The Life of Ali ibn Abi Talib
Commander of the faithful and the gateway of Faqr
Ali ibn Abi Talib, the father of Hasan ibn Ali was born in Makkah on Friday, 13th Rajab. After the death of Usman ibn Affan, Ali ibn Abi Talib remained the fourth caliph of Muslims from 656 till 661.
Is Ali ibn Abi Talib Holy Prophet’s cousin?
Ali ibn Abi Talib was the cousin and son-in-law of Holy Prophet sall’Allahu alayhi wa’alihi wasallam. His parents were Abu Talib and Fatimah bint Asad and they both belonged to the tribe of Hashim.
Birth of Ali ibn Abi Talib
The tradition about the birth of Ali ibn Abi Talib states that his mother Fatimah bint Asad was circumambulating the Kaaba when the labor pain started. Just at that moment the wall of Kaaba parted, which nobody could see. She entered in Kaaba and there Ali ibn Abi Talib was born. Later the Holy Prophet fed his saliva to Ali ibn Abi Talib, put his tongue inside Ali’s mouth to suckle and named him Ali.
Upbringing of Ali ibn Abi Talib:
Abu Talib had a large family and modest financial means. The Holy Prophet after getting married with Khadija bint Khuwaylid took Ali ibn Abi Talib into his care by discussing it with his uncle Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib.
Prophet Mohammad had a deep affection for the parents of Ali ibn Abi Talib because they fostered him with great love and devotion after the death of his grandfather Abd al-Muttalib. When Fatimah bint Asad died, Prophet Mohammad shrouded her with his shirt and said the following words:
O my mother! May Allah have mercy upon you! You were to me like my own mother. You clothed me when you needed clothes and fed me when you were hungry.
Ali ibn Abi Talib was ten years old at the time of commencement of Prophethood and he was growing up in Prophet Mohammad’s dwelling. The glories of that childhood are incomparable which nurtured under the roof of bearer of revelations.
Titles and filial appellations of Ali ibn Abi Talib
The titles of Ali ibn Abi Talib are Asad-ul-Allah (Lion of Allah), Haider (Brave) and Murtaza (The Chosen One), while filial appellations are Abul Hasan (Father of Hasan ibn Ali) and Abu Turab (father of soil). Once Prophet Mohammad came to Nabvi mosque and found Ali ibn Talib sleeping on the ground with his whole body covered with soil. The Holy Prophet sall’Allahu alayhi wa’alihi wasallam went near Ali ibn Abi Talib and said with extreme affection:
Abu Turab wake up!
From that day this title became famous and it was most favorite to Ali ibn Abi Talib. He is also famous as Maulood e Kaaba (the one born in Kaaba) because of his birth in the sanctuary of Kaaba.
Prophet Muhammad’s invitation to Imam Ali to accept Islam
Ali ibn Abi Talib was only ten years old when he accepted Islam. Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen Sultan Mohammad Najib-ur-Rehman narrates the incident of his acceptance of Islam as follows:
One day after ending his childhood activities Ali ibn Abi Talib came to the house of Prophet Mohammad and found him and his wife Khadija bint Khuwaylid engrossed in worshiping. Ali ibn Abi Talib was surprised and when Prophet Mohammad finished his prayer, Imam Ali asked:
What were you performing?
Prophet Mohammad replied: We were performing worship.
Ali ibn Abi Talib: What sort of a worship is it?
Prophet Mohammad: This is the religion of Allah. He has liked it for Himself and sent His messengers on Earth to preach this religion. I invite you to bring faith in the Oneness of Allah.
Ali ibn Abi Talib (in astonishment): I have not heard of this religion before. It is a difficult decision for me. Hence, I will discuss it with my father.
Messenger of Allah: O Ali! It is your right but do not reveal it to anyone.
Imam Ali’s Acceptance of Islam
Ali ibn Abi Talib promised to not reveal it to anyone and slept on it. He did not mention it to his father Abu Talib. Although Ali ibn Abi Talib had not yet reached the adulthood but he was very intellectual. Moreover, the great influential company of Holy Prophet built an extreme sense of discrimination in Imam Ali. He found the Holy Prophet offering prayer on Monday evening. Although on Holy Prophet’s invitation he intended to discuss the matter with his father but by Wednesday morning he was convinced to the righteousness of the religion Islam. The veracity and great character of Holy Prophet had been imprinted on Imam Ali’s inward and hence played a vital role in reaching this conclusion. Therefore, on Wednesday morning he embraced Islam by accepting the Oneness of the Creator of the universe.
