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)
5 July 2015
UNIVERSAL APPEAL OF IMAM ALI (a.s)
On the 19th Ramadaan, a great tragedy occurred in Islamic History when Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (a.s) was attacked and assassinated during the Fajr prayers while he was in sajda in Masjid Kufa and eventually achieved martyrdom two days later on the 21st Ramadaan.
These are sad days for those who love the Ahlul Bait (a.s) and who love truth, justice and humanity. It’s a sad time for the whole Muslim Ummah and humanity at large. This is because this man’s message was not confined to Shia or Muslims, but included humanity who were his audience.
Thus 1400 years later, a Christian writer called George Jordac writes a book of hundreds of pages titled “Imam Ali – Voice of Human Justice.”
Furthermore, a few years ago the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan reprinted the letter of Imam Ali (a.s) to his Governor in Egypt, Maalik Ashtar and sent this letter to all contemporary Arab leaders indicating to them that Ali ibn Abi Talib was an Arab like them and that they should follow the example of his Governance.
Imam Ali (a.s) is beyond any sect or school of thought. Thus in Imam Ali (a.s)’s letter referred to above he advises Maalik Ashtar that the people that he was ruling over are of two types, they are either your brothers in Religion or they are your equal in humanity (and thus not your slaves).
Thus Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal says “Whatever is reported in terms of the virtues and praises of Imam Ali (a.s) has not been reported about anyone else.”
Besides governance and social justice, Imam Ali (a.s) is also on the other hand the centre of spirituality and irfaan or mysticism.
We have a wealth of intense spiritual jewels in the form of whispered prayers like Munaajaat Ali and duas like Dua Kumayl which are attributed to him. This gives one a glimpse into how sublime a spiritual personality Imam Ali (a.s) was. And there are many more prayers attributed to him.
Imam Ali (a.s)’s words in Dua Kumayl wherein he says “Oh my Lord, suppose I was able to endure Your punishment of the fire, but how could I endure separation from You” shows some of the ultimate expressions of Nearness to Allah.
Thus Imam Ali (a.s) had no one who could truly understand him during his time and ended up on occasion walking out of Kufa into the desert to express himself while being alone. Thus you understand the hadith from Prophet Muhammad (sawa) about Imam Ali (a.s) when he says “Oh Ali! No one understands or comprehends you except Allah and me.”
And many other ahadith expresses his greatness which reaches its peak in Ghadier when Prophet Muhammad (sawa) said: “Whomever’s Master I am, Ali is his Master.”
With this personality and virtue, Imam Ali (a.s)’s sermons, letters and short sayings were compiled into a book and titled the “Peak of Eloquence”, his duas become “Sahifatul Alawayah” and his guidelines to his commanders become guidelines for human rights and democratic values.
There is no doubt that Imam Ali (a.s) is unique and thus Dr Ali Shariati calls him a “mythical reality” as contemplation about his personality makes one think its all fiction, yet history has recorded that he actually existed.
However though having such sublime credentials, history has proven that Imam Ali (a.s) was oppressed and remains oppressed to this very day, and no one reaches to the level of oppression that he ensured and thus in his ziyarah we say “Peace be upon you Ali, we bear witness that you are the first oppressed in the history of Islam.”
This is also not disputable.
THREE PERSONALITIES OF LEADERS
From the time of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) and after his demise and to this very day, Imam Ali (a.s) is the symbol of suffering and pain.
And the animosity towards Imam Ali (a.s) is so extreme that the slightest affiliation to him can cost you your life during our times.
We do not doubt at the same time that Imam Ali (a.s) has many lovers. Imam Ali (a.s) has extreme lovers on the one hand and merciless enemies on the other hand. This is because he has a strong power of attraction and repulsion simultaneously.
Shaheed Ayatullah Mutahhari divides personalities into three types:
- Those who are very popular such that everyone loves them;
- Those who are hated by everyone; and
- Those who have lovers and enemies at the same time.
He then says that if someone wants to be ever popular, he has to please everyone and agree with everyone to achieve this and it is only possible through hypocrisy. It’s not possible for a principled person to have everyone loving them.
Regarding those people who only have enemies, he says that they have a psychological problem and mental imbalance and this is very unfortunate as they cannot live among people.
Those who have a balance of lovers and enemies are principled people and those who agree with their principles will love them and those who disagree with their principles will hate them.
He then says that the level of friendship and love that people have for you and the level of hatred that people have for you is in proportion to the strength of your commitment to a principled life.
Thus sometimes people who are committed may occasionally act hypocritical and will find that people will still tolerate them but will not have an extremely strong power of attraction to them.
