Wednesday 17th of July 2024
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“Allah has rated Ka`bah as an honorable abode.”


The Ka`bah is a very ancient structure. Its foundation was laid by Adam (a.s) and the walls were raised by Ibrahim (a.s) and Isma`il (a.s). Although this building is devoid of any designs and embellishments, made out of lime and stones, every stone is the fountainhead of felicity. The Holy Qur’an says about it:


“Allah has rated Ka`bah as an honorable abode.”

This eminence of the Ka`bah is permanent and eternal. From the day of the laying of its foundation, it has the same eminence, and shall be there forever. This is expressed through various acts of worship in Islam. Therefore, every Muslim, be the person an Arab, a non-Arab, a Westerner or an Oriental, will face towards the Ka`bah when standing up to pray! When they circumambulate the building, they exercise care to see that their shoulders do not move away from it. This circumambulation is a very important pillar of the performance of the Hajj. 

`Ali (a.s) was born at this felicitous place on the thirteenth of Rajab, Friday, thirty years after `am al-fil. This privilege of taking birth in the holy place went to none before him and anyone after him! The chroniclers of the traditions and the biographers of Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) have recorded this as a very important event in his life. Therefore, al-Hakim al-Nayshabūri writes: 

“It is proved from continuous narrations that Amir al-Mu’minin was born at the center of Ka`bah from the womb of Fatimah bint Asad.”[1] 

Shah Waliyyullah too reports about this birth with some detail: 

Reports in continuity prove that Amir al-Mu’minin `Ali (a.s) was born on Friday, the thirtieth of Rajab, thirty years after 

[1] Mustadrak, Vol 3, Page 483 


`am al-fil at the center of Ka`bah. Besides him, none was ever born there, before or after him.[1] 

The modern time scholar `Abbas Mahmūd al-`Aqqad has termed this felicitous birth as the renaissance of the felicity of the Ka`bah and the forerunner of the worship of, one and only, Allah there: 

“`Ali ibn Abi-Talib (a.s) was born inside the Ka`bah and Allah kept his face away from bowing to the idols there. His birth there was the beginning of the new era of worship of one and only Allah.”[2] 

Similarly, every historian and biographer has mentioned about this fact. However, some, accepting the birth of `Ali (a.s) in the Ka`bah have tried to lessen the importance of the event. Sometimes they express a view that taking birth inside the Ka`bah is not of any importance, particularly when it was used as a place for installation of idols. The reply to them is that if a mosque is converted into a temple, a church or any other place of worship, it will remain a mosque. Its sanctity will not diminish because of the change. Similarly, if idols were installed in the Ka`bah, its sanctity remained unchanged. Even when Ka`bah was declared as the Kiblah[3] it continued to have the idols until Makkah was conquered and the idols removed from there. Sometimes they say that Fakhitah bint Zuhayr gave birth to Hakim ibn Hizam inside the Ka`bah thirteen years before the `am al-fil. They say that there is no sanctity of being born inside the Ka`bah when even an infidel was born there.

This attitude is contrary to the position taken by the historians and biographers who have admitted in clear terms that besides `Ali (a.s), no one else was born inside the Ka`bah prior to or after him. Besides this, it can be sanctimonious only for a Muslim to have taken birth inside that holy precinct. For an infidel, it is immaterial where he is born! The event of an infidel taking birth inside the Ka`bah will not be of any significance to him like meeting the Prophet (a.s) or even visiting the precincts of the Ka`bah. However, a person in the Faith of Islam will consider it a good fortune to have seen the Prophet (a.s) or he had the opportunity to visit the Holy Place. It cannot be said about `Ali ibn Abi-Talib that he was ever under the influence of infidelity or that he was born an infidel. Therefore, it is mentioned in the books of Ahl al-Sunnah that when `Ali (a.s) was in his mother’s womb, and

[1] Izālat al-Khafā, Page 251

[2] Al-`Abqariyyah al-Islāmiyyah, Page 863

[3] Direction in which Muslims turn to pray.


she wanted to bow in front of the idols, he used to turn inside in such a way that it became impossible for her to bow! Although this narrative is not acceptable according to the Shi`ah belief, it is a positive proof that `Ali (a.s), from the womb of his mother to his grave, was never in the influence of infidelity. And those who have written about the birth of Ibn Hizam have termed it as an accidental birth. But `Ali’s birth there was according to the wish of Allah. Therefore, `Abbas ibn `Abd al-Muttalib says that he and Yazid ibn tannab and some persons of Banū-Hashim and Banū-al-`Uzza were sitting near the Ka`bah when Fatimah bint Asad came and stood near the Ka`bah for a while. Hardly any time elapsed when there appeared signs of concern on her face. She lifted her shaking hands towards the sky and prayed, 

“O my Sustainer! I have faith in You, Your Prophets and the Books Revealed to them. Ease my difficulty for the sake of this very House, its Builder and the one who is in my womb! Make the birth of the child I am carrying easy for me! I am confident that he is one of the radiant signs of Your Greatness and Your Majesty!”

