HADRAT ALI IBN ABI TALIB
Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu
Birth of Hadrat Ali
Life of Hadrat Ali, a general review
Distinctions of Hadrat Ali
Hadrat Ali in the Noble Qur'an
more information, the reader is advised to purchase the book Hadrat
Ali r.a., by Prof. Madud-ul-Hasan, Published by Islamic Publications
(Pvt) Limited, 13-E Shah Alam Market, Lahore, Pakistan [http://muslim-canada.org/hadratali.htm]
Hadrat Ali Radi
Allahu ta'ala anhu was the son of Abu Talib, a prominent Quraish
chief and custodian of the Beloved Ka'bah. Abu Talib was so-called
because he was the father of "Talib," the eldest brother of
Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu. The real name of Abu Talib
was 'Abd Manaf.' However, he was more popularly known by his surname
than by his real name. Abu Talib was the son of Abdul Muttalib. Abdul
Muttalib was also a surname, his real name being Shaybah. Abdul
Muttalib was the son of Hashim. Hashim was a great man of his line,
and his descendants came to be known as Hashimites.
Ancestry of Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu & the Beloved Prophet Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa 'aalihi wa Sallam
The Beloved Prophet
Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa 'aalihi wa Sallam was the son
of Abdullah who was the son of Abdul Muttalib. Abdullah and Abu Talib
were real brothers. Abu Talib was thus the real paternal uncle of the
Beloved Prophet Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa 'aalihi wa Sallam
of Islam. Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu was the first
cousin of the Beloved Prophet Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa
'aalihi wa Sallam. The Beloved Prophet Salla Allahu ta'ala
'alayhi wa 'aalihi wa Sallam and Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala
anhu had a common grandfather who was Abdul Muttalib.
Abdul Muttalib was the son of Hashim, who was the son of Abd Manaf, who was the son of Qusay, who was the son of Murrah, who was the son a Kaab, who was the son of Luayy, who was the son of Ghalib, who was the son of Fihr, who was the son of Malik, who was the son of Nadr, who was the son of Kannah. Beyond Kannah, the ancestry extended to Hadrat Ismail, and Hadrat Ibrahim, who flourished some 2,500 years earlier.
The exact date of birth
of Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu is not known with any
degree of certainty. According to Traditions, Hadrat Ali Radi
Allahu ta'ala anhu was born on the 13th of Rajab
in the 28th year of the Elephant era. The Elephant era,
according to the annals of Arabia commenced when Abraha, the
Christian Viceroy of Yemen, invaded Makkah with the intention of
destroying the Ka'bah, and shifting the centre of pilgrimage to
Yemen. The invasion failed, the Christian army had to beat a retreat
without achieving its object. That marked the retreat of Christianity
from the heartland of Arabia and paved the way for the rise of Islam.
Birth of Hadrat Ali
Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu
Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu was born in unusual circumstances. On the 13th day of the blessed month of Rajab, Sayyida Fatima Radi Allahu ta'ala anha, the mother of Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu, visited the Ka'bah to perform the pilgrimage. During the course of the pilgrimage and while circambulating the Ka'bah, Sayyida Fatima Radi Allahu ta'ala anha felt the pangs of childbirth. She retired to a secluded place in the precincts of the Blessed Ka'bah, and there Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu was born. Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu has thus had the unique honour to be born in the House of God. This unparalleled honour had endowed Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu with a halo of sanctity that has become the subject of many legends. A hundred years later, Hadrat Zain-ul-Abideen Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu, a grandson of Ali (son of Hadrat Husayn), met an Arab woman at Najaf who told him that her grandmother had helped Sayyida Fatima Radi Allahu ta'ala anha on the occasion of Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu's birth. She narrated that according to the account of her grandmother, the child was beautiful; a smile played on his lips; he did not cry like other children; and his birth did not cause any pain to his mother.
