Short Biography of Ali ibn Talib (R.A.)
Praise be to Allah, and prayers and peace be upon the Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) and his sanctiﬁed and dedicated Companions (R.A.), as well as all their followers till the Day of Judgment.
In this article, we present a brief-biography of the fourth caliph of Islam Ali ibn Abi Talib (R.A.).
His Ancestry, Family and Attributes:
His full name is Ali Ibn Abu Talib Bin Abdul-Muttalib Bin Hashim. He came from the most respectable family of Quraish tribe, the family of Banu Hashim, and he was the cousin of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). His mother was Fatimah and she embraced Islam early and migrated to Madinah. His father Abu Talib was a chief of Banu Hashim tribe and he was the custodian of the Kaaba. Abu Talib was uncle of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). Abu Talib was a descendant of the Prophet Ishmael (A.S.), the son of Ibrahim (A.S.).
The documents indicated that Ali (R.A.) was born in Makkah on Friday, 13th of Rajab, thirty years after the incident of the Elephant, corresponding 17th of March, 599 CE.
Ali Ibn Abu Talib (R.A.) was one of the ten men given the tidings of Paradise, he married the Prophet's daughter Fatimah and he embraced Islam so early. He was a prominent scholar, a courageous soldier, a notable ascetic, and a remarkable orator. Further, he was occupied with the collection of the Holy Quran and revising it over with the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.).
His Early life and Acceptance of Islam:
When Ali (R.A.) was at the age of ﬁve, Quraish was struck with a drought that affected the economical status in Makkah. Hence, the Prophet (S.A.W.) appealed to his uncle Al-Abbas to help Abu Talib during the crisis. They offered Abu Talib to care for his children, as Al-Abbas chose to care for Jafar and the Prophet (S.A.W.) took Ali (R.A.) and gave him every kindness and affection in his early childhood, which inﬂuenced him for the rest of his life. He grew up in the household of the Prophet (S.A.W.), and when the Prophet received his mission, Ali (R.A.) was the ﬁrst to become Muslim from early childhood.
Once Ali ibn Abu Talib (R.A.) came back home while the Prophet (S.A.W.) and his noble wife Khadijah (R.A.) were praying. Ali (R.A.) asked about the prayer, then the Prophet (S.A.W.) told him that it is the right religion from Allah, that demands worshiping no god but Allah. Ali (R.A.) said that he has never heard about this before, and has to tell his father Abu Talib about it, but the Prophet (S.A.W.) asked him to keep the matter in secret. The next morning Ali (R.A.) came to the Prophet (S.A.W.) and declared his Islam. At the beginning, he kept his Islam a secret, fearing from his father, but when Abu Talib recognized him, he approved his and asked him to sustain to it while Abu Talib refused to depart the religion of his late fathers till he passed away.
His Role in Prophet’s (S.A.W.) Migration to Madinah:
The Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) remained in Makkah waiting for Allah’s permission to migrate to Madinah while his Companions migrated early. When disbelievers of Makkah plotted to kill the Prophet (S.A.W.), the Angle Gabriel (A.S.) revealed to him the details of that evil conspiracy and asked him (S.A.W.) not to sleep in his bed that night. So, the Prophet (S.A.W.) asked Ali (R.A.) to sleep in his bed to impersonate him, while the Prophet (S.A.W.) left his house safely at night and migrated to Madinah.
The Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) was well-known as the most trustworthy of men, although they did not accept his mission, the people of Makkah continued to keep their trusts of cash and gold in his safe-keeping. It was Ali (R.A.) whom the Prophet (S.A.W.) trusted to return the possessions to their owners when he left for Madinah. Thereafter, Ali (R.A.) also migrated to Madinah to join the Prophet (S.A.W.). Ali (R.A.) had suffered immensely in his journey to Madinah, as he spent that long journey walking on his feet. As he reached Madinah, the Prophet (S.A.W.) met him gladly, sending faithful prayers to Allah seeking goodness and blessings for Ali Ibn Abu Talib (R.A.).
With the migration to Madinah, the Prophet (S.A.W.) laid down the foundations of the Islamic country. He (S.A.W.) started with creating bounds of brotherhood among his Companions, built the mosque, endorsed a treaty with the Jews in Madinah, started sending detachments, and overall constituted a new society. Ali (R.A.) was extremely active in serving the Prophet (S.A.W.), being so close to him, following his orders and learning from his guidance.
His Marriage with Fatimah (R.A.):
Ali (R.A.) married the Prophet's (S.A.W.) most beloved daughter Fatimah (R.A.), one of the best women all over, her mother was Khadijah Bint Kuwailid (R.A.). The blessed marriage took place in Madinah after the Battle of Ohud, as Fatimah (R.A.) was ﬁfteen years old. Thus, Ali (R.A.) had the additional honor of being the father of the Prophet's (S.A.W.) progeny through his sons from Fatimah (R.A.), Al-Hasan (R.A.), Al-Husayn (R.A.), Zainab (R.A.), and Umm Kulthoom (R.A.).
