Ali is considered by Shia Muslims to be the first Imam, the rightful religious and political successor to Muhammad.
142 Facts About Ali
Ali was a cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, raised by him from the age of 5, and accepted his claim of divine revelation by age 11, being among the first to do so.
Ali played a pivotal role in the early years of Islam while Muhammad was in Mecca and under severe persecution.
Shias believed that Ali was appointed by Muhammad to lead Islam, and Sunnis interpreted the word as friendship and love.
Ali defeated the first group; but in the end, the Battle of Siffin led to an arbitration that favored Mu'awiya, who eventually defeated Ali militarily.
Slain by the sword of Ibn Muljam Moradi, Ali was buried outside the city of Kufa.
Shia and some Sunni sources introduce Ali as the only person born inside Ka'ba in Mecca, some containing miraculous descriptions of the incident.
Ali's father was a leading member of the Banu Hashim clan, who raised his nephew Muhammad after his parents died.
In 610, when Ali was aged between nine and eleven, Muhammad announced that he had received divine revelations.
Ali was among the first to believe him and profess to Islam, either the second or the third, a point of contention among Shia and Sunni Muslims.
Muhammad's call to Islam in Mecca lasted from 610 to 622, during which Ali provided for the needs of the Meccan Islamic community, especially the poor.
The Sunni al-Tabari writes that Ali was the only relative who offered his support and Muhammad subsequently announced him as his brother, his trustee, and his successor.
In 622, Muhammad was informed of an assassination plot by the Meccan elites and it was Ali who is said to have stayed in Muhammad's house overnight to fool the assassins waiting outside, while the latter escaped to Yathrib, thus marking 1 AH in the Islamic calendar.
Ali soon married Muhammad's daughter Fatima in 1 or 2 AH, at the age of about twenty-two.
Ali was one of the scribes tasked by Muhammad with committing the Quran to writing.
In 628, Ali wrote down the terms of the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, the peace treaty between Muhammad and the Quraysh.
In 630, Muhammad sent Abu Bakr to read the at-Tawbah for pilgrims in Mecca but then dispatched Ali to take over this responsibility, later explaining that he received a divine command to this effect, as related by Musnad Ibn Hanbal and the canonical Sunni collection Sunan al-Nasa'i.
At the request of Muhammad, Ali helped ensure that the Conquest of Mecca in 630 was bloodless and later removed the idols from Ka'ba.
In 631, Ali was sent to Yemen to spread the teachings of Islam, as a consequence of which the Hamdanids peacefully converted.
Ali accompanied Muhammad in all of his military expeditions except the Battle of Tabuk, during which he was left behind in charge of Medina.
Ali commanded the expedition to Fadak in the absence of Muhammad.
Ali was the standard-bearer in the Battle of Badr and the Battle of Khaybar.
Ali vigorously defended Muhammad in the Battle of Uhud and the Battle of Hunayn, while Veccia Vaglieri attributes the Muslims' victory in the Battle of Khaybar to his courage, where he is popularly said to have torn off the iron gate of the enemy fort.
Madelung, McHugo, and Shah-Kazemi suggest that Ali thereby claimed to have been entrusted by Muhammad with an authority superior to his predecessors, while Afsaruddin notes that the Sunni al-Bukhari and Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj have not recorded the event in their canonical works.
The boycott was successful, and those who initially supported Ali gradually turned away and pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr.
Shia sources describe a final and violent raid to secure the oath of Ali, led by Umar, in which Fatima suffered injuries that shortly led to her miscarriage and death.
Ali did not participate in the military expeditions of Umar, although he does not seem to have objected to them, according to Gleave.
Ali frequently accused Uthman of deviating from the Quran and the Sunna, and he was joined in this criticism by most of the senior companions.
Uthman was widely accused of nepotism, corruption, and injustice, and Ali is known to have protested his conduct, including his lavish gifts for his kinsmen.
Ali appears in early sources as a restraining influence on Uthman without directly opposing him.
Some supporters of Ali were part of the opposition to Uthman, joined in their efforts by Talha and Zubayr, who were both companions of Muhammad, and by his widow Aisha.
Ali is said to have rejected the requests to lead the rebels, although he might have sympathized with their grievances, and was thus considered a natural focus for the opposition, at least morally.
Ali similarly asked the Iraqi opposition to avoid violence, which was heeded.
