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6.2 - The Caliphate

R. The Solution Of The Enemies: First Oppression And One War After Another

Imam Ali’s (‘A) Leadership And The Removal Of Former Regents

Now that Imam Ali (‘a) had the governorship, he strived to return the Islamic society back to the prophetic path from which they had deviated and reinstate justice and equality in society; not least financially. This was no easy task as a society had changed a lot since the Prophet’s (S) time and during the reign of the three previous caliphs. Not least through the unjust distribution of Bayt Al-Mal (Treasury House) and the emergence of a power elite who had not obtained their positions on the grounds of their merits. The removal of the positions of these elite and the repossession of Bayt Al-Mals (Treasury House) unfairly distributed wealth would not occur without resistance. The Imam (‘a) would automatically get many powerful people against him. But the Imam (‘a) made his standpoint clear from the outset, and he would rule in accordance with the law of God and the Prophet’s (S) action, regardless of the opposition he would encounter.1

Since corruption was widespread among the regents of Uthman, one of the Imam's (‘a) first decisions was that they should be removed and replaced with upright and pious persons. Those who, during these years, was not engulfed in money and desire for power. Thus, Imam Ali (‘a) removed the existing regents, first and foremost/ the first being Mu'awiya, with immediate effect. He sent the decision along with the honest and competent companions who would replace them. It is stated that a companion advised the Imam (‘a) to leave these reagents in their posts in order to secure his governance and not have them oppose him. The Imam (‘a) was well aware of the probable consequences but would never, in the capacity of being a divinely chosen Imam (‘a), compromise with righteousness and justice to protect his governorship at the expense of the welfare and justice of the people. Thus, the Imam (‘a) firmly denied and replied in one of these cases concerning Mu'awiya:

“By God, I will not let Mu’awiya be ruler over the life of the people even if it were for two days.”2

Those who, during the time of the former caliphs, especially under Uthman's rule, had accumulated all that they wanted from wealth and made themselves comfortable in their unjustified positions of power, now found all their self-benefits in danger. These knew that if Imam Ali (‘a) had the opportunity, his rule would be the end to their self-interests and therefore had no intention of letting him rule in freedom. Accordingly, they did everything in their power to initially negotiate with the Imam (‘a) and impose their demands for benefits. But when they realized that Imam Ali (‘a) was not giving in to their pressure and did not accept injustice, all efforts were turned to oppose the Imam (‘a) instead.

The Imam (‘a) himself has described the circumstances as follows:

“When I took up the reins of government, one party broke away, and another turned disobedient while the rest began acting wrongfully3 as if they had not heard the word of God saying: ‘That home of the Hereafter We assign to those who do not desire exaltedness upon the earth or corruption. And the [best] outcome is for the righteous.’”4

It ended with the Imam (‘a) having to endure war after war against three groups as the Prophet (S) had announced:

• Those who broke their oath of allegiance when they realized that they would not receive important positions in the governance.

• Mu’awiya who refused to leave his post when he was removed.

• A group of extremists who broke out of Imam Ali’s (‘a) army during the Battle of Siffin. This group came to be called ’khawarij’.

Imam Ali (‘A) Is Accused Of Uthman’s Murder

The confused state following the murder of Uthman and the fact that no specific person, among the rebels who had sieged his home, was the assured murderer, served as an immediate excuse to cause tumult and agitate the situation. Suddenly, Imam Ali (‘a) was accused of being an opponent of Uthman and as such a participant in his murder. On the top of this wily invention was none other than Mu’awiya, whom himself abstained from sending troops aiding Uthman, on his appeal.5 However, with the bloody dress of Uthman on the spear, Mu’awiya now stood as the foremost to avenge Uthman’s murder and refused to obey the orders of the Imam (‘a), who had removed his regency. This way Mu’awiya broke his oath to the caliphate and its governing caliph and declared Sham as his own rule, and himself as to its caliph.

Talha, Zubayr & Aisha

But the first ones to openly declare war against the Imam (‘a) were none other than the two well-known companions, Talha and Zubayr. Both of whom became known during the time of the Prophet (S), and Zubayr also being the cousin of Imam Ali (‘a), who even defended him during the plot in Saqifa and when Fatimah az-Zahra’’s (‘a) home was attacked. Hence, due to their fame and reputation, they were partly a threat. Even though they abstained from power during the rule of the first and second caliphate, they both were given a noticeable share of wealth and land, but also other forms of benefits. They did however not receive special ranks alongside the ruling elite.

When Imam Ali (‘a) accepted governorship, Talha and Zubayr believed that they had an opportunity and hoped that Imam Ali (‘a) would award them with high posts due to their reputation and prior positions. Imam Ali (‘a) on the other hand, did not have any intention to assign anything to someone who was not justified and who would govern based on favours and personal interests. This was derived from the view and power of Imam Ali (‘a); power was nothing but a means to be used to execute God’s law, and the ruler would be nothing but the servant of the people and the most vigilant of the well-being of people and development of society, in his view. This could be obtained through pious, righteous and just individuals who did not have any personal interests or greed for power but rather saw the positions of power as a heavy responsibility which they had to be accounted for before God.

It is narrated that Talha and Zubayr requested a meeting with the Imam (‘a). As they entered the humble residence of the Imam (‘a), he was seated and occupied with state affairs, Imam Ali (‘a) asked them to be seated. As the Imam (‘a) completed whatever occupied him, he put out the light only to light another. Talha and Zubayr were surprised and asked the Imam (‘a) of the reason behind this act. The Imam (‘a) explained that the first light was purchased with the money of Bayt Al-Mal (Treasury House) and used while he took care of state affairs, whilst the other light was purchased with his own livelihood and used when dealing with own personal errands. This was enough for Talha and Zubayr to realize that the Imam (‘a) would not accept their request about elevated posts or in any way allow them to continue to receive benefits of which they were not entitled to. The message had reached them, and so they chose to leave the Imam (‘a).

Talha and Zubayr then went alongside Aisha, daughter of Abu Bakr and the wife of the Prophet (S), and rose up against the governance of Imam Ali (‘a). They went against his rule despite them being among the first one to pledge oaths of allegiance to Imam Ali (‘a). The rebelling of Talha and Zubayr was therefore based on nothing but their own dissatisfaction in their greed not being answered. Therefore, they broke their oath and now had a reason to avenge the murder of Uthman.6

One War After Another

The Battle Of Jamal (36 Ah/656 Ad)

Talha and Zubayr left Mecca in secrecy and ventured towards Iraq, accompanied by Aisha. They proceeded towards Basra and gathered an army. Marwan Ibn Al-Hakim joined their travels and their slogan in avenging the blood of his murdered father-in-law Uthman, even though he had contributed both directly and indirectly to make it happen. Such by withholding messages sent to and from Uthman, convincing him to fight the rebels instead of keeping his promise to Imam Ali (‘a) and the people. And also, through his secret plots and correspondence with Mu’awiya.7 Now that he was not able to exploit Uthman alive, the death of Uthman was a good excuse to plot a war against Imam Ali (‘a). The Prophet (S) had said regarding Imam Ali (‘a): ‘The one who is at war with Ali is at war with me and the one who is at war with me is at war with God.’8

Talha and Zubayr were well-known companions to the Prophet (S), and they had now joined Aisha to avenge the death of Uthman. Those combined roles captured the people’s attention and so many decided on to follow along. Especially as rumours were spreading like wildfires and whoever had not witnessed the event themselves were easily deluded and so misguided and misinformed.

The state of things became increasingly turbid and worrisome even as the Imam (‘a) tried to remind Talha and Zubayr of their oaths9 and make them aware of the path they were headed towards was leading to no good. Eventually, the Imam (‘a) had to go head-to-head with their army on the outskirts of Basra. And as such the battle of Jamal (the camel) begun, led by Aisha, Talha, Zubayr and Marwan.

Did You Know?

In regards to the battle, Imam Ali (‘a) clarified a principle, one that till this day help people in distinguishing truth from falsehood. In the midst of the battle, the Imam (‘a) was asked a question by a person on how to know which side to be of truth. Imam Ali (‘a) was standing on one end and companions such as Talha, Zubayr and Aisha, the wife of the Prophet (S), on the other?

Imam Ali (‘a) then answered: ‘Get acquainted with haqq (truth and justice) then, you will know its companion.’

The Imam (‘a) – with this, provided a clear measurement of haqq, that is, the truth and what is right, should not be based on or identified by personalities, posts or various social statuses. This, due to the fact that people can make mistakes, be altered over time and during different circumstances. The words of the Imam (‘a) demonstrate that haqq is a clear line on which human actions ought to be measured. Therefore, the recognition of haqq should not be based on personalities and who acts, but instead, be distinguished based on the action actually performed and how much it complies with haqq. The implication of this would be to not take a stand based on the individuals involved in one event, on the contrary, to let the perceiving eye, observe what had actually happened and based on the actions and the course of the event, decide who is standing on the right and truthful side.

Imam Ali (‘a) tries to prevent war by all means possible

Imam Ali (‘a) had no intention of fighting and so urged the rioters for three days to turn and leave the battle. Right before the battle, Imam Ali (‘a) reminded Talha of The Prophet’s (S) sermon in Ghadir. Imam Ali (‘a) said to Talha:

“I ask you in the name of God! Did you not hear God messenger (S) in Ghadir when he said: ‘Whoever I am his leader, Ali is his leader. O’ God, love those who love him, and be hostile to those who are hostile to him.’”

Talha confirmed it to be true, whereupon Imam Ali (‘a) asked why they still wanted to fight him but received no reply.10

“Why then do you want to fight me?”

