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Imam 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a)

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'Ali b. Abi Talib
1st Imam of the Shi'a
Amir al-Mu'minin
Imam Ali (a)-2.jpg
Teknonym Abu l-Hasan, Abu Turab, Abu l-Sibtayn, Abu l-Rayhanatayn, Abu l-A'imma.
Born Rajab 13, 23 BH/September 28, 600
Birthplace Ka'ba, Mecca
Imamate From Safar 28, 11/May 25, 632(for 29 years)
Reign 656 – 661
Martyrdom Ramadan 21, 40/January 28, 661 in Mosque of Kufa
Cause of Martyrdom While performing morning prayer, he was struck with a sword by Abd al-Rahman b. Muljam al-Muradi and martyred from its injury two days later.
Burial Place Najaf 31°59′45″N 44°18′52.7″E / 31.99583°N 44.314639°E / 31.99583; 44.314639
Successor Al-Hasan (a)
(As the Second Imam of the Shia and Caliph, and As the Fifth of Rashidun Caliphate)
Father Abu Talib b. 'Abd al-Muttalib
Mother Fatima bt. Asad
Brother(s) Ja'far, 'Aqil, Talib
Spouse(s) Fatima, Umama, Umm al-Banin, Layla, Asma', Sahba', Khawla
Son(s) Al-Hasan, al-Husayn, Muhsin, 'Abbas, 'Abd Allah, Ja'far, 'Uthman, 'Ubayd Allah, Abu Bakr, Muhammad, 'Umar,...
Daughter(s) Zaynab, Umm Kulthum, Ruqayya,...
Descendants Sayyid, 'Alawi

Amir al-Mu'minin (ruler of the believers) Bab Madinat al-Ilm (door to the city of knowledge")
al-Murtada (the chosen and contented one)
Asad Allah (lion of god)

Haydar (lion)
The Twelve Imams
'Ali, al-Hasan, al-Husayn, al-Sajjad, al-Baqir, al-Sadiq, al-Kazim, al-Rida, al-Jawad, al-Hadi, al-'Askari, al-Mahdi

ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib (Arabic: علي بن أبي طالب) known as Imam ʿAlī (a) (b. 23 BH/600 - d. 40/661) is the first Imam of all the branches of the Shi'a, a companion, a narrator, and a scribe of the Qur'an. He is the fourth caliph of the Rightly Guided Caliphs in Sunni Islam. 'Ali (a) is the cousin, and son-in-law of the Prophet (s), the husband of Lady Fatima (a), and the father of the rest of the Imams of the Shi'a. According to Shi'i historians and many Sunni scholars, he was born inside the Ka'ba. He was also the first convert.

Based on evidence from the Qur'an, hadith, and history, the Shi'a believe that 'Ali (a) was the direct designated successor of the Prophet (s). Some verses of the Qur'an point to his infallibility. According to Shiite and some Sunni sources, roughly three-hundred verses of the Qur'an were revealed with regards to his virtues. When the Quraysh plotted to assassinate the Prophet (s), it was 'Ali (a) who slept where the Prophet (s) used to sleep, and thus helped the Prophet (s) to secretly leave for Medina. In the pact of brotherhood in Medina, the Prophet (s) chose 'Ali (a) as his brother. Except for the Battle of Tabuk when he stayed in Medina as the deputy of the Prophet (s), 'Ali (a) was with the Prophet (s) in all the battles. He was the most proud commander of Islam.

After the Prophet's (s) demise, a group of people pledged allegiance with Abu Bakr in Saqifa as the caliph contrary to what the Prophet had explicitly stipulated in Ghadir. 25 years later after the caliphate of Abu Bakr, 'Umar and 'Uthman, 'Ali (a) accepted the caliphate at the overwhelming insistence of the Muslims. During his short rule, he was faced with three rebellions and was ultimately assassinated by one of the Kharijites while praying in the Mihrab (the prayer niche) of the Kufa Mosque, and was then secretly buried in Najaf.

Ali (a) is considered as the father of many Islamic sciences including Arabic literature, Islamic theology, jurisprudence, and exegesis. Scholars of different sciences have tried to trace back the chain of their hadiths to him. Nahj al-balagha is a selection of his speeches and letters.

His Status

Ali b. Abi Talib (a) has always had a high status in the eyes of the Shia. He was the most pious and the most knowledgeable companion of the Prophet (s) and his rightful successor. Because of his virtues, a number of the Companions loved and were attached to Ali (a) at the Prophet's (s) time and were called "Shi'at Ali" (the partisans of Ali) since then.[1] However, the word "Shi'a" came to indicate those who consider Ali (a) the rightful successor of the Prophet (s),[2] in contrast to "Sunnis" who maintain that the rightful successor of the Prophet (s) was chosen by the people.[3]

In the Shiite view, the coming to power of Imam Ali (a) as the caliph on Dhu l-Hijja 19, 35/June 18, 656, was the late execution of the Prophet's (s) multiple instructions in different occasions, especially in Ghadir Khumm, that Ali (a) should succeed him and lead the Muslim community after him. The Shia maintain that the Prophet (s) appointed Ali (a) as his successor by the statement "For whomever I am the master, Ali will be his master." This is what the audience understood at the time and thus congratulated Ali (a) for this appointment, calling him Amir al-Mu'minin (the Commander of the Faithful).[4]

Lineage, Titles and Physical Attributes


His lineage is Ali b. Abi Talib b. 'Abd al-Muttalib b. Hashim b. Qusayy b. Kilab.[5] He was from Banu Hashim branch of Quraish. Ali's (a) father, Abu Talib was a generous and just man who was respected by various Arab tribes. He was the uncle and guardian of the Prophet (s) and was amongst the most noble personalities of the Quraysh.[6] Ali's (a) mother was Fatima bt. Asad.[7] His brothers were Talib, 'Aqil, and Ja'far and his sisters were Hind (or Umm Hani), Jumana, Rayta (or Umm Talib) and Asma'.[8] According to the historians, the marriage of Abu Talib and Fatima b. Asad was the first marriage between two individuals who were both from the Banu Hashim clan.[9] Thus, Ali (a) was the first person who was a Hashimite from both his father's and his mother's sides.[10]

Family tree of Ahl al-Bayt (a)
'Abd Allah
Lady Fatima
Imam Ali
Umm al-Banin
Imam al-Husayn
Imam al-Hasan
Lady Zaynab
Umm Kulthum
Abd Allah
Umm Kulthum
'Abd Allah
'Abd Allah
Imam al-Sajjad
'Ali al-Akbar
'Ali al-Asghar
Imam al-Baqir
Imam al-Sadiq
'Abd Allah
'Ubayd Allah
Imam al-Kazim
Umm Farwa
'Abd Allah
Imam al-Rida
Imam al-Jawad
Imam al-Hadi
Imam al-'Askari
Imam al-Mahdi

Kynyas and Titles

His Kunyas were Abu l-Hasan,[11] Abu l-Husayn, Abu l-Sibtayn, Abu l-Rayhanatayn, Abu Turab, and Abu l-A'imma.[12]

In different sources, variety of titles and attributes are mentioned for him, such as: Amir al-Mu'minin (the Commander of the Faithful), Ya'sub al-Din wa l-Muslimin, Haydar, al-Murtada, Qasim al-Nar wa l-Janna, Sahib al-Liwa', al-Siddiq al-Akbar, al-Faruq, Mubir al-Shirk wa l-Mushrikin, Qatil al-Nakithin wa al-Qasitin wa al-Mariqin, Mawla al-Mu'minin, Shabih Harun, Nafs al-Rasul, Akh al-Rasul, Zawj al-Batul, Sayf Allah al-Maslul, Amir al-Barara, Qatil al-Fajara, Dhu l-Qarnayn, al-Hadi, Sayyid al-'Arab, Kashshaf al-Kurab, al-Da'i, al-Shahid, Bab al-Madina, al-Wali, al-Wasi, Qadi Din Rasul Allah, Munjiz Wa'dih, al-Naba' al-'Azim, al-Siraṭ al-Mustaqim, and al-Anza' al-Batin.[13]

Amir al-Mu'minin

Main article: Amir al-Mu'minin

"Amir al-Mu'minin" (the Commander of the Faithful) is a title which is, according to Shiite belief, exclusively reserved for Imam Ali (a). Based on narrations, Shiites believe that this title was used for Imam Ali (a) in the time of the Prophet (s) and is exclusive to him. They believe that this title is not only inappropriate to use for other caliphs, it should also not be used for other Imams (a).[14]

External Characteristics

It is reported in different sources that he was a little smaller than average height, and had wide black eyes, long and joined together eyebrows, a beautiful light brown face and full beard. His shoulders were wide.[15] Regrading Ali's (a) physical strength, it is reported that all those who fought him were defeated by him.[16] Ibn Abi l-Hadid says, "'Ali's (a) physical prowess was well-known. He was the one who lifted the gate of Khaybar, even when a whole group of the troops could not take it back to its place. He was the one who threw down the idol of Hubal (which was a large idol), from the top of the Ka'ba to the ground. He was also the one who lifted up a huge rock with his hands, while a spring gushed forth beneath it."[17]


[[File:Born in Kaaba.jpg|180px|thumbnail|Fatima bt. Asad emerges from the opening in the wall of Ka'ba with the newborn 'Ali is his hands. "Born in Ka'ba", Painted by Mahmud Farshchiyan

From Birth to Hijra

Imam 'Ali (a) was born inside the Ka'ba in Mecca on Friday, Rajab 13, in the thirtieth year after the year of the elephant (23 BH/September 28, 600 CE).[18] His birth inside the Ka'ba is widely accepted (Mutawatir) by many Shi'a scholars (including al-Shaykh al-Saduq, al-Sayyid al-Radi, al-Shaykh al-Mufid, Qutb al-Rawandi, and Ibn Shahrashub) and many Sunni scholars (including al-Hakim al-Nishaburi, al-Hafiz al-Ganji al-Shafi'i, Ibn al-Jawzi al-Hanafi, Ibn Sabbagh al-Maliki, al-Halabi, and al-Mas'udi.)[19]

When Ali (a) was 6 years old (17 BH/606 CE), there was a famine in Mecca. Abu Talib had a large family and supporting them was difficult, especially during the famine. Therefore, Prophet Muhammad (s) and his uncle, al-'Abbas, decided to help Abu Talib and his family by taking care of his children. Therefore, al-'Abbas took Ja'far, and Prophet Muhammad (s) took 'Ali (a).[20] Ali (a) would speak of those days fondly:

"When I was a young child, the Prophet (s) took care of me. He would bring me to his chest and I would sleep in his bed, so close to him that I could even smell his scent. He would chew food for me and then feed me with it. He found no lies in my speech, nor any shortcomings in my actions."[21]

