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Short Biography of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (a)

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Imam Ali (a) is the first Shiite Imam. He was born on Rajab 13 in the city of Mecca. He was the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad (s). He is revered as one of the most important figures in Islamic history for his leadership, wisdom, and unwavering commitment to justice. In this article on Islam4u, we will delve deeper into his life, character, and virtues.

General Information About Imam Ali (a)

Birth: He was born in Mecca in the Sacred House (Kaaba) on Friday, the 13th of the month of Rajab, thirty years after the Year of the Elephant.

His titles: Master of the Guardians, Commander of the Glorious, the Greatest Truthful, the Great Divider, the Divider of Heaven and Hell, the Guardian, the Commander of the Faithful

His teknonym: Abu al-Hassan.

His ring seal was inscribed: “Sovereignty belongs to Allah, and Ali is His servant,” “All Glory belongs to Allah,” and “Sovereignty belongs to Allah, the One, the Omnipotent.”

Duration of the Imamate: The Noble Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family, died on the 28th of Safar in the year 11 AH, and from that moment, Ali, peace be upon him, became the Imam of his time until he was martyred on the 21st of the month of Ramadan in the year 40 AH. So, the period of his imamate would be 29 and a half years. These were very difficult and sensitive years in which his main concern was to preserve the religion as it was revealed to the Noble Prophet, once with exhortation, another with patience, and a third with war.

Martyrdom: He was martyred on the night of the twenty-first of the month of Ramadan in the year 40 AH when he was sixty-three years old. Abd al-Rahman bin Muljim was the one who murdered him.

Burial: Najaf al-Ashraf

The Significance of Imam Ali (a)

Discoursing on the topic of Imam Amir al-Mu’minin, peace be upon him, is not a task to be taken lightly. This is because we are not simply discussing a historical figure who held a prominent place in the Islamic community and whose legacy is captured in historical texts. Instead, we are considering a personality presented by Allah Almighty as a model human being, shaped by the teachings of the Noble Quran and embodying the ideals of great Islam. Hence, the life of the Imam, peace be upon him, represents the epitome of Islam, providing us with a perfect example of its application. Therefore, we must not view the Imam, peace be upon him, merely as a historical figure but rather as a seminal force that has transcended time and place to become the cornerstone of Islamic civilization.

Stages of the Life of the Imams

Before delving into the esteemed persona of Imam Ali, peace be upon him, a systematic and analytical approach necessitates that we first delve into the concept of the Imams, peace be upon them, in its entirety. Understanding their revered status within the Islamic community is crucial for comprehending the essence of any Imam. Thus, to fully grasp the magnitude of the guidance provided by the Imams, peace be upon them, it is essential to be aware of two key elements:

The first is knowing the responsibilities Allah Almighty assigned to every infallible Imam.

The second: identifying the various roles of the Imams, peace be upon them, through the nature of the general and temporary conditions surrounding them.

The study of the lives of the Ahlul Bait, peace be upon them, is a crucial step in understanding their impact on the Islamic community. It is imperative to appreciate the significance of their role in preserving the Islamic Sharia brought by the Prophet, may Allah’s prayers be upon him and his family. The Imams, peace be upon them, devoted their lives to ensuring that the original model established by the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace upon him and his family, was kept pure and unadulterated.

As for the second matter, the Imam’s peace be upon them, can be separated into three distinct phases, each marked by unique challenges and triumphs:

First: To fortify the Islamic community against the adverse effects of deviating from the teachings of the Prophet (s), the Imams (a) undertook the crucial task of safeguarding the faith. This was achieved through the efforts of Imam Ali, peace be upon him, Imam al-Hassan, peace be upon him, and Imam al-Hussain, peace be upon him, as well as the early years of Imam Ali bin Al-Hussain, peace be upon him. These leaders worked tirelessly to ensure the preservation of the principles and practices established by the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and keep the community on the right path.

Second: This stage consisted of two things:

A. The Demolition of the fortifications of the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphate by challenging the “propagandists of the sultans” whom the ruling powers had brought to their courts to confer legitimacy to their rule and rationalize their transgressions by attributing their own narratives to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and his family. This stage was exemplified by the latter half of Imam Zain al-Abidin’s life, as well as by Imams al-Baqir, al-Sadiq, and al-Kazim, peace be upon them.

B. Constructing a virtuous community through the propagation of authentic Islam and the development of righteous scholars.

