Ali bin Abi Talib (r.a.)

Hz. Ali was the son of Abu Talib, the paternal uncle of the Prophet.  Abu Talib brought up the Prophet and took care of him for a long time though he was poor.  He would not let anyone from his family start eating before Hz. Muhammad came to the table. He knew through experience that Hz. Muhammad was a source of abundance. 

After marrying Hz. Khadijah, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) brought Hz. Ali to his house and took care of him in order to pay his debt of gratitude and to relieve him of his burden. Hz. Ali was only 4 or 5 years old then. Thus, he spent his childhood under the supervision of the Prophet.

When the Prophet was assigned the duty of prophethood, Hz. Ali was 10 years old. The honor of believing him first was attained by Hz. Khadijah among women and Hz. Ali among children. 

Once, Hz. Ali saw Hz. Prophet and Hz. Khadijah performing a prayer and started to watch them admiringly. When the prayer ended, he did not hide his admiration and asked the Prophet in a childish manner:

"What were you doing?" The Prophet said:

"O Ali! This is the religion that Allah likes. I invite you to believe in Allah, who is one. I ask you to avoid worshipping idols which bring no benefits or harms."

Upon this offer, Hz. Ali said:

"I need to consult my father, Abu Talib."

However, the Prophet had not been ordered to declare his cause yet. He did not want it to be heard. He said,

"O Ali! Either accept what I offer you, or do not tell anybody about it if you do not accept it."

Hz. Ali spent that night thinking about it. In the morning, he went to the Messenger of Allah and said to him in a manner that could not be expected from a child:

"Allah did not ask Abu Talib when He created me; so, why should I consult my father to worship Allah?"

With these words, Hz. Ali got the honor of becoming a believer by showing the maturity of a person brought up by the Messenger of Allah.

After that, Hz. Ali followed the Messenger of Allah like a shadow. However, his parents were worried about him lest something bad should happen to him. However, when Abu Talib listened to the Messenger of Allah, he acknowledged him to be right.  Abu Talib was not a Muslim but he did not object to his son being a Muslim. As a matter of fact, when his wife became worried that the polytheists could torture him, he said to her:

"If my soul allowed me to leave the religion of Abdulmuttalib, I would accept the religion of Muhammad. For, he is lenient, trustable and pure." [1]

Hz. Ali had never worshipped idols. He always hated them. He never left the Prophet during the period of Makka. During the Migration, he fulfilled a very important duty by lying in the bed of the Prophet. 

Before the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) left Makkah with Hz. Abu Bakr, he asked Hz. Ali to lie in his bed that night. The Prophet gave the things had been entrusted to him to Hz. Ali. He told Hz. Ali to migrate to Madinah after delivering them to their owners. 

The polytheists surrounded the house of the Messenger of Allah. They started to wait for the Prophet to come out of the house from the places where they were hiding when it started to get light. For, according to the traditions of that time, it was regarded as cowardice to kill a person in his house.

The Messenger of Allah made Hz. Ali lie in his bed and left the house. He picked up a handful of soil and threw it at the polytheists and he passed before them by reading the first eight verses of the chapter of Yasin. None of the polytheists saw him. 

The polytheists were still waiting. After a while, they thought that the Prophet might have left. They looked through the window of the Prophet's house. They thought the person in the bed (Hz. Ali) was the Prophet. They said, "Muhammad is there, sleeping" and kept waiting.

When it became the morning, they could not wait any longer and entered the house. They were astonished when they saw Hz. Ali in the bed. They asked him where the Prophet was but he did not answer. They did not insist on asking him very much; they did not want to lose time so they sent men around to look for him.

Hz. Ali left the house and delivered the things that had been entrusted to the Prophet to their owners. Three days later, he also set off for Madinah. After a long and tiring journey, he arrived in Madinah. The soles of his feet were torn and swollen. When the Prophet saw the sorrowful state of Hz. Ali, he could not help crying. Then, he wiped under the feet of Hz. Ali and prayed Allah for his recovery.  At that moment, his feet got well and his pains ended. [2]

The most distinguished quality of Hz. Ali was his courage. He displayed examples of his courage in all of the battles he took part.

For instance, when the polytheists attacked with the intention of killing the Prophet during the Battle of Uhud, Hz. Ali was one of those who tried to protect him by forming a wall of flesh. At one moment, a group of polytheists started move toward the Prophet. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) ordered Hz. Ali to confront them. Hz. Ali attacked them and scattered them. He killed one of them. Soon, another group attacked. The Prophet ordered Hz. Ali to confront them again. Hz. Ali killed Shayba bin Malik among them.