When the Prophet's mission began in 13 BH/610, Ali (a) was the first man and Khadija (a) was the first woman to have accepted the Prophet's call and believed in him.[22] Ali (a), who was ten years old at the time, would pray with the Prophet (s) on the mountains around Mecca.[23] When the Prophet (s) announced his mission publicly, in the event of Warning the Close Kin, Ali (a) supported him and, in response, the Prophet (s) called Ali his brother, wasi (executer of his will), and successor.[24]

In 7 BH/615, the Muslims were besieged in the valley of Abu Talib by the polytheists and were prohibited from trade and placed under curfew. In this period and in several occasions, Abu Talib ordered Ali (a) to sleep where the Prophet (a) used to sleep in order to preserve the Prophet's life.[25] Shortly after the siege ended, Ali (a) lost his father in 4 BH/619.[26] With the demise of Abu Talib, the situation became more difficult for the Muslims, and the Prophet (s) decided to emigrate to Medina. The Prophet (s) was informed of the conspiracy of the polytheists to murder him on the night he had planned to embark on his emigration, so Ali (a), 23 years old at the time, slept where the Prophet (s) used to sleep so that the Prophet (s) could secretly leave his house, which was under surveillance by the polytheists.[27] A few days later, and after paying the Prophet's (s) debts, Ali (a) emigrated to Medina together with a group of people among whom were his mother Fatima bt. Asad and Lady Fatima (a) the Prophet's daughter. [28]

After Hijra

When the Prophet (s) reached Quba region on his way to Medina, he waited fifteen days so that Ali (a) joins him.[29] In Medina and after he constructed his mosque, the Prophet (s) set up the formal pact of brotherhood between the Helpers and the Immigrants; however, he chose Ali (a) as his brother.[30] In 2/624, in the Battle of Badr between the Muslims and the polytheists of Mecca, a large number of the latter's troops, including some of the chiefs of Quraysh, were killed by Ali (a).[31] After the battle,[32] Ali (a) at the age of 25 married Fatima (a) the daughter of the Prophet (s),[33] despite the fact that there were several prominent figures who had proposed marriage to her.[34] The Prophet (s) himself solemnized their marriage.[35]

In 3/625, the polytheists of Mecca waged the battle of Uhud against the Muslims to compensate their defeat in the Battle of Badr.[36] In this Battle, Ali (a) was among the few ones who did not flee the battleground and protected the life of the Prophet (s).[37] It is reported that He was severely wounded sixteen times in that battle.[38] Al-Kulayni and al-Tabari mention that the well-known formula "There is no sword but Dhu l-Fiqar and no man of courage but Ali" was said in this battle in praise of Ali (a).[39] In the same year, Ali's (a) first child, al-Hasan (a), was born. [40]

In 4/626, when Ali (a) was 27, his mother Fatima bt. Asad passed away.[41] Ali's (a) second child, al-Husayn (a), was born in this year.[42] In 5/627, the Battle of Khandaq took place,[43] which ended with the bravery of Ali (a) in killing Amr b. Abd-Wadd.[44] The third child of Ali (a) and Fatima (a), Zaynab (a), was born in the same year.[45]

In 6/628 AH, the treaty of Hudaybiyya was signed between the Prophet (s) and the Quraysh, whose scribe was Ali (a).[46] In this year, Umm Kulthum, Ali's (a) fourth child was born.[47] In the Sha'ban of the same year, the Prophet (s) sent Ali (a) on a preemptive battle against some of the people of Fadak who had planned to support the Muslims' enemies. [48] In 7/628, the Battle of Khaybar took place.[49] Ali (a) was one of the flag-bearers of the Muslim army,[50] which was able to conquer Khaybar under his leadership.[51] In 8/630, Ali (a), 31 years old at the time, was among the flag-bearers of the Muslim army in the conquest of Mecca.[52] He helped the Prophet (s) destroy the idols in Ka'ba.[53]

In 9/630, the Battle of Tabuk took place, and the Prophet (s) left Ali (a) as his successor in Medina. This was the only battle in which Ali (a) was not present.[54] When certain rumors were disseminated by the Hypocrites as to the reason why Ali (a) was left in Medina, Ali (a) joined the Prophet (s), who had left Medina with the Muslim army, and informed him about the rumors. In response, the Prophet (s) told him, "Aren't you happy that you are to me like Aaron to Moses?"[55] This saying came to be known as the Hadith al-Manzila.[56] In the same year, Ali (a) was sent by the Prophet (s) on the mission to proclaim the first verses of Quran 9 to the polytheists.[57] Ali (a) accomplished the mission in the afternoon of Eid al-Adha.[58] On Dhu l-Hijja 24, 9/April 3,631,[59] the Prophet (s), together with Ali (a), Fatima (a), al-Hasan (a), and al-Husayn (a) engaged in mubahala with a Christian delegation from Najran.[60]

In 10/632, the Prophet (s) send Ali (a) on a mission to call the people of Yemen to Islam.[61] In the same year, the Prophet went on his last pilgrimage to Mecca,[62] and Ali joined him in Mecca from Yemen.[63] After the hajj, on his way back to Medina in an area called Ghadir Khumm, the Prophet (s) proclaimed Ali to be his successor and the executor of his will.[64] This event is known as the Event of Ghadir Khumm. Ali (a) was 33 years old at the time.

After the Prophet (s)

The Prophet (s) passed away in Safar 28, 11/May 25, 632, and after his demise, the rightful successor of the Prophet (s) and the leader of the Muslim community, according to the Shia, was Ali (a). However, when Ali (a) was occupied with performing the burial rituals and ceremony for the Prophet (s), a group of the Companions gathered in Saqifa and elected Abu Bakr as the caliph and successor of the Prophet (s). Ali (a) initially refused to pledge his allegiance to Abu Bakr, but he did so afterwards. The majority of the Shia maintain that the allegiance was pledged under compulsion, and some scholars, such as al-Shaykh al-Mufid, hold that the Imam (a) never pledged his allegiance to Abu Bakr. The Shia also maintain that the companions of Abu Bakr invaded Ali's (a) house to force him to pledge allegiance, during which incident Fatima (a) was hurt and had a miscarriage. Abu Bakr also confiscated Fadak, to which Ali (a) objected in defense of Fatima (a). The invasion of the Imam's (a) house resulted in Fatima's (a) illness, and led to her martyrdom in 11/632.

Abu Bakr passed away in 13/634. Before his death, he appointed 'Umar as his successor. In Muharram, 14/March, 635, Umar embarked on a military expedition against the Sasanids. He camped in an area called Sirar, but some prominent figures, including Imam Ali (a), advised him to remain in Medina, so he returned and sent Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas to the battle in his place. Ibn Athir reports that Ali (a) was a judge during the caliphate of Umar, except in its first few years.

In 16/637 (or 17/638), upon Ali's (a) suggestion, Umar set the year of the emigration of the Prophet (s) to Medina as the beginning of the Islamic calendar. In 17/638, Umar led a military expedition to conquer Jerusalem and announced Ali (a) as his successor in Medina. In the same year, after insistence and threatening, Umar married Umm Kulthum the daughter of Imam Ali (a). It is reported that Umar announced Ali (a) as his successor in Medina in 18/639 as well, when he decided to travel to Syria.

When Umar was assassinated in 23/644 and before his death, he appointed a council of six members, including Imam Ali (a), to choose the next caliph. Umar also granted Abd al-Rahman b. Awf a decisive vote in the council. Abd al-Rahman first asked Imam Ali (a) whether he was ready to accept the caliphate with the condition of acting according to the Qur'an and according to the conduct of the Prophet (s), Abu Bakr, and Umar. The Imam (a) refused to accept the condition of acting according to the conduct of the first two caliphs and said, "I hope I will act according to the book of God and the conduct of the Prophet to the extent of my knowledge, capacity, and ijtihad." Abd al-Rahman then asked Uthman the same question; Uthman accepted the condition, and thus became the next caliph after Umar.

Ibn Jawzi reports that Ali (a) continued to be a judge in 24/645. In 25/646, Uthman commanded that the copies of the Qur'an be collected and unified, for which decision, according to al-Suyuti, he consulted Ali (a). In 26/647, Ali's (a) fifth son, al-'Abbas (a), was born.

In 35/656, public dissatisfaction with Uthman's conduct reached its peak, and a group of people besieged his house. Prior to this incident, Imam Ali (a) had reportedly left Medina to Yanbu' per Uthman's request. However, the Imam (a) asked al-Hasan (a) and al-Husayn (a) to protect the caliph. Notwithstanding, the rebels murdered Uthman, and afterwards the people gathered around Imam Ali (a), urging him to accept the caliphate

His Caliphate

In Dhu l-Hijja, 35/June, 656 and after the assassination of Uthman, Ali (a) became the caliph and the leader of the Muslim ummah. Except some of the close people to Uthman and some Companions (the Qa'idun “the sitting ones”), all the Companions in Medina pledged their allegiance to Imam Ali (a). Two days after the beginning of his caliphate, in his first sermon, Ali (a) urged that all the wealth and properties that had been unjustly taken must be returned, and emphasized justice with regard to the distribution of public properties and wealth.

In 36/656, Talha b. Ubayd Allah and Zubayr b. Awam broke their allegiance to Ali and headed to Mecca to join Aisha, who had called for revenge against the murderers of Uthman. With their supporters, Aisha, Talha, and Zubayr left Mecca for Basra to start the Battle of the Camel, the first civil war in the Muslim community. The battle broke out near Basra between Imam Ali (a) and the Nakithun (“Those Who Broke Their Allegiance”) and ended with the latter'a defeat. Talha and Zubayr were killed and A'isha was sent to Medina. The Imam (a) went to Basra and declared general amnesty. Then, in Rajab 36/January [[657 CE|657], he entered Kufa and made the city his capital.

In the same year, Imam Ali (a) called Mu'awiya to pledge his allegiance to him. When Mu'awiya rebelliously refused to recognize the Imam's caliphate, Imam Ali (a) decided to remove him from the governorship of Syria and embarked on a military expedition to Damascus against Mu'awiya in Shawwal 36/April 657. Thus, a battle that took place between the two parties in an area called Siffin (hence the name "the Battle of Siffin") towards the end of the year 36/657 and the beginning of 37/657. Some scholars maintain that unlike what al-Tabari and Ibn Athir have mentioned, the peak of the war was in 38/658, not in Safar 37/August 657. As the army of the Imam (a) was about to win the battle, Amr b. al-'As advised Mu'awiya to have his troops lift copies of the Qur'an on their lances and call the army of Ali (a) to the Quran's arbitration. Under the pressure of his army, the Imam (a) accepted the arbitration and was forced to introduce Abu Musa al-Ash'ari as the arbitrator from his side. However, shortly after the Imam's acceptance of the arbitration, a number of his troops objected to his decision and, referring to Qur'an 5:44 and 49:9, demanded that the war with Mu'awiya should continue. They considered the acceptance of arbitration an act of apostasy, from which they repented. While some of them were among the ones who had forced the Imam (a) to accept the arbitration, the objectors demanded that the Imam (a) also must repent and violate his agreements with Mu'awiya. The Imam (a) rejected their demands and announced that he would continue the war with the Syrian army if the two arbitrators did not arbitrate based on the Qur'an.

