300 HUNDRED VERSES IN PRAISE OF ALI
Well-Wisher: I haven’t falsely attributed verses of the Holy Qur’an in praise of Ali. You are confused. Can you ignore the fact that well known commentaries and reliable books written by your own ulema mentioned many verses of the Holy Qur’an to be in praise of Ali? How can you regard it as being peculiar to me? Were Hafiz Abu Na’im Ispahani, the author of “Ma Nazala mina’l-Qur’an Fi Ali,” and Hafiz Abu Bakr Shirazi, the author of “Nuzulu’l-Qur’an Fi Ali,” Shias? Were the great commentators, like Imam Tha’labi, Jalalu’d-din Suyuti, Tabari, Imam Fakhru’d-Din Razi, and other high-ranking ulema, like Ibn Kathir, Muslim, Hakim, Tirmidhi, Nisa’i, Ibn Maja, Abu Dawud, Ahmad Bin Hanbal, and even the intolerant Ibn Hajar, who collected in his Sawa’iq the verses of the Holy Qur’an revealed in praise of Ali, Shias? Some of the ulema, like Tabari, and Muhammad Bin Yusuf Ganji Shafi’i, in the beginning of his Part 62, narrating on the authority of Ibn Abbas, and Muhaddith of Syria in his Ta’rikh-e-Kabir, and others have recorded as many as 300 hundred verses of the Holy Qur’an in praise of Ali. Were these men Shias or did they belong to your great ulema? We do not need to falsely attribute a verse of the Holy Qur’an for proving the rank of the Commander of the Faithful, Ali. His enemies (Amawis, Nawasib, and Khawarij) suppress his virtues, and his friends hesitate to report his excellence for fear of consequences. Still, books are full of his merits, and they cast light on all aspects of his attainment. So far as this verse is concerned, I have not indulged in “rhetorical cleverness.” I have revealed the truth, arguing from your own books. You have observed so far that I have not argued from the reports of Shia authors. Even if Shia books are left aside, I will prove Ali’s unique superiority. What I have said regarding this verse agrees with the views of your own ulema. Muhammad Bin Yusuf Ganji Shafi’i, quoted the “Hadith of Similarity” in his Kifayatu’t-Talib, Chapter 23, from the Prophet to the effect that Ali was similar to the prophets. He says that the reason Ali was called similar to Noah in wisdom was that Ali was vehement against the unbelievers and kind to the believers. Allah has mentioned these attributes in the Holy Qur’an. Ali, who was always with the Prophet, was “vehement against the infidels and compassionate to the believers.” And supposing, as Sheikh Sahib says, that the phrase “and those who are with him” refers to Abu Bakr because he remained for a few days with the Prophet in the cave. Can such a man equal him who remained with the Holy Prophet from childhood and received instruction from him?
ALI FIRST TO DECLARE BELIEF
IN PROPHET OF ALLAH
Moreover, on the crucial occasion of the declaration of his prophethood, no one supported Muhammad except Ali. Your eminent ulema, like Bukhari and Muslim, in their Sahihain, Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal in his Musnad, and many others, such as Ibn Abdi’l-Birr in Isti’ab, Volume III, page 32, Imam Abu Abdu’r-Rahman Nisa’i in Khasa’isu’l-Alawi, Sibt Ibn Jauzi in Tadhkira, page 63, Sheikh Sulayman Balkhi Hanafi in Yanabiu’l-Mawadda, Chapter 12, on the authority of Tirmidhi and Muslim, Muhammad bin Talha Shafi’i in Matalibu’s-Su’ul, sub-chapter I, Ibn Abi’l-Hadid in Sharh Nahju’l-Balagha, Volume III, p. 258, Tirmidhi in
Jam’-e-Tirmidhi, Volume II, page 314, Hamwaini in Fara’id, Mir Seyyed Ali Hamadani in Mawaddatu’l-Qurba, and even the fanatical Ibn Hajar in Sawa’iq-e-Muhriqa, and other prominent scholars have, with slight variation of words, related from Anas Bin Malik and others that “the Holy Prophet was ordained Prophet of Allah on Monday and Ali, declared his faith in him on Tuesday.” It is also narrated that “The prophethood of Allah was declared on Monday and Ali offered prayers with the Holy Prophet on Tuesday.” And again, “Ali was the first man who declared his faith in the Prophet.” Also Tabari, Ibn Abi’l-Hadid, Tirmidhi, and others narrate from Ibn Abbas that “Ali was the first to offer prayers.”
