We know leaders, kings, and queens by their power and might and sometimes feel terrified hearing their names. Those in power, usually, being occupied with many apparently vital matters, forget about those beneath them, the deprived ones. But, looking at the life of Imam Ali (AS), the commander of faithful and Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) rightful successor, we find a leader whose manner was incomparable to the ones we've seen or heard about so far. He was the father of orphans, a provider for the needy, and the defender of justice.
In what follows, we will have a glance at the life of this exceptional Islamic figure of all time.
Imam Ali (AS) was born inside the Ka'ba in Mecca on September 28, 600 CE . He was from Banu Hashim branch of Quraysh. His mother was Fatima bt. Asad and His father, Abu Talib, a respected man by various Arab tribes, was the uncle and guardian of the Prophet (PBUH&HP) and was of the most celebrated personalities of the Quraysh .
When he was six years old, a famine took place in Mecca. Since Imam Ali's (AS) father had a large family and providing for them in that situation was a difficult job, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and his uncle, al-'Abbas, decided to help him. Therefore, they offered to take care of his children. So, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) took Imam Ali (AS) under his own guardianship . Imam Ali (AS) recounted those days as such:
"When I was a young child, the Prophet (PBUH&HP) took care of me. He would bring me to his chest and I would sleep in his bed, so close to him that I could even smell his scent. He would chew food for me and then feed me with it. He found no lies in my speech, nor any shortcomings in my actions" .
When the prophethood assigned to Muhammad (PBUH&HP) in 610 A.D in Hira cave through Gabriel sent by Allah, Imam Ali (AS) was the first man, and Khadija (AS) was the first woman to acknowledge his call and believed in him. The ten-year-old Ali (AS) at the time would pray with the Prophet (PBUH&HP) on the mountains around Mecca . He also supported Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) when he was ordered to announce his mission publicly, starting with his close relatives. In return, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) declared him as his brother, executor of his will (Wasi), and successor .
In 615 A.D, Polytheists besieged Muslims in a valley called Abu Talib, where they were prohibited from trade and were under severe sanctions. During this challenging time, Imam Ali (AS) and his father Abu Talib, devotedly helped Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). To save the Prophet's (PBUH&HP), which was under the threat of polytheists, Imam Ali (AS) risked his own life and even slept where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) used to sleep. The most well-known account of this sacrifice is when after Abu Talib's demise, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) decided to immigrate to Medina. He was informed of the secret plan of polytheists to murder him on the night when he was ready to start his journey to Medina. As a counteract, Imam Ali (AS) slept in Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) place, so that he could secretly leave his house to Medina . A few days later, Imam Ali (AS), along with his mother and Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) daughter, lady Fatima (AS), joined the Prophet (PBUH&HP) in Medina.
In 632 A.D, Imam Ali (AS) accompanied Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) on his last pilgrimage to Mecca . After the Hajj, on his way back to Medina in an area called Ghadir Khum, the Prophet (PBUH&HP) proclaimed Ali (AS) to be his successor and the executor of his will . This event is known as the Event of Ghadir Khum and is celebrated by many Muslims around the world.
Imam Ali (AS) asked Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) daughter's hand in marriage. He consulted this request with his daughter, lady Fatima (AS), and after realizing her willingness to marry such an honored and pious man, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) consented to their marriage.
There is a disagreement on the exact date of their marriage; however, the most accepted one is on May 25, 624 A.D . Together, they had five children named Hasan, Hussain, Zaynab and Umm Kulthum  and also Muhsin, who was aborted before his birth.
After Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH&HP) demise and despite his speech in the incident of Ghadir, while Imam Ali (AS) and the Prophet's (PBUH&HP) family were busy with his burial, a group of the heads of Medina gathered in a place called Saqifa Bani Sa'ida to choose a successor for the Prophet (PBUH&HP) from themselves . As a result, Abu Bakr was chosen as the caliph of Muslims, which was followed by Umar ibn Khattab's caliphate and then Uthman b.Affan.
