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Story 25: In The Presence Of The Judge

Once a plaintiff lodged a complaint before Umar ibn al-Khattab, the powerful Caliph of the time. Both parties of the litigation, the plaintiff and the defendant, must appear before the court and present their case. The one against whom the complaint was lodged was the Commander of the Faithful, Ali ibn Abi Talib (‘a). Summoning both parties, Umar sat on the judge’s bench.

According to Islamic law, both parties should stand next to each other and the principle of equality before the court should be respected. Accordingly, the Caliph called out to the plaintiff by name and beckoned him to stand before the judge. Then he turned to Ali (‘a) and said, “O Abul Hasan, place yourself next to the plaintiff.”

On hearing these words Ali (‘a) became angry and it was reflected in his face. The Caliph said, “O Ali, do you not want to stand next to your opponent?”

Ali (‘a) said, “No, the reason for my anger is not that I should stand next to my opponent. The reason for my anger is that you have not respected the norms of justice; for you have called me respectfully by my nickname, ‘Abul Hasan’, but you called the other person by his given name. That is the reason I was unhappy.1

  • 1. Bihar ul-Anwar, v. 10, p. 25.