The Life of the Commander of the Faithful
Ali b. Abu Talib
He was born in the Sacred House (i.e. the Kaba) in Mecca on Friday, the thirteenth day of the month of Rajab, thirty years after the Year of the Elephant (c.570). Nobody before or after him has ever been born in the House of God, the Most High. (It was a mark) of him being honoured by God, the Most High, may His name be exalted, and of his position being dignified in its greatness.
His mother was Fatima, daughter of Asad b. Hashim b. Abd Manaf, may God be pleased with her. She was like a mother to the Apostle of God, may God bless him and his family, and he (the Apostle) was brought up under her care.
He was grateful for her kindness and she was among the first to believe in him and she emigrated with him in the group of the emigrants. When she died, the Prophet shrouded her with his own shirt in order to protect her from the insects of the earth, and he laid her to rest in her grave in order that, through that, she might be protected from (the crushing pressure of) the narrow space within the grave. He dictated to her her last words (which were) the statement of the authority (wilaya) of her son, the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, so that at the examination after burial, she would be able to reply with those words. He singled her out with this great favour because of her position with God, may He be magnified and exalted, and with him, peace be on hinn. The report of that is well known.
The Commander of the faithful, Ali b. Abi Talib, peace be on him, and his brothers were among the leading members of the second generation of descendants of Hashim. In this way he gained two marks of nobility, through his growing up under the care and education of the Apostle of God, may God bless him and his family. He was the first of the family of the House and of the Companions to believe in God and His Apostle. He was the first male whom the Prophet, may God bless him and his family, summoned to Islam and who answered. He never ceased to support the religion and to strive against the polytheists. He constantly defended the faith and fought against those who supported deviation (from the truth) and despotism. He spread the teachings of the sunna (the practice of thc Prophet) and the Qur'an, judged with justice and enjoined (people) to do good.
He was with the Apostle of God, may God bless him and his family, twenty-three years after the (coming) of the (prophetic) mission. Of these, thirteen years were in Mecca before thc migration when he shared with him all the persecutions and bore most of his hardships. Then there were ten years in Medina after thc emigration when he defended him against the polytheists and strove with him against the unbelievers. He protected him with his own life from the enemies of religion until the time God, the Exalted, took (the Prophet) to His heaven, raised him to the highest place in heaven and bestowed His blessings and peace on him and his family. On that day the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, was thirty-three years of age.
On the day of the death of the Prophet, may God bless him and his family, the community differed over his Imamate. His Shia who were all the Banu Hashim, Salman, Ammar, Abu Dharr, al-Miqdad, Khuzayma b. Thabit - the man who is known as the possessor of two testimonies - Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, Jabir b. Abd Allah al-Ansari Abu Said al-Khudri and people like them among the important emigrants and Ansar, (all these) maintained that he was the successor (khalifa) after the Apostle of God, may God bless him and his family, and the Imam. (They did this) because of his outstanding merit (fadl) above all mankind, through the fact that there were gathered in him the qualities of outstanding merit, judgement and perfection, such as him being the first of the community to enter the faith, his superiority over them in knowledge of the laws, his precedence over them in fighting (jihad) and the distinction which set him apart from them in the extent of his piety, asceticism and righteousness.
Furthermore he had been specially singled out by the Prophet from among (all) his relations because of (the qualities) which no other relation, apart from him, shared with the Prophet and because of the nomination (nass) of his authority (wilaya) by God, may God be magnified and exalted, in the Qur'an where He, may His name be exalted, says:
Your authority (wali) is God and His Apostle and those believers who perfrom the prayer and pay alms (zakat) while they are bowing (in prayer). [ V 55 ]It is known that no one except him paid alms while bowing (in prayer).
It has been established in language that wali means "the most appropriate for authority" (awla), without there being any opposition (to this definition). If the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, was, by the stipulation of the Qur'an, more appropriate for authority among the people than themselves because of his being their wali according to the textual nomination (nass) in the Clear Explanation (i.e. the Qur'an, tibyan), it was obviously necessary for all of them to obey him, just as obedience to God, the Most High, and obedience to His Apostle, peace be on him and his family, was required because of the information about their authority (wilaya) over creatures which is given in this verse with clear proof.
(Another reason for their support for the Commander of the faithful was) because of what the Prophet, may God bless him and his family, said on the day (of the assembly) at his house. He had especially gathered the Banu Abd al-Muttalib there in order to make the (following) solemn pledge:
Whoever helps me in this matter will be my brother, my testamentary trustee (wasi) my helper (wazir), my heir and my successor after me.Then the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, stood up before him among all the gathering of them, and on that day he was the youngest of them, and he said:
O Apostle of God, I will help you.Then the Prophet, may God bless him and his family, said:
Sit down, you are my brother, my trustee, my helper, my inheritor and successor after me.This is a clear statement about the succession (after the Prophet).
In addition, there is also what (the Prophet), peace be on him and his family, said on the day of Ghadir Khumm. The community had gathered to listen to the sermon (in which he asked):
Am I not more appropriate for authority (awla) over you than yourselves?Yes, they answered.
Then he spoke to them in an ordered manner without any interruption in his speech:
Whomsoever I am the authority over (mawla), Ali is also the authority over.Thus he (the Prophet) required for him (Ali), through laying down obedience to him and his authority (over them), the same authority as he had over them, and which he made them acknowledge and which they did not deny. This is clear (evidence) of the nomination (nass) of him for the Imamate and for succession to his position.