Imam Ali (‘a) reminded Talha and Zubayr of his right for the caliphate, the oath of allegiance pledged to him by the people and his innocence in Uthman’s murder. Talha and Zubayr were not even righteous avengers and had additionally opposed the Qur’an by bringing the wife of the Prophet (S) and make her a part of an uprising. Imam Ali (‘a) also sent a message with a letter to Aisha as a reminder. No minds were changed despite the efforts. Imam Ali (‘a) then sent representatives to negotiate with Talha, Zubayr and Aisha, but they could not come to an agreement. Even Muhammad, the son of Abu Bakr and the brother of Aisha, who was one of the companions of Imam Ali (‘a) took permission to speak with his sister. Imam Ali (‘a) allowed it, but even Muhammad Ibn Abu Bakr failed due to the impact of Abdullah Ibn Zubayr and Marwan Ibn Hakim.

Imam Ali (‘a) even spoke privately with Talha and Zubayr. Nonetheless, Talha refuted all attempts. Although when the Imam (‘a) reminded Zubayr of an event which had occurred between them and the Prophet (S), where the Prophet (S) had warned Zubayr of a day when he would stand against Imam Ali (‘a) and would be the wrong side, Zubayr decided on leaving the battle.

The Battle Begins

The first civil war between the Muslims was a given when Talha, Zubayr and Aisha’s army commenced the attack. They shot arrows toward Imam Ali’s (‘a) army and several Muslims were killed. The men of Imam Ali’s (‘a) army wanted to defend themselves but were stopped by Imam Ali (‘a), in order to attempt a final plead with the opposition to stop further bloodshed. A young man took it upon himself to embark on this endeavour; he was sent with The Holy Qur’an, to ask for a cease-fire. This unarmed emissary started reciting verses from The Holy Qur’an, and was killed by a rain of arrows. Imam Ali (‘a) then ordered his soldiers to initiate their attack; the battle had begun, and rigorous fighting surrounded the camel that was carrying Aisha, the camel was considered a banner for the opposition as well as a beacon and driving force for its soldiers. Imam Ali (‘a), being an Imam, sought after to save as many men as possible, he understood that the camel had to fall in order to stop the battle and the bloodshed.

The camel was finally struck down when the army of Imam Ali (‘a) advanced on the battlefield after a great deal of fighting. Consequently, it weakened the opposition’s motivation and their soldiers were fleeing the battlefield. Imam Ali (‘a) ordered his soldiers not to prevent the fleeing as wells as not to battle anyone who laid down their arms. The battle of Jamal had come to pass; it is considered to be the first battle amongst the Muslims with casualties amounting to thousands.

The Prophet’s (S) Advance Warnings

Aisha

The Prophet’s (S) Warning To Aisha About Going To War On A Red-Haired Camel Called Askar
It is said that when Aisha headed toward Basra to lead the battle against Imam Ali (‘a), a red-haired camel called Askar was bought to transport her specifically. When Aisha laid eyes on the camel, she immediately asked for its name; she was very surprised to find out that the camel's name was Askar. When she was asked about the matter, she said that the Prophet (S) had warned her about going to war on a red-haired camel called Askar. Abdullah Ibn Zubayr was Aisha’s nephew and was very close to her; he was the one most eager to wage war against Imam Ali (‘a). Abdullah had enticed his father Zubayr’s fighting spirit to battle, but he was well aware that the flame that had been lit would not burn as brightly without his aunt Aisha. Hence, he tried to convince Aisha that she was misinformed about the name of the camel and that it only came about through hearsay. To ensure her, Abdullah had the camel removed and changed its clothes in order for it to not be recognized by Aisha. He brought the camelback to her and told her that this was another one and that the first camel that was brought had been sold; eventually, Aisha was persuaded by her nephew to venture on and climbed onto the camel. 11

The Prophet’s (S) Warning About Dogs Barking As Aisha Passes Through An Area Called Haw’ab
En route to Basra, Aisha and her company passed an area where all of a sudden dogs started barking loudly. Aisha instantly asked about the name of the area, and when she found out it was called Haw’ab, she was shaken, she immediately wanted to turn back and return to Mecca. She was reminded of the hadith of the Prophet (S) regarding dogs of Haw’ab barking towards a group of people; he had warned Aisha to take heed of being a part of this group. But Abdullah Ibn Zubayr, who kept instigating the hostility toward Imam Ali (‘a) and had an immense influence on his father Zubayr and his aunt Aisha, quickly bribed 50 men to pledge to her that there had been a misunderstanding and that the area they were in was not Haw’ab at all. Aisha was convinced and changed her mind; they would continue their march toward Basra and the Battle of Jamal. 12

Throughout And After The Battle
Throughout the battle, Aisha was on her red-haired camel positioned on the battlefield, in order to implement the soldiers’ obedience and encourage them to fight for the Prophet’s (S) wife. The camel, therefore, functioned as a banner and as long as it stood upright, the battle would carry on. Imam Ali (‘a) consequently ordered his troops to aim their attacks toward the camel; in doing so, they would cut off the head of the opposition in the quickest way possible and avoid further bloodshed. When the camel fell, the army of the opposition dispersed, and the majority of the soldiers fled. Imam Ali (‘a) ordered his troops to leave the fleeing soldiers; the opposition had lost the Battle of Jamal.

After the battle, Imam Ali (‘a) sent the Prophet’s (S) wife back to her home in Medina escorted by 50 riders. When the entourage arrived in Medina, Imam Ali (‘a) was accused of having allowed men to escort the Prophet’s (S) wife, which was considered unlawful. The fifty riders had until then covered their faces and had orders from Imam Ali (‘a) to uncover them and identify themselves once this accusation would come to pass. It came as a great surprise once the riders uncovered their faces and verified that they were all women.13 This demonstrated once again the divine wisdom of Imam Ali (‘a) and the vast knowledge he had about the people he was dealing with. Imam Ali’s (‘a) opponents would take every chance they could to attack him, in any way possible. It became more obvious for people the animosity toward Imam Ali (‘a). Furthermore, another attempt to create disunion was averted, and the momentum and drive of those who would oppose Imam Ali (‘a) were exhausted.14

Zubayr – The Prophet’s (S) Warning To Zubayr Concerning One Day Standing Against Imam Ali (‘A)

It is said that the Prophet (S) one day met with Imam Ali (‘a) and Zubayr, and he observed how Zubayr expressed his devotedness toward Imam Ali (‘a). The Prophet (S) then asked Zubayr if he loved Imam Ali (‘a), whereupon Zubayr replied that he indeed loved Imam Ali (‘a) immensely. Then the Prophet (S) warned Zubayr:

“Indeed, you will fight against him whilst being an oppressor towards him.”

Before the Battle of Jamal, when both sides had formed their troops in lines, Imam Ali (‘a) spoke to the opposition himself – to the soldiers as well as their leaders. Imam Ali (‘a) exhausted all opportunities to try to avert a war that was based on self-interest, a war that would cause bloodshed and increase disunity and antagonism in their community. Several of the Prophet’s (S) loyal companions were on Imam Ali’s (‘a) side trying to remind the people of the Prophet’s (S) word and the call to truth. At the end, when the battle seemed inevitable, Imam Ali (‘a) made one last try and asked to speak to Zubayr alone. Imam Ali (‘a) met with Zubayr in the middle of the battlefield and reminded him of the meeting with the Prophet (S) and what the Prophet (S) had warned him about. To Zubayr, this was a reminder that yanked him out of deep sleep. He replied:

“By God, had I remembered this hadith, I would not have waged war against you.”15

After this had occurred, Zubayr went back to Talha and refused to participate anymore. No matter how much Talha or Abdullah, Zubayr’s son, tried to convince Zubayr to stay, there was no use. Abdullah even tried questioning his father’s courage and entice him to battle by accusing him of cowering away. Zubayr replied by riding toward Imam Ali’s (‘a) army seeming to attack. Imam Ali (‘a) who knew that Zubayr no longer had any intentions of fighting, ordered his troops to leave him be and not react. Through this act, Zubayr exhibited that it was not a matter of courage. Consequently, he left his army and rode off.

Zubayr’s destiny thereafter was a tragic story. After Zubayr rode off, he arrived at a pond where he stepped down from his horse to pray and rest. A man that recognized Zubayr, or in other depictions had followed him, aware of the battle taking place nearby attacked Zubayr and killed him. He then took Zubayr’s head and sword in a hurry to Imam Ali (‘a) in hopes of compensation. When Imam Ali (‘a) had heard about the matter, he repeated the Prophet’s (S) words: ‘Zubayr’s killer shall await his place in hell’. Imam Ali (‘a) showed his discontent about what had transpired with Zubayr, he then saw his sword and remembered Zubayr’s merits and his courage throughout the first battles in Islamic history by uttering the words: ‘How many times had this sword not cleared the sorrow of off the Prophet’s (S) face?’16

Talha

Talha was among the companions who were well-known during the Prophet’s (S) time for his accomplishments. After the Prophet (S) had passed away, Talha was actively participating in the expansion of the Islamic world during the time of the first and second caliphs. Later he was chosen by the second caliph to the council and contributed to the choosing of Uthman as the third caliph. Talha was one of the personalities that were not appointed any specific post in the government but instead received a part of the wealth that was handed out during Uthman’s time. Even so, it did not take long before discontent grew toward Uthman and his doings and soon Talha would be of those who intensely criticized the caliph. In the events during the siege of Uthman’s house, Talha himself had been of those who instigated the siege and prevented water from reaching him.

After the murder of Uthman, Talha and Zubayr were the first to hasten toward Imam Ali (‘a) to pledge an oath of allegiance to him hoping to obtain governmental positions. When Imam Ali (‘a) expressed that he would not bargain regarding the caliphate and had no interest in appointing people based upon their relationships or desires, Talha was quick to break his oath and instead claimed he wanted revenge for Uthman’s blood. Consequently, after these events, Talha became one of the three leaders of the opposing army in the Battle of Jamal, despite Imam Ali’s s (‘a) efforts to prevent war.

