Ali ibn Abi Talib was Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ first cousin and one of the early people who believed in Islam. He was born in Makkah, on March 17, 599 or 600 CE.
He embraced Islam while still a boy of ten and is known to be the first child to accept Islam.
He grew up in the Prophet’s household ﷺ. The Prophet’s influence ﷺ was apparent in his characteristics. He led a humble life till his last moments. The Prophet loved him very dearly and took him as his brother in Islam. He praised him on many occasions as being the “Lion of Allah” (after Hamza ibn Abi Talib).
He was one of the most heroic companions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He was known to be brave and courageous in every battle he fought for the support of the cause of Islam.
He later became the Prophet’s ﷺ son-in-law by marrying his fourth daughter Fatimah. He was the fourth Caliph of Islam and one of what Muslims regard as “the rightly guided Caliphs” of Islam.
Ali grew up in the household of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ because the Prophet decided to take care of him as a way to help his uncle, Abu Talib, who had several children and did not have enough means to take care of them all.
The Prophet’s attitude and way of life influenced young Ali so much that he imitated the Prophet in all manners ﷺ.
Ali was ten years old when the revelation came to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. After Muhammad ﷺ received revelation, Ali noticed that the Prophet ﷺ and his wife Khadijah were leading a different life from the other people of Makkah.
He was drawn by the way they both performed their prayers. Also the way the Prophet ﷺ dealt with people impressed him.
He was greatly inclined to the Prophet’s honesty, humility, just nature, and trustworthiness. He was deeply affected by the Prophet’s attitude in dealing with all the people justly; both rich and poor.
When Ali saw Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and Khadijah praying, he asked the Prophet ﷺ about the prayer they were performing. The Prophet ﷺ explained to him that Allah is the only one worthy of worship and that he was the messenger of Allah.
The Prophet ﷺ invited Ali to accept Islam. Ali did not have any doubt in the Prophet’s words and immediately accepted Islam and offered his allegiance to the Prophet ﷺ.
Ali learned all the principles of Islam from the Prophet ﷺ and his wife Khadijah. When the Prophet ﷺ proclaimed Islam in public under Allah’s order, he became subject to oppression and insults from the Makkans.
Ali witnessed this and was very hurt. He was only able to stop the boys instructed to throw stones and dust at the Prophet ﷺ by the Makkans, as he was too young to provide any physical help to the Prophet.
Marriage to Fatimah
Ali lived with the Prophet ﷺ till the age of 25. At the age of 25 or 26 he married the Prophet’s daughter, Fatimah.
Although Ali and Fatimah were very poor, they lived a happy life. Too poor to afford servants, Ali helped Fatimah with the household responsibilities.
Ali earned his living from the irrigation of farms in Madinah. There were many days when the couple went without meals. They would also forgo their own meal to feed the poor and hungry.
They had three sons, Hassan, Hussain and Mohsin and two daughters, Zainab and Umm Kulthum from their marriage. Mohsin died during childhood.
Ali the Warrior
Ali distinguished himself as a great warrior in the battle of Badr, Uhud and The Ditch. During the year of Muhammad’s migration to Madinah, in 622, Ali was willing to risk his life so that Muhammad ﷺ could escape in safety. He tried to impersonate the Prophet ﷺ in his bed so the enemy would attack him instead, in order to spoil an assassination plan.
Ali survived the plot, but risked his life again by staying in Makkah to carry out Muhammad’s ﷺ instructions: to restore to their owners all the goods and properties that had been entrusted to Muhammad ﷺ for safekeeping. Then he went to Madinah with his mother and wife, Fatimah (the daughter of Muhammad ﷺ).
With the exception of the Battle of Tabuk, in 630 CE, Ali took part in all the battles and missions fought for Islam. He was a standard-bearer in every battle in which he took part.
Ali first distinguished himself as a warrior in 624 CE at the Battle of Badr. In Badr he killed his opponent in an individual combat. He killed several enemy warriors to the extent that he emerged as the hero of the battle.
In the battle of Uhud, in 625 CE, he killed the man from the enemy army who challenged him to an individual battle.
Likewise in the battle of The Trench, in 627, he advanced to challenge a renowned hero and killed him.
In all other battles, Ali proved to be a man on whom the Prophet ﷺ and the Muslims could rely on. He always kept close to the Prophet ﷺ in all the battles and never retreated.
Even when Ali had the advantage in a situation, he never misused it. Once when Ali was in the midst of a battle, he was about to slay his opponent. As he rose to strike his foe, the man spat on his face. Ali immediately dropped his sword and left him.
When he was asked why he did not kill the man when he had full control of that situation, he replied that if he had killed the man after he spat on his face, his intention would not have been solely for the cause of Allah, but out of personal anger. Upon hearing this, his opponent accepted Islam.
After the Prophet’s Death ﷺ
The Prophet ﷺ delivered a sermon at the Farewell Pilgrimage, and from the Prophet’s talk, Ali could guess that the Prophet ﷺ was going to pass away soon.
When they returned to Madinah, the Prophet ﷺ fell ill. Ali, being the Prophet’s son-in-law and first cousin, kept himself beside the Prophet’s bed and served him ﷺ.
After a few days the Prophet ﷺ died. Ali felt deep sorrow for the Prophet’s ﷺ loss. To add to this grief, Ali lost his wife, Fatimah, six months after the Prophet’s ﷺ death.
Ali ibn Abi Talib was known for his wisdom. He has many sayings, among them:
|“Meet people in such a manner that if you die they should weep for you, and if you live, they should long for you.”|
|“Incapabilty is a catastrophe; endurance is bravery; abstinence is riches; self-restraint is a shield (against sin); and the best companion is submission (to Allah’s will).”|
|“Niggardliness is a shame, cowardice is a great defect, poverty dumbfounds the discerning man from achieving his goals and those who have limited facilities are foreigners in their homeland.”|
Ali became Caliph at the age of 56 or 57, between 656 and 661 CE. Simplicity was the keynote of his life. Even after becoming a Caliph, he did not change his simple way of life. He wore the most ordinary clothes and ate the simplest food.
He continued living in the same house and did not build a new house. No guard was kept at the house and there was nothing to differentiate it from the poor.
Even after becoming a Caliph, he did not feel uncomfortable doing manual work. Sometimes he used to sleep even on a bare floor without a rug. He had a rug made of goatskin, which he used for receiving distinguished people.
Ali’s Caliphate lasted only for five years. The days of his Caliphate were troublesome. He was disappointed and opposed by many whom he trusted the most.
During this period, the Islamic state did not expand as there were many disagreements among the Muslims and the Caliph was busy trying to bring order to the state itself.
On the 19th of Ramadan 661 CE, while Ali was praying in the mosque of Kufa, he was killed by Abdur Rahman ibn Muljim, a disbeliever, to whom Ali had been very kind in the past.
Ali, wounded by the poisonous sword, lived for two days and died in Kufa on the 21st of Ramadan 661 CE.
With the death of Ali, a prominent phase in the history of Muslim people came to an end.
Taken from onislam.net
Companions of the Prophet: Witness Pioneer.
The Golden Series of the Prophet’s Companions – Ali ibn Abi Talib, The Fourth Caliph of Islam (A Dar-us-Salam Publication).