Ali ibn Abi Talib kept his faith secret in the beginning
In the beginning Ali ibn Abi Talib kept his faith secret from his father. Eventually one day the secret revealed when Abu Talib found his son prostrating in prayer with Prophet Mohammad in a valley of Makkah. At first, he was left astonished. Then he inquired Prophet Mohammad:
O beloved nephew! What religion is it that you have adopted?
Prophet Mohammad replied:
O respected uncle! It is a religion of Allah and His prophets. It is a religion of our father Abraham. Allah has sent me as His messenger. O my uncle! You are more deserving of the fact that I invite you towards this religion. Accepting this righteous religion is foremost your right. Please embrace it and also support me.
Abu Talib: O my nephew! I cannot leave my ancestors religion. But by Allah! No one can harm you as long as I am alive.
He then turned towards his son and said: O Ali! He has invited you towards righteousness so hold firm to his faith.
Now Ali ibn Abi Talib could continue the sacred path of Islam with full relief because the apprehension of father in his heart had now overcome. (Khulfa-e-Rashideen)
Announcement of Imam Ali’s righteousness
Three years into preaching Islam secretly, the Holy Prophet invited the people of Makkah openly following Allah’s command. Hearing this everyone including Abu Lahab burst in anger and began ridiculing. Ali ibn Abi Talib who had just reached the year of adulthood stood up and announced his righteousness to the crowd fearlessly:
O Messenger of Allah! I will be your companion and whoever fights you, I will fight him.
People began to make fun of Ali ibn Abi Talib due to his tender age and physical weakness. However, they could not comprehend the strength of faith that the son of Abu Talib had attained while nurturing in the company of Prophet Mohammad.
Ali ibn Abi Talib kept his words and remained faithful to the Holy Prophet till the end. He stood by the Holy Prophet with extreme bravery during all the battles fought against the enemies of Islam. Whenever the enemies of Islam raised their head, he defeated them. Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib accompanied the Holy Prophet in the following battles.
Battle of Badr, battle of Uhud, battle of the Trench and battle of Khaybar.
Sacred marriage of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib
When the youngest and beloved daughter of Holy Prophet, queen of paradise Fatimah tuz Zahra grew up, several chiefs from the prestigious families of Quraish sent proposals but Prophet Mohammad adopted silence.
On the other side Ali bin Abu Talib had also reached the age of marriage. It was his ardent desire to ask Fatimah tuz Zahra’s hand but he was hesitating to ask for proposal due to his strained circumstances.
One day few Companions, Abu Bakar Siddiq, Umar ibn Khattab and Sa’ad ibn Mu’adh together encouraged Ali ibn Abi Talib to express the proposal in Holy Prophet’s court. He responded:
I am impoverished, how can I go to the court of Prophet Mohammad. The Companions assured him of financial help and sent him to Prophet Mohammad’s court.
Proposal in Holy Prophet’s court
Ali ibn Abi Talib came to Prophet Mohammad and expressed his desire modestly. The Holy Prophet’s face brightened with joy. He then asked:
Ali do you have anything for a bridal gift (mehr).
Ali replied: O Messenger of Allah you are aware of my circumstances. I only own a sword, shield and a camel.
Prophet Mohammad said:
Camel and sword are your needs. I will give Fatimah tuz Zahra’s hand to you in exchange of shield.
Ali ibn Abi Talib went to sell the shield. Usman ibn Affan bought that shield at high price but returned it back to him as a gift. Imam Ali presented the shield and money to the Holy Prophet. A necessary household stuff was purchased with this money. That is how this great marriage took place. Ansar and Muhajirun gathered in the Nabvi mosque and the Holy Prophet himself performed their nikah ceremony.
Ardent love of Ali ibn Abi Talib for Holy Prophet
Ali ibn Abi Talib was an ardent lover of Holy Prophet. Because of living in the kind company of Holy Prophet since childhood, this spark of ardent love had reached deeply in his soul. It was an ardent love, that during migration to Madina when the Holy Prophet ordered Ali ibn Abi Talib to sleep on his bed, he agreed to it without hesitation. Although he knew that polytheists of Makkah could kill him.