Toward the end of the battle; history depicts that when the camel’s army started to flee, Talha was shot with an arrow by Marwan Ibn Hakam, which led to Talha’s demise. It is narrated regarding this matter that Marwan had spoken about Talha’s aggression toward Uthman and after the Battle of Jamal, he said that he no longer needed to avenge Uthman’s blood.17

Marwan Ibn Hakam

After the defeat in the Battle of Jamal, Marwan fled directly to Mu’awiya in Sham in order to continue to devise plots against Imam Ali (‘a). Mu’awiya, who had been following the JamAl-plot from a distance, welcomed his old ally Marwan with open arms since he was in need of all the means he could gather against Imam Ali (‘a). Marwan’s refuge, along with revenge for Uthman’s blood, once again, would be used as motives to oppose Imam Ali’s (‘a) rule.

Mu’awiya

Even though Imam Ali (‘a) was the one who tried to help Uthman more than anyone else, Mu’awiya had not answered the call for help from Uthman, Mu’awiya accused Imam Ali (‘a) of the murder of Uthman. When the Battle of Jamal had not succeeded in accomplishing its objectives, Mu’awiya stepped forward and appointed himself to be the avenger of the murdered caliph. Mu’awiya displayed the bloody robe of Uthman on the pulpit in Sham’s great mosque. Prior to this event, misleading propaganda had been preached in the mosque for years. He was able to gather an army that would fight against Imam Ali (‘a).

Mu’awiya had been planning for many years to overtake the rule and was only waiting for Uthman to die to implement his plan. The murder of Uthman came to use, as he could now execute his plans sooner than expected. Imam Ali (‘a) wrote in a letter to Mu’awiya:

“As regards your prolonging the question of Uthman’s murder the position is that you helped Uthman when it was really your own help while you forsook him when he was in need of help.”18

Throughout the years Mu’awiya had ruled Sham, he proclaimed to be a good Muslim and an advocate of the religion. The people of Sham were neither of the companions of the Prophet (S) nor had they any contact with any of his companions; these companions were not allowed to leave Medina following the orders of the second caliph. Hence, Mu’awiya had introduced himself to the people of Sham as a close ally and devoted companion of the Prophet (S). Claiming to be a dedicated man toward Islam and the Muslims to the extent that he was known as ‘the believers’ uncle’, whilst many other companions who had a closer kinship to the Prophet (S) were barely recognized in Sham. Through his propaganda, Mu’awiya had twisted the Prophet’s (S) ahadith and ascribed the merits of Imam Ali (‘a), mostly, to the second caliph. Then, he altered the ahadith of the Prophet (S) which had warned about and damned the Umayyads.

In his rule, Mu’awiya highlighted people like Abu Hurayra with false accolades and narrations in order to benefit himself and Bani Ummaya. Abu Hurayra became a Muslim and resided in Medina only in the final years of the Prophet’s (S) life. Even so, his suggested ahadith were being spread in vast amounts compared to other companions who had spent far more time with the Prophet (S).19 At the same time, ahadith narrated by Imam Ali (‘a), who was the first to accept Islam and had followed the Prophet (S) since the beginning, were nearly non-existent. While other companions who addressed the position of the Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a) and specifically Imam Ali (‘a), were systematically opposed and punished. By means of threats, imprisonment or banishment, the companions of the Prophet (S) were silenced; in this manner, a new unaware generation had been created by Mu’awaiya. By implementing his impactful propaganda, Mu’awaiya was even able to make the people of Sham believe that Imam Ali (‘a), who was the closest companion to the Prophet (S) and chosen successor, did not perform prayer.

Mu’awiya had overshadowed Sham with what seemed to be Islam, but the real spirit of Islam was absent. What remained of Islam was an entirely hollow shell, consisting of religious acts without knowledge of their internal meaning or purpose. Even the title ‘Caliph of the Muslims’ had been altered to ‘God’s Caliph’ in order to justify the ruler’s decree, whether it was righteous or not. It reached the point where the caliph’s statements were being considered law, Mu’awiya even accomplished in changing the Friday prayer to Wednesdays without any objections.20

Did You Know?

Mu’awiya saw an opportunity to take control of the rule. Had Mu’awiya missed this opportunity, he would not be able to stand against Imam Ali (‘a) in any other way. It began with him being a part of the rule at the time of Omar, which led to him having even more power at the time of Uthman. Eventually, his ambitions were to take control of the rule. All future events and tragedies that transpired within Islam on behalf of the Ummayads were essentially due to the power and authority given to Mu’awiya by Omar and Uthman. Mu’awiya displayed the bloody clothes of Uthman on a pulpit in Damascus, in order to rally the people to avenge Uthman’s blood. Mu’awiya claimed that Imam Ali (‘a) was responsible for the murder of Uthman.

After The Battle Of Jamal

Imam Ali (‘a) went to Basra after the Battle of Jamal to speak to its people. Basra was known for being supportive of the army of Jamal, and many from the army had fled to Basra after the battle was over.21 Imam Ali (‘a) had no plans of pursuing or punishing the fleeing participants in the battle. Imam Ali (‘a) had stopped some of his followers from obtaining spoils of war and escorted Aisha back to Medina in a civil manner; he also forbade any retaliation toward the opposition in order to prevent further disunion amongst people.

During the month of Rajab, year 36 AH Imam Ali (‘a) went to Kufa and moved the headquarters and the capital of the rule from Medina to Kufa. The reasons for this move could have been many; Imam Ali (‘a) with his divine wisdom had concealed knowledge; the reasons for this move would be revealed in retrospect. Some of the contributing factors for this decision could have been Kufa’s central position in the Islamic state, as well as originally being a military city. The diversity of the people and the gathering of different families with prominent accolades were a factor, as well as the city’s distance to Sham.

The Battle Of Siffin (37 Ah/657 Ad)

The Battle of Siffin was the battle that was fought between Imam Ali (‘a) and Mu’awiya. Imam Ali (‘a) attempted to solve the conflict in a peaceful manner, but Mu’awiya clearly exhibited that he had no peaceful intentions. Imam Ali (‘a) concluded that the only way to stop Mu’awiya was through war; therefore, he marched without delay toward Mu’awiya’s army, and they faced each other in an area called Siffin.

When arriving in the area Mu’awiyah took control over all water sources nearby, the soldiers of Imam Ali’s (‘a) army who wanted to quench their thirst were killed when approaching any of the water sources. Imam Ali (‘a) then ordered a troop to commence an attack in order to clear a pathway to the water sources, after the successful attack, they were able to secure the water sources for themselves. They had the advantage, and some among the army of Imam Ali (‘a) suggested that they return the favour, cut off the water from the army of Mu’awiya and weaken them. Imam Ali (‘a) refused to do so and explained that water is God’s blessing that all people have a right to, regardless of who they are. Imam Ali (‘a) sent the person who had suggested this act to Mu’awiya’s camp, to inform them that the path to the water sources was open for them.22

This occurrence and Imam Ali’s (‘a) approach sheds light on at least three significant aspects of his mission: to demonstrate Islamic morals, his stand as a role model for mankind and his educative role for his followers. On this occasion, Imam Ali (‘a) displayed divine values and their advocated methods as well as their practical implementation. Imam Ali (‘a) clearly separated the Islam upheld by the Ahl Al-Bayt (‘a) and the false Islam that had come to exist, which had to be fought. Through his actions, the Imam (‘a) showed that the divine path of haqq (right and truth) which he fought for had the highest of moral values, which intends to nurture and elevate mankind’s spiritual growth, even in situations such as confronting enemies.

The battles fought at Siffin were limited in the beginning, going into the month of Muharram, which is one of four months when fighting is forbidden. Imam Ali (‘a) tried to avoid any confrontations; his intentions were to spare the blood of the Muslims and sent several emissaries to Mu’awiya. Imam Ali (‘a) proclaimed that he would punish the murderers of Uthman if Mu’awiya could point them out, stripping Mu’awiya of his false claims of him avenging the blood of Uthman. Mu’awiya saw revenge for Uthman’s blood as his best chance to obtain the rule and power. He continued rallying and accusing Imam Ali (‘a) of everything that had befallen their society.

The fighting continued in the month of Safar, and for a whole week, there were intense daylong fighting. The second week Imam Ali (‘a) himself came to the battlefield, after several duels where he defeated his opponents there was none left willing to face him. The number of deaths increased each day, especially in Mu’awiya’s ranks. But Imam Ali (‘a) had also lost several of the Prophet’s (S) great companions, such as Ammar Ibn Yasir (r.a.).

The Prophet’s (S) Prediction That Ammar (R.A.) Would Be Killed By Enemies Of Islam

The Prophet (S) had a well-known saying: ‘Ammar (r.a.) you will be killed by a group of transgressors.’23 Ammar (r.a.) had at the beginning of the battle addressed the enemy and referred to the Holy Qur’an, the Prophet’s (S) sayings and Imam Ali’s (‘a) right. When Ammar (r.a.) was martyred, there was a lot of commotion amongst the ranks of Mu’awiya’s army, for they remembered the hadith of the Prophet (S) regarding Ammar’s death. To save face Mu’awiya, who was a master of deception, gathered his shaken army and claimed that Imam Ali (‘a) was to blame for the death of Ammar (r.a.). Imam Ali (‘a) was the one who had allowed Ammar (r.a.) to follow him and fight by his side.

But Imam Ali (‘a), whose wisdom originated from divine light, countered and destroyed Mu’aiya’s argument with a simple notion. Imam Ali (‘a) stated that if so, then Hamza (‘a), who fought for the Prophet (S), was also killed because of the Prophet (S). This statement could not be accepted by those with any kind of common sense. Once again, it was confirmed that Mu’awiya through deception would distort reality as he wished, in order to deceive people.

