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A Glimpse at the Martyrdom of Imam ‘Ali (ʻA)

A group of the Khawarij went to Makkah to perform the ritual Hajj pilgrimage. Upon the accomplishment of the rites, they held a conference in which they discussed the current affairs of the Muslim community and the gross events that led to shedding the blood of many Muslims.

They ascribed these events to three persons; Imam Ali (‘a), Mu’awiyah, and ‘Amr ibn Al-’As. They thus concluded that these three persons should be assassinated. Abd Al-Rahman ibn Muljim took upon himself the task of assassinating Imam Ali (‘a). The conferees then specified a certain time to accomplish their missions, which was the night of the eighteenth of Ramadan at the very hour of the Dawn Prayer.

The Umayyads and the Assassination of Imam Ali

Although historicists ascribe the assassination of Imam Ali (‘a) to the Khawarij alone, a thorough reflection on the issue proves that the Umayyads had a role in the process. The following points may support this idea:

1) Abu’l-Aswad Al-Du’ali, one of the elite disciples of Imam Ali (‘a), held the Umayyads responsible for assassinating the Imam (‘a). He composed some poetic verses in which he accused Mu’awiyah of making Muslims suffer the loss of Imam Ali (‘a).[1] However, it may be argued that Abu’l-Aswad ascribed this murder to Mu’awiyah because he was the reason behind the advent and mutiny of the Khawarij against the Imam’s government.

Therefore, all the sins and crimes that the Khawarij committed are basically attributed to Mu’awiyah.

2) Nu’man Al-Misri, a famous historicist, states, ‘Mu’awiyah is said to have bought off Ibn Muljim and bribed him to kill the Imam (‘a).’[2]

3) Historicists confirm that Al-Ash’ath ibn Qays, who used to spy on Imam Ali (‘a) for the Umayyads, contributed greatly to the process of assassinating the Imam (‘a). He accompanied and encouraged Ibn Muljim to commit his crime. A few moments before murdering the Imam (‘a), Al-Ash’ath shouted at Ibn Muljim, ‘Hurry up! The light of morning will soon disclose you!’

It is known that the planning for assassinating the Imam (‘a) was kept so secret that none except a few people knew about it. Now, we wonder how Al-Ash’ath knew about it! To answer, Al-Ash’ath must have been informed by the Umayyads about the details of the process.

4) The conference of the Khawarij was held in Makkah, the center of the Umayyads. During that season of the Hajj pilgrimage, they spread rumors against the Imam (‘a); therefore, the Umayyads must have met with the Khawarij and incited them to assassinate him.

Besides, Abd Al-Rahman ibn Muljim, along with other persons from the Khawarij, resided in Makkah for several months after that, which means that he must have met the Umayyads.

5) Ibn Muljim was a teacher of the Quran and he used to receive an ordinary allowance from the public treasury,[3] which means that he was not wealthy enough to buy a sword with one thousand golden coins and poison with another one thousand golden coins as well as a slave and a songstress. We thus wonder how he could collect three thousand golden coins and paid them as dowry to Qatam. This proves that he received these funds from the Umayyads as a wage for assassinating the Imam (‘a).

6) Ibn Muljim had good relationship with ‘Amr ibn Al-’As. He participated with ‘Amr in the conquest of Egypt and the latter ordered him to reside next to him.[4] In conclusion, Ibn Muljim must have told ‘Amr about the plan of the Khawarij; therefore, ‘Amr did not leave his house at the night of the assassination.

Imam Ali And Ibn Muljim

Imam Ali (‘a) was undoubtedly sure that Abd Al-Rahman ibn Muljim would assassinate him. Historicists says that Ibn Muljim came to the Imam (‘a) and pledged allegiance to him with the others who pledged their allegiance, and withdrew from him. Then, the Imam (‘a) called him back and advised him to be trustworthy and to be sure that he was not treacherous and did not break his oath.

He did that (promised to keep his word), then he withdrew. A second time, the Imam (‘a) called him back and asked him to be trustworthy and to be sure that he was not treacherous and did not break his oath. Ibn Muljim said, ‘By God, O Amir Al-Mu’minin, I have not seen you do this with anyone else except me.’ However, the Imam (‘a) refrained from answering him.

Then, the Imam (‘a) cited this poetic verse:

I want his friendship and he wants my death.

The one who makes excuses to you is one of your bosom friends from (the tribe of) Murad.