Sayyida Fatima Radi Allahu ta'ala anha wanted to name her child "Asad" after her father and Abu Talib wanted to name him Zaid. When both mother and the child returned home, the Beloved Prophet Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa 'aalihi wa Sallam, and Hadrat Khadijah Radi Allahu ta'ala anha came to see her newborn child. Since his birth, he had not opened his eyes, and that worried both Sayyida Fatima Radi Allahu ta'ala anha and Abu Talib. However, when the Beloved Prophet Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa 'aalihi wa Sallam took the child in his lap, he then opened his eyes. So the first person that Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu saw after his birth was the Beloved Prophet Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa 'aalihi wa Sallam. When the Beloved Prophet Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa 'aalihi wa Sallam was asked whether he approved of the child being named either Asad or Zaid, he said that since the child was born in the House of God, he should be named Ali (the word Ali being a derivative of Allah). Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu had thus had the distinction of being named after Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala. No one before him had ever been so named. Furthermore, the name acquired more sanctity because it was suggested by the Beloved Prophet Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa 'aalihi wa Sallam.
Greatness is a phenomenon in which specially gifted persons who are endowed with extraordinary qualities appear on the world stage from time to time. History is the science which studies this phenomenon of greatness. Usually every person who scales the heights of greatness and acquires a place in history is a success from the worldly point of view. Here there is a peculiarity in the greatness of Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu. He was great, indeed very great, but he was not a success from the worldly point of view in the conventional sense that the word 'success' is understood. We have thus to undertake a study to probe into the causes that militated against the success of Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu from the worldly point of view in spite of his greatness. We will also have to consider how he is great when he did not succeed in the worldly sense.
The life of Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu can be divided into three distinct periods. The first period comprises the first 32 years of his life and extends from 600 to 632 CE. I call this period the period of the education and action. It was during this period that he received his education under the loving care of the Beloved Prophet Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa 'aalihi wa Sallam; imbibed with values of Islam; and acquired all the attributes that contribute to greatness. In the post-Hijri years, he emerged as the greatest warrior of the age. He distinguished himself as a great warrior in the battles of Badr, Uhud and the Ditch. His crowning success was his conquest of the Khyber. In battle he killed more men [through hand-to-hand combat] than any other single man in history. All those who fought in the duels against him were invariably killed. He came to be known as the "Lion of God."
He acted as a Justice, and acquired fame for his wise and well-reasoned judgments. He acted as the Governor of Yemen, and acquired a good deal of experience as administrator. He had the honour of announcing the verses of the Noble Qur'an about the "Declaration of Immunity" to the people on behalf of the Beloved Prophet Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa 'aalihi wa Sallam on the location of the Hajj. When the Beloved Prophet Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa 'aalihi wa Sallam died, Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu was in the prime of his youth and he was enlightened, experienced, wise, valiant -- the embodiment of virtue. He had expected that because of his outstanding qualities and his relationship to the Beloved Prophet Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa 'aalihi wa Sallam, he would be chosen as the Caliph. He was however, passed over, and this state of affairs continued for 24 years when the office of the caliphate was held by Hadrat Abu Bakr, Hadrat Umar and Hadrat Uthman Radi Allahu ta'ala anhum.
This period constitutes the second period of the life of Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu. During this time, although Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu acted as the Counsellor to Caliphs, he generally kept aloof from active politics. I call this period as the period of inaction and contemplation. It was a period of inaction from the political point of view, because he kept aloof from politics. It was the period of contemplation from the spiritual point of view, for this period was spent by Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu mostly in prayer, religious exercises and dialogue with God. The further he went from the world, the nearer he got to God.
Causes for the failure of Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu from the worldly point of view
The usual phenomenon of
greatness is that men succeed in life, and because of such success
may acquire greatness. The usual law is that greatness is the
consequence of success. Nothing succeeds like success and nothing
fails like failure. This means that if you succeed, you become
great, but if you fail, you are pushed aside and are forgotten. In
Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu's case we come across an
extraordinary exception to this law of success and greatness. Hadrat
Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu's greatness was of a different
species. His greatness did not flow from success in life. Such
greatness was inherent in him. It preceded his encounter with the
world and it outlived his death, although he did not succeed
in his worldly life as the word 'success' is usually
understood. Instead Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu became
more famous after death than when he was alive.
We will now consider
the causes which militated against Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala
anhu's success in spite of his greatness. His greatness was of
such a dimension that he towered extremely high above the people
around him. It was a case of Gulliver in the land of dwarfs. He was
so high that he could not bend to meet the people, and that people
were so low that they could not rise to meet him. As such, a proper
equation could not be established between Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu
ta'ala anhu and the people around him, and this was the main cause as
to why he was frequently betrayed, and why he did not succeed in the
worldly affairs like ordinary people. Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu
ta'ala anhu [was] very much ahead of his time and the people in
that era simply could not keep up with him.
