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Religion & Belief Prophethood & imamate

We pray for our Holy Prophet in obedience to the command of Allah: -
The benefit of ‘Salawat’ returns to us as the Holy Prophet has said: ‘Whoever among you sends one Salawat to me, I pray for him 10 times.”
The Mercy and Grace of Allah is limitless. Our Holy Prophet was already bestowed with Grace of Allah more than any one else. But it does not mean that the Grace has reached its limit: it has no limit. Therefore, we pray for him so that Allah may bestow him with His ever-new Graces and Mercies.
Moreover, we praise and thank Allah and pray before him, though He has no need of our prayers, thanks and praises. But by doing so, we express and show our relation and gratitude to Him. Likewise, the Holy Prophet has no need of our ‘Salawat’; but by ordering us to recite ‘Salawat’ Allah wants us to express our relation with, and gratitude to, the Holy Prophet.
Holy Prophet oflslam (s.a.w.) combined all the three aspects in his personality. The legislation prescribed by Allah was promulgated by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w); he was the final judicial authority; and the supreme Head of the Islamic Community. The Imams inherited all these functions from him except that they had no authority to change any law brought by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.); rather their function was to elaborate and interpret that law. So far as judicial and executive aspects are concerned, there was no difference between the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) and his 12 successors.
To show us the Straight Path, Allah has been sending His representatives to the mankind. They are called nabii (Prophet) and rasul (Messenger). The rank of the Messengers was higher than the Prophets. Every Messenger was also a Prophet but not vice versa.
To lead the people to the Straight Path, and to preserve the religion of Islam, Allah appointed twelve successors - one after another - of the Prophet of Islam. They were from the progeny of the Prophet. Those successors are called Imams. Imam literally means leader. As mentioned above, first of them was 'Ali, son of Abu Talib, and the last one is al-Mahdi (a.s.).
It is a well known hadith, accepted both by the Sunnis and the Shi'as. For Shi'a books, please see 'A.llama Majlisi's "Biharul-Anwar': 7th volume (Vol.23 in the new printing in which original 25 volumes have been printed in 110 handy volumes), chapter 4: "Chapter of recognising the Imam, and that people shall not be excused if they discard the Wilayah; and that he who dies without recognising his Imam, or having doubt about him, dies the death of Jahiliyyah, disbelief and hyprocrisy". There you will find more than 30 traditions to this effect narrated from the Prophet (s a.w.a.) and the Imams, in various words (New edition, vol. 23. p.76-95).

As for the Sunnis references, at present I can give you the reference of Kanzul-'Ummal, (by Mulla 'Ali al-Muttaqi, 5th ed.1985, Beirut), pt Vol. p.103, Hadith 'No.463 and 464.

Hadith No.463: (Abdullah) ibn 'Umar narrates: "He who dies without (doing) bai'at dies the death of Jahiliyyah:' It is quoted from al-Musnad of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal.

No. 464: Mu'awiyah narrates: "He who dies without an Imam, dies the death of Jahiliyyah". It is quoted from al-Musnad of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, and al-Mu'jam al-kabir oflmam at-Tabarani.

According to the belief of all Muslims, "uli'l-amr" who is ordered to be obeyed in verse 59 of Surah Nisa, is the Caliph and the successor of the Prophet (PBUH), whom the Shiites consider to be Imam.

Allah says in the Qur'an:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَأُولِي الْأَمْرِ مِنْكُمْ فَإِنْ تَنَازَعْتُمْ فِي شَيْءٍ فَرُدُّوهُ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَالرَّسُولِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ ذَلِكَ خَيْرٌ وَأَحْسَنُ تَأْوِيلًا (النساء، 59)

O ye who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those vested with authority from among you; then if you quarrel about anything, refer it to Allah and the Apostle, if you believe in Allah and the last day; this is better and very good in the end (4:59).

This verse obliges the Muslims to two obediences: First, the obedience of Allah; second, the obedience of the Apostle and those vested with authority from among you' (uli'l-amri minkum). The arrangement of the words shows that the obedience of ulu'l-amr is as much obligatory as is 'lie obedience of the Apostle. Naturally, it means that ulu'l-amr should be of the same position as the Apostle; otherwise, Allah would not have, joined them together in this verse.

Looking especially at the Holy Prophet of Islam, Allah tells us: ... and whatever the Apostle gives you, take it; and from whatever he forbids you, keep back (59:7). This means that the permission or prohibition of the Holy Prophet was always in accordance with the will of Allah and always favoured by Him. It proves that the Holy Prophet was ma`sum. No one can be so sure about the commands of a man who is not infallible.

