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Why Imam Ali Chose Not to Battle for His Right to the Caliphate

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Introduction

Many people have asked this question throughout history, and it continues to be a topic of inquiry and discussion today. It appears that such a question is not only common but also significant in its implications. In the quest for answers, we find a myriad of opinions, each reflecting a personal viewpoint. However, in such matters, it’s crucial to turn to the wisdom of the Ahlulbayt, as their insights offer a deeper, more authoritative understanding. The Ahlulbayt have provided numerous responses to this and similar questions, shedding light on various aspects of Islamic thought and practice. Notably, Imam Ali himself addressed this issue directly, offering guidance and clarity.

In this article, I have compiled some relevant hadiths from the book “Ilal Al-Shara’i'”, an important source in Islamic literature. I have chosen not to add my commentary to these narrations, as they are quite self-explanatory. These hadiths have been carefully selected to provide a broad perspective on the topic, reflecting the depth and diversity of Islamic teachings as conveyed by the Ahlulbayt. Their words resonate with wisdom and insight, offering guidance to those seeking to understand the complexities of Islamic doctrine and history. Through these narrations, readers can gain a better appreciation of the profound legacy and enduring relevance of the teachings of the Ahlulbayt.

flashcards
flashcards

The Ahlulbayt ansawer

1. Sa’d ibn Abdullah narrates from Al-Haytham ibn Abi Masrooq Al-Nahdi from Al-Hasan ibn Mahboob from Ali ibn Ri’aab from Zarara, who said: I heard Abu Ja’far (Imam Muhammad al-Baqir) say:

Ali acted with restraint towards his enemy for the sake of our Shia because he knew they would be oppressed after him. He wanted those who came after him to follow his example, to treat them (the Shia) with his conduct and to emulate his restraint towards them after him.”

2. Ja’far ibn Muhammad ibn Masroor narrates from Al-Husayn ibn Muhammad ibn Aamir, from his uncle Abdullah ibn Aamir from Muhammad ibn Abi Umayr from someone he mentioned, from Abu Abdillah (Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq), who said: I asked him why Amir al-Mu’minin did not fight so-and-so and so-and-so. He replied:

“Because of a verse in the Book of Allah, the Almighty, the Glorious, which says: (If (the believers and the disbelievers) had been clearly separated We verily had punished those of them who disbelieved with painful punishment.[48:25]) He said, ‘What does their being separated mean?’He said, ‘Believers’ deposits in the loins of disbelieving people.’ And likewise, the Qa’im (the Mahdi) will never appear until the deposits of Allah, the Almighty, the Glorious, come forth. When they do, he will appear and confront Allah’s enemies and kill them.”

3. Al-Muzaffar ibn Ja’far ibn Al-Muzaffar Al-Alawi narrates from Ja’far ibn Muhammad ibn Mas’ud, from his father, from Ali ibn Muhammad, from Ahmad ibn Muhammad, from Al-Hasan ibn Mahboob from Ibrahim Al-Karkhi, who said: I said to Abu Abdillah (Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq), or a man said to him, ‘May Allah correct you, was not Ali strong in the religion of Allah, the Almighty, the Glorious?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I asked, ‘Then how did the people overcome him, and why did he not repel them, and what prevented him from that?’ He said, “A verse in the Book of Allah, the Almighty, the Glorious, prevented him”. He said, ‘Which verse?’ He said:

“The verse: (If (the believers and the disbelievers) had been clearly separated We verily had punished those of them who disbelieved with a painful punishment.)’ Indeed, there were believers’ deposits in the loins of disbelieving and hypocritical people. So, Ali did not kill the fathers until the deposits came forth. When they did, he confronted those who confronted him and fought them. And likewise, the Qa’im from Ahl al-Bayt will never appear until the deposits of Allah, the Almighty, the Glorious, come forth. When they do, he will appear and confront those who confront him and kill them.”

4. Al-Muzaffar bin Ja’far bin Al-Muzaffar Al-Alawi narrated from Ja’far ibn Muhammad ibn Mas’ud, from his father, who narrated from Jibreel ibn Ahmad, who narrated from Muhammad ibn Isa ibn Ubayd, from Yunus ibn Abdul Rahman, from Mansur ibn Hazim, from Abu Abdullah (Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq), regarding the verse of Allah, the Mighty, and Glorious said:

“(If (the believers and the disbelievers) had been clearly separated We verily had punished those of them who disbelieved with painful punishment.) If Allah were to bring forth what is in the loins of the believers from the disbelievers, and what is in the loins of the disbelievers from the believers, He would punish those who disbelieved.

5. Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ibn Ishaq Al-Talaqani narrated from Abu Sa’id Al-Hasan ibn Ali Al-Adawi, who narrated from Al-Haytham ibn Abdullah Al-Rummani, who said: I asked Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha, ‘O son of the Messenger of Allah, tell me about Ali ibn Abi Talib, why did he not fight his enemies for twenty-five years after the Messenger of Allah, and then waged war during his caliphate?’ He said:

“Because he followed the example of the Messenger of Allah in not fighting the polytheists in Mecca for thirteen years after his prophethood, and in Medina for nineteen months, due to the scarcity of his supporters. Similarly, Ali refrained from fighting his enemies due to the scarcity of his supporters. Thus, as the prophethood of the Messenger of Allah was not nullified despite his abstention from fighting for thirteen years and nineteen months, similarly the Imamate of Ali was not nullified despite his abstention from fighting for twenty-five years, as the reason preventing them both from fighting was the same.”

6. Ahmad ibn Ziyad ibn Ja’far Al-Hamdani narrated from Ali ibn Ibrahim, from his father, from Ibn Abi Umayr, from some of our companions, who asked Abu Abdullah (Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq), Why did Amir al-Mu’minin not fight them? He replied:

“What preceded in the knowledge of Allah was to be, and he was not to fight them as he had only three supporters among the believers.”

7. Hamza bin Muhammad Al-Alawi narrated from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Sa’id, who narrated from Al-Fadl ibn Khubab Al-Jumahi, who narrated from Muhammad ibn Ibrahim Al-Himsi, who narrated from Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Musa Al-Tai, from his father, from Ibn Mas’ud, who said: They argued in the Mosque of Kufa, saying, ‘Why did Amir al-Mu’minin not challenge the three (first caliphs) as he challenged Talha, Zubair, Aisha, and Muawiya?’ This reached Ali, and he ordered to call for the congregational prayer. When they gathered, he ascended the pulpit, praised Allah, and then said: “O people, it has reached me that you say such and such.’ They replied, ‘True, Amir al-Mu’minin, we said that.’ He said: “I have the example of the prophets in what I did. Allah, the Mighty and Glorious, says in His Book: (Indeed in the Messenger of Allah, you have a good example to follow).’ They asked, ‘Who are they, O Amir al-Mu’minin? He said:

first of them is Abraham when he said to his people: (And I will leave you and what you invoke other than Allah)… If you say that Abraham left his people not because of the harm he saw from them, then you have disbelieved. And if you say he left them because of a harm he saw from them, then the Wasi (successor meaning himself) is excused. And I have the example of his cousin Lot, who said to his people: (If only I had against you some power or could take refuge in a strong support…) If you say that Lot had power against them, then you have disbelieved, and if you say he had no power, then the Wasi is excused. And I have the example of Joseph when he said: (O my Lord, prison is more to my liking than that to which they invite me) If you say that Joseph called upon his Lord and asked for prison because of his Lord’s displeasure, then you have disbelieved. And if you say he did so to avoid displeasing his Lord and thus chose prison, then the Wasi is excused. And I have the example of Moses when he said: (So I fled from you when I feared you). If you say that Moses fled from his people without having fear of them, then you have disbelieved. And if you say that Moses feared them, then the Wasi is excused. And I have the example of my brother Aaron when he said to his brother: (O son of my mother, indeed the people deemed me weak and were about to kill me). If you say they did not deem him weak and were not close to killing him, then you have disbelieved. And if you say they deemed him weak and were close to killing him, and for that, he remained silent about them, then the Wasi is excused. And I have the example of Muhammad, peace be upon him and his family, when he fled from his people and took refuge in the cave out of fear of them, and made me sleep in his bed. If you say he fled from his people not out of fear of them, then you have disbelieved. And if you say he feared them and made me sleep in his bed and he himself took refuge in the cave out of fear of them, then the Wasi is excused.”

8. Ali ibn Hatim narrated from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Nawfali, who narrated from Muhammad ibn Hammad Al-Shashi, from Al-Hussein ibn Rashid, from Ali ibn Ismail Al-Maythami, who narrated from Rubai, from Zarara, who said: I asked Abu Abdullah (Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq), ‘What prevented Amir al-Mu’minin from calling people to himself?’ He said, ‘Fear that they would apostatize.” Ali ibn Hatim added, And I think in the Hadith [it was mentioned] “that they would not testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”

9. Abu al-Abbas Muhammad ibn Ja’far al-Razi narrated from Muhammad from Hussein ibn Abi al-Khattab, from Muhammad ibn Ismail ibn Bazi’gh, from Yunus ibn Abdul Rahman, from Bakkar ibn Abi Bakr al-Hadrami, who said: I heard Abu Abdullah (Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq) say, “The conduct of Ali ibn Abi Talib towards the people of Basra was better for his Shia than anything else under the sun. He knew that it was their time of dominance, so had he taken them as captives, his Shia would have been taken as captives too.” I asked, ‘Will the Qa’im (Imam Mahdi) follow his (Ali’s) conduct?’ He said, “No, Ali acted leniently with them because he knew of their time of dominance, but the Qa’im will act differently because they will have no dominance then.”

10. Sa’d ibn Abdullah narrated from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Isa, from Al-Abbas ibn Ma’ruf, from Hammad ibn Isa, from Hurayz, from Burayd ibn Mu’awiya, from Abu Ja’far (Imam Muhammad al-Baqir), who said: “Nothing prevented Ali from calling people to himself except that he preferred them being misguided without turning away from Islam than calling them and them refusing him, thus becoming disbelievers altogether.” Hurayz said, and Zarara narrated to me from Abu Ja’far, “If Ali had not acted leniently in his wars by refraining from taking captives and spoils, his Shia would have faced great tribulation from the people. By Allah, his conduct was better for you than anything the sun has risen upon.”

11. Ahmad ibn Al-Hussein narrated from his father, from Muhammad ibn Abi al-Sihab, from Muhammad ibn Abi Umayr, from some of our companions, who said: I asked Abu Abdullah (Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq), ‘Why did Ali refrain from [fighting] the people?’ He said, “For fear that they would revert to disbelief.”

12. Muhammad ibn al-Hasan narrated, he said: Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Saffar narrated from Ya’qub ibn Yazid, from Hammad ibn Isa, from Rubai, from Fudayl ibn Yasar, who said: I asked Abu Ja’far or Abu Abdullah, peace be upon them, ‘After the passing of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him and his family, to whom did the matter (leadership) belong?’ He said, ‘To us, the People of the House.’ I asked, ‘Then how did it end up with others?’ He said:

“You have asked, so understand the answer. When Allah, blessed and exalted be He, knew that there would be corruption in the land, and unlawful relations (Zinna) would be established, and judgments would be made contrary to what Allah, blessed and exalted be He, revealed, He willed that others would take charge instead of us.”

13. Nahjul Balaghah: Sermon 3 Known As Al-Shiqshiqiyya

Imam Ali Said:

“By Allah, indeed the son of Abu Quhafah (Abu Bakr) donned it [Caliphate], and he certainly knows that my position in relation to it is like the axis in the grinding mill; the flood descends from me, and no bird can ascend to me. I, therefore, draped a cloak over it [Caliphate], folded away from it my flank, and I began to ponder whether to attack with a severed hand or to endure the blinding darkness, where the elder grows decrepit, the young go gray, and the believer toils until he meets his Lord…..”

Conclusion

To summarize the key points from these hadiths in a concise manner, we can outline them as follows:

  1. Preventing Misguidance: The primary aim was to save people from being misguided and reverting to their old ways, akin to becoming ‘pigeons’ again. This underscores the emphasis on the protection and preservation of Islam’s true essence.
  2. Emulating the Prophet (PBUH) and Other Prophets: The actions and decisions were in alignment with the practices of the Prophet of Muhammad (PBUH) and other prophets, following their footsteps in dealing with complex situations and challenges.
  3. Future Emergence of Believers: The hadiths indicate a belief in the emergence of true believers from the lineage of disbelievers, suggesting a future turning point in the faith.
  4. Quest for Power and Position: They highlight the tendency of others to seek power and position, often at the expense of true Islamic principles and the welfare of the community.
  5. Lack of Supporters: A significant factor was the lack of sufficient supporters or allies, which influenced decisions and actions, particularly in the context of leadership and governance.
  6. Safeguarding the Shia Community: The protection of his Shia was a crucial consideration, guiding decisions and actions to prevent harm and ensure their safety.
  7. Anticipated Corruption: There was an anticipation of corruption and the belief that it would be more fitting for others, rather than the pure and righteous, to rule during such times. This perspective was rooted in a desire to preserve the sanctity and integrity of the Ahlulbayt and their followers.

Sources:

  1. Ilal Al-Shara’i, page 146-154, section: Why didn’t Imam Ali (as) fight his adversaries?
  2. Nahjul Balaghah: Sermon 3 Known As Al-Shiqshiqiyya

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