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The Reasons Behind `Al¢'s Taking the Lead

The Reasons Behind `Al¢'s Taking the Lead

The Reasons Behind `Al¢'s Taking the Lead

(1) The Holy Prophet explicitly referred to `Al¢'s pioneering in accepting Islam. At the presence of a group of Muslims, he declared:

The first person among you who will meet me at the side of the heavenly fountain [Kawthar], on the Resurrection day, will be `Al¢, who is the first among you who accepted Islam.[1]

(2) Great and well-known narrators report that Mu¦ammad (¥) became a prophet on Monday and `Al¢ prayed with him on Tuesday.[2]

(3) Imam `Al¢ (s), concerning this issue, remarks:

On that day, Islam had not yet entered the house of the Holy Prophet and Khad¢jah: I was the third one after them. I could vividly see the light of prophethood and smell its fragrance.[3]

(4) Elsewhere, Imam `Al¢ (s) refers to his pioneering in Islam:

O God, I am the only person who answered the Prophet's call and turned to You. Except for the Prophet, nobody else prayed You before me.[4]

(5) Imam `Al¢ (s) says elsewhere:

I am God's servant and the brother of the trustworthy Prophet. I prayed with him seven years prior to the others. Nobody may deny it except for a wicked liar.[5]

(6)  `Ufayf ibn Qays al-Kind¢ says:

During the Ignorance Era, I used to be a trader of perfumes. On one of my journeys, I entered Mecca and visited `Abb¡s, one of the Meccan merchants and the Prophet's uncle, on an extremely hot day. A young man whose face was as bright as the moon came. He looked up at the sky, stood in the direction of the Kaaba and started praying. After a short time, another good-looking young man arrived, stood next to him and started praying. Then a veiled woman arrived, stood behind them and started praying. I was astonished to see three persons praying at the center of the idolaters. I turned my face toward `Abb¡s and exclaimed, “What restful scenery!” He repeated my sentence and added, “Do you recognize these three?” I replied, No, I do not.” He said, “The first person was my nephew, Mu¦ammad ibn `Abdull¡h; the second was my other nephew, `Al¢ ibn Ab¢-±¡lib; the third was Mu¦ammad's wife. Mu¦ammad claims that his religion has come from Allah. Now, these are the only believers in this religion on the entire earth.”[6]

This issue vividly shows that at the beginning of the spread of Islam, it was Imam `Al¢ who joined the Prophet after Khad¢jah. Pioneering in the acceptance of Islam is a value which the Holy Qur’¡n has highly stressed:

And the foremost are the foremost; these are they who are drawn near to Allah. (56:10-11)

The Holy Qur’¡n also considers of great value the conversion to Islam of those who, prior to the conquest of Mecca, sacrificed their lives and wealth  for God’s sake and accepted the new religion:

…not alike; among you are those who spent before the victory and fought. They are more exalted in rank than those who spent and fought afterwards; and Allah has promised good to all; and Allah is aware of what you do. (57:10)

The significance of conversions to Islam prior to the conquest of Mecca (which occurred at the eighth year AH) lies in the fact that they accepted Islam at a time when it was not yet powerful and when Mecca was still the stronghold for the idolaters and Muslims' lives and wealth were at risk from permanent danger. Of course, Muslims achieved some security after their migration to Medina and the acceptance of Islam by the two tribes of Aws and Khazraj and the other neighboring tribes; in later military conflicts, Muslims were triumphant. However, the environment was still dangerous. For these reasons, the acceptance of Islam under those perilous and turbulent times was quite significant. Such early acceptance of Islam was a great honor for the Prophet's close followers. Having this in mind, we will realize how important Imam `Al¢'s early acceptance could have been.

The Pioneer Groups in Acceptance of Islam

Among the social groups of those days, two groups pioneered in accepting Islam:

A) The youth

A cursory look at the list of the early Muslims indicates that most of them were youth. Elderly people were conservative; idolatry was deeply rooted in them. Due to their bright minds, the youth were more ready to accept the new faith—a fact applying to religious revelations.

