Heartfelt condolences to you on one of the most tragic days in the history of mankind! Today, the 21st of Ramadhan is the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Ali (AS), the person who had no peers and whom God Almighty had made second in merits to Prophet Mohammad (SAWA).
Exactly a millennium and four centuries have passed since his departure from the mortal world, and yet Imam Ali (AS) remains immortal for all believers.
Before we present you a special article on the occasion, we recite to you ayah 19 of Surah Towba of the holy Qur’an, where God Almighty says:
“Do you regard the providing of water to Hajj pilgrims and the maintenance of the Sacred Mosque as similar [in worth] to someone who has faith in Allah and [believes in] the Last Day and strives in the way of Allah? They are not equal with Allah, and Allah does not guide the wrongdoing lot.”
What can mortals write about a person whose words on his peerless merits pleased God to such an extent that He decided to immortalize them in the pages of the Heavenly Scripture so that they would remain forever as a criterion between truth and falsehood, or belief and hypocrisy?
No, our pens are not capable of doing justice to the Symbol of Justice that he was and continues to be, despite his martyrdom a millennium, four centuries ago that ended the only instance of the rule of social justice the world has ever known.
Imam Ali (AS) needs no introduction. He is indeed the Pride of the Celestial Angels. As the person second only in merits to his cousin, caretaker, and father-in-law, Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), he transcends history and historical developments, serving as the Barometer of Faith.
Even the followers of other religions are familiar with him and have written books on his unrivalled virtues, since his sense of justice and practical demonstration of justice, appealed to their innate human conscience.
He said with firm conviction that he is so well-versed in the books that God had revealed to the past prophets that his judgement of the followers of the Torah, Evangel, and other scriptures, would make them admit that Ali ibn Taleb (AS) has indeed spoken the truth by meting out the finest form of justice.
No wonder, the Prophet likened his position to that of God’s Revealed Word, the holy Qur’an itself.
Thus, Imam Ali (AS) is the Qur’an an-Nateq or the Speaking Qur’an. This however, does not mean he was a mere Hafez or memorizer of the Heavenly Scripture, or simply an authoritative scholar of its Divine Contents.
No, this would be injustice to him, since Imam Ali (AS), as the only person who was witness to the entire revelation of the holy Qur’an to the Prophet, and the first one who compiled it between two covers (Mushaf) according to the order of revelation, only to see his compilation rejected by those that had seized the political rule of the Islamic state by depriving him of his rightful authority, was the Living Qur’an.
So, in view of this undeniable reality, admitted by all denominations of Islam, coming back to the ayah mentioned at the beginning of this column, what was the reason for its revelation?
Exegetes of the holy Qur’an (including our Sunni brethren such as Tabari, Fakhroddin Razi, Suyuti, Nisaburi, etc) say ayah 19 of Surah Towba was revealed following the boastings of Abbas ibn Abdul-Muttalib and Talha bin Shayba about their respective duties of supplying water to the pilgrims and holding the keys to the Ka’ba. This bragging made Imam Ali (AS) say to them that he has been praying to the One and Only God, along with Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and Hazrat Khadija (SA), a long time before anyone else were Muslims, and striving sincerely ever since in the way of Allah.
On closer scrutiny, we find that the ayahs preceding and following the above quoted one, actually speak volumes of the firmness of faith of Imam Ali (AS), who is truth personified, who never ceases to give zakat (even in the state of prayer), who strives in the way of God (risking life and limbs), who fears no one nor submits to anyone except the Creator, and who migrates for the sake of sake of the Almighty without bothering about any worldly possession.
In addition to the fact that it was Imam Ali (AS), who as testified by all scholars and historians, was deputed by the Prophet to go to Mecca to recite these initial ayahs of Surah Towbah upon their revelation, we also find the Seal of Divine Messengers say: “O Ali, if not for you, it would have been impossible to distinguish true believers from hypocrites.”