Imam Ali’s (‘A) Army Approaching Victory

The same day Malik Al-Ashtar (r.a.), Imam Ali’s (‘a) army’s commander, attacked the enemy fiercely and victory was within reach. Soon Malik Al-Ashtar (r.a.) and his troops were near the tent of Mu’awiya, his army had scattered and the end was near. ‘Amr Ibn Al-’As, Mu’awiya’s right hand who was infamously known for his canniness, proposed that Mu’awiya would raise several Qur’ans on spears and ask that the Qur’an would arbitrate and decide between the two sides. Both ‘Amr Ibn Al-’As and Mu’awiya knew that defeating Imam Ali’s (‘a) army through fighting was impossible and that their only chance would be to weaken them through disunity. Mu’awiya’s spies had reported that not everyone in Imam Ali’s (‘a) army saw him as an Imam, some had their own motives for fighting, some were weary of the long-lasting battles and morale had weakened. Not everyone amid Imam Ali’s (‘a) army were steadfast followers. Consequently, when they saw The Holy Qur’an, on spears along with the utterance of a few well-chosen slogans, some of the soldiers in Imam Ali’s (‘a) were confused. While others took the opportunity to fall back and stop their attacks, it eventually shook the army of Imam Ali (‘a). Therefore, those who had been deceived by the trick were now opposing the steadfast in Imam Ali’s (‘a) army.

Mu’awiya had his remaining soldiers raise The Holy Qur’an, on spears and saying: ‘O people of Iraq, we call you towards the Qur’an, and we decide by virtue of what is contained in it’, while others were saying: ‘O Arabs; think of women and daughters if you perish who will fight tomorrow against the Romans, the Turks and the Persians?’ Several of Imam Ali’s (‘a) soldiers fell for the trick, among them the well-known Ash’ath Al-Kindi who was already leaning toward stopping the fighting and refused to attack the tent of Mu’awiya. As much as Malik Al-Ashtar (r.a.) tried reminding the deceived soldiers that it was not the first time Mu’awiya and ‘Amr Ibn Al-’As employed such devious schemes to save themselves from a crisis, there was no use.

As a result, a part of the troop carried on with Malik Al-Ashtar (r.a.), and another part was on their way to Imam Ali (‘a) to make him change his orders. Imam Ali (‘a) went out to the battlefield and urged the army to keep fighting and to ignore Mu’awiya’s false deception. The group of reluctant soldiers being led by Ash’ath refused to abide Imam Ali’s (‘a) orders and kept insisting on their demands. Their objections and protests shook the army and splintered the opinions of the soldiers until the majority of the army became hesitant to fight. In addition, they even threatened to kill Imam Ali (‘a) if he did not instantly send orders to Malik Al-Ashtar (r.a.) to call off the attack. Mu’awiya’s treacherous arrow had reached its mark and the army of Imam Ali (‘a) was torn apart. Imam Ali (‘a) knew that if they continued to battle with a feeble army, it would only cost lives; therefore, he had no choice but to give in to their request. Imam Ali (‘a) ordered Malik Al-Ashtar (r.a.) to fall back when he was only steps away from Mu’awiya’s tent.

The battle was over. On Mu’awiya’s demand and through Ah’asth’s protest, it was decided that a representative from both sides would act as judges and determine the outcome through arbitration. The judges would confer among themselves and reach a common and final verdict regarding the caliphate. Imam Ali (‘a), who was well aware of Mu’awiya’s intentions and canniness, appointed Abdullah Ibn Abbas or Malik Al-Ashtar (r.a.) as representatives. Yet again another group, led by Ash’ath Al-Kindi, objected and insisted that Abu Musa Ash’ari would be sent instead. While Mu’awiya appointed ‘Amr Ibn Al-’As as his representative – ‘Amr Ibn Al-’As was well known as a “mastermind” for his abilities to lure his enemies. Imam Ali (‘a) who knew that Abu Musa Ash’ari lacked the foresight to be able to perceive ‘Amr Ibn Al-’As tricks and handle him, tried waking this group out of their daze. Once more, they refused to heed Imam Ali’s (‘a) words and forced their will upon him.24

The Arbitrations Decision

Abu Musa Ash’ari and ‘Amr Ibn Al-’As met with each other to reach an agreement and a final verdict during the month of Ramadan, the year 37 AH. Imam Ali (‘a) sent several people with Abu Musa, among them Abdullah Ibn Abbas, before the meeting. They warned Abu Musa about what ‘Amr Ibn Al-’As could conjure up and emphasized that he had to be wary of ‘Amr Ibn Al-’As deceitful tricks, especially when the whole Islamic community’s fate would be affected by hakamiyya (arbitration).

During their meeting, ‘Amr Ibn Al-’As and Abu musa conferred about the caliphate and who would be appointed caliph. Since Mu’awiya opposed Imam Ali’s (‘a) caliphate and had already appointed himself as caliph, they were unable to reach an agreement. Finally, ‘Amr Ibn Al-’As suggested that both Imam Ali (‘a) and Mu’awiya be dismissed of the appointment as caliph and to choose someone else through a council. In a witty manner, ‘Amr Ibn Al-’As stressed that out of respect for Abu Musa’s position and age, he should be first to stand on the pulpit and dismiss Imam Ali (‘a) in public. That ‘Amr Ibn Al-’As would stand on it after him; Abu Musa was persuaded to do so. Abu Musa climbed the pulpit and declared that an agreement had been reached; he stated that Imam Ali (‘a) was to be dismissed and took his ring off of his finger as a gesture of breaking allegiance to Imam Ali (‘a). ‘Amr Ibn Al-’As whose plan was being implemented accordingly climbed the pulpit. ‘Amr Ibn Al-’As stated that Abu Musa took his ring off of his finger to break allegiance to his caliph; ‘Amr Ibn Al-’As kept his ring on his finger and appointed Mu’awiya as caliph. Everyone was stunned, and Abu Musa shocked, just then had he realized that he had been deceived and objected loudly. Others attending realized that their fears had come to pass, ‘Amr Ibn Al-’As took advantage of Abu Musa’s lack of foresight and deceived him. Chaotic scenes played out, the hakamiyya (arbitration) was a disappointment, seeing that after several months of patience the army of Imam Ali (‘a) would never face Mu’awiya again. Mu’awiya was able to avert a certain loss at the Battle of Siffin through treachery and deceit.

Mu’awiya could have been defeated, and divine light could have been spread through Imam Ali’s (‘a) rule. Instead, the Battle of Siffin leads to military and moral defeat as well as the birth of the group referred to as khwarij. 25

The Battle Of Nahrawan (Year 38 Ah/ 658 Ad)

The Battle of Nahrawan took place in the year 38 AH, the 9th day of the month Safar. Imam Ali (‘a) would then face the khawarij. 26 After the end of the Battle of Siffin and when the army of Imam Ali (‘a) was near Kufa, a group averted from the army and set up camp in a village. They preached that all Muslims were alike and that none could rule over the other. Imam Ali (‘a) sent some of his reliable companions first and then went over there himself, in order to clarify the misconception of their slogan ‘no rule except God’s’, they were preaching. Imam Ali (‘a) clarified that his having to accept the agreement in Siffin was mainly due to their objections and reluctance to fight, that he did not go against the teachings of The Holy Qur’an, since his decision was based upon saving lives. He explained that it was the only choice; otherwise, their army would have weakened further and could have unexpectedly been attacked by Mu’awiya. Imam Ali (‘a) reminded them that in fact, it was they who had broken their bay’a (oath of allegiance) to him by laying down their arms, refusing to fight and threatening him to order Malik Al-Ashtar (r.a.), who was close to victory, to fall back. As well as, they insisted upon sending Abu Musa Ash’ari as a representative to the hakamiyya (arbitration).

The Kharijites could not deny that they were the reason for failure, and they had sinned, but they declared that they had repented and suggested that Imam Ali (‘a) do the same. In other words, once again, they wanted to force their will and judgment upon Imam Ali (‘a). The Imam (‘a) replied that he was faithful and had no reason to repent since no sin was committed on his behalf. The Kharijites refused to accept this and awaited the verdict of the arbitration.

The Reaction To The Verdict Of The Arbitration And Rebellion Of The Kharijites

The hakamiyya (arbitration) was neither based upon The Holy Qur’an, nor the sunnah, Imam Ali (‘a) decided, therefore, to fight Mu’awiya in order to stop his rampage and called upon the Kharijites to do battle. But they claimed that Imam Ali (‘a) had become an apostate of the religion when he agreed upon the arbitration in Siffin, furthermore, they demanded he should repent becoming a Muslim again. Imam Ali (‘a) understood from their demands that their insubordination and misdirection had reached grave limits; to expect anything fruitful from them was now pointless. Still, Mu’awiya was the impending threat toward society and had to be faced.

Imam Ali (‘a) had embarked on his journey toward Mu’awiya when news of the Kharijites reached him. They had revolted in Nahrawan and killed its governor and his pregnant wife in a brutal manner. The Kharijites with their harsh views and narrow-minded unreasonableness had transformed into an extremist group, which was a real threat to society and Islam. When Imam Ali (‘a) sent a messenger to them to assess the situation, they replied by killing him as well as other people nearby. Anyone that did not agree to their version of Islam or resisted were killed, in the most brutal ways until then unheard of. They refused to reason with anyone and did not shy away from any methods to enforce their beliefs upon others. Imam Ali (‘a) with the attributes of an Imam and guardian of the society could not allow the Kharijites’ mischief since they started harming people. Therefore, Imam Ali (‘a) and his army changed direction and set out to Nahrawan instead.