TRAINING OF ALI FROM CHILDHOOD
BY THE HOLY PROPHET
I ask you to consider what your own learned theologian, Nuru’d-din Bin Sabbagh Maliki in his Fusulu’l-Muhimma, Chapter “Tarbiatu’n-Nabi,” page 16, and Muhammad Bin Talha Shafi’i in his Matalibu’s-Su’ul, Chapter 1, page 11, and others have reported. During a famine in Mecca, the Prophet told his uncle, Abbas, that the latter’s brother, Abu Talib, had too many children and that his means of livelihood were narrow. Muhammad recommended that each of them ask Abu Talib for one child to support so that the heavy burden on him would be reduced. Abbas agreed. They went to Abu Talib with their offer, and he accepted. Abbas took Ja’far-e-Tayyar under his guardianship, and the Prophet took Ali. Maliki continues, “Ali remained continuously with the Holy Prophet until the latter was formally declared the Prophet of Allah.” Ali declared his belief in him, and followed him as a prophet of Allah when Ali was only thirteen. He was the first male to accept Islam. The Prophet’s wife Khadija was the only person to accept the Prophet before Ali. In the same chapter, Maliki reports that Ibn Abbas, Jabir Ibn Abdullah Ansari, Zaid Ibn Arqam, Muhammad Ibn Munkadar, and Rabi’atu’l-Mara’i said that the first person after Khadija who believed in the Prophet was Ali. He says that Ali referred to this fact, which has been narrated by your ulema. He said: “Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah, is my brother and son of my uncle; Hamza, the chief of the martyrs, is my uncle; Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet, is my wife; and his daughter’s two sons are my sons by Fatima. Who of you has shared such distinction as I have? I was the foremost in accepting Islam when I was only a child. The Prophet declared on the day of Ghadir-e-Khum that it was obligatory to accept me as your guide. (Then he said three times) ‘Woe be to him who faces Allah tomorrow (on the Day of Judgement), if he has subjected me to cruelty.'” Muhammad Bin Talha Shafi’i in his Matalibu’s-Su’ul, Part 1, Chapter 1, page 11, and many others of your learned men, have reported that these statements were in reply to Mu’awiya’s letter to Ali, in which the former had boasted that his father was the chief of his tribe during the “time of ignorance,” and that in Islam he (Mu’awiya) was the King. Mu’awiya also said that he was the “maternal uncle of the faithful,” the “writer of the Wahi” (revelations), and a man of virtuous merits.” After reading the letter, Ali said: “A man of his character – the son of the woman who chewed livers – boasts before me! (in reference to Mu’awiya’s mother, Hind, who, after the Battle of Uhud, in a fit of rage, ripped open the dead body of Hamza, tore out his liver, and chewed it). Mu’awiya, even though he was bitterly opposed to Ali, could not deny these merits.
Moreover, Hakim Abu’l-Qasim Haskani, one of your learned ulema, narrates from Abdu’r-Rahman Bin Auf, regarding the above verse of the ten Quraish who accepted Islam, that Ali was the foremost among them. Ahmad Bin Hanbal, Khatib Khawarizmi, and Sulayman Balkhi Hanafi narrate from Anas bin Malik that the Prophet said: “The angels blessed me and Ali for seven years, for during that time no voice proclaimed the oneness of Allah except mine and Ali’s.” Ibn Abi’l-Hadid Mu’tazali, in Sharh-e-Nahju’l-Balagha, Volume I, pages 373-5, recorded several hadith narrated through your scholars to the effect that Ali was the foremost of all others in the matter of Islam. After recording the various versions and narrations he concludes: “So the sum total of what we have stated is that Ali is the first of all men regarding Islam. The view contrary to it is rare and not worth our attention.”