Here the question might arise as to what is a hypocrite, in religious terminology, especially of Islam, since a whole surah in the holy Qur’an has been revealed by God condemning them and their dangerous traits?
The answer is obvious. A hypocrite is a person whose claim to profess Islam is not only not out of sincere conviction, but whose malicious heart is so thoroughly immersed in pagan, agnostic, atheist, or any other unnatural belief, that he never lets go of an opportunity to undermine Islam and to weaken the beliefs of Muslim.
What, if a hypocrite were to rise through political stratagems to become head of the Muslim State?
In such a case, the result would be catastrophic. There would be distortion on a mass scale. The naïve, unsuspecting Muslim masses would be misled. The tenets of faith would be twisted out of context, ironically in the name of Islam. Falsity would become widespread.
This was the situation that the divinely-appointed vicegerent of the Prophet was facing, especially from the hypocrite-in-chief, Mu’awiyah ibn Abu Sufyan, when his fruitful life was cut short by the poison-soaked sword of the renegade (Khwarej) Abdur-Rahman ibn Muljim.
A brief radio programme cannot do justice to Imam Ali (AS), and neither could a distorted TV serial produced by hypocrites of our own days in a certain Muslim country can grant legitimacy to the illegal rule of the Omayyads.
Here, is a passage from some of the several letters by the Commander of the Faithful, addressed to the heathen-at-heart hypocrite, Mu’awiyah:
“May Allah protect me and may withhold me from behaving towards mankind the way you have behaved and from tyranny, exploitations and murders that you commit.
“You have misguided the whole generation of men around you. Having no faith in the truth of Islam you have led others astray. You have thrown them in the depths of ignorance… Apostasy and avariciousness have taken a firm hold of your mind, your intelligence is of inferior order and you cannot differentiate what in the end is good for you and what is not.”
“Let us, you and I, have a single combat. Let it be a combat unto death. Let the soldiers of both armies stand aside and let two of us alone combat with each other. Let the world see and realize who is the sinner and who has forgotten Allah and the Day of Judgement. Will you accept this invitation of mine? Have you the courage for it? Are you a man to face death boldly and bravely or are you merely a vampire sucking the blood of others surreptitiously?“
It is obvious Mu’awiya did not accept the fair and just demand of the Commander of the Faithful to meet him personally in combat and the end matter of divisions of the Ummah.
As for Imam Ali (AS), after his victory in the Battle of Nahrwan over the Khwarej or Renegades or Outcasts from Islam, when he was urging the reluctant Iraqis to accompany him for striking the final blow on Mu’awiya, he was struck while engaged in the ritual prayer of the morning on the head with a poisoned sword by the renegade Ibn Muljam and on the 21st of Ramadhan, 40 AH, departed for paradise, plunging the Ummah in grief.
It is interesting to note that before passing away, Imam Ali (AS) said, as mentioned in the famous book Nahj al-Balagha:
Do not fight the Kharijites after me, because one who seeks right but does not find it, is not like one who seeks wrong and finds it”.
According to exegetes, the Commander of the Faithful was concerned that those who are themselves in the wrong have no right to fight others in the wrong. The reason for stopping people from fighting the Kharijites was that Amir al-Mu’minin clearly perceived that after him authority and power would devolve on people who would be ignorant of the proper occasion of jihad, and who will make use of sword only to maintain their sway. And there were those who outdid even the Kharijites in their enmity towards Imam Ali (AS). So those who are themselves in the wrong have no right to fight others in the wrong. Again, those who are willfully in the wrong cannot be allowed to fight those who are in the wrong by mistake. Thus, the words of Imam Ali (AS) make this fact clear that the misguidance of Kharijites was not willful but under Satan’s influence. They mistook wrong as right and stuck to it. On the other hand, the position of misguidance of Mu`awiyah ibn Abu Sufyan and his party was that they rejected right willfully, realizing it as right and appropriated wrong as the code of their conduct fully knowing that it was wrong.