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Ali, son of Abu Talib - From Warrior to Caliph

Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was born in Mecca around the year 600 CE.

By Aisha Stacey / 29 Jan 2013

Ali “Ibn” (son of) Abu Talib was the young cousin of Holy Prophet Muhammad .  This child, who greatly admired his older cousin, grew into a noble warrior for Islam, a knowledgeable judge, a remarkable exegete of Quran and a righteous leader of the Muslim nation.

Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was born in Mecca around the year 600 CE.  His father was Abu Talib, Prophet Muhammad’s uncle and staunch supporter.  When Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was a young child, a great famine ravaged the area around Mecca, food was scarce, and many families were unable to feed and clothe their children. Muhammad , who was not yet a prophet, offered to nurture and care for his young cousin.  Consequently, Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was raised by Muhammad and his first wife Khadijah. Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) adored his older cousin and followed him around copying Muhammad’s actions.  As he (may Allah be pleased with him) grew older, Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) also began to emulate Muhammad’s noble ways.

When Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was around 10 years of age, Muhammad received the first revelations of the Holy Quran from God Almighty.  Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was there with his cousin when Muhammad , may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, revealed to his family that he had been called to be the Messenger of God.  It is said that Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) witnessed Muhammad and Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with him) praying to God and that he asked about what he had seen.  As soon as Prophet Muhammad explained the message of Islam to his young cousin, Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) accepted it as the truth.  However, before he embraced Islam he thought deeply about what his father’s reaction would be.  The next morning Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) testified that there was no god worthy of worship but Allah and that Muhammad was His messenger.  Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) has the honour of being the first child to accept Islam.

Some scholars of Islam believe that Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) may have been older then 10 years when he accepted Islam, therefore you may read in various texts that Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was the first youth to embrace Islam.  Nevertheless, Ali’s age is not of primary importance, what counts the most is that he was a bright and clever young man, eager to learn and eager to worship God in the correct manner.  Many scholars point out that Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was one of many young men and women around the Prophet Muhammad who had never been initiated into the idolatrous rituals of the pre Islamic Arabs.  Ali never prostrated before anything or anyone but God.

Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) spent his childhood with Fatima, the youngest daughter of Muhammad and Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her). Some years later when the Muslim community had migrated from Mecca to the city of Medina Ali went to Prophet Muhammad and proposed marriage to Fatima (may Allah be pleased with her).

Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) however was upset by the fact that he was very poor and had nothing of value to present to Fatima as a bridal gift.  Prophet Muhammad reminded him that he had a shield, to sell.  Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) sold the shield to Uthman ibn Affan and was about to run excitedly back to the Prophet when Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him)  stopped him and returned his shield, offering it as a marriage gift to Ali and Fatima (may Allah be pleased with them).  It is believed that Fatima and Ali were in their middle to late teens when Prophet Muhammad himself performed their marriage ceremony.

The young boy who had followed his older cousin around like a shadow had grown into a noble young warrior.  When God revealed the verse, “and warn your tribe.  O Muhammad.” (Quran 26:214) Prophet Muhammad invited all his relatives for a meal; after they had eaten he addressed them and asked who from his family would join him in God’s cause? None had the courage to answer but a boy in his early teens.  Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was that boy and he (may Allah be pleased with him) stood tall in the face of laughter and derision and expressed his desire to help Prophet Muhammad in whatever way he (may Allah be pleased with him) could be of service.  In the difficult times that lay ahead, Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) stood firm, and repeatedly demonstrated his courage and love for God and His Messenger .

When the disbelievers of Mecca planned to kill Prophet Muhammad , it became necessary for him and Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) to leave Mecca under the cover of darkness.  As they walked into the desert night it was the teenager Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) who slept in Muhammad’s bed, knowing that at any minute there could be assassins attempting to murder him.  Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) survived the night, and in the coming days, he returned the valuables that had been left in trust with Prophet Muhammad , to their rightful owners.  Prophet Muhammad considered his young cousin to be amongst the bravest, trustworthy and pious of his companions.  Soon afterwards, Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) joined his beloved cousin in Medina.

Prophet Muhammad so cherished his young cousin he called him by many fond and endearing names.  The name that Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) treasured most was Abu Turab (Father of Dust).  Once when Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was sleeping in the mosque courtyard, his back became covered with dust.  Prophet Muhammad approached him, pulled him to his feet, and wiped the dust of his back, laughingly calling him Abu Turab.  Prophet Muhammad also called Ali Haidarah (the lion).  Prophet Muhammad’s young shadow grew into a respected warrior for Islam.

Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was the fourth rightly guided Caliph. He (may Allah be pleased with him) followed in the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad , Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman (may Allah be pleased with them), and ruled the Muslim Empire, according to the divinely revealed law of God, from approximately 656 to 661 CE.  Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was the young cousin and son in law of Prophet Muhammad.  He (may Allah be pleased with him) spent his childhood emulating the noble character of his beloved cousin, and his youth learning the details of Islam.  Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) grew into a noble warrior; physically strong and assertive but with a humble heart, filled with love for God and His messenger Muhammad .  Muslims remember Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) for his courage, his honesty, his generous and kind behaviour towards others, and his unswerving devotion to Islam.

After the migration to Medina, Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) married his childhood companion Fatima (may Allah be pleased with her), daughter of Prophet Muhammad.  The young couple led a simple and austere life, for Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) did not care for material wealth, rather he was focused on pleasing God and attaining everlasting life in the hereafter.  They had no servants or slaves.  Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) drew and carried water and Fatima would grind the corn until her hands were rough and sore.  Once when the young couple approached Prophet Muhammad asking for a servant he rebuked them by saying that he could not give them such luxuries when hungry poor people filled the mosque.  Ali and Fatima (may Allah be pleased with them) returned home feeling quite dejected.

That evening Prophet Muhammadvisited Ali and Fatima (may Allah be pleased with them)  in their home.  Hesat on the edge of their bed and taught them words of remembrance with which to praise God.  He assured them that remembering God would be more beneficial for them than a servant or slave to ease their workload.  Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) never forgot the words of advice given to him that night, later in his life he said that not a night passed that he did not recite those words before sleeping.  Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) and his family went to great lengths to please God, often they would go hungry themselves giving away all their food to people poorer than themselves.  Ali’s generosity new no bounds, he treated everyone, friend or foe, with respect and kindness.

Imam (Scholar) Ahmad described Ali as one of the most virtuous of Prophet Muhammad’s companions and Ali was known to be amongst the Prophet’s most staunch supporters.  Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) deservedly became known as a strong warrior and he distinguished himself in the crucial first battle against the unbelieving men of Mecca, known as the Battle of Badr.  The young lion of God participated in all the battles fought in the early days of Islam except on one occasion.  It is reported in the authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad that during the battle of Khaybar Prophet Muhammad bestowed a great honour on his young cousin.

Prophet Muhammadinformed his companions “Tomorrow I shall give the standard (flag) to a man who loves God and His Messenger and is also loved by God and His Messenger, he does not flee the battlefield, and God will bring about victory through him”.  The companions of Prophet Muhammad spent the night wondering who the flag would be handed too.  Omar Ibn Al Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) is believed to have said that it was the only time he longed for leadership, but this particular honour belonged to Ali(may Allah be pleased with him).

After Uthman Ibn Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) was murdered in the service of the Muslim nation, Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was chosen as the fourth of those known as the rightly guided Caliphs. Many Muslims were eager for Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) to take on leadership but Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was concerned that already the seeds of rebelliousness were being sewn among the believers.  He (may Allah be pleased with him) hesitated until some of the companions who had been closest to Prophet Muhammad urged him on and gave him their support.  The events surrounding Uthman’s murder had flung the young Muslim nation into a period that became known as the “time of tribulation”.  Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) began and ended his Caliphate in times of trial and tribulation however; he (may Allah be pleased with him) remained true to his convictions and ruled in a manner that befitted the child who learned his morals and values at the feet of the Prophet Muhammad.

Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was a profoundly religious man; he (may Allah be pleased with him) was devoted to Islam and strove in his daily life and his position as leader to uphold the Quran and the authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad.  War broke out amongst the Muslims and Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) found himself attempting to lead a nation beset with rebellion and in fighting.  Throughout this time of civil strife and war, Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was ever mindful of the great task that lay before him.  He (may Allah be pleased with him) was responsible for the people of the Muslim nation.

At this point is must be clearly noted that Ali and Uthman (may Allah be pleased with them) were brothers in Islam, both devoted too God, His messenger Muhammad and the religion of Islam.  Both ruled the Muslim nation with humble hearts, austerity, and piety.  However, their world was changing in dramatic ways and some of their actions were difficult to understand then and now.  However, in retrospect it is clear that their love for Islam and desire for the hereafter for all the believers was never in question Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) remained noble, courageous, and generous.  Even in perilous times, he (may Allah be pleased with him) forgave his enemies and wanted only unity for the Muslim nation.

Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was murdered with a poisoned arrow.  The assassin, who struck while Ali was praying in the mosque, brought to an end the life of the lion of God and the era of the four rightly Guided Caliphs.  Abu Bakr, Umar Ibn al Khattab, Uthman Ibn Affan, and Ali Ibn Abu Talib (may Allah be pleased with them) were men of noble statue and high moral fibre, they ruled with the Quran and the lessons taught to them by Prophet Muhammad.  Sadly, the world is unlikely to see men such as these again before the end of days.

 

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