`Abbas says that when Fatimah bint Asad finished the prayer, they saw the rear wall of the Ka`bah go asunder and she entered through that opening without any hesitation. Then immediately the opening closed and the wall was the same way as it was earlier. 

The veracity of this narrative has been accepted by the scholars of both the schools of thought. Therefore, from among the erudite Shi`ah scholars, `Allamah Abū-Ja`far al-tūsi in al-Amali, `Allamah Majlisi in Bihar al-Anwar and from the scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah, Mir-Salih al-Kashshafi in al-Manaqib and Mawlawi Muhammad Mubin in Wasilat al-Najat have recorded this event. This tradition highlights the fact that this event did not happen all of a sudden as an accident. The miracle is that the wall of the Ka`bah went asunder and Fatimah Bint Asad went boldly in and the wall came back to its original position. It was a manifestation of the Divine Power of Allah. Fatimah bint Asad emerged from the Ka`bah three days after the birth of `Ali (a.s) with the baby in her arms. 

The Prophet (a.s), who was waiting eagerly outside, went forward and took the son of his beloved uncle in his arms. The baby opened his eyes and the first person on whose face he set his eyes was the Prophet (a.s). The Prophet (a.s) put his tongue in the mouth of the newborn and, they say, he transferred the Divine Prophetic Knowledge to him. Witnessing this event, the Prophet 


(a.s) has said, “He chose me for the first glimpse and I selected him for the knowledge.” 

`Ali (a.s) has several relationships with the Ka`bah. The Prophet (a.s) has termed him ‘like the Ka`bah’, that his own forbears had constructed it and were the protectors and keepers of the edifice. Hassan ibn Kalal attempted to demolish it when Fihr ibn Malik defeated and imprisoned him. Abrahah ibn Ashram attacked with a fleet of elephants when `Abd al-Muttalib steadfastly stood at the entrance to the Ka`bah. If the idolaters had converted it into a storehouse of idols, it was `Ali (a.s) who, astride the shoulders of the Prophet (a.s), demolished the idols and threw them out. Therefore, his birth was the prelude of the purification of the Ka`bah. 

While `Ali (a.s) had the singular privilege of being born in the holy precincts of the Ka`bah, the timing of his birth was very felicitous that he was born in the month of Rajab which is one of the sanctimonious months in the Islamic Calendar. On the twenty-seventh of this month, the Annunciation of the Prophet (a.s) took place and commenced the invitation for the people to embrace Islam. This also is an indication of the nearness and affinity that `Ali (a.s) had for Islam! `Ali’s life had been a mirror of Islamic teachings and character. Islam and `Ali (a.s) grew under the tutelage of the Prophet (a.s).


Abū-Talib named him Zayd after his ancestor, Qasi ibn Kalab. Fatimah bint Asad named him Haydar after her father Asad. Asad and Haydar both the words mean a tiger. Therefore, in the battle of Khaybar, while reciting the martial poetry combating with Marhab, he said,


“I am that whose mother has named him Hayder!” 

The Prophet (a.s), under divine inspiration called him with the name of `Ali (a.s). There is another opinion that Abū-Talib himself gave him the name of `Ali (a.s). As a proof, they present the following couplet of Abū-Talib:

“I have given him the name of `Ali that eminence and success always follow him. Respectability is the only wealth that remains forever.”

This name, literally meaning greatness and high status, proved most appropriate for `Ali (a.s). Although the Umayyads tried their level best to play down his name and the kunyah, they could not succeed in doing it. Therefore, Abū-Na`im al-Isfahani writes in Hilyat al-Awliya’ that the son of `Abdullah ibn `Abbas was `Ali and kunyah Abul-Hasan. One day `Ali ibn `Abdullah went to Abd al Malik who said that he could not tolerate his name and kunyah. He did not change his name but changed his kunyah to Abū-Muhammad! With this bent of mind, for centuries no Muslim ruler by the name `Ali was there. But today, in the Muslim population anywhere, after Muhammad, the most popular name is `Ali. Despite centuries of suppression and oppression, the name (`Ali) spread all over the world with the spread of Islam! 