Then, the Imam (‘a) continued,

Go, Ibn Muljim! I do not think that you will keep your word.

According to another narration, it is related from Ja’far ibn Sulayman Al-Åab’I on the authority of Al-Mu’alla ibn Ziyad who said:

Abd Al-Rahman ibn Muljim came to Imam Ali (‘a) to ask to be provided with a horse. The Imam (‘a) turned toward him and said, ‘You are Abd Al-Rahman ibn Muljim Al-Muradi. Are you not?’

‘Yes, I am,’ he replied.

The Imam then said to Ghazwan, ‘Provide him with the roan.’

That man came with a roan horse and Ibn Muljim mounted it and took its reins. After he had gone away, the Imam (‘a) said, ‘I want his friendship’ etc’.[5]

One day, Imam Ali (‘a) was delivering a speech from the minbar when Ibn Muljim, threatening the Imam (‘a), said in a low voice, ‘By Allah, I will give these people rest from you!’ One of the attendants could hear him and arrest him. When he was brought before the Imam (‘a), he ordered them to release him, saying,

He has not yet killed me!

Before that, when Ibn Muljim came to Al-Kufah, he met one of his acquaintances who had in his house a good-looking harlot named Qatam whose brother and father were killed by Imam Ali (‘a) in the Battle of Al- Nahrawan. Upon seeing her, Ibn Muljim was charmed by her. He betrothed her and she agreed on condition that her dowry would be three thousand silver coins, a page, a domestic servant, and the killing of Imam Ali (‘a).

The filthy Ibn Muljim accepted and told her that he was in Al-Kufah for no reason other than killing the Imam (‘a). She thus helped him do this mission.

Qatam then offered to find people who would help Ibn Muljim execute his plan and assassinate the Imam (‘a). She therefore sent for Wirdan ibn Khalid, a man from the tribe of Taym Al-Rabab, and informed him about her determination to assassinate the Imam (‘a). She also asked him to help Ibn Muljim do this mission. Wirdan immediately agreed.

Ibn Muljim then visited a man for the tribe of Ashja’, who was one of the Khawarij, named Shabib ibn Bahirah and asked, ‘I offer to you the honor of this world and the other world!’ The man asked, ‘What is that exactly?’ Ibn Muljim answered, ‘It is that you should help me kill Ali.’ The man responded and they both went to Qatam and told her that they had agreed to assassinate the Imam (‘a). She thanked and encouraged them to go on.[6]

The Assassination

The new moon of the holy month of Ramadan, in which Almighty Allah revealed the Holy Quran as mercy and guidance for all people, came into view and Imam Ali (‘a) was in no doubt that he would depart from this world and join the Sacred Yard during this month. He thus worked harder and broke his fast with three bites of a single loaf of barley bread and crushed salt.

He spent the entire night with acts of worship and prayers. He besought Almighty Allah earnestly to save him from the community that had denied his true standing and treated with contempt his values and principles. What increased the Imam’s yearning for meeting Almighty Allah was the mutiny and rebellion of his army after they had been split apart by the personal whims and decayed by the spiteful rumors.

Reporters state that at the nineteenth night of Ramadan, Imam Ali (‘a) felt the affliction of the calamity. He was overwhelmed by grief and sorrow while he was repeating these words:

By Allah, I have not lied nor have I been lied to. It is the night, which I was promised.[7]

At that night, he recollected the moments of his struggle in the presence of the Holy Prophet (S) and the other moments of his sufferings at the hands of the polytheist people of Quraysh.

Let us now read the whole story as reported by the Imam’s daughter, Lady Ummu-Kulthum. She is reported to have said,

At the nineteenth night of Ramadan, I served my father with a plate that contained two loaves of barley bread, a bowl of milk, and a quantity of crushed salt. When he accomplished his prayer, he sat down to break his fast. When he saw what I had served him, he nodded his head, wept, and said to me,

I never thought that I would see any daughter treating her father as improperly as you have just done!

I (Ummu-Kulthum) asked, ‘How is that, father?’

He said,

How come do you serve me with two colors of food in one meal? Do you want me to stop before Almighty Allah on the Resurrection Day (for interrogation) for a longer time? I only want to pattern after the example of my brother and cousin, the Messenger of Allah (S). He had never been served with two kinds of food in one meal until his soul was grasped by Almighty Allah. O daughter, whoever has pleasant food, drink, and clothing will stand for a long time before Allah the Almighty and All-majestic on the Resurrection Day.

