The last 25 hours of Imam Ali’s (A) life are most astounding although his entire life is full of important lessons, from birth to declaration of Islam, from declaration to Islam to migration, from migration to the demise of the Holy Prophet (S), which was the third period of the Imam’s life and it was entirely different.
The fourth period of Imam Ali’s (A) life was from the demise of the Holy Prophet (S) to his appointment as caliph. After that, came the period of his rule for four and a half years, which was one of the important periods of the Imam’s life.
Nonetheless, another period of Imam Ali’s (A) life of two days and nights is very strange. It is the period from the time when Imam (A) was attacked until his passing away„ which proved that the Imam was a perfect man.
Even though his end was near, what duties did he shirk? When the Imam was struck on his holy head, two statements spoken by him were heard. First was,
“I swear by the Lord of Ka’ba, I have succeeded. I got martyrdom and it is the proof of my success.”
The second statement was,
“Do not let that man escape.”
Imam Ali (A) was brought to his house from the mosque after being attacked. He was made to lie on a bed. An Arab named Athir Ibn Amr1 who had studied medicine in Jundi Shahpur was practicing in Kufa. He was brought to treat the Commander of the Faithful. He began diagnosing the Imam’s condition.2
He understood that the poison had already entered the veins of Imam (A) and said that no treatment would be effective. (Normally such patients are not informed that no treatment would be useful for them. Only the relatives of the patient are informed about it).
However, the doctor knew that it was not appropriate to hide the fact from a personality like Imam Ali (A) and inform only his relatives about his deteriorating condition. So he told him:
“O Commander of the Faithful! If you want to make a will, do it now.”3
When Lady Umm Kulthum came to know about this accursed one from first to last, she told him hatefully: “What wrong did my father do to you? Why did you attack him?” Then she said, “God willing, my father will be you will have to suffer deprivation and failure.” At this, the accursed one told her:
“Do not hope that your father will get well, because I bought this sword for one thousand dirhams (or dinars) and spent one thousand dirhams (or dinars) more to smear it with poison. I have smeared it with such a poison, that this sword is enough to kill the entire population of Kufa.”4
The humanistic miracle of Imam Ali (A), which astounds others, appeared when he ordered that proper care should be taken of his prisoner. Then he said:
“O children of Abdul Muttalib! Do not go about saying: ‘so-and-so person is involved in the martyrdom of the Commander of the Faithful’ and ‘so-and-so person is also a part of conspiracy.’ It should not be that you start accusing one or more. I don’t want you to fall into these things because only this man is my killer.”5
He told Imam al-Hasan (A): “O son! You have the right decide the fate of this man after me. You may set him free or punish him. If you want to punish him, hit him only once, because he has hit your father only once. If he does not die in one blow, set him free.” Then he asked once again: “Did you provide food to your prisoner? Did you provide him water? Did you take proper care of him?”6
When a cup of milk was brought for the Imam to drink, he took a few sips and gave the remaining to Ibn Muljim so that he does not remain hungry.7
Commenting on his treatment towards an enemy, Maulana Rumi says: “No one can equal Ali in daring and courage. And no one could reach the level of his lofty manners and forbearance.”
Imam was op his death-bed. His health was, deteriorating with the passage of time. The poison had spread to his entire body. His companions were aggrieved. All of them had surrounded him and were crying. However, the Imam was calm and was smiling patiently. Expressing his joy at the turn of these events he said:
“By Allah, whatever has happened to me is certainly not disliked by me because it was my old wish to get martyred in the way of Allah. What can be better for me than getting martyred whiles in worship...?”
Imam Ali (A) gives an example that Arabs were well-aware of. The nomads used to stay at a place depending on the weather. They stayed at a place as long as food and water was available for them and their animals.
When the resources exhausted they set out in search of another place where they could find food and water. Since it was extremely hot during the days of sUmmr they traveled during the night (Arabs called such persons who used to travel during night in search of water as “Qaarib”). Imam Ali (A) said:
“O people! Think, upon it. A person who is in search of water during the darkness of night and he finds it suddenly, how happy he would be? My happiness is also like a lover who has met his beloved or like a person who is in search of water at night and finds it suddenly.”8
“I was freed from grief yesterday morning and given the elixir of life in the darkness of tonight. How blessed was that dawn and how blessed was that night, that Night of Power in which I was given a new permit of salvation.”
These couplets of Hafiz also imply that which the Imam said:
“I swear by the Lord of Ka’ba, I have succeeded.”9
The most astonishing words of Imam Ali (A) were those spoken in his last 45 hours. He was struck on 19th Ramadan a few minutes after dawn and his sotil departed at midnight of 21st Ramadan.
During his last moments, when the spectacle of death was before him and people surrounded his bed, the effects of poison had spread in his entire body. Sometimes he writhed in pain and sometimes lost consciousness.
Whenever he used to regain consciousness, pearls of advices full of wisdom came out from him. The twenty-point bequest of the Imam, which we mentioned in the previous majlis, is full of the enthusiasm of faith. He first addressed Imams Hasan and Al-Husayn (A) and then his other relatives:
“My (son) Hasan, My (son) Hasan!” After that the Imam addressed all his sons and all the generations that were to some till the Judgment Day and told them about the comprehensiveness of Islam:
Fear Allah regarding the orphans. Fear Allah regarding the Qur’an. Fear Allah regarding your neighbors.
Fear Allah regarding the house of your Lord. Fear Allah regarding the Ritual Prayer.
Fear Allah regarding Zakat tax.
He stressed upon each point in turn.10
The Imam continued to emphasize the points that were before him. Those persons whose eyes were on the illuminated face of Imam Ali (A), saw that in a moment the Imam’s condition changed. Beads of cold perspiration began to glitter upon his wide forehead and he took away his attention from the people who had surrounded him.
All of them waited for the lips of the Imam to move again, so that they may hear a word from him. People waited for the magnificent personality of history and the beloved of the Prophet to utter the last sentence of his life:
I testify that there is no god except Allah and I testify that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger.
- 1. Among the renowned physicians of Kufa, no one was more experienced than Athir Ibn Amr. He was one of the nine youths who were arrested by Khalid Ibn Walid during the caliphate of Abu Bakr. He had taken shelter in Kufa. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 42, Pg. 234.
- 2. It is narrated that this physician heated the windpipe of a ram and filled the wound with it.
- 3. O master of faithful! Please complete your vow because the impact of the attack of the enemy of God has reached your brain. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 42, Pg. 234; Muntahai ul-Amaal, Vol. 1, Pg. 343.
- 4. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 42, Pg. 231.
- 5. Nahjul Balagha, Subhi Salih, Sermon 47; Nahjul Balagha, Faiz ul-Islam, Sermon 47, Pg. 969 - the word yaqtulna is included in Nahjul Balagha of Faiz ul-Islam.
- 6. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 42, Pg. 289.
- 7. Mathnawi Manawi, (Nicholson Edition) Vol. 1, Pg. 229.
- 8. Diwan al-Hafiz, Pg. 114.
- 9. Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol:42, Pg 239.
- 10. Nahjul Balagha, Faiz ul-Islam, Sermon 47, Pg. 967; Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 42, Pg. 249.