He has several titles that signify his various qualities. The most popular are al-Murtada, al-Wasi and Amir al-Mu’minin. His first kunyah is Abul-Hasan. Another well-known kunyah is Abū-Turab. Generally, Arabs keep the kunyah on the name of the first son. For instance, Abū-Talib adopted the kunyah as Abū-Talib when his first son Talib was born. `Abd al-Muttalib had his kunyah based on the name of his first-born son as Abū-Harith. The second kunyah of `Ali (a.s) was on the suggestion of the Prophet (a.s). It is written in Sirat Ibn- 


Husham that during the battle of al-`Ashirah, `Ali (a.s) and `Ammar ibn Yasir went towards the lake of Banū-Mudlaj and lay down under the shade of a tree on green grass. Hardly any time passed when the prophet (a.s) too arrived there, and seeing `Ali’s dusty clothes he said,

“O Abū-Turab, in what condition are you!”

From that day, `Ali’s kunyah became Abū-Turab. `Allamah Halabi has written:

“In the battle of al-`Ashirah the Prophet (a.s) had given to `Ali (a.s) the kunyah of Abū-Turab when he found him and `Ammar ibn Yasir sleeping and `Ali (a.s) was covered in dust”[1]

In the beginning this kunyah was suggested for `Ali only. Prior to him, none had this kunyah. Therefore, Shaykh Aluddin writes:

“For the first time ever, `Ali ibn Abi-Talib (a.s) was addressed with the kunyah of Abū-Turab.”[2]

Al-Bukhari has included this incident in his Sahih that the Prophet (a.s) once came to the residence of Fatimah al-Zahra’ (a.s) and not finding `Ali (a.s) at home he enquired about him. Fatimah (a.s) said that they had some difference of opinion and that in a state of anger he went out. The Prophet (a.s) asked one person to go and look for `Ali (a.s).The person noticed `Ali (a.s) lying on the floor of the mosque. He returned and informed his whereabouts to the Prophet (a.s). The Prophet (a.s) then went to the mosque and noticed `Ali (a.s) covered all over in dust. He dusted his clothes and said,


“Get up, Abū-Turab!”

After this event he was known with the kunyah of Abū-Turab.

This narration, when compared with the earlier tradition sounds different and is not plausible according to the norms of Dirayah. The reason for the non-plausibility is that during the entire married life of Fatimah and Al (a.s) there is no instance of ever being any differences between them. Their lives have been examples of most cordial marital relationship. From the tradition where `Ammar ibn Yasir was also there, it appears that the Prophet (a.s) had suggested the kunyah of Abū-Turab in Jumada II, 2 A.H., because the Battle of al-`Ashirah was fought in that period. Fatimah al-Zahra’ (a.s) was married to `Ali (a.s) on the first of Dhul-Hijjah 2 A.H. that is, six months after the

[1] Vol 2, Page 142

[2] Muhā¤arāt al-Awā’il, Page 12 


proposal of this kunyah. In that event, there is no chance of any difference of opinion between the two and the need to go away from home in anger. Because at that time, Lady Fatimah was not married to `Ali (a.s). It appears that the tradition has been concocted to please the Umayyad rulers who used to address `Ali (a.s) with this kunyah while they carried out their campaign of vilification against him. A name that is associated with an unpleasant memory would never be a popular name. Although this kunyah of `Ali (a.s) is the most likeable of this titles Therefore, Sahl ibn Sa`d says: 

“`Ali liked Abū-Turab more than all his names.”[1] 

[1] Sahīh al-Bukhārī, Vol 8, Page 63


The study of human appearance and bearing is an important branch of psychology. This is based on innumerable studies and experiments. These psychologists study the eyes, nose, forehead and other parts of the body and arrive at a conclusion about the person’s nature and temperament. According to these experts, a bulging forehead is a sign of intelligence and cleverness. When the arms of a person are firm and wide, he has the qualities of a leader of men. The hardness of hair, according to them, is a sign of valor and big eyes indicate a person who is quick of nature. One who has a short neck might be tricky and querulous. When a person has fleshy calves is generally foolish. One who has small and sunken eyes is tricky and treacherous. One who has weak and thin shoulders is apt to be poor in thinking. Although these are hypothetical assessments, at best, they give a fair idea about the persons under study. 

According to the books of history and biography, the appearance of Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) can be described as given here:

His body was heavy, his complexion light whitish, his appearance and bearing were very attractive, and his visage was smiling and shiny like the full moon. Abul-Hajjaj Mudrak says, 

“He was more handsome and attractive than others.” 

He had a wide forehead. Ibn `Abbas says, 

“I have not seen temples better looking than those of `Ali (a.s)” 

On his forehead, calluses had developed on account of excessive prostration in prayer. He had a delicate and pointed nose and eyes big and dark that reflected determination and boldness. Abul-Hajjaj says that he had seen traces of collyrium in `Ali’s eyes. His eyes were bright, eye brows were bow shaped, eyelashes long, teeth properly spaced and shining. Zurarah ibn Samarah says, 

“When he smiled the teeth shone like strings of pearls!” 