O daughter, the legal stuff of this world brings about settlement to account while the illegal stuff brings about punishment. My dear brother, the Messenger of Allah (S), has told me that Archangel Gabriel once descended to him carrying the keys to the treasures of the earth and said,

‘O Muhammad, Allah, the source of peace, sends greetings to you and says that if you wish, He will change the mountains of Tihamah into gold and silver for you. You may now take these keys of the treasures of the earth and this will not decrease what is hoarded for you on the Resurrection Day.’

However, the Holy Prophet (S) said, ‘O Gabriel, what will be next? The archangel answered, ‘Death will be next.’ The Holy Prophet (S) said, ‘I have no need for this world. Let me feel hungry a day and satiate myself another day. On the day when I feel hungry, I will beseech my Lord earnestly. On the day when I am sated, I thank and praise my Lord.’

Gabriel said, ‘O Muhammad, May you be led to every prosperity!’

My father (‘a) then added,

O daughter, this is the abode of seduction and humility. Whoever does any act will eventually face its consequence.

O daughter, I will not eat anything before you remove one of the two foods.

When I did, my father ate one loaf of barley bread with some salt. He then praised and thanked Almighty Allah. Thereafter, he engaged himself in prayer once again. He kept on offering prayers and beseeching Allah the All- glorified incessantly. He came out and in the house repeatedly while he was looking at the sky worriedly.

He then recited the entire Surah Yasin (No. 36). He then slept for a few moments and woke up panic-stricken. He wiped his face with his dress, stood up on his feet, and prayed to Almighty Allah, saying,

O Allah, please bless us in the affair of meeting You.

He also repeated frequently the statement of

la hawla wala quwwata illa billahi Al-’aliyyi Al-’asim (There is neither might nor power except with Allah the All-high and All-great).

He then returned to offering prayers for a few hours and then to say the post- prayer litanies and doxologies. He then slept for a few moments and woke up panic-stricken.

He then ordered his sons and daughters to gather around him, and said to them,

In this month, you will lose me. I have just seen a dream that horrified me.

I asked, ‘What have you seen?’

He (‘a) answered,

In my sleep, I have seen the Messenger of Allah (S) saying to me, ‘O Abu’l-Hasan, you will very soon come to us. The most wretched of all people will come to you to dye your gray-haired beard with the blood of your head. I am truly eager to see you. On the last ten days of Ramadan, you will be with us.’

These words made us all weep heavily. However, my father ordered us to abide by patience and obedience to Almighty Allah.

At that night, he kept on offering prayers and he frequently went out of the house to look deeply to the sky and the stars, saying,

By Allah, I have not lied nor have I been lied to. It is the night, which I was promised.

He would then return to his prayer-place, repeating these words:

O Allah, please grant me blessings in death.

He again repeated very often the statement of

la hawla wala quwwata illa billahi Al-’aliyyi Al-’asim (There is neither mighty nor power except with Allah the All-high and All-great)

and the statement of invoking Allah’s blessings upon the Holy Prophet (i.e. allahumma salli ‘Ala muhammadin wa-ali muhammad).

I thus said to him, ‘O father, why am I noticing that you cannot have a sleep at this night?’

He (‘a) answered,

O daughter, your father has killed heroes and engaged in horrific situations without letting any spark of fear enter his heart. However, at this night, I feel such strange fear that I have never experienced before.

He then said,

We are Allah’s and to Him shall we be returned.

These words (which are said at misfortunes) panicked me very much that I, weeping, asked him, ‘What for have you been declaring your death since the beginning of this night?’

My father answered,

O daughter, the termination of my lifetime seems to have come near and any hope in surviving has been lost.

When I was terribly stricken by these words that I could not stop weeping, my father, trying to calm me down, said,

O daughter, I have not said these words of my own desire; rather, the Prophet (S) predicted that I would face my end under such circumstances.[8]

In the darkest hours of that night, the Imam (‘a) did not stop praying to Almighty Allah. He then performed the ritual ablution as perfectly as possible and readied himself for leaving the house for performing the ritual Dawn Prayer.

