Imam Ali (a.s.): His Personality and knowledge

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There are some people whom if you mention their names, you feel yourself entering the caves of history while holding a candle to know them and be introduced to their thought and life. But whenever you say Ali (a.s.), you feel this name is traversing time, rising in wide horizons, showing you the infinity, and taking you all around the world.

You will even search for something which he did not talk about …, but you find nothing. Whereas, if you enter his mind, you will find it brilliant and different from many others' minds which when you enter them you can hardly realize their powers.


There are some people whom if you mention their names, you feel as if they are taking you to abstraction far away from life…, while on the contrary, there are others whom if you mention their names, you feel as if they are touching the abstract with their minds and bringing it down to reality.

Ali (a.s.) is the man who spent his life near Allah and was spiritually with Him. His life was not a Sufi one; it was an open one that makes you live with people to feel their pains and sufferings and to create a new thought in their minds by Allah’s inspiration.

{And there is the type of man who gives his life to earn the pleasure of Allah ; and Allah is full of kindness to (His) devotee} (2:207).

{Your (real) friends are (no less than) Allah, His Messengers, and the Believers, those who establish regular prayers and pay Zakat and they bow down humbly (in worship)} (5:55).

These two verses talk about the good conduct of Imam Ali (a.s) ... The first one was revealed in the first night of Al-Higra, when Ali (a.s) slept in the Prophet’s (p.) bed to cover his leaving of Mecca. So, Allah witnessed the Imam’s loyalty to His Messenger being also a loyalty to Allah.

The second verse was revealed when Imam (a.s) was praying in the mosque and a beggar entered. Ali (a.s.) gave him his ring as a Zakat (almsgiving) without breaking his prayers.

He (a.s.) served God in all his actions. Even his fight against the enemies and his bravery was devoted to Allah and not for his own interests.

His bravery and heroism were not a personal matter. He devoted his arms to Allah and did not use his sword unless he was commanded by Allah through His Prophet (p.). He fought only in battles where he would gratify Allah, and left any battle, which did not serve the Islamic interests.

Therefore, if we study the Imam’s wars, starting from his war beside the Prophet (p.) in Bader, until his last war against the separatists, we realize that he fought in conformity with the juristic principles. His aim through his wars lied in the interests of God and Islam and not in satisfying his personal pride and pleasures.

This was how Imam Ali’s (a.s) personality in peace and war was demonstrated. He did not reconcile with his enemies for his own interests, but for the Islamic interest. For that reason, he used to say: "I will keep the peace as long as the Muslims 'affairs are secured."

From the beginning of his life, Ali (a.s) did not look at any person as an important one, because he believed in the glorification of Allah only. Therefore, he did not fear of any one except Allah.

He is Ali (a.s.), the brave man who had never retreated. That was what the Prophet (p.) had affirmed when he said: "Tomorrow, I will give the banner to a man who loves Allah and His Prophet (p.) and whom Allah and His Prophet (p.) love." This man attacks but never flees. He does not come back from a battle, until he achieves victory by Allah’s Blessings.

Imam Ali (a.s) before the Prophet’s (p.) mission.

The Prophet (p.) had raised Ali (a.s.) before the mission. He took him from his uncle Abi-Talib to educate him and help his uncle in fostering his children, so, Ali (a.s.) was the Prophet's foster son. The Prophet (p.) used to contemplate in Allah’s creation of the Universe, and opened his mind to Allah before the mission. He also made the Imam (a.s.) share him his contemplations to strengthen his moral values. So, the honest and the trusty Prophet taught Ali (a.s) how to be honest and trustworthy like him.

Imam Jaafar Al-Sadiq (a.s.) talked about the education which Ali (a.s.) has learned from the Prophet (p.). When one of Al-Sadiq's companions asked him(a.s.) to teach him something in order to reach a high degree in his (a.s.) view, Al-Sadiq answered: “See what Imam Ali (a.s.) has done to reach a high degree in the Prophet's (p.) view. That was due to Ali's honesty and faithfulness”.

Because of being honest and loyal to Allah, Ali (a.s.) was very close to truth and never deviated from it. He upheld the Islamic responsibility because he considered that Allah had entrusted him with this responsibility which lies in all his relations with the reality and all his life stages. That was Ali (a.s.) who lived spiritually with Allah.

He was barely ten years old, when the mission was revealed to the Prophet (p.). Yet, he directly responded to the Prophet's (p.) call to embrace Islam.

Some historians stated that Ali was the first boy to embrace Islam and some tried to say that his decision was not a rational one, whereas, when the Prophet (p.) called him to embrace Islam he knew that Ali (a.s.) has had a mind of a rational man. Otherwise, why would he ask him to do so?

Imam Ali (a.s) after the Prophet’s mission.