Imam Abu Abdu’r-Rahman Nisa’i, author of one of the six books of authentic hadith, has recorded in Khasa’isu’l-Alawi the first six hadith on this topic and has confirmed that the foremost person in Islam and the first to offer prayers with the Prophet was Ali. In addition, Sheikh Sulayman Balkhi Hanafi in Yanabiu’l-Mawadda, Chapter 12, recorded 31 hadith from Tirmidhi, Hamwaini, Ibn Maja, Ahmad bin Hanbal, Hafiz Abu Nu’aim, Imam Tha’labi, Ibn Maghazili, Abu’l-Muwayyid Khawarizmi, and Dailami, the conclusion of which is that Ali was the first in the entire Muslim community to have accepted Islam. Even the intolerant Ibn Hajar Makki has in Sawa’iq Muhriqa, Chapter 2, recorded hadith on the same issue, some of which have been accepted by Sulayman Balkhi Hanafi in his Yanabiu’l-Mawadda. Further, in Yanabiu’l-Mawadda, towards the close of chapter 12, he related from Ibn Zubair, Makki and he from Jabir Ibn Abdullah Ansari, a hadith about Ali’s merits, which I would like to present here with your permission in order to conclude my argument. The Prophet said: “Allah Almighty chose me as a Prophet and revealed sacred scriptures to me. I said to Him, ‘O Allah,
My master, You sent Moses to Pharaoh, Moses asked you to make his brother, Aaron, his vizier to strengthen his hand, so that his words might be witnessed. Now I ask you, O Allah, that you appoint for me from among my family a vizier who may strengthen my hand. Make Ali my vizier and brother, infuse gallantry into his heart, and give him power over the enemy. Ali was the first person to believe in me and to witness my prophethood and the first person to declare the oneness of Allah along with me.’ Afterward I continued to pray to Allah. Therefore, Ali is the chief of the successors. To follow him is a blessing; to die in obedience to him is martyrdom. His name appears in the Torah along with my name; his wife, the most truthful, is my daughter; his two sons, who are the chiefs of the Youth of Paradise, are my sons. After them all the Imams are vicegerents of Allah over His creation after the prophets; and they are the doors of knowledge among my people. He who follows them is rescued from Hellfire; he who follows them is guided to the right path; he who is endowed by Allah with love for them will surely be sent to Paradise. So, enlightened people, take heed.”
I could quote similar hadith all night, all of which have been recorded by your own scholars. But I think this is enough. Ali alone associated with the Holy Prophet from childhood, and therefore it is fitting that we consider him the person referred to in the words “those who are with him,” and not the one who accompanied the Prophet on a few days’ journey.
ALI’S FAITH WHILE ONLY A CHILD
Hafiz: You have proven your point, and no one has ever denied that Ali was foremost in accepting Islam. But this fact does not qualify him as pre-eminent in comparison with other companions. True, the high caliphs professed faith in Islam years after Ali, but their faith was different from his and better. The reason is that Ali was only a child, and these people were mature. Obviously, the faith of older, wise men was superior to that of a child. In addition, Ali’s faith was only blind following, and the faith of these people was based on reason. Faith acquired by reason is better than blind faith. Since a child, who is not under a religious obligation to perform duties, does not profess faith except by blind following, so Ali, who was only a child of thirteen, professed his faith only through blind following.
Well-Wisher: Such talk is really surprising coming from a learned man like you. I wonder how to refute such an argument. If I were to say that you adopt such a position out of malice, it would be against my disposition to attribute such a motive to a learned man. Let me put a question to you: was Ali’s acceptance of Islam based on his personal wish or on the invitation of the Prophet?