When he (‘a) came to the courtyard of the house, the domesticated geese, which had been gifted to Imam Al-Hasan (‘a), started shouting and swaying their wings. The Imam (‘a) thus predicted the infliction of the catastrophic misfortune; he therefore went on repeating the statement of la hawla wala quwwata illa billahi Al-’aliyyi Al-’asim. He added, ‘These shouts will very soon be followed by lamentations.[9]

Lady Ummu-Kulthum hurried to detain the geese, but the Imam (‘a) said to her,

O daughter, I adjure you by your duty towards me to release these birds, because you have detained creatures that have no tongue and have no ability to express themselves when they feel hungry or thirsty. Take care of feeding them! If you cannot do that, then you must free them so that they find their food from the grass of the earth.

When the Imam (‘a) reached near the door, he could not open it easily, because it was made of trunks of date-palm trees. When he could finally open it, his shawl was untied; he therefore tied it around his girdle while repeating these poetic verses:

Fasten you girdle for death, because death is coming before you. When death comes, do not show unease!

Just as time has made you laugh, so will it make you weep!

Upon the strange state of his father, Imam Al-Hasan (‘a) panicked extremely and hurried towards him to ask, ‘O father, what has made you leave the house at such an hour?’

Imam Ali (‘a) answered,

I have seen a horrible dream.

Imam Al-Hasan (‘a) said, ‘May your dream be a source and an indication of prosperity! May you please tell me what you have seen?’

The Imam (‘a) thus related,

In my dream, I saw that Gabriel descended from the heavens on Mount Abu-Qubays, picked up two rocks from there, brought them to the Holy Ka’bah, struck them with each other, and they became ashes, which entered each and every house in Makkah and Al-Madinah.

Panicked by this dream, Imam Al-Hasan (‘a) asked, ‘What is the interpretation of this dream?’

The Imam (‘a) said,

If it is true dream, its interpretation will then be that your father will be soon killed, and grief for my death will enter each and every house in Makkah and Al-Madinah.

Imam Al-Hasan (‘a) asked, ‘When will that take place?’

Imam Ali (‘a) answered,

Allah the All-exalted says, ‘No one knows what he shall earn on the morrow and no one knows in what land he shall die.’ However, my dear one, the Messenger of Allah (‘a), foretold me that this would take place at one of the last nights of Ramadan. I will be assassinated by Abd Al- Rahman ibn Muljim.

Imam Al-Hasan (‘a) said, ‘As long as you have such information, then you must kill Ibn Muljim.’

Imam Ali (‘a) answered,

It is illegal to reTalibate before the falling of the crime. Hence, the man has not yet committed his crime.

Imam Al-Hasan (‘a) then insisted on accompanying his father to the mosque, but the father (‘a) ordered him to return to his bed.

Imam Ali (‘a) headed for the mosque and, as usual, started rousing from sleep the people who slept there. When he passed by some people, the Imam (‘a) put his hand on his beard and said,

I believe that one of you is the most wretched person who will dye the hair of my beard with the blood of my head.[10]

The Imam (‘a) then started offering the prayer. While he was in the prostration posture, Abd Al-Rahman ibn Muljim, accompanied by Shabib ibn Bahirah Al- Ashja’i,[11] struck the Imam (‘a) with his poisoned sword while repeating the slogan of the Khawarij, ‘There is no verdict but Allah’s.’

Ibn Muljim hit the Imam (‘a) on the head so fiercely that the strike reached the Imam’s brain. Immediately, the Imam (‘a) shouted, I have won. I swear it by the Lord of the Ka’bah.

When the news was spread, people hurried to the mosque and found the Imam (‘a) thrown and bleeding in his niche. He was carried to his house and escorted with wails and lamentations.

The family members of the Imam (‘a) received him with cries and screams, but he ordered them to be patient and satisfied with the act of Almighty Allah. When he noticed the agonies of Imam Al-Hasan (‘a), he said to him,

O son, do not cry. You will be poisoned to death and your brother will be killed by swords.

The assassinator was arrested. Tied up and bare-headed, he was brought before Imam Al-Hasan (‘a) who said to him, ‘O accursed! You have killed the Leader of the Believers. Did he deserve such recompense from you after he had given you a place to live in and drawn you near him?’

Imam Al-Hasan (‘a) then turned his face to his father and said, ‘O father, this is the enemy of Allah and of you. This is the son of Muljim. Allah has made us arrest him.’

Imam Ali (‘a) opened his eyes and said to he assassinator with a faint voice,

You have committed a disastrous thing and a great crime. Have I not been kind to you? Have I not preceded you to others in the allowances? Why have you then recompensed me in such a way?