That supreme authority was given to him because he was ma`sum(sinless) and free from all types of error and sin. Otherwise, Allah would not have ordered us to obey him unconditionally.

In this verse, ulu 'l-amr, have been given exactly the same authority over the Muslims, because both the `Apostle' and the ulu 'l-amr have been jointly mentioned under one word-اَطِیعِوا"obey"; which shows that the obedience of ulu 'l-amr has the same standing as the obedience of the Apostle.

It naturally follows that ulu 'l-amr must also be ma`sum (sinless) and free from any type of error and sin. Otherwise, their obedience would not have been joined with the obedience of the Prophet.

In the realm of politics, usually the constitution of a country is prepared beforehand. And when time comes to elect a government or enact legislation, every function is carried out according to the provisions of the constitution. Whatever conforms with it, is held valid and legal; whatever is contrary to it, is rejected as invalid and illegal.

Since, according to the Sunni point of view, it was the duty of the ummah to appoint a caliph, it was necessary for Allah and His Prophet to provide them with a constitution (with details of the procedure for election of such a caliph). And if that was not done, then the Muslims themselves should have approved the constitutional measures in advance before proceeding to elect a caliph.

But strangely enough this was not done. And now we find a unique 'unsettled constitution' in which actions do not follow a constitution because there is none; rather the constitution follows the circumstances.

In the reliable Hadith of Ghadeer, the evidence of which is quoted by 110 companions from the Sunni books on pages 74 and 75 of the book (Imamat) which introduced in our website, it is stated that the Prophet (PBUH) raised this question in a large gathering of people in Ghadeer Khum during his speech:

"Do I not have more authority upon you than you yourselves have?" All of them cried out that he certainly had more right on them than they themselves had. The Prophet then said: "Whoever whose Master I am, `Ali is his Master." In the end he invoked blessings on `Ali, saying: "O Allah! Love him who loves `Ali, and be the enemy of the enemy of `Ali; help him who helps `Ali, and forsake him who forsakes `Ali."

The first reason:

The Prophet (PBUH) first asked the people:

ألَسْتُ أوْلَى بِكُمْ مِنْ أنْفُسِكُمْ

"Do I Not have more authority upon you than you have yourselves?" When they said: "Yes, surely," then the Prophet proceeded to declare that:

مَنْ كُنْتُ مَوْلَاهُ فَهَذَاعَلِيٌّ مَوْلَاهُ

"Whoever whose mawla I am, `Ali is his mawla."

Without doubt, the word "mawla " in this declaration has the same meaning as: بِكُمْ أوْلَى (having more authority upon you) has in the preceding question. At least 64 Sunni traditionalists have quoted that preceding question; among them are Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Ibn Majah, an-Nasa'I and at-Tirmidhi

The second reason:

The occasion, place and time: Imagine the Holy Prophet breaking his journey in midday, and detaining nearly one-hundred-thousand travellers under the burning sun of the Arabian desert, making them sit in a thorny place on the burning sand, and making a pulpit of camel- saddles; then imagine him delivering a long lecture and at the end of all those preparations coming out with an announcement that: "Who- over loves me should love Ali," or "Whoever whose friend I am, Ali is his friend! "

Is such a thing excusable before common sense? No, but some people are ready to accuse the Holy Prophet of such childish behaviour!

The Sunnis consider ten conditions necessary for a caliph: -

1- that he be Muslim;

2- that he be of age, (i.e., of puberty);

3- that he be male;

4- that he be of sound mind;

5- that he be courageous;

6- that he be free, not a slave;

7- that he be accessible and not be concealed or hidden;

8- that he be able to conduct battles and beware of warlike tactics;

9- that he be just - 'adil;

10- that he be able to judge and pass verdicts on points of laws and religion, that is, he be a mujtahid.

But the last two conditions are in theory only.

Please note the following samples:

Refer to Abu Bakr, the famous Sunni scholar, As-Suyuti in his book (Tarikh-o-Al khulafaa) writes that Abu Bakr spoke before Companion of the prophet, are cited in support of that view: “O people!” he said, “ I have been made ruler over you although I am no better than you; so, if I perform my duties well, help me; and if I go wrong, you should set me right. You should know that Satan comes to me now and then. So if I am angry, keep aloof from me.’