Finally, in June, 656 A.D and after the assassination of Uthman, Imam Ali (AS) became the caliph and the leader of the Muslims. Two days after the beginning of his caliphate, in his first sermon, Ali (AS) urged that all the wealth and properties that had been unjustly taken must be returned, and emphasized justice concerning the distribution of public properties and wealth .
As George Jordac, the Lebanese Christian writer puts:
"In the eyes of Ali son of Abu Talib rulership and caliphate did not mean that the ruler should sit on the throne of dignity, strengthen his power and make his position the means of enslaving the people… Caliphate does not mean that people should be subjugated at the point of the sword, and by means of bloodshed and force, or that they should obey the caliph on account of fear or covetousness. Ali was a man who did not worship God because he desired forgiveness or because he feared punishment. On the contrary, he worshipped God because He deserved to be worshipped. He wished that the people should obey the caliph on account of his being worthy of obedience and not because of fear or greed of gain" .
During his four-year rule, he never did injustice to a soul, and he distributed wealth among people fairly, was observant of the poor, orphans, and the homeless. He was more like a compassionate father to people than a mighty unapproachable ruler. He lived a simple life, as he thought his life had to be like the poorest in society. He never favored any of his relatives over others in his government and refused to give them what they didn't deserve or had not any right to. In short, his government was the best instance of an ideal Islamic political and social system.
As Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) said in a narration Imam Ali's (AS) virtues and merits are impossible to number . Nevertheless, we will try to mention some of his most significant characteristics.
His Unbound Compassion and Generosity
Kindness and compassion was an inherent characteristic of Imam Ali (AS). Poor or rich, young or old, Muslim or non-Muslim, man or woman, all would enjoy his regard and profound generosity. It is said that he used to water the date gardens of Jews in Medina with his own hands . Jordac describes this characteristic of him as such:
"Ali was more kind to the people than anyone else and refrained from harming any person. He became oblivious of his own self in order to assist others and considered this self-abnegation to be part and parcel of his life. His entire life was dedicated to the support of the oppressed and the helpless so that he might realize their rights from the tyrants who considered themselves entitled to usurp the rights of others on account of noble descent and racial discrimination." 
This noble character was so kind that he refused to take revenge from the person who attacked him while praying in the mosque, which caused his martyrdom a few days later. He forbade his children to bring any harm to this person and commanded them to give him food and drink instead and treat him respectfully.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) said: "I am the city of knowledge, and Ali (AS) is its gate, whoever wants to enter this city, has to pass the gate first." . Allah had endowed Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) a breath of His divine wisdom, so when he calls Imam Ali (AS) as "the gate" to this divine wisdom through which people can enter, he is considering Imam Ali's (AS) wisdom as the prerequisite for reaching out to this vast knowledge.
As Jordac puts: "Ali was brought up by his cousin. He became his disciple and adopted his habits and conduct. The Prophet's heritage became implanted in his heart and brain. He reflected over the Qur'an with the intellect and eye of a sage and learned its latent realities" .
Imam Ali (AS) himself used to invite people to ask him their questions before they lost him since he was sure he would answer them in the wisest manner possible .
Imam Ali (AS) used to fast during the day and give away his food to the poor at night and slept hungrily. Based on an account, he and his family fasted for three days, and each night gave away their Iftar to one needy person who had come to their door. Some interpreters of the Quran believe that this act of Imam Ali (AS) and his family was followed by revealing this verse of the Quran :
"Those who give their wealth by night and day, secretly and openly, they shall have their reward near their Lord, and they will have no fear, nor will they grieve" (2:274)
He also gave away the money he earned through labor and tied a stone to his stomach to fight off his hunger. Whenever he gained a considerable amount of money, he informed the poor and the needy of it and divided it between them and then gave thanks to Allah through performing Salat .
According to some hadiths, one day a beggar entered the mosque and asked for help; but, no one gave him anything. He raised his hands toward the sky and said, "O God! Witness that I asked for help in the mosque of Your Prophet (PBUH&HP) and no one gave me anything." When he said this, Imam Ali (AS) was performing ruku' in prayer and pointed to the small finger of his right hand which had a ring on. The beggar went near and took the ring off from Imam's (AS) finger. Some exegetes believe  that this verse of the Quran referred to this incident: "Your guardian is only Allah, His Apostle, and the faithful who maintain the prayer and give the zakat while bowing down" (5:55).