His neck was muscular and long. His chest was wide and hairy. His biceps were well formed. His wrists were strong and firm and finding the joint 


between the wrists and the arms was difficult. His collarbones were wide and strong. His palms were hard and the knees were neither weak nor fleshy. His tummy was rather bulgy. His beard was dense and wide. The hair of his head was grey. Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah says, 

“`Ali (a.s) once dyed his hair with henna once, and then abstained from doing it.” 

Because of excessive use of the armor, the hair on his forehead had fallen. His height is slightly more than the average. `Ali (a.s) himself said, 

“Allah has bestowed on me a modest body and height When my adversary is short, I strike on his head to cut him into two pieces and if he is tall I cut him horizontally into two.”

His voice was clear and loud, his style and speed of walking was like that of the Prophet (a.s), elegant and slightly drooping to the front. When he advanced to face an adversary in battle, he used to walk briskly and his eyes used to get reddish. 

Ibn Qutaybah writes in al-Ma`arif that a woman saw `Ali (a.s) and said, 

“As if he had been broken and he was then rejoined!” 

People thought that it means that his body was asymmetrical. In fact, what the woman said was an Arabic idiom and its allegorical meaning is different from its apparent meaning. Therefore, Sayyid Muhsin al-`Amili writes in A`yan al-Shi`ah and `Umar Abul-Nasr in al-Zahrah also writes the saying of Ibn `A’ishah that the quoted sentence is for the person whose arms are muscular and his eyes piercing the ground and not a person who is asymmetrical of body!


Amir al-Mu’minin had a smiling face, was good-natured and a paragon of sincerity. He was kind to the poor and always took care of the orphans. He was an exact replica of the manners and character of the Prophet (a.s). He met the elite and the ordinary persons with the same affability. He used to treat the slaves with the same consideration as he would treat his own relatives. To servants he always gave help in sharing their heavy burdens. He hated self-praise. He lived a very simple and frugal life. Like the ordinary folk, he ate simple food and wore inexpensive clothes. Most of the chores he preferred to perform with his own hands. He used to repair his own footwear, stitch his torn cloaks and always went to the bazaar to buy the grocery. He used to work as a farm laborer. He used to excavate ponds with his own hands, plant trees and water them. Instead of amassing wealth, he preferred to distribute it to the poor and impecunious. He did not like distinction based on color and descent. He used to treat the guests with great honor. He never sent back any needy person empty handed. He never let the feelings of hate; rancor and revenge come near him. He exercised forbearance and forgiveness to a surprising extent. He was strict in the matter of Faith and always fulfilled the requirements of justice and fairplay. He used to tread on the path of truth and fairness and never was partial to anyone in these matters. He never used methods of stealth and cunning even with his sworn enemies. He spent the nights in prayer and supplication. After the Morning Prayers he used to give instruction to people in matters of the Qur’an and Fiqh (Muslim jurisprudence). With the fear of Allah, he used to shiver. He used to cry so much while supplicating to Allah that his beard used to get wet with the tears. 

Once Dirar ibn Samarah al-Dhuba’i visited the court of Mu`awiyah. Mu`awiyah asked him to tell something about `Ali (a.s) because he had the privilege of spending lot of time with him. In the beginning Dirar was reluctant, but on insistence of Mu`awiyah he said: 

By Allah! His aims were high and physique strong! He always talked with determination and acted with justice and fairness. The streams of learning used to flow from him and his words were like songs of erudition and wisdom. He was not attracted 


to the false glitter of the world. He used to take solace in the loneliness of dark nights. Tears used to flow from his eyes and he used to be immersed in thoughts. He preferred dress that was modest and liked simple food. He lived with us like an ordinary person. Whenever we asked anything, he would reply with patience. By Allah! Despite all the nearness, we used to hold him in awe before we opened our mouths to speak with him. He respected men of learning and gave the poor the privilege of his company. The powerful could never expect his support in their waywardness and the weak was never disappointed with his justice. Allah is witness that I have seen him, in dark nights, restlessly holding his beard and wincing as would a person bitten by a snake and saying “O world! Go and deceive someone else! Do not come to flatter me. How is possible for me to reconcile with you that I have already divorced you thrice! You are transient and your importance is but little! It is a pity that the provision for the journey is meager, the destination is distant and the way frightening!”[1] 