Hafiz: Why do you take such a severe view of the way we talk since, when we have doubts, we must discuss them. In reply to your question, I admit that Ali accepted Islam at the invitation of the Holy Prophet.
Well-Wisher: When the Prophet invited Ali to accept Islam, did the former know a child is not bound by religious commitments? If you say that he did not know it, you attribute ignorance to him, and if he did know it and invited Ali anyway, then his action was absurd. Obviously, to attribute absurdity to the Prophet is infidelity since a prophet is infallible. Allah says about him in the Holy Qur’an: “Nor does he speak out of desire. It is naught but revelation that is revealed.” (53:3-4)
The Prophet considered Ali a person worthy to be invited to accept Islam. Apart from this, youth does not necessarily preclude wisdom. Maturity is taken into consideration concerning discharge of religious obligations, but not for matters connected with wisdom. Faith is concerned with matters relating to wisdom and not religious laws. So Ali’s faith during childhood is a virtue for him just as Allah tells us in the Holy Qur’an about Jesus in these words: “He said: Surely I am a servant of Allah; He has given me the Book and made me a prophet.” (19:30) Also in this chapter He says about Prophet Yahya: “…and We granted him wisdom while yet a child.” (19:12)
Seyyed Ali Humairi Yamani, (died 179 A.H.), points to the same fact in his couplets. He says: “Just as Yahya reached the rank of prophethood in his childhood, Ali, who was the successor of the Prophet and the father of his sons, was also ordained Vicegerent of Allah and guardian of the people while only a child.”
Virtue and dignity bestowed by Allah do not depend on age. Wisdom and intelligence depend upon an inborn tendency. I am surprised by your comment since such arguments were made by the Nasibis and Kharijis at the instigation of the Umayyads. They denigrated Ali’s faith as being mere blind adherence to what he was taught. Even your own scholars have acknowledged Ali’s merit in this respect. Muhammad Bin Talha Shafi’i, Ibn Sabbagh Maliki, Ibn Abi’l-Hadid and others have quoted Ali’s couplets. In one of his couplets he says: “I was first and foremost among you in embracing Islam when I was only a small child.” If Ali’s faith at such a tender age had not been meritorious, the Prophet would not have characterized it as such. Sulayman Balkhi Hanafi in his Yanabiu’l-Mawadda, Chapter 55, page 202, narrates from Ahmad Bin Abdullah Shafi’i, quoting from the second Caliph, Umar Bin Khattab, who said, “Abu Bakr, Abu Ubaida Jarra, and a group of people were present in the company of the Prophet of Allah when he patted Ali on the shoulder and said: ‘O Ali! You are the first and foremost among all believers and Muslims in embracing Islam. You are to me as Aaron was to Moses.'”
Also Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal narrates from Ibn Abbas, who said that he, Abu Bakr, Abu Ubaida Bin Jarra, and others were with the Prophet when he put his hand on Ali’s shoulder and said: “You are foremost in faith in Islam among all the Muslims, and you are to me as Aaron was to Moses, O Ali! He who thinks he is my friend while he is your enemy is a liar.”
Ibn Sabbagh Maliki records a similar hadith in Fusulu’l-Muhimma, p. 125, from Khasa’isu’l-Alawi as a narration of Abdullah bin Abbas, and Imam Abu Abdu’r-Rahman Nisa’i reports in Khasa’isu’l-Alawi that he said: “I have heard Umar bin Khattab saying ‘Mention Ali’s name with respect because I have heard the Prophet saying that Ali has three qualities. I (Umar) wished that I had only one of them because each of those qualities is dearer to me than anything in this world.'”
Ibn Sabbagh has narrated the following in addition to what others have recorded. The Holy Prophet said about Ali, “He who loves you loves me, and he who loves me, Allah loves him, and whomever Allah loves, He brings to Paradise. But he who is hostile to you is hostile to me, and he who is hostile to me, Allah is hostile to him and condemns him to Hell.”
