Ali an authority on the Scriptures
There is ample evidence to show that Ali was well acquainted with both the Old and New Testaments, which he applied frequently when deciding judicial cases involving Jews and Christians respectively. He was similarly well-versed in the Quran, (the fountain-head of the teachings of Islam) and the prerogative of interpreting the Quran could only be entrusted to a learned scholar of Divine choosing and Ali's commentaries on the Holy Book are the only authoritative ones.
Despite his extreme intellectualism, he employed the language of the common man, using everyday phraseology and imagery such as could be understood by the layman. His commentaries gave a new conception and strength to Islamic creed, for which they formed a doctrinal basis; it was his expositions which transformed Islam into a practical code for everyday living. Islam ceased to be a mere collection of beliefs and formulae and came to stand for the principles of life. As an intimate of the Prophet he knew at what time and under what circumstances each Verse of the Holy Quran had been revealed and to the work of the Holy Prophet he was able to add eloquent and illuminating adornments and explanations. His legal knowledge was also most useful in the exposition of the Quranic laws.
It was his knowledge of these laws which made him refuse to agree to the Kharijite slogan, "the kingdom and decision belong to God alone." Ali would not negotiate with the rebels, recognizing a seditious purpose behind their quasi-religious sentiments. Instead, he assembled leading scholars of the Quran and said to them, "Has not the Quran ordained that a judge be appointed to act as arbiter in the case of differences between husband and wife and the like, then how can it be that at the occurrence of a rift between the ranks of Islam and its followers, God can withhold the appointment of arbiters? Is the position of a nation of less importance than of an individual couple? How can a matter of such magnitude be left unattended by God?"
"The Almighty God has collected the whole Quran in the heart of Ali." The duty of the collection and codification of the Quran was entrusted to Ali.
The Successor of the Prophet of Allah
Ali took positive steps to eliminate the poverty of the people. His actions were based on two principles: Firstly that the entire wealth of the public treasury and the lands and property and all means of earning wealth belong to the nation and it is necessary that they should be distributed among all the citizens according to their needs and entitlement. Every person should work and benefit from these resources according to his efforts. None is entitled to appropriate whatever he likes and to convert the public property into his special property. It is also in the interest of the individuals that they should co-operate with the society. They should prove themselve useful for others and should also benefit from them. The benefits which they will derive from the society will be thousands of times more than those which they render to the society.
Ali says: "Whoever withholds his hand from doing harm to his people apparently withholds only one hand but actually keeps thousands of hands away from himself".
The government should adopt this just policy in right earnest because the people are like a body and it is necessary for the government to treat every limb of that body according to its needs. It should neither ignore anyone, nor neglect the right of anyone, nor permit any discrimination between them. It is in such circumstances that it can become possible for the government to realize revenue and obtain other rights of the public treasury from the nation and spend it on the projects of public welfare.
The second thing on which Ali based his actions was the development of land, because the life of human beings and their welfare depend on land. He was of the view that the governors and officers should take much greater interest in the development of land as compared with the effort which they make to realize government revenue, because if land is not developed from where will the revenue come? A ruler who does not develop land,, but wants to realize revenue from the public, is ignorant and unjust. He desires that the cities should be destroyed, the people should be ruined and he himself should lose his dignity and honour. The land is neither developed automatically nor by means of the ignorance or power of the rulers. Development of land does not also mean that magnificent palaces should be erected on it to accomodate rich people. Land is developed with the efforts of the labourers and the residents of villages. The Commander of the Faithful had given strict instructions that if the people were distressed and were not happy with their rulers revenue should not be realized from them.
The principles of kindness to the subjects and philanthropy and the moral values demand that the subjects should pay the revenue voluntarily and not under duress. It is the duty of governors to make the subjects prosperous in the first instance and then to think of collecting the revenue. The Commander of the Faithful has addressed the collectors of revenue in these words: " . . . . . . . . Don't sell the winter or summer clothings of the people or the animals used by them, in order to collect revenue. Don't flog any person or make him stand on his feet for the sake of money, and don't sell any of their things for this purpose, because God has ordered us to take that which is surplus".
He also says: "In the matter of revenue keep in view the interests of those who pay the revenue, because the affairs of others can be set right only by means of taxes and the tax-payers".
These views of the Commander of the Faithful about land and its development and the conclusion drawn by him that the welfare of government.depends on the welfare of the people are so true and correct that nothing wrong about them has been found even after the lapse of so many centuries. All the economic and social theories of the modern times also confirm these views.
Ali prescribed a general rule for the development of land and the extraction of wealth from its heart which is admitted by the social sciences of our time, to be absolutely correct.
