide the fact that when men of other faiths came to
Abu Bakr, Umar, or Uthman, to solve difficult problems, the Caliphs
referred the problems to Ali. Ali gave them such convincing replies
that many non-Muslims embraced Islam. The fact that Abu Bakr,
Umar, and Uthman acknowledged Ali's superiority is sufficient
to prove my point. Your own scholars have written that Caliph
Abu Bakr said, "Remove me, remove me, since I am not better
than you so long as Ali is in your midst." At least seventy
times Caliph Umar admitted: "If Ali had not been there, Umar
would have been ruined." Most of the circumstances involving
danger have been mentioned in the books, but I don't want to dwell
on this point. There may be more important topics to discuss.
Nawab: Which topics could be
more important than this? Are these matters mentioned in our books?
If they are, will you please let us know?
Well-Wisher: The just ulema
of your sect agree that Umar often admitted that Ali came to his