Imam Ali (‘a) wanted to avoid any bloodshed, so he sent Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari who would give the Kharijites two choices: Either join the army of Imam Ali (‘a) once again or disband the Kharijites. Imam Ali (‘a) made it clear that he had no intention of persecuting those who would refrain from their deeds and brutal killings. As before, Imam Ali (‘a) was keen to avoid a fight by any possible means necessary and was adamant that his army would not initiate battle. Imam Ali’s (‘a) methods had many hundreds of the Kharijites reconsider; as a result, many of them left the extremist group. The remaining two or three thousand Kharijites attacked Imam Ali’s (‘a) army high-spirited, but they had no chance in battle. Many Kharijites were killed and some wounded, they were handed over to their families. Only nine Kharijites managed to flee.27

These nine would continue spreading the poisonous ideas of the Kharijites. Traces of their bigotry, injustice, brutality and literal interpretations have lived on in different extremist groups throughout history.

Loneliness And Lack Of Loyal Companions

After defeating the Kharijites' attempt of disunity in Nahrawan, Imam Ali (‘a) resumed the march toward Sham. But his commanders in the army requested that the men would get some rest, prior to the long journey ahead. The army set up camp outside Kufa, and the soldiers were allowed a leave of absence for a day. The following day, barely any men had returned and the situation was so severe that Imam Ali (‘a) had to address the people of Kufa. Even though all that had befallen the people was because of Mu’awiya’s conspiracy and even though Imam Ali (‘a) was still their caliph and an oath of allegiance was sworn to him, no one would heed his call. The Imam (‘a) tried to emphasize the impending dangers if Mu’awiya was not faced once and for all, but no one would heed his call. The Imam (‘a) tried reasoning with them and reminded them of past occurrences, and he stated that if Mu’awiya was given leeway, he would not satisfy himself with Sham but spread his corruption across the whole Islamic state. The Imam (‘a) kept on speaking; still, no one would heed his call. At last, Imam Ali (‘a) went away in disappointment and the battle preparations for Sham were abandoned never to be resumed again. Imam Ali (‘a) described the occasion as follows:

“How strange! How strange! By God, my heart sinks to see the unity of these people on their wrong and your dispersion from your right. Woe and grief befall you. You have become the target at which arrows are shot. You are being killed and you do not kill. You are being attacked, but you do not attack. God is being disobeyed and you remain agreeable to it. When I ask you to move against them in summer, you say it is hot weather. Spare us till the heat subsides from us. When I order you to march in winter you say it is severely cold; give us time till cold clears from us. These are just excuses for evading heat and cold because if you run away from heat and cold, you would be, by God, running away (to a greater degree) from sword [war]. O you in appearance [brave] men but [in reality] not [brave] men, your intelligence is that of children and your wit is that of the occupants of the curtained canopies (women kept in seclusion from the outside world). I wish I had not seen you nor known you. By God, this acquaintance has brought about shame and resulted in repentance. May God fight you! You have filled my heart with pus and loaded my chest with rage. You made me drink a mouthful of grief one after the other. You shattered my counsel by disobeying and leaving me so much so that Quraysh started saying that the son of Abi Talib is brave but does not know (tactics of) war. God bless them! Is anyone of them fiercer in war and older in it than I am? I rose for it although yet within the twenties, and here I am, have crossed over sixty, but one who is not obeyed can have no opinion.”28

Imam Ali’s (‘A) Martyrdom (21st Of The Month Of Ramadan, Year 40 AH/ 622 AD)

Finally, Imam Ali (‘a) was martyred on the 21st of the month of Ramadan. As a result of being struck by a poisonous-coated sword on the head during his morning prayer at the mosque of Kufa on the 19th of the month of Ramadan.

Before dawn on the 19th of the month Ramadan, Imam Ali (‘a) walked slowly toward the mosque to lead the Morning Prayer like any other day; but this day was unlike any other day! When it was time for the Morning Prayer to be performed, Imam Ali (‘a) prepared for the meeting with his beloved Lord. He called out the azan (call to prayer) and stood on his mihrab (place of prayer). Ibn Muljim29 stood behind Imam Ali (‘a) in the prayer formation. Imam Ali (‘a) began the prayer. When he reached sojood (placing your forehead onto the earth before God – one of the essentials of prayer), Ibn Muljim drew his poison-coated sword and with a powerful strike hit the head of Imam Ali (‘a). The Imam’s (‘a) cry echoes between heaven and earth. He said:

“By the Lord of the Ka’ba, I am successful!”30

Imam Ali (‘a), the greatest combatant without equal, was carried home on the shoulders of Imam Al-Hasan (‘a) and Imam Al-Husayn (‘a). Imam Ali’s (‘a) companions caught the assailant and brought him to the Imam (‘a). When he saw that his attacker was in agony due to the ropes being too tight around his hands, Imam Ali (‘a) immediately asked his son Imam Al-Hasan (‘a) to loosen the ropes and not to allow any harm come to Ibn Muljim. Imam Ali (‘a) also commanded that Ibn Muljim be served the same food being served to the Imam (‘a).

Imam Ali’s (‘a) wound was deep, and his condition was worsening due to the poison that Ibn Muljim had been soaking his sword in for several days. A physician was brought to assess and remedy Imam Ali’s s (‘a) wound, but when the physician saw the deep wound and the effect of the poison, there was nothing left to do. He advised Imam Ali (‘a) to drink milk in order to suppress the effect of the poison possibly.

Soon enough, word spread about the ordeal. The poor and the orphans discovered the identity of the man who brought them food every night and listened to their grief. Imam Ali (‘a) had for several years wandering through the streets of the city, handing out food and helping the needy in the community which had none to turn to except God. Doing this without ever revealing his true identity, but since the man had not been around for a few nights, people started to realize who he was. The orphans acquired milk, hoping it would help Amir Al-mo’menin (Imam Ali (‘a)), who for years had filled the void of a loving father in their lives. But the damage that the people had brought about onto themselves through their ignorance and stubbornness could not be undone, consequently losing the Imam of their time.

Imam Ali (‘a) called upon his family and declared to them his will. It was stated that Imam Al-Hasan (‘a) would be the succeeding Imam and Imam Al-Husayn (‘a) would succeed Imam Al-Hasan (‘a), as proclaimed through the Prophet (S) by God’s commands. Imam Ali (‘a) asked Imam Al-Hasan (‘a) to keep an eye on Ibn Muljim, so he would not be harmed or mistreated by the heated people’s retaliation. Imam Ali (‘a) stated that if he were to survive, he himself would decide whether to forgive Ibn Muljim or to punish him. He also stated that if he were to die, Ibn Muljim should only be struck with a sword in the same manner he struck Imam Ali (‘a) and nothing else! The Imam (‘a) instructed that if Ibn Muljim were to die, his body should not be defiled and his properties should not be destroyed as well as his family should not be persecuted. Imam Ali’s (‘a) God-fearing person, his justice, his mercifulness and greatness reached the level of being reflected upon his killer. During his last moments, Imam Ali (‘a) was keen on his killer being treated fairly. Even in his difficult state where he was in and out of consciousness, he was still concerned for the wellbeing of Ibn Muljim. It would not be mind-boggling to believe that if Imam Ali (‘a) had survived, he might have forgiven Ibn Muljim. This was the character of Amir Al-mo’menin, the Master of the faithful, the one chosen by God!

It was time for Imam Ali (‘a) to be reunited with his beloved brother in faith, the Prophet (S). To reunite with his beloved wife, the mistress of the women of paradise, Fatimah az-Zahra’ (‘a). On the 21st of the month of Ramadan, two days after the attack, Imam Ali’s (‘a) blessed soul left his body, and he was martyred at the age of 63.

R1. Preparing For The Final Imam (‘A) – To Tolerate A Just Imam (‘A) In Power

Imam Ali’s (‘a) rule lasted for a total of four years and a couple of months, between the years 35 and 40 AH. These five years depicted a palpable example of how a just rule, led by a divinely chosen Imam would look like. Imam Ali’s (‘a) rule, his leadership, his approach and the principles he upheld were in accordance with the Prophet’s (S) guidelines. All of this led to the practical implementation of genuine Islamic governance, where corruption and injustice were fought and had no position. Imam Ali’s (‘a) way of life and actions spoke for themselves. Nonetheless, a saying of Imam Ali (‘a) illustrates his views on governance:

“Was I given all seven heavens with all that they contain in order that I may disobey God by depriving an ant of the husk of a grain of barley, I would not do it.”31

During Imam Ali’s (‘a) rule, everyone was treated equally, regardless of being Arab or non-Arab, skin colour, kinship or wealth. They were all equal before the law and treated justly. It did not matter which family once belonged to, and the relationship one had to the Imam (‘a) nor political views. The right was right, and people were treated as such. History is a witness of Imam Ali (‘a) constantly aligning himself with truth and justice.

A Few Aspects Of The Imam’s (‘A) Justice

Right People In The Right Position – Skill-Based Recruitment And Carefully Following Up

The main principle of Imam Ali’s (‘a) rule was to appoint the right person for the right position, based on skills. Especially when selecting statesmen, regents and other positions of authority. It was this principle which made Imam Ali (‘a) remove regents that spread corruption and oppression; these were appointed by earlier caliphs and had received their posts because of kinship and not merit. Imam Ali (‘a) was careful with the choosing of his regents, as well as with those who would remain in their positions. Complaints against regents from the people were investigated instantly and followed up; the Imam (‘a) also demanded that his regents be close at hand to the people to attend to their concerns. The Imam (‘a) kept a close eye over those who were entrusted with governmental duties and regularly supervised their work in order to counteract corruption. Essentially, authority and rule were only a means for serving God and aiding His servants; which was clearly reflected in the Imam’s (‘a) actions.