Ali (a.s.) embraced Islam and started his life with the Prophet (p.). He lived with him in his house and heard the inspiration revealed to him through Jobraeil (the angle who delivered the message to the Prophet (p.)). He learned from the Prophet (p.) how to be patient in delivering the message, how to act when the message requires movement, power and tolerance. He was characterized by the Prophet’s (p.) morals. Thus, when Najran’s Christians came to the Prophet (p.) to pray earnestly with him and invoke Allah's curse on those who lie, the following Verse was revealed: {If any one disputes in this matter with thee, now after (full) knowledge hath come to thee, say: "Come! Let us gather together, our sons, and your sons, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves: Then let us earnestly pray. And invoke the curse of Allah on those who lie!"} (3:61)

The Prophet (p.) came with his two grandsons Al-Hasan and Al-Hussein (a.s.), his daughter Fatima Al-Zahraa (a.s.), and Imam Ali (a.s.). He said: "Ali is me". That was not because Ali (a.s.) was his relative, for the Prophet (p.) had many cousins, but because Ali (a.s.) had a profound religious personality. The Prophet (p.) educated Ali (a.s.) from the depth of his heart, and taught him his own morals.

Ali's (a.s) trade with God:

Ali (a.s) was a pious Muslim in all his life's stands. His thought, feelings and emotions were characterized by the Islamic morals. We understand from his conduct, words, and feelings that: to him, the meaning of Islam was to sell one's self to Allah. One can not be a real Muslim if he attaches importance to any one other than Allah, or prefers anyone's interest or relations, to Allah's ones. Therefore, a real Muslim must devote all his life for Allah:

{Behold! His Lord said to him: Submit (thy will to Me): He said: "I submit (my will) to the Lord and Cherisher of the Universe". (2:131).

{Say: Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allah, the Cherisher of the worlds. * No partner hath He: This I am commended and I am the first of those who submit to His Will} (6:162-163).

After he had embraced Islam, Ali (a.s.) dedicated his life to pave for us the path of truth. Allah spoke to us about him in the following Holy Verse: {And there is the type of man who gives his life to earn the pleasure of Allah} (2:207).

Ali (a.s.) wanted to win himself and he knew that he can not do so, unless he dedicated his soul to Allah.

Therefore, when the Prophet (p.) asked him to sleep in his bed during the night Mohammad (p) left Mecca, Ali accepted immediately without hesitation in spite of the imminent danger. The only thing which he was worried about was the safety of the Prophet's (p.) life and message. So, he asked the Prophet (p.): "Messenger of Allah. Will you be safe?" The Prophet (p.) answered: "Go and you will be guided by Allah". And, he slept in the Prophet's (p.) bed.

Without Ali's (a.s.) sacrifice, the Prophet (p.) would not have been able to cover his withdrawal. So, when the enemies came they thought that the one who was sleeping in the bed was the Prophet (p.).

Immigration to Al-Medina:

After the Prophet (p.) entered Al-Medina, Ali (a.s) directly followed him(p.) and was always by his side, obeying his commands and abstaining from sins.

Ali (a.s.) was the Hero of the battle of Bader. Historians stated that he had killed during Bader half of the Kouraishites. During the battle, he used to go back from time to time to make sure that the Prophet (p.) was still secure and found him praying and prostrating to Allah. Thus, he was living with the Prophet (p.) and defending him in all his actions.

When it seemed that the Muslims were going to lose in the battle of Ohud, Ali (a.s.) was the one who defended and guarded the Prophet (p.). Whenever a Kouraishite battalion attacked the Prophet (p.), he (P.) used to tell him: "Ali! Push away this battalion away from me."

Ali (a.s.) was the Hero in all the Prophet's (a.s.) battles. When he (a.s.) stood out to fight Amar Bin Abid Wed Elamiri, in Al-Ahzab battle, the Prophet (p.) said: The whole faith stood out to fight the whole polytheism."

When Ali (a.s) stood to fight Amar, the latter said: "I would not like to fight you because your father was my friend". Ali (a.s.) answered: "But I would like to fight you".

So, the Imam (a.s.) did not care about keeping the relationships of his father or his family; he worried only about his stand before Allah.

Ali's (a.s.) position in the Prophet's view.

Ali (a.s.) started his life with the Prophet (p.) who always used to call him to engage in the battles, when in the battle of Tabook, the Prophet (p.) asked him to stay in Al-Madina. Ali (a.s.) did not protest, he only tried to explain his point of view. The Prophet (p.) asked him: "Do not you like to be to me as Aaron was to Moses, except there is no Prophet after me?"

{And give me a minister from my family * Aaron, my brother * Add to my strength through him * And make him share my task} (20:29-32). SO Ali (a.s.) approved.

Ali's (a.s.) knowledge:

Since Allah had inspired the Prophet (p.) with the science of Quran and the Islamic principles, Muslims considered that the Prophet (p.) is the one who has the knowledge all sciences. They were worried because there was no enough time to learn from his (p.) knowledge. So, he (p.) told them:

"I am the city of knowledge, and Ali (a.s.) is its gate and the one who wants to enter this city must pass through its gate."

