Short Biography of Imam Ali AS
Imam Ali AS, the successor of Prophet Muhammad PBUH and the first Imam of Shiites, was born inside Ka’aba (in Mecca) on 13th of Rajab 30 years after Prophet’s birth (in the year of the Elephant). His father was Abu Talib, the uncle of Prophet Muhammad and his mother had been Fatemeh, daughter of Asad. Imam Ali and Prophet Muhammad were cousins, who both grew up in Abu-Talib and Fatemeh-bint-Asad’s house, since Prophet's parents and grandparent died when he was still a child. Imam Ali AS later on said about Prophet Muhammad PBUH: “He took care of me when I had been a small child, he hugged me and let me sleep in his own room. I got used to his scent. I followed him everywhere like a calf after its mother camel. Every day I learned from his behavior ethics. Every year he took refuge in Hera Mount to pray and I was the only one with him, seeing him.”
Thirteen years passed till Prophet Muhammad PBUH was missioned by God by the verse No. 214 of Al-Sho’arah (The Poets) Chapter to reveal his prophecy: “And warn your nearest relatives!”
Ali AS then quotes: “Prophet Muhammad PBUH called me and said, “Ali God has ordered me to reveal God’s message to my relatives. Prepare some food and invite my relatives so that I may talk to them and send them God’s message.” I did as he had said. Then he said to his relatives: “God the Almighty has ordered me to invite you towards him. So which one of you will help me in my prophecy, and would like to be my brother, my successor and my representative among you?”
Everybody remained silent.
Ali AS then continued: “Only I, who had been youngest in age replied: “O God’s Prophet, I will help you and be your company.” Then prophet said: “Indeed this person is my successor, representative and brother, listen to him, and obey him.””
Therefore, Imam Ali As is the first Muslim in the history of Islam. Other historians have also registered that he had accepted Islam even before prophet had revealed God’s message in this ceremony.
After Islam was publicly preached, Quraysh started tormenting and bothering Prophet Muhammad and Muslims till they were made to migrate from Mecca. Abu Talib, Imam Ali’s father, had been the most important supporter of Prophet Muhammad during this period.
After Prophet’s migration to Medina, Ali AS also accompanied him and married Hazrat Fatemeh AS in the second year of Hijri. A year later their first son, Imam Hassan was born. With this shift in the Islamic province from Mecca to Medina, many wars happened between Muslims and the infidels. The war of Badr happened 18 months after Hijrat. Afterwards, Uhud, Khandaq, Kheybar, Tabouk, etc. wars happened against Muslims. Imam Ali AS attended all these wars except Tabouk, during which he was ordered by the prophet himself to remain in Medina and take care of his progeny and the city, and defended Muslims. He killed 21 of the infidels in Badr Battle, including the grandparent of Mu’avieh, his uncle, and his brother. He also killed 9 of the infidels in Uhud Battle. Ali AS himself got more than 70 wounds on his body, but protected Prophet Muhammad and prevented any harms to him after Muslims betrayed them and retreated the battle field. Gabriel described him afterwards as: “There is no sword like Zolfaqar (Ali’s sword), and no chivalrous man like Ali.”
In Khandaq Battle, he killed the Arab Champion, Amr-ibn-Abdovad, and caused fear and terror among the infidels’ league. Prophet Mohammad describes the strike on Amr as: “the strike of Ali on the Battle of Khandaq is superior to the worship of my whole Ummah till the Day of Judgement.”
On the Battle of Kheybar when Omar and Abu Bakr were unable to succeed in breaking through the gates of the Jewish fortresses, Prophet Muhammad declared: “Tomorrow I will send to the field, the man who loves his prophet and God, and God and His prophet love him also.” Everybody was curious to know who that man would be. Then Prophet Muhammad summoned Ali AS while he had pain in his eyes. Prophet Muhammad Kissed his eyes and Ali AS was healed instantly, and sent him to the battle field, and Muslims finally succeeded with his chivalry.
The climax of Ali AS’s life happened in the 10th year of Hijri, on 18th of Dhul Hijja (16th March 632), in Prophet’s last pilgrimage to Mecca. God revealed this verse to the Prophet and ordered him to inform everyone about this verse: “O Messenger, share what has been revealed to you from your God, and if you do not do such, you have not fulfilled your prophecy, and God will protect you from the people, and God will not help the infidels.” (Chapter 5, Verse 67)
When Prophet Muhammad PBUH received this message, he commanded the pilgrims to stop and everybody reunited at Qadir. After saying prayers, prophet gave a lengthy speech. He then held and raised Ali’s hand and said, “Anybody for whom I had been a master and custodian, Ali is the master and the custodian. God loves anyone who loves him, and curses anyone who is his enemy.” Muslims pledged allegiance to Imam Ali AS, including Omar-bin-Khattab who came forward and said: “Congratulations O Ali. Today you have become my master and the master of all those who believe.”
Then God revealed the “completion” verse to prophet: “Today I completed for you your religion and bestowed upon you my blessings, and demanded that your religion be Islam.” (Chapter 5, Verse 3). 70 days later Prophet Muhammad PBUH died. Imam Ali AS was busy burying him; meanwhile, a group of Muslims including Omar and Abu Bakr took advantage of the situation and gathered in a place called Saghife Bani Sa’edeh and chose a caliph from among themselves to replace Prophet’s Godly-assigned successor Ali as. After lots of struggle, they chose Abu Bakr and those present pledged allegiance to him.