By the time Hadrat Ali
Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu came to office, a generation had
passed since the death of the Beloved Prophet Salla Allahu ta'ala
'alayhi wa 'aalihi wa Sallam. During this period, the Muslims had
made large conquests. This had brought great wealth, and wealth had
changed people's lives. A capitalist class sprang up among the
Muslims. Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu, a great Muslim of
the old type, wanted to enforce the austere discipline of the
original Islam. He himself lead a very simple life, and aimed to
follow in the steps of Hadrat Umar. Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala
anhu, however, lacked the harshness of Hadrat Umar Radi
Allahu ta'ala anhu, and could not enforce the
reforms he had in mind.
There was a gulf between Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu and the capitalist class who wielded considerable influence. Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu was very parsimonious in the spending of public funds; while Hadrat Muawiyah Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu, who himself had lead a luxurious life, was quite liberal in the spending of public funds. The capitalist class among the Muslims preferred Hadrat Muawiyah Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu to Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu as they were given to the worldly way of life. While Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu was more concerned with the Hereafter than this world, people around him were more concerned with the world than the Hereafter. This difference in outlook could not be bridged, and that is why there were many betrayals in the camp of Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu. These betrayals weakened his position of considerably for he was a man of strong principles and would not compromise with those principles. The people who were opposed to him were masters in propaganda and they didn't hesitate to adopt any means, whether fair or foul, to gain their ends. Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu lost the game because he would not abandon his principles at any cost.
The principal wife of
Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu was Hadrat Fatima Radi
Allahu ta'ala anha, the beloved daughter of Sarkar-e-Do-Alam, Tajadar-e-Madina, Huzoor Nabi al-Akram Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa 'aalihi wa saabihi wa Sallam.
During the lifetime of Hadrat Fatima Radi
Allahu ta'ala anha, Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu
ta'ala anhu at one stage proposed to marry a daughter of Abu
Jahl. When the Beloved Prophet Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa
'aalihi wa Sallam came to know of this proposal, he became
annoyed and declared that if Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu
wanted to marry another wife, he should divorce Hadrat Fatima Radi
Allahu ta'ala anha first. Thereupon Hadrat Ali Radi
Allahu ta'ala anhu abandoned the idea of marrying another wife.
Hadrat Fatima Radi
Allahu ta'ala anha was the mother of three sons and
two daughters. The sons were Sayyadina Hasan, Sayyadina Husayin, and Sayyadina Mohsin Radi
Allahu ta'ala anhum. Sayyadina Mohsin died during childhood.
The daughters were Sayyida Zainab and Sayyida Umm Kulthum Radi
Allahu ta'ala anhum.
After the death of
Hadrat Fatima Radi
Allahu ta'ala anha, Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu married a
number of wives. They were*:
(1) Umm-ul-Bunian Radi
Allahu ta'ala anha who
was the daughter of Hazam b. Khalid. Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala
anhu had five sons from her, namely: Abdullah, Jafar, Abbas, Uthman, and Umar. All of them except Abbas were martyred in the
battle of Karbala along with Hadrat Husayn.
(2) Khaula Radi
Allahu ta'ala anha was the
daughter of Jafar Hanfiyah. She was the mother of the son known as
Muhammad b. Hanfiyah.
(3) Umm Habib Radi
Allahu ta'ala anha who was
the daughter of Rabiah. She gave birth to a son Umar, in the daughter
(4) Asma Radi
Allahu ta'ala anha who was the
daughter of Umais. She was in the first instance married to Hadrat
Jafar, an elder brother of Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu.
On the death of Hadrat Jafar, Hadrat Abu Bakr married her. After the
death of Hadrat Abu Bakr she married Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala
anhu. She had two sons from Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu,
namely: Yahya and Muhammad Asghar.
(5) Laila Radi
Allahu ta'ala anha who was the
daughter of Masud. She was the mother of two sons, namely Ubaidullah
and Abu Bakr.
(6) Umama who was a
daughter of Abi Al Aa's and Hadrat Zainab Radi
Allahu ta'ala anha and elder sister of Hadrat
Allahu ta'ala anha. Her son from Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu bore
the name of Muhammad Awsat.