Refer to 2nd khalifa Umar, according to famous Sunni tradition book Sahih Muslim, Umar said to prophet: he was talking in delirium. The event was as follows:

In the Sahih of Muslim there is a tradition narrated by Ibn `Abbas that: "Three days before the Prophet's death `Umar ibn al-Khattab and other Companions were present at his side. The Apostle said, `Now let me write something for you by way of a will so that you are not mislead after me.' Umar said, `The Apostle is talking in delirium; the Book of Allah is sufficient for us. (But Umar did not say such offensive word to Abu Bakr in the similar situation.)

'Umar's statement caused a furor among those present there. Some were saying that the Apostle's command should be obeyed so that he might write whatever he desired for their betterment. Others sided with `Umar. When the tension and uproar increased the Apostle said, `Go away from me.'"

Refer to nomination of UMAR at-Tabari writes: "Abu Bakr called `Uthman

when the former was dying - and told him to write an appointment order, and dictated to him: `In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. This is the order of `Abdullah ibn Abi Quhafah (i.e., Abu Bakr) to the Muslims. Whereas. . .' Then he fell unconscious. `Uthman added the words: `I appoint `Umar ibn al-Khattab as my successor among you.'

"Then Abu Bakr regained his consciousness and told `Uthman to read the order to him. `Uthman read it; Abu Bakr said, Allahu Akbar', and was pleased and commented, `I think you were afraid that people would disagree amongst themselves if I died in that state.' `Uthman replied, `Yes.' Abu Bakr said: ` May Allah reward you on behalf of Islam and the Muslims.' "

When Abu Bakr who had no such Divine protection from error, began dictation of the appointment letter in such critical condition that he fell unconscious before naming his successor, `Umar did not say that he was talking in delirium!

According to book of Sahih Muslim

But he said “He is talking in delirium” for the prophet!

This is only an example and not the whole history! And about the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs, it can often be said:

The history of the Muslims (like any other nation) is replete with the names of rulers who have tarnished the name of Islam.

Because Imam must be free of mistake and sin and only Allah knows the inner feelings and thoughts of man; no one else can ever know the true nature of another person. Perhaps someone may pose as a pious and god-fearing man merely to impress his colleagues and gain some worldly benefit. Such examples are not rare in history. Take, for example, the case of` Abdu'l- Malik ibn Marwan who used to spend all his time in the mosque in prayer and recitation of the Qur'an. He was reciting the Qur'an when news reached him of the death of his father and that people were waiting to pledge their allegiance to him. He closed the Qur'an and said: "This is the parting between me and thee".

Therefore, as the existence of qualifications which are necessary for an Imam or Caliph can only truly be known to Allah, it is only Allah Who can appoint an Imam or Caliph.

A part of verse 33 of Surah Al-Ahzab, which is known as the verse of purification, is:

... إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنْكُمُ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَيُطَهِّرَكُمْ تَطْهِيرًا (الاحزاب، 33)

. . . Allah only desires to keep away abomination from you, O People of the House! and to purify you a (thorough)purifying.


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.

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.

A part from Shiite scholars, Hakim Haskani, the famous Sunni scholar and narrator of tradition (Hadith) mentioned several traditions with following contexts in his book Shawahid al-Tanzil:

"`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, `Ali, 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, "O 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" '".

It is often imagined that excellence of character, civility in social intercourse, or, in the language of today "being sociable", consists of just this, making all men one's friends. However, this is not feasible for the man who has an aim, who follows a path, who, among men, pursues a particular way of thinking or ideal, and does not consider his own advantage; such a man, like it or not, has only one face, he is decisive and explicit in his behaviour, unless, of course, he is a hypocrite and double-faced. For not all men think in the same way, or feel in the same way, and not everyone's preferences are of one kind; among men there are those who are just and those who are unjust, there is good and there is bad. Society has its equitable members, and its despotic members; there are just people, there are iniquitous people. These people cannot all love one person, one human being, who seriously pursues one goal and thus collides with some of their interests. The only person who will succeed in attracting the friendship of all the various classes and the various idealisms is one who dissimulates and lies, and says and shows to each person what conforms to that person's liking. But if the person is sincere and follows a path, one group will automatically be his friend and another will similarly be his enemy. Any group which follows the same way as him will be pulled towards him, and any group which follows some different way will exclude him and will quarrel with him.

