Salaam, and condolences to you all on a very doleful day of Ramadhan. Today is the tragic 19th of the blessed month of fasting, the day when a fatal blow struck to the symbol of faith, piety, patience, valour, magnanimity, wisdom, generosity, and justice, while he was engrossed in the worship of the Lord during the morning prayer. The blow split his head and finally two days later resulted in his martyrdom, a martyrdom whose anniversary the seekers of truth, justice, freedom, faith and knowledge, have continued to commemorate despite the passing of a millennium, three centuries and ninety-one years. He was none other than Imam Ali ibn Taleb (PBUH), the embodiment of all humanitarian values and the cousin, ward, son-in-law, and divinely-decreed vicegerent of the Almighty’s Last and Greatest Messenger to mankind, Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny). Please stay with us for a special feature in this regard.
â€œFozto wa Rabbiâ€™l-Kaâ€™ba,” he said. It means By the Lord of the Kaâ€™ba I have succeeded. This memorable phrase burst out from his lips when he was struck the fatal blow by the assassinâ€™s poison-soaked sword. An immortal phrase, it has continued to goad human conscience for almost the past fourteen centuries. It has made persons with even a grain of intellect dumbstruck at the dynamism of the person who pronounced it in the early hours of 19th Ramadhan, in 40 AH, corresponding to 660 of the Christian calendar. What was the success that Imam Ali (PBUH) felt elated about when all passages to life abruptly closed for him and he was about to enter the apparently unknown and uncharted realm of death? Only the ignorant would pose such a naÃ¯ve question, concerning the man who says in one of his sermons: â€œthe Son of Abu Taleb is more enthusiastic for death than an infant for the motherâ€™s breast.â€
If we were to say that Imam Ali (AS) merely longed for death rather than the seemingly beautiful world of life and its transient pleasures, then we have missed the finer points of the delicate phrase he chose to express. No doubt, death had hovered around him in some form or other ever since that historic day when in response to his cousinâ€™s declaration ash-hado an la ilaha il-Allah, which means “I bear witness there is no God but Allah”, the ten year lad stupefied grey bearded men by saying with firm conviction ash-hado anna Muhammadan Rasoul-Allah, meaning “I bear witness Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”
He continued to risk his life thereafter as he boldly stood between the person of the Prophet and the plots of the polytheists. The list is long and runs full fifty-odd years. It includes his warding off the children of infidels from pelting the Prophet with stones. His frequent fearless forays as a teenage into Mecca to bring vital foodstuff to the besieged Shiâ€™b Abi Taleb or Gorge of Abu Taleb during the 3-year social-economic boycott of his cousin and the fledgling Muslim community. His selfless voluntary act to sleep on the Prophetâ€™s bed on the fateful night of Hijra so that the latter could leave undetected for Medina, at a time when death was a mere step away in the form of bloodthirsty infidels hanging around the house of divine revelation for the â€˜killâ€™ at the break of dawn.
Next comes his throwing himself into the frontlines of the Battle of Badr to carry off the day when a thousand-strong force of stiff-necked pagans had imposed the first armed encounter on the Prophet and his meager, 313 poorly armed Muslim companions. His single-handed defence of the Prophet in the Battle of Ohad when the majority of Muslims had fled the battlefield, was rewarded with the divine descent of the famous two-pronged sword, Zolfeqar with angels singing the couplet La fata illa Ali, La saif illa Zolfeqar, which means “there is no gallant youth except Ali, and no blade sharper than Zolfeqar”. His allowing the heavily set heathen Amr ibn Abduwad during the decisive Battle of the Trench to rise to his feet and renew the life and death struggle so that his personal feelings do not interfere with the course of sacred jihad in Allahâ€™s way since the fallen infidel had dared to spit on him.