Ali acted as a mediator between Uthman and the provincial dissidents more than once to address their economical and political grievances.
Ali then urged Uthman to publicly repent, which he did.
Ali played no role in the deadly attack, and his son Hasan was injured while guarding Uthman's besieged residence at the request of Ali.
Ali convinced the rebels not to prevent the delivery of water to Uthman's house during the siege.
Laura Veccia Vaglieri notes that Ali refused to lead the rebellion but sympathized with them and probably agreed with their calls for abdication.
Hossein Nasr and Asma Afsaruddin, Levi della Vida, and Julius Wellhausen believe that Ali remained neutral, while Caetani labels Ali as the chief culprit in the murder of Uthman, even though the evidence suggests otherwise.
Ali was reluctant perhaps because he saw the polarizing impact of the assassination on the community, suggests Reza Aslan.
For Veccia Vaglieri, that Ali allowed himself to be nominated by the rebels was an error, because it left him exposed to accusations of complicity in the assassination.
Shaban and Sean Anthony believe that Ali stepped in to prevent chaos and fill the power vacuum created by the regicide.
Madelung is critical that Ali was elected irregularly and not by a council, while Hugh N Kennedy and Veccia Vaglieri write that the election of Ali faced little public opposition, and this is implied by Shaban.
Kennedy similarly writes that the Quraysh challenged Ali to preserve the status of their tribe.
Ali was vocal about the divine and exclusive right of Muhammad's kin to succeed him, which would have jeopardized the future ambitions of other Qurayshites for leadership.
Ali replaced them with men whom he considered pious, largely from the Ansar and the Banu Hashim.
Ali distributed the treasury funds equally among Muslims, following the practice of Muhammad, and is said to have shown zero tolerance for corruption.
Ali thus laid claim to the religious authority to interpret the Quran and Sunnah, and particularly the esoteric message of the script.
In return, some supporters of Ali indeed held him as their divinely-guided leader who demanded the same type of loyalty that Muhammad did.
Ali equally distributed the taxes and booty amongst Muslims, following the precedent of Muhammad and Abu Bakr.
Ali is said to have even rejected a request by his brother Aqil for public funds, whereas Mu'awiya readily offered all of them bribes.
Ali is regarded as an authority for the rules of intra-Muslim war in Islamic jurisprudence.
Ali forbade Muslim fighters from looting, and instead equally distributed the taxes as salaries among the warriors.
Ali pardoned them in victory, and both of these practices were soon enshrined in the Islamic law.
Beyond these measures, Ali has often been noted for his magnanimity to his defeated foes.
Ali advised al-Ashtar not to reject any call to peace and not to violate any agreements, and warned him against unlawful shedding of blood.
Ali forbade his commanders from disturbing the civilians except when lost or in dire need of food.
Ali further urged al-Ashtar to resort to war only when negotiations fail.
Ali ordered him to avoid commencing hostilities, and this Ali observed too in the Battle of the Camel and the Battle of Nahrawan.
Ali barred his troops from killing the wounded and those who flee, mutilating the dead, entering homes without permission, looting, and harming the women.
Veccia Vaglieri adds that Ali prevented the enslavement of women and children in victory, even though some protested.
Ali was joined there by her close relatives, Talha and Zubayr, who thus broke their earlier oaths of allegiance to Ali.
The opposition to Ali decried his leniency towards the rebels, and accused him of complicity in the assassination.
Alternatively, Talha and Zubayr revolted after Ali refused to grant them favors.
In particular, Ali did not offer the two any posts in his government, specifically the governorships of Basra and Kufa.
Ali had set out in pursuit but failed to intercept them.
The supporters of Ali thus expelled him from the town, and raised an army of six to twelve thousand men, which formed the core of Ali's forces in the coming battles.
Ali is said to have barred his men from commencing hostilities.
Ali ordered his forces to advance when the rebels killed Ali's envoy, thus blocking his last-ditch effort to avoid war.
Ali was nevertheless treated with respect, and later escorted back to Hejaz.
Ali then announced a public pardon, setting free the war prisoners and prohibiting the enslavement of their women and children.
Ali extended this pardon to high-profile rebels such as Marwan, who soon joined the court of Mu'awiya.
For Madelung, that Ali released Marwan signals how little he was willing to engage in the ongoing political schemes of the civil war.