During the arbitration, Amr b. al-'As, the arbitrator from Mu'awiya's side, deceived Abu Musa into announcing that they had agreed on the removal of both Mu'awiya and Ali (a) from power. When Abu Musa announced so, Amr rose and announced that he also removed Ali (a) from power but made Mu'awiya the sole ruler of the Muslim community. The Imam's (a) companions objected to the arbitration, and some of them, who later formed the first Kharijites, considered the acceptance of the arbitration an act of apostasy, left the Imam's army, and gathered in Harura instead of returning to Kufa.

The objections of the Kharijites continued for six months. Imam Ali (a) sent 'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas and Sa'sa'a b. Sawhan to talk to them and convince them to end their protest—a request which the Kharijites refused. Afterwards, the Imam (a) asked them to choose twelve people for a dialogue with twelve representatives of the Imam (a). He also wrote a letter to the leaders of the Kharijites and asked them to return to the community, but 'Abd Allah b. Wahb, one of the Kharijite leaders, reminded the Imam (a) that he had committed an act of apostasy and must repent. The Imam (a) also called the Kharijites several more times through prominent figures such as Qays b. Sa'd b. 'Ubada and Abu Ayyub al-Ansari to return and granted them amnesty if they did so. However, when none of the solutions worked, Imam Ali (a) decided to confront them with an army of fourteen thousand men. The two armies met in an area called Nahrawan. Imam Ali (a) emphasized that his troops should not begin the battle. So the Kharijites started the battle and were soon defeated; all of them were either killed or wounded, whereas only less than ten soldiers from the Imam's (a) army were killed in the battle. The wounded (about 400 men) from the Kharijites were given to their families. Only ten Kharijites could flee the battleground, one of whom was Abd al-Rahman b. Muljam al-Muradi, the assassinator of Imam Ali (a). Ibn Muljam attacked the Imam (a) on the eve of Ramadan 19, 40/January 26, 661 in the mosque of Kufa and wounded him with his poisoned sword. Two days later, on Ramadan 19/January 28, Imam Ali (a) was martyred at the age of 63[65] and was secretly buried.

Spouses and Children

The first wife of 'Ali (a) was Fatima (a), the daughter of the Prophet (s).[66] Before 'Ali (a), a few others like Abu Bakr, 'Umar b. al-Khattab and 'Abd al-Rahman b. 'Awf, had voiced their readiness to marry her. However, the Prophet (s) had told them that he was waiting for the divine revelation with regards to her marriage and gave them a negative answer.[67]

Historians disagree on the date of the marriage of 'Ali (a) and Fatima (a). Some have mentioned that it was on Dhu l-Hijja 1, 2/May 25, 624.[68] Others have mentioned that it was in Shawwal or on Muharram 21.[69] Together, they had five children named al-Hasan, al-Husayn, [[[Zaynab al-Kubra|Zaynab]] and Umm Kulthum and also [al-Muhsin b. 'Ali (a)|al-Muhsin]], who was aborted before his birth.

Timeline of Imam 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a) life
599 Birth
610 The first person who believes in Islam
619 Demise of Abu Talib (Father)
622 Laylat al-Mabit: sleeping in the place of the Prophet (s)
622 Hijra to Medina
624/2 Participating in the Battle of Badr
625/3 Participating in the Battle of Uhud
626/4 Demise of Fatima bt. Asad (Mother)
627/5 Participating in the Battle of Khandaq and killing 'Amr b. 'Abd Wadd
628/6 Writing the content of Hudaybiyya peace treaty
629/7 Victorious of Khiybar castle in the Battle of Khaybar
630/8 Participating in Conquest of Mecca and breaking idols by the order of the Prophet (s)
630/9 Successor of the Prophet (s) in Medina in the Battle of Tabuk
632/10 Participating in Hajjat al-Wida'
632/10 Event of Ghadir
632/11 Demise of the Prophet (s) and his burial by Imam 'Ali (a)
Three caliphs period
632/11 Incident of Saqifa and beginning of Caliphate of Abu Bakr
632/11 Martyrdom of Lady Fatima (a)
634/13 Beginning of Caliphate of 'Umar b. al-Khattab
644/23 Participating in Six-Member Council
644/23 Beginning of Caliphate of 'Uthman b. 'Affan
655/35 Beginning of his Caliphate
656/36 The Battle of Jamal
657/37 The Battle of Siffin
658/38 The Battle of Nahrawan
661/40 Martyrdom

Other wives

Imam Ali (a) did not marry another woman during the life of Fatima (a). After her martyrdom, 'Ali (a) married other women, namely:

  • Layla, the daughter of Mas'ud b. Khalid al-Nahshali.
  • Umm Habib, the daughter of Rabi'a al-Taghlabi named al-Sahba'.
  • Khawla, the daughter of Ja'far b. Qays b. Maslama al-Hanafi (or according to another account, she was the daughter of Ayas). Together, they had Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya.
  • Umm Sa'id, the daughter of 'Urwat b. Mas'ud al-Thaqafi
  • Muhayyat, the daughter of Imru' al-Qays b. 'Adi al-Kalbi.[70]


Al-Shaykh al-Mufid has narrated that 'Ali (a) had 27 children. He also mentions that some Shi'a scholars have mentioned an additional child to the children of Fatima (a) whom the Prophet (s) had named al-Muhsin (mentioned above) before she gave birth to him.[71]. However, he was miscarried after the Prophet (s) passed away. Including him, 'Ali (a) had 28 children:

  1. Al-Hasan
  2. Al-Husayn
  3. Zaynab al-Kubra
  4. Zaynab al-Sughra (Umm Kulthum)
  5. Al-Muhsin (These were the five children of Fatima (a))
  6. Muhammad whose mother was Khawla bt. Qays b. al-Hanafiyya
  7. 'Umar
  8. Ruqayya ('Umar and Ruqayya were twins and their mother was Umm Habib bt. al-Rabi'a)
  9. Al-'Abbas
  10. Ja'far
  11. 'Uthman
  12. 'Abd Allah (These four were the children of Umm al-Banin, all martyred in the event of Karbala)
  13. Muhammad al-Asghar (whose epithet was Abu Bakr)
  14. 'Ubayd Allah (These two were the children of Layla bt. Mas'ud, and martyred in the event of Karbala)
  15. Yahya (whose mother was Asma' bt. 'Umays)
  16. Umm al-Hasan
  17. Ramla (The mother of these two was Umm Sa'id bt. 'Urwa)
  18. Nafisa
  19. Zaynab al-Sughra
  20. Ruqayya al-Sughra
  21. Umm Hani
  22. Umm al-Kiram
  23. Jumana (whose epithet was Umm Ja'far)
  24. Amama
  25. Umm Salama
  26. Maymuna
  27. Khadija
  28. Fatima (Al-Shaykh al-Mufid has not mentioned the mothers of last eleven children, and has said that their mothers are different)

Presence in the Ghazwas (Battles)

See also: Ghazwa

'Ali (a) had an influential role in the Ghazwas (battles in which the Prophet himself was also present), save for the Battle of Tabuk.[72]in which he remained in Medina as the deputy of the Prophet (s). He was the main Standard-bearer of the Islamic army in many Ghazwas. He remained with the Prophet (s) in the battles that other Muslims escaped, and continued to fight.

Battle of Badr

Main article: Battle of Badr

The Battle of Badr was the first battle between the Muslims and the idolaters of Mecca. It took place on Friday, the Ramadan 17, 2/March 13, 624 along the wells of Badr.[73] In this battle, the Muslims killed seventy of the idolaters, including a few influential chiefs like Abu Jahl and 'Utba b. Rabi'a.

It was an Arab custom to precede the general battle with a few one-on-one combats. So, 'Utba b. al-Rabi'a, his son, Walid, and his brother, Shayba came forward and wanted the Prophet (s) to send a few worthy opponents to the battlefield to fight with them. The Prophet (s) sent 'Ali (a), Hamza and 'Ubayda b. Harith. 'Ali (a) struck Walid quickly, as did Hamza to 'Utba, killing them quickly. They then went on to help 'Ubayda against Shayba, killing him too.[74]

Of the 70 casualties of the polytheist around 20 were killed by 'Ali.[75]

Battle of Uhud

Main article: Battle of Uhud

'Ali (a), Hamza, Abu Dujana and a few others led the Muslim army in the Battle of Uhud, disheartening the enemy's ranks. However, a group of polytheists managed to encircle the Muslims army. With every group of the Quraysh army attacking the Prophet (s), 'Ali (a) would counterattack against them at the command of the Prophet (s).

Paying tribute to the dedication that 'Ali (a) showed, the archangel Gabriel, in praise of 'Ali's self-sacrifice, said to the Prophet (s): "This is the ultimate devotion that 'Ali has shown." The Prophet (s) agreed with Gabriel and said, "I am from 'Ali and he is from me." A voice then echoed in the sky, saying, "La fata illa 'Ali, la sayf illa Dhu l-faqar" which means "There is no youth like 'Ali (a), and there is no sword like Dhu l-Faqar (the sword of 'Ali (a))"[76]

Battle of Khandaq

Main article: Battle of Khandaq

In the Battle of Khandaq (trench), as suggested by Salman al-Farsi, the Muslims dug a trench around Medina in order to keep the enemy away from the city.[77]

For several days, the two armies confronted each other on opposite sides of the trench. They would sometimes fight, throwing stones and arrows. Finally, 'Amr b. 'Abd Wad (from the army of the polytheists), along with a few others, jumped over the trench at its narrowest part and managed to reach the other side. 'Ali (a) asked the Prophet (s) to give him permission to fight 'Amr, and the Prophet (s) accepted. After fighting with 'Amr, 'Ali (a) knocked him down and killed him.[78]

After the battle the Prophet (s) said, "The hit of 'Ali (a) [to 'Amr] during this battle, is more valuable than the worship of all jinns and human beings."[79]

Battle of Khaybar

Main article: Battle of Khaybar

The Battle of Khaybar occurred in Jumada I 7/628, when the Prophet (s) issued a command to attack the Jewish fortresses due to their threats.[80] After a few men, like Abu Bakr and 'Umar, could not conquer the forts, the Prophet (s) said, "Tomorrow I will give the flag to a man who loves God and His prophet, and God and His prophet also love him."[81] The next morning, the Prophet (s) called 'Ali (a) and gave the flag to him.

