Lecture delivered by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre during the commemoration of the martyrdom of Imam Ali (a.s)
7 July 2015 (21st Ramadaan 1436)
In the first lecture we explained that the root cause of the animosity displayed towards Imam Ali (a.s) was hasad or jealousy which dates back to the forefathers of Imam Ali (a.s) and Bani Umayya.
However the values that Imam Ali (a.s) displayed in his social and political thought created further enemies when Imam Ali (a.s) became khalif as various people were not able to tolerate him for that as they were primarily those whose personal interests were affected.
The central issue in Imam Ali (a.s)’s values that they could not tolerate was his extreme justice.
George Jordac says “Imam Ali (a.s) was killed in his mehrab of worship due to his non compromising justice.”
Though these values of Imam Ali (a.s) which were based on justice manifested on a societal level when he was in power, people already could not tolerate his justice even during the very lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (sawa).
TRIP TO YEMEN EXPOSES JUSTICE OF IMAM ALI (a.s)
During the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (sawa), Imam Ali (a.s) and various sahaba were sent to Yemen for a campaign under the leadership of Imam Ali (a.s). During that time Yemen was an affluent society and this group upon their return brought back many beautiful cloaks.
Upon reaching the outskirts of Madina, Imam Ali (a.s) asked the group to wait at that point and allow him to first enter Madina on his own and brief Prophet Muhammad (sawa) about their trip and then seek his permission for them to enter.
The sahaba, while waiting for Imam Ali (a.s) to return to them decided that they should enter Madina in style as they had a successful trip and thus decided to wear these beautiful cloaks.
When Imam Ali (a.s) returned and found them wearing these cloaks, he was infuriated and demanded that they inform him who granted them permission to wear those cloaks. When they said that nobody gave them permission but they simply felt like looking dignified when entering Madina, Imam Ali (a.s) said that they cannot do that until they reached Prophet Muhammad (sawa) and he distributed the goods. Imam Ali (a.s) then started to remove these cloaks from the sahabah who were wearing them himself.
So though the sahabah returned to Madina with having achieved victory, this action of Imam Ali (a.s) rectifying their behaviour spoilt the joy they felt at their victory.
Sahabah then went direct to Prophet Muhammad (sawa) to complain that they find Imam Ali (a.s) too harsh towards them! Prophet Muhammad (sawa) replied by saying that “Ali is more harsh in regards to Allah’s laws and Pleasure than what you are complaining!”
These incidents give you a further glimpse into the reason people hated Imam Ali (a.s).
INAUGURAL ADDRESS WHEN IMAM ALI (a.s) BECAME KHALIF
After the death of the third Khalif Uthman, people came to Imam Ali (a.s) requesting that he becomes the khalif to which he refused and asked them to find another khalif. Imam Ali (a.s)’s initial rejection of the people’s request for him to be khalif was based on his knowledge that they were not really interested in a genuine Islamic government but simply one that has an external Islam image while internally it was corrupted.
However when people insisted that he become the khalif, he further warned them that they would not be able to tolerate him before considering to accept their request.
So the power players still insisted and thought that in the current chaos when the third khalif was assassinated, they would appoint Imam Ali (a.s) to fill the power vacuum to bring stability and thereafter they would negotiate with him to secure their personal interests!
So when Imam Ali (a.s) accepted to become khalif, he gave an inaugural speech which made the power players realise that they had made a mistake to get him appointed. Imam Ali (a.s) said in this sermon that “I can see faces whose colour is changing very fast!”
Imam Ali (a.s) promised to establish justice and ensure that the money that was usurped from the Treasury is returned even if it became the dowry of someone who got married!
And Imam Ali (a.s)’s enemies who were previously “hidden tumours”, as described by Prophet Muhammad (sawa), suddenly emerged!
Thus the first group of enemies were those who loved dunya. These people had nothing against Imam Ali (a.s) per se, but were upset that he cut the special monthly allowance that they received in the past, and thus became his enemies due to this.
In Imam Ali (a.s)’s system, everyone received an equal allowance, whether you were an “original” Muslim or a recent convert. People thought that their past services for Islam was sufficient reason for their allowance to be distinguished from others. But Imam Ali (a.s) responded to their claims that he is the first Muslim and historically served Islam the most yet still receives the same allowance like his slave called Qambar!
On their further insistence he asked them to ask Allah for reward if they served Allah and not him.