Later on Imam Ali AS and his true followers refused to pledge allegiance with the new caliph. Abu Bakr ordered Omar to go to Ali AS and his disciples and to fight them if they did not cooperate. Omar took a torch of fire to their house and threatened that if they do not come out to affirm Abu Bakr’s caliphate, he would burn down the house. And Omar did as he had said, and burned the door. Omar then sent one of his servants, Ghonfoz, to enter the house and bring out Ali AS with force, Ghonfoz kicked at the firing door to open it, but Hazrat Fatemeh AS who had rushed towards the door, to prevent intrusion and also to remind the infidels of his father’s will, was pressed against the wall by his kick. As a result, her six-month baby she was pregnant with died, and she was badly injured. Ali AS did not fight back on that day, because if he did, the few number of true muslims left would also be killed, and true Islam would get into the danger of getting perished. He did not pledge allegiance, but his only friend and support, Fatemeh AS also died a few days later (some historians have registered 75 and some 90 days after prophet’s death).
In the next 25 years, three people became caliphs: Abu Bakr, Omar, and Osman. Meanwhile, Ali AS did not rise against them, but preached true Islam and recompensated for the caliphs' mistakes regarding Islam and its rules, and prevented the diminish of the true Islam. He collected the whole Quran and preserved Islam and its tradition. His guidance resulted in Omar and Abu Bakr’s confessions that they would perish if it hadn’t been for Ali AS.
In Osman’s time, the caliphate’s tyranny and self-indulgence led to a revolt against the caliph. People besieged Osman’s house in the year 35 hijri, and killed him. People then rushed towards Ali AS’s house and requested that he became the next caliph.
Ali AS describes the incident as: “People suddenly rushed towards me from every direction, standing back to back, like hyena’s mane, pushing forward in a way that Hassan and Hussein harmed and my feet were trampled upon, and my gown torn down. They surrounded me like flocks of sheep… I swear to the God that sprouted the seed, and created humans, if it weren’t for the multitude of this population, and the minority of my friends, and the promise I had pledged to God, to help the oppressed and to resist against the infidels, I would definitely leave the saddles of power and caliphate on its own neck, and leave this thirsty people aside. Indeed your world is more inferior and worthless to me than the saliva of a goat.”
After Ali AS was forced to accept caliphate, and people again pledged allegiance to him, he changed the rulers of different cities. Talheh and Zobeyr thought they would be among the new rulers, but when they were given no position in the new caliphate, disappointed, they rushed to Mecca, where Aisha, one of Prophet’s wives and the enemy of Prophet’s progeny lived. The three of them (Talhe, Zobeyr, Aisha) gathered an army and started Jamal Battle against Imam Ali AS. In this battle Ali AS won and orderd Aisha to go back to Medina, and he himself went to Kufa.
About a year after Jamal Battle, the Battle of Seffeyn or Siffin started. The head of the infidels who started this war had been Mo’aviyeh. He had not pledged allegiance to Ali AS from the very beginning, and had expected to be the new caliph after Osman’s death, but the unexpected interference of people and their request to make Ali AS the new caliph, had messed up Mo’aviyeh’s plans for power. Mo’aviyeh who had been one of the participants in Osman’s murder, now started pretending that Osman had been murdered by Ali and that Ali AS should pay back for this murder, pretending to be the only heir who had cared about Osman’s death and rights.
He had been the ruler of Sham in Syria and publicized negatively against Imam Ali AS to the extent that citizens of Sham thought Ali AS was not a Muslim and did not even say prayers (read Namaz). The Seffeyn war against Imam Ali AS took place in Seffeyn and lasted 4 months. Mo’aviyeh was almost defeated, but he played a trick and deceived Muslims: he ordered his troop to put all Qurans on top of their spears and to shout that we are the league of Quran, and Quran should judge among us. Ali AS who knew the deceit replied back that “I am the talking Quran”, and that the enemy was lying that they believed in Quran. Finally the simple minded Muslims were cheated by the hypocrites or Khavarej and all united against Ali AS that we should have a judging committee. This committee included Amr-ibn-Aas (Mo’aviyeh’s representative) and Abu Musa Ash’ari (representative of Muslims from Imam Ali’s troops, but not affirmed by Imam Ali AS himself). Abu Musa who himself was one of those feeble–minded Muslims was tricked by Amr, when he suggested that we should dismiss both Mo’aviyeh and Ali from power, and let the Muslims choose their own leader themselves. Abu Musa, easily tricked, pronounced to the present muslims that, “I dethrone Ali AS,” but Amr, in his own turn, pronounced that, “I hereby declare that Mo’aviyeh is your new caliph and king.”
The same Khavarej who set up and flamed Seffeyn war, fled Kufa and settled in a village called Hura in the vicinity of Kufa. They disrespected Ali AS and murdered his friends and disciples. About 2 years later, in the year 39 of Hijri, they started Nahrawan Battle against Ali AS and all were killed in that war, except 10 of them. Afterwards three of those who survived the war plotted against Ali AS. They promised that each one of them should murder one person: Ali AS, Mo’aviyeh and Amr-ibn-Aas. Only ibn-Moljam who had taken the responsibility of murdering Imam Ali AS succeeded. He – God’s curse be on him – murdered Imam Ali AS in the dawn of 19th of Ramadhan, while Imam Ali was saying morning prayers (namaz) in Kufa Mosque, by striking his poisonous sword on Imam Ali’s head. Imam Ali AS said immediately, “I swear to the God of Kaaba that I am relieved now.” Imam Ali AS rested in peace two days later in the dawn of 21st of Ramadhan.
Nahj-ol-Balaghe is the book remaining containing Imam Ali’s speeches, sermons and quotations.