Third: The phase of preparing for the community’s self-reliance in administering its affairs and laying the foundation for the guidance of the infallible Imams, peace be upon them, can be referred to as purposeful waiting. This phase was personified by Imams al-Rida, al-Jawad, al-Hadi, al-Askari, and al-Mahdi during the period of minor occultation.

Stages of the Life of Imam Ali (a)

The life of the Imam, peace be upon him, can be classified into five distinct phases based on the chronological sequence of events, ranging from birth to martyrdom. This categorization seeks to shed light on the historical progression of the Imam, peace be upon him, and the transformative impact he had on the Islamic community.

The first stage: from the blessed birth until the prophetic mission, Rajab 13, thirty years after the Year of the Elephant, to Rajab 27, that is, ten years.

The second stage: from the prophetic mission until the migration, which is thirteen years.

The third stage: from the migration until the martyrdom of the greatest Messenger, peace be upon him, which is ten years. By that time, the age of the Imam was thirty-three years.

The fourth stage: It is the stage of the three caliphs, that is, from Saqifah Bani Sa’idah to the death of Uthman bin Affan, which is twenty-five years. This stage is distancing the Imam, peace be upon him, from ruling and direct leadership of the Muslims.

The fifth stage: from the pledge of allegiance to the Imam in the year 35 AH, until his martyrdom on the twenty-first of the month of Ramadan in the year 40 AH. And in this stage, it was about five years of direct leadership of the Muslims.

The Era of the Three Caliphs

The first stage in the life of the Imam, peace be upon him, commences with the passing of the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah’s blessings be upon him and his family, on the 28th of Safar in the 10th year of Hijra, and concludes with the assassination of the third caliph, Uthman bin Affan, in the year 35 of Hijra. It is essential to keep in mind the crucial mission and objective entrusted to the infallible Imam, peace be upon him, during this stage and all others.

To grasp the Imam’s perspective on this era, it is essential to comprehend his stance on Saqifah. A multitude of references can be found in Nahj al-Balagha and other sources that elucidate this position. For example, some of his companions asked, “How could your community reject your claim to this position when you are the most worthy of it?” The Imam, peace be upon him, responded, “As for our people’s unjust domination over this position despite our superior lineage and proximity to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and his family, it is a legacy for which some people were greedy, and others were unfaithful. Ultimately, rule belongs to Allah, and the final judgment will determine appointments.”

From this text and others, we can deduce the following:

1- The caliphate is the right of the Imam, peace be upon him, and no one else.

2 – The position of the caliphate had been seized from him by tyranny and usurping.

3 – The owners of Saqifah knew the legitimacy of the Imam, peace be upon him, and the text of al-Ghadir is not far from their ears.

4- Despite their knowledge of the right of the Imam, peace be upon him, they tyrannized the caliphate and turned it away from him.

Hence, there are two lines

A. the ideology (the end justifies the means), that is, power is a goal by any possible means.

B. Prophetic line (the end and the means is obedience to Allah), meaning that power is a means to achieve higher values. And the truth is the most worthy of being followed.

This is in relation to his position, peace be upon him, on Saqifah. As for the achievements that the Imam made during the era of the caliphs, there are many, the most important of which are:

1- Maintenance of the Islamic Message

This is because the Imam, peace be upon him, is the successor and natural extension of the Prophet’s message, peace be upon him and his family. Thus, his first task was to collect the Noble Quran along with its explanation, interpretation, and mentioning of the reasons for its revelation and other important matters. He, peace be upon him, said: “I will not take off my cloak except for Friday prayer until I have gathered the Quran.”

2- Maintenance of the Islamic Nation and Entity

After the absence of the Prophet, peace be upon him and his family, the Islamic nation faced many dangers that pushed the Imam, to work towards preserving the nation. How could he not, as he was the gate of the city of the Prophet’s knowledge, as stated in the tradition, and as proven by the days after the departure of the Noble Prophet, peace be upon him and his family, in a clear manner. The second successor, despite the difficulty of succession, explicitly said: “If it were not for Ali, the caliphate would have been lost.” He also, said: “May Allah not keep me alive in a land in which you are not present, O Abu al-Hassan.”

3 – Maintenance of the Unity of the Islamic Nation

This can be observed from some of the events recorded in history concerning Imam Ali, including:

A. Not raising his sword to claim his right to the caliphate despite its clear recognition by all Muslims

B. Not raising his sword to claim the right of his wife Lady Fatima

C. His rejection of Abu Sufyan’s offer when he came saying: “Oh Abu al-Hassan, extend your hand so that I may pledge allegiance to you,” to which he replied, “By Allah, you do not want this except to cause confusion.”

The actions of Imam Ali demonstrate his prioritization of the unity of the Islamic nation over his personal rights and interests. He put the well-being and stability of the nation above his own personal ambitions and sought to maintain the unity of the community even in the face of adversity.

4 – The Indirect Impact of Imam Ali on Important Matters

The Islamic community did not do without the Commander of the Believers, in the face of specific challenges, despite the fact that others took over the caliphate, and this is evident in the form of advice and consultations on many occasions, including:

A. The Roman Conquest during the time of Abu Bakr

B. The Persian Conquest during the time of Umar

C. The Hijri calendar was established based on the advice of Imam Ali.

D. His advice on the division of the spoils of Kufa

The Era of Progressive Transformations

The period of the Imam’s rule was marked by significant transformations and reforms that he attempted to initiate and implement through his guidance and counsel to the caliphs across a range of domains, including social, political, military, and religious. Despite the challenges posed by events such as the Battle of Camel, the Battle of Siffin, and the rebellion at Nahrawan, he persisted in his efforts to bring about change, driven by the pressing need to address the shortcomings left behind by previous governance. In this light, we will delve into the reforms initiated by the Imam through his inspiring words and teachings:

1 & 2- Social and economic reform

The Imam, peace be upon him, embarked on a social and economic reform mission to address the injustices perpetuated by previous regimes. To do so, he took the following steps:

A – Promoting Equality:

The Imam, peace be upon him, emphasized the importance of fairness when it came to distributing money amongst people, he stated, “Any person who submits to Allah and the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family, and then believes in our religion and joins us, facing our qibla, has claimed the rights and obligations of Islam. You are all servants of Allah, and wealth belongs to Allah. It should be shared equally among you, with no one being favored over another. The most virtuous will receive the best reward tomorrow.”[1]

B – Recovery of Misappropriated Funds:

“Indeed, any property that was taken by Uthman and any wealth he gave from the wealth of Allah must be returned to the treasury. The right cannot be nullified by anything, even if it has been used for marriages by women, claimed by slaves, or divided in different lands. Justice affords abundance, and whoever restricts justice, injustice will be more constricting for them.”[2]

3 – Administrative Reform:

This reform was represented by several steps, including:

A – The selection of new governors based on objective criteria that did not rely on personal or faction-based considerations: Uthman ibn Hanif replaced Abdullah ibn Amer (Uthman’s nephew) in Basra.

Amr ibn Shahab replaced Abu Musa al-Ashari in Kufa.

Abdullah ibn Abbas replaced Yala ibn Munabbih in Yemen.

Qais ibn Sa‘d replaced Abdullah ibn Sa‘d in Egypt.

Sahl ibn Hanif replaced Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan (Uthman’s brother-in-law) in Syria.

B – The transfer of the center caliphate from Medina to Kufa, and this action had strategic dimensions related to the challenges of the era.

4- Religious and cultural reform:

The Imam succinctly identified the causes of deviation by stating: ” Strife begins when individuals blindly follow their personal desires and invent arbitrary rules that go against the teachings of Allah. Such actions are supported by people who don’t practice the religion of Allah. If the false were stripped of its guise as truth, it would no longer deceive the followers, and if truth were to shed its false disguise, those who resist it would be silenced. However, when a mix of truth and falsehood is created, confusion arises, and the devil gains control over their followers, putting those who have already been saved by Allah in peril.”[3]

For this reform, he took the following steps:

A. Opening the door of knowledge, dialogue, and all related to religious affairs. He says, “Ask me before you lose me.”

B. Paying attention to reading the Quran and connecting it to the noble Prophetic tradition.

C. Paying attention to writing, he says, “Record knowledge in writing.”


In conclusion, the life of Imam Ali was one of unwavering dedication to the cause of Islam. He was the first to believe in Prophet Muhammad (s) and was the only one who stood by the Prophet’s side through thick and thin. The Prophet appointed him as his brother, guardian, and successor. Ali devoted his entire life to serving Allah with all his heart and soul. He was martyred in the mosque, but his legacy lives on as a symbol of true devotion to the faith. Born in the Kaaba, he was also married to the Prophet’s daughter, Fatima, and is the most beloved person to the Prophet.

[1] 15- Al-Majlisi, Muhammad Baqer, Bihar Al-Anwar, vol. 32, p. 18 17.

[2] Nahj al-Balagha Part 1, pg. 46.

[3] Nahj al-Balagha, p. 100.

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  1. Wiki Anyone says

    amazing work!! keep it up Wiki Anyone

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