The love which the Qur'an commands does not mean that we should act towards everyone in conformity with what he likes and what is pleasing to him, that we should behave towards him in such a way that makes him happy and necessarily attracted towards us. Love does not mean that we leave everyone free to follow their inclinations, or still more that we should approve of their inclinations; this is not love, rather it is hypocrisy and double-dealing. Love is that which coincides with reality, it causes one to reach good, and sometimes those things which bring us to the good take a form that does not attract the love and affection of the other person. How many individuals there are to whom someone is loving in this way and who, when they observe that this love is at odds with their own inclinations, become hostile instead of appreciative. Besides, rational and intelligent love is that in which is the good and interest of the whole of mankind, not the good of one individual or one special group. There are many things which can be done to bring good to individuals and to show love for them which are the very same things which bring evil to society as a whole and maybe its enemy.

the Qur'an relates what the previous prophets have said, it points out that they have all said: "we do not ask a wage from people, our only reward is from God." However, it addresses the Seal of the Prophets thus:

قُلْ لَا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْرًا إِلَّا الْمَوَدَّةَ فِي الْقُرْبَى

Say. "I do not ask of you a wage for this, except love for (my) relatives. " (ash-Shura, 42: 23)

Here there is a need to ask why the rest of the prophets looked for no wage but the most noble Prophet asked for one for his message; why did he want friendship for his near relatives as a requital for his message?

The Qur'an itself provides an answer to this question:

قُلْ مَا سَأَلْتُكُمْ مِنْ أَجْرٍ فَهُوَ لَكُمْ إِنْ أَجْرِيَ إِلَّا عَلَى اللَّهِ

Say: "I have asked no wage of you; that shall be yours. My wage falls only upon God. " (Saba', 34:47)

That is to say, that which I ask for as a wage accrues to you, not to me; this friendship is a halter for your own perfection and reformation, and it is called a wage. Otherwise, it is in fact another good which I recommend to you from the point of view that the Household and relatives of the Prophet are people who do not gather round defilement, and whose hems are clean and pure.

Love and devotion to these people brings no other result apart from obedience to the truth and adherence to virtues, and it is friendship for them which transmutes and perfects like the elexir.

Whatever the meaning of "relatives" may be, it is certain that the most obvious person to whom it is applicable is Ali (A.S).

Fakhr Razi, a famous Sunni commentator of Quran, says in his book "Al-Tafsir al-Kabir":

"Zamakhshari relates in his (Qur'anic exegesis) al-Kashshaf. 'When this verse was sent down, they said: "O Messenger of Allah! Who are the relatives to whom our love is due?" He said: " 'Ali and Fatimah and their sons." '

"It is thus established from this tradition that these four persons are "relatives" of the Prophet, and that they should enjoy the respect and love of the people.

Sunnis have narrated many hadiths about this. Including:

1: Ibn al-Athir narrates that the Prophet spoke to 'Ali and said: "O 'Ali, God has embellished you with things, no dearer embellishment than which exists before his slaves: resignation from the world has been appointed for you in such a way that neither do you profit from the world, nor it from you. On you has been bestowed the love of the wretched; they are proud of your leadership, and you also of their following you. Content is he who loves you, and is a true friend to you. And woe betide he who shows enmity towards you, and lies about you."

2: as-Suyuti relates that the Prophet said: "Love of 'Ali is faith, and enmity towards him is sedition."

3: Abu Na'im narrates that the Prophet addressed the Ansar and said: "Shall I guide you to something which, if you grasp it after me, you will never go astray?" They said: "Yes, O Messenger of Allah!" He said: "It is 'Ali: love him with the love (you have) for me, and respect him with the respect (you have) for me. For God has ordered me through Gabriel to tell you this."

The Sunnis have also narrated traditions from the Prophet in which observing 'Ali's face and talking of his virtues is counted as a form of worship.

1: Muhibb at-Tabari narrates from `A'ishah that she said: "I saw my father (Abu Bakr) gazing often at Ali's face. I said: `O my father! I see you gazing often at `Ali's face.' He said: `O my daughter! I heard the Prophet say: "Looking at the face of Ali is worship." ' "

2: Ibn Hajar narrates from `A'ishah that the Prophet said: "The best of my brothers is Ali, the best of my paternal uncles is Hamzah, and remembrance of 'Ali and speaking about him is worship."

