Surah Al-Baqarah, The Cow, 2:207

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَنْ يَشْرِي نَفْسَهُ ابْتِغَاءَ مَرْضَاتِ اللَّهِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ رَءُوفٌ بِالْعِبَادِ {207}

And among men is he who sells himself to seek the pleasure of Allah; and Allah is affectionate to the servants. (2:207) - Shakir

Excerpt from Tafseer of Agha Mahdi Pooya1:

Tha’labi, Ghazali, the author of Ahya-ul Ulum, and all the Shia commentators say that this verse was revealed to praise Ali ibn abi Talib, when he slept in the bed of the Holy Prophet, during the night of hijrat.

Immediately after the death of Abu Talib, Abu Sufyan, the chief of the branch of Umayyah, succeeded to the principality of Makka. All tribal heads held a conference on the instigation of Abu Sufyan and Abu Jahl. It was resolved that one man from every tribe should go to the Holy Prophet's house in the darkness of the night and kill him jointly, in order to divide the guilt, and baffle the vengeance of the Bani Hashim. In the dark night, the conspirators surrounded the house of the Holy Prophet. Meanwhile, Allah commanded the Holy Prophet to leave Makka at once and go to Madina.

The Holy Prophet informed Ali of the divine plan and asked him to lie down on his bed, in order to lead the enemies into thinking that it was the Holy Prophet himself who was sleeping, thus giving him enough time to go away from Makka (unnoticed). Ali asked the Holy Prophet if his lying down in his bed would save the Holy Prophet's life, to which he answered in the affirmative. So Ali lay down on the Holy Prophet's bed, covering himself with his blanket. Ali made a willing choice of certain death, as the blood-thirsty enemies were lurking around the house to kill the Holy Prophet in his bed at any time during the night.

Ali willingly agreed to die because:

1. In his opinion the life of the Holy Prophet was more valuable than his own;

2. He was absolutely certain that it was the duty of a true believer to obtain the pleasure of Allah and His messenger, even if one's life has to be bartered;

3. He had the peace of mind which gave him courage to sleep, while the naked swords were flashing to strike him - a singular example of willing surrender to Allah's will.

  • 1. Pooya/Ali Commentary (2:207); for the full commentary, see Appendix B.