Ali then appointed Ibn Abbas as the governor of Basra, and divided the treasury funds equally.
Once in Kufa, Ali dispatched an envoy to Syria with a letter for its governor, Mu'awiya.
Ali argued in his letter that his election in Medina was binding on Mu'awiya in Syria because he was elected by the same people who had pledged to his predecessors.
The letter urged Mu'awiya to leave justice for Uthman to Ali, promising that he would deal with the issue in due course.
Amr is credited with successfully spreading the rumor that Ali had killed Uthman.
Ali replied to this letter that he was innocent and that Mu'awiya's accusations lacked any evidence.
Soon the Iraqis drove off the Syrians, though Ali permitted the enemies to freely access the water source.
Ali probably refrained from initiating hostilities, and later fought together with his men on the frontline, whereas Mu'awiya led from his pavilion.
Ali is estimated to have lost 25,000 men by this point, while Mu'awiya might have lost 45,000 men.
Ali is said to have exhorted his men to continue fighting, telling them to no avail that raising the Quran was for deception.
Ali now recalled al-Ashtar, who is said to have advanced far towards the Syrian camp and initially refused to stop fighting.
The alternatives proposed by Ali were Ibn Abbas and al-Ashtar, both of whom were rejected by al-Ash'ath and other Yemenites, and by the Iraqi.
Ali visited them and told them that they had opted for the arbitration despite his warnings.
Ali added that they were repudiating government even though a ruler was indispensable in the conduct of religion.
Ali nevertheless did not bar their entry to mosques or deprive them of their shares in the treasury, saying that they should be fought only if they initiate hostilities.
In particular, Ali denounced the conduct of the two arbitrators as contrary to the Quran and began organizing a new expedition to Syria.
Ali invited the Kharijites to join him in a letter addressed at their leaders.
Ali decided to depart for Syria without them, probably to deny Mu'awiya the time to recuperate.
Around this time the Kharijites started the practice of interrogating civilians about their views on Uthman and Ali, and executing those who disagreed with them.
Ali received the news of the Kharijites' violence en route to Syria and sent one of his men to investigate, but he too was killed by the Kharijites.
Ali moved to Nahrawan with his army, estimated to be 14,000 strong.
Ali waited for the Kharijites to commence hostilities, and then crushed them with his army of about 14,000 men.
Some scholars have criticized Ali for killing his erstwhile allies, many of whom were outwardly pious Quran readers.
Mu'awiya had secretly offered many of them posts and wealth in return for their support, whereas Ali refused to grant any financial favors to the tribal chiefs as a matter of principle.
Ali nevertheless continued his efforts to organize a second Syrian campaign and appears to have finally found sufficient support for an offensive, set to commence in late winter 661.
Ali's success was in part due to the public outrage in the wake of the infamous Syrian raid led by Busr.
In preparation for a large-scale war, a detachment raided Syria under the command of Ziyad ibn Khasafa, but it is unlikely to have inflicted substantial damage since Ali had ordered the unit to fight only those who would fight them and to avoid wronging anyone or interfering with the bedouins.
Ali died of his wounds about two days after the Kharijite Abd al-Rahman ibn Muljam struck him over his head with a poison-coated sword at the Great Mosque of Kufa.
Ali was sixty-two or sixty-three years of age at the time of his death.
Some Shia reports add that Ali designated Hasan as his before dying, thus transferring his authority to him, and as his, thus leaving Hasan responsible for punishing his assassin.
The first marriage of Ali was with Fatima, who bore him three sons, namely, Hasan, Husayn, and Muhsin, though the last one is not mentioned in some sources.
Muhsin either died in infancy, or was miscarried after Fatima was injured during a raid on her house to arrest Ali, who had withheld his pledge of allegiance from Abu Bakr.
Ali remarried multiple times after the death of Fatima in 632 and had more children, including Muhammad al-Awsat and Abbas ibn Ali.
Mus'haf of Ali is said to be a copy of the Qur'an compiled by Ali, as one of the first scribes of the revelations.
Shia sources write that, after Muhammad's death, Ali offered this codex for official use but was turned down.
Ali was one of the main reciters of the Qur'an, and a recitation of him has survived, which, according to some scholars, is the same as the recitation of Hafs that has long been the standard version of the Qur'an.