The Imam’s (‘a) justice was palpable to common people when it came to Bayt Al-Mal (Treasury House), and the distribution of wealth. When the Imam (‘a) took over the rule, one of his first actions was to stop the wrong and unjust privileges that had been ascribed to certain people. The Imam (‘a) also dismissed unjustly appointed people in positions of power who were incompetent. At the same time, he declared that unjustly allotted wealth and land would be reclaimed. Even though this would bring about displeasure and animosity among those who were affected negatively, he was advised to not go through with it. Still, the Imam’s (‘a) resolve in the matter remained unaffected. In summary:

Regents And Governors

• The appointment of regents during Imam Ali’s (‘a) rule was based upon piety and competence; never based on kinship or associations32

• They were instantly dismissed if there was any corruption33

• Were seriously warned when making mistakes

• Were forbidden to participate in exclusive invitations or events where people were treated unfairly and unequally, for instance where poor people were unwelcomed34

Bayt Al-Mal (Treasury House) And Governmental Properties – Fair Distribution And Management With Great Care

• Thorough supervision regarding Bayt Al-Mal (Treasury House) and opposing economic violations firmly

• Imam Ali (‘a) distributed the wealth from Bayt Al-Mal (Treasury House) according to the Prophet’s (S) sunnah and gave equal shares to everyone, regardless of the recipient – no matter the family nor tribe, social class nor political views35

• Imam Ali (‘a) was meticulous to the point that he would put out the candle lights which had been purchased with taxing funds when someone visited him for private purposes and lit his candle lights purchased with his own money36

Equal Before The Law

• There were no special privileges given in Imam Ali’s (‘a) rule; everyone was equal before the law. Therefore, it did not matter if a person was of Imam Ali’s (‘a) Shi’a or not. People were treated equally, judged unbiased and punished according to their crimes.37

• This included the Imam (‘a) himself even though he was caliph and the leader of the rule, as well as being a ma’soom and an infallible Imam.38

‘Brothers In Faith Or Equals In Humanity.’

• When Imam Ali (‘a) appointed Malik Al-Ashtar (r.a.) as governor of Egypt, he gave him a letter of advice and guidelines. In this letter the Imam (‘a) stated that Malik Al-Ashtar (r.a.) should go about his job on the following basis: “People are of two kinds; either your brother in faith or equal in humanity”.39 It could be stated that this sentence reflects the Imam’s (‘a) views and principles, which shaped his way of treating people and ruling.40

The Regent Of The People Is Also The Servant Of The People

• Imam Ali’s (‘a) lifestyle was like the lifestyle of the poorest in the community41

• Imam Ali (‘a) saw ruling only as a tool for carrying out the duty that God appointed man; to support the oppressed and stand against the oppressor

• To Imam Ali (‘a) ruling was not of value, only if used for the right cause 42

• Imam Ali (‘a) was an Imam, which was far greater than a caliph whose only function was to overlook the community’s political and economic matters and a tender father who cared for people as if they were his own children. Imam Ali (‘a) held himself accountable and responsible regarding his authority over people.

Tolerating The Imam’s (‘Aj) Justice

Would I Accept Justice For Everyone?

The concept of justice according to Imam Ali’s s (‘a) definition is to “give each thing/person its right” or in other words to “place each thing in its rightful place”.43 There are essential differences between his meaning and the “equality” preached on many occasions in modern times. To think that equality could be literally interpreted as “the same amount to everyone” without regarding existing circumstances and privileges in some aspects, could be an injustice in itself. For instance, it is unjust that two people who work under the exact same conditions and with equal abilities are paid an equal amount of money; while one of them works harder than the other. Furthermore, it is unjust to demand the same results from two people with different qualifications, opportunities, resources and circumstances as well as there are differences which are insignificant to the matter. As an example, men and women are alike in their humanity and from this point of view equals before the law and holy prescripts regarding human aspects. From another point of view, men and women have different physical and emotional qualities as well as other natural differences. These traits, in turn, become key factors that ascribe men and women to different circumstances, needs, strengths and weaknesses, which complement one another. Based on the given definition of justice, the outcome depends on the matter at hand, and which aspects are concerned.

The concept of justice is an essential human need and a necessary requirement for societies and mankind’s growth and prosperity. Justice has been a common slogan among politicians and freedom fighters, and the foremost demand by people who want a better society. Justice has been scarce throughout history with the exception of a few glimpses and instances in short periods of time and to a limited extent. Even in modern times, justice is forsaken and highly demanded, but is it desired in its true form as many thinks? Have we lived in a manner that would allow us to accept true justice, at the expense of our own interests? Would we tolerate the justice we are calling for?

While the fight for justice is coveted; it is essential to nature is often neglected by many. Obviously, if true justice were to be implemented, it would affect everyone indiscriminately. This demands both individual and societal preparations, to be able to tolerate and accept a justice that could impact their own self-interest. Furthermore, the aim should not only be to accept such a justice but to live by it as well.

The question that should be asked to oneself is: Would I accept not receiving any special benefits and be treated equally before the law? What if I had a position of power? Would I be able to handle being just toward those closest to me, even if it were not to my own benefit? Would I be able to give up certain benefits? These are questions that need truthful answers by individuals and society as a whole.

In relation to the final Imam (‘aj) who would implement justice in its true form, the question is: Would I still follow the Imam (‘aj) if justice required the discharge of self-interest? For instance, would I accept him removing me from a post, not choosing me for certain assignments or even punishing me for committing a crime?

True justice impacts the whole of society, and eventually oneself, in the same manner, the rule of Imam Ali (‘a) was a manifestation of justice. Even though his rule was brief and opposed, it is a shining example that illustrates the difficulties that befall the leader, individuals and the different factions of society. Nonetheless, this era could function as a guideline to how different people reacted to true justice; different people in the sense of their authority, merits and capabilities. To create a foundation for everyone demanding justice today, to know what needs to be highlighted beforehand and work to make way for this justice to spread. It is time we examine our inner self, to know where we stand. Ask yourself: are there any traces of injustice within me? Am I a person who would discriminate against others and would I want special treatment for myself? Am I a person who could take advantage of riches and positions of power to my benefit? If yes, how can I get rid of this and open up the pathway for myself and society?