Imam Ali (‘a) then turned his face toward his sons and instructed them to treat the criminal kindly. He said,

Give him food and drink. If I survive this, I am then the patron of reTalibation; I may kill him if I wish, and I may pardon if I wish. If I die, then you may reTalibate and kill him. Do not transgress, because Allah does not like the transgressors.[12]

Astounded by this instruction, Imam Al-Hasan (‘a) said,

O father, this accursed person has killed you, causing us calamity. Now, you order us to be lenient to him!

Imam Ali (‘a) answered,

O son, we are the household of mercy and forgiveness. Serve him with the same food you eat and give him the same drink you drink. If I die, you may then reTalibate and kill him. Do not trample his body, for I have heard the Messenger of Allah (S) saying, ‘Do not trample any body, even though it may be a rabid mad dog.’ If I survive his strike, I will know best what to do with him. We-the Ahl Al-Bayt-increase nothing but pardon and generosity against those who commit sins against us.

Imam Ali’s Last Wills

When physicians decided that the Imam (‘a) would not survive the strike of Ibn Muljim, the Imam (‘a) started to say his last wills to his sons. Bedridden, Imam Ali (‘a) said to Imam Al-Hasan and Imam Al-Husayn (‘a),

I advise you both to fear Allah and that you should not hanker after the pleasures of this world even though it may run after you. Do not be sorry for anything of this world that you have been denied. Speak the truth and act in expectation for reward. Be an enemy of the oppressor and helper of the oppressed.

I advise you both and all my children and members of my family and everyone whom my writing reaches to fear Allah, to keep your affairs in order, and to maintain good relations among yourselves, for I have heard your grandfather the Holy Prophet (S) saying, ‘Improvement of mutual differences is better than general prayers and fasting.’

Fear Allah and keep Allah in view in the matter of orphans. So, do not allow them to starve, and they should not be ruined in your presence.

Fear Allah and keep Allah in view in the matter of your neighbors, because they were the subject of the Prophet’s advice. He went on advising in their favor until we thought that he would allow them a share in inheritance.

Fear Allah and keep Allah in view in the matter of the Quran. No one should excel you in acting upon it.

Fear Allah and keep Allah in view in the matter of prayer, because it is the pillar of your religion.

Fear Allah and keep Allah in view in the matter of your Lord’s House (i.e. the Holy Ka’bah). Do not forsake it so long as you live, because if it is abandoned you will not be spared.

Fear Allah and keep Allah in view in the matter of jihad with the help of your property, lives, and tongues in the way of Allah.

You should keep to a respect for kinship and spending for others. Avoid turning away from one another and severing mutual relations. Do not give up bidding for good and forbidding from evil lest the mischievous gain positions over you, and then if you will pray, the prayers will not be granted.

O sons of Abd Al-Muttalib, certainly I do not wish to see you plunging harshly into the blood of Muslims shouting that the Leader of the Believers has been killed. Beware! Do not kill on account of me except my killer.

Wait until I die by his (i.e. Ibn Muljim) existing stroke. Then, strike him one stroke for his stroke and do not dismember the limbs of the man, for I have heard the Messenger of Allah (S) saying, ‘Avoid cutting limbs even though it may be a rabid dog.’[13]

On another occasion, Imam Ali (‘a) expressed another will that was addressed to all people generally. In this will, he said,

O people, every one has to meet what he wishes to avoid by running away. Death is the place to which life is driving. To run away from it means to catch it. Too many are the days on which I spent in searching for the secret of this matter, but Allah did not allow save its concealment.

Alas! It is a treasured knowledge. As for my last will, it is that, concerning Allah, do not believe in a partner for Him, and, concerning Muhammad (S), do not disregard his traditions. Keep these two pillars and burn these two lamps. Until you are not divided, no evil will come to you.

Every one of you has to bear his own burden. It has been kept light for the ignorant. Allah is Merciful. Faith is straight. The leader (i.e. the Holy Prophet) is the holder of knowledge. Yesterday, I was with you; today, I have become the object of a lesson for you, and tomorrow, I shall leave you. Allah may forgive you and me!

If the foot remains firm in this slippery place, it is then well and good. But if the foot slips, this is because we are under the shade of branches, the passing of the winds, and the canopy of the clouds whose layers are dispersed in the sky, and whose traces disappeared in the earth. I was your neighbor.

