The Humble Lantern and the well:
“If you give me all the world with everything in it, In condition that i take a husk of barely from an ant’s mouth, I will not do so!” –Ali Ibn Abu Talib
Ibn Sina, outstanding Persian philosopher,physician and scientist of the Middle Ages known in the West as Avicenna (author of the Canon of Medicine and Book of Healing among st many other great works) said:
“Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) had two miracles the Qur’an & Ali”.
The Quran, we understand, no need for an explanation but why Ali?
Ali was fostered and educated wholly by the Prophet since he was a little boy. When he was young he followed the Prophet like his Shadow and when he grew up to be a man he became the Shield of the Prophet.
When the idol worshipers of Mecca failed in their plans to convince Prophet Muhammad to give up his mission (they first tried bribery but Muhammad replied if you put the sun in my right hand an the moon in my left I will not deviate from my path(spreading monotheism), then they put sanctions on his followers) they plotted to kill him and it is no other than Ali to whom the Prophet asked to to sleep in his bed in order to distract and confuse the assassins and allow him time to escape to Medina. Imam Ali gladly accepted this responsibility, risking his own life so that his beloved would be saved. Imam Ali slept soundly that night and woke up surrounded by the drawn swords of the Prophet’s blood-thirsty enemies.
The renowned historian Jalaluddin Suyuti writes in The Historyof the Caliphs (Tarikh al-Khulafa) on the authority of Hazrat Ibn Abbas, that in the Qur’an, three hundred verses have been revealed in praise of Ali.
Prophet Muhammad said: “I am the City of Knowledge, and Ali is the gate, whoever wants to enter the city of knowledge should come through the gate”.
He also said: “Verily the Holy Qur’an is revealed on seven letters (levels) of which there is no letter which has not a manifest (exoteric) and a latent (esoteric) meaning, and verily with Ali Ibne Abi Talib is the (knowledge of) manifest and the latent (of it.)” (quoted also in Sahih al-Bukhari & Suyuti’s Itqaa). The above two Hadiths speak volumes about Ali’s knowledge.
His vast field of knowledge included biology, medicine, astronomy, the origin of universe (see Nahjul Balagha), philosophy, Islamic jurisprudence, mathematics, rhetoric, and more. He also made major contributions in developing the grammar of the Arabic language.
Many scholars, historians, leaders of all faiths and beliefs have written extensively on the merits of Imam Ali. Christians, agnostics, materialists both in the East and West have been fascinated by the greatness of character of Ali and scores of people continue to write beautiful poems and lyrics in praise of the one who was rejected by his own people (even though they had sworn allegiance to him in Ghadeer Qum during the lifetime of the Prophet) and for 29 years was a pariah!
The circumstances of birth and death of people (how they come to this world and how they leave it) are quite revealing of who they are as a person and their proximity or lack of it to God.
Imam Ali was born in 600 A.D. Within the holy precincts of the Kaaba, His mother, Fatima bint Asad, experienced labor pains and walked towards the Holy Kaaba. Its wall miraculously split, and she entered the sanctuary, after which the gap sealed itself behind her. Onlookers panicked and rushed to enter it, but could not unlock the door. She emerged three days later, after the baby was born! The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) was the first person besides Ali’s mother to hold the newborn in his arms, and when Ali opened his eyes, it was the face of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) that he first saw. No other human being has ever been born in Kaaba.
The circumstances of his martyrdom are revealing too.
One day when Muslims where in the mosque of the Prophet (Medina) a destitute came in and asked for alms.
No one paid any attention to him and they busied themselves praying behind the Prophet. Disappointed, the beggar walked away and as he was passing near Ali Ibn Abu Talib he saw that he held out his hand to him which had a ring on one of the fingers, the destitute took the ring and left the mosque. Thereafter, some companions criticized Ali for his lack of concentration while in worship (this event took place on 25th Dhul-Hijah).
In reply to the slanders this verse of Quran came :
“Only Allah is your Wali and His Apostle and those who believe, those who keep up prayers and pay the poor-rate while they bow [in rukoo]” (Quran: 5: 55).
Some historians mention that the Hadith- e- kisa event was also on the same day prior to the Prophet (saws) setting out for Mubahila. See also the chapters of Quran recording the giving of Alms to the Orphan destitute & Traveller by Fatima, Hassan & Hussein (surat Insan) which also took place on the 25th of Dhul-Hijah.
The same group of hypocrites and slanderers accused Ali of not praying and what an eloquent reply Allah gave them: He called back His Ali to Himself while he was in the most humble position of prayers (sujud) and at the best of times (fajr) in the mosque of Kufa (Iraq) shortly after he received the strike of death by Ibn Muljim.
“His exalted personality is such that even the most learned scholars are at a loss to fathom his greatness“.
Suffice here to mention the anecdote of Ali and the Candle to raise the curiosity of inquisitive minds in finding out more about the greatness of the Humble Lantern.
The story happened during the caliphate of Imam Ali (as):
A candle burnt by Ali’s side, as he sat down meticulously recording all the revenue and the expenses of the treasury. Just then Talha and Zubair appeared. They aspired to some position of authority in Imam Ali’s rule and had come to strike a deal. If Imam Ali gave them a place of distinction, they would in turn pledge their full support. Imam Ali knew of this.
Just as they sat down, Imam Ali’s put out the candle and lit another one. Talha and Zubair exchanged a glance of surprise and then one of them said: “O Ali, we have come on some important business. But why did you extinguish the first candle?” Imam Ali replied: “That was a candle bought of Treasury funds. As long as I worked for the Treasury, I used it. Now you have come for some personal work, so I use the candle bought of my personal funds.” Talha and Zubair left him without saying another word.
It is the same magnanimity that motivated Imam Ali to keep quiet for twenty nine years when his leadership was usurped. Even though Assadullah (The Lion of God) had the means to revolt and seize leadership, for the sake of people’s ideological unity, he accepted the psychological suffering of seeing incompetent people rule for twenty-nine years and lead the Ummah towards division, disintegration and loss.
Later, when the rest of the Muslims (The 90%) realized who he was and came to him and begged him to be their leader, after caliph Uthman was assassinated, Imam Ali ruled the society with utmost justice.
The kind of justice which has made an Eastern materialist Shibli Shumayyil say about him: “The leader `Ali ibn Abi Talib, greatest of all, is the man who neither the West nor East, neither yesterday nor today,have seen his example.”‘
The kind of justice that made the UN call for Muslim countries to follow and emulate his model of leadership.
When I reflect on all the horrors in the world that have taken place from the time Prophet Muhammad died (SAWS) till this day I begin to understand why during the time of Caliph Abu Baker The Lion of God put his head in a well and cried.
“What non-Muslims say about Ali?”.