During the age of ignorance there was a custom that the powerful persons forced the slaves, prisoners and subordinates to develop their lands. They gave these workers paltry wages at their own sweet will but appropriated the produce of the land themselves without having done any work.
According to their law man did not carry any value and his labour did not deserve any reward. The rulers considered the people to be their slaves and subjected them to forced labour. Their very religion was based on making people their slaves or in other words on killing and destroying those helpless and afflicted persons. The people were ignorant and the rulers, taking undue advantage of their ignorance, made them their slaves. The idolatrous priests, who were the religious leaders of those times had also declared slavery to be lawful and had thus strengthened the hands of the rulers. These priests had befooled the people in such a way that they were prepared to make supreme sacrifices for the sake of their rulers to enable them to increase their wealth and add new lands to their territories. All this was done either in the name of the homeland or in the name of the deity, whom they worshipped.
The famous British historian H.G. Wells says: "The idolatrous priests told the people that the lands which they tilled did not belong to them. They belonged to the gods whose image they had hung in the temples, and those gods had given those lands to the rulers. Now it depended upon the sweet will of the rulers to give the lands to those servants of theirs whom they liked".
The peasants also began to entertain the belief that the land which they ploughed did not belong to them, but were owned by the god (idol) and it was their duty to surrender a part of the produce of the land to the representative of the god. Or that the god had given the land to the ruler and he was entitled to impose thereon any taxes he liked. Or that the ruler had given the land to the landlord who was their master. If at times the idol, the ruler or the landlord needed the services of the peasant it was his duty to leave other work and carry out the orders of his master. The peasant did not even think that he had any right on the land which he ploughed. In short the peasant neither possessed any freedom of will nor enjoyed any right.
The history of Arabia tells us that the persons who assumed the reins of government after Ali monopolized the lands, their produce, and the public treasury for their personal benefit. They used to say: "The entire wealth belongs to God and we are his representatives and vicegerents on earth. It is our prerogative to give this wealth to whomsoever we like. Nobody is entitled to criticize us in this regard".
(( The fact is that this policy began to be acted upon during the time of Uthman himself. During the time of the prophet and the period of the caliphate of Abu Bakr and Umar everything belonged to the Muslims and they were treated to have equal rights. However, Uthman's attitude changed considerably. He considered everything to be the property of God and considered himself to be the master of the Muslims. He spent public property as he wished and gave it to whomever he liked. The Commander of the Faithful has drawn a picture of this period in these words: "Consequently the third proudly took charge of the caliphate as if it was a private grazing ground and with bloated stomachs he and members of his clan (Bani Umayya) started plundering the wealth of the Muslim world in the same reckless gluttonous manner which characterises a camel when it devours harvest grass.
Uthman deprived the lawful claimants of that property which belonged to all the Muslims and gave it to his kith and kin and near and dear ones. On many occasions he uttered words which reflected the beliefs of the age of ignorance according to which the lands and its produce and the public treasury belonged to the ruler and he was In the eyes of Ali there was no injustice greater than that a worker should not be paid his wages or that he should be deprived of his right even to the smallest extent. According to-him it was also highly improper that the work done by persons belonging to the higher class should be applauded whereas that done by the ordinary persons should be looked down upon. According to him what mattered was the work and its real value whether it was done by a big man or an ordinary person. There were many workers in his time who worked hard but were not rewarded for their labour. The Commander of the Faithful disliked it very much. These words of his are a beacon light in the path of social and moral principles: "Keep eye on
entitled to give it to whomsoever he liked. This sentence of his is found in all history books: "This is God's property. I shall give it to whomsoever I like and shall not give it to any one whom I do not like to give. If any person gets annoyed I don't care".
Mu'awiya and other Umayyad caliphs were the relatives and kinsmen of Uthman. Whatever they did during their own times was done by them in imitation of Uthman.))
However, Ali knew the position very well. He was very far-sighted and was well aware that God does not need land or wealth and the land belongs to those who work on it. Ali also knew that if the peasants are indigent the land will become waste and it will be difficult to realize any revenue. Land can be developed only by those people who are its owners and derive profit from its produce. If the peasants know it for certain that they will not be able to enjoy the fruits of their labour and it will reach the treasuries of the extravagent rulers, they will work half-heartedly and will not make any effort to develop the land.
(( This goes to show that if the peasants are allowed to share the produce with the landowners they will work hard to earn more profit from the land. However, if their position is that of wageearners (as in socialism) they will not strive to increase the produce, knowing that they will get the same wages whatever the quantity of the produce may be.))