He loved Allah, and his love was not tainted by fear or expecting a reward. His worships and prayers were purely for His sake and with the intention of His satisfaction; "The basis of this worship is reason, conscience, and spiritual perfection" . This deep and pure faith that had penetrated his very bones turned him into a self-aware and pious man who aligned his every action with Allah's will and commands. As Jordac puts:
"Ali's piety was not the outcome of circumstances like that of other pious persons, who engage themselves in worship on account of the weakness of their souls, or to escape the vicissitudes of life and to keep aloof from the people, or in imitation of their ancestors, and the effects of the events of life confirm it because as a rule, people accord respect to ancestral customs and traditions… His worship was, in fact, a continuous effort and a campaign against mischief for the sake of human life and prosperity… According to Ali, the essence of piety is to sacrifice one's life for the sake of truth and justice" 
He was born in the house of Allah, Ka'aba, and martyred in his dwelling, the mosque. As if Allah had destined him to always be in His arms.
Imam Ali (AS) said: "Your faith should be at such a level that you should prefer truth to falsehood even though it may cause you loss and falsehood may bring you gain" . And he did so in practice. He would choose truthfulness no matter what the result and never surrendered to injustice.
Another sign of his bravery was his disapproval of going into a war. Despite his strength and high physical power, he would rather peace and would not start a war unless it was inevitable. However, when he attended a battlefield, he fought courageously and never escaped from the enemy. Even on the battlefield, he was the forgiving man who pardoned his enemy when he found them defeated and defenseless.
On the morning of January 26, 661, Imam Ali (AS) was struck with a poisoned sword of Abd al-Rahman b. Muljam al-Muradi who was one of the renegades (Kharijites) [i] while performing Salat in the Grand Mosque of Kufa (today's Najaf in Iraq). He was martyred from this injury two days later and was buried secretly at his request .
Imam Ali, The Beacon of Justice and Humanity
Imam Ali's (AS) exemplary character and life can be a guiding light for all truth-seeking human beings. His deep affection for people, his care for justice and equality, his social and political insight, and his sincere devotion and faith in Allah made him a man whose fame reaches out to generations centuries later than his martyrdom.
[i] Khawārij or Kharijites were a group of Muslims who rioted against Imam Ali (AS) in the middle of, and after, the Battle of Siffin, as well as in the event of Arbitration. They then began the Battle of Nahrawan against the Imam (AS).
- Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 1, p. 5.
- Ibn Athīr, Usd al-ghāba, vol. 1, p. 15.
- Ibn Hishām, al-Sīra al-nabawīyya, vol. 1, p. 162.
- Nahj al-balagha, Sermon 192, p. 222.
- Muṣāḥib, Dāʾirat al-maʿārif-i Farsī, vol. 2, p. 1760.
- Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, History of the Prophets and Kings, vol.2, p.331.
- Ibn Saʿd, al-Ṭabaqāt al-kubrā, vol. 2, p. 131.
- Ayyāshī, Tafsīr al-ʿAyyāshī, vol. 1, p. 4.
- Mufīd, Masār al-Shīʿa, p. 17.
- Masʿūdī, Ithbāt al-waṣīyya, p. 153.
- Ibn Shahrāshūb, Manāqib Alī b. Abī Ṭālib, vol. 3, p. 133.
- Nahj al-Balagha, Sermon 15. , p.39.
- George Jordac, The Voice of Human Justice (Sautu'l ' Adalati'l Insaniyah), p.72. PDF.
- Yusuf b. Qazawughli, Tadhkirat al-khawas, p. 13.
- George Jordac, The Voice of Human Justice (Sautu'l ' Adalati'l Insaniyah), p.33. PDF.
- Al-Hakim al-Nishapuri, Al-Mustadrak alaa al-Sahihain, vol.3, p. 126.
