Heartfelt condolences to you on these tragic days of Ramadhan, when in 40 AH in Kufa, the Barometer of Belief, Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) was writhing in pain following the fatal blow of the poisoned sword of a Kharejite or renegade from Islam, on his head while he was engrossed in the morning prayer on the 19th of this blessed month of fasting.
What can mortals write or speak about a person whose words on his peerless merits pleased God to such an extent that He decided to immortalize them in the pages of the Heavenly Scripture so that they would remain forever as a criterion between truth and falsehood, or belief and hypocrisy? No, our pens and our tongues are not capable of doing justice to the symbol of justice that he was and continues to be, despite his martyrdom a millennium, three centuries, and ninety-six years ago that ended the only instance of the rule of social justice the world has ever known. Imam Ali (AS) needs no introduction. He is indeed the colossus. As the person second only in merits to his cousin, caretaker, and father-in-law, Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), he transcends history and historical developments, serving as the barometer of faith. Even the followers of other religions are familiar with him and have written books on his unrivalled virtues, since his sense of justice and his practical demonstration of justice, appealed to their innate human conscience. Not for no reason did he say that he is so well-versed in the books that God had revealed to the past prophets that his judgement of the followers of the Torah, Evangel, and other scriptures, would made them admit that Ali ibn Taleb has indeed spoken the truth by meting out the finest form of justice.
No wonder, the Prophet likened his position to that of God's Revealed Word, the holy Qur'an itself. He is thus, the “Qur'an an-Nateq” or literally the Speaking Qur'an. This however, does not mean that he was a mere “Hafez” or memorizer of the heavenly scripture, or simply an authoritative scholar of its divine contents. No, this would be injustice to him, since Imam Ali (AS), as the only person who was witness to the entire revelation of the holy Qur'an to the Prophet, and the first one who compiled it between two covers according to the order of revelation, only to see his compilation rejected by those that had seized the political rule of the Islamic state by depriving him of his rightful authority, was the Living Qur'an or the Qur'an Animated. Those still in doubt about his merits ought to study the Holy Qur’an more diligently. Here, we present ayah 19 of Surah Towba, where God Almighty says:
Do you regard the providing of water to Hajj pilgrims and the maintenance of the Sacred Mosque as similar [in worth] to someone who has faith in Allah and [believes in] the Last Day and strives in the way of Allah? They are not equal with Allah, and Allah does not guide the wrongdoing lot."
What was the reason for its revelation? Exegetes of the holy Qur'an including famous Sunni Muslim authorities such as Tabari, Fakhroddin Razi, Jalal od-Suyuti, and others say that this ayah was revealed to Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) following the boastings of Abbas ibn Abdul-Muttalib and Talha bin Shayba about their respective duties of supplying water to the pilgrims and holding the keys to the Ka'ba. In response to their vain talk, Imam Ali (AS) who was present there, said he did not understand the reasons for their pride, since he has been praying to the One and Only God, along with the Prophet and the Prophet’s wife Khadija, a long time before anyone else were Muslims. Moreover, he has been striving sincerely ever since in the way of Allah.
On closer scrutiny, we find that the ayahs preceding and following this particular ayah, actually speak volumes of the firmness of faith of Imam Ali (AS), who is truth personified, who never ceases to give zakat (even in the state of prayer), who strives in the way of God (risking life and limbs), who fears no one nor submits to anyone except the Creator, and who migrates for the sake of sake of the Almighty without bothering about any worldly possession. In addition to these facts, it was Imam Ali (AS), who as testified by all scholars and historians, was deputed by the Prophet to go to Mecca to recite these initial ayahs of Surah Towbah upon their revelation. We also find the Seal of Divine Messengers saying: "O Ali, if not for you, it would have been impossible to distinguish true believers from hypocrites."
Here the question might arise as to what is a hypocrite, in religious terminology, especially of Islam, since a whole surah in the holy Qur'an was revealed by God condemning them and their dangerous traits?
The answer is obvious. A hypocrite is a person whose claim to profess Islam is not only not out of sincere conviction, but whose malicious heart is so thoroughly immersed in pagan, agnostic, atheist, or any other unnatural belief, that he never lets go of an opportunity to undermine Islam and to weaken the beliefs of Muslim. What, if a hypocrite were to rise through political stratagems to become head of the Muslim State?
In such a case, the situation would become catastrophic. There would be distortion on a mass scale. The naïve, unsuspecting Muslim masses would be misled. The tenets of faith would be twisted out of context, ironically in the name of Islam. Falsity would become widespread.
This was the situation that the divinely-appointed vicegerent of the Prophet was facing during his rule of social justice, especially from the hypocrite-in-chief, Mu'awiyah ibn Abu Sufyan, the rebellious governor of the large province of Syria. Hypocrites of various hues abounded in those times including the renegade Abdur-Rahman ibn Muljim, who cut short the fruitful life of the Commander of the Faithful by striking him with a sword soaked in poison. A brief radio programme cannot do justice to Imam Ali (AS), and neither could a distorted TV serial produced by hypocrites of our own days, grant legitimacy to the illegal rule of the Omayyads. Here, is a passage from some of the several letters by the Commander of the Faithful, addressed to the heathen-at-heart hypocrite, Mu'awiyah:
"May Allah protect me from and may withhold me from behaving towards mankind the way you have behaved and from tyranny, exploitations and murders that you commit.
"You have misguided the whole generation of men around you. Having no faith in the truth of Islam you have led others astray. You have thrown them in the depths of ignorance… Apostasy and avariciousness have taken a firm hold of your mind, your intelligence is of inferior order and you cannot differentiate what in the end is good for you and what is not."
"Let us, you and I, have a single combat. Let it be a combat unto death. Let the soldiers of both armies stand aside and let two of us alone combat with each other. Let the world see and realize who is the sinner and who has forgotten Allah and the Day of Judgement. Will you accept this invitation of mine? Have you the courage for it? Are you a man to face death boldly and bravely or are you merely a vampire sucking the blood of others surreptitiously?"