A6 : Among all those who were attracted to, and captivated by, 'Ali. we can notice Maytham at-Tammar who, twenty years after 'Ali's martyrdom, spoke front his crucifixion of ' Ali and his virtues and human qualities. In those clays. when the entire Islamic people were being suffocated. when all freedoms were quashed and souls became prisoners in their own breasts, when a mortal silence showed like the mist of death oil everyone's faces, this man shouted out from the crucifix for people to come and listen to what he would tell them about 'Ali. People thronged round from all sides to hear what Maytham had to say. The powerful government of the Umayyids, which saw its own interests in danger. gave the order to put a gag in his mouth, and, after some days, put all end to his life. History bears many traces of this kind of devotion to 'Ali.

There was a friend of Amir al-mu'minin, a good and believing man, who unfortunately fell into error, and who had to be punished. Amir al-mu'minin cut off the fingers of his right hand. The man took hold of his cut hand, with the blood dripping from it, with his left hand, and went away. Ibn al-Kawwa', a seditious Kharijite, wanted to take advantage of this course of events for his own party and against 'Ali, so he came up to the man with an air of utter compassion and said: "Who cut your hand off?"

"The chief of the Prophet's successors", he said, "the leader of the untainted ones at the Resurrection, the most righteous among the believers, 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, the Imam of right guidance, cut off the fingers of my right hand . . . the first to reach the Gardens of Felicity, the hero of the brave, the avenger against the promoters of ignorance, the giver of zakat . . . the leader on the right and perfect path, the speaker of what is true and appropriate, the champion of Mecca, the steadfast exceller."

"Poor you!" said Ibn al-Kawwa', "He cut off your hand, and you extol him thus!"

"Why should I not extol him", he said, "now that his friendship is mixed with flesh and blood? I swear by God that he did not cut off my hand except with a right that God has established."

A7 : Love for 'Ali is also not hero worship, which exists in every nation. It is a mistake, too, to say the love for 'Ali is by way of love for moral and human excellence, and that love for 'Ali is a humanistic love. It is true that 'Ali was the manifestation of the perfect man, and it is true that man loves great figures of humanity; but if 'Ali had had all those human excellences that he had that wisdom and knowledge, that self-sacrifice and altruism, that humility and modesty, that courtesy, that kindness and mercy, that protection of the weak, that justness, that liberality and love of freedom, that respect for humanity, that generosity, that bravery, that magnanimity and mercy towards his enemies.

if `Ali had had all these, which he did have, but had not had the divine touch in him, it is quite certain that there would not have been the feeling of sympathy and awakening of love that there is today.

Ali is loved in the sense that he had the divine link; our hearts are unconsciously completely involved with, and connected to, the Truth, right in their depths, and since they find `Ali to be a great sign of the Truth and a manifestation of the attributes of the Truth they are in love with him. In reality, the basis for the love for 'Ali is the connection of our souls with the Truth which has been laid in our primordial natures, and since our primordial natures are eternal, love for `Ali is also eternal.

There are many outstanding features in 'Ali's being, but that which has assigned him a resplendent and shining place forever is his faith and morality, and it is that which has given him his divine charisma.

A8 : From what we have been told from hadith, the spirit and essence of religion is nothing but love. Burayd al-`Ijli said: "I was in the presence of Imam al-Baqir (A.S.), and there was a traveller from Khurasan who had traversed that long journey on foot. He had the honour of meeting the Imam. His feet, which were showing through his shoes, were cut, and he had taken his shoes off. He said: "By God, the only thing that brought me from whence I have come is love of you, the Household (of the Prophet)." The Imam said: "By God, if a stone loved us, God would unite it with us, and join it to us. Is the religion other than love?"

A man said to Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.): "We have named our children after you and your fathers; will this action be of any benefit to us?" He said: "Yes, by God; is the religion other than love?" Then he gave the verse If you love Allah, follow me, and Allah will love you as evidence.

Basically, it is love which brings obedience: the lover generally does not have the power to refuse the wishes of the one he loves.

"Naqtheen" were those who broke their commitment to Imam Ali (AS), because they expected to get more positions and rights than others, which Imam Ali (AS) did not accept, and as a result, they started the Jamal War.

"Qasitin" was said to Muawiya and his army. They did not pledge commitment to Imam Ali (AS) and started the Siffin war to overthrow his government. Their basis was lying and deceiving the Muslims, as they did in the battle of Siffin.

"Mariqin" is called Khawarij, which means rebels. They were the ones who were deceived by Muawiyah in the battle of Safin, and Muawiyah made them oppose the continuation of the war by misusing the Quran.

The Imam (A.S.) advice did not effect on them and they forced Him to stop the war. They considered Him an infidel (Kaffir) and by insisting on their opinion, started a rebellion and fought against Imam Ali (A.S.). This war is known as Nahrewan War.