This was the Voice of Truth that reverberated in the Dardar al-Sham, a court where sycophants were gathered to flatter the tyrant. None could dare there to speak out the truth. This was a unique situation that a person of courage did speak! The books of history record that the courtiers cried copiously hearing the talk of Dirar and even the eyes of Mu`awiyah watered. This was the magnetic effect of the high morality and veracity of actions that even the hearts of enemies melted like wax. Amir al-Mu’minin was an ideal mixture of awe and dignity, kindness and compassion. He was as hard as a mountain and as soft as the cloud in flight. One of the companions of `Ali (a.s), Sa`sa`ah ibn Sawhan, has said: 

“(Imam) `Ali used to live amongst us as an ordinary person. Despite his humility and softness, we used to be hesitant and subdued in his presence, like the prisoner who had a sword of the executioner over his head!”[2] 

In view of these characteristics of `Ali (a.s), Mulla `Ali al-Adhrabayjan has something wonderful to say: 

“He used to challenge the enemy and attack him like Allah’s Tiger! And while doing charity and good deeds he looked like the parent of the orphans!” 

[1] Al-Istī`āb, Vol 2, Page 463

[2] Preface Sharh Nahj al-Balāghah by Ibn Abi’l-Hadīd


Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) used to wear simple and inexpensive dress, the type of dress generally worn by the poor and middle class Arabs of those days. Sometimes he wore dress of a quality even poorer than that! His intention always was to cover the body and not to show off grandeur of the dress! He sometimes wore summer apparel during winters and wore the winter apparels during the summers. In time of need, he would patch up his dresses with the bark of the date or pieces of leather. He never felt belittled wearing such clothes. Once he was wearing a cloak, which was having several patches. Some persons made remarks about this. He said, 

“Wearing such tatters, it creates a feeling of humility in the heart and the people of the Faith will try to emulate me when they see me in such humble apparel!”

Al-Mas`ūdi writes that during the period of his Caliphate, he never wore a new dress! His normal dress consisted of a loincloth, cloak and a scarf. He preferred to wear the turban on his head. He used to say: 

“The turban is the crown of the Arabs.”[1]

Statements of some persons are given here who saw Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) on different occasions and had recorded about the type of dress he wore.

Jabir al-Ju`fi says that he saw Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) wearing a black headgear on his head. One end of the turban was hanging on his chest and the other on his back. 

`Amr ibn Marwan says that his father had told him that he saw `Ali (a.s) wearing a black turban on his head and both its ends were hanging at his back. 

Yazid ibn Harith al-Fazari says that he saw the Imam (a.s) was wearing a white Egyptian turban on his head. 

Abū-Hayyan says that he saw a thin cotton cap on the head of the Imam (a.s). 

[1] Sīrat Ibn Hushām, Vol 2, Page 286 


Ayyūb ibn Dinar says that his father told him that he had seen `Ali (a.s) wearing a loincloth and a scarf on his shoulders. On another occasion, he saw him wearing two scarves made in Najran.

Abhur ibn Harmūz says that his father saw the Imam (a.s) coming out of the Mosque at al-Kūfah wearing a loincloth half way between his feet and knees and was wearing a scarf on his shoulders. 

In those days, generally this was the dress of the people. Therefore, at the Ghadir Khumm when the Prophet (a.s) raised `Ali (a.s) on his hands, the tradition says, that it was raised so much that the whiteness of the armpit was visible. The reason was that the Prophet (a.s) was wearing only a chador on his shoulders, which moved away while he raised `Ali (a.s). 

Nawf al-Baqali says that he saw `Ali (a.s) wearing a shirt and wore a footwear made of the bark of date palm 

Ibn `Abbas says that he saw a torn footwear in the feet of `Ali (a.s) that he had also seen him repair. 

`Ata Abū-Muhammad says that he saw the Imam (a.s) wearing a cloak of rough cloth. 

Khalid Abū-Umayyah says that that the Imam’s loincloth was up to his knees.

`Abdullah ibn Abi-Hudhayl says that he saw on his shoulders a cloak made of rough cloth. The sleeves of the cloak were touching the tips of his fingers. 

`Abd al-Jabbar ibn Mughirah says that Ummu-Kathirah told him that she had seen `Ali (a.s) that his loincloth was of coarse cloth and he wore a cloak of coarse cloth as well. Over the cloak, he wore a scarf. 

Abul-`Ala’ the manumitted slave of Aslam says that he saw that `Ali (a.s) tied his loincloth above the umbilical region. 

Abū-Malikah says that he once went to the presence of the Imam (a.s) and saw that he had tied his cloak like the loincloth around his waist. Over the cloak, he had tied a rope to keep it in place.

Qudamah Ibn `Attab says that he saw the Imam (a.s) wearing a white woolen cloak and had wrapped around his shoulders red striped shawls of Qatari origin. He wore a headgear of fine cloth. 

Abū-²abyan says that he saw `Ali (a.s) wearing a yellow loincloth and was covering his shoulders with a flowery black shawl. 