'Ali (a) took his sword, Dhu l-Faqar, and went to the battlefield. When he lost his shield during the fight, he lifted up one of the gates of the fortress and used it as a shield until the end of the battle.[82]

Conquest of Mecca

Main article: Conquest of Mecca

In the beginning of Ramadan in 8/630, the Prophet (s) traveled to Mecca from Medina with the intention of conquering Mecca. After Sa'd b. 'Ubada, one of the standard bearers, chanted slogans about revenge; the Prophet (s) sent 'Ali (a) to take the flag from Sa'd and chant a slogan about mercy.[83] After the Conquest of Mecca, the Prophet (a) entered Ka'ba and broke the idols in it, then 'Ali (a) climbed onto the shoulders of the Prophet (s) and threw down the idol of Khuza'a tribe.[84]

Battle of Hunayn

Main article: Battle of Hunayn

The Battle of Hunayn occurred in 8/629. The war occurred because the chiefs of the Hawazin and Thaqif tribes decided to take preemptive action against the Prophet (s) in fear that he was going to attack them after the Conquest of Mecca.

'Ali (a) led Muhajirun and killed about 40 people from the enemy's army.[85]

Battle of Tabuk

Main article: Battle of Tabuk

The battle of Tabuk was the only battle led by the Prophet (s) in which 'Ali (a) did not participate. He stayed in Medina at the Prophet's command in order to protect the city in the Prophet's (a) absence against the plots of the hypocrites.

Soon after the Prophet (s) left for war, the hypocrites began to spread rumors about the Prophet (s) being not pleased with 'Ali that he didn't want him to go. In order to put a quick end to the vicious rumours, 'Ali (a) immediately rushed towards the Prophet (s) who was outside of the city and informed him of the matter. It was here that Hadith al-Manzila ('the hadith of position') was narrated by the Prophet (s). He stated, "My brother, 'Ali! Return to Medina, since nobody except me or you,has the competence to handle these affairs. Thus, you are my vicegerent and successor amongst my Ahl al-Bayt and my people. Are not you pleased [to know] that you are in the same position (Manzilah) to me as that of Aaron to Moses, except that after me there will be no other prophet?"[86]

Event of Ghadir

Main article: Event of Ghadir

In the year 10/632, the Prophet (s) went to Mecca to perform the hajj and to teach the rituals of the hajj to the Muslims. (see: Hajjat al-Wida')

After completing the hajj rituals, the Prophet (s) left Mecca to return to Medina with a large group of people accompanying him. On the Dhu l-Hijja 18/March 16, when the caravan had reached a place called Ghadir Khumm near Juhfa, the Prophet (s) received a revelation from God that he should announce 'Ali (a) as his successor. He ordered everyone to stop in their travels, and to wait until all of the pilgrims gather together, giving time for those who were behind to catch up and for those who had gone ahead, to return.

Then, the Prophet (s) delivered the divine command: (the al-Tabligh verse):[87]

After the revelation of this verse, the Prophet (s) addressed the people, "Do I not have more of a right over the believers than the rights that they have over themselves?" People cried and answered, "Yes, O' Messenger of God!"

Then, he stated, "Whoever I am the master of (mawla), 'Ali (a) is also his master (mawla). O God! Befriend those who befriend him, and be enemies with those who are his enemies, support those who support him, and humiliate those who humiliate him."[88]

Event of Saqifa Bani Sa'ida

In the last moments of the life of the Prophet (s), 'Ali (a) came next to him and the Prophet (s) told him a long secret. When the Prophet's (s) illness worsened, he told 'Ali (a): "Put my head onto your lap, since a divine command has come and said that when my soul departs my body, you should take it by your hand and pass it over your face, and then direct my body towards the qibla, prepare me for burial, and pray over my body before others. Do not leave my side until you have buried me in the earth, and ask God, the Exalted, for help."[89]

While Imam 'Ali (a) and other members of the Banu Hashim were busy preparing for the Prophet's (s) burial, some of the Muhajirin and the Ansar, (including Abu Bakr, 'Umar, Abu 'Ubayda, 'Abd al-Rahman b. 'Awf, Sa'd b. 'Ubada, Thabit b. Qays, and Uthman b. 'Affan), gathered at a place called Saqifa Bani Sa'ida in order to decide the future leadership of the Muslims. After a few disputes, (and not taking the event of Ghadir into consideration), they decided that Abu Bakr would be the first caliph after the Prophet (s).[90]

During the Rule of the Three Caliphs

Under the governance of first three caliphs, which lasted 25 years, Imam 'Ali (a) did not alienate himself from the affairs of the Muslim community. In fact, he contributed to many scholarly endeavors and social services. This included activities like the compilation of the Qur'an (Mushaf of Imam 'Ali), and advising the three caliphs with regards to religious issues, conquests, and governance. He continued to give extensive charity to the poor and the orphans, and bought and freed a thousand slaves. He would farm and plant trees, dig canals, build mosques (like the Fath mosque in Medina, a mosque near the grave of Hamza, in Miqat, in Kufa, and in Basra). He would also dedicate (waqf) real estates and places for religious causes, whose annual income was 40,000 dinars.[91] Some of the most important historical events of the period is as follows.

Abu Bakr

With the beginning of the caliphate of Abu Bakr some tragic events occurred to the Ahl al-Bayt (a), such as: invasion to the home of 'Ali (a) in order to secure his allegiance for Abu Bakr,[92] the illegal confiscation and usurpation of Fadak, and the martyrdom of the Lady Fatima (a).

Forced Allegiance

When Imam 'Ali (a) and a few companions refused to swear allegiance to Abu Bakr, this proved to be a serious problem for Abu Bakr and 'Umar. The two decided to address this problem by forcing Imam 'Ali (a) into pledging allegiance with Abu Bakr.[93]

After refusing to pledge allegiance several times, Qunfudh was sent by Abu Bakr to Imam 'Ali's house in order to secure allegiance for Abu Bakr. Imam 'Ali (a) refused again. 'Umar then advised Abu Bakr: "You yourself should get up and go to Imam 'Ali." Thus, Abu Bakr, Umar, 'Uthman, Khalid b. al-Walid, al-Mughira b. Shu'ba, Abu 'Ubayda al-Jarrah and Qunfudh went to the house of Imam 'Ali (a).

When they arrived at his house, they insulted Lady Fatima (a) and slammed the door on her such that she became stuck between the door and the wall (which caused her a severe injury which later lead to her martyrdom). When she came out of house, they whipped her and attacked Imam 'Ali (a), wrapping his clothes over his neck, and taking him by force towards Saqifa Bani Sa'ida.

When he was taken towards Saqifa Bani Sa'ida, they asked him to pledge allegiance with Abu Bakr. Imam 'Ali (a) replied: "I am worthier than you with regards to the caliphate and I shall never pledge allegiance to you. Rather, you ought to pledge allegiance to me, since you took the caliphate over the Ansar according to your relationship with the Prophet (s) [while my relationship is closer], and now you usurp it from me...."[94]

War against Romans

When Abu Bakr became caliph, he was hesitant to carry out the Prophet's (s) command to fight the Romans (as the Prophet (s) had commanded before his death). So, he consulted with the Companions. Each of the companions advised differently, but none of them could convince Abu Bakr of what to do. Finally, Abu Bakr consulted Imam 'Ali (a) who urged him to act according to the commands of the Prophet (s) and said, "If you fight, you will win." Abu Bakr was pleased with his encouragement and said, "It was a good omen and you brought me good tidings."[95]


Early Islam
Hira cave-entrance.jpg

Imam 'Ali (a)
First Imam of Shi'a

Event of GhadirLaylat al-MabitYawm al-DarCaliphateTimeline

Nahj al-BalaghaGhurar al-hikamAl-Shiqshiqiyya Sermon

Excellences of Ahl al-Bayt (a)Al-Wilaya VerseAhl al-Dhikr VerseUlu l-Amr VerseAl-Tathir VerseAl-Mubahala VerseAl-Mawadda VerseAl-Sadiqin VerseHadith Madinat al-'IlmHadith al-ThaqalaynHadith al-RayaHadith al-SafinaHadith al-Kisa'Al-Ghadir SermonHadith al-ManzilaHadith Yawm al-DarHadith Sadd al-AbwabHadith al-WisayaLa Fata Illa AliThe First Muslim

'Ammar b. YasirMalik al-AshtarAbu Dhar al-Ghifari'Ubayd Allah b. Abi Rafi'Hujr b. 'Adiothers

Related Topics
Holy Shrine

After the assassination of 'Uthman in 35/656, a group of the companions came to Imam 'Ali (a) and said, "we do not know anyone better than you for the caliphate". He responded by saying, "it is better for me to be your helper as opposed to your leader." They said, we will not accept anything short of pledging our allegiance to you as the next caliph." However, he said that this allegiance would have to be given to him publicly in the mosque, as opposed to secretly.[96] Except for few, all of the Ansar pledged allegiance to Imam 'Ali (a). But he did not make the opposition to allegiance.[97]

As to why he did not initially accept the caliphate, it should be noted that he knew the community was too corrupt to be led by him and to comply with his uncompromising moral standards.[98]

Reciprocal Rights of People and the Ruler

According to Imam 'Ali (a), there are mutual rights between the ruler and the people. They are divinely established and reciprocal. He said:

"In the same way that one has rights over the other, the latter also has rights over the former. The only one who has rights over everyone whilst none have rights over Him, is Allah. This does not apply to any of His servants."[99]

Also according to Imam 'Ali (a), respecting these mutual rights have great benefits:

"If subjects fulfill the rights of the ruler and the ruler fulfills the rights of their subjects, then rights attain a position of honor amongst them. The ways of the religion become established, the signs of justice become fixed, and the Sunna gains currency."[100]

Then, he states:

"If subjects gain sway over their ruler, or the ruler oppresses their subjects, then discord will be sewn. In every word, signs of oppression will appear, mischief will enter the religion, and the ways of the Sunna will be forsaken. Then, [people will] act on their desires, discard the commands (of religion), and [become] seriously diseased in the spirit. There will be no hesitancy in disregarding the most important of rights, nor in committing the biggest of wrongs. In these circumstances, the virtuous will be humiliated while the vicious will be honored, and there will be serious chastisements from Allah, the Glorified, onto the people."[101]

'Ali (a) highly respected the personalities and rights of the people and this is evident from the letters that he sent to his official agents. In a letter to one of his tax-collectors, he (a) wrote:

"Behave justly with the people and be patient with regards to their needs, because you are the treasurer of the people, a representative of the community, and an ambassador of the Imams."[102]

Also, in a letter advising zakat collectors, he wrote:

"Do not frighten any Muslim. Do not pass over his lands so as to make him feel uneasy. Do not take more than Allah's share from his property. When you visit a tribe, you should stop at their watering place as opposed to entering their houses. Proceed towards them with peace and dignity until you meet them. Then salute them and do not forget to greet them. Then say to them, 'O servants of Allah, the vicegerent of Allah and His caliph have sent me to collect Allah's share in your properties. Is there anything of His share in your properties? If so, give it to His vicegerent.' If someone responds in the negative, then do not repeat the demand. If someone responds in the affirmative, then go with him without frightening him, or threatening him…"[103]

When 'Ali (a) appointed Malik al-Ashtar to govern Egypt, he wrote:

"Habituate your heart to mercy for your subjects, and to affection and kindness for them. Do not stand over them like greedy beasts who feel as though they should devour them. They (your subjects) are of two kinds: either your brother in religion or like you in humanity/creation."[104]