Kitab Ali is often linked to al-Jafr, which, in Shia belief, is said to contain esoteric teachings for Muhammad's household, dictated to Ali by Muhammad.
Kitab al-Diyat on Islamic law, attributed to Ali, contains instructions for calculating financial compensation for victims and is quoted in its entirety in Man La Yahduruhu al-Faqih, among others.
Ali is the first transmitter of several hundred hadiths, attributed to Muhammad, which have been compiled in different works under the title of Musnad Ali, often as part of larger collections of hadith, such as Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, a canonical Sunni source.
In person, according to Veccia Vaglieri, Ali is represented as bald, heavy built, short-legged, with broad shoulders, a hairy body, a long white beard, and affected by eye inflammation.
Shia accounts about the appearance of Ali are markedly different from Veccia Vaglieri's description and are said to better match his reputation as a capable warrior.
In manner, Veccia Vaglieri writes that Ali was rough, brusque, and unsociable.
Sa'sa'a ibn Suhan, a companion of Ali, is reported to have said that.
Ali [Ali] was amongst us as one of us, of gentle disposition, intense humility, leading with a light touch, even though we were in awe of him with the kind of awe that a bound prisoner has before one who holds a sword over his head.
Accounts about Ali are sometimes tendentious, Veccia Vaglieri asserts, because the conflicts in which he was involved were perpetuated for centuries in polemical sectarian writings.
However, neither Lammens nor Caetani, according to Veccia Vaglieri, took into consideration Ali's widely reported asceticism and piety, and their impact on his policies.
Veccia Vaglieri notes that Ali fought against those whom he perceived as erring Muslims as a matter of duty, in order to uphold Islam.
In victory, Ali was said to have been magnanimous, risking the protests of some of his supporters to prevent the enslavement of women and children.
Ali showed his grief, wept for the dead, and even prayed over his enemies.
Tabatabai similarly writes that the rule of Ali was based more on righteousness than political opportunism, as evidenced by his insistence on removing those governors whom he viewed as corrupt, including Mu'awiya.
Ali retains his stature as an authority on Qur'anic exegesis and Islamic jurisprudence, and is regarded as a founding figure for Arabic rhetoric and grammar.
Ali has been credited with establishing the authentic style of Qur'anic recitation, and is said to have heavily influenced the first generation of Qur'anic commentators.
Ali is central to mystical traditions within Islam, such as Sufism, and fulfills a high political and spiritual role in Shia and Sunni schools of thought.
In Muslim culture, Madelung writes, Ali is respected for his courage, honesty, unbending devotion to Islam, magnanimity, and equal treatment of all Muslims.
Ali is remembered, according to Jones, as a model of uncorrupted socio-political and religious righteousness.
Esposito further suggests that Ali still remains an archetype for political activism against social injustice.
Ali is remembered as a gifted orator though Veccia Vaglieri does not extend this praise to the poems attributed to Ali.
Ali is credited by some, such as Nasr and Shah-Kazemi, as the founder of Islamic theology, and his words are said to contain the first rational proofs among Muslims of the Unity of God.
For instance, some have interpreted as financial dependence because Ali was raised in Muhammad's household as a child.
In Shia Islam, Ali is considered the first Imam and the belief in his rightful succession to Muhammad is an article of faith among Shia Muslims, who accept the superiority of Ali over the rest of companions and his designation by Muhammad as successor.
Unlike Muhammad Ali was not the recipient of a divine revelation, though he is believed to have been guided by divine inspiration in Shia theology.
In Shia view, Ali inherited the esoteric knowledge of Muhammad.
Shia extremists, known as Ghulat, believed that Ali had access to God's will.
The Nusayris considered Ali to be an incarnation of God.
Ali is the spiritual head of some Sufi movements and nearly all Sufi orders trace their lineage to Muhammad through him, an exception being Naqshbandis, who reach Muhammad through Abu Bakr.
In Sufism, Ali is regarded as the founder of Jafr, the occult science of the symbolic significance of the Arabic alphabet letters.
The primary sources for scholarship on the life of Ali are the Qur'an and hadiths, as well as other texts of early Islamic history.
Since the character of Ali is of religious, political, jurisprudential, and spiritual importance to Muslims, his life has been analyzed and interpreted in various ways.
The most notable work prior to this period is the Book of Sulaym ibn Qays, attributed to a companion of Ali who lived before the Abbasids.