They were a group of the army of Imam Ali (AS) in the war with Muawiya (Battle of Siffin) who stopped fighting as a result of being deceived by Muawiya who rose the Qurans and pretended to accept Qurans arbitration. Part of Imam’s army believed him and forced Imam Ali (AS) to stop the war. The advice and warning of the Imam (AS) didn’t accept by them.

The fighting stopped so that they could leave arbitration to the Qur'an. An arbitration committee was set up, and arbitrators selected from the two sides to rule on the basis of what was agreed on by both sides in the Qur'an and sunnah and to bring an end to hostilities; or else they would add another difference to the already existing differences and cause the situation to deteriorate.

'Ali said. that they should choose their arbitrator, and then he would detail his own. Without the slightest dispute, they unanimously chose `Amr ibn al-'As, the deviser of the stratagem. 'Ali proposed `Abdullah ibn al-`Abbas, who was versed in politics, or Malik al-Ashtar, a self-sacrificing, clear-sighted man of faith, or else someone like them. But those fools were looking for someone of their own kind, and they chose a man of the like of Abu Musa al-Ash'ari, a man of no perspicacity who was not on good terms with 'Ali. How- ever much 'Ali and his friends sought to enlighten these people that Abu Musa was not the man for the job and that such an appointment was not suitable for him, they said that they would not agree to anyone else. Then he said that since things had got to that point, they should do whatever they wanted. So, in the end, they chose this Abu Musa as the arbitrator from the side of 'Ali and his companions.

After months of consultation, `Amr ibn al-'As said to Abu Musa that it would be better for the interests of the Muslims if neither 'Ali nor Mu'awiyah were caliph, that they should choose a third one, and that there was no one else they could choose but `Abdullah ibn `Umar, Abu Musa's son-in-law. Abu Musa said that that was right and asked what they should do. `Amr ibn al-'As said: "You should remove 'Ali from the caliphate, and I will do the same with Mu'awiyah. Then the Muslims will go and elect a worthy person who will surely be `Abdullah ibn `Umar. Thus, the roots of sedition will be destroyed."

They terminated on this matter and announced that the people should gather together to listen to their conclusions.

The people assembled. Abu Musa turned towards `Amr ibn-al-'As to stand up and announce his opinion. `Amr ibn al-‘As said: "Me? You are the respected, white-bearded man, a companion of the Prophet. Never would I presume such a thing as to speak before you! "

Abu Musa moved from his place to rise and speak. Now everyone's heart was beating fast, all eyes were staring, each person held his breath, waiting to see what the result had been. He started to speak: "After due deliberation on what was in the interests of the community, we saw that neither Ali nor Mu'awiyah should be caliph. More than this it is not for us to say, for the Muslims themselves know what they wish." The he took his ring from the finger of his right hand and said: "I have removed `Ali from the caliphate, just as I remove this ring from my finger."

When he had finished, he stepped down. Then `Amr ibn al-'As got up and said: "You have all heard the speech of Abu Musa saying that he has removed Ali from the caliphate. I too remove him from the caliphate, just as Abu Musa has done." Then he took his ring off his right hand and then put it onto his left hand, and said: "I set up Mu'awiyah in the

caliphate, just as I put this ring on my finger." When he had said this, he stepped down.

The meeting lapsed into commotion. The people began to attack Abu Musa, and some beat him with their whips. He fled to Mecca, and `Amr ibn al-'As went to Damascus.

The Khawarij, who had brought about this sequence of events, saw the scandal of this arbitration with their own eyes, and realised their mistake. But they could not understand where exactly their error lay. They did not say that their mistake lay in falling for Mu'awiyah .and `Amr ibn al-`As' scheme and bringing the war to a halt; nor did they say that after the setting up of the arbitration they had blundered in choosing their "referee", in putting up Abu Musa as `Amr ibn al-'As' counterpart. No; instead, they said that in putting up two human beings to arbitrate and be "referees" in the matters of the religion of God they had gone against the divine law and had done an act of unbelief, for the judge is only God, not man.

Then came to 'Ali and said: "We did not understand. We chose a man as an arbitrator. You have become an unbeliever, and so have we. But we repent; you too should repent. Otherwise, the tragedy will be repeated."

"In any situation," said `Ali, "repentance is good. We are always repenting for our sins." But they said this was not enough, and that he had to confess that arbitration was a sin, and that he repented of that sin. But he said that it had not been he that had brought about the affair of arbitration, it had been them, and that they had seen the result themselves. What was more, how could he declare as a sin something that Islam had made lawful, or confess to a sin which he had not perpetrated.