Ali ibn Abi Talib said:
O Prophet of Allah! I am contented that my soul sacrifices itself to protect the soul of Holy Prophet and my life is lost in protecting your life. However, may I love this life merely for the reason that it is spent in your service. (Khulfa-e-Rashideen)
The intensity of Imam Ali’s love
It was an ardent love that this lion of Allah fought with the enemies in every battle bravely. In the battle of Ohud when a rumor was spread that the Holy Prophet had been martyred, Ali ibn Abi Talib lost his senses. He beheaded every opponent coming his way. Eventually he found the Holy Prophet in the crowd of infidels. He ran towards his beloved and killed all the infidels by fighting bravely. It was an ardent love which strengthened him to fight a sturdy opponent like Marhab in the battle of Khaybar. Then again, it was the ardent love that he fought countless battles even after Holy Prophet’s death to keep his religion alive. Imam Ali made every decision exactly according to the teachings of Holy Prophet. Due to this intensity of love, the Holy Prophet said about him:
- Ali is from me and I am from Ali.
The Holy Prophet conferred Faqr upon Ali ibn Abi Talib
Traditions indicate that firstly Ali ibn Abi Talib requested Faqr from the Holy court of Prophet Mohammad. Sultan ul Ashiqeen writes this incident in his book Khulfa-e-Rashideen:
Ali ibn Abi Talib said to Holy Prophet:
O Prophet of Allah! Tell us a path that is closest to Allah and is extremely virtuous and simple to achieve. The Holy Prophet said:
O Ali! Invoke the name of Allah in solitude and seclusion continuously.
Ali responded: How do we invoke the name of Allah?
The Holy Prophet said: Close both your eyes and hear it from me three times then after that you repeat it three times.
Thus, the Holy Prophet closed his eyes and recited kalimah tayyibah (Islamic creed)
لَآ اِلٰہَ اِلَّا اللّٰہُ مُحَمَّدٌ رَّسُوْلُ اللّٰہ
Meaning: There is no God but Allah (and) Mohammad is Allah’s Messenger.
He recited it three times loudly and Ali ibn Abi Talib listened to it. Similarly, then Ali ibn Abi Talib recited kalimah tayyibah three times and the Holy Prophet listened to it. From this day on, this invocation was initiated among Saints.
That is to say, firstly the Holy Prophet conferred the esoteric and true persuasion of kalimah tayyibah upon Ali ibn Abi Talib and hence elevated him to the station of Oneness with Allah by teaching him the knowledge of Oneness.
An account on the transference of Faqr
It is written in Sair-ul-Aqtab, Sharif-ut-Tawarikh and Aaina Tawarikh Tasawwuf that one day the four Companions were sitting in the celestial assembly of Holy Prophet when he asked Abu Bakar:
If the robe of Faqr that was granted to me during the night of Miraj is transferred to you how will you fulfil its right? He said:
O Holy Prophet! I will adopt truthfulness.
Then the Holy Prophet asked the same question from Umar ibn Khattab. He said:
I will adopt justice.
The Holy Prophet repeated the question to Usman ibn Affan and he responded:
I will adopt modesty and patience.
Finally, when the Holy Prophet directed the same question towards Ali ibn Abi Talib, he responded:
If the robe of Faqr is granted to me I will protect the secrets, hide the faults of people, and will forgive their mistakes.
Hearing this the Holy Prophet said with extreme joy: O Ali! You responded exactly according to the will of Allah and His Prophet. Thus, you are deserving of this robe of Faqr.
Right then he granted him the robe of Faqr and gave him the revelation:
You are the king of Sainthood and a guide of my whole umma.
Caliphate of Ali ibn Abi Talib
After the martyrdom of Uthman Ibn Affan Muhajirun and Ansar began to persuade Ali ibn Abi Talib for accepting oath of allegiance. At first, he refused by saying:
I am better for you as a counselor than as chief. Whoever you choose I will choose him.
But when the pressure became extreme, he had to accept caliphate. Then he took oath of allegiance as a fourth caliph of Muslims on Friday, 28 Dhul al-Hijjah 35 AH. In his era of caliphate, he established peace and justice and wherever enemies of religion came in the way, he fought them bravely and defeated them.
Moral virtues of Ali ibn Abi Talib
How can we put into words the virtues and character of a great personality who was brought up by the master of the universe himself? The virtuous attributes of Ali ibn Abi Talib were innumerable.