(7) Umm Saeed Radi
Allahu ta'ala anha who was a
daughter of Urwa. She bore Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu
two daughters, namely: Umm-ul-Hasan and Rumia.
Hadrat Ali karam Allahau ta'ala wajahu was a man of many distinctions. He owed his distinctions to his relationship with the Beloved Messenger of Allah Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa 'aalihi wa saabihi wa Sallam, his valour, his knowledge and his spiritual attainments.
His blessed birth
Because of his multidimensional
greatness and outstanding qualities, Hadrat Ali is known by many appellations,
and each appellation illuminates one particular aspect of his excellence.
Some of these appellations
are as follows:
(1) Murtada - he with whom God is pleased
(2) Maula - the master
(3) Haidar-i-Karrar- the brave warrior against whom no one could stand
(4) Asad Allah - the lion of God
(5) Al-Ghalib - the victorious
(6) Sher-i-Yazdan - the bravest man of the age
(7) Mushkil Kusha - one whom resolves the difficulties of the people
(8) Shah-i-Awliya - the king of saints
(9) Shah-i-Momineen - the king of the pious
(10) Abu Turab - father of the earth
(11) Amir al-Momineen - leader of the faithful
(12) Amin al-Momineen - the trustee of the faithful
(13) Imam al-Muttaqeen - the leader of the God-fearing
(14) Sayyad-ul-Arab - the chief of the Arabs
(15) Al Wasi - the beneficiary under the Prophet's 'testamentary statement'
(16) Al Hadi - the guide
(17) Al Zahid - the chaste
(18) Al Abi - the pious
(19) Al Salah - the reformer
Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu in the Qur'an
Verse 33, Sura 33
"Allah's wish is but to remove uncleanness far from you, O Folk of the Household, and cleanse you with a thorough cleansing."
Verse 61, Sura 3
"And whoso disputeth with thee concerning him, after the knowledge which hath come unto thee, say (unto him): Come! We will summon our sons and your sons, and our women and your women, and ourselves and yourselves, then we will pray humbly (to our Lord) and (solemnly) invoke the curse of Allah upon those who lie."
Verse 3, Sura 9
"And a proclamation from Allah and His messenger to all men on the day of the Greater Pilgrimage that Allah is free from obligation to the idolaters, and (so is) His messenger. So, if ye repent, it will be better for you; but if ye are averse, then know that ye cannot escape Allah. Give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom to those who disbelieve."
Verse 23, Sura 42
"Say O Muhammad to mankind: 'No reward do I ask of you for this except the love of those near of kin.' "
Verse 21, Sura 45
"Do those who commit evil deeds suppose that We shall treat them like those who believe and do good deeds - that their lives and their deaths shall be equal.No, bad is their judgment."
Verse 17, Sura 11
"Is he to be counted equal with those who rely on a clear proof from his Lord and the witness from Him recites it, and before it was the Book of Moses, and example and a mercy? Such believe therein. Whoso disbelieves therein, the Fire is his appointed place. So be not you in doubt concerning it. Lo, it is the truth from your Lord, but most of mankind believe it not."
Verse 4, Sura 66
"Now if both of you turn to Allah repentant, it will be better for you as your hearts are already so inclined. But if you backup each other against him, surely Allah is his helper, and Gabriel and the righteous among the believers, and furthermore, all other angels too are his helpers."
Verse 18, Sura 32
"Is he who is a believer like him who is an evil doer? Verily they are not equal."
Verse 54, Sura 25
"And He it is Who created man from water, and has appointed for him kindred by blood, and kindred by marriage, and your Lord is all powerful."
Verse 36, Sura 24
"The lamp of light is lit in houses which Allah has allowed to be exalted so that His name be remembered in them. Therein He is glorified in the mornings and evenings."
Verse 55, Sura 5
"Your friend is only Allah and His Messenger, and the believers who observed prayer and pay the poor rate."
Verse 12, Sura 58
"O ye who believe! When you consult the Messenger in private, give alms before your consultation. That is better and purer for you. But when you do not find the wherewithal, Lo! Allah is Forgiving and Merciful."
Verse 181, Sura 7
"And of those We have created, there are people that guide men in the truth, and do justice therewith."
Verse 57, Sura 43
"And when the son of Mary is cited as an example, lo, the people jeer thereat."
