Lecture commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Ali (a.s) Tuesday 5 June 2018 (20 Ramadaan 1439) at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town delivered by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider.

During the last two nights we discussed Imam Ali (a.s)’s view of the human being and its related honour and said that he believes in the Quranic principle of “essential dignity” of every human being and that all his principles and strategies are based on this belief. He looks at others as a human which is honourable before Allah. 

Because of this strong human factor in Imam Ali (a.s)’s outlook, no one could understand the suffering and pain of human beings better than Imam Ali (a.s). Thus begging and humiliation of human beings before other humans beings is extremely painful as the honour of a human being is sacrificed in this process.

Thus Imam Ali (a.s) orders his governor in Egypt, Malik al-Ashtar that before he rules over people, he should first fill his heart with love for them. In other words, first recognize their honour as human beings and then rule over them. 

And thus Imam Ali (a.s) hated the idea that the people over whom he ruled were “his subjects”. For Imam Ali (a.s), even the smallest of associations with other human beings brings rights to such a relationship towards another human, though a relationship was built even for a few hours of walking together. 

If Imam Ali (a.s) was so sensitive about such basic relationships, how sensitive was he not regarding all the people who lived under his rule? He thus feels the pain of orphans and widows due to his deep rooted humanity. He helps widows and shares gifts with them first and shares the remainder with others only thereafter.

With this deep sense of respect for other human beings, Imam Ali (a.s) reaches a point where even non-Muslims see Imam Ali (a.s) as a manifestation of the perfect human.


A great scholar says that Imam Ali (a.s) was the manifestation of a perfect human being. He then says that three major qualities define a perfect human:

– His knowledge;

– His taqwa/God consciousness

– His jihad/striving in the path of Allah

Knowledge is crucial as a human being cannot reach perfection without it. A regular pious person can be pious day and night, but without marifat/knowledge his reward is limited. This is because we read in the 

QURAN in Surah Zumar Verse 9:

قُلْ هَلْ يَسْتَوِي الَّذِينَ يَعْلَمُونَ وَالَّذِينَ لا يَعْلَمُونَ إِنَّمَا يَتَذَكَّرُ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ 

“Say: “Are those who know equal to those who know not?” It is only men of understanding who will remember [and get a lesson].” 

Knowledge is the defining attribute. Thus Imam Ali (a.s) says that sleeping with certainty is better than salaah with doubt (being double minded). We should not mistake this to think it is better to sleep! Because even our sleep is with doubt too!

Who can reach Imam Ali (a.s)’s knowledge? The Prophet (sawa) is well known to have said that “I am the city of knowledge and Ali is its gate”. We see this reality practically manifesting after the demise of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) when even those with whom Imam Ali (a.s) did not have great relations were forced to ask Imam Ali (a.s) when faced with complicated challenges in governance and even said at least seventy times that if Ali (a.s) was not around then they were banished. 

Ibn Abbas says “my knowledge and the knowledge of all the companions of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) put together when compared to the knowledge of Imam Ali (a.s) is like a drop in the ocean”.

Thus it was only Imam Ali (a.s) who could stand on his minbar (pulpit) and say: O’ People! Ask me, ask me before you lose me. By Allah, I have the knowledge of everything from the beginning to the end.” He was able to say this because he knew secrets of heavens and the earth. 

Thus in another famous narration he says that if all curtains/barriers had to be removed which separates him from Allah, it would not add to his certainty (yaqeen) in Allah. 


What can one say about the Taqwa of Imam Ali (a.s) who is Imam of all muttaqeen!

One of the best places to see the manifestation of his Taqwa is in the manner in which he governed as the Khalif. The 6th Imam Saadiq (a.s) says that Imam Ali (a.s) ruled the Islamic empire for 5 years and did not put a “brick on a brick” for himself. In others he had no personal gain. 

Someone says he saw Imam Ali (a.s) in Kufa on a cold night and that he was shivering and asked “why don’t you buy something warm for yourself” to which the Imam replied that he never added one set of clothes to his cupboard after he became Khalif.

In yesterday’s lecture we gave the example of the woman who complained that Imam Ali (a.s) “abandoned” her and how this caused him to fear the wrath of Allah even more.


The Quranic reverence for those who strive in the path of Allah is very clear in that they cannot be compared to those whose do not make such move. In Surah Nisa Verse 95 we read:

وَفَضَّلَ اللّهُ الْمُجَاهِدِينَ عَلَى الْقَاعِدِينَ أَجْرًا عَظِيمًا 

“but He has bestowed a great reward on the strivers above those sitting back.” 

Such jihad or striving can either be in the battlefield which is the “minor jihad” or in developing your own soul which is the “major jihad”. 

In the Battle of Khaybar, Prophet Muhammad (sawa) is reported to have said: “Tomorrow I will give the flag to somebody who will be given victory (by Allah) and who loves Allah and His Apostle and is loved by Allah and His Apostle.” – this was in reference to Imam Ali (a.s).

Or in the Battle of Khandaq (Trench) the Prophet (sawa) is narrated to have said “Each blow of Ali (a.s.) on the day of the Battle of Khandaq is better than all the worship acts of Jinn and men till Judgment Day.”

And there are many more examples that can be mentioned.


So what do we know about Imam Ali (as)? These qualities mentioned make it possible for a human being to build himself and run a country and establish the highest standards. 

Thus when we look at what people say of Imam Ali (a.s), we see even non Muslims praise him in sublime ways, including saying that “Ali is one of a kind that neither the east nor west could present” or George Jordac who called Imam Ali (a.s) the Voice of Human Justice.

Abu Ali Sena (Avicenna) was among the greatest philosophers who commented about why Imam Ali (a.s) was above everyone else and a perfect human? So he said that the Prophet (sawa) said that normal people gain closeness to their Lord by doing ibadah (acts of worship), but Imam Ali (a.s) gets close to his Lord through intellectual capacity and ma’rifat. 

Thus the journey of Imam Ali (a.s) to Allah is a different journey – which shows why, for him, sleeping with certainty is better than salaah with doubt. 

And thus we see that pure souls were attracted to Imam Ali (a.s), while sick hearts were repelled from him. So he made great friends who had amazing loyalty and at the same time he had enemies whose hatred for him could not even be fathomed. 

About such people an Urdu poet says that if you dissolve the whole Quran in water and let such people drink that Holy water, it would not cure their disease! 


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