From this point on, they set to work as a religious sect.

A۱۱ : Ali (A.S.) acted towards the Khawarij with the utmost degree of liberality and democracy. He was the caliph and they were his subjects; every kind of punitive action was within his power, but he did not put them into prison, neither did he flog them; he did not even cut off their quota from the treasury (batu l-mal). He looked upon them in the same way as upon other individuals. This matter is no exception in the history of `Ali's life, but it is something of which there are few examples in the world. Everywhere they were free to express their opinions, and `Ali and his companions freely opposed them with their own opinions and spoke to them. The two sides put forth their reasoning, and countered their opponent's reasoning.

Maybe such a degree of freedom is without precedent in the world, in which a government acts towards its opponents with such a degree of democracy. They came into the mosques and disrupted `Ali's speeches and sermons. One day, `Ali was speaking from the minbar when a man came forward and asked a question, and `Ali gave an impromptu answer. A Khawarij who was among the people called out: "May God kill this man; what a knowledgeable man he is!" The others wanted to hold him back, but `Ali ordered them to release him, saying: "It was only me he insulted."

The Khawarij would not pray behind `Ali in communal prayers because they considered him a disbeliever, but they went to the mosque and refused to let `Ali alone, sometimes molesting him. One day, `Ali had stood up to pray and the people had stoop up behind him, when one of the Khawarij whose name was Ibn al-Kawwa' shouted out, and read a verse from the Qur'an in allusion to `Ali. This verse was addressed to the Prophet:

وَلَقَدْ أُوحِيَ إِلَيْكَ وَإِلَى الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ لَئِنْ أَشْرَكْتَ لَيَحْبَطَنَّ عَمَلُكَ وَلَتَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ

And indeed it has been revealed to thee and to those (prophets) before thee, "If thou associatest (other gods with Allah), thy work shall surely fail and thou wilt be among the losers." (az-Zumar, 39:65)

Ibn al-Kawwa' wanted to insinuate about `Ali by reciting this verse that: "Yes, we know your past history in Islam! First, you were a believer, the Prophet chose you as a brother, your selflessness shone out on the night of the Prophet's escape from Mecca (laylatu 'l-mabit) when you slept in the place of the Prophet in his bed, you put yourself forward as a lure for swords. Truly your service for Islam cannot be denied. But God also said to His Prophet: `If you associate (others with God) your work will come to naught.' Now that you have become a disbeliever you have cancelled out your past deeds."

What could 'Ali do, faced with this, with this man's voice shouting out the Qur'an? He remained silent until the man reached the end of the verse; and when he finished, 'Ali continued with the prayer. Then Ibn al-Kawwa' repeated the verse, and meanwhile `Ali fell silent again. He kept silent because it is a Qur'anic command that:

وَإِذَا قُرِئَ الْقُرْآنُ فَاسْتَمِعُوا لَهُ وَأَنْصِتُوا

And when the Qur'an is recited, give you ear to it and be silent. (al-A'raf, 7:204)

And this is the proof for the fact that when the prayer-leader is reciting the Qur'an, believers must be silent and listen.

After he had repeated the verse several times, wanting to disrupt the prayer, `Ali recited this verse:

فَاصْبِرْ إِنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ وَلَا يَسْتَخِفَّنَّكَ الَّذِينَ لَا يُوقِنُونَ

So be thou patient: surely Allah's promise is true; and let not those who have not sure faith make thee unsteady. (ar-Rum, 30:60)

Then he paid no more attention and continued with his prayer.

A۱2 : The story of the Khawarij is one of the most edifying lessons for the history of Shi'ism in particular, and for the world of Islam in general.

`Ali was himself aware of the importance and the exceptional nature of what action he took in these circumstances, as he recounted when he said:

فإنّي فَقَأْتُ عَينَ الفِتنَةِ ، و لَم يَكُن لِيَجْتَرِئَ علَيها أحَدٌ غَيري بَعدَ أنْ ماجَ غَيْهَبُها ، و اشْتَدَّ كَلَبُها

I have put out the eye of revolt. No one had the daring to do this except me when its gloom had surged up and its rabidity had become severe.

Amir al-mu'minin (a. s.) gives two interesting expressions here. One is its "gloom", which causes doubt and uncertainty. The manner of the external saintliness and piety of the Khawarij was such that every believer with strong faith became again uncertain; and in this sense, a dark and vague atmosphere was created, a space which became filled with doubt and hesitation.