  • 1. Sermon 15 and 16 are among the Imam’s (‘a) first statements following the oath of allegiance in which he clarifies his position. These sermons can be found in the book Nahjul Balagha - sermon 1–30 (2012); Swedish translation published by Den Väntades Vänner; alternatively, online at http://dvv.se/bok/Nahj1-30/. Online in English and Arabic at: https://www.al-islam.org/nahjul-balagha-part-1-sermons
  • 2. The collection of the Imam’s (‘a) words in Nahjul Balagha and his procedure throughout history makes clear the Imam’s (‘a) line and integrity, especially in matters pertaining to the rights of God, people and society. In many cases, prominent personalities such as Ibn Abbas, the Prophet’s (S) and Imam’s (‘a) cousin and companions, and one of the foremost narrators accepted and respected by the Sunni and Shi’a, out of benevolence asked the Imam (‘a) to overlook and close some things to avoid the consequences. This included allowing Mu’awiya to retain his position as regent in order to avoid his reaction and the turbulence he would create through his propaganda and the fact that he had the Sham people under control. But the Imam (‘a) who, as Imam, is linked to the divine source of knowledge and knew everything better than anyone else, refused to fail in such situations at the expense of haqq (right and truth) and the right of God and man. This goes for example back to the position of Imamah as an infallible divine chosen leadership and the principle that the goals do not sanctify the funds. The Imam’s (‘a) opinion is narrated, among other things in Tarikh Tabari volume 5 p. 160–161 and Morooj ath- Thahab by Mas’oodi (published 1409 AD) p. 364–365 and others.
  • 3. Imam Ali (‘a) refers to the three groups of Nakethin (The Oathbreakers), Qasetin (The Evil Oppressors) and Mareqin (The secreted) who came to revolt under the caliphate of the Imam (‘a) and whom the Prophet (S) had mentioned, among others in Sermon Ghadir. Parts of this sermon have appeared earlier in the book in connection with the Prophet’s (S) last pilgrimage; see I3.
  • 4. Sermon Shaqshaqiyya, 3, Nahjul Balagha. Online in English and Arabic at: https://www.al-islam.org/nahjul-balagha-part-1-sermons
  • 5. Imam Ali (‘a) refers to Mu’awiya’s roll in the uproar leading to the murder of Uthman, in his letters addressing Mu’awiyas accusations. Among them, in letter 28 in Nahjul Balagha, Imam Ali (‘a) sheds light on Mu’awiya’s role with striking words, solid reasoning pointing at the concealed hands behind the murder of Uthman.
  • 6. These events are narrated in detail in historical accounts and are mentioned in several of the Imam’s (‘a) sermons in Nahjul Balagha, among them in sermon 8, 6, 9 and 13. Online in English and Arabic at: https://www.al-islam.org/nahjul-balagha-part-1-sermons
  • 7. Marwan, in regards of being the third closest to the caliph, the writer of the caliph’s decree and his son-in-law – had insights and major control of everything regarding the caliph and ahis surroundings. In historical accounts, many letters and actions by Marwan are noted, as well as his advices to the caliph, all of which essentially were the reasons to cause the uproar the leading to the murder of Uthman. This is narrated, among others, in Al-Isaba of Ibn Hijr Al-Asqalani (published 1415 AH) volume 6 p. 204; Al-Imama wa as- Siyasa by Ibn Qutayba a-Daynoori (published 1410 AH) volume 1 p.78-79 et al.
  • 8. This hadith and many more with the same meaning are found narrated in both Sunni and Shi’a sources, both specific in regards to Imam Ali (‘a) and Ahl Al-Bait (‘a), in Sunan Ibn Maja volume 1 p 166; Al- Mustadrak’ ala as-Sahihayn volume 3 p 149; Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal volume 2 p 442; Sahih Ibn Habban volume 15 p 434; Mu’jam Awsatby Tabarani volume 5 p 182; Mu’jam Kabir by Tabarani volume 3 p 40; Asad Al- Ghaba by Ibn Athir volume 4 p 522; Al-Bidaya wa an-Nihaya by Ibn Kathir volume 8 p 40; Ahkam Al-Qoran by Jassas volume 2 p. 508; also Bihar Al-Anwar volume 36 p. 346 hadith 213; Sermon Ghadir et al.
  • 9. Several of the speeches and letters of the Imam (‘a) touches on this in sermon 8, 22 and 30 et al.
  • 10. Elaborate narrations on the course of events, conversations and letters on the battle of Jamal are well listed and narrated in the majority of historical sources in connection with the narration of this battle. Some of these sources are Mustadrak Al- Hakim volume 3 p 169 and 371; Murooj ath-Thahib by Mas’oodi volume 4 p 321; Majma’ as-Zawa’id volume 9 p 107 et al.
  • 11. Narrated in different historic narrations, such as Sharh Nahjul Balagha by Ibn Abil Hadid volume 3 p.239.
  • 12. This occurrence is well known and has been narrated in different historic narrations and other sources, such as Musnad Ahmed Ibn Hanbal volume 6 p.52; Al-Imama wa as-Siyasa (published 1410 AH.) volume 1 p.82; Jomal men Ansab wa Al-Ashraf by Bilathari volume 3 p.24; Al-Kamil fi at-Taikh by Ibn Athir volume 3 p.103; Al-Mahasen wa Al-Masawe’ by Beyhaqi (published 1420 AH.) p.43; Al-Kitab Al-Musannaf fi Al-Ahadith wa Al-Athar (published 1409 AH.) volume 7 p.536; Al-Mustadrak ‘ala as-Sahihayn by Hakim Neyshaboori (published 1411 AH.) volume 3 p.129; Musnad Ibn Ya’li (published 1404 AH.) volume 8 p.282; Musnad Ishaq Ibn Rahooye Handhali (published 1412 AH.) volume 3 p.891; Al-Bidaya wa an-Nihaya (published 1398 AH.) volume 6 p.212; Majma’ az-Zawaed wa Manba’ Al-Fawaed (published 1407 AH.) volume 7 p.234; Fath Al-Bari by Ibn Hijr ‘Asqalani volume 13 p.55, et al.
  • 13. Narrated in different historic narrations in relation to the events that transpired during the Battle of Jamal, such as Morooj ath-Thahab by Mas’oodi (published 1421 AH.) volume 2 p.370, et al.
  • 14. Meticulous studies of history show that the instigators in the Battle of Jamal had different motives to participate. Among other things the revenge for the death of Uthman was a factor. Different motives can be found, some have been noted from the participants own sayings in Tarikh Al-Umam wa Al-Molook by Tabari (published 1970 AD.) volume 4 p.544, et al.
  • 15. Narrated in several sources, such as Tarikh Madinat Dameshq by Ibn Asaaker (published 1415 AH.) volume 18 p.409; Ansab Al-Ashraf by Bilathari (published 1417 AH.) volume 9 p.430; Sharh Nahjul Balagha by Ibn Abil Hadid volume 1 p.231; Bihar Al-Anwar by Allamah Al-Majlisi (published 1403 AH.) volume 18 p.123. The events that took place are narrated in the footnotes in sermon 8 in Nahjul Balagha – sermon 1-30 (2012)
  • 16. Narrated in several historic narrations, such as Tarikh Al-Umam wa Al-Molook by Tabari (published 1967 AD.) volume 4 p.511; Ansab Al-Ashraf by Bilathari (published 1417 AH.) volume 3 p.254; Tarikh Madinat Dameshq by Ibn Asaaker (published 1415 AH.) volume 18 p.421; Tabaqat Al-Kubra by Ibn Sa’d (published 1410 AH.) volume 3 p.78, et al.
  • 17. History contains several depictions of these occurrences and display the hidden motives and agendas of the people involved. Talha’s death and Marwan Ibn Hakam’s involvement is narrated in among other Tarikh Khalifa by Ibn Khayyat (published 1415 AH.) p.108; Jomal men Ansab Al-Ashraf by Bilathari (published 1417 AH.) volume 2 p.246-247; Al-Isti’ab by Ibn abdelberr (published 1412 AH.) volume 2 p.768, et al.
  • 18. Imam Ali’s (‘a) words in Nahjul Balagha, letter 37. Online in English and Arabic at: https://www.al-islam.org/nahjul-balagha-part-2-letters-and-sayings/lette...
  • 19. Abu Hurayra has been one of the most controversial narrators of hadith in history. Noteworthy about his questionable personality is the fact that he probably had reached Medina by the year 7 AH., became a Muslim and lived in the time of the Prophet (S) for barely 3 years; Sahih Bukhari volume 4 p.175. Yet he has narrated over 5000 ahadith, by far outnumbering all the companions who had lived with and followed the Prophet (S) for longer periods of time than Abu Hurayra; Suyuti volume 2 p.196. Among other 10% of Musnad Ibn Hanbal’s collection of ahadith are from Abu Hurayra; Musnad Ibn Hanbal volume 2 p.228, et al. The question is how, and above all why, this person who barely had spent 4 years with the Prophet (S) came to be the most important and most reliable narrator of hadith during Mu’awiya’s time?

    Interestingly, both the amount of ahadith as well as their message were objected to by none other than Omar and Aisha as well as several of the Prophet’s (S) companions; Sahih Bukhari volume 2 p.232 and Mawta’ Malik volume 1 p.290. Even though knowledgeable Sunnis of that time had been careful to blatantly dispute and criticize all of his narrations, the contradicting and doubtful nature of many narrations could not be ignored. Because of the overall notion that all the Prophet’s (S) companions should be truthful, the narrations logic and authenticity were debatable. The irregularities of Abu Hurayra’s person and his ahadith led to many Sunni and Shi’a scholars questioning his authenticity in later eras, many books have been written analyzing his person and his ahadith. Among them Sheikh Al-Madhira by Mahmood Ibn Rabbah (published 1969 AD., Cairo) and Abu Hurayra fi Dhaw’ Marwiyyateh by Muhammad Habib ar-Rahman A’dhami (published 1399 AH. and 1979 AD., Cairo and Beirut) as well as Abu Hurayra by AbdulHusayn Sharf-ad-Din (Najaf). The appointment of Abu Hurayra as a narrator of ahadith and the importance of his position was at the behest of Mu’awiyah, which raised question as to why that was.