But someone who is not ready to compromise and leads an absolutely principled life will have lovers who love him absolutely and enemies that hate him with a passion and are absolutely merciless.
This is the personality of Imam Ali (a.s) and thus its impossible for everyone to have loved Imam Ali (a.s). Thus Imam Ali (a.s) became the criteria for determining truth and falsehood.
A hadith of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) says “Oh Ali, nobody will love you except a believer and nobody will hate you except a hypocrite.” The companions of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) used to say that they used to distinguish between a believer and a hypocrite by observing their love or hate for Imam Ali (a.s).
ROOT CAUSE OF HATRED OF IMAM ALI (a.s)
Imam Ali (a.s)’s principled personality was the reason for animosity towards him. But what was the root cause?
There are certain values in his social and political thought which also resulted in animosity of people towards him when he came into power as he could manage to establish his vision.
Imam Ali (a.s) thus says that the result of his politics was that he made three enemies when he became khalif:
1. Those who loved dunya;
2. Those who loved power; and
3. Those who fought against logic and intellect.
This third group were the biggest enemies of Imam Ali (a.s) and assassinated him.
But the root cause of the animosity towards Imam Ali (a.s) is even deeper than the reasons for the three groups of enemies presented above.
In the story of Prophet Yusuf (a.s) that we have been explaining during this month and for which separate lecture notes are available for you to read, in the light of Verse 54 of Surah Nisaa
أَمْ يَحْسُدُونَ النَّاسَ عَلَى مَا آتَاهُمُ اللّهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ فَقَدْ آتَيْنَا آلَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَآتَيْنَاهُم مُّلْكًا عَظِيمًا
“Or do they envy people for what Allah has given them of His bounty? But we had already given the family of Ibrahim the Scripture and wisdom and conferred upon them a great kingdom”,
We learn the following:
The story of Prophet Yusuf (a.s) started with a dream and Prophet Ya’koob (a.s) said to him that he should not narrate the dream to his brothers. And even without narrating his dream to his brothers, they still oppressed him!
Hishaam ibn Hakam who was a great scholar and student of Imam Ja’far Saadiq (a.s) asked the Imam the following question: “Why did people hate you Ahlul Bait so much and your grandfather Ali. And why is it still continuing?”
The Imam replied in one single word: “Hasad.”
That’s it. Jealousy.
People could not digest the greatness of Imam Ali (a.s). Imam Ali (a.s) thus says “Quraish did not fight us except due to what Allah had granted us.”
And the root of this jealousy dates back to the son’s of Abd Manaaf when he had a pious son called Hashim, who was the great grandfather of Prophet Muhammad (a.s), while his son Abd Shams had an adopted son called Ummayya who was corrupt and evil. The entire Makka respected Hashim and Ummayya could not accept that and this is the start of their clash.
After Islam, traces of this jealousy continued. And thus Imam Ali (a.s) suffered so much.
In a hadith recorded in Mustadrak Sahihayn, ibn Abbas reports: “I and Prophet Muhammad came out and Ali was with and we were in the suburbs of Madina and we passed a garden and Ali said ‘what a beautiful garden’ to which Prophet Muhammad replied ‘Oh Ali, your garden in Jannah is even more beautiful than this garden’. Then Prophet Muhammad pointed his hand toward the head of Ali and started to cry until he crowd loudly. Ibn Abbas asked Prophet Muhammad ‘what made you cry’ and he replied ‘there are tumors in the chest of people for Ali that will not be exposed while I am around”.
These are cancers of hate that were hidden. But Imam Ali (a.s) replied “will my religion be safe when that happens?” Prophet Muhammad (sawa) replied “Of course it will be safe.”
In the story of Prophet Yusuf (a.s), his brothers who were the sons of a Prophet and thus not by nature corrupt, suffered from jealousy and were thus prepared to kill him!! This is how dangerous jealousy is as it makes you blind.
Sometimes a jealous person is prepared to destroy himself as long as his enemy is also destroyed! A jealous person is jealous of other people’s success but himself does not benefit in any way from his jealousy.
The Battle of Jamal was a reflection of jealousy against Ahlul Bait (a.s). The Verse 54 of Surah Nisaa quoted above says that Allah granted knowledge and power to the family of Ibrahim (a.s) and chastises people for being jealous about this. Do note that Prophet Muhammad (sawa) and the Ahlul Bait (a.s) are from this family tree to whom power was granted.
In the Battle of Jamal, Abdullah ibn Zubayr who spearheaded the battle was so jealous of Maalik Ashtar that he said “kill me and Maalik!” He was prepared to be killed, provided that Maalik Ashtar, the great right hand man of Imam Ali (a.s) was killed. This was the level of his jealousy.