My body kept you company for some days and shortly you will find just an empty body of mine which would be stationary after all its movements and silent after speech so that my calmness, the closing of my eyes, and the stillness of my limbs may provide you counsel, because it is more of a counsel for those who take a lesson from it than eloquent speech and a ready word.

I am departing from you like one who is eager to meet someone. Tomorrow, you will look at my days, then my inner side will be disclosed to you and you will understand me after the vacation of my place and its occupation by someone else.[14]

Instructing his elder son Imam Al-Hasan (‘a), Imam Ali (‘a) said these words at the last hours of his lifetime:

To begin with, I bear witness that there is no god save Allah and that Muhammad is His messenger and the choicest of His servants. He has selected him on the strength of His knowledge and accepted him on the strength of His choice. I also bear witness that Allah shall resurrect those who are in graves to interrogate them about their deeds, since He knows what is hidden in the hearts.

Now, O Hasan, I instruct you-and you are sufficiently the best one to observe my wills-the same instructions that the Messenger of Allah (S) had given to me. Do not consider the world to be your greatest concern.

O son, I instruct you to perform the prayers at their times, to defray the zakat (tax) to their beneficiaries and at their proper times, to keep silent at situations of suspicion, to be moderate and fair in situations of satisfaction and rage, to act kindly to the neighbors, to honor your guests, to show mercy to the aggrieved and misfortunate people, to regard good relations with your relatives, to love the poor people and to love sitting with them, to stick to modesty for it is the best of all devotional acts, to disregard expectations, to recollect death frequently, and to refrain from the worldly pleasures, because you are eventually subjected to death, exposed to misfortunes, and ridden be ailments.

I instruct you to fear Allah in your secret and open affairs. I warn you against rush in words and deeds. Whenever a matter related to the other world is presented before you, you must start with it; and whenever a matter related to this world is presented before you, you must slow down until you make sure that you will do it properly. Beware of situations of accusation and suspicious sessions, because the evil acquaintance always seduces the one who associates with him.

O son, always work for Almighty Allah, deter from indecencies, enjoin the right, forbid the wrong, choose your friends according to the orders of Allah, bear love for the righteous people on account of their righteousness, hide your faith from the sinful ones, incur the animosity of these sinful ones in your heart, and contradict their acts, lest you will be like them. Beware of sitting in the public ways, and leave dispute and heated discussions with those who lack reason and knowledge.

O son, be moderate in your paces and pursue the reasonable course in your devotional acts by sticking yourself to the devotional act that you can always do. Keep on silence and you will be safe. Think deliberately before you proceed on any act so that you will win its achievement. Learn the good matters so that you will be knowledgeable. Be in a continuous state of remembering Allah under all circumstances.

Have mercy on the little ones of your family members and show respect to the old among them. Do not eat any food before you give part of it as alms. Persevere in fasting, for it is the alms of the body and the protective shield for those who observe it. Struggle against your self, watch out the one who sits with you, avoid your enemy, attend frequently the sessions of mentioning Almighty Allah, and pray Him as repeatedly as possible. Now, O my son, I have not failed to give you advice. This is the parting between you and me.

I also instruct you to treat your brother and the son of your father, Muhammad, kindly, because you know how much I love him. As for your (full) brother Al-Husayn, he is your mother’s son and you do not need to hear my instructions concerning your brother Al-Husayn (because you are already aware of them).

May Allah be your guardian after me! I beseech Him to set aright all of your affairs and to save you from the tyrants and the transgressors. Abide by patience until Allah decides the matter. There is no power save with Allah the All-high and All-great.[15]

Visitors Of The Imam

A group of the Imam’s companions came to visit him at the final hours of his lifetime. Habib ibn ‘Amr had the honor to see the Imam (‘a). He gently said in his presence, ‘Your wound is not deadly. You will recover health.’

The Imam (‘a) however answered,

O Habib, I will very soon depart from you.

These words astounded Habib who could not stop weeping.

Upon hearing these words from her father, Lady Ummu-Kulthum wept heavily. The Imam (‘a), addressing her, asked,

What for are you weeping?

She answered, ‘How cannot I weep while I have heard you saying that you would very soon leave us?’