In the beginning of his caliphate, Imam 'Ali (a) put an end to some of the false traditions of the first three caliphs. He stopped the way in which the public treasury was distributed based on the participation in battles of the early years of Islam, or with precedence for those who had become Muslim faster. He said: "Treat everyone equally when distributing the public treasury and do not prefer anyone over the other…. I have studied the Qur'an from the beginning to the end, and yet I have not found anything to suggest the superiority for the descendants of Ishmael – i.e. the Meccan Arabs – over Isaac's [and all people are equal]."[105] He appointed 'Ammar b. Yasir and Abu l-Haytham b. Tayyihan to the public treasury and gave them written orders:

"The Arabs, non-Arabs, and all Muslims from every tribe and ethnicity should receive an equal share from the public treasury."[106]

Moreover, when Imam 'Ali (a) accepted the caliphate, he ordered that the lands that 'Uthman had given to different people be restored to the treasury as it was 'the property of God'.[107]

Conduct Concerning the Public Treasury

Imam 'Ali (a) was so strict with regards to dealing with justice with the public treasury, that when his daughter only borrowed a pearl necklace from 'Ali b. Abi Rafi', the keeper of the public treasury, he gave both her and him a stern warnings.[108]

On another occasion, Imam 'Ali (a), in response to a financial request from one of his companions, said: "This property is neither mine, nor yours. Rather it is war booty that was obtained for the Muslims by their swords. If you had participated in the war alongside them, you would have received a share equal to theirs. However, [as this is not the case], it is not becoming for what they have earned by their own hands to be eaten by anyone else."[109]

Strict Enforcement of Law and Religion

He was uncompromising when enforcing the laws of Islam, and this made him intolerable for some people. The following two stories illustrate this:

Once, 'Ali (a) ordered Qanbar to punish someone with a number of lashes as per the legal punishment (hadd). Overcome with emotion, Qanbar added three more lashes. However, 'Ali (a) made the man retaliate and lash Qanbar three times for the injustice of the three additional lashes.[110]

One night, a rich man from Basra invited 'Uthman b. Hunayf (the governor of Basra) to a party and arranged to meet him at the party. 'Ali (a) heard about the gathering and instantly wrote a letter to 'Uthman b. Hunayf, saying: "O' Ibn Hunayf!, I have come to know that a young man from Basra invited you to a feast and you leaped towards it. Various types of foods of different colors were offered to you, and large bowls were being given to you. I never fathomed that you would accept an invitation to a feast from people who turn out beggars and invite the rich... Realize that your Imam has contented himself with two shabby pieces of cloth from the (comforts of the) world and two loaves (of bread) for his meal."[111]

Reproaching the Flatterers

Imam Ali (a) hated the extensive praising and flattering of people and forbade Muslims from it. The following stories illustrate this:

When returning from the Battle of Siffin, a man named Harb b. Shurahabil was walking with Imam 'Ali (a) who was on horseback. Imam 'Ali (a) stopped him and said to Harb, "Go back!" When Harb refused, he told him, "Go back, since such a person as you going on foot accompanying such a person as me brings trouble for the governor and ruler, and humiliation and disgrace for a believer."[112]

Once, one of the companions eulogized Imam 'Ali (a). He strictly prohibited him from doing so and said:

"In the view of the virtuous people, the worst state of a ruler is that they are thought to love glory, and that their affairs are shaped on pride. I would hate for it to occur to your mind that I love to be flattered or to hear eulogies. By the grace of Allah, I am not like this. Even If I loved to be mentioned like this, I would have forsaken it in submissiveness to Allah, the Glorified, rather than accept greatness and sublimity to which He is more entitled. Generally, people become pleased when they are praised after a good performances, but do not praise me for the obligations that I have discharged towards Allah and towards you…"[113]

When 'Ali (a) led his army towards Syria, and they approached the city of al-Anbar, local peasants were standing in rows and ran forward to welcome him happily. Then he said, "What a wrong action you have done!" They said: "This is our custom and the way in which we show our respect to our governors." 'Ali (a) said, "By Allah, this does not benefit your leaders. You are yourself into hardship in this world and earning misery for the next world by doing so."[114]

Military System

'Ali (a) knew that the army was a source of confidence for the people, dignity for the governors, glory for the religion, and security for the state. The army's success was contingent on the economic situation of the state and the taxes given by people, government agents, traders, and industry owners and their stability and strength for protecting the country depend on the overall government system.[115]

With regards to recruiting army members, he said, "Associate with considerate people from high families, virtuous houses and decent traditions, and then people of courage, valor, generosity and benevolence… there should be a close relationship between them and the leader of the Ummah, and they should be supported financially."[116]

In the views of Imam 'Ali (a), the people are considered to be the most important defensive mechanism for a government, and if their support wanes, it would result in the complete destruction of the armed forces in a prolonged war and may be followed by the overthrowing of the government. As such, he stated,

"The elites of a nation impose a heavy burden on the government, since they show less support in times of hardship, more discontent with an administration of justice and they are less resistant against problems. However, the general public forms the standing pillars of religion, grandiose Muslim congregations and society and reserved armed forces."[117]


During his rule, Imam 'Ali (a) appointed and replaced governors in a few cities, including:

From among the governors of 'Ali (a), some were killed, like Malik al-Ashtar, Muhammad b. Abi Bakr, 'Abd Allah b. Khabbab, Muhammad b. Abi Hudhayfa, Abu l-Hasan b. al-Hassan al-Bakri, and Hulw b. 'Awf.

Some also died of old age in the time of 'Ali (a), such as, Sahl b. Hunayf, Abu Qatada, and Hudhayfa b. Yaman.

However, some continued as governors until they died, like Qays b. Sa'd, 'Uthman b. Hunayf, Kumayl b. Ziyad, Sa'd b. Mas'ud and Sulayman b. Surad.

There were also some who failed in performing their duties and were rebuked like, 'Ubayd Allah b. al-'Abbas and Sa'id b. Namran.

Imam 'Ali (a) also dismissed and removed some governors due to their disloyalty like Mundhir b. Jarud and 'Uqba b. 'Amr.[118]


Battle of Jamal

'Ali (a)

"One who goes too far in quarreling has sinned, and one who falls short in it [quarreling], becomes oppressed. And someone who quarrels is unable to be God-wary."

Nahj al-balagha, Maxim no. 298 or 290
Main article: Battle of Jamal

The first battle that Imam 'Ali (a) engaged in during his caliphate was with the Nakithun. Since Talha and al-Zubayr and their followers first pledged allegiance to Imam 'Ali (a) but later broke it, they were called the Nakithun i.e. "the violators".[119] The battle took place in Jumada II of 36/656.[120]

Talha and al-Zubayr had hoped to be elected as caliph,[121] but since they failed to achieve this and 'Ali (a) had assumed the caliphate, they wanted and expected a share in the caliphate. As such, they asked 'Ali (a) to appoint them as rulers of Basra and Kufa. However, 'Ali (a) did not deem them worthy of it.[122] Therefore, even though they were themselves suspected to have been involved in the assassination of 'Uthman, and Talha had been eager to kill 'Uthman,[123] they allied with 'A'isha in a strategic move to supposedly avenge his murder. However, during the siege of 'Uthman, 'A'isha did nothing to help him, and had even called the invaders, "the seekers of truth". However, when 'A'isha heard that following his murder, people were pledging allegiance with Imam 'Ali (a), she decided to raise the issue that 'Uthman had been killed unjustly and sought his revenge. 'A'isha bore some rancor towards 'Ali (a) and hence allied with Talha and al-Zubayr against him. They mobilized an army of 3,000 troops and moved toward Basra. In this battle, 'A'isha mounted a camel named 'Askar, and thus the battle was named "Jamal" meaning "camel".[124]

Upon his arrival in Basra, Imam 'Ali (a) urged those who broke their allegiance to avoid the battle. However, he was not successful and they began the battle by killing one of Imam 'Ali's (a) companions.[125] Also, al-Zubayr withdrew from the army before the battle began due to a hadith that Imam 'Ali (a) had reminded him of: a hadith in which the Prophet (s) had told al-Zubayr: "You will rise up in a battle against 'Ali (a)". He was then killed outside Basra by 'Amr b. Jurmuz.[126]

After several hours of fighting and suffering many losses, the camp of Jamal was defeated. In this battle, Talha was killed and thereafter 'A'isha was sent back to Medina in a respectful manner.[127]

Battle of Siffin

Main article: Battle of Siffin

Though he was capable, Mu'awiya did nothing to help 'Uthman when he was under siege. After the killing of 'Uthman, Mu'awiya tried to introduce 'Ali (a) as the murderer of 'Uthman to the people of Syria. In the beginning of his rule, Imam 'Ali (a) wrote a letter to Mu'awiya, calling on him to pledge allegiance. However, he responded with the condition that 'Ali (a) first had to surrender the murderers of 'Uthman who were supposedly around 'Ali (a) and to punish them. Only then would he pledge allegiance. After several letters and dispatching a few delegates to Mu'awiya, Imam 'Ali (a) saw that Mu'awiya was pursuing a fight, and so, Imam 'Ali (a) took his armies towards Syria. Mu'awiya also set out with his army, and the two armies encamped in Syria near the Euphrates in a place called Siffin. As Imam 'Ali (a) refrained from war wherever possible, he sent some letters to Mu'awiya. However his attempts were futile, and the battle began in Safar 37/August 657.[128]

In the last confrontation of the battle, when Imam 'Ali's (a) armies were about to win, Mu'awiya, on advice from 'Amr b. al-'As, ordered his soldiers to hoist any Mushaf (part or complete copies of the Qur'an) available in the camp on their spears and to move towards the front of 'Ali's army, calling on them to accept the Qur'an. The decoy worked and some of Imam 'Ali's (a) army, especially those amongst the reciters of the Qur'an, came to Imam 'Ali (a) and said, "We shall not fight these people and we need to accept whatever they say". Although Imam 'Ali (a) had told them that it was a trick that they were using to escape fighting, they did not accept it.[129]

Imam Ali (a) was thus forced to accept arbitration through a letter to Mu'awiya, but said, "We know that you are not the people of the Qur'an".[130]

It was agreed that one arbitrator from each of the armies of Syria and Iraq would meet and judge the situation by referring to the Qur'an's edict. The army of Syria appointed 'Amr b. al-'As. Al-Ash'ath and a group from Imam 'Ali's (a) army (who later became members of the Kharijites) proposed Abu Musa al-Ash'ari. However, 'Ali (a) recommended Ibn 'Abbas and/or Malik al-Ashtar, who were rejected by al-Ash'ath and his friends. They were rejected under the pretext that Malik supported the war and that Ibn 'Abbas was not suitable because 'Amr b. al-'As was from Mudar, thus the other party had to be from Yemen.[131]

Finally, 'Amr b. al-'As managed to trick Abu Musa and ended the arbitration in favor of Mu'awiya in Ramadan 38/February 659.[132]

Battle of Nahrawan

Main article: Battle of Nahrawan
Addressing the Kufans, Imam 'Ali (a) said:

"Yesterday, I would give command, and today I am given commands! Yesterday, I prescribed [people from doing things], and today I am being prescribed to! You only like to live, so it is not appropriate for me to force you to do what you dislike."