Further, the socialist governments are a heavy burden on their subjects. They interfere with all the affairs of the subjects and the subjects, too are not faithful to such government, because they do not have any faith in them.
Consequently they themselves will be in distress and others will also be deprived of the fruits of their labour.
In case, however, they know that the more they produce with their hard work the more they themselves and their children will benefit from it, and the rulers too will not distribute the revenue among their friends and relatives, but will spend it on projects of public welfare,
they will work whole-heartedly. As a result of this they will become prosperous and additional revenue will also accrue to the government treasury.
In the eyes of the Commander of the Faithful the happiness and goodwill of the subjects was the only source of the welfare of the people as well as the good condition of the rulers. He did not believe in coercion and said: "The best source of satisfaction and heartfelt happiness for a ruler is that justice should be established and the love of the subjects for the rulers should become patent. They do not display love so long as there is ill feeling in their hearts and their devotion cannot be relied upon so long as they are not prepared to defend their ruler and do not cease to think that his rule has been burdensome and it will come to an end after a long time".
Ali considered farming and all other professions to be respectable. He prohibited people from remaining idle and considered it essential that a worker should be paid wages commensurate with his work. He exercised much strictness in these matters so that the people might realize that he was not going to pay anything which had not been earned by the person concerned by means of his work. The incident of his real brother Aqil son of Abu Talib is well known. He approached Ali to make him some payment without any work or service, but Ali declined to accede to his request.
INFALLIBlLlTY OF THE IMAMS
Now, let us note what the Qur'an says about the Ahl u'l-bayt (family members) of the Holy Prophet.
According to the Qur'an, the following persons were sinless and infallible at the time of the death of the Holy Prophet 'Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn. The verse of purity ( tathir ) reads as follows:
... Allah only desires to keep away abomination from you, O People of the House! and to purify you a (thorough) purifying . (33 :33)
It is universally agreed that the above-named four persons are 'People of the House' and are sinless and free from all kinds of abomination.
The sentences before and after this verse are addressed to the wives the Holy Prophet and the pronouns therein are of feminine gender; but the pronouns in this verse are of masculine gender. The reason why this verse has been placed in its present position is not difficult to guess. The late renowned scholar 'Allamah Puya writes in footnote no. 1857 of the translation of the Holy Qur'an by S. V. Mir Ahmed Ali:
"The portion of this verse relating to the divinely effected purity of the Holy Ahl u'l bayt -needs a proper explanation commenting with reference to its correct context. This portion of this verse is a separate ayah or verse by itself revealed separately on particular occasions but placed here as it deals with the wives of the Holy Prophet. The location of this verse here if studied properly makes it obvious that it has its own significant and important purpose behind it. While the address in the beginning of the verse is in the feminine gender-there is the transition here in the address from the feminine to the masculine gender. While referring to the consorts of the Holy Prophet, the pronouns also are consistently feminine. For a mixed assembly of men and women, generally the masculine gender is used. This transition in the grammatical use of the language, makes it quite obvious that this clause is quite a different matter used for a different group other than the previous one, and has been suitably placed here to show a comparative position of the Ahlu 'l-bayt in contrast to the wives of the Holy Prophet. 'Amr ibn Abi Salamah who was brought up by the Holy Prophet relates:
"'When this verse was revealed the Holy Prophet was in the house of Umm Salamah. At the revelation of (the verse): Verily willeth God to keep away impurity from you O People of the House! and He purifieth you with the perfect purification , the Holy Prophet assembled his daughter Fatimah, her sons Hasan and Husayn and her husband, his cousin, 'A1i, and covered the group, including himself, with his own mantle and addressing God said: "O God! These constitute my progeny ! Keep them away from every kind of impurity, purified with perfect purification''. Umm Salamah, the righteous wife of the Holy Prophet, witnessing this marvellous occasion, humbly submitted to the Holy Prophet, "0 Apostle of God! May I also join the group? " to which the Holy Prophet replied, "No, remain thou in thine own place, thou art in goodness"'".
This is not the place to name the countless references concerning this verse; still, I would like to quote Mawlana Wahidu'z-Zaman, the famous Sunni scholar, whose translation and commentary of the Qur'an as well as his book Anwaru'l-lughah (a dictionary of the Qur'an and ahadith ) are among the recognized references. He writes in his commentary of the Qur'an about this verse: "Some people think that it is especially for those family members who had b1ood relation with the Prophet, i.e., 'Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn. The present translator says that the traditions which are correct ( sahih ) and well-connected up to the Prophet, support the same view, because when the Prophet himself has declared that his family members are only these, then to accept it and believe in it becomes obligatory. And one more sign of correctness of this view is that the pronouns used before and after this verse are those for females, while in this verse are those for males . . . "
Again he says in his Anwaru 'l-lughah : "The correct view is that in this verse of purity only these five persons are included (i.e., the Prophet, 'Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn), although in Arabic usage, the word ahlu 'l-bayt is used for wives also. Some people prove by this verse that these five persons were sinless and ma'sum (infallible). But if not ma'sum , then of course they were surely mahfuz (protected from committing any sin or error)."