Thereupon, Jibril came to the Prophet and said:

"O Messenger of Allah! What Hz. Ali did is great heroism and bravery." The Prophet said,  

"He is of me and I am of him", appreciating Hz. Ali. Jibril said,

"I am of both of you." Meanwhile, the following was heard from the sky:

"There is no hero like Ali and there is no sword like Dhul-Fiqar."

Hz. Ali was knocked down a few times by the polytheists during the Battle of Uhud but he was helped by Jibril to stand up each time. [3]

The conquest of Khaybar turned out to be very difficult because Khaybar was a town consisting of strong castles built on volcanic land. Most of the Jews exiled from Madinah lived there. While the siege was going on, the Messenger of Allah once said:

"I am going to give the standard to such a person tomorrow that Allah and His Messenger love him and he loves Allah and His Messenger. Allah is going to realize the conquest through him."

Upon this statement, the mujahids started to wonder about that person. Who was going to have this honor? Most of the Companions wanted to attain this honor. One of them was Hz. Umar. He said, "I had never wanted to be the commander so much before. I waited hoping that I would be called."

Everybody was looking forward to the morning. Finally, it was the expected moment. The Prophet said, 

"Bring me the standard." They brought the standard. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) asked,

"Where is Ali?" Hz. Ali came but his eyes were in pain, The Messenger of Allah wiped Hz. Ali's eyes with his blessed hand. Then, he prayed Allah as follows:

"O Allah! Eliminate the troubles of the heat and cold from Ali. Then, he said:

"Walk until Allah makes the conquest easy for you." Hz. Ali, whose pains were relieved, proceeded to his target. [4]

Hz. Ali planted the white standard of the Messenger of Allah in front of the Castle of Khaybar. Meanwhile, Marhab, who was accepted as a strong and brave person, came out of the castle with his men. He was wearing double armors and had two swords.   He shouted,

"I can kill even lions with my sword and spear." Hz. Ali said:

"My mother gave me the name 'Khaydar'. I am as brave as the most majestic lions in the jungle. I will not let you live; I will knock you down."

In the one on one struggle, Hz. Ali split Marhab, the strongest man of the Jews, into two with his sword. When the Messenger of Allah saw this incident, he said,  

"Rejoice! The conquest of Khaybar got easier."

Thereupon, all mujahids attacked the castle and conquered it. Hz. Ali removed the gate of the castle, which was very heavy, and used it as a shield. When the battle ended, he put the gate on the ground. Eight people could not lift it. [5]

Hz. Ali took part in all battles with the Prophet except Tabuk. The reason why he did not take part in that battle was that the Prophet left him as his deputy in Madinah. 

It was very difficult for Hz. Ali, who was a hero, to be away from the army of jihad. He said,

"O Messenger of Allah! Are you leaving me among women and children?"

Thereupon, the Prophet said, 

"Do you not want to act as my deputy just like Aaron, who acted as the deputy of Moses? There is only one difference: there are no prophets after me."

After this statement of the Prophet's, Hz. Ali felt relieved and remained in Madinah as his deputy. [6]

One of the most outstanding qualities of Hz. Ali was his sincerity. His aim in everything was the consent of Allah. When his soul and feelings became involved in something, he would abandon it at once

Badiuzzaman Said Nursi narrates an incident regarding the issue as follows:  

Imam Ali (May Allah be pleased with him) once threw an unbeliever to the ground. As he drew his sword to kill him, the unbeliever spat in his face. He released him without killing him. The unbeliever said: "Why did you not kill me'?"

He replied: "I was going to kill you for the sake of Allah. However, when you spat at me, I became angered, and the purity of my intention was clouded by the inclinations of my soul. It is for this reason that I did not kill you."

The unbeliever replied: "If your religion is so pure and disinterested, it must be the truth." [7]

Hz. Ali based all of his deeds on taqwa. He advised other people taqwa, too. He stated the following regarding the issue:

"Pay attention to taqwa and use it as a means of acceptance for your deeds in the eye of Allah. Worship performed with taqwa is never regarded as little. Can accepted deeds be little?"

Hz. Ali believed that tawakkul and showing consent to qadar was the source of happiness and said:

"A person who does not show consent to qadar cannot feel the flavor of belief.  Whether a person shows consent to his qadar or not, that thing will happen to him. If he shows consent to what Allah predestined for him, he will gain rewards; if he does not, he will be a sinner."