On the basis of a historical report, during the early days of the secret invitation to Islam, there were groups of youth and destitute people who joined Islam.[7] When the Holy Prophet started his public invitation and when his followers increased in number, people of Quraysh complained to Ab£-±¡lib about Mu¦ammad, saying, “We have come to you several times to ask you to ask your nephew to stop cursing our ancestors and idols and seducing our children, men, women, and servants into the new faith...”[8]

On the Holy Prophet's journey to ±¡’if for the propagation of Islam, the noblemen refused to accept Islam for fear that their youth might follow Mu¦ammad.[9] After the migration to Abyssinia, representatives of Quraysh went to the royal court of the Abyssinian king, al-Naj¡sh¢, to force these Muslims to return home. In that court, there were some complaints regarding the spread of Islam among the youth of Mecca.[10]

A man from the Hudhayl tribe entered Mecca and the Holy Prophet invited him to Islam. Ab£-Jahl warned him, saying, “Never listen to Mu¦ammad; this man considers us stupid and says that our dead parents would go to hell. Besides, he utters nonsense.” The man asked, “How come you don’t expel him from your city?” Ab£-Jahl replied, “If he is expelled, our youth will go after him and listen to his flowery speech and then they will attack us.”[11]

`Utbah, a dignitary of Quraysh, complained to Asad ibn Zur¡rah, a nobleman from the Khazraj tribe in Yathrib, about the inclinations of the youth towards the Holy Prophet.[12]

An investigation of the list of the early Muslims shows that most of them were under thirty years of age. For instance, Sa`d ibn Ab¢-Waqq¡¥ was either seventeen[13] or nineteen[14] years old; al-Zubayr ibn al-`Aww¡m was fifteen[15] or sixteen;[16] `Abd al-Ra¦m¡n ibn `Awf was thirty; he was born ten years after the Elephant Year.[17] Mu¥`ab ibn `Umayr was nearly twenty-five years old; at the time of his martyrdom at the Battle of U¦ud that took place at the third year after Hegira, he was nearly forty years old.[18] Arqam, who submitted his house to the Prophet, was between twenty and thirty years old; when he died in 55 AH, he was eighty years old.[19]

B) The Deprived and the Oppressed

By these two expressions, so prevalent in the Islamic sources, is meant the freed slaved who, despite superficial freedom, had some relationships with their previous owners. They were called mawl¡ meaning made free. Another group of these oppressed ones was the strangers who had come to Mecca from other places to live. Since they lacked tribal associations, they had to be under the protection of a certain tribe in order for them to be secured. They did not enjoy the same rights that members of Quraysh had. They were socially disadvantaged.

This group, who had no tribe in Mecca to be affiliated with and who lacked power, represented the pioneers in the acceptance of Islam.[20] Their conversion to Islam was not tolerated by the infidels, according to a narration; whenever the Holy Prophet (s) sat in the Holy Precinct with his oppressed followers—such as `Amm¡r ibn Y¡sir, Khabb¡b ibn al-Aratt, ¯uhayb ibn Sin¡n, Bil¡l, Ab£-Fukayhah and Am¢r ibn Fuhayrah—they were ridiculed by people of Quraysh who sarcastically remarked, “Look at his companions! God has chosen from among us these bare-footed individuals who have adopted Islam!”[21]

The chiefs of Quraysh, once, passed by a gathering which the Holy Prophet had held with ¯uhayb, Khabb¡b, Bil¡l, `Amm¡r and some others. Observing this, they addressed the Holy Prophet, saying, “Mu¦ammad! Have you selected only this few from among your nation and you are happy with them? Should we follow this group? Has God only guided this group? If you dismiss this group, we might then be your followers.” At this time, the following Qur'¡nic verses were revealed:

And do not drive away those who call upon their Lord in the morning and the evening, they desire only His favor; neither are you answerable for any reckoning of theirs, nor are they answerable for any reckoning of yours, so that you should drive them away and thus be of the unjust.

And thus, so We try some of them by others so that they say: Are these they upon whom Allah has conferred benefit from among us? Does not Allah best know the grateful? (6:52-53)

During the first years of his mission, people of Quraysh dispatched some representatives to ask about the Holy Prophet. They went to the Jews: “We have come here to seek your advice regarding the event that is taking place in our town. A young orphan thinks that he has been sent by Ra¦m¡n (the All-beneficent God); and we do not know any person by this name except for one living in Yam¡mah.” The Jew asked for the characteristics of the Holy Prophet: “Who are his followers?” They replied, “The lowliest persons!” The great Jewish scholar replied smilingly, “This is the same Prophet whose signs are predicted in our Holy Book. His nation will be his worst enemies.”[22]

Of course, the rapid inclinations of the oppressed towards Islam did not mean securing the interests or benefits of special social classes; rather, they implied the negation of the worldly domination of man over man; they implied the adoption of Allah's government and domination—an immediate threat to the power of the aggressors and oppressors that excited their severe opposition. This matter had happened with the previous prophets as well:

But the chiefs of those who disbelieved from among his people said:  We consider you but a mortal like ourselves, and we do not see who have followed you but those who are the meanest of us at first thought and we do not see in you any excellence over us; nay, we deem you liars. (11:27)