Nahj al-balagha, Sermon no. 208.

The arbitration in the battle of Siffin ended in protest and opposition from some of Imam 'Ali's (a) companions, who were upset with what had happened, asking: "Why did he accept the arbitrator's judgment upon divine edict?" They said this even though Imam 'Ali (a) had opposed the arbitration and it was them who had forced him into accepting the arbitrator's judgment.[133] This group split off and later became known as the Kharijites or Mariqun. They eventually proceeded to assassinate people. They killed 'Abd Allah b. Khabbab whose father was one of the companions of the Prophet (s) and tore his wife's stomach open even though she was pregnant, and killed the child as well. Because of this, Imam 'Ali (a) was forced to fight with them. Before the battle began, he sent 'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas to speak with them, but this was futile. Finally, Imam 'Ali (a) himself went to them and talked to them. Some of them repented, but many held on to their beliefs. Eventually, the battle began and none of them survived except nine, whilst only seven or nine companions of 'Ali (a) were killed.[134]


On the morning of Ramadan 19, 40/January 26, 661, (during the days in which 'Ali (a) was mobilizing an army for Siffin), he was struck with a sword by Abd al-Rahman b. Muljam al-Muradi and martyred from its injury two days later. After the Battle of Nahrawan, 'Ali (a) tried again to mobilize the Iraqis for a battle against Mu'awiya. However, none except a few accompanied him. On the other hand, Mu'awiya, who was aware of the situation in Iraq and their passivity, invaded regions under 'Ali's control (a) and attempted to debilitate his power by invading Iraq.[135]

Historical accounts have reported the collaboration of three Kharijites in an attempt to kill three individuals: 'Ali (a), Mu'awiya, and 'Amr b. al-'As. Ibn Muljam was the one who chose to kill Ali (a). Some accounts have also mentioned the role of a woman named Qutam in this assassination, however, this seems to be more of an embellishment as opposed to fact.[136]

Al-Hasan (a), al-Husayn (a), and Muhammad b. al-Hanfiyya, accompanied by 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far buried him in Ghariyyayn (present day Najaf) and hid his grave.[137] This was because if the Banu Umayya or the Kharijites knew about his burial place, they would exhume his body and treat it with disrespect.[138]

The Shrine of Imam 'Ali (a), Najaf

Only his children and a few companions knew of his burial place. It wasn't until the era of al-Mansur al-'Abbasi in 135/753, when Imam al-Sadiq (a) revealed that the location of his grave was in Najaf.[139]

Will and Advice

There are a few hadiths narrated from 'Ali (a) that contain his advice to his children with regards to his funeral rites: the way of his burial, ablution, shrouding and the performing of prayers over his body.[140] He also asked them to hide his tomb and to keep its location a secret.[141]

When he was wounded by Ibn Muljam, 'Ali (a) advised his sons, al-Hasan and al-Husayn:

"I advise you (both) to fear Allah and not to pursue the (pleasures of this) world even though they may run after you. Do not be sad over anything of this world that you have been denied. Speak the truth and act (in expectation) for reward [from God]. Be an enemy of the oppressor and a helper of the oppressed.
I advise you (both), all my children, all members of my family, and everyone that my writing may reach: to fear Allah, to keep your affairs in order, and to maintain good relations amongst yourselves- for I have heard your grand-father [the noble Prophet (s)] saying, "Solving disagreements is better than years of praying and fasting."
(Fear) Allah (and) keep Allah in mind with regards to orphans. Do not allow them to starve and they should not be harmed in your presence.
(Fear) Allah (and) keep Allah in mind with regards to your neighbours, because they were a subject of the Prophet's advice. He would advise extensively in their favour such that we thought he would allow them a share in inheritance.
(Fear) Allah (and) keep Allah in mind with regards to the Qur'an. No one should surpass you when acting in accordance to it.
(Fear) Allah (and) keep Allah in mind with regards to prayer, because it is the pillar of your religion.
(Fear) Allah (and) keep Allah in mind with regards to your Lord's House (the Ka'ba). Do not forsake it as long as you live, because if it is abandoned, you will not be spared.
(Fear) Allah (and) keep Allah in mind with regards to the Jihad by helping with your property, lives and tongues in the way of Allah.
You should have respect for kinship and spend for others. Don't turn away from one another and don't sever relationships. Do not cease enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, lest the mischievous dominate you. And then [after this], if you will pray, yor prayers will not be granted.

Then he said: O' sons of 'Abd al-Muttalib, certainly I do not wish to see you plunging harshly into the blood of Muslims shouting "'Amir al-Mu'minin has been killed!". Beware, do not kill anyone because of me except for my killer. Wait until I have died by his (Ibn Muljam's) strike. Then, strike him once for his strike on me, and do not dismember his limbs, for I have heard the Messenger of Allah (s) saying, "Avoid cutting limbs even if it is a rabid dog."[142]


The First Muslim

Main article: The First Muslim

It is a well-known and widely transmitted hadith that 'Ali (a) was the first Muslim who believed in the prophet (s).[143] According to some Shi'a hadiths, the Prophet (s) described Imam Ali (a) as the first Muslim, the first believer and the first person who acknowledged him. Al-Shaykh al-Tusi mentioned a hadith from Imam al-Rida (a) who mentioned Imam Ali (a) as the first believer in the Prophet (s). Al-Khasibi, the Shi'a author of the fourth/tenth century, mentioned Imam Ali (a) as the first Muslim and al-Allama al-Majlisi mentioned the order of believers as following, "First, Imam Ali (a), then Khadija (a) and then Ja'far b. Abi Talib believed in the Prophet (s)." Some researchers considered the consensus of Shi'a believing on the fact that Imam Ali (a) was the first Muslim man.

Some Sunni historians including al-Tabari, al-Dhahabi and others have mentioned reports suggesting that Imam Ali (a) was the first Muslim. In another narration, the Prophet (s) said to his daughter, Fatima (a) that, "Does it not please you that I urge you to marry a man from my Umma, who believed in Islam prior to anyone else, and who is the most learned and the most patient among them?"[144]

Helping the prophet from very first moments

Main article: Hadith Yawm al-Dar

According to sources of Islamic history and Qur'anic exegesis, when the al-Indhar Verse was revealed to the Prophet (s) three years after Bi'tha, the Prophet (s) ordered Ali b. Abi Talib (a) to provide some food and invite the sons of 'Abd al-Muttalib to a banquet so that he calls them to Islam. Around forty people, including Abu Talib, Hamza, and Abu Lahab went to the meeting. After having the food, the Prophet (s) said: "O' sons of 'Abd al-Muttalib! I swear to God that I do not know any youth among Arabs who brought for his tribe something better than what I brought to you; I have brought to you the best in this world and in the afterlife, and God has ordered me to call you to it. So which of you assists me in this mission so that I make him my brother and my successor and my caliph among you?" Nobody responded to him except Ali (a) who was the youngest of all. He said: "O' the prophet! I will assist you". The Prophet (s) said: "This is my brother and my successor among you. Listen to him and obey him".

Sacrifice in the Night of Migration

Main article: Laylat al-Mabit

After the Muslims were severely persecuted by the Quraysh, the Prophet (s) ordered his companions to emigrate to Medina, and so they gradually left Mecca.[145] After exchanging ideas in the Dar al-Nadwa meeting, the Quraysh decided to designate brave young men from each tribe to assassinate the Prophet (s) in his house. The archangel Gabriel came to the Prophet (a), informed him of their plot, and commanded him not to sleep in his bed and to leave Mecca and emigrate to Medina that same night. The Prophet (s) informed 'Ali (a) of the enemy's plot and asked him to sleep in his bed to fool the enemy.[146]

Exegetes of the Qur'an regard the following verse to have been revealed about this event and about the virtues of 'Ali (a):[147]

Brother of the Prophet (s)

Main article: Pact of Brotherhood

After his emigration to Medina, the Prophet (s) created bonds of brotherhood between the Muhajirin and the Ansar. Both times, he told 'Ali (a), "You are my brother in this world and in the hereafter", and so he established a bond of brotherhood between himself and 'Ali (a).[148]

Returning of the Sun

Main article: Radd al-Shams

In 7/628, the Prophet (s) and 'Ali (a) prayed the noon prayer. The Prophet (s) then sent 'Ali (a) on a mission when he had not yet prayed the Asr prayer. After 'Ali (a) returned, the Prophet (s) laid his head on 'Ali's (a) lap and slept until the sun set, and the time for prayer had expired. When the Prophet (s) woke up, he prayed to God saying, "O God! Your servant, 'Ali (a), dedicated himself for his Prophet (s). Turn the sun back for him." The sun returned, and 'Ali (a) made an ablution before prayer and performed his Asr prayer after which the sun set again.[149]

Delivering the Bara'a Verses

The first verses of Quran 9 state that the polytheists had four months to accept monotheism and to become Muslims. However, if they were to refuse stubbornly, the Qur'an warns that they should be ready for war. When the verses were revealed, the Prophet (s) was not planning on attending the hajj to deliver its message. So, according to the divine decree that, "such messages should be delivered by the Prophet (s) himself, or by one who is from him and nobody else is competent to do so"[150] , the Prophet (s) called 'Ali (a) and ordered him to go to Mecca so that on the Eid al-Adha he could deliver these verses to the polytheists in Mina.[151]

Truth Hadith

The Prophet (s) said, "Ali (a) is with the truth, and the truth is with 'Ali (a)."[152]

Closing the Doors except Ali's house

Main article: Sadd al-Abwab

The Prophet (s) ordered that all doors opening to the mosque of Medina (al-Masjid al-Nabawi) should be locked except for the door of 'Ali's house (and his own). When the Prophet (s) was asked of the reason, the Prophet (s) said, "I was ordered to lock the doors except that of 'Ali's (a). However, there is a lot of talk about it. I swear by God that I never locked or opened any door, except that I was ordered to do so and thus did it."[153]

Compiling the Qur'an

Main articles: Qur'an and Mushaf of Imam 'Ali (a)

Both Shi'a and Sunni scholars agree that Imam 'Ali (a) was the pioneer in compiling the Qur'an according to the will and advice of the Prophet (s).[154] It is related in a tradition that Imam'Ali (a) swore an oath not to wear his robe [and exit his home] until he had finished compiling the Qur'an.[155] It is also said that Imam 'Ali (a) compiled the Qur'an within six months of the demise of the Prophet (s).[156]

Beginning of Islamic Calendar

Main article: Islamic Calendar

Imam 'Ali (a) was the one who suggested that 'Umar set the immigration of the Prophet (s) from Mecca to Medina as the beginning of Islamic calendar.[157]

Ali's Virtues in the Qur'an

Several verses of the Qur'an were revealed about the virtues of 'Ali (a) and the number of these verses is so great that it is narrated from Ibn 'Abbas that more than 300 verses of the Qur'an are related to 'Ali.[158] Some of these verses include:

Al-Mubahala Verse

Main article: al-Mubahala Verse

On the day of mubahala in 9/631, the Prophet (s) and the Najran Christians agreed to curse one another, until Allah punished those who were on the wrong path. So, the Prophet (s) took 'Ali (a), Fatima (a), al-Hasan (a), and al-Husayn (a) with him. When the Christians saw that he was so confident in his success that he had only brought his closest relatives, they grew apprehensive and accepted to pay the jizya instead of going through with the challenge. In the verse 'Ali (a) is mentioned as the soul of the Prophet (s) ("our souls and your souls").