Hz. Ali was one of the Companions who benefited from the Prophet the most regarding every issue. The Prophet stated the following in order to express the greatness of his knowledge:

"I am the city of knowledge and Ali is the door of the city of knowledge. Those who want to learn knowledge should enter through that door." [8]

Hz. Ali knew the science of the Quran very well. He knew very well where, why and for whom each verse was sent down. Once he addressed a large group of people as follows­:

"Ask me. I will answer each question you ask me. Ask me about the Book of Allah. I swear by Allah that there is no verse that I do not when (at night or during the day) and where (on the mountain or plain) it was sent down." [9]

Along with these virtues, Hz. Ali had the great honor of marrying the youngest and most beloved daughter of the Prophet. Five months after the arrival of the Prophet in Madinah, he got engaged with Hz. Fatima. They got married in the second year of migration after the Battle of Badr.

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) ordered Hz. Bilal al-Habashi to make bread from four or five handfuls of flour. He also wanted a young camel to be slaughtered." Bilal al-Habashi said:

"I bought the food. He put his blessed hand on it. Then, the Companions arrived in groups. They ate and left. He prayed for the remaining part of the food. He sent a bowl of food to each one of his wives. He said, ‘Let them eat and make those near them eat, too.’ Yes, such abundance is necessary for such a blessed marriage and it is certain that it happened." [10]

Hz. Hasan and a year later Hz. Husayn was born out of this blessed marriage. This made the Prophet very happy. Hz Prophet loved his grandsons very much. He carried them on his shoulders. He said the following about them:

"They are my two basils that I kiss and smell in this world." [11]

* * *

Once Hz. Hasan and Husayn became ill. Hz. Ali and Hz. Fatima vowed to fast for three days if their beloved children got well. When Allah Almighty restored them to health, they started to perform fasting. In the evening, when it was time for iftar, they had only one piece of bread to eat. Just then, an orphan arrived. They gave the bread to the orphan and they broke their fast with only water. On the second and third days, a poor man and a slave arrived. They gave their food to them. They became very weak because of not eating anything three days on end. In the morning, they went to the presence of the Messenger of Allah with their children. Their pale faces attracted the attention of the Prophet. He said,

"O Ali! What is the matter with you?"

Hz. Ali told him what had happened. Meanwhile, Jibril arrived and revealed verses 5 to 10 of the chapter of al-Insan:

"As to the Righteous, they shall drink of a Cup (of Wine) mixed with Kafur― A Fountain where the Devotees of Allah do drink, making it flow in unstinted abundance. They perform (their) vows, and they fear a Day whose evil flies far and wide. And they feed, for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan and the captive― (Saying) "We feed you for the sake of Allah alone: no reward do we desire from you, nor thanks. We only fear a Day of distressful Wrath from the side of our Lord,"

When the Prophet informed them about the revelation, they became so happy that they forgot the fatigue of the three-day hunger. [12]

* * *

After the martyrdom of Hz. Uthman, there was a lot of disorder going around. The rebels offered a lot of people to become the caliph but nobody accepted. Nobody wanted to be the caliph at such a time. Eventually, in order to prevent the disorder from spreading, the people of Madinah agreed to offer Hz. Ali to become the caliph. Hz. Ali did not want to accept it but he had to accept this heavy responsibility in order to stop the disorder and mischief.

The problems that Hz. Ali would face were abundant. First, he sent the governors that he appointed to all of the cities. All of the governors that he appointed were able people in terms of administration. He trusted his governors. He gave them some advice before he sent them. His advice always had the same liveliness. For instance, the advice he gave to Malik, the governor of Egypt, was very instructive:

"O Malik! I am sending you to such countries that many governments ruled there justly and unjustly.  You checked the activities of the governors before you; likewise, people will check your activities. People will say the same things you said for their activities for your activities. Who is good and right can be understood only through the words that Allah makes a person utter. Therefore, your most valuable property should be your right and fair deeds. Keep your feelings under control. 

Nurture feelings of love and mercy, and inclinations of grace for people in your heart. Never become a monster waiting to swallow the poor and weak people; the people are divided into two: they are either your brothers in your religion or your fellow creatures. Yes, they may make mistakes; they may be faulty. Do not say, 'I have absolute power; I will order and they will obey me.‘ For, doing so means to cause mischief in the heart, to weaken the religion and to approach disasters. If the power you have makes you feel conceited, look at the majesty of realms and think that Allah is omnipotent related to the things that you cannot have control over. This thought will make your view that is high in the sky come down, eliminate its severity and make you come to your senses again. 

Do not abandon justice related to Allah and people. Otherwise, you will oppress people. If you oppress people, Allah will be the prosecutor. If Allah becomes the enemy of a person, all of the things that this person can clutch will be of no good. In the world, there is nothing that will change the grace of Allah and quicken His wrath more than oppression.  Allah hears the groaning of those who are oppressed and sees the oppressors.