This caused the first crisis that Imam Ali (a.s) had to deal with which eventually led to the Battle of Jamal.
Maalik Ashtar who was the closest companion of Imam Ali (a.s) even suggested to him that he needs to bend the rules at times in politics! Imam Ali (a.s) responded by asking whether he is expected to achieve “truth” by “baatil” or “false” means? And this is the central them in Surah Yusuf too that the “end” does not justify the “means”.
Today this first group still exists and thus you see that the modern day enemies of Imam Ali (a.s) are those who love dunya and cannot forego the luxury lifestyles that the West provides for them.
GOVERNANCE IS A RESPONSIBILITY
Another principle that created a second group of enemies was the fact that Imam Ali (a.s) viewed Governance to be nothing more than a means to establish “Truth”. Personally he considered its value for himself to be less that the value of his broken shoes.
Imam Ali (a.s) did not believe Governance to be a right but actually an onerous responsibility. He believed that with every right there is a concomitant responsibility attached.
Often we ask what has Islam done for us, yet we should ask what have we done for Islam?!
Thus Imam Ali (a.s) never considered Governance to be something from which he should benefit personally. It is narrated that even when he had to do his personal mundane shopping that he would go to the outskirts of Kufa where the shop owners did not recognise him to buy from them so that they did not feel obliged to give him a special price.
Imam Ali (a.s) was extremely focussed on what he was responsible for personally and was focussed on fulfilling the rights of others. Thus one day while he was travelling with a Jew as his companion, they reached a point where their journey went in different directions. After having greeted each other, the other traveller saw Imam Ali (a.s) still travelling a distance behind him. Upon enquiry regarding why he was doing that, he said that since thy were together for a portion of their trip, they became companions and this created a right over him and thus he travelled a little distance further to accompany the Jew so that he fulfilled his right!
This second group who became enemies of Imam Ali (a.s) were the hypocrites who wanted Governance and power for themselves and did not consider it a responsibility. Hypocrisy and Imam Ali (a.s) can never be amalgamated.
This group were based in Syria and raised the blood stained shirt of the third khalif who was assassinated claiming that they wanted revenge for his killing. This group were never sincere to the third khalif but were only interested to achieve their personal interests and thus used the shirt of Uthman to gain support. This group also eventually went to war with Imam Ali (a.s).
LITERALISTS WHO FOUGHT AGAINST INTELLECT
The third group of enemies who eventually killed Imam Ali (a.s) were the literalists called khawarij. Their external form took the shape of people who fasted every day, prayed the whole night, memorised the Quran and appeared extremely pious, but were considered to be the worst people. They did not love dunya like the first group and were not hypocrites in general either and were very brave and sincere but were still the worst people!
How is it that Imam Ali (a.s) who himself loved to pray and fast and recite Quran, etc. called this group of people the “worst of people”?
These people were enemies of Imam Ali (a.s) due to being enemies of the intellect and thus could not get along with Imam Ali (a.s) who had a pure intellect.
Imam Ali (a.s) said: “Two people broke my back; an aalim who has no fear of Allah; and a pious ignorant person.”
And this group of people were pious ignorant people who shouted slogans like “there’s no governance except for Allah.” In principle this is true but their intention by it was false. This governance can only be implemented by a human being, yet they believed that you need no human being to establish the rule of Allah.
Imam Ali (a.s) called them “satan’s arrows” as they were used by satan to destroy Islam. The suffering that these people caused in history and today in the form of DAESH, etc. causes us to believe that we living in Imam Ali (a.s)’s time again as they are modern day kharijites who have the mentality of “frozen thought” where we are not allowed to think.
Kharijites used to say “Ali you are kaafir!” In Masjid Kufa, while Imam Ali (a.s) was delivering his sermon, they would stand up and read out verses of “punishment” and intend these for Imam Ali (a.s). During his salaah they would disturb him by reading verses of shirk intending that his actions are nullified.
But Imam Ali (a.s) approach was to still tolerate them as long as they did not kill people as he believed that even his enemies had rights. He did not even prevent these people from receiving their share of the Baytul Maal.
But the moment they killed people and wanted to destabilize the system, Imam Ali (a.s) first cautioned them and fought them and destroyed them and said “I extracted the eye out from this fitna” and said that nobody had the courage to fight with such people than Imam Ali (a.s).
And this eventually led to the martyrdom Imam Ali (a.s).