Zayd ibn Wahab says that he saw the Imam (a.s) emerging out of his house and his loincloth was having several patches. 

Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Rahman says, 

“`Ali (a.s) wore his ring on the right hand.”[1]

`Ali (a.s) used to wear either ruby or turquoise on his rings. He also used Chinese Gold and sometimes cornelian for his rings. On the cornelian, there used to be the engraving, “almulku lillah (Kingdom is Allah’s)”. In some traditions, it is said that the engraving used to be, “lillahi almulku.” He used to keep a whip in his hand. While delivering a sermon he used to take the support of a bow or a sword. 

[1] Kifāyat al-Tālib, Page 25.


`Ali’s food habits too were very moderate and frugal. Generally, he took bread made out of unsieved barley flour and a sweet beverage prepared from parched barley meal. The accompaniment for the bread generally was a little salt; sometimes he took a little vinegar, and sometimes, green vegetables and at times milk. He ate very little meat. Ibn Abil-Hadid says:

“If he used anything with the bread, it used to be the salt or vinegar. Sometimes he ate greens. He rarely took camel’s milk with his food. He seldom ate meat and used to say that people should not make their tummies the Grave yard of animals!” 

Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s) says that `Ali (a.s) served meat and bread to his guests and he himself ate his bread with vinegar or olive oil. 

He used to keep bread and Sattu in a sealed bag. Someone said that he was living in Iraq, a land of plenty, and what was the need to seal his supply of food? The Imam (a.s) replied that he did not seal his stock of food for the reason of scarcity and the real reason was:


“I do not like to fill my tummy with a thing I do not know about!”[1] 

`Amr Harith says that once at noon time he had the privilege of visiting the Imam (a.s). He saw a sealed bag was placed in front of him. He took out a dried piece of bread from it, soaked in water, sprinkled a little salt over it and ate. Seeing the dry pieces of bread `Amr asked Fiddah at least she should sieve the flour and remove the chaff before kneading it for making the bread. Fiddah said that once she sieved the flour and the Imam (a.s) asked her not to do it again. Once she had put in the bag other eatables besides the dry bread, the Imam (a.s) started sealing the bag to avoid anyone putting other things in the bag. 

`Adi ibn Hatam says that once he saw dry pieces of barley bread, salt and a pitcher of water in front of `Ali (a.s), He said: 

[1] Al-Kāmil fit-Tārīkh 


“You are busy with jihad during the days and occupied with prayers in the nights. Is the food you are taking sufficient for your nutritive maintenance?” 

The Imam (a.s) looked at `Adi and said, “The psyche has to be trained for Mystic Exercise that it does not become rebellious.” Then he recited the following couplet: 

Make your psyche accustomed to contentment otherwise, it will have excessive desires![1] 

Suwayd ibn Ghaflah says that he went to the Imam (a.s) and saw that he had a bowl of sour yogurt in front of him and barley bread in his hand, which had flakes of barley chaff all over. He was breaking the bread, sometimes with his hand and others by putting it on his knee. Once he went to greet the Imam on `Id. He saw that `Ali (a.s) had bread and Khatifah. Suwayd asked the Imam (a.s), “Even on a festive occasion you eat such frugal food?” The Imam (a.s) replied,


“`Id is for those whom Allah has pardoned!”[2] 

The Imam (a.s) never ate two types of food at one time. If, at any time, various dishes were placed in front of him, he would mix and make them one. Therefore, at the time of a festival, several dishes were placed before him. He mixed portions of the different foods and made it one. Once he got food that had meat in it but not any oil. Someone suggested if some oil could be added to it. The Imam (a.s) replied,

“We do not eat two things at one time!”[3]

The Imam (a.s) always ensured this. During his last days, once his daughter Ummu-Kulthūm placed barley bread, salt and milk in front of him. He asked her to take away the bowl of milk and ate the bread with salt. 

In emulation of the Prophet (a.s), he abstained from things that Muhammad (a.s) avoided eating. Therefore, `Adi ibn Thabit says that once `Ali (a.s) was served a drink prepared from sieved flummery. He refused to take it; and said: 

“A thing that the Prophet (a.s) has not taken, I do not like to take!” 

[1] Manāqib ibn Shahrāshūb

[2] An Arab food that is prepared by boiling flour in milk.

[3] Kifāyat al-Tālib


While `Ali (a.s) avoided eating delicacies, never ate even the frugal fare to the fill. Ibn Abil-Hadid writes:

“He never ate to satiation of the appetite”[1 

While Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) emulated the Prophet (a.s) in other matters, he was meticulous in following his food habits as well. He took care of the minutest details of seating at the meals, the way of taking the morsels and the style of eating. Imam Ja`far al-Sadiq (a.s) says:


Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) was much like the Prophet (a.s) in his food habits and style of eating.” 