Al-Tathir Verse

Main article: al-Tathir Verse

According to Shi'a scholars, this verse was revealed to the Prophet (s) in the house of his wife Umm Salama. During its revelation, 'Ali (a), Fatima (a), al-Hasan (a), and al-Husayn (a) were also there with him. After the verse was revealed, the Prophet (s) used his cloak to cover himself, 'Ali (a), Fatima (a), al-Hasan (a), and al-Husayn (a)–the Ashab al-Kisa' (people of the cloak). Raising his hands in prayer, he said, "O God! My Household are these four people. Remove any impurities from them."[159]

Al-Mawadda Verse

Main article: al-Mawadda Verse

Ibn 'Abbas says: "When this verse was revealed, I asked the Prophet (s) who were those whom love for them had become obligatory. He (s) stated, "'Ali, Fatima, al-Hasan, and al-Husayn". He repeated this three times."[160]

Other Virtues

Originator of Muslim Sciences

In the introduction to his commentary on Nahj al-balagha, Ibn Abi l-Hadid, a 7th/13th century Sunni scholar, says: "What can I say about the man whose enemies acknowledged his virtues as even they could not deny or hide them. Indeed, Banu Umayya took power from the east to the west of Islamic states, and tried to extinguish the light of 'Ali's (a) glory, using any means and tricks. They fabricated many hadiths about cursing him and they cursed him on all pulpits. They not only threatened his admirers, but they killed them and banned them from quoting any tradition that implied his virtues or promoted his name. They even banned naming children after him. However, all of these attempts resulted in nothing except for the exaltation of his glory. He was like a musk: the more of it that is secreted, the more it sweetens the air." He continues, "What can I say about a man who is the origin of every human virtue and excellence; to whom every school and group trace back their origin and find honor. He is the origin of all excellences and surpasses others and is the pioneer of all arenas."[161]


Ibn Abi l-Hadid says, "Theology and knowledge of the divine attributes, the noblest of knowledges, was first elaborated on by 'Ali (a) and the greatest scholars of this field were all his students. Mu'tazilites who believed in the unity and justice [of God] are his students and companions. This is because of the fact that the head of their order, Wasil b. 'Ata' was a student of 'Abd Allah b. Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya who was a student of his father who was a student of 'Ali (a).

Ash'arites also owe their origin to 'Ali (a), given that its founder, Abu l-Hasan al-Ash'ari was a student of Abu 'Ali al-Juba'i whose teacher was one of the Mu'tazilites. So, the Ash'arites also trace back to the teacher of the Mu'tazilites who is Imam 'Ali (a).

Attribution of Imami (Twelver Shi'a) and Zaydis to 'Ali (a) is self-evident and does not require an elaboration.[162]


Ibn Abi l-Hadid says, "'Ali (a) established the basics of jurisprudence and every jurist has learned from him. Tracing back Shi'a jurisprudence to him is self-evident and does not require an explanation.

The followers of Abu Hanifa, like Abu Yusuf, Muhammad, and others learned their jurisprudence from Abu Hanifa. Ahmad b. Hanbal was a student of al-Shafi'i, who learned jurisprudence from Abu Hanifa who was a student of Imam al-Sadiq (a) who had learned from his father Imam al-Baqir (a)-- and so the jurisprudence taught eventually reaches 'Ali (a).

Malik b. Anas learned jurisprudence from Rabi'at al-Ra'y, who was a student of 'Ikrima who was a student of 'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas who was a student of 'Ali (a). Since al-Shafi'i was a student of Malik, he can also be called a student of 'Ali (a). Accordingly, the four Sunni jurists can be traced back as students of 'Ali (a).

The companions of the Prophet (s), 'Umar b. al-Khattab and 'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas have also both learned from 'Ali (a). It is a well-accepted fact that Ibn 'Abbas was a student of 'Ali (a). Further, it is an undisputed fact that Umar referred to 'Ali in difficult issues and more than once was reported to have said, "If it were not for 'Ali, Umar would have perished." He also said, "God forbid that I were to face a difficulty in which Abu l-Hasan (i.e. 'Ali (a)) would not be beside me." Elsewhere he said, "Unless 'Ali (a) is present in the mosque, nobody has the right to issue any ruling." With all of this as evidence, we can determine that 'Ali was the originator of Islamic jurisprudence.

Shi'as and Sunnis have narrated that the Prophet (s) said: "The best judge among you is 'Ali (a)." Given that judging is part of jurisprudence, it can be said that 'Ali (a) is the most learned jurist among the companions.[163]


Ibn Abi l-Hadid says, "'Ali (a) was the founder of Qur'anic exegesis and anyone who refers to the commentaries of the Qur'an will find this claim to be true. It is either directly quoted to be from his commentary or they are narrated through Ibn 'Abbas who had acquired it from 'Ali (a). Ibn 'Abbas was once asked, "What is the relationship between your knowledge and your cousin's (namely 'Ali's)? He replied, "It is like that of a few drops of water to an open sea."[164]

Spiritual Discipline

Ibn Abi l-Hadid says, "Scholars of spiritual discipline and Sufism trace their origins to 'Ali (a) and the khirqa which is still the sign of Sufism indicates that."[165]

Arabic Literature

Ibn Abi l-Hadid says, "Everyone knows that 'Ali (a) was the inventor of Arabic syntax (al-nahw) and literature and that he dictated Arabic grammar to Abu l-Aswad al-Du'ali. For example, he taught the following rules to Abu l-Aswad: that words are divided into three categories: nouns, verbs, and prepositions; nouns are either definite or indefinite, and there are four inflections: raf', nasb, jarr, and jazm.[166]


Ibn Abi l-Hadid says, "He (a) was the master of eloquent orators and writers. Regarding his eloquence, it has been said, "His words are inferior to God's words and superior to the words of other creations" and his Nahj al-balagha is the best proof of this claim. 'Abd al-Hamid b. Yahya has said that he memorized seventy sermons of 'Ali's and his literal competence has come from them. Ibn Nubata has said, "I have a treasure of memorized sermons whose amount never reduces as I take from it, but rather, it increases. I have memorized a hundred pieces of 'Ali's (a) advices."[167]


Many verses and hadiths indicate the rightful Imamate and caliphate of 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a) after the Prophet's (s) demise. Some of these include:

In Qur'an

Uli l-Amr Verse

Main article: Uli l-Amr Verse

This verse, according to all Shi'a scholars and many Sunni scholars, was revealed with reference to 'Ali (a) and the other Imams (a), and affirms the necessity of obeying them.[168]

Al-Wilaya Verse

Main article: Al-Wilaya Verse

This verse proves the wilaya (guardianship) of 'Ali (a). Scholars of Qur'anic exegesis consider this verse to have been revealed about Imam 'Ali (a) and that it was revealed when he gave his ring to a poor man whilst bowing down (ruku') in prayer.[169]

In Hadith

Hadith al-Manzila

Main article: Hadith al-Manzila

The Prophet (s) said to 'Ali (a), "To me, you are like Aaron in his position to Moses, except that there is no prophet after me."[170]

Hadith Yawm al-Dar

Main article: Hadith Yawm al-Dar

When the Prophet (s) informed his close relatives of his mission and invited them to Islam, only 'Ali (a) accepted his invitation. The Prophet (s) then said to him, "You are my brother, my helper, my heir and my successor after me."[171]

Moral Characteristics

Generosity and Openhandedness

The Shelter, painted by Mahmoud Farshchian, about taking care of orphans by Imam 'Ali (a)

Ibn Abi l-Hadid says, "Regarding generosity, 'Ali's (a) position is clear. He fasted and gave what he would break his fast with (iftar) to the poor to the extent that the following verse was revealed about him:

Exegetes of the Qur'an have said that one day, 'Ali (a) had only four dirhams. He gave one of them as charity at night, another as charity during the day, the third secretly as charity, and the fourth openly as charity. The following verse was revealed regarding this and it says:

It is said that he would water the date gardens of the Jews in Medina with his own hands until they became calloused, and he gave all of his profits to the poor, and tied stones to his stomach (so that he could handle the pangs of his own hunger]. It is said that he never said "no" to a beggar.

Once, Mahfan b. Abi Mahfan went to Mu'awiya who asked him: "Where are you coming from?" In order to flatter Mu'awiah, he said, "From the company of the stingiest among people (i.e. 'Ali.)" Mu'awiya replied, "Woe to you! How can you say such a thing about a person who, if he had two storehouses, one filled with gold and another filled with straw, he would empty out the one with gold and spend it for the poor, before he would spend his storehouse of straw?"[172]

Forbearance and Endurance

Ibn Abi l-Hadid says, "'Ali (a) was greater than all with regards to forbearance, magnanimity, and in forgiving a wrongdoer. What happened in the Battle of Jamal best supports this claim. When he caught Marwan b. al-Hakam, who was a hostile enemy, 'Ali (a) released him and forgave his great sin. 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr swore at him in public, and when he came to Basra with 'A'isha's army, he delivered a speech about 'Ali, insulting him as much as he could. He even said that 'Ali was "the most inferior and the most ignoble among people" However, 'Ali (a) forgave him when he was caught, and only told him 'Go, so I do not see you!' He also caught Sa'id b. al-'As in Mecca who was among his enemies in the Battle of Jamal. But, he turned his back on him and did not say anything to him."

His behavior towards 'A'isha after the Battle of Jamal has been famously narrated. When he won the battle, he treated 'A'isha with respect, and returned her to Medina accompanied by twenty women from the tribe of 'Abd al-Qays. They were dressed as men, and each of them carried a sword in a baldric, however, 'A'isha did not know that they were women. 'A'isha swore at 'Ali (a) throughout the journey, claiming that he had dishonored her by making a number of men accompany her. When they arrived in Medina, the women revealed that they were in fact, women, who had accompanied her.

After the Battle of Jamal, he granted freedom to all the people of Basra who had fought him and had killed a number of his men. He told his army that none should trouble them, and that anyone who had dropped their weapons was free. He took no prisoners from among them nor any spoils, and did what the Prophet (s) did in the Conquest of Mecca.

