"Certainly your Master (Wali) is Allah and His Prophet and those who believe, those who establish prayer and give charity while they bow (in prayer)." (Holy Qur’an 5:55)
It is an undisputed fact that the above verse of the Holy Book was revealed when Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS), while in prayer, in the state of "ruku`" (genuflection) with face bowed down towards the Kaba, gave his ring in charity to a beggar who happened to raise his call for alms at the Masjid an-Nabi (Prophet's Mosque) in Medina. (Recorded by such prominent Sunni scholars as Wahedi in Asbab-al-Nazul (Reasons of Revelation) and Abu Ishaq Tha`labi in Tafseer al-Kabir).
This verse is one of the many in the Holy Qur’an indicating in clear words the issueof divinely-designated successorship to the Seal of Prophets (SAWA).A successor who should be worthy of donning the mantle of Muhammad (SAWA) and who should stand firm and steadfast as the sacred Kaba itself, when schism and worldly greed sway the minds of Muslims.
"Most surely the first House appointed for mankind is the one at Bekka (Mecca), blessed and a guidance for nations." (Holy Qur’an3:96)
And most surely, the only person ever born in that blessed House, was chosen by the Almighty as a Guide and a Discerner between truth and falsehood for the Umma after the Prophet.
"O Prophet, surely, you are a warner and for every people there is a guide" (Holy Qur’an13:7)
Tha`labi writes in his Tafseer on the authority of Abdullah ibn Abbas that when this verse was revealed, the Prophet said that through Ali (AS), Muslims will be guided.
To further emphasize the pivotal role of his dearest cousin and son-in-law and to warn the Umma against the pitfalls of discord, the Prophet remarked: "O Ali your position is like that of the Kaba." (Kunooz al-Haqa"iq)
The Kaba is the symbol of Islamic unity. Muslims around the world daily turn their faces in unison towards this supreme edifice of monotheism. Imam Ali’s role for the Umma is in exact likeness to the site of his birth. To follow his straight course is Islamic solidarity and to leave his path is outright discord.
"Surely, this is my straight path, so follow it and do not follow other ways or else you will diverge from His ways." (Holy Qur’an 6:153)
The Almighty had arranged that Muhammad (SAWA), the most perfect man ever created, should have a worthy successor, free of the pollution of polytheist Arabia.
The glorious event occurred on Friday the 13th of Rajab in the year 30 `Aam-al-Feel (600 CE). Abu Talib’s virtuous wife, Fatima bint-i Asad, who was full nine months pregnant, clung to the walls of the Kaba imploring the Almighty to ease her burden for the sake of her great ancestor Prophet Abraham (AS). In answer to her prayers, the walls of the sacred House suddenly parted, and when the lady stepped inside they were miraculously sealed up. The Quraysh did all they could do to bring her out, but the locks and the walls of the Kaba remained fast.
Three days later she came out holding in her arms a radiant baby boy. Among those gathered anxiously around the Kaba was Muhammad (SAWA) who stepped forward and took the infant in his arms. A smile lit up the face of the baby Ali (AS) as his eyes met those of his first cousin.
"I and Ali are (created) from the same light" (Holy Prophet)
Shortly after, Muhammad and his wife Khadija (SA) decided to adopt the young Ali (AS). Muhammad (SAWA) himself had been brought up by Ali’s father, Abu Talib. Divine Providence was thus at work laying the firm foundations of the great task that lay ahead for the deliverance of mankind through Muhammad. The Prophet was now personally grooming and bringing up his future vicegerent.
When Ali (AS) was ten years old, the Prophet received his first revelation and was commanded by the Almighty to publicly proclaim his mission. "I bear witness that there is no god but Allah” said the Prophet. Before the dumbstruck ignorant minds could say anything, the young Ali (AS) rose and gave testimony of his cousin’s divine mission: "I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah." The Prophet called Ali (AS) his vizier and Khalifa (successor)
[B]What could be written of a person, the praise of whom will exhaust ink and paper?[/B]
Ameer al-Mu’mineen(Commander of the Faithful), Imam al-Muttaqeen (Leader of the God-fearing), volumes have been written on the merits of Ali (AS) by eminent scholars in every age and era. The famous 11th century CE Sunni historian Ibn Asaker writes in his Tarikh Damishq that the Holy Qur’an contains no less than 300 verses in Ali’s favor, more than any other companion of the Prophet.
Born in the House of God, and martyred while in communion with his Creator in the Great Mosque of Kufa, with his face turned towards that very site of his birth (Ka`ba), every single moment of Imam Ali’s 63 years in this mortal world was dedicated to and spent in the service of Islam.
As a boy, he stood beside his mentor, chasing away the kids who used to throw stones at the Prophet. He endured the three-year siege of the Bani Hashim clan by the infidels of Mecca in the Gorge of Abu Talib. When plots were hatched to extinguish the light of Prophethood, the brave Ali (AS), volunteered to sleep on his cousin’s bed, so that the latter could migrate to Medina undetected. The reward for his self-sacrifice to which Islam will remain ever-indebted, came in the form of the following verse:
"Among men, is he, who sells his soul for the pleasure of Allah" (Holy Qur’an 2:20)
It would be repetitive to recount the valor of Ali (AS) in repelling the retarded infidels, who tried to attack the first-ever Islamic state in Medina. The Lion of God, as he came to be known, Ali (AS) and his flashing blade Dhul-Faqar, won almost single-handedly, the armed encounters that the ignorant of Arabia had imposed upon the Prophet. The fields of Badr, Ohud, Khaybar, Hunayn and several others, still echo with the valor and magnanimity of Imam Ali (AS).
Here I would like to focus on one of his many selfless acts. It happened that during the Battle of the Trench (Khandaq), when during a single combat he had pinned down his giant adversary, `Amr ibn `Abdu-Wadd to the ground, the infidel spat on his face. The God-fearing Ali (AS) at once stepped aside in order not to let his personal feelings interfere with the course of the holy Jihad. The fearsome opponent recovered his poise and renewed the combat. This time, the Commander of the Faithful whose every act was the worship of Allah, made short work of Amr. Before the battle he had offered favorable terms which the infidel had rejected out of vanity.
At the fall of Mecca, he helped the Prophet dismantle the idols that the Arabs had installed in Abraham’s monotheistic edifice. In one instance, the Prophet (SAWA) lifted Ali (AS) on his shoulders to deliver the coup de grace to the chief idol atop the roof of the Kaba.
Valiant in battle, he was magnanimous in victory to his fallen foes, and gave strict orders not to humiliate prisoners or harass and plunder women and children. After the Battle of Jamal (Camel), he ordered his troops to give a decent burial to his slain enemies. At Siffin, having broken the enemy’s hold on the River Euphrates, Ali (AS) allowed them access to the very waters which they had blocked to him.
His formal nomination as successor to the Prophet (SAWA) at Ghadeer-e Khum near Mecca after the farewell pilgrimage perfected Islam:
"This day have I perfected for you your religionand finalized My blessings upon you, and pleased to bestow upon you Islam as your religion." (Holy Qur’an 5: ).
Ali (AS) was a perfect husband for his loving wife Fatima (SA), and used to do all outside work for the house. Hisdiet was meager and consisted of dried barley bread. For days he used to keep non-obligatory fasts solely forthe pleasure of Allah, spending whatever he had on the poor, the orphans and the disabled. Often Ali (AS)used to spend the whole night in prayer, with his frame trembling in the presence of His Lord.
[B]His famous supplication[/B]
Du'a Kumayl which is recited regularly by the faithful to this day, is an eloquent description of the Majesty and Mercy of God. It has been translated into almost all major world languages and the following two paragraphs, which are a random selection, should be enough for inspiring readers with faith.
"My Liege, my God, my Master, it is not in me to believe that Thou wilt impose the Fire on the faces of those that have bowed in adoration of Thy Greatness; Or the tongues that have testified to Thy (indivisible) Unity and thanked thee with praise; Or the hearts that have acknowledged Thy Divinity with conviction; Or the minds that are so saturated with Thy knowledge as to humble themselves in Thy Presence; Or on the limbs that have striven towards Thy service and obedience, endeavoring confidently to seek Thy forgiveness. This can never be expected from Thee, nor does Thy Grace permit such an assumption, O Generous One.
"O Lord! Thou knows that I am too weak to withstand, even a small portion of this world’s trial, or their consequences, or the sorrow that befalleth its inhabitants, though these trials are transient, evanescent and short-lived. How then will I withstand the trial of the Hereafter, with its tremendous sufferings and its prolonged, perpetual misery, which shall never be alleviated for its inmates?...
"O Thou Whose name is a panacea, Whose remembrance is a sure remedy, and Whose obedience is a source of independence! Have mercy on one whose capital asset is hope and whose instrument is lamentation. O Thou that gives happiness and blessings and wardest off misfortunes..."
Imam Ali (AS) collected the Qur’an during the lifetime of the Prophet in the order of revelation, and trained several companions in the various branches of knowledge including jurisprudence, Qur’anic sciences, Arabic syntax and grammar. He was a fluent orator, and the collection of his eloquent sermons, letters and maxims in the book Nahj-ul-Balagha, stands as a firm testimony of his God-given wisdom.
It was Ali (AS) to whom the Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) had entrusted the performing of his last rites. The bonds between the Prophet and his rightful legatee were not of mere kinship, but divinely-cemented.
In 9 AH, upon revelation of the opening verses of Sura Bara'a, the Prophet sent one of his Companions, Abu Bakr, to Mecca to proclaim the divine words at the holy Kaba. But no sooner had that aged companion departed, the archangel Gabriel descended, telling the Prophet that it was God’s Will that either he should proceed in person or deputize a member of his family closest to him. The Prophet asked his vicegerent to proceed with speed and take over the charge from Abu Bakr, which the faithful Ali (AS) dutifully performed. (Recorded by Ahmad ibn Hanbal in Musnad and by Tabari in his monumental work on history).
[B]"Ali is from me and I am from Ali." (the Prophet)[/B]
The breaking of allegiance to him after the Prophet"s sad departure from the mortal world, created the greatest discord in Islam, the scars of which are still evident on the body-politic of the Umma. But Ali (AS) was no ordinary mortal to resort to the sword for his temporal rights. His world was not confined to the material but encompassed the spiritual which was beyond reach of the lesser beings which opposed him, but for the sake of Islamic unity Imam Ali (AS) never withheld advice whenever the bewildered caliphs found themselves trapped in problems.
Imam Ali’s four-and-a-half year model rule of justice is beyond the scope of this brief article. Suffice it to say, it was cut short by the forces of discord in the blessed month of Ramadhan in 40 AH while he was engrossed in the Morning Prayer in the Mosque of Kufa.
Ali (AS) was the Kaba as the Prophet had remarked. If his forehead bore the mark of lengthy prostrations to the One and Only God, the Qibla of Islam in turn, continues to proudly display on its wall the birthmark of Imam Ali (AS) -the section of the Kaba which had miraculously parted for his mother-which none have been able to erase.
"Ali is with righteousness and righteousness is with Ali" (the Prophet).