- George Jordac, The Voice of Human Justice (Sautu'l ' Adalati'l Insaniyah), p.40. PDF.
- Ali ibn Abd-al-Malik al-Hindi, Kanz al-Ummal, vo.13, p.165.
- Abbas Qomi, Muntahi al-Amal, vol.1, p.284.
- al-Shaykh al-Saduq, Al-Amali, p.169.
- Ḥākim al-Ḥaskānī, Shawāhid al-tanzīl, vol. 1, p. 209-239.
- George Jordac, The Voice of Human Justice (Sautu'l ' Adalati'l Insaniyah), p.29. PDF.
- ibid, p.28.
- Mohammad-Baqer Majlesi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol.70. p.106.
- Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 1, p. 27-28.
Have you ever wondered why lady Zainab (as) is so revered by the Muslims? What makes her so great that even after 14 centuries we remember her and take inspiration from her? Is she respected just because she was the daughter of Imam Ali (as) and Lady Fatima (as) or because she achieved a great status through her faith, patience, and determination in face of calamities?
Lady Zainab (AS) has several attributes and titles such as Al-Aqilah or the noble woman, Al-Aalimah or the most knowledgeable woman, and Aminatu al-Allah, the trustee of Allah (SWT).
She enjoyed the most exalted lineage, her mother was Lady Fatimah al-Zahra (as), who was a reflection of her father in the worship of Allah, piety, self-discipline, virtues, clemency, veneration, and other features of perfection. Her father Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp) named her the lady of the women of the worlds. Lady Zainab was nurtured by such a great mother.
Lady Zaynab’s father is Imam Ali (as) who is known as chief of the prophets’ successors, leader of the pious ones, and head of the worshippers. Imam Ali (as) was the representative, successor, and heir to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp). His merits are innumerable and his sacrifices for Islam are unrivaled. He was the most knowledgeable, self-possessed, magnanimous, generous, abstinent, trustworthy, faithful, and pious, and the best worshipper and the bravest among Muslims. In other words, he was the best Muslim after the Holy Prophet of Allah (pbuh&hp).
Lady Zaynab, hence, was born in the most pious family and raised in the care of the best human beings. She learned many things that made up her perfect personality, from the etiquettes of her parents and brothers. From early life, Lady Zaynab was marvelous in her intellect and wisdom. She had learned the Holy Quran by heart as well as the Prophet’s sayings regarding Islamic laws, rules of education, and principles of ethics.
She represented her brother, Imam al-Hussain (as), whenever he was absent. Hence, Muslims used to refer to her in the questions concerning Islamic laws. It was because of her extensive knowledge that Imam Zayn al-Abidin (pbuh), Abdullah ibn Jafar, Lady Fatimah the daughter of Imam al-Hussain (as), Muhammad ibn Amr, and Ata ibn al-Saib used to quote her sayings. In Kufa, during her father’s rule, Lady Zaynab had special sessions to which Muslim ladies came to listen to her lectures on Islam and the exegesis of the Holy Quran. She was thus the most trustworthy reference from whom Muslim women took advice regarding questions about Islam, moral instructions, and general ethics.
Since early life, Lady Zaynab had equipped herself with steadfastness against misfortunes. She witnessed the death of her grandfather, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&H), who loved her very much and sympathized with her. She then saw the horrible events that surprised her parents, immediately after the Holy Prophet’s (pbuh&hp) demise. Her father was taken away from the position that Almighty Allah and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp) chose for him. Her mother was severely mistreated by people until she left this world at a young age. She then saw the people of Kufa cheat her brother, Imam al-Hasan (as), and abandoned him, thus forcing him to make a peace treaty with Muawiya, the mortal enemy of Islam and the Ahl al-Bayt (PBUT). A few years later, this Imam was assassinated by poison. She saw him vomit to blood to death.