He used to wash his hands before and after eating. He used to say that hands became clean of oily deposit if they were washed. And the eyes become bright He used to sit on his knees with folded legs. He disapproved of putting one leg over the other and sitting cross-legged. He used to say bismillahi before starting to take food. He also said that if someone missed reciting this before starting to eat, he could do so in the midst of the meal as well. He used to commence the meal with a little salt. He used to wait for the food to cool down if it was served hot. He used all the five fingers of the right hand for eating. He always picked his morsel from the front instead of taking the hand to different sides of the platter. He never picked up Tharid (the pieces of bread soaked in gravy) from the center of the service and always took his share from the periphery. Of all the beverages, he preferred water and particularly the rainwater. He said that the rainwater wards away diseases and cleansed the digestive system. Instead of throwing away the crumbs of bread from the spread, he used to pick and eat them. He said that this practice cured illness. He never drank from the mouth of the pitcher nor from the broken side of any container. He did not like blowing over foods and drinks. Once he asked his servant, Muslim, to fetch a tumbler of water. When he came in front of the Imam (a.s), he blew over the water because there was some particle floating on the surface. The Imam (a.s) said, “Now! You drink this water and bring another tumbler for me!”


There are three phases in every human being’s life: childhood, youth and old age. There are different requirements in every phase of ones life. Childhood is for play. In this phase, the individual does not have full sense of things. The childish activities prove this. They cannot distinguish between right and wrong while at play

The aptitude of Abū-Talib’s son was different from the other children. He was never seen at childish games and play. He was away from other activities that children enjoy indulging in. His looks indicated courage, determination, and his actions dignity. His physical and mental activities were different from those of other children. The development of his physical identity was faster than that of the children of his age. He grew in a day as much as another child in a month. Therefore, his body was strong and the sense of comprehension far advanced. The author of Arja al-Matalib, Najmuddin Fakhr al-Islam Abū-Bakr ibn Muhammad al-Marandi writes in Manaqib al-Ashab about the reason for giving the name Haydar to `Ali (a.s) that while he was still a baby in arms, his mother once left him alone at home. The house was at the foot of a hill. A snake came down from the hill, came near the baby and started hissing. The baby caught the snake in one hand and pressed it until it died. When his mother came back, she noted the dead reptile in the hand of the baby and said, 

“O my tiger! May Allah keep you alive!” 

When he grew up and started walking around, he used to lift heavy stones with ease and bring them down from the top of the hills. He was fond of breaking the idols. 

According to the norms of Arab upbringing, Abū-Talib trained his children in archery, horse riding and wrestling. He used to gather his sons and nephews together and arrange their matches in these disciplines and taught them the finer points of the martial arts. `Ali (a.s), though he was the youngest of all, was never subdued by the others. He used to defeat all his brothers and cousins without any difficulty. This was a Divine Gift to him. Ibn Qutaybah writes: 


With whomsoever he wrestled, he defeated him![1] 

Besides this physical strength, `Ali (a.s) was far advanced in the development of his mental capabilities. He had a great sense of distinguishing between the right and wrong from his very childhood. He recognized the Real Creator (Allah) as soon as he opened his eyes. Living in the environment of idolatery, he never thought the idols fit for worship! When people were hesitant to accept Islam for long after the Prophet declared his Annunciation, he had understood its importance prior to this declaration. Therefore, he himself has said:

“I see the light of Revelation and Prophethood and get the Fragrance of Prophethood,”[2]

His high vision saw the light of Prophethood and smelled its fragrance. Even before the Annunciation of the Prophet (a.s), he made him his role model. Therefore, `Ali’s childhood, like his youth and old age, was a mountain of greatness. Viewing the period of his childhood, one understands that a great personality was in the making. This greatness was a gift from the Almighty Allah! 

[1] Al-Ma`ārif, Page 91

[2] Nahj al-Balāghah 


The ideal environment that `Ali ibn Abi-Talib had was his singular privilege. He opened his eyes in the lap of the Prophet of Islam (a.s), had his upbringing under his tutelage and spent his youth in his august company. He benefited from the Prophet’s fountainhead of learning and grew up under his care as Fatimah bint Asad says:

“When `Ali (a.s) was born, the Prophet (a.s) Gave him this name and made him suck his tongue. He dropped his saliva in the mouth of the baby and put his tongue in his mouth. Sucking the tongue, the baby slept. On the second day we searched for a foster mother, but `Ali (a.s) took away his mouth from the bosom of the women. We thought of Muhammad (a.s). He put his tongue in the mouth of the baby who then slept soundly. This went on until Allah desired it to be so.”[1] 

