The matter in hand is about Imam ‘Ali (as), whose life was closely bound up with the first age of the history of Islam. All the necessary conditions gathered together and consequently made him a prodigy of learning.
He, who wishes to know and understand Islam, has to be familiar with Imam ‘Ali’s particulars because he was really the mirror, the echo and also the voice of Islam. His every word and deed was quite in accordance to the Holy Qur’an’s injunctions.
It is likely that many of the readers know a little about Islam, therefore I have to give them an account of a short history about it with the intent of making them acquainted with Imam ‘Ali. Then I shall explain some of his characteristics and to show you how he resisted difficulties and how he stood against unjust discriminations and partiality especially during his incumbency when he faced many problems.
After a great deal of time, 621 years after Christ, God gave a mission to Muhammad, His last Messenger, to guide people in the right way.
Muhammad (S), that great lawgiver, brought into existence a sudden and basic change in Arabia that was the most fundamental of all other social or religious movements, which have ever arisen all over the world.
He managed to lay the foundation of a new systematic ordinance that, within fifty years, gained supremacy over the great civilizations of Rome and Iran and it also had a great influence over the original rules of the Christian Europe, which is still new and novel until nowadays.
At an early part of the 20th century, a declaration was issued by the U.N. Organization concerning liberty and equality of mankind, whereas Islam had given women and girls the legal rights and independence in the economic matters fourteen centuries ago when they were buried alive because they were considered as troublesome and superfluous objects.
They were empowered to deal with their affairs independently and finally were entitled to ownership at the same time, whereas in France, the cradle of liberty, women could not sell their properties without permission of their husbands until 1938.
According to the laws of ancient Iran and Rome a system of rights and privileges kept the casts separate from each other. A merchant could not marry a daughter of a nobleman and a nobleman could not marry a princess. Slaves and ordinary people could not mix with the noblemen as well.
But Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam (S), offered people a perfect and applicable religion that responded to the subjects of theological matters, social justice, economic affairs, equality and the rights of women in general and in detail.
It was rumored that there was a drought in Mecca and that Muhammad (S) went to his uncles Abbas and Hamzah with a proposal. He said to them,“Look, your brother Abu-Talib has a big family. Let us go to him and ask him to permit us adopting some of his children.”
Finally Ja’far and Talib were adopted by Hamzah and Abbas whereas‘Ali (as) was brought up under the care of Muhammad when he was at the age of six. In this manner the foundation of the moral and spiritual education of this intelligent child was based near the Prophet of Islam, the greatest educator of mankind.
His mental faculties was to that extent that he believed in the Prophet at the age of 8, therefore he, on the contrary of the other companions of the Prophet, had never worshipped idols and never shared in unreasonable demands, oppressive treatments and unfair acts of chieftains.
A new religion with its rule of equity and brotherly love came severely in contact with the previous customs. The unbelievers closed all the doors of livelihood in front the believers. They left no deficiency in creating difficulties for them; therefore the Prophet had to invite people to theism in concealment.
The secret invitation took three years of time and then a verse came down from the Heaven:
“And warn your nearest relations and be kind to him who follows you of the believers” (26:214-215)
The Prophet’s relations (Quraysh family) were the most obstinate opponents of him. They were also of property and influence. They were called to gather together in the house of the Prophet’s uncle, Abu-Talib.
The Prophet decided to unveil what was concealed. After a primal speech about God and His attributes and after reproaching the idols and idolatry, he said:
“The first one among you, who believes in the unique God and adopts me as His Messenger, will be my successor.”
No one of those, who were present, gave his adhesion except ‘Ali ibn Abu-Talib (S).
As some of the great Sunni scholars mentioned that the proposal was repeated three times and there was only ‘Ali, who answered affirmatively and said: “O the Prophet of Allah, I believe in Allah and His messenger and I will be your assistant towards difficulties”.
The Prophet said: “I notify you of this fact that ‘Ali ibn Abu-Talib will be my successor after my death”1
It is memorable to be said that their paternal relation (Muhammad and ‘Ali) was not the reason in accepting the new law by ‘Ali (as).
Many other relatives were persistently faithful to their ancestral customs like Aqil, ‘Ali’s elder brother, who was with the enemies in the first war between the Muslims and the unbelievers of Quraysh (Badr battle).
But ‘Ali ibn Abu-Talib on account of his natural genius, which he was gifted with by God, his education acquired from the Prophet (S) at the early part of his life and because of the influence of the Prophet’s manner and behavior, all these factors, made him to meditate on the subject and believe in God.
After this meeting, the heathens, for the sake of safekeeping their position among people and their estates and also for stopping the development of Islam, made many troubles for the Muslims many times. All the devilish forces became armed to suppress this heavenly mission.
Not only the believers were put to torture, but also the Prophet himself was not accepted.
It was mentioned that the Prophet had said: “No Prophet has ever got hurt so much as I got”.
In spite of many sufferings and restrictions, the Prophet would gradually gain power over the people by moral injunctions of the Holy Qur’an with his high- toned eloquence, his good humor and his laudable qualities.
The idolaters tried hard to dispense and dispirit the believers around the Prophet by force but their efforts were of no avail and the Muslims were regularly increasing.
Now the heathens’ harshness got to that extent that many Muslims, by the permission of the Prophet, determined on emigrating towards Abyssinia to live in safety under the care of the king Negus.
Although the heathens did their best to dissuade the king from supporting the Muslims, they came to nothing.
Now thirteen years passed away in this manner until the notables of Mecca put their heads together to slay the Prophet because they denied Islam to be true. Forty persons of their great men gathered in a place and decided that one person should be selected from each tribe and that men should, altogether, attack the Prophet.
In this way the Hashemites (the Prophet’s family) would not be able to face all the tribes and the matter would be settled down with payment of blood money and at the end they would get rid of this trouble.
Muhammad was informed of the plot by revelation and then he introduced the matter before ‘Ali (as), who was the nearest to his heart, for seeking a remedy.
‘Ali (as) volunteered to lie in the Prophet’s bed even though there were great dangers impended over him. At last he did that risking his life and consequently the Prophet’s life was saved.
When the plotters attacked the Prophet’s bed and unsheathed their swords they found ‘Ali (as) sleeping in the bed.
They asked: “Where is Muhammad (S)”. ‘Ali replied: “Had you entrusted me with him that you are asking me now”.
They had no reply to this. They left seeking after the Prophet.
Imam ‘Ali was highly praised by God on account of this devotion. The Holy Qur’an says:
“And among men is one who sells himself to seek the pleasure of Allah and Allah is affectionate to the servants”. (2:207)
Many of the Sunni commentators2 confessed that the mentioned verse was due to ‘Ali’s dignity.