I have quoted these two references to show that not only the Ithna'Asharis but the learned Sunni scholars also confirm that, according to the rules of Arabic grammer and according to the correct unbroken traditions of the Prophet, only 'A1i, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn are induded in this verse, besides the Prophet himself. Also, it is clear that the view that these persons were sinless is shared by Sunni scholars too. It is apparent that in the least they say that if they were not infallible (theoretically) they were surely protected from sin and error (practically) .
There are many other verses and traditions testifying to the purity ( 'ismah ) of the Ahlu '1bayt , but the limitation of space does not allow me to enumerate them even briefly.
ALI'S MARRIAGE WITH FATIMA THE DAUGHTER OF THE HOLY PROPHET
During the second year of Hijrah, Hazrat Ali's marriage with Fatima, the only daughter of the holy Prophet, took place. Muhammad had received many offers for her hand from very rich families in Medina, as also from the chiefs of mighty clans in Arabia but he declined to consider these offers. He said he was awaiting the order of God for the person to whom his daughter should be wedded. Some one then suggested to Hazrat Ali that he should place a proposal for himself before the Holy Prophet. Ali approached the Prophet feeling shy and modest, but when Muhammad heard the proposal he was so pleased that he smiled and said, "Ahlan wa Merhaban" (It is a welcome and happy proposal.)
Muhammad took the consent of his daughter for this proposal. The betrothal of Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet, to his cousin and faithful disciple, Ali, took place in the month of Ramazan 2 A.H., but the nuptial ceremonies were performed two months later in
Zil-hajj. This alliance - as revealed to the Prophet-was ordained by God, Who, he said to Fatima, had informed him of his choice from the noblest on the earth of two blessed men, one being her father (himself) and the other her husband (Ali); and that he had decreed his (the Prophet's) lineal descendants to spring forth from the couple (Ali and Fatima) and -not direct from himself.
According to Dailami in Firdous-ul-Akhbar, Khuiar Zamin Manaqib and Yousuf Kanji in Kifayat ut Talile, the Holy Prophet announced that Gabriel had brought the good news that God had performed the marriage of Fatima and Ali in Heaven and the Prophet should perform the same on earth.
All the Muhajireen and Ansar of Medina assembled in the mosque, while Hazrat Ali was seated before the Holy Prophet with all the modesty of a bridegroom. The Holy Prophet first recited an eloquent sermon and then announced, "I have been commanded by God to get Fatima wedded to Ali, and I do hereby solemnize the matrimony between Ali and Fatima on a dower of 400 Misquall." Then he asked Hazrat Ali, "Do you consent to it O Ali?" "Yes, I do, O Holy Prophet of God." Then the Holy Prophet raised his hands in supplication and prayed thus : -O my God ! Bless both of them, sanctify their progeny and grant them the keys of Thy beneficence, Thy treasures of wisdom and Thy genius; and let both of them be a source of blessing and peace to my people."
Then Ali prostrated himself before God. After a service of thanksgiving in which the Holy Prophet asked God for His blessings on the couple, praying, "O Almighty Lord! Bless them both and better their endeavours and give them noble children". The marriage was then performed. Addressing Ali, the Holy Prophet then said, 110 Ali, lucky art thou indeed! Of all the virtuous women of the world, your wife is queen." Then turning towards Fatima the Holy Prophet said, "Of all the virtuous men of the world your husband is the king. May God keep you pious and chaste and bless your children. Verily I am a friend to him who befriends you both and an enemy to him who is your enemy."
From this marriage, Ali and Fatima had two sons, Imam Hasan and Imam Husain, and two daughters, Janab-e-Zainab and Janab-e-Umme Kulsoom.
The wedding ceremony of the only daughter of Muhammad well demonstrates the ideal simplicity with which it was conducted. The wedding feast was of dates and olives; the nuptial couch was a sheepskin; the ornaments, the general outfit and the articles of necessity for the bride consisting of only a pair of silver armlets, two shirts, one head tiara, one leather pillow containing palm leaves, one grinding mill, one drinking cup, two large jars and one pitcher. This was all, compatible with the circumstances of the Prophet Muhammad and his son-in-law Ali, who had to sell his coat of mail to raise the dowry required.