Although during the period of fosterage `Ali (a.s) had his mother’s care, but after weaning the Prophet (a.s) took up the responsibility. He used to give him the bath and spend hours taking him round in his arms. While awake, he used to sing lullabies to him. He took more care than the parents did in the upbringing of `Ali (a.s). At the age of six years `Ali (a.s) formally came under the care of the Prophet (a.s).The parents were relieved of his responsibility. The apparent reason of his coming totally under the tutelage of the Prophet (a.s) was that Makkah was passing through one of its worst droughts and Abū-Talib had difficulty of maintaining his large family. The Prophet (a.s), realizing his uncle’s straitened financial position, felt that he needed to be helped. He discussed the matter with his other uncle, `Abbas. He told him that Abū-Talib will not express about the difficulties himself. He said that Allah had endowed `Abbas with wealth and he could provide his brother some relief by sharing the burden along with the others in the family. `Abbas agreed with the suggestion and both of them went to Abū-Talib for a discussion. They suggested to him that they came to him with a proposal that they would share 

[1] Al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah, Dahlān, Page 176 


the burden of maintaining some of his children. In the beginning, he was hesitant, but in the end, he yielded. They decided that `Aqil would remain with Abū-Talib, and said that `Abbas was free to take other sons with him. Therefore, `Abbas took charge of Talib, Hamzah agreed to take up guardianship of Ja`far and the Prophet (a.s) himself requested his uncle to allow him to take the responsibility of `Ali (a.s). The fact is that from the Day of Creation `Ali (a.s) had been earmarked for him!

The drought came as a blessing in disguise for `Ali (a.s) that he came under the direct tutelage of the Prophet (a.s). Ibn Jarir al-tabari writes:

“It was Allah’s Blessing for `Ali (a.s) that the Quraysh suffered one of the worst droughts at the time. This way Allah accomplished what He had planned for `Ali (a.s)”[1]

It is natural that children do not want to be separated from their parents. But the Prophet’s love and affection did not let `Ali (a.s) feel much for the separation from his father and mother. He found his father’s affection in the affectionate looks of the Prophet (a.s). He received a wealth of joy and happiness under his loving care. The Prophet (a.s) used to feed the child with his own hands, made him sleep near himself. He took care of the child day and night and attended to all his needs himself. `Ali (a.s) himself says about his upbringing:

“I was still a child that the Prophet (a.s) took the responsibility of my upbringing. He used to keep me close to his chest. He made me sleep near him and made me smell his fragrance. He used to chew some food and then feed it to me.[2] 

This was an example of `Ali’s physical upbringing. But since the Prophet (a.s) was created by Allah for the moral uplift of the entire world, one can imagine the attention and training that he would provide to the one who has been specifically earmarked for his personal tutelage! On the one hand he was `Ali’s benefactor and on the other he was the Mentor for the Entire World. In these circumstances, definitely `Ali (a.s) would receive the best of training and upbringing imaginable! Therefore, the prophet (a.s) paid utmost attention to the development of the intellectual and moral development of his ward. `Ali (a.s) says about his moral training thus: 

[1] Tārīkh al-Tabarī, Vol 2, Page 57

[2] Nahj al-Balāghah


“I used to trail the Prophet (a.s) the way a she-camel’s little one trails it! Every day he used to raise the flags of good morals for me and used to order me to follow them!”[1]

This upbringing played such a role in the development of his personality that he was a replica of the Prophet (a.s) in morals, knowledgand action and was recognized as the reflection of his mentor’s qualities and excellence. Therefore, because of Divine Blessing and the august company of the Prophet (a.s), `Ali (a.s) was endowed with extraordinary qualities.

In his own words, Amir al-Mu’minin (a.s) has described thus: 

“In my chest is the knowledge that has been fed to me as bird feeds its little ones!” 

This allegory of `Ali (a.s) has lot of meaning and delicacy in it. As a bird, feeds the food stored in its beak to its off spring, the Prophet (a.s) transmitted all the knowledge, be it on Shari`ah, wisdom, Qur’an, Sunnah, Morals and statesmanship, evident and hidden, current or past, to `Ali’s chest. After completion of this training the Prophet (a.s) said, 

“I am the city of Knowledge and `Ali is its Gate!” 

The Prophet (a.s) very clearly indicated now that anyone desirous of acquiring his knowledge had compulsorily to go through `Ali (a.s). Is not it a fact that entry to any city has to be made through its gate! `Ali (a.s) is a personality whose knowledge is directly acquired from his mentor, the Prophet (a.s), and the Prophet’s knowledge is the direct Endowment from Allah!


[1] Nahj al-Balāghah


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