The chief of those who behaved proudly among his people said to those considered weak to those who believed from among them: Do you know that ¯¡li¦ is sent by his Lord? They said: Surely, we are believers in what he has been sent with. (7:75-76)

[1] Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Is¢`¡b 3:28; Ibn Ab¢’l-°ad¢d, op cit, 13:229; al-°¡kim al-Nays¡b£r¢, al-Mustadrak `Al¡’l-¯a¦¢¦ayn 2:81, °alab¢, op cit, 1:432. In some narrations, we read, “The first to join the Divine Pond (on the Resurrection Day) will be the first to accept Islam; namely, `Al¢ ibn Ab¢-±¡lib.” See °alab¢, op cit, pp. 432.

[2] Ibn `Abd al-Barr, op cit, pp. 32; Ibn al-Ath¢r, al-K¡mil f¢’l-T¡r¢kh 2:57. Al-°¡kim al-Nays¡b£r¢ (al-Mustadrak `Al¡’l-¯a¦¢¦ayn 3:112) has recorded this narration in two ways, “Allah’s Messenger received prophethood…” and “Allah’s Messenger received the Divine Revelation on Monday.” In some narrations, we will read, “The Prophet received prophethood on Monday, and `Al¢ accepted Islam on Tuesday.” See, Ibn Ab¢’l-°ad¢d, op cit, pp. 229; al-Juwayn¢, Far¡'id al-Sim§ayn. Emphasizing the same issue, Imam `Al¢ used to remark, “Allah’s Messenger received the Divine Message on Monday, and I accepted Islam on Tuesday.” See al-Suy£§¢, T¡r¢kh al-Khulaf¡', pp. 166; Mu¦ammad al-¯abb¡n, Is`¡f al-R¡ghib¢n, pp. 148; Ibn °ajar, al-¯aw¡`iq al-Mu¦riqah.

[3] Nahj al-Bal¡ghah, Sermon 192.

[4] Ibid, Sermon 131.

[5] ±abar¢, op cit, 2:212; Ibn al-Ath¢r, al-K¡mil f¢’l-T¡r¢kh.

The same issue is brought up in al-Mustadrak `Al¡’l-¯a¦¢¦ayn 3:112; Ibn Ab¢’l-°ad¢d, Shar¦ Nahj al-Bal¡ghah 13:200, 228; Ibn Mardawayh, Man¡qib `Al¢ ibn Ab¢-±¡lib, pp 47-48.

[6] ±abar¢, op cit, 2:212; Ibn Ab¢’l-°ad¢d, op cit, 13:226. Ibn Ab¢’l-°ad¢d has reported the same from `Abdull¡h ibn Mas`£d. Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Is¢`¡b 3:165; Ibn Is¦¡q, al-Siyar wa’l-Magh¡z¢, pp. 137-138; al-Kar¡jak¢, Kanz al-Faw¡'id 1:262. For further information concerning Ali's pioneering in the acceptance of Islam, see al-Ghad¢r 2:214, 3:220-224.

[7] Ibn Sa`d, Al-±abaq¡t al-Kubr¡ 1:199.

[8] al-Bul¡dhar¢, Ans¡b al-Ashr¡f 1:299; Bi¦¡r al-Anw¡r 18:185.

[9] Ibn Sa`d, op cit, pp. 212.

[10] Ibn Hush¡m, op cit, 1:358; ±abars¢, I`l¡m al-War¡, pp. 44; Sib§ ibn al-Jawz¢, Tadhkirat al-Khaw¡¥¥, pp. 186.

[11] al-Bul¡dhar¢, op cit, pp. 128.

[12] ±abars¢, op cit, pp. 56.

[13] Ibn Sa`d, op cit, 3:139.

[14] °alab¢, al-S¢rah al-°alabiyyah 1:446.

[15] °alab¢, op cit, 1:434.

[16] Ibn Sa`d, op cit, 3:102.

[17] op cit, pp. 124.

[18] Ibn Sa`d, op cit, 3:222.

[19] Ibn Sa`d, op cit, 3:244. `Abd al-Muta`¡l al-¯a`¢d¢ al-Mi¥r¢ has written a book entitled Youth of Quraysh in the Beginning of Islam (pp. 33-34) in which he has introduced forty young men from Quraysh who had pioneered in accepting Islam. In his list, Imam `Al¢ is the first.

[20] al-Bul¡dhar¢, op cit, 1:156, pp. 181, see Al-±abaq¡t al-Kubr¡ 3:248.

[21] Op cit.

[22] Ibn Sa`d, op cit, 1:164; °alab¢, op cit, 1:499.

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