Ali’s declaring himself a Muslim even while he was still a boy establishes the excellence of his wisdom and merit, which no other Muslim can attain. Tabari in his Ta’rikh quotes from Muhammad Bin Sa’ad Bin Abi Waqqas, who said: “I asked my father whether Abu Bakr was the first of the Muslims. He said, ‘No, more than fifty people embraced Islam before Abu Bakr; but he was superior to us as a Muslim.'” He also writes that Umar Bin Khattab embraced Islam after forty-five men and twenty-one women. “As for the foremost one in the matter of Islam and faith, it was Ali Bin Abi Talib.”
ALI’S FAITH WAS PART OF HIS VERY NATURE
Besides the fact that Ali was foremost in embracing Islam, he possessed another merit, peculiar to him, and more important than his other merits: Ali’s Islam derived from his nature, while that of others occurred only after previous unbelief. Unlike other Muslims and companions of the Prophet, Ali was never an unbeliever. Hafiz Abu Nu’aim Ispahani in his Ma Nazalu’l-Qur’an Fi Ali, and Mir Seyyed Ali Hamadani in Mawaddatu’l-Qurba narrate that Ibn Abbas said, “I swear by Allah that there was no one who had not worshipped idols before embracing Islam except Ali. He accepted Islam without having ever worshipped the idols.”
Muhammad Bin Yusuf Ganji Shafi’i in his Kifayatu’t-Talib, Chapter 24, quotes the Prophet as saying, “Those who took the lead in accepting faith in the oneness of Allah among the followers of the Prophets were three people who were never polytheists: Ali Bin Abu Talib, the man in the Sura Ya Sin, and the believer of the people of Pharaoh. The Truthful Ones are Habib-e-Najjar, among the descendants of Ya Sin, Ezekiel among the descendants of Pharaoh, and Ali Bin Abu Talib, who excelled all of them.” Mir Seyyed Ali Hamadani in Mawaddatu’l-Qurba, Mawadda 7, Khatib Khawarizmi in Manaqib, and Imam Tha’labi in his Tafsir narrate from the second Caliph, Umar Bin Khattab: “I bear witness that I heard the Prophet say, ‘If the seven heavens were put in one balance and Ali’s faith in the other, Ali’s faith would surely outweigh the other.'”
The same point has been included in couplets composed by Sufyan bin Mus’ab bin Kufi as follows: “By Allah, I bear witness that the Prophet said to us: ‘It should not remain unknown to anyone that if the faith of all those living on the earth were placed in one scale of the balance and that of Ali in the other scale, Ali’s faith would outweigh the other.'”
ALI EXCELLED ALL OTHER COMPANIONS
AND THE WHOLE COMMUNITY IN MERIT
Mir Seyyed Ali Hamadani Shafi’i has recorded many hadith in his Mawaddatu’l-Qurba, which supported Ali’s excellence. In the seventh Mawadda he quotes from Ibn Abbas that the Holy Prophet said, “The best of men of all the worlds in my period is Ali.”
Most of your fair-minded ulema have accepted the superiority of Ali. Ibn Abi’l-Hadid in his Sharh Nahju’l-Balagha, Volume 111, page 40, says that Abu Ja’far Iskafi, the chief of the Mu’tazilite sect, declared that Bashr Bin Mu’tamar, Abu Musa, Ja’far Bin Mubashshir, and other ulema of Baghdad believed that, “The most excellent person among all Muslims was Ali Bin Abu Talib, and after him his son Hasan, then his son Husain, after him Hamza, and after him Ja’far Bin Abi Talib.” He goes on to say that his master Abu Abdullah Basri, Sheikh Abu’l-Qasim Balkhi, and Sheikh Abu’l-Hasan Khayyat had the same belief as Abu Ja’far Iskafi regarding the superiority of Ali. He explains the faith of the Mu’tazilite sect saying: “The best of the men after the Prophet of Allah, is the successor of the Prophet, the husband of Fatima, Ali; after him, his two sons, Hasan and Husain; after them, Hamza, and after him Ja’far (Tayyar).
