Imam Ali (as) was born on the 13th of Rajab month, thirty years after the Year of the Elephant.
One of the many distinctions he enjoyed is that he was the first and last person to be born inside the Kabah, the House of Allah.
The birth of Imam Ali (as) filled the heart of the Holy Prophet (saawa) with boundless happiness.
When Imam Ali (as) was five years old, the Holy Prophet (saawa) and Hadhrat Khadijah (as) raised him after the death of their own sons. From that moment on, they were never to part with each other.
Prophet Muhammad (saawa) picked out Imam Ali (as) to raise and transfer knowledge to him – he himself became Imam Ali’s (as) guide, teacher and instructor.
This is another distinction that Ali (as) enjoyed alone.
Although he was still a child, he swore to help the Prophet in his mission to spread the message of Tauheed, Islam and its great Divine ethical values.
There is no part of the Imam’s (as) life that is hidden from the spotlight of history. His destiny was inseparably linked with the destiny of Islam. He was there at its onset, and every significant event onward, playing the key role.
Imam Ali (as) was the idol breaker who removed all the illegally occupying idols from the Ka’bah-the house of Allah. On Laylat al-Mabeet, the night of the Hijrah, he put his life on the line for the Messenger of Allah by sleeping in his bed and facing the real threats posed by forty armed intruders representing forty disbelieving tribes.
He was courageous and valiant in the battlefields, fought in defending the noble cause of justice, truth and peace, serving as the right hand and the shield of the Prophet (s) in every defensive war that was fought – the pillars of Islam were strengthened by the Zulfeqar of Imam Ali (as).
In this relation, no one preceded him nor did anyone reach this highest status after him.
The Holy Prophet’s (saawa) love for Imam Ali (as) was also well known. He has been quoted as saying “Ali (as) is from me and I am from Ali (as). His flesh is my flesh and his blood is my blood. Hence, whoever loves Ali (as) loves me, and whoever is hostile to him, is my enemy.”
In the battle of Tabuk, when the Holy Prophet (saawa) was leaving the city of Madinah al-Munawwarah, he said “Are you not happy that you are to me like Aaron was to Moses (peace be upon him), except that you are not a prophet?”
On another occasion, he said to Imam Ali (as), “You are the leader of every believer after me.”
Most famously, at ghadeer of Khumm, while returning frim the farewell Hajj, the Holy Prophet (saawa) said “For whomever I am his ruler, so this Ali (as) is his ruler”.
The Imam’s (as) conduct and character were such that he was a living reflection of the Qur’an – a complete walking and talking Qur’an.
It is evident to everyone that Imam Ali (as) was the most pious of his time and all times (like the Holy Prophet). He left behind a heritage of night prayers and supplications. He lived a life so absorbed in Allah and His deep love that he could not be seduced at all by the temptations of this world and its temporary material gains and attachments.
The virtues and merits of the Imam (as) are such that they cannot be counted or encompassed in its totality by human beings.
The Holy Prophet (saawa) said “Should the sky-touching trees turn into pens, and the seas turn into ink, and should the Jinn become counters, and humans become writers, they cannot possibly enumerate the virtues and merits of Ali ibn Abi-Talib (alyhimaa as-salam).”
We know of the many difficulties the Imam (as) faced during his lifetime. He was a person who was despised by his enemies, not because he was a tyrant, but because of his firmness in justice, truthfulness and moral character. His enemies were ruthless in their persecution of him, his family, and his followers. While they tried to conceal his merits and enforced laws forbidding the mention of Imam’s (as) merits, some of his loyal friends could not speak of his virtues out of the fear for their lives. Despite all the obstacles, his flawless character and great virtues were such that his reputation eventually spread, not only through out the East, but to the West as well. He is more remembered by Allah and the angels in the heavens than on earth.
May Allah (swt) help us in following the teachings of this infallible personality.
Syed Sartaj Zaidi