It may be recalled that Fatima's mother was that generous lady Khadija whose fabulous wealth was spent by the Prophet on the widows and orphans of Muslims, and who was content even when nothing was left for her daughter.
The true grandeur of the marriage lay not in the ostentations, but in the blessings of Heaven for which the marriage is the most memorable in the annals of Islam. The couple tied in matrimonial alliance by God-were destined to be the parents of an illustrious progeny termed the sons of the Prophet, who are distinguished from, the rest of the Muslim world as divinely commissioned Imams or the Commanders of the Faithful, and the rightful successors of the Apostle of God. They are universally acknowledged by Muslims as the fountain-head of piety acid wisdom. Hasan and Husain, the sons of Ali and Fatima, played in the lap of the Prophet, who showed them proudly from his pulpit and called them the Chiefs of the youths of Paradise. The parents themselves were as exalted as their children. The Prophet used to say, "I am the city of knowledge and Ali is its gate." Ali, the gallant hero as he proved himself on all occasions of undaunted valour, had won for himself the title of `Lion of God' from the Prophet. Fatima, who possessed the love and confidence of the Prophet and God, was ranked as one of the four ladies `Perfect in Faith' with whom God had deigned to bless this earth, viz. 1 Asia, the wife of Pharaoh, Mary, the mother of Jesus, Khadija, the wife of Muhammad, and Fatima, the wife of Ali.
It is related that Asia, the daughter of Mozahem, because she believed in Moses, her husband cruelly tortured her, fastening her hands and feet to four stakes, and laying a large millstone on her breast; her face, at the same time was exposed to the scorching heat of the sun; her anguish, however was alleviated by the angels'shading her with their wings and the view of the mansion prepared for her in paradise, which was revealed to her on her pronouncing the prayer in the text: at length God received her soul; or, as some say, she was taken up alive into paradise, where she cats and drinks
The Holy Prophet called Fatima the Chief of the women of Paradise and superior to all of them, and according to Bokhari, Muslim, Tirmizi, Dailami, Tibrani, Hakim, Abu Nayeem and a host of commentators, the Holy Prophet enjoined that Fatima is a part and parcel of himself and whoever caused the slightest grief to her, caused grief to the Prophet and to God Himself and that God is pleased with those with whom Fatima is pleased and God is angry on those who have incurred the wrath of Fatima.
THE SON-IN-LAW OF THE PROPHET
The Prophet bestowed a unique honor upon Ali, by choosing Ali to be his son-in-law. He married him to his daughter, Fatima Al-Zahra (the Lady of light), for whom her father testified that she is the leader of the women of Paradise, or the leader of- the women of the believers.(1)
He also said: "Fatima is a portion of me, whoever exasperates her exasperates me."
Ayeshah, wife of the Prophet, also said about Fatima:
"I have never seen a more resemblant to the Prophet in manner of speaking than Fatima, daughter of the Messenger of God. Whenever she came to him, he used to welcome her, stand for her, kiss her, take her hand and seat her in his place."(2)
Ayeshah said also about Fatima:
"I never witnessed a person truer than Fatimah after her father."(3)
Outstanding companions wooed the hand of Fatima, but the Prophet rejected them, saying: "I am waiting for a Directive concerning her." (He meant that he was waiting for an order from God.)
When Ali wooed her hand, the Prophet welcomed him, and Ali married her in the first year after the Hijrah. She was moved to him in the following year, after the Battle of Badr.
This marriage was destined to be unique in its consequences. Of its fruits were the two gems of this nation: Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein, about whom the Holy Prophet said: "An Angel came from Heaven to give me the good tidings: That Fatima is the leader of the women of Paradise, and that Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein are the leaders of the youth of Paradise."' (4)
By their birth, the most honorable family was formed. For this family the Messenger ordered the Muslims to pray whenever they pray for him. This is the family whose members the Muslims are urged to follow.
1) Al-Bukhari reported it through his channel to Ayeshah in his
Sahih in the section of the Beginning of the Creation, in the chapter of the Evidences of the Prophethood, Part,5, p. 25. 11. AI-Bukhari, in his Sahih, Chapter of Virtues of the Relatives of
the Messenger, and Virtues of Fatimah.
2) Al-Hakim, in his Al-Mustadrak, Part 3, p .154.
3) Al-Hakim Al-Mustadrak, Part 3, p. 160.
4) Al-Termathi in his Sunan (of the 6 Authentics), Part 2, p. 306.
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