The Imam (‘a) said,

O daughter, do not weep. By Allah, if you can only see what your father can see right now’

‘O Leader of the Believers, what can you see now?’ asked Habib. The Imam (‘a) answered,

O Habib, I can see the angels of the heavens and the prophets standing on their feet one after another to receive me. I can also see my dear brother Muhammad (S) sitting near me and saying, ‘Come to us, because what you will experience is better than what you are now in.’[16]

Astounded by the news of the Imam’s injury, Al-Asbagh ibn Nubatah, along with a group of the Imam’s devoted companions, hurried to his house and sat behind the door. As they heard wails and weeping voices, they also wept heavily. Imam Al-Hasan (‘a) came out and conveyed to them Imam Ali’s order to go back home.

They all left except Al-Asbagh who kept sitting behind the door of the Imam’s house. Upon hearing the Imam’s family members weeping, Al-Asbagh wept so loudly that they could hear him. Imam Al-Hasan (‘a) came out of the house and said to Al-Asbagh, ‘I have told you to leave. Have I not?’

Shedding heavy tears, Al-Asbagh said to the Imam, ‘O son of Allah’s Messenger, I cannot leave nor can my feet carry me away before I see the Leader of the Believers.’

Imam Al-Hasan (‘a) went in and told his father about Al-Asbagh. So, Imam Ali (‘a) permitted Al-Asbagh to visit him. Describing the Imam’s state, Al-Asbagh said, ‘Imam Ali’s bleeding head was wrapped with a yellow turban while his face was pale. I did not distinguish the color of the Imam’s face from the color of his turban. I thus threw myself on his body, kissed him frequently, and wept.’

The Imam (‘a), trying to calm down Al-Asbagh, said to him,

Do not weep. By Allah, it is Paradise.

Al-Asbagh answered with teary eyes and sad tone, ‘By Allah, I am sure that your destination will be to Paradise, but I weep for departing you.’[17]

‘Amr ibn Al-Hamq Al-Khuza’i, one of the most sincere and loyal men of Imam Ali (‘a), visited him and said, ‘O Leader of the Believers, you will recover your health. It is only a scratch.’

Despaired of life, Imam Ali (‘a) answered,

I will very soon depart you.

The Imam (‘a) then fainted and Lady Ummu-Kulthum wept so loudly that the Imam (‘a) regained consciousness. He said to her,

O Ummu-Kulthum, do not hurt me. If only you can see what I can see! The angels of the seven skies, following each other, and the prophets are saying to me, ‘Come on! What you will see is better than what you are experiencing.’[18]

Sa’sa’ah ibn Sawhan also visited Imam Ali (‘a) and found him in the last sparks of his life-a view that astounded him and made him hope to die before the Imam (‘a) would die.

Hujr ibn ‘Adi also presented himself before Imam Ali (‘a) who said to him,

O Hujr, how will you behave and what will you say when you will be asked to repudiate me?

Hujr answered, ‘By Allah, if I will be cut into pieces by swords and thrown in blazing fire, I will prefer that to repudiating you.’

Thanking him for this loyalty, the Imam (‘a) said, O Hujr, may Allah grant you success in all of your affairs! May Allah reward you abundantly on behalf of the Household of your Prophet![19]

Imam Ali (‘a) then permitted all people to visit him. Thus, the masses crowded on the door of the Imam’s house shedding tears and expressing grief. Although he was suffering harsh pains, the Imam (‘a) said to them, Ask me before you lose me! However, you may ask as easily as possible because your leader is suffering.[20]

The Imam (‘a) then asked for a drink of milk, because milk can resist the effects of poison that entered his body from the sword of Ibn Muljim. When the Imam (‘a) drank the milk to the last drop of it, he remembered that the prisoner Ibn Muljim had not drunk milk. Therefore, the Imam (‘a) said,

The command of Allah is a decree that is made absolute. Be it known to you that I have drunk the entire milk and have not kept anything to your prisoner. Verily, this is the last sustenance of me in this worldly life. I now adjure you by Allah to serve your prisoner with the same quantity of milk that I have just drunk.[21]

When he was sure that he would soon depart from this world, Imam Ali (‘a) appointed Imam Al-Hasan (‘a) as the next Imam and asked Imam Al-Husayn (‘a), Muhammad, his other sons, the prominent personalities of his devotees, and his family members to witness to this appointing. Imam Ali (‘a) then handed the books and the weapon to Imam Al-Hasan (‘a) and said to him,

