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Story 110: The Agenda

After the murder of Uthman and the foundation of a favourable way for a revolution, no one was a candidate for the Caliphate except 'Ali ('a). People came to swear allegiance to him ('a) in groups.

The second day of allegiance, 'Ali ('a) ascended the pulpit, and after having praised the Almighty Allah, greeting the seal of Prophets and giving a series of exhortations, continued his speech as follows: "O people! After the demise of the Holy Prophet (S), you people chose Abu Bakr as a Caliph, and he appointed Umar as his successor; Umar entrusted the nomination of Caliphate to a consultative committee; the result of that committee led to the selection of Uthman as a Caliph. Uthman treated in such a manner that you protested him. At last, he was besieged in his house and assassinated.

However, you called upon me and swore allegiance to me willingly. I am an ordinary man from among you and like you. Whatever is your share, it is mine also, and what is incumbent on you, it is incumbent upon me too. Allah opened this door between you and the people of Qiblah. Discord flew back like the shreds of dark night. The one who can assume the charge of Caliphate that is, he must be strong minded, patient, perspicacious and sage.

My duty is to make you return to the conduct and the manners of the Holy Prophet (S). What I promise I will fulfill, provided that you act firmly and steadfastly, and, of course, we should beseach the Almighty Allah to help us. Know that I am with respect to the Holy Prophet (S) after his demise just as I was in his lifetime. Observe the discipline and the obedience. Do what I tell you. If you see something strange and unacceptable, do not precipitate to refuse it. I do not initiate anything unless I feel my duty towards it and have a justification near the Almighty Allah.

Allah, Clairvoyance, is aware of everything. I have not natural inclination for taking charge of Caliphate, for I have heard the Holy Prophet (S) say: "Whoever takes the reins of community after me will be kept on the Straight Path "Sirat" on the day of judgement; angels will expose his reckoning account before him. If he was just and equitable, Allah would save him for this equity and fairness, but regarding the oppressor on the Straight Path "Sirat", he would be shaken in such a manner that each of his organs would flow open, and then he would be thrown into the Hell. Since you have unanimously elected me Caliph, it was impossible for me to skirt it."

Then He ('a) made a glance at the right and the left of the pulpit, looking on the crowd of the people, he ('a) continued his speech: "O people! At present, I announce about those people who have filled their pockets with that of the others as well as of the public treasury, gained property and lands, made the stream flow in them, mounted the thoroughbred horses, bought the beautiful and delicate slave-girls, and plunged in the worldly pleasure, if I check them tomorrow, take from them whatever things they have illegally gained and let them have their exact share and not more than what they deserved, they must not come to me and complain that 'Ali Ibn Abi Talib has beguiled us.

I explicitly announce today that I will abolish all the prerogatives, even the privilege of having been the companionship of the Holy Prophet (S) and having served Islam. Whoever had the chance of being the Holy Prophet's (S) Companion and serving Islam will be his reward by the Almighty Allah. Today, those brilliant precedences are not the reason that we will discriminate between them and the others. Whoever responds to the call of Truth, embrace our religion and face to our "Qiblah", we will recognize the privilege equal to the first Muslims.

You are the servants of the Almighty Allah, and all the wealth belongs to Him; therefore it must be equally distributed among you. No one has superiority over someone else in this regard. However, be present tomorrow, for there is some undistributed property available in the public treasury which should be apportioned."

The next day, the people came and assembled. 'Ali ('a) also came there. The content of public treasury was equally apportioned, and each received three dinars.

A man said: "O 'Ali do you give me three dinars whereas you give three dinars to my servant who was a slave till yesterday?"

'Ali ('a) said: "That is what you saw."

A group of them such as Talhah, Zubayr, Abdullah Ibn Umar, Said Ibn As and Marwan Ibn Hakam, who had been accustomed to the prerogative and the discrimination practised previously, refused to take their shares and left the Mosque.

The following day, when the people gathered together in the Mosque, this group was also present, but they sat together in a corner far from others and began whispering and consulting. After a while, they designated Walid Ibn Aqaba among them and sent him to 'Ali ('a).

Walid came to 'Ali ('a) and said: “O Abul Hasan! First of all, you know better that none of us sitting here is pleased with you for your precedences in wars between Muslims and pagans. You have at least killed one or two persons from each of our family, for example my father was killed by you in the battle of Badr. However, we can relinquish this case under two conditions and to swear allegiance with you; you must accept these two conditions!

The First: You hark back to your words of yesterday that you do not engage yourself in the past nor to make retroactive. Bygones are bygone; whoever has gained the wealth during the previous Caliphs' periods let them have it. Do not indulge yourself by knowing how! You, watch yourself not to be embezzled in your rule.

The Second: You submit to us the murderers of Uthman, so that we retaliate them. Moreover, if we meet no security from your part, we will be obliged to leave you alone and proceed towards Syria and join Mu'awiyah!”

'Ali ('a) said in reply: "I have no responsibility for the blood shed done in the wars between Muslims and pagans, for those wars were not of the personal ones', rather they were, 'truth against the false.' If you have a complaint, you shall protest from the false side against the truth, not against me.

Regarding the rights flouted in the past, I have legal rights to return back them to their holders. It is not in my power to grant or renounce them. About the murderers of Uthman! Had I come to the conclusion, that it is an Islamic duty for me to punish them, I would have done it yesterday and never delayed it for today."

After hearing these replies, Walid went out and reported the matter to his friends. They came to understand that 'Ali was inflexible. Since then, they began to make intrigue and provoke troubles.

A group of Imam 'Ali's ('a) partisans came to him ('a) and said: “This group will soon raise the murder of Uthman as a pretext and set up a riot while the murder of Uthman is just a pretext. The main cause of these people is the equality which you have established between them and the new Muslims like Iranians and others. If you preserve their privileges and renew your decision, the riot will be subsided.”

Knowing that a great number of his Companions may object against such an insistence on respecting equality, the following day 'Ali ('a) came to the Mosque, his sword in the shoulder-belt, dressed in two simple pieces of cloth, one tied on the girdle and the other flapped on his shoulder.

He ('a) stood on the pulpit, while leaning on his bow, began to address the people: "We thank Allah, Who is our object of worship. His manifested and unseen blessings are our portion. All His gifts and blessings are the favours and graces without which we have in ourselves no deserts nor autonomy. For He shall examine us whether we are grateful toward Him or ungrateful. The most eminent of the people in view of Allah is the one who obeys Him, follows the Prophet’s (S) tradition more and better and keep alive the Book of Allah in a best position.

We do not have any privilege for anyone over anyone else except for his obedience to Allah and the Prophet (S). This is the Book of Allah between you and me, and the clear conduct and tradition of your Prophet (S) which you are well aware of."

Then he ('a) recited this noble verse of the Holy Qur'an:

يَا أيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَاُنثَی وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ

O people! We have created you from a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most honorable of you with Allah is that [one] who fears Allah. Indeed, Allah is Omniscient, All-Aware. (Surah Al-Hujurat, 49:13).

After delivering this sermon, it became decisive and certain for friend and foe that the decision made by Imam 'Ali ('a) was categorical. Every individual of them came to know his own duty; the one who wanted to remain faithful to him ('a) remained such, and the one who could not adhere to such a program, either kept aloof such as Abdullah Ibn Umar or made themselves ready to fight and shed the blood like Talhah, Zubayr and Marwan.1

  • 1. The commentary of Ibn Abi al-Hadid, v. 2, p. 271, 273 on the sermon number 90 of Nahj al-Balaghah.