Verse 29, Sura 48
"Muhammad is the Apostle off God. And those with Him are firm against the disbelievers, and Merciful amongst themselves. Thus see them bowing down, and prostrating themselves in prayer, seeking grace from Allah and His pleasure. Their mark is upon their faces, being the traces of prostrations. Such is their description in the Torah. And their description in the gospel is like a seed that sends forth its sprout, then makes its strong; it then becomes thick, and stands on its stem, delighting the sowers, and causing the disbelievers to burn with rage at the sight of them. Allah has promised to those of them who believe and do good works, forgiveness and a great We reward."
Verse 43, Sura 13
"And those who disbelieve say 'you are not a Messenger' say to them, 'sufficient is Allah as the witness between me and you, and so is he who possesses knowledge of the Book."
Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu was the most learned
man of the age. He was a living encyclopaedia of knowledge. The Beloved Prophet
Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa 'aalihi wa Sallam said,
He was the first person to have learned the Qur'an al-karim by heart. He possessed a prodigious memory and he was a keen observer; he was a deep thinker; he had an enlightened mind and he carried a vast storehouse of knowledge in his brain. He was a versatile genius and he exhibited extraordinary talents in all disciplines of knowledge. He was a master of philosophy and rhetoric. He was a distinguished poet. He was a great teacher and preacher. His knowledge extended to such disciplines as logic, mathematics, physics, astronomy, medicine and history.
Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu held that the principal aim of knowledge was the inculcation of virtue, promotion of faith, and understanding of God. He held that knowledge enlivens the soul, for it kills ignorance. He defined knowledge as the sum total of excellence. He held that the pursuit of knowledge is better than the pursuit of riches, that knowledge is the ornament of the rich and the riches of the poor and that knowledge is better than riches. He held that the learned live even after their death. He maintained that the learned were the living ones in the dead mass of ignorance. He observed that to respect the learned was to respect God. With regards to the respect of the teacher, he held that one who teaches you a letter binds you with the fetter of gratitude. He maintained that the talk of the learned man carried within it the fragrance of the garden of Paradise.
Superiority of knowledge over wealth
Abdullah b. Masud used to say that throughout Arabia there was not a more impartial judge than Ali. He also said that Hadrat Ali was the founder of Arabic grammar.
Abu Saeed Khudiri held that he could easily detect a hypocrite by his enmity towards Ali.
Umar b. Abdul Aziz,
the Umayyad Caliph was asked who he considered to be the most pious man
in the world. He said:
Masudi, the great
Shah Wali Ullah [d.1176 AH]
Sayyad Amir Ali assessed
the achievements of Hadrat Ali in the following terms:
Allama Iqbal In
his poem "Asrar-i-Khudi,"
Allama Iqbal paid
tribute to Hadrat Ali in the following terms:
"Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet was a man of many qualities.
He gave fresh vigour to Faith.
And brought honours to the community of the faithful.
He developed self-disciplines and killed avarice.
A person who knows and controls himself rules the world."
It has belatedly come to our attention that there was an inaccurate statement quoted here (allegedly attributed to the muslim scholar;Ibn Athir) which the author of this article had quoted. We have subsequently deleted that quotation so as not to cause any confusion.
The Ahl as-Sunnah wa'l Jama'ah (the greater majority of muslims - The People of the Sunnah) do not consider Hadrat Ali Radi Allahu ta'ala anhu as the most afzaal (superior) amongst the khulafa-e-Rashideen.
Philip Hitti In his
book History of the Arabs, Professor Hitti assessed the character
of Hadrat Ali as follows:
Sir William Muir In
his book, The Caliphate, its Rise, Decline and Fall, Sir
William Muir paid his tribute to Hadrat Ali in the following words:
Professor Nicholson In
his book A Literary History of the Arabs, Nicholson remarked:
Thomas Carlyle In
his book On Heroes and Hero Worship, Thomas Carlyle observed:
Dr. Henry Stubbe In
his book An Account of the Rise and Progress of Muhammadanism, Dr.
Henry Stubbe observed:
Major Price In his
book Memoirs of the Principal Events of Muhammadan History, Major
J.J. Saunders In his
book A History of Medieval Islam, J.J. Saunders observed: