Some anecdotes from the life of Ali ibn Abu Talib

Written by Muhammad Hanif

Ali, the son of Abu Talib, (c. 598–661) was the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), the Prophet of Islam, and fourth of the "rightly guided" (rashidun) caliphs. He was born in Makka and was attained martyrdom on the 21st of the month of Ramadan. He was one of the first converts to Islam and one of the most faithful followers of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). He embraced Islam while still a boy of ten. He reigned from 656 to 661.

Ali is known within the Islamic tradition by a number of titles, some reflecting his personal qualities and others derived from particular episodes of his life. They include Murtada ("one who is chosen and contented"), Asad Allah ("the lion of God") and Haydar ("Lion").

He was one of the most heroic Companions of Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). Some of his faith-inspiring anecdotes are recounted here.

Ali stands by the Prophet

In the beginning of his mission, Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) preached to people for three years in secret. Then Allah commanded the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) to declare the truth of the divine message he had received and to call people to Him publicly. In this connection the following verse was sent down:

"And, (O Esteemed Beloved,) warn your close relatives (of Our torment)." (al-Qur'an, 26:214)

Accordingly, he invited his nearest relatives to a banquet. After the meal, he addressed them:

"O sons of Abdul Muttalib, I know of no Arab who has come to his people with a nobler message than mine. I have brought you the best of this world as well as the Hereafter. Allah has enjoined me to call you to Him. So which of you will cooperate with me in this matter and be my brother, my executor and my successor among you?"

In answer the whole of gathering remained silent except Ali, who, though only a boy, rose to his feet and submitted:

"O Prophet of Allah, I shall be your helper in this cause."

Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) laid his hand on the back of

Ali's neck and declared:

"This is my brother, my executor and my successor among you. Hearken to him and obey him."

Ali, though thirteen years old, became one of the first converts of to Islam and remained a lifelong devoted follower of the mission of the Holy Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).

(Set forth by Ibn Ishaq in Sirat)

Ali the conqueror

Sahl ibn Sa'd reported (may Allah be well pleased with him): The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said on the Day of Khaibar: "I shall certainly give this banner tomorrow to a man who loves Allah and His Messenger and is loved by Allah and His messenger as well. Allah will grant victory at his hands."

The Companions spent the night wondering who it would be given to. In the morning the people came to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace). Each hoped he would be given it.

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) asked: "Where is Ali ibn Abi Talib?"

The honour fell to the lot of Ali

He was told: "He has something wrong with his eyes, Messenger of Allah."

He said: "Send for him and bring him to me."

When he was brought, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) spat in his eyes and made supplication for him and he was healed as if there had not been anything wrong with him. He then handed him the banner and put the armour on Ali with his own hands.

So Ali led the Companions in the battle, fought the enemy courageously and conquered the fort. When he returned to the Muslim camp, the Holy Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) went forward to greet him and hailed him as the Victor of Khaibar. There was great rejoicing in the Muslim camp at this great victory.

(Set forth by Bukhari and Muslim)

Ali risks his life

According to the instructions of the Holy Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), almost all of the Companions migrated to Madina, but he himself and two of his notable associates – Abu Bakr and Ali (may Allah be well pleased with both of them) – stayed behind. The Quraish realized that they had settled in a new home and had gained helpers and protectors. Also, they feared that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) might leave Makka for Madina at any time and join them. The Quraish did not want to let him depart alive. So they assembled in their council chamber to determine the best course of action to silence the budding Islamic community once for all.

The council unanimously agreed that each tribe would provide a young, aristocrat warrior. According to the plan, all the warriors, with swords in their hands, will strike a blow at the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) as one man and make an end of his life. In this was way they would be rid of him and the responsibility of his blood would lie upon all the clans. The Banu Abd Manaf, unable to fight them back, would have to accept the blood-money.

Many times man proposes, God disposes. The Quraish were plotting to assassinate the man whose safety Allah had already planned. So the chief of the angels, Gabriel, descended upon the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and inspired the divine will:

"Do not sleep tonight on the bed on which you used to sleep."

The swordsmen gathered together at the door of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) waiting for him to go to bed so that they might attack him.

When the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) monitored the situation, he confided his plan to Ali and instructed him to lie on his bed and to wrap himself in his green mantle. Just before the dawn, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) came to the door, recited some verses from Sura Ya-Sin and sprinkled dust on their heads and went unseen where he wanted to go. At that moment Allah took their sights away so that they did not see him leave.

Undaunted, Ali slept in the Prophet's (Allah bless him and give him peace) bed. In the morning when he rose from the bed and the swordsmen saw Ali instead of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), they felt foolish and puzzled. They realized that the man had somehow outwitted them. Bitterly disappointed, they lifted the siege and went to their elders to break the disappointing news.

Ali the valiant carried out the Messenger's instructions to restore all the properties to their rightful owners in Makka. Only then did he, the lion of Allah, headed for Madina.

(Set forth by Ibn Ishaq in Sirat)

Ali is the master of every believer

After the completion of his Farewell Pilgrimage, Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) stopped at Ghadeer al-Khumm, which is an oasis between Makka and Madina. It was the 18th of Dhul-Hijjah, 10 AH (roughly 15 March, 632 C.E.). In the afternoon he surrounded by his Companions took Ali's hands, raised them and proclaimed:

"Whoever has me as his master (mawla) has Ali as his master."

Then he prayed to Allah Almighty:

"Be a friend to his friends, O Lord, and an enemy to his enemies. Help those who help him and frustrate those who oppose him."

After that Umar (may Allah be well pleased with him) met him and said:

"Congratulations, son of Abu Talib! Morning and evening you are the patron of every believing man and woman."

This was the declaration of Ali's spiritual sovereignty binding on the believers until the Day of Judgment.

(Set forth by Ahmad ibn Hanbal in Musnad)

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