  • 20. This event is mentioned by well-known Sunni historians, such as Mas’oodi in Morooj ath-Thahab volume 2 p.72, 172. By studying Mu’awiya’s deeds throughout history, it illustrates his canniness and calculable ways as ruler. He had managed to take control of the people of Sham, as is narrated in this event. Mu’awiya was able to implement an Umayyad government in Sham, solely appearing as an Islamic governance but with its true agenda of obliterating Islam from within. In other words, Mu’awiya attacked the true nature of Islam using an Umayyad Islamism which had no relation to the Prophet’s (S) message, morals or approach. The Umayyad Islamism could be compared to an empty shell of religious rules that could be bent at the behest of the rulers, to appease themselves and their own self-interest. Up to date, this course of action can be observed in the Saudi kingdom which on the surface appears to implement a religious steadfastness. But at the same time, its rulers openly lead a lavish lifestyle which opposes everything that Islam stands for.
  • 21. Sermon 13 and 14 in Nahjul Balagha. Online in English and Arabic at: https://www.al-islam.org/nahjul-balagha-part-1-sermons
  • 22. This event is narrated in among other Al-Fotooh by Ibn A’tham (published 1411 AH) volume 3 p.5-13.
  • 23. This hadith is narrated in several sources, such as at-Tabaqat Al-Kubra by Ibn Sa’d volume 3 p 251-253 and 259 and its authenticity has been confirmed in among other Al-Esti’ab fi Ma’rifat Al-Ashab by Ibn AbdelBerr (published 1415 AH.) volume 3 p.231, et al.
  • 24. These events are narrated in several historic narrations and other sources that describe the Battle of Siffin in detail, such as Waq’at Siffin by Ibn Muzahim (published 1403AH.) p.475-490; Al-Akhbar at-Tewal by Daynoori (published 1960 AD.) p.188-189; Tathkerat Al-Khawas by Sebt Ibn Jozi (published 1418 AH.) p.92; Al-Fotooh by Ibn A’tham (published 1411 AH.) volume 4 p.197-198, et al.
  • 25. The following events near the end of the Battle of Siffin and the slow proceedings of hakamiyya turned many weary and the will to fight Mu’awiya diminished. Imam Ali (‘a) warned about the consequences which would arise if Mu’awiya would not be stopped. Imam Ali (‘a) managed to gather some of the army, as he set off to face Mu’awiya the Khawarij rebelled and faced the army instead. Mu’awiya’s malicious deeds and raids could carry on; some of them narrated in sermon 25 and 29 in Nahjul Balagha – sermon 1-30 (2012). Online in English and Arabic at: https://www.al-islam.org/nahjul-balagha-part-1-sermons
  • 26. Khawirij, aka Kahrijites, emerged from the same group that had forced their will upon Imam Ali (‘a) at the Battle of Siffin and urged stopping the fight against Mu’awiya after they raised the Holy Qur’an. After the fighting stopped, they discovered the hoax of Mu’awiya, this group opposed the agreement of hakamiyya. In their desperation, they wanted Imam Ali (‘a) to refute the agreement. When Imam Ali (‘a) refused to break his vow and the agreement, this group turned against Imam Ali (‘a) and accused him of deviating from the religion. They demanded Imam Ali (‘a) to repent and break off the agreement, when this did not happen, they left the army of Imam Ali (‘a). The Khawarij were born, the group which the Prophet (S) had referred to as “mareqin”, those who rebel against and avert from the religion.
  • 27. The birth of the Kharijites, Imam Ali’s (‘a) plead to them, their deeds and the chain of events that led to the Battle of Nahrawan is narrated in several historic narrations, such as Tarikh Tabari volume 5 p.63, 72 and 78 and 80-92; Morooj ath-Thahab by Mas’oodi volume 3 p.144; Ansab Al-Ashraf by Bilathari volume 2 p.350-352 and 366-375 as well as volume 3 p.114, 122; Waq’at Siffin by Ibn Mozahem p.513-514; Akhbar at-Tewal by Daynoori p.203-210, et al.
  • 28. Sermon 27 in Nahjul Balagha. Online in English and Arabic at: https://www.al-islam.org/nahjul-balagha-part-1-sermons
  • 29. Ibn Muljim was one of the nine who were able to flee from the Battle of Nahrawan. He made a pact along with two other of the Kharijites who had fled, that they would murder Imam Ali (‘a), Mu’awiya and ‘Amr Ibn Al-’As. Both Mu’awiya and ‘Amr Ibn Al-’As survived.
  • 30. This has been narrated in among other Manaqib Aal Abi Talib by Ibn Shahr Ashoob (published 1379 AH.) volume 2 p.119; Asad Al-Ghaba by Ibn Athir (published 1409 AH.) volume 3 p.618; Ansab Al-Ashraf by Bilathari (published 1417 AH.) volume 2 p.488; Khasaes Al-Aimma by Seyyed Radhi (published 1406) p.63, et al.
  • 31. Sermon 215 in Nahjul Balagha. Online in English and Arabic at: https://www.al-islam.org/nahjul-balagha-part-1-sermons
  • 32. The examples of this are many, such as the Imam (‘a) rejecting Talha and Zubayrs’ requests for positions of authority. Even though they were well known, as well as Zubayr being Imam Ali’s (‘a) cousin and had defended him on occasion. The Imam’s stand against Mu’awiya is another example. The Imam (‘a) had a close relationship to Muhammad Ibn Abu Bakr who was the son of the first caliph Abu Bakr, even though the Imam (‘a) was opposed to the unjust that had befallen the caliphate and Abu Bakr’s part in it. Even so, Muhammad Ibn Abu Bakr was one of the Imam’s (‘a) closest companions and was appointed as regent of Egypt. Other wel- known personalities such as Uthman Ibn Hunayf was known for his piety and moderation, he was not corrupt and engulfed with riches during the era of the third caliph; contrary to the likes of Talha and Zubayr, who were lucid examples of corruption.
  • 33. An example is the story of Suda Hamdani, a brave and politically active woman. She objected to Mu’awiya regarding one of his regent’s violations and bloodshed. When Mu’awiya dismissed Suda’s complaints, she recited a poem which sent blessings upon the person where justice resided. Mu’awiya asked her who she was referring to, she recalled to an occasion when she had complained about one of Imam Ali’s (‘a) regents. The Imam (‘a) had listened to her and taken account of the evidence presented, then he wrote a letter of termination and gave it to her so she could hand it over to the accused regent. This incident and its details are narrated in several sources, such as ‘Eqd Al-Farid by Muhammad Ibn AbdRabbah volume 1 p.345, et al.
  • 34. Imam Ali’s (‘a) reproachful letter to his regent Uthman Ibn Hunayf is very well known. Uthman was a close companion of the Prophet (S) and the Imam (‘a), he was also known for his piety. The letter was sent regarding Uthman’s participation in an event where no poor people were invited. In the letter Imam Ali (‘a) reminds Uthman of his position, and strongly conveys how his actions were not aligned with the approach and morals that his Imam stood for; Nahjul Balagha letter 45. Online in English and Arabic at: https://www.al-islam.org/nahjul-balagha-part-2-letters-and-sayings/lette...
  • 35. Well known personalities during the third caliph’s time received a great amount of wealth, these turned against Imam Ali (‘a) when less was given. Among those who opposed Imam Ali (‘a) were Talha and Zubayr with Bani Umayya and Mu’awiya at the front line. Other than this, the Imam’s (‘a) reply to his brother Aqil’s request of an extra share from Bayt Al-Mal is an example of Imam Ali’s (‘a) position. It is well known, and Aqil had no right to this. Imam Ali (‘a) replied Aqil by putting a metal rod into a fire, when it heated up he moved it near Aqil’s hand who pulled it away because of the burning sensation. The Imam (‘a) asked Aqil how could he abhor that fire but risk exposing Imam Ali (‘a) to the fire of the afterlife, by misusing Bayt Al-Mal and transgressing the law of God? The event and the Imam’s words are narrated in Nahjul Balagha sermon 215. Online in English and Arabic at: https://www.al-islam.org/nahjul-balagha-part-1-sermons
  • 36. This transpired during Talha’s and Zubayr’s meeting with Imam Ali (‘a) after their pledge of allegiance, when they had come to ask for positions of authority.
  • 37. An example of this is the punishment of Walid Ibn Uqba, the third caliph’s half-brother and regent of Kufa. Walid had led the prayer whilst being drunk and this led to an uproar. People protested against Uthman and the evidence against Walid was undeniable, people were enraged and a punishment had to be carried out. But everybody was afraid to carry out the punishment because of Walid’s position as regent, until Imam Ali (‘a) stepped forward and implemented God’s law. This event is narrated in several historic narrations and sources, such as Tarikh Ya’qoobi volume 2 p.165; Al-Isti’ab by Ibn AbdBerr (published 1412 AH.) volume 4 p.1552; Al-Isaba by Ibn Hijr (published 1415 AH.) volume 6 p.481; as-Sira Al-Halabiyya by Halabi (published 1400 AH.) volume 2 p.539; Ansab Al-Ashraf by Bilathari volume 5 p.519-520; Manaqeb Aal Abi Talib by Ibn Shahr Ashoob (published 1376 AH.) volume 1 p.409; Tarikh Al-Madina by Ibn Shabe an-Nomayri (published 1410 AH.) volume 3 p.975, et al.
  • 38. It is said that during the Imam’s (‘a) caliphate, he lost his shield which was later found by a man who had another religion. The Imam (‘a) who had neither sold or given the shield away asked for it to be returned to him, the man denied him this so they took the matter to court. When Imam Ali (‘a) entered the courtroom, the judge stood up out of respect and called to the Imam (‘a) by his title as caliph. Imam Ali (‘a) objected to this and asked of the judge to treat them equally, and call him by the same manner he would call to the other man. The Imam (‘a) declared his claims to the shield which the man denied, the judge therefore asked the Imam (‘a) to present evidence or witnesses as the law demanded. The Imam (‘a) had no witnesses to present, hence the judge ruled in favor for the man that had found the shield which the Imam (‘a) accepted. When the man had witnessed the Imam’s (‘a) sense of justice, even when it was not beneficial for the Imam (‘a) and the fact that at the time he was ruling caliph, the man admitted that the shield did not belong to him. The man stated that “this way of ruling and conduct is not that of an ordinary man; it is the way of the Prophets (‘a)”, he then became a Muslim. This event is narrated in among other Imam Ali – Sawt Al-Adala Al-Insaniyya (English title: The Voice of Human Justice) by the Christian author George Jordac p.63; Bihar Al-Anwar volume 9 p.598, et al.
  • 39. Nahjul Balagha – letter 53 (2012). Online in English and Arabic at: https://www.al-islam.org/nahjul-balagha-part-2-letters-and-sayings/lette...
  • 40. An example of this is when the Imam (‘a) runs into an old person begging and asks “what is this?” When the Imam (‘a) found out that the beggar was Christian, he reproachfully said: “Did you use him [in the society while he had strength and was able to work] until he became older and disabled and now [when he cannot work and provide anymore] discard him? Endorse him from Bayt Al-Mal (Treasury House)!” There are many other similar examples such as this event, when the Imam (‘a) intervened and preached equality for all. Some are narrated in historic narrations and other books, such as Wasail as-Shi’a volume 15 p.66.
  • 41. It is said that the Imam’s (‘a) clothes and shoes were of the humblest kind, but were always clean and he would repair them himself if they were torn and continue using them. The Imam (‘a) barely ate meat; he used to say that one should not turn the stomach into a graveyard for animals. For 25 years after the Prophet’s (S) untimely death when Imam Ali (‘a) was removed from the rule, he cultivated farms of palm trees and dug out many wells that he officially assigned for public use. In other words, the Imam (‘a) gave away a great amount of wealth that he had earned through hard work. The Imam’s (‘a) authority and access to the riches of the government as caliph were of no value to him.

    The Imam (‘a) lived an even more abstinent life as leader of the people; he lived in the same conditions as the poorest of them. He also encouraged his regents to live as humbly as possible, even if they could not do so to the extent of the Imam (‘a). So that people of authority would not forget their mission, which was to constantly fight for the betterment of people’s living conditions. As well as being a comfort for people with poor conditions, that people would see their leaders living in the same conditions they were.

    The depictions of Imam Ali’s (‘a) actions and sayings are many regarding the matter, an example of this is when one of his companions visited him and saw his food wrapped up and sealed in a bundle. When the companion asked him about it, the Imam (‘a) replied that it contained oat bread and that he kept it there so his children would not be able put any oil or butter on it out of care for him. This occurrence is narrated in among other Sharh Nahjul Balagha by Ibn Abil-Hadid volume 1 p.16, et al.

  • 42. Khutba Shaqshaqiyya, sermon 3 in Nahjul Balagha. Online in English and Arabic at: https://www.al-islam.org/nahjul-balagha-part-1-sermons
  • 43. Words of wisdom 429 in Nahjul Balagha