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Saluni Qabl an Tafqiduni

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The calligraphy of the phrase "Saluni Qabl an Tafqiduni" by Muhammad al-Mushrifawi

Salūnī qabl ʿan tafqidūnī (Arabic: سلوني قبل أن تفقدوني, ask me before you miss me) is a phrase from Imam Ali (a) implying the extent of his knowledge. According to both Shi'a and Sunni sources, Imam Ali (a) has uttered this phrase many times, including in a sermon during which Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas reacted to this phrase by asking Imam Ali (a) about the number of the hair strands on his head and face. Imam Ali (a) replied, “there is no hair strand on your head, except that there is a devil sitting at its base.” He also told him that Imam al-Husayn (a) would be martyred by his son, Umar b. Sa'd. This phrase is counted as one of the exclusive virtues of Imam Ali (a), and it was considered a proof of his superiority over the other companions of the Prophet (s).

Introduction

Salūnī qabl ʿan tafqidūnī (ask me before you miss me) is a phrase from Imam Ali (a). According to a hadith quoted in the book Yanabi' al-mawadda, Imam Ali (a) has uttered this phrase many times, one of which was in a sermon he delivered after that people pleaded allegiance to him as caliph. Another was among a number of his companions during the period between the battle of Siffin and Nahrawan.

The same meaning of this phrase has been narrated in other wordings such as, “then you ask me before you miss me,” “ask me of what you want,” “ask me before you do not ask me,” and “ask me.”

Indication of Imam Ali’s Vast Knowledge

Some commentators of Nahj al-Balagha said, this phrase indicates that Imam Ali (a) knew everything. Moreover, Mulla Salih Mazandarani, a Shi'a scholar of the 11th/17th century, stated that some Sunni scholars have considered this phrase to indicate Imam Ali’s (a) vast knowledge.

Explaining the meaning of this phrase, Imam al-Baqir (a) said, “no one possesses any knowledge except that he has taken it from Ali (a). let the people go wherever they want; by God there is no true knowledge except in here.” Then he pointed to his house.

According to al-'Allama al-Majlisi, Imam al-Baqir (a) meant the house of revelation and prophethood by pointing to his own house. In the narrations, this phrase is followed by various phrases that indicate the extensive knowledge of Imam Ali (a), such as:

  • Indeed, I have the knowledge of the former and the latter. I will answer the people of the Torah according to the Torah, the people of Evangel according to the Evangel, and the people of the Qur'an according to the Qur’an.
  • Why do not you ask the one who has the knowledge of calamities, deaths, and genealogies?
  • Indeed, I know the celestial ways better than the earthly ways.
  • By God, I will answer whatever you ask. Ask me from the Qur'an, by God, I am aware of all the verses of the Qur'an, whether they were revealed in day or night, on flat ground or in the mountains.
  • By God, I will answer any questions of yours about the past, present, and future.

Exclusive Virtue of Imam Ali (a)

Ibn Mardawayh, a fourth/tenth century Sunni scholar, says that this phrase demonstrates that Imam Ali (a) was more knowledgeable than the other companions of the Prophet (s). Moreover, Ibrahim b. Muhammad al-Juwayni al-Shafi'i, a Sunni scholar (d. 730/1351), in his book Fara'id al-simtayn, has counted this phrase as one of the exclusive virtues of Imam Ali (a) that the enemies and opponents of Imam Ali (a) have no choice but to admit it.

Sayyid b. Tawwus maintains that because Imam Ali (a) has said this phrase before the people and his enemies, it is considered a kind of tahaddy (challenging others) in knowledge. On the other hand, rejecting this virtue, Shams al-Din al-Dhahabi and Ibn Taymiyya, a Salafi scholar, believe that Imam Ali (a) has addressed this phrase to people of Kufa who were ignorant people.

According to some narrations, Imam al-Baqir (a) and Imam al-Sadiq (a) have also said this phrase in some situations. In addition, the phrase “ask me of what you want” has been narrated from the Prophet (s), too. In spite of these hadiths, some Sunni scholars claimed that no one except Imam Ali (a) had uttered this phrase. In some Sunni sources, however, it is mentioned that no one from companions except for Imam Ali (a) has said such a phrase.

False Claims

Muslim scholars have reported that some individuals have uttered this phrase claiming to have such knowledge; however, they were unable to answer the questions they have been asked. Among them were Qatada b. Di'ama, a jurist from Basra who is counted among Tabi'in, and Ibn al-Jawzi, a Hanbali jurist of the 6th/12th century.

In his book al-Ghadir, 'Allama Amini has also mentioned five other names who claimed to have such knowledge by saying this phrase; all of whom were disgraced. According to al-'Allama al-Majlisi and Mulla Salih Mazandarani, other than Imam Ali (a), anyone who has made such a claim was disgraced.

Narrators and Authenticity

The phrase “ask me before you miss me” has been narrated by several narrators such as 'Amir b. Wathila, 'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas, Sulaym b. Qays al-Hilali, Asbagh b. Nubata, and 'Abaya b. Rib'i. Al-Hakim al-Nayshaburi has counted the hadith narrated by 'Amir b. Wathila as sahih (authentic).

Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas's Reaction

According to some sources, after that Imam Ali (a) uttered this sentence in a sermon, Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas asked him, “how many hair strands are there on my head and my beard?” In response, Imam Ali (a) swore that the Apostle of God (s) had informed him that Sa'd would ask him such a question. Then Imam Ali (a) told him, “there is no hair on your head and beard, except that there is a devil sitting at its base, and there is a kid in your house (referring to 'Umar b. Sa'd) who will kill my son Husayn (a).” Some have narrated this story about Anas, the (grand) father of Sinan b. Anas, one of the killers of Imam al-Husayn (a).

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