Untie all of the knots of hatred. Cut all of the ropes that could drag you to revenge. Do not readily believe the words of the people who backbite and criticize others. For, no matter how innocent a backbiter seems, he is a mischief-maker. Do not allow those who are stingy, cowardly and ambitious to enter your presence.

Among your consultants, you should like most the one that tells you the sad truth the most. Make truthful people and those who fear Allah your confidants. Do not allow them to applaud you and to make you pleased by attributing to you things that you have not done. For, extreme applause leads man to conceitedness. Do not regard good people and bad people as the same. For, such equality will drive good people away from good deeds and encourage bad people to do bad deeds.  

When you choose officials to appoint, do not find it sufficient to look at their faces and to have good views about them. For, people can win the favor of the governors who decide based on what they see. However, they have no sincerity. Therefore, choose the ones that are known by their good deeds among people before you. 

Fear Allah a lot about the poor, victims and disabled people. Among them are those who tell people about their needs and those who do not. It is your duty to take care of them and to protect their rights. Do not allow your conceitedness to avoid taking care of them. Do your best and work so hard so that you will be able to say, 'I did my best' in the divine presence.’

I heard the following from the Prophet: ‘A nation in which the right of the weak cannot be taken from the strong cannot get strong.’

Do the work of a day on that day because every day has its own work. 

A governor has some men who are close to him. They may be involved in nepotism, oppression and injustice in their deeds. Prevent their harm by eliminating the causes of them. Never give any land to the people around you, your relatives and friends. Do not allow any of them to collect store property in a way that will cause trouble to you. Their profits will not belong to you but their harm will belong to you in both the world and the hereafter. 

Never like yourself. Never rely on the aspects of your soul that seem pleasant to you. Never want to be praised in your presence. This is the strongest tool that Satan has in order to destroy the good deeds of people. Never rub in the favors you did to your people; do not exaggerate when you mention what you have done and do not break your promises you have made to them. For, rubbing in the favors you have made eliminates the favors; exaggeration hides the truth and breaking your promises causes Allah and people to hate you. 

Never start to do something before it is appropriate time for it. When it is time to do it, do not procrastinate. Do not insist on the things that have not become clear; when they become clear, do not procrastinate. Do everything properly. Do not privilege yourself related to the things about which everybody is equal. Do not act as if you are unaware of the bad deeds that your men have done. 

Control your fury, wrath, hands and tongue. In order to be saved from the evil of them, delay the severity of your fury so that it will fade away and you will control your will." [13]

Hz. Ali worked very hard in order to realize justice. He proved through his own life that everybody was equal before law no matter what their posts and positions were. Although he was the Caliph of the believers, he did not mind being tried in the court with a Jew:

Hz. Ali lost his armor on the way to Siffin Expedition. When the war ended and he returned to Kufa, he saw his armor in the hands of a Jew.  He said to the Jew,

"This is my armor. I did not sell it to anyone nor did I give it to anyone as a present." The Jew said,

"This is my armor and I have it now."

If Hz. Ali had wanted, he would have grabbed his armor. He was definitely right but he offered to settle the issue in the court:

"Let us go to the judge." They went to the judge together.

The judge was Qadi Shurayh, who was famous for his justice. When Hz. Ali entered the room, he sat next to the judge and explained the reason why he sat there as follows:

"If my opponent were not a Jew, I would sit next to him. I heard the Messenger of Allah say, ‘In the place where Allah disdains them, you disdain them, too.’"

Qadi Shurayh said to Hz. Ali:

"O leader of the believers! What is the problem between you?" Hz. Ali said:

"The armor the Jew has is mine. I did not sell it to anyone nor did I give it to anyone as a present."

When the judge understood the issue, he asked Hz. Ali:

"Do you have any evidence to prove your claim?" Hz. Ali said:

"Yes, I do. My servant Qambar and my son Hasan are witnesses that it belongs to me." Qadi Shurayh said,

"It is not permissible for the son to be a witness for his father." Hz. Ali said,

"How come the witnessing of a person of Paradise is not accepted? I heard the Messenger of Allah say, 'Hasan and Husayn are the lords of the youth of Paradise."

Eventually, Qadi Shurayh decreed in favor of the Jew owing to lack of evidence. When the Jew saw this magnificent justice, he could not help saying, 

"The leader of the believers sued against me and the judge he appointed decreed against him. I witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger. This armor belongs to you. It fell off your camel and I took it."