Furthermore there is (the Prophet's), peace be on him and his family, statement to him at the time of setting out to Tabuk:
You are in the same position with respect to me as Aaron (Harun) was to Moses (Musa) except that there is no prophet after me.Thus he required him (to have) the office of helping (i.e. administering) and to be characterised by love and outstanding merit over everyone. (He also required) his deputising for him both during his life and after his death. The Qur'an gives evidence for all that coming to Aaron (Harun) from Moses, peace be on them, when God, may He be magnified and exalted, said in giving a report of what Moses, peace be on him, said:
Make Aaron, my brotherly a helper for me from my family. Give me support through him and make him participate in my affair so that we may glorify You much and we may remember You frequently in that You have been a watcher over us. [ XX 29-35]God, the Most Exalted said:
Your request is granted Moses. [ XX 36 ]This (verse) confirmed that Aaron had a share with Moses in prophecy, and in helping in delivering the message and his support was strengthened through him by his aid. (Moses) also told him of deputising for him (when he said):
Deputise for me among my people. Act for (their) benefit and do not follow the path of the corrupters. [ VII 142 ]This confirms his succession by the precise statement of revelation. Therefore when the Apostle of God, may God bless him and his family, gave all the ranks which Aaron had from Moscs to the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, in the same extent, except for prophecy, (all such things) were required of him as helping the Apostle, giving him support, outstanding merit and love, because these qualities were definitely required by that. Then by the clear statement there is his deputising for him during his life and "after the prophethood" which (gives evidence of his succession) by specification of the exception, (of Prophethood) when he excludes him from it by mentioning "after".
The Imamate of the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, was for thirty years after the Prophet, may God bless him and his family. For twenty-four years and six months of these he was prevented from administering the laws (of the office) (and had to) exercise precautionary dissimulation (taqiyya) and withdrawal. For five years and six months of these, he was troubled by wars against the hypocrites, those who broke their pledges, the unjust and those who deviated (from the religion) and he was plagued by the seditions of those who had gone astray. In the same way the Apostle of God, may God bless him and his family, had been prevented from (administering) the laws (of his office) through fear and through being spied upon, and through being a fugitive and through being exiled, so that he had no power to fight the unbelievers and no means of defending the believers. Then he emigrated and for ten years after the emigration he remained making war on the unbelievers and being troubled by the hypocrites until the time that God, may His name be exalted, took him unto Himself and made him dwell in the gardens of Paradise.
The death of the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him occurred before dawn of Friday, the twenty-first of the month of Ramadan, in the year 40 A.H. He was a victim of the sword. Ibn Muljam al-Muradi, may God curse him, killed him at the mosque of Kufa, which he had come out to in order to wake the people for the dawn prayer on the night of the nineteenth of the month of Ramadan. He had been lying in wait for him from the beginning of the night. When he (the Commander of the faithful) passed by him while the latter was hiding his design by feigning sleep amid a group of people who were asleep, he (Ibn Muljam) sprang out and struck him on the top of his head with his sword which was poisoned. He lingered through the day of the nineteenth and the night and day of the twentieth and the first third of the night of the twenty-first. Then he, peace be on him, died a martyr and met his Lord, Most High, as one who has been wronged. He, peace be on him, knew of that before its time and he told the people of it before its time. His two sons, al- Hasan and al-Husayn, peace be on them, performed (the tasks) of washing him and shrouding him according to his bequest. Then they carried him to al-Ghari at Najaf in Kufa and they buried him there. They removed the traces of the place of his burial according to his bequest which was made about that to hath of them by him, because of what he, peace be on him, knew about the regime of the Umayyads (which would come) after him, and their hostile attitude towards him. (For he knew) the evil action and abuse to which they would be led by their wicked intentions if they had been able to know that (place). His grave, peace be on him, remained hidden until al-Sadiq Jafar b. Muhammad, peace be on them, pointed it out during the Abbasid regime. For he visited it when he came to visit Abu Ja'far (al-Mansur) while the latter was in al-Hira. Then the Shi'a knew of it and they began from that time to make visitation to his (grave), peace be on him and on his pure offspring.
On the day of his death he was 63 years of age.
Ref: Kitab al Irshad - Pages 1 - 6 The Book Of Guidance By Shaykh al Mufid Translated by I.K.A Howard
Imam Ali (as) First in many Fields
1. He was the only man to be born in the Kabah (The house of God)
2. He was the first to offer homage to the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HF)
3. He was the first to offer prayers after the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HF)
4. He was the first to offer his services for Jihad.
5. He was the first to receive religious instructions from the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HF)
6. He was the first to compile and codify the Quran
7. He was the first to be styled as "brother" by the Prophet (PBUH&HF) and on every occasion
8. He was the first to give burial to the Prophet (PBUH&HF)
9. He was the first to offer to sleep in the Prophet's (PBUH&HF) bed on the night of his emigration to Medina
10. He was the first to be appointed commander in all those battles in which the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HF) didnot participate personally
11. The honor of the propagation of the Quranic Sura, "al Bara'at" fell to Imam Ali's (as) lot
12. He was the only man to be titled as the "Second Aaron" by the Prophet (PBUH&HF)
13. The honor of owning a house which opened into the courtyard of the Prophet's (PBUH&HF) mosque was reserved for Imam Ali (as) alone
14. He was the first to have the honor of being nominated by the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HF) as his succesor, testator and vice regent.
... and many many more