Ali (R.A.) During Prophet Muhammad's (S.A.W.) Era:
Ali (R.A.) was so reliable and trustworthy that the Prophet (S.A.W.) designated him as one of the scribes who would write down the text of the Holy Quran, which had been revealed to the Prophet (S.A.W.) during his lifetime. As Islam began to spread throughout Arabia, Ali (R.A.) helped to establish the new Islamic order by carrying the massages and declaring the Islamic guidelines. Further, Ali (R.A.) was instructed to write down the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, the peace treaty between the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) and Quraish. Ali (R.A.) was sent to Yemen to spread the teachings of Islam. He was also charged with settling several disputes and putting down the uprisings of various tribes.
He was well versed in the knowledge of lineages, proverbs and the history of important-events. He travelled to Syria and Ethiopia and mixed with non-Arab people, learning things about their lives and customs that no one else knew. He took care of the business that he had inherited from his father and his wealth grew. He was regarded as one of the men of Banu Umayyah clan who were held in high esteem by all of Quraish. Thus, Uthman (R.A.) was regarded as being of high status among his people and he was loved dearly.
His Bravery and Struggle to Support Islam:
Ali (R.A.) was well known of his bravery. He participated in almost all the battles against the unbelievers during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.), except for the Battle of Tabuk in the year 9th Hijri, as the Prophet (S.A.W.) had placed Ali (R.A.) in charge of the city.
As well as being the standard-bearer in those battles, Ali (R.A.) led parties of warriors on raids into enemy lands. At the Battle of Badr, he defeated the Umayyad champion Walid Ibn Utba as well as twenty other polytheist soldiers. Ali (R.A.) was prominent at the Battle of Uhud, when the bearer of the Islamic standard was martyred, it was Ali (R.A.) who raised it up, but challenged by the unbeliever Talha Ibn Uthman, promptly Ali (R.A.) Attacked him and he fell to the ground. It was Ali (R.A.) too, who drew around the Prophet (S.A.W.) with other Companions, in the battle of Uhud, when the archers deserted their spots in quest of booty, and in the chaos which ensued when almost all took ﬂight, Ali (R.A.) whom Allah Had protected, stood steadfast beside the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.).
In the Battle of the Trench, Ali (R.A.) bravely defeated a prominent leader of the unbelievers called Amr Ibn Wudd. In the Battle of Khaybar, Ali (R.A.) defeated the great Jewish commander Marhab. When the Muslim army failed to conquer the Jewish fortress twice, the Prophet (S.A.W.), offered the command and the standard to Ali (R.A.). The fortress ﬁll to the onslaught of the Muslims and victory attained. Additionally, Ali (R.A.) was one the Companions who stood unwavering beside the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) in the Battle of Hunain.
Ali (R.A.) During Caliphate of Abu Bakr (R.A.):
After the death of the Prophet (S.A.W.), all the Companions (R.A.) pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr (R.A.), except Ali (R.A.), who did so later due to the fact that he was engaged in arranging the Prophet's (S.A.W.) funeral. Besides, he had an oath upon the Prophet's (S.A.W.) death that he would not engage in anything except prayer until he completed compiling the Quran. Ali (R.A.) gave his pledge of loyalty to Abu Bakr (R.A.) and assisted him throughout his Caliphate.
After terminating the expedition of Usamah, Abu Bakr (R.A.) sent Ali (R.A.) with a group of the Companions to protect the borders of the city in that critical time. In addition, Abu Bakr (R.A.) consulted Ali (R.A.) before ﬁghting apostasy and the Romans. Narrations revealed that judgeship was delegated to Ali (R.A.) during the time of Abu Bakr (R.A.).
Ali (R.A.) During Caliphate of Umar ibn Al-Khattab (R.A.):
Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (R.A.) was elected as the second Caliph after Abu Bakr's (R.A.) death. Ali (R.A.) pledged his allegiance to Umar (R.A.) and helped him as a trusted advisor. During the caliphate of Umar (R.A.), the Islamic army conquered the Roman Emperor in Syria, Egypt and north Africa. Additionally, the Islamic army conquered the Persian Emperor in Iraq, Persia, Khurasan, extending to the borders of Turkey and India. All the way through, Umar (R.A.) used to consult the wise Companions of the Prophet (S.A.W.) such as Ali (R.A.), and seek their suggestions in political issues.
It was narrated that Ali (R.A.) was the one who advised Umar (R.A.) to set Hijra as the beginning of the Islamic calendar. It was Ali (R.A.) who gave advice to Umar (R.A.) to go to Jerusalem in order to receive the Holy Mosque from the Romans, while Umar (R.A.) placed Ali (R.A.) in charge of Madinah. Ali (R.A.) was one of the electoral council to choose the third caliph which was appointed by Umar (R.A.). Uthman (R.A.) and Ali (R.A.) were the two major candidates.