Hz. Ali was pleased with what he said,

"Since you have become a Muslim, I will give this armor to you as a present." [14]

Hz. Ali did his best to support the three caliphs before him. All of the three caliphs appreciated his values by consulting him regarding important issues. 

On the other hand, Hz. Ali did his best in order to prevent the mischievous movements during the time of Hz. Uthman. Unfortunately, he could not prevent the incidents that led to the martyrdom of Hz. Uthman. 

There were complete tumults during the caliphate of Hz. Uthman. Some Muslims recognized Hz. Ali as the caliph while others recognized Muawiya. Muawiya was a relative of Hz. Uthman; therefore, he wanted his killers to be caught and punished.

However, it was not known who killed Hz. Uthman. There were a few suspects. Hz. Ali asked for some time. He said he could not execute anybody owing to uncertainty. He promised that the killer would be punished as soon as he was determined. However, Muawiya hurried. Eventually, bloody wars took place due to ijtihad difference between the two Companions. Many Muslims were martyred. It became impossible to establish peace and unity among Muslims. 

In the end, Hz. Ali was martyred in Kufa in the 40th year of the Migration. All of the Muslims paid allegiance to Muawiya. 

Hz. Ali had a different place in the eye of the Prophet. That the Prophet married his beloved daughter off to Hz. Ali is an indication of it. The following hadiths also indicate it:

"Ali loves Allah and His Messenger; Allah and His Messenger love Ali." [15]

"He who loves Ali is regarded to love me; he who loves me is regarded to love Allah. He who gets angry with Ali is regarded to get angry with me; he who gets angry with me is regarded to get angry with Allah." [16]

"I am of Ali; Ali is of me." [17]

"He who is a munafiq does not love Ali; he who is a believer does not hate Ali." [18]

"O Ali! You are my brother in both the world and the hereafter." [19]

"He who curses Ali is regarded to curse me." [20]

586 hadiths were reported from Hz. Ali. Some of them are as follows:

"The Messenger of Allah said, 'There are such rooms in Paradise that inside of them are seen from outside and the outside of them are seen from inside.’ Thereupon, somebody asked ‘O the Messenger of Allah! Who are these rooms for?’ The Messenger of Allah said, ‘They belong to those who speak leniently, feed others, perform fasting regularly and perform prayers when people are asleep at night." [21]

"Allah will send to Paradise a person who reads the Quran, memorizes it and accepts as legitimate whatever it renders legitimate and accepts as forbidden whatever it renders forbidden; He also gives him the right to intercede for ten people." [22]

"O Ali! Do not delay three things: the prayer whose time is due, the dead body which is ready for the funeral and the girl or widow whose hand is asked in marriage by a suitable person…" [23]

There are many sayings of Hz. Ali that have reached us. Some of them are as follows:

"He who wants Paradise should keep away from the things that his soul desires in the world."

Hz. Ali said,

"I am astonished by the person who has the opportunity for salvation but suffers destruction." Those who were listening to him asked,

"O Ali! What is the opportunity for salvation?" Hz. Ali said,

"To ask forgiveness from Allah."

"Speak little so that you will be secure. Keeping silent is a means of going to Paradise. Do not tell your secret to your friend; your friend also has a friend and he will tell your secret to him."

May Allah Almighty be pleased with him and may He enable us to attain his intercession!

[1] Sirah, 1: 262-264.
[2] Tabaqat, 8: 18.
[3] Tabari, 3: 177.
[4] Muslim, Fadail as-Sahaba: 33-34.
[5] Insanu’l-Uyun, 2: 737-738; Tabaqat, 2: 110-112.
[6] Muslim, Fadail as-Sahaba: 31.
[7] Mektûbât (Letters), p. 248.
[8] Tirmidhi, Manaqib: 20.
[9] Tabaqat, 2: 338.
[10] Mektûbât (Letters), p. 119.
[11] Tirmidhi, Manaqib: 31.
[12] Usdul-Ghaba, 5: 530-531; Tafsiru’l-Kabir, 30: 244.
[13] Kitabu’l-Kharaj, 448-460.
[14] Tarikhu’l-Khulafa, p. 172.
[15] Muslim, Fadail as-Sahaba: 33.
[16] Tarikhu’l-Khulafa, p. 162.
[17] Tirmidhi, Manaqib: 20.
[18] Tirmidhi, Manaqib: 21; Ibni Majah, Muqaddima: 11.
[19] ibid.
[20] Fathu’r-Rabbani, 23: 121.
[21] Tirmidhi, Birr: 53.
[22] Tirmidhi, Fadailu’l-Qur’an: 13.
[23] Tirmidhi, Salat.13.

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