How Imam Ali (AS) Achieved A Central Place In Muslim Imagination

Khatam an-Nabiyyin Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) lives in the hearts of millions across the globe. His followers, the adherents of Islam today constitute the world’s second-largest religion. As the nearest and dearest person to the exemplary Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Hazrat Ali (AS) stood beside his noble cousin through every thick and thin. The Prophet (PBUH) requested Ali (AS) to wear his mantle and to sleep in his place, in order to foil the malicious plans of those who wanted to harm him and to facilitate his Hejira (Migration) from Makkah to Madinah.

It was after this incident, which reflected the deep devotion, courage and commitment of Imam Ali (AS) towards the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) and his divine mission, that the archangel Gabriel conveyed the news: “O son of Abu Talib, there is none like you...”

Hazrat Ali (AS) was born to Abu Talib ibn Abd al-Muttalib and was blessed to have been brought up and nurtured by Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) himself from the tender age of five. As daughters are said to be closest to a father’s heart, the Prophet (PBUH) trusted Hazrat Ali with his heart, marrying him to his precious daughter Hazrat Fatima al-Zahra (AS).

Hazrat Ali (AS) was not only his son-in-law of the Prophet (PBUH), he was also his closest associate and among the very first individuals to have accepted Islam.

Observing world history, one sees that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Hazrat Ali (AS) achieved leadership not through might or inheritance but only because of their outstanding qualities.

Their life inspired millions and their contribution to humanity cannot be limited to any particular time or place. And their life stories, their works and their sayings continue to inspire and motivate people in generations after generation.

Hazrat Ali (AS) was brought up by the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), under his direct guardianship and was elevated to such a stage that it would be no exaggeration to say that he is Islam’s gift to humanity.

The chivalry of Ali (AS), which is noticeable from the very first battle of Badr, shines brighter than any of the other noble companions of the Prophet (PBUH). He came to be known for his victories as a champion of the Muslim forces in single-combat duels before battles. Yet he used to work in agricultural fields, planting trees, digging water channels and distributing his earnings to help the needy.

Upon the assassination of the third caliph, Hazrat Usman (RA) in 656 AD, he came to power in the new Muslim polity.

But soon after Hazrat Ali (AS) became the fourth caliph, his rule was challenged by the Levant's governor Emir Muawiyah. This rivalry also allegedly led to the murder of Imam Ali (AS) on the morning of the 19th of Ramzan, 661 AD.

After the death of Hazrat Ali (AS), his son Imam Hassan (AS) and Emir Muawiyah reached a pact to avoid further bloodshed.

Hazrat Hassan (AS) ceded the caliphate to Emir Muawiyah only on the strict principle that the latter could name no successor during his reign. Instead, he was to permit the Muslim community to choose his successor, as had been the practice earlier on.

However, after Hazrat Hasan’s (AS) death, in 676 AD, Emir Muawiyah nominated his son Yazid as successor, a move seen as a brazen breach of the Hassan–Muawiya treaty.

The new caliph Yazid was responsible for three major episodes of carnage during his caliphate: the death of Imam Husayn (AS) and his followers at the Battle of Karbala, the aftermath of the Battle of al-Harrah, in which the troops of Yazid’s general Muslim ibn Uqba pillaged the town of Madinah; and the burning of the Kaaba during the siege of Makkah itself.

In November 683 AD, his brutal and divisive rule came to an end.

A few generations after Yazid, it came to be that Umayyad dynasty authority collapsed throughout the caliphate. But the sacrifice of the family of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) for enlightened principles of democracy and justice continues to guide generations.