The other is that he likened the condition of these pietists to rabies, that is to hydrophobia, the madness which exists in dogs so that they bite anyone they come across. Since such a dog is a carrier of an infectious microbial disease, when the fangs of the dog penetrate the body of any man or animal, and something enters the blood of the man or animal from its saliva, this man or animal after a short while becomes afflicted with this disease; he too becomes rabid and bites and makes others rabid. This is why wise people will immediately kill a rabid dog; so that at least they can save others from the danger of rabies.

It was this that 'Ali mentioned as a kind of great honour for himself: It was I, and only I, who realised the great danger that was pointing from the direction of these pietists towards Islam. Neither their calloused foreheads, nor the ascetic-like clothes, nor their forever God-remembering tongues, nor even their strong and steadfast beliefs, could become an obstacle to my insight into them. It was I who understood that if they got a footing everyone would be afflicted with their blight, that the world of Islam would become inflexible, adhering to the external aspects, superficial and fossilised, that Islam's back would become bent. Is it not this that the Prophet mentioned: Two groups will break my back - those who know but act recklessly, and those who are ignorant but profess piety.

`Ali wanted to say that if he had not fought against the Kharijite movement in the Islamic world, no other person would have come forward and dared to fight against them. Apart from him, there was no one who saw that those whose foreheads were calloused by excessive prostrations were pious and religious men but a barrier in the way of Islam, people who saw themselves as working to the advantage of Islam, but who were in fact the real enemies of Islam; there was no one to fight against them and spill their blood. Only he could do that.

A۱3 : The battle of Siffin, in its last day of fighting, was turning out in 'Ali's favour; Mu'awiyah, in consultation with `Amr ibn al-'As, conceived a skilful stratagem. He had seen that all his pains had produced no result, and that he was only one step away from defeat. He saw that there was no way to save himself except by having recourse to the creation of confusion, so he ordered that Qur'ans should be raised up on the points of spears to show that they were people of prayer and the Qur'an, and that the Book should be used to arbitrate between the two sides. It was not the first time that this had been done, for it was the same thing that `Ali had done before but which had not been accepted. Even now they had not accepted it; it was a subterfuge for them to find a way to save themselves and rescue themselves from a sure defeat.

'Ali cried out: "Strike at them! They are using the pages and the paper of the Qur'an as a ruse; they want to protect themselves behind the words and writing of the Qur'an and afterwards carry on in their same old anti-Qur'anic way. When opposed to its truth, the paper and binding of the Qur'an is of no value and worthy of no respect; it is I who am the reality and the true manifestation of the Qur'an. They are using the paper and the writing of the Qur'an as an excuse to destroy its truth and meaning!"

A group of undiscriminating, unknowing and sanctimonious persons, who formed a sizeable proportion, gesticulate to each other. What does 'Ali mean? They called out: "Should we fight against the Qur'an'?" Our battle is to re-establish the Qur'an, and now they have submitted to the Qur'an, so what are we fighting for?"

"I also say I am fighting for the Qur'an," said `Ali. "But they have no connection with the Qur'an. They have put up the words and writing of the Qur'an as a means to save their own souls.

Of course, the respect for pages and writing is because of their meaning and contents. Today the fighting is for the contents of the Qur'an, but these people have set up the pages as a means for the destruction of the meaning and contents of the Qur'an."

However, the ignorant and uninformed drew down a black curtain in front of their minds and kept out the truth. "In addition to the fact that we will not fight with the Qur'an," they said, "we know that fighting with it is itself a sin, and we must kill so as prevent this. We will fight with those who fight against the Qur'an." Only an hour was needed to secure a victory; Malik al-Ashtar, who was a brave, devoted and unselfish officer, had thus gone out to destroy the pavilion of Mu'awiyah's command and to clear the path of Islam of obstacles. At this very moment, this group pressured 'Ali by saying they would attack from behind. Ali urged them not to, but they increased their protest, and, what is more, showed that they would be completely obstinate.

`Ali sent a message to Malik to stop the fighting and to return from the place where the fighting was.

He sent an answer back to `Ali that if he were to give his permission for a few moments more the battle would be finished, and the enemy destroyed. But the Khawarij drew their swords and threatened to hack `Ali to pieces unless he called him back.

Then again word was sent to him that if he wanted to see `Ali alive, he should stop the battle and come back. He returned, and the enemy were jubilant that their stratagem had proved efficacious.

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