Sheikh: If you knew the statements of the ulema in support of the excellence of Abu Bakr, you would not have made such remarks.
ALI’S FAITH SUPERIOR TO ABU BAKR’S
Well-Wisher: All the reliable Sunni ulema have acknowledged the superiority of Ali. For instance, you may refer Ibn Abi’l-Hadid Mu’tazali’s Sharhe Nahju’l-Balagha, Volume 111, page 264, in which the same statement has been quoted from Jahiz that Abu Bakr’s faith was superior to that of Ali. However, Abu Ja’far Askafi, one of the eminent ulema of the Mu’tazilite sect, rejected this claim, saying that Ali’s faith was superior to Abu Bakr’s and all other companions. Abu Ja’far said, “We do not deny the excellence of the companions, but certainly we do not consider any of them superior to Ali.” Ali was of such an exalted rank that to mention his name along with other companions is unbecoming. In fact, the virtues of the companions cannot be compared with the sublime merits of Ali. Mir Seyyed Ali Hamadani narrates in his Mawadda VII from Ahmad Bin Muhammadu’l-Karzi Baghdadi, who said that he heard from Abdullah Bin Ahmad Bin Hanbal, who asked his father Ahmad Bin Hanbal about the rank of the companions of the Prophet. He named Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman and stopped. Abdullah then asked his father, “Where is the name of Ali Bin Abu Talib?” His father replied, “He belongs to the holy descendants of the Prophet. We cannot mention his name (being of such prominence) along with those people.”
We see in the holy Qur’an that in the verse of Mubahila Ali is referred to as the ‘self’ of the Holy Prophet. There is a hadith in support of this view, which is recorded in the same Mawadda VII, narrated from Abdullah Bin Umar Bin Khattab. He said that one day while counting the names of the companions, he named Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman. A man said, “O Abu Abdu’r-Rahman! Why did you omit the name of Ali?” He replied: “Ali is one of the descendants of the Prophet. He cannot be included with anyone else. He is in the same category as the Prophet of Allah.”
Let me relate another hadith from the same Mawadda. It is narrated from Jabir Bin Abdullah Ansari that one day in the presence of Muhajirs (Meccan emigrants living in Medina) and Ansars (“helpers” of Medina who received the Muslim emigrants into their community), that the Prophet said to Ali, “O Ali! If a man offers complete prayers to Allah, and then doubts that you and your family are superior to all other beings, his abode shall be Hell.”
(After hearing this hadith, all those present, particularly Mr. Hafiz, showed repentance, lest they should be among the doubtful ones). I have referred to only a few hadith. Your choice seems to be to reject all these authentic hadith, which are recorded in your own books, or to acknowledge that Ali’s faith was superior to that of all the companions, including Abu Bakr and Umar. I also ask you to consider the hadith (acknowledged by both sects) in which the Holy Prophet said on the occasion of Ghazawa-e-Ahzab (also known as the Battle of the Trench), when Ali killed Amru Ibn Abd-e-Wudd with one stroke of his sword: “One stroke of Ali in the Battle of Khandaq (the Trench) has earned more merit for him than the reward for good deeds of the whole community (jinn and men) until the Day of Judgement.” If only one stroke of his sword was better in merit than the prayers of jinn and human beings combined, certainly his preeminence cannot be questioned by anyone except malicious fanatics.
ALI AS THE SELF OF THE HOLY PROPHET
Had there been no other proof of Ali’s superiority to all the companions and to humanity at large, the verse of Mubahila is sufficient to prove his excellence. It refers to Ali as the ‘self’ of the Prophet. The Holy Prophet was admittedly superior to all of humanity from beginning to end. Hence, the word “anfusana” (ourselves) in the verse referring to Ali proves that he was also superior to all of humanity from beginning to end. Perhaps now you will admit that in the phrase “And those who are with him,” the reference is to Ali. He was with the Prophet before anyone else from the beginning of Islam.