As though all these calamities were not enough for her, on the tenth of Muharram, 61 H., she had to witness the most bitter of adversities; her brother, Imam al-Hussain (as), was martyred without any supporter and helper; the wicked and heartless soldiers of Yazid killed every male member of Imam Hussain’s (as) family including Lady Zainab’s two sons and all the companions of Imam Hussain (as). Lady Zaynab stood like an unshakable mountain in face of all these unbearable misfortunes. She faced all these with the weapon of steadfastness and resisted all the events with conviction. She is the perfect embodiment of the ayat (verse) from the Holy Quran:
“and give good news to the patient —those who, when an affliction visits them, say, ‘Indeed we belong to Allah and to Him do we indeed return.’ It is they who receive the blessings of their Lord and [His] mercy, and it is they who are the [rightly] guided.” (2:155-7)
Lady Zainab was a flag bearer of truth after all her family members were killed right in front of her eyes in Karbala and took up on herself to spread the true message of Karbala wherever she went. Whether it was the streets of Shaam (Syria) or the Palace of Yazid. She bravely spoke against the tyrant Yazid and invoked public opinion against his ruthless killing of Imam Hussain (as), the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp)
She is an immortal role model for all the women of the world who never feared anyone but Almighty Allah (swt). Indeed, we understand from her that patience means standing firmly with determination on the command of Allah (swt).
If Imam Hussain (as) is the leader of the martyrs, his sister Zainab is the shield that defended Imam Hussain’s (as) image after his martyrdom, if Abbas is your role model, Zainab was the strength of Abbas if Ali Akbar is your hero, his aunt Zainab was his source of fortitude and support. The true message of Karbala would never have reached us, had it not been for the sacrifices of Zainab, the daughter Ali.
- Lady Zaynab | Al-Islam.org
- A Summary of Lady Zaynab's Sermon in the Court of Yazid - Al-Islam.org Blog
On the last days of the year, we usually look back at what we did and what were the things we gained in that 365 days that passed. Sometimes, we would regret the times that were wasted or the opportunities that were lost, but at the end of the day, we feel grateful for what we achieved and for having the chance to enjoy the rest of our lives.
Thanksgiving is one of those opportunities that make us stop for a moment and look closer at our life, embracing what has been given to us freely, that is the love and support of our family, and be grateful for what we have gained so far.
Let’s have a quick glance at the history of Thanksgiving and Islam’s attitude toward celebrating it.
Thanksgiving roots back to some traditions held during English Reformation in Britain. However, in 1621 the first Thanksgiving day was held by “the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians” in North America, after a successful autumn harvest. However, “It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November” .
Whatever be the history of this day – having some explicit or implicit negative points aside from its positive aspects -, Islam holds a positive attitude toward the concept of thanksgiving. In what follows we will have a brief look at this view of Islam.
As we said in the article on Halloween, Islam is not against celebrating and having fun. There are four points that we, as Muslims, should observe in any tradition or celebration that we intend to take part:
1. It should not be harmful to ourselves and others, physically and mentally. A superstitious ceremony which is not based on any logical reason, and has no benefit for our mind and soul is not considered a proper kind of celebration according to Islam.
2. It should not result in ignoring our Islamic duties. Meaning that participating in a celebration should not lead us toward doing what we are not supposed to do as Muslims (e.g., drinking alcohol, eating Haram food, wearing immodest clothes, etc.) or forgetting what we must do as Muslims (e.g., praying, fasting, etc.).
3. It should not be a worthless and aimless pleasure that would only waste our time. “Islam always recommends us to be aware of what we are doing and think about our intention before any action. Even when we are having fun, there should be something behind it that makes it worthwhile. When enumerating the characteristics of a faithful person in Quran, Allah also mentions those who avoid vain actions (23:3); i.e., those activities that have no use for us and would only waste our time” .
4. Participating in that celebration should not make us like atheists or those who are against the belief in one God. That is to say, “A Muslim’s life should mirror his beliefs in every aspect. So, if an action even in appearance, represents what is against Islam or far from its teachings, then it should be avoided by Muslims” .
Thanksgiving is one of those celebrations that are very close to Islamic teachings. Being grateful to the creator for the blessings He had bestowed upon us  and also thanking other people for what they did for us, is one of the encouraged manners in Islam.