Ali (R.A.) During Caliphate of Uthman ibn Affan (R.A.):
Uthman Ibn Affan (R.A.) was elected as the third Caliph. Ali (R.A.) pledged his allegiance to Uthman (R.A.) and remained in Madinah supporting him. Ali (R.A.) represented a considerable role during the incitement to rebellion against Uthman (R.A.). Ali supported Uthman (R.A.) and defended him by offering advice and facing the provincial opposition coming from Egypt and Iraq. They aimed at displacing Uthman (R.A.) with Ali (R.A.), but the latter resolutely rejected their demands. Thus, they pretended to be retreating, but after three days, they came back to Madinah to besiege Uthman (R.A.) and his family. Ali (R.A.) and his sons defended Uthman (R.A.) ardently and they were intended to ﬁght the rebellious, but Uthman (R.A.) refused killing people for his sake. It was an intricate tribulation in Islamic history, marked by the murder of Uthman (R.A.).
Ali Ibn Abi Talib (R.A.): The Fourth Caliph:
After the killing of third Caliph Uthman (R.A.), Prophet's Companions approached Ali (R.A.) asking him to be Caliph, he has declined the responsibility of this great ofﬁce ﬁrst, suggesting to be a counselor instead of a chief. But ﬁnally, he decided to put the matter before the Muslim public in the Prophet's Mosque, as a result, the overwhelming majority of the Companions in Madinah considered Ali (R.A.) to be the most suitable person to be Caliph after Uthman (R.A.). Thus, he agreed to take the responsibility. On 25th of Dhul-Hijjah 35H (24th June, 656 CE), pledges of loyalty were sworn to Ali (R.A.).
Several problems faced the new Caliph when he took power. Firstly, he has to establish peace in the state and to ameliorate the deteriorating political situation. Secondly, he needed to take action against the assassins of Uthman (R.A.).
The political state of Madinah was disturbed by the presence of Abdullah ibn Saba and his illegal party, supported by slaves – ﬂed from their bosses- and village dwellers. Ali (R.A.) asked all the followers of Ibn Saba to leave Madinah and return to their regions. The illegal party headed by Abdullah ibn Saba did not obey the Caliph's order and pretended to be staying there as his friends. Their purpose in staying was to create mischief and troubles among Muslims. When the orders of the Caliph were disobeyed, Ali (R.A.) offered entire freedom to the Companions, including Talha and Al-Zubair, who requested to avenge the death of Uthman (R.A.). Soon they believed that it is impossible to detect the killers in such critical circumstances.
The reign of Ali (R.A.) was notably marked by the occurrence of ordeals and troubles among Muslims. A careful reading in Islamic history revealed that the main cause of those troubles were the Sabites party, supported by ﬂed slaves and village dwellers. Their leader Abdullah ibn Saba was a jew but pretended conversion to Islam during the reign of Uthman ibn Affan (R.A.). The main goal of Ibn Saba was to split the Muslims and spread anarchy in the Islamic society. He Provoked Muslims to kill Uthman (R.A.) since he assumed that Uthman (R.A.) had occupied the seat of Ali (R.A.). He was the main source of mischief and revolution during the reign of Ali (R.A.).
The reign of Ali (R.A.) did not comprise new conquer, but characterized with civil and cultural accomplishments such as; police organization, constructing the court of arbitration and building jails. Besides, Ali (R.A.) transferred the capital of Caliphate from Madinah to Kufah in Iraq, due to its strategic position in the mid of the Islamic country at that time. Kufah thrived as the schools of jurisprudence and grammar were established. In addition, Ali gave his orders to furnish the letters of the Holy Quran with vowel signs for the ﬁrst time.
On the night that Ali (R.A.), Ibn Al-Tiyah came to him to call him for the prayer when the dawn appeared. At this time, Ali (R.A.) was reclining heavily. So he returned the second time while Ali (R.A.) was still in the same position and again he returned the third time. After the third time, Ali (R.A.) rose and walked to the mosque. When he got to the small door, Ibn Muljam sprang out and struck him.
Ali (R.A.) died in 17th of Ramadan, 40H (25th January, 661CE). His Caliphate continued for ﬁve years.
An elder from the Quraishi reported that when Ali (R.A.) was struck by Ibn Muljam, Ali (R.A.) said:
“I have succeeded by the Lord of the Kabah.”
When Ali (R.A.) was struck, he advised his sons and then he never said any other words except:
“No God but Allah”
until his soul was taken. He was washed by his sons Hasan (R.A.) and Hussain (R.A.) and Abdullah Ibn Jafar (R.A.). Al-Hasan (R.A.) led the funeral prayer for him.
May Allah have mercy on Ali Ibn Abu Talib and be pleased with him and assemble us among his company.
Book Name: Ali Ibn Abi Talib (May Allah be pleased with him)
Managed by: Kamal Ahmad
Translated by: Manal Qutub
From the Series of: Men and Women around Muhammad (S.A.W.)