That is due to the fact that Ali (a.s.) lived with the Prophet (p.), learned all his knowledge and was the only companion who was able to answer all questions concerning all issues. He was the authority whom all the companions used to refer to, while he did not have to ask anyone about any issue.

Al-Khalil Bin Ahmad Al-Farahidi, the grammar teacher of Sibawaih, the author of poetics, and the first Arabic dictionary, was asked: "Why did you prefer Ali (a.s.) and not any other person?" During that time, Al-Khalil was loyal to Ali (a.s). He answered: "Everyone needs Ali (a.s.), while he is not in need of any one - Therefore, that is an evidence to prove that Ali is the Imam (authority) of everyone".

Ali (a.s) gained this high degree of knowledge because he learned it directly from the Prophet (p.). Even, some of the Prophet's (p.) wives said that they felt jealous of Ali (a.s.) because the Prophet (p.) used to spend with him much time every night in teaching him the science of the Holy Quran and talking to him about each verse, the place where it was revealed, its events and perspectives.

Consequently, the Imam's (a.s) knowledge is derived from the Islamic knowledge and his thought is an Islamic one. Even the ideas which he applied in his experiences were also derived from the general Islamic path. Hence, his thought was demonstrated in the movement in which he profoundly thinks, plans, argues, and goes ahead in all the fields of education, for the sake of Allah.

Moreover, the Imam (a.s.) was different from all those who achieved knowledge just to freeze it in their minds and be awarded by it. He believed that his knowledge was not sought for serving his own interests, but for the sake of Allah who owned the whole Knowledge. Since Allah wanted Ali (a.s.) to teach people this knowledge, Ali (a.s.) called on people to ask him even when he was about to meet death. He used to say:" Ask me before you lose me."

Ali (a.s.) did not leave any commandment without explaining it to people, in order not to let them be suspicious toward any issue. So, he directed them to the right path and saved them from deviation.

Ali's (a.s.) role in educating people.

Ali (a.s) worked on educating people on the Islamic knowledge and that is clear through his speeches in Nahj Al-Ballagha. The Imam (a.s) took advantage of every opportunity to make people aware of all the issues surrounding them. He was the ruler who aimed at elevating the level of knowledge of his people, and not just to affect in order to make them be loyal to him.

That should be also the responsibility of the leaders in the Islamic arena who must educate their people with the proper political and religious education. Thus, Allah has obliged every scholar who knows the Islamic sciences and is aware of the people's need for these sciences, to teach them and take advantage of every occasion to elevate their level of knowledge. Hence, it is unlawful for a Muslim whether he was holding a responsibility or not, to stay home, instead of writing, delivering speeches, discussing and arguing. It is stated in the Quran that: {Those who conceal the clear (Signs) we have sent down, and the Guidance, after we have made it for the People in the Book, on them shall be Allah's curse, and that curse of those entitled to curse} (2:159)

It is also stated In the Prophet's (p.) Hadith that: "If heresy appears among my people, let the scholar teach them from his science. The one who does not do so, on him shall be Allah's curse".

Therefore, Islam does not want people to be ignorant, simple minded creatures, or idiots.

If Muslim people are not aware of the religious, political, social, and economic issues, enemies can easily exploit their ignorance and entangle them in many problems.

For that reason, Islam gives a great and a special importance to knowledge. Thus, Imam Ali (a.s.) divided people in his speech addressed to Kumail Bin Ziad as follows:

"People are divided into three categories: A scholar who devotes his knowledge to serving Allah, a learner who learns for the sake of rescuing himself, and the hooligan type of rabbles that follow anyone who cries out, turning whichever way the wind blows. The last category has not been illuminated by the light of knowledge and it has not fallen back upon support that offers safety, strength and security."

He added: "Listen to me Kumail. Knowledge is better than wealth, for knowledge guards you while you have to guard wealth. Knowledge increases the actions, but wealth gradually decreases as it is spent."

Then, Imam Ali (a.s.) defined the value of man by saying: "The value of each person lies on the work he is skilled in."

It is also stated in the Quran that: {…Say: "Are those equal, those who know and those who do not know? "It is those who are endured with understanding that receive admonition} (39:9).

That is what we have to recall when talking about Imam Ali (a.s.) who was born in the Al-Kaaba (House of Allah) and devoted his life to Allah. Hence, he was born and died in Allah's hands.

So, when Bin Mouljam hit Ali (a.s.) on his head while he was praying, Ali (a.s.) said: "I swear by Allah, God of Al-Kaaba, that I won". (3). The Imam (a.s.) was still smiling because he knew that during his life, he had always followed the right path, in spite of his sufferance, pain, and problems.

Whenever the Imam (a.s.) felt that he was going to die, he directly thought about educating people. He used to say: "Ask me before you lose me".

That is Ali (a.s.) whom we are proud of because of his great Jihad, his education that is admired by every person whether Muslim or not, his justice that he proved in all his life stands, and his faithfulness to Allah and to Islam.


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