Imam Ali’s life is full of heroic incidents for the sake of God and defence of humanitarian values, such as his miraculous arrival at the Prophetâ€™s camp on the Day of the Battle Khaibar at the Prophet’s recitation of the dynamic phrase Nade Aliyan Mazhar al-Aja’eb, which means “Call Ali the Manifestor of Wonders”. Next he carried the standard and stormed the impregnable fortress of intransigent Israelites, while fellow Muslims were longing for that very honour, following the Prophetâ€™s tidings on the eve of the victor and the victory. Another instance is his smashing of the idols installed at the Holy Kaâ€™ba at the peaceful surrender of Mecca, when the Prophet granted him the honour to climb on his shoulders for delivering the coup dâ€™ grace to the chief idol.
Earlier before that the Prophet had dispatched Imam Ali (AS) to overtake Abu Bakr and take personal charge of the divine deputation to recite the ayahs of Surah Towba to the Meccans, declaring disavowal of disbelievers. His merits include his marriage to the Prophetâ€™s only surviving child, Hadhrat Fatema Zahra (peace upon her) after the proposals of certain wealthy Muslims had been turned down politely.
Next, following revelation of ayah 61 of Surah Aal-e Imran, Imam Ali (AS) accompanied the Prophet to the field of Mubahela for the dialogue with the Christians of Najran, while all others except for his wife and two children were excluded from this honour by divine commandment. His giving away of his ring to a beggar while engaged in prayer, was extolled by God in the Holy Qurâ€™an as testified by ayah 57 of Surah al-Ma’edah. His praise by the Prophet on many an occasion that he was the supreme symbol of faith, knowledge and valour, as well as the barometer to discern truth from hypocrisy. And last but not the least, Imam Ali’s appointment by God as the Prophetâ€™s vicegerent at the historic field of Ghadir-Khom upon revelation of ayah 67 of Surah al-Ma’edah, a declaration that completed faith and perfected divine favours on mankind, as ayah 3 of Surah al-Ma’edah says.
This is not the end of the list of the virtues of Imam Ali (AS) that were all beset with death, and resulted in the usurpation of his political authority by conspirators after the passing away of the Prophet. His 25-year self-imposed silence that followed, during which he compiled the Holy Qurâ€™an between two covers according to its order of revelation, was not without dangers against his life by hypocrites who saw his steadfastness as a thorn in the path of their nefarious designs. As the man with the divine mandate, he was undeterred.
When caliphate came begging at his door in 36 AH, he reluctantly took control of the political reins that had greater risks to his life. Not that any seditionist would dare to face the middle-aged Imam on the battlefield, as after a 25-year silence he proved in the Battles of Jamal, Siffin and Nahrawan that neither he nor his flashing blade Zolfeqar had lost any of the old shine. His establishment of the model government of social justice increased more dangers to his life as he dismantled apartheid barriers of discrimination between Arab and non-Arab and refusal to let rascals thrive on the public treasury as had unfortunately become the custom during the past 25 years of the caliphate system.
Martyrdom finally came and the Imam of Pious, thrilled at meeting the Almighty Creator in such a noble state after accomplishing all tasks entrusted to him and setting the lasting example for the faithful to follow, said in jubilation:Fozto wa Rabbiâ€™l-Kaâ€™ba. Indeed he succeeded by the Lord of the Ka’ba, a success that no mortal has been able to achieve ever since.
Here we present you a poem by Iranian English language poetess, Zia os-Saadaat Khakpour, which reads:
The Masterpiece of the creation
â€œAliâ€ the Friend of the human race
The Melody of the fragrance of life
â€œAliâ€ the Teacher of Divine Love
The City of the Knowledge of Prophets
Mohammad, Jesus, Moses, and others
â€œAliâ€ the Light removing the darkness of time
Who calls every one to the Great God.
â€œAllâ€ in the world will attain martyrdom
Decreed by God to Lasting Glory
The first rose of the garden of Imamate
The blessings of the Unseen God to be seen,
The Shower of the Path of Salvation
Through Imam Ali and his divine sons
The heart of humanity has been kept alive
Ever since justice was martyred in the Mosque of Kufa