As to why Ali did not accompany the Prophet on the night of his migration from Mecca, it is clear that the Prophet entrusted Ali with more important duties. No one was as trustworthy as Ali. He was left behind to return to its owners the property entrusted to the Prophet. (Ali’s second responsibility was to send members of the Prophet’s family and other Muslims to Medina. And even though Ali was not with the Prophet in the cave that night, he performed a more important duty as he lay in the Prophet’s bed.)
QUR’ANIC VERSE IN PRAISE OF ALI ON
HIS SLEEPING IN THE PROPHET’S BED
ON THE NIGHT OF HIJRA
Your own scholars have mentioned Ali’s merit in their commentaries. For instance, Ibn Sab’i Maghribi in Shifa’u’s-Sudur, Tibrani in Ausat and Kabir, Ibn Athir in Usudu’l-Ghaiba, Volume IV, page 25, Nuru’d-Din Sabbagh Maliki in Fusuli’l-Muhimma Fi Ma’rifati’l-‘aimma, page 33, Abu Ishaq Tha’labi Fazil Nishapuri, Fakhru’d-Din Razi and Jalalu’d-Din Suyuti, each in his Tafsir, Hafiz Abu Nu’aim Ispahani, the well known Shafi’i traditionist in Ma Nazala’l-Qur’an fi Ali, Khatib Khawarizmi in Manaqib, Sheikhu’l-Islam Ibrahim bin Muhammad Hamwaini in Fara’id, Muhammad bin Yusuf Ganji Shafi’i in Kifayatu’t-Talib, Chapter 62, Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal in Musnad, Muhammad bin Jarir through various sources, Ibn Hisham in Siratu’n-Nabi, Hafiz Muhaddith of Damascus in Arba’in Tiwal, Imam Ghazali in Ihya’u’l-Ulum, Volume III, page 223, Abu’s-Sa’adat in Faza’ilu’l-Itrati’t-Tahira, Ibn Abi’l-Hadid in Sharhe Nahju’l-Balagha, Sibt Ibn Jauzi in Tadhkira and others of your prominent ulema, report that when the Holy Prophet intended, by divine command, to leave Mecca for Medina, he asked Ali to wear his (the Prophet’s) green cover sheet and to sleep in his bed. Accordingly, Ali slept in the Prophet’s place. Then Allah Almighty told the angels Gabriel and Michael that He had made them brothers, and that one of them would live longer than the other. He asked them which was prepared to give his brother his excess life, the extent of which neither of them knew. They asked Him whether the choice was obligatory. They were told it was not obligatory. Neither of them chose to part with his excess life. Then followed the divine words: “I have created brotherhood between my vicegerent Ali and my Prophet Muhammad. Ali has offered to sacrifice his life for the sake of the Prophet’s life. By sleeping in the Prophet’s bed, he is protecting the Prophet’s life. Now both of you are ordered to go to the earth and save him from the enemy’s evil designs.”
Accordingly, both of them came to the earth. Gabriel sat at Ali’s head and Michael at his feet. Gabriel said, “Congratulations, O son of Abu Talib! in whom Allah Almighty takes pride in the presence of His angels.” After this, the following verse was revealed to the Prophet: “And there is the type of man who gives his life to earn the pleasure of God; and Allah is full of kindness to (His) servants.” (2:207)
Now I entreat you, respected gentlemen, to consider this verse carefully when you return home tonight and to draw your own conclusion. Does superiority rightly belong to him who remained with the Prophet on a few days journey, expressing fear and grief, or to him who risked his life the same night valiantly and joyfully, for the safety of the Holy Prophet. Imam Ja’far Askafi, one of the great ulema and chiefs of the Mu’tazilites, proves, as recorded in Abi’l-Hadid’s Commentary on Nahju’l-Balagha, Volume III, page 269-281) that Ali’s sleeping in the Prophet’s bed was superior to the short stay of Abu Bakr with the Holy Prophet. He says: “The Muslim ulema unanimously hold that, in reality, Ali’s excellence on this night is so exalted that no man could reach it except Ishaq (Isaac) and Ibrahim (Abraham) when they were prepared to sacrifice their lives in obedience to Allah’s will.” (Most commentators, ulema, and historians believe that it was Isma’il who offered himself for sacrifice and not Ishaq.)