Bravery of Ali ibn Abi Talib
Ali ibn Abi Talib was exceptionally brave. Without paying heed to the status, bravery of the opponent and severity of the circumstances, he was ever ready for the victory of Islam and truth and to behead the enemies of Islam. Due to this attribute of bravery, the Holy Prophet blessed Ali ibn Abi Talib with the title of Haidar al-Karrar (lion fighting all sides) and entitled his sword Dhu-l-Fiqar.
Knowledge and wisdom of Ali ibn Abi Talib
Along with his unfathomable bravery, the knowledge of Ali ibn Abi Talib was second to none in the entire Arab. This is the reason that the Holy Prophet sall’Allahu alayhi wa’alihi wasallam said about Ali ibn Abi Talib:
I am the city of knowledge and Ali is its door.
Along with having learnt the Holy Quran by heart, Ali ibn Talib was the master of its meanings and exegesis. He used to resolve even the most difficult issues in the light of Quran and Sunna. He was skilled in art of speech and was fond of poetry as well. His poetry is a gem of knowledge and wisdom. Each word of a book Nahj al-Balagha consisting of his sermons, letters and quotes is a witness of his knowledge and wisdom.
Renunciation of the world
Ali ibn Abi Talib is among those who did not chase the world whilst living in it and neither he admired those whose inwards contain worldly love. It is his famous saying:
This world is a carrion. Whoever desires to achieve it should remain prepared for the company of dogs.
Staying awake all night in prayers and worship was the main aim of his life. Hospitality, forgiveness, generosity, honesty and integrity, compassion and kindness were the attributes of his personality.
Grandeur of the Lion of Allah
- Ali ibn Abi Talib was the first child who accepted Islam.
- It is a saying of Holy Prophet:
For whomever I am the leader (maula), Ali is their leader.
- The Holy Prophet married his beloved daughter, queen of paradise, Sultan ul Faqr I Fatimah bint Mohammad with Ali ibn Abi Talib.
- Salman the Persian narrates that the Holy Prophet said to Ali ibn Abi Talib:
Whoever loves you loves me and whoever holds a grudge against you in fact holds grudge against me.
- A Hadith narrates:
Ali ibn Abi Talib and Quran are inseparable. They will never separate to the point that they will meet me at Ḥawḍ al-Kawthar (Pond of Abundance). (Tibrani)
- Due to his knowledge and eloquence Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib was entitled as Bab-ul-Ilm (the gateway of knowledge).
Martyrdom of Ali ibn Abi Talib
Following the battle of Nahrawan, some Kharijites plotted a scheme of Imam Ali’s demise. They convinced an Egyptian person named Ibn Muljam for this task. Aiming to kill Ali ibn Abi Talib, ibn Muljam went to Kufa and convinced two other people named Shabib and Wardan through his smooth talk for the demise of Ali ibn Abi Talib. On Friday 17 Ramadan, they hid themselves in the mosque. During Fajr (morning) prayer, when Ali Ibn Abi Talib entered the mosque Shabib first struck him which went in vain. Just in the next moment, accursed ibn Muljam came forward and struck on the forehead. Wardan ran away and Shabib was also successful in escaping while ibn Muljam was arrested.
Ali ibn Abi Talib was carried home. He addressed the people:
If I survive, I will deal with him how I find suitable but if I die then you kill him just as he killed me.
When did Ali ibn Abi Talib Die?
On Ramadan 21, 40 AH Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib breathed his last while reciting kalimah tayyibah.
Where is Ali ibn Abi Talib buried?
The sacred shrine of Ali ibn Abi Talib is in Najaf (present-day Iraq).
Teachings of Imam Ali
- Do not fall for the love of world even when it attracts you with its full charm and beauty.
- Adhere to the book of Allah (the Holy Quran) and do not fear the critics of those who rebuke the commands of Allah.
- I sacrifice myself for Allah Who distresses His man only according to his capacity but comforts him more than he deserves.
- Repentance on a sin eliminates the sin while becoming arrogant on a virtuous deed destroys it.
This article was published in Mahnama Sultan-ul-Faqr Lahore titled as
باب العلم ، مولودِ کعبہ امیر المومنین حضرت علی کرم اللہ وجہ
in the issue of May 2020. It was originally written by Faiza Saeed Sarwari Qadri and is now translated in English by Sofia Sultan Sarwari Qadri. Translator has used American English vocabulary in the translation of this article. To read the original article, please visit: