History of the Caliphs

By: Rasūl Ja’farīan

Translation by: Ali Ebrahimi

p. 294-297
The analysis of Imām’s lifestyle as a paragon seems beyond the possibility here; yet, we refer to some aspects for luck in brief.

Imām’s political and social life is so exemplary that it can be deemed utopian. At times, so uniquely firm was he regarding divine decrees that not a single one could ever emulate him as he himself had pointed to it in a letter.[1] For those yearning to be faithful to it, his lifestyle is a perfect pattern. Every time we can learn from it but the way is still too long to go. In other wards, Imām’s lifestyle has been the best during man’s life. It belongs to a perfect man who can indeed be called human and Allāh’s successor on the earth. Such an engrossing life did he have that it had his friends reach the zenith of amity and his enemies reach the zenith of enmity in front of him.

In this regard, the Prophet (s) has stated, [يهلك فيك الرجلان محب مفرط ومبغض مفرط[2 His withstanding for the sake of the path of Truth does incense the enemy that it makes him go to extremes whereas it does fan the blames of his friend’s love that he may go to extremes.

The one feeling affection for him can ascend as highly as the rank to be called a devoted Shi‘ite Muslim but if he neglected slightly he would be affected by the exaggerating tendency. Rarely ever has it be seen that divinity be attributed to a person. ‘Alī (a), however, in a community where Allāh had underscored the humanity of the prophet Muhammad(s) was targeted by such attribution although Imām opposed it severely.

Imām’s asceticism is what overshadowed all his life. He was an ascetic man who turned back on anything though he was entitled to possess everything. A group asked about the most ascetic man in the presence of ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz. Some named Abūdhar and ‘Umar but ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz said,أزهد
(الناس علي بن ابي‌طالب (ع “No one is the most ascetic but ‘Alī Ibn Abī Tālib.”[3]

Imām not only associated with the poor but also behaved kindly towards them.[4] He was sometimes seen doing prayer or delivering a sermon wearing his one and the only shirt wet.[5] Repeatedly, Imām has referred to his simple life in Nahdj al-Balāgha. Noticing that Imām ate very frugal food, one of his disciples told him, أبالعراق تصنع هذا؟ العراق أكثر خيراً وأكثر طعاماً … “Do you eat such food in Iraq where the best food can he found?”[6]

Imām was the first one who practiced what he peached objecting to ‘Uthmān Ibn Hunayf in Nahdj al-Balāgha or in his public sermons concerning this worldly life.

Aswad Ibn Qays recounted that Imām ‘Alī (a) fed the Kūfiyāns on the fertile land of the mosque but he himself ate the food in his house.

One of his disciples said, “I said to myself that ‘Alī eats more delicious food at home than what he gives people. So I left my food half eaten and followed him. He called Fidda and asked her to prepare the food. She brought a loaf of bread and yogurt diluted with water. He dipped the pieces of bread in the liquid while it was with bran. I asked him why he had not asked for bread baked with flour without bran. Shedding tears, he answered, “By Allāh, neverever bread without bran was found in the Prophet’s house.”[7]

‘Uqba Ibn ‘Alqama narrated,”When I met Imām ‘Alī (a), there was sour yogurt diluted with water in front of him that was so sour and watery that it upset me. I asked him whether he would eat it.O Aba l-Khabūb, worse than this was the prophet’s food and rougher than mine was his clothes.

Imām answered, “I fear if I did not do what he had done, I would never join him”.[8] When a special food was brought for Imām, Imām stated, “Never do I eat what the Prophet (s) had never eaten”.[9]

It does not imply that eating such food is unlawful but sheer act of following Allāh’s Messenger is of supreme importance for an Imām.

Presenting another example appears appropriate. As recounted by Abu l-Shiykh Ansārī, born in 369, Imām appointed ‘Amr Ibn Salama as the governor of Isfahān. When setting out for Kūfa, ‘Amr was intercepted by the Khāridjites. With the tributes and the gifts, he had to settle in Hulwān. As soon as the Khāridjites went away, he left the tributes in Hulwān and took the gifts with him to Kūfa. Imām ordered him to lay them on the fertile land by Kūfa Mosque and then distribute among Muslims. Umm Kulthūm, Imām’s daughter, sent for ‘Amr to send her some honey brought. He sent her two cans then. When Imām came to the mosque for prayer, he realized that the honeys were two less. He called ‘Amr and asked where the two others were. He answered, “Do not ask what happened”, then he went and brought two cans of honey and added to them.

Imām repeated,”I only wanted to know what happened to those two”.

“Umm Kulthūm demanded to send honey to her”, answered ‘Amr.

“Not have I told you to distribute the gifts among people?” Imām asked.

He sent for her to send the honey back. When brought back a little was consumed. He sent for the traders to estimate the price of the subtracted amount. It was three or so dhms. Imām sent for Umm Kulthūm to pay for it. Then, the honey was distributed among Muslims.[10]

Numerous examples can be found in al-Ghārāt and other books.

It is Imām’s own statement, [أنا الذي أهنت الدنيا [11 “I am the one who despised this world.”

That manifests his stance against this worldly life. Imām’s behavior towards the agents is another dimension of his life addressed in historical sources. From any point of view, Imām supervised his agents and during his short term, many letters were written by him reprimanding them. After ‘Alī’s martyrdom, Sūda, ‘Umāra Hamdānī’s daughter, came up to Mu‘āwiya. She had participated in Siffīn. For a short while, Mu‘āwiya talked her about Siffīn. She requested him to depose Busr Ibn Artāt oppressing them. He declined, however. Sūda consequently prostrated and an hour later rose up. Mu‘āwiya asked her what it was for.

She responded,”When I went to ‘Alī to complain about the man responsible for our alms, he was busy with praying. After his prayer, he asked me what I wanted. On hearing with no delay he took a piece of skin out of his pocket and urging him to observe justice he wrote, “As soon as receiving the letter, do what ordered until I send one to replace you. He gave the letter to me to hand in him. He was deposed accordingly.”[12]

[1] Nahdj al-balāgha, letter 45
[2] This Hadith is the one repeated many times. Imām also stated, يهلك فيك الرجلان، محب مفرط ومبغض مفرط Two people are murdered for me, extremist friend and hardline foe Nahdj al-balāgha, sermon 127
[3] al-Mi‘yār wa l-muwāzina, p.240
[4] Ibid. p.240
[5] Ibid. p.240
[6] Ibid. p.244
[7] Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol.II p.187; al-Ghārāt, vol.I, pp.85,87,88
[8] al-Ghārāt, vol.I, p.85
[9] Ibid. pp.88-89; the footnotes of the same pages
[10] Tabaqāt al-muhaddithīn bi-Isbahān, vol.I, Akhbār Isbahān, vol.I, p.72
[11] Hayāt al-sahāba, vol.II, p.310
[12] al-Futūh, vol.III, pp.90-92
Source: maaref-foundation.com


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