On page 271 of Sharhe-Nahju’l-Balagha the statement of Abu Ja’far Askafi in reply to Abu Uthman Jahiz Nasibi is recorded. He says: “I have already proved earlier that Ali’s sleeping in the Holy Prophet’s bed on the night of the migration was superior to Abu Bakr’s remaining in the company of the Prophet in the cave. In order to emphasize my point, I will prove it from two other points of view. First, the Prophet of Allah having old and close associations with Ali, loved him dearly. Therefore, he felt the loss of love when they separated. On the other hand, Abu Bakr enjoyed the privilege of going with the Prophet. Since Ali was suffering the pangs of separation, his recompense increased because the greater the agony in service, the greater is the recompense for it. Secondly, since Abu Bakr intended to leave Mecca, and had even left it once alone, his situation as a citizen there became increasingly difficult. So when he left Mecca along with the Prophet, his longing to depart was fulfilled. Hence, no such moral excellence is due to him as to Ali, who suffered utmost anguish in risking his life before the drawn swords of the enemy.”
Ibn Sab’a Maghribi says in his Shifa’u’s-Sudur about the bravery of Ali: “There is complete unanimity among the Arab ulema that on the night of Hijra (migration), Ali’s sleeping in the Prophet’s bed was superior to going out with him. Ali made himself the Prophet’s representative and risked his life for the Prophet’s sake. This point is so clear that no one has ever denied it except those afflicted with insanity or fanaticism.”
I stop here and come to my main point. You said that the Qur’anic phrase “Vehement against the infidels” (48:29) refers to the second Caliph, Umar Bin Khattab. But this claim cannot be accepted merely because you say so. We must determine whether or not this attribute is characteristic of him or not. If it is, I am willing to accept it. Obviously vehemence can be displayed in two ways: in religious debates in which, through the force of argumentation, the ulema of the opposite side are silenced. Second, it can be shown on the battlefield. So far as learned discussions are concerned, there is not a single instance in history when Umar showed any vehemence. At any rate, I have not seen any historical records indicating that Umar displayed vehemence in learned discussion. I shall be obliged to you if you can cite any such instance.
In fact, your own ulema have agreed that it was Ali who solved difficult legal and religious problems during the period of the first three Caliphs. Although the Umayyads and the blind followers of Abu Bakr fabricated innumerable hadith on their behalf, they could not hide the fact that when men of other faiths came to Abu Bakr, Umar, or Uthman, to solve difficult problems, the Caliphs referred the problems to Ali. Ali gave them such convincing replies that many non-Muslims embraced Islam. The fact that Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman acknowledged Ali’s superiority is sufficient to prove my point. Your own scholars have written that Caliph Abu Bakr said, “Remove me, remove me, since I am not better than you so long as Ali is in your midst.” At least seventy times Caliph Umar admitted: “If Ali had not been there, Umar would have been ruined.” Most of the circumstances involving danger have been mentioned in the books, but I don’t want to dwell on this point. There may be more important topics to discuss.
Nawab: Which topics could be more important than this? Are these matters mentioned in our books? If they are, will you please let us know?
Well-Wisher: The just ulema of your sect agree that Umar often admitted that Ali came to his rescue.
Source: Peshawar Nights
By: Allama Sultanu’l-Wa’izin