In the Battle of Siffin, Mu'awiya's men blocked the waterway and prevented 'Ali's (a) army from getting water from the Euphrates River. In fact, leaders of Mu'awiya's army said 'We must kill 'Ali (a) and his men while they are thirsty in the same way that he killed 'Uthman while he was thirsty." 'Ali's army fought and managed to get control of the water from the enemy. Thereafter, his men wanted to retaliate and not let Mu'awiya's army get water, so that they could die of thirst. Imam 'Ali (a) said, "Never will we do that. Allow them to use a part of the Euphrates."[173]


Ibn Abi l-Hadid says, "He was an exemplar of geniality and cheerfulness, to the extent that his enemies criticized his geniality as a flaw in his character." Sa'sa'a b. Sawhan and other companions of Imam 'Ali said "Among us, 'Ali (a) was like one of us who did not have any special privileges. While he was humble and modest, he still had such an awe-inspiring personality that before him, we were like captivated prisoners whose hands and feet were tied, held captive by a man with a sword."[174]


Ibn Abi l-Hadid says "Both friends and enemies admit that he was the master of the Mujahidun, and that compared to him, no one deserved this title. Everyone knew that the most difficult and the heaviest of the battles of Islam with polytheists was the Battle of Badr, in which 70 of the polytheists were killed. Half of them were killed by 'Ali (a), and the other half were killed by other Muslims with the help of angels. His place in the battles of Uhud, Ahzab, Khaybar, Hunayn, and other battles is famous in history, and do not need to be mentioned."[175]


Ibn Abi l-Hadid says, "He was the sole champion in courage, who erased his predecessors from people's memory and blurred and faded his successors. The position of 'Ali (a) in battles was so eminent that it made him an example forever. He was the brave man who never ran away, never feared a large army, never fought anyone without annihilating them, and he was the man whose strikes were so effective that they never required a second try. When he challenged Mu'awiya to a fight so that people find peace if one of them died, 'Amr b. al-'As told Mu'awiya,' 'Ali (a) is treating you with justice.' Mu'awiya told him, 'Since the day you have been with me, you have never deceived me like this! Are you advising me to fight a man, from whose hands no one has ever escaped? I suppose you dream ruling Syria after me!'

His enemies always boasted that they once fought against 'Ali (a) in a battle, or that someone of their relatives had been killed by him. Once, Mu'awiya was sleeping on his throne. Suddenly, he opened his eyes, and saw 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr at his side. He sat up, and 'Abd Allah said to him jokingly "O' Amir al-Mu'minin!, let us wrestle if you agree." Mu'awiya told him "Oh, you speak of boldness and bravery?!" 'Abd Allah said "Do you deny my bravery?! I am the man who went to fight 'Ali and was his opponent in the battle." Mu'awiya said "That is not true at all. If you would have ever stood for a moment against 'Ali (a), he would have killed you and your father using only his left hand, leaving his right hand free, waiting for a fight."[176]


Ibn Abi l-Hadid says, "Ali (a) was the greatest worshiper amongst people, and he prayed and fasted more than anyone else. People learned the night prayers, persistence in the recitation of dhikrs, and the recommended prayers from him. And what do you think of a man who was so persistent in recommended prayers that even on the Laylat al-Harir in the Battle of Siffin, a carpet was set on the ground for him in between two lines of the armies, and he engaged in prayer without any fear while arrows flew by his ears from the left and the right. His forehead was like the knee of a camel because of his frequent and long sajdas. Anyone who carefully considers his prayers and supplications will see his glorification of God, his humbleness before His glory, and his prostration before Him, and will realize the ikhlas in him. They will know from what a great heart these prayers have come and through what a grand tongue they have flowed."[177]


'Ali (a) was the master of the ascetics, and whoever wanted to practice self-discipline remembered him. He never ate to his full. His food and clothing were of the most coarse materials. 'Abd Allah b. Abi Rafi' says, "Once I went to 'Ali (a) on a day of eid. I saw that he had a sealed bag. When he opened it, I saw that it contained bits of whole-grain barley bread. He started eating them. I said, "O' Amir al-Mu'minin, why have you sealed that?" He said, "I fear that my children would rub butter or olive oil on them."

His clothes were sometimes stitched with bark and sometimes with the fibers of date palms. He always wore sandals made of palm bark. He wore the coarsest canvas clothes. If he had anything besides bread to eat, it would be vinegar or salt. If it ever went beyond these, it would include some kind of plants, and if at all further, a little camel-milk. He did not eat meat except very little and said "Do not make your stomachs the graveyards of animals." Nevertheless, he was the strongest among people and hunger did not reduce his power. He had abandoned the world while the wealth of the entire Islamic empire (except that of Syria) had come to him- and so, he distributed all of it amongst the people.[178]


Nahj al-balagha

Main article: Nahj al-balagha

Nahj al-balagha is the most famous collection of some of Imam 'Ali's (a) sayings and writings which has been compiled by al-Sayyid al-Radi, a scholar who lived in the fourth/tenth century. It is one of the most sacred Shi'a texts and widely considered to be the greatest literary text in Arabic, after the Quran. The book is divided into three sections: sermons, letters, and some short sayings which have all been attributed to 'Ali (a):

  1. Sermons: 239 sermons which are divided into three parts based on their time in history
  2. Letters: 79 letters of which almost all of them were written during his caliphate
  3. Qisar or qisar al-hikam (maxims): 480 sayings

Some commentaries on Nahj al-balagha include:

Ghurar al-hikam wa durar al-kalim

Ghurar al-hikam wa durar al-kalim was compiled by 'Abd al-Wahid b. Muhammad al-Tamimi al-Amidi, a scholar of the sixth/twelfth century. In this book, almost 10,760 hadiths of Imam 'Ali (a) have been organized alphabetically by subjects of theology, worship, morality, politics, economy, and society.[180]

Dastur ma'alim al-hikam wa ma'sur makarim al-shiyam

Dastur ma'alim al-hikam wa ma'sur makarim al-shiyam was compiled by Qadi al-Quda'i. He was a Shafi'i scholar who lived in the fourth/tenth century and was considered to be reliable among traditionists. Some scholars regard him as a Shi'a.[181]

The book is divided into nine chapters: 'Ali's (a) beneficial maxims, his denunciation of this world, his aversion to it, his sermons, his advice and prohibitions, his answers to questions, his peculiar words, his rare words, his prayers and supplications, and a poem attributed to him.[182]

Other Collections

Some other collections of 'Ali's (a) sayings are as follows:

  • Nathr al-La'ali by Abu 'Ali al-Fadl b. al-Hasan al-Tabrisi
  • Matlub kull al-talib min kalam Amir al-Mu'minin 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a), selected by al-Jahiz, commentary by Rashid al-Din Watwat
  • Qala'id al-hikam wa fara'id al-kalim compiled by Qadi Abu Yusuf Ya'qub b. Sulayman Isfarayini
  • Amthal al-Imam 'Ali b. Abi Talib, Imam 'Ali's (a) sayings and letters in Siffin by Nasr b. Muzahim


Salman al-Farsi was among the best friends of the Prophet (s) and 'Ali (a). Many hadiths about him have been quoted from the infallibles (a).[183] For example, once the Prophet (s) said, "Salman is one of us, the Ahl al-Bayt (a)."[184]

Abu Dhar al-Ghifari (Jundab b. Junada) was the fourth person who converted to Islam. He became 'Ali's (a) defender after the demise of the Prophet (s).[185] He was among the few who refused to pledge allegiance with Abu Bakr.[186]

Miqdad b. 'Amr (Miqdad b. Aswad al-Kindi) was among the seven people who believed in the Prophet (s) from the beginning of his mission and became Muslim. After the Prophet (s) passed away, Miqdad did not pledge allegiance with Abu Bakr and sided with 'Ali (a) during the 25 years before he assumed the caliphate.[187]

Uways al-Qarani, (Uways b. 'Amir al-Muradi al-Qarani) was a famous ascetic who converted to Islam at the time of the Prophet (s).[188] Uways was among the special companions of 'Ali (a) who pledged allegiance with him and promised to defend him until the last moments of his life, and in doing so, would never turn his back from the enemy [i.e. escape the enemy].[189]

'Ammar b. Yasir was one of the first people who believed in the Prophet (s) and immigrated to Ethiopia with the first group of Muslims and after the Prophet (s) immigrated to Medina, he joined the Prophet (s). After the Prophet (s) passed away, Ammar stood in defense of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and 'Ali (a). Under the rule of 'Umar b. al-Khattab, he became the governor of Kufa for a period of time, but since he was just and lived a simple life, some tried to get him dismissed. He returned to Medina and stood with 'Ali (a) and benefitted from him.[190]

Ibn 'Abbas ('Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas) was a cousin of the Prophet (s) and 'Ali (a). He narrated many hadiths from the Prophet (s).[191] During the time of the three caliphs before 'Ali (a), Ibn 'Abbas was always of the opinion that 'Ali (a) deserved the caliphate. During the rule of 'Ali (a), Ibn 'Abbas helped him in the battles of Jamal, Siffin and Nahrawan and was appointed by 'Ali (a) to become the governor of Basra.[192]

Malik al-Ashtar al-Nakha'i (Malik b. al-Harith) was born in Yemen. He was the first one who pledged allegiance with Imam 'Ali (a). He was a commander of Imam 'Ali's army (a) in the Battle of Jamal, the Battle of Siffin, and the Battle of Nahrawan.[193]

Kumayl b. Ziyad al-Nakha'i was one of Tabi'un of the companions of the Prophet (s) and of the special companions of Imam 'Ali (a) and Imam al-Hasan (a).[194] He was among the Shi'a who swore allegiance to Imam 'Ali (a) and fought in all of the wars against Imam 'Ali's (a) enemies.[195] Imam 'Ali (a) taught the Supplication of Khidr to him which later became know as supplication of Kumayl .

Muhammad b. Abi Bakr (a son of the first caliph) was born in 10/631. He was among the special companions of Imam 'Ali (a) who believed that the previous caliphs had taken the right of 'Ali (a) and said that there was no one more deserving of the caliphate than 'Ali (a). He became the governor of Egypt in the month of Ramadan 36/657 and was killed by Mu'awiya's army in Safar of 38/658.

Maytham al-Tammar al-Asadi al-Kufi was one of the special companions of Imam 'Ali (a), Imam al-Hasan (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a). He was of the Shurtat al-Khamis who was a group of men who promised Imam 'Ali (a) to help him until their last breath of life.[196]

Zayd b. Sawhan al-'Abdi was a companion of 'Ali (a) who participated in different battles against the enemies of 'Ali (a) and was finally killed by the Nakithun army in the Battle of Jamal.[197]

Sa'sa'a b. Sawhan al-'Abdi was one of the companions of 'Ali (a) who participated in the battles imposed upon him.[198] He was among those who pledged allegiance with 'Ali (a) after 'Uthman's death.[199]

See also


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Further Reading