Also, Thanksgiving is a chance to gather with family and relatives and enjoy their company which is very much recommended in Islam. Prophet Muhammad (PBUHHP) said that: “I command all the people of my followers (Umma), whether present or not, and those generations which are to come … to maintain family kinship even if they live at a distance of a year's journey.” . The family is one of the most significant blessings of Allah to us, so we should give thanks to Allah for this precious blessing.
As a way to thank for God’s blessings, some people would give charity to those who are less privileged or are under financial pressures . This is one of the most praised actions in Islam and is highlighted in many narrations [i] as well as verses of the Quran: “You will never attain piety until you spend out of what you hold dear, and whatever you may spend on anything, Allah indeed knows it.” (3: 92). Thus, Allah would consider helping others as an act of gratitude.
Some American families would watch football games together, and some would play football together. Some others would pack up and go on a journey. Islam always recommended having fun, playing sports and traveling [ii]. Muslims should not keep themselves from enjoying Halal and lawful activities [iii].
As Muslims, we should keep in mind that whatever we have is granted by Allah. Thus the ultimate one to whom we give thanks is Him. That is the least we can do in return for Allah’s blessings. According to Imam Ali (AS), those who worship Allah as a way to appreciate His favors, are the most free-spirited ones, comparing with others who worship Allah with other purposes .
Thanksgiving Day is only a reminder. We should always thank Allah, in every breath and every moment of our lives. A Muslim knows the reason that he/she is alive, and is enjoying all kinds of opportunities and blessings is only Allah. Therefore, every day is a Thanksgiving Day for a Muslim.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have the opportunity to be thankful for what they have. Sometimes we find more things to complain than to be grateful. While if we consider what we have instead of what we don’t, our life would be much happier and more satisfactory. So, giving thanks is itself a blessing that Allah bestows upon the ones who believe in Him. Thus He says in the Quran, “And few of My servants are grateful” (34:13).
The more we are thankful, the more blessings will rain down on our life . A simple Physics formula that every action will have a reaction. The result of our thankfulness will be Allah’s favor on us. Therefore, Allah says: “If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]” (14:7).
Being thankful is not limited only to significantly great things. Even small or seemingly insignificant favors should be appreciated. Sometimes what we consider small or insignificant is far more important than what we think. Like having the chance of embracing our parents, kissing our kids, finding the nature’s beauties, being healthy or even breathing clean air. When we appreciate these favors and much more that are less seen by others, we realize Allah’s great love and care that includes every living creature, especially us.
It is not enough only to say you are thankful. You should show it in your actions as well. Whether it is God that you are grateful or your fellow human beings, you should do something that represent your thankfulness. Knowing that all we have is from Allah and not participating in sinful actions with the use of Allah’s blessings are only two ways of showing your thankfulness . Also, helping others and giving away to the needy are other ways of appreciating your privileges .
Having said that, don’t forget that expressing your gratitude in words is cherished by Allah and there are many recommended and specific manners in doing so. For instance praying to Allah, performing a two Rak’aa prayer (Salat) with the intention of giving thanks to Allah, repeating some Zikr (short Islamic phrases for praying; e.g. Alhamd-u-lillah (praise be to Allah), Shukr-an-lillah (Thanks to Allah), Allah-u-Akbar (Allah is the greatest), Subhan Allah (Glorious is God)), etc.
[i] Imam Reza (AS) stated in a narration that after having faith in Allah and his messengers, there is no better way of thanking Allah than to help your fellow human beings in their worldly matters .
[ii] Quran (29:20)
[iii] Quran (5:87)
- history of thanksgiving
- can muslim celebaret halloween
- Quran (2:172)
- Shaykh al-Kulayni, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 2, p. 151.
- thanksgiving day practices
- Mizan al-Hikmah, vol.5, p.9583.
- Bihar al-Anvar, vol.71, p.42.
- ibid, p.52.
- Ibn Babawayh , Oyoun Akhbar Al-Ridha, vol.2, p.162.
- ibid, p.169.