O son, the Messenger of Allah (S) ordered me to appoint you as my successor and to hand over my books and my weapon to you just as the Messenger of Allah (S) had appointed me as his successor and handed over his books and weapon to me. He also instructed me to order you that, when death comes upon you, you should hand over these things to your brother Al-Husayn.[22]

At the twenty-first night of Ramadan, which is said to be the Grand (Qadr) Night, Imam Ali’s agonies intensified, since poison spread in his entire body. Describing the Imam’s state, his son Muhammad says, ‘We noticed that his two feet became red; therefore, we felt great sorry and despaired of his survival. Then, we offered to provide him some food or drink, but he refused. His two lips did not stop moving with words of remembering Almighty Allah. His forehead started sweating. I thus asked him, ‘O father, why is your forehead sweating?’

He (‘a) answered,

O son, I have heard the Messenger of Allah (S) saying, ‘When death comes upon a faithful believer, his forehead sweats and his moans calm down.’’

When the Imam (‘a) realized that he would very soon departed from this world, he gathered all of his sons and daughters to bid the last farewell to them. When they all presented themselves before him, he said to them with a low voice,

I beseech Allah to be my representative among you. I entrust you with Allah.

They all started weeping heavily and loudly. The Imam (‘a) then turned his face toward his son Al-Hasan, who had asked why he had said these words, and said to him,

O son, I have seen in dream your grandfather the Messenger of Allah (S) one night before this calamity, and I complained to him about the humiliation and harm I was receiving from this nation. He therefore said to me, ‘You may invoke Allah’s curse on them.’ I thus said, ‘O Allah, please make them face one more evil than I am and make me face people better than they are.’

The Messenger of Allah (S) said to me, ‘Your prayer has been granted. After three nights, Allah will bring you to us.’ Tonight, the three nights terminate. O Abu-Muhammad (Al-Hasan), I want you to take good care of Abu-’Abdullah (Al-Husayn), for you both are part of me and I am part of you.

Imam Ali (‘a) then turned his face towards his other sons, ordered them not to violate the instructions of Al-Hasan and Al-Husayn, and said to them,

May Allah console you excellently! This night, I will depart from you and catch my dear brother Muhammad (S) as he promised me.

He then fainted for a while. When he regained consciousness, he said to his sons,

I have just seen the Messenger of Allah (S), my uncle Hamzah, my brother Ja’far, and the companions of the Messenger of Allah (S) and all of them say to me, ‘Hurry up! Come to us! We are surely eager to meet you.’

Leniently, Imam Ali (‘a) then said,

I entrust you all with Allah. My representative among you is Allah, and He is the best of all representatives.

The Imam (‘a) then greeted the angels that had surrounded him to transmit his holy soul to the Highest Paradise. He then went on reciting verses of the Holy Quran. The last two holy Quranic verses he (‘a) recited were the following:

For the like of this, then let the workers work. (37:61)

Lo! Allah is with those who keep their duty unto Him and those who are doers of good. (16:128)[23]

The Imam’s soul then left his body towards the Paradisiacal Abode surrounded by the angels, the prophets, and the prophets’ successors.

Imam Al-Hasan and his brothers performed the ritual bathing of the body of their father. At the last hours of night, they, accompanied by a group of the most virtuous believers, carried the body and buried it where the grave is now there. Thus, the burial place of Imam Ali (‘a) changed into the most handsome religious seminary in Islam.

Imam Al-Hasan (‘a) and his brothers then returned home, sinking in sorrow and grief.



[1] Ibn Al-Athir, Al-Kamil fi’l-Tarikh 3:198.

[2] Nu’man Al-Misri, Al-Manaqib wa’l-Mathalib, pp. 98.

[3] Ibn Kathir, Lisan Al-Mizan 3:440.

[4] Ibn Kathir, Lisan Al-Mizan 3:440.

[5] Shaykh Al-Mufid, Kitab Al-Irshad, pp. 10.

[6] Al-Tabrisi, I’lam Al-Wara bi-A’lam Al-Huda, pp. 200.

[7] Shaykh Al-Mufid, Kitab Al-Irshad, pp. 13.

[8] ‘Allamah Al-Majlisi, Bihar Al-Anwar 42:279-80.

[9] Al-Mas’udi, Muruj Al-Dhahab 2:291.

[10] Al-Mubarrad, Al-Kamil 3:142.

[11] After awaking people, Imam Ali (‘a) stood in the arch for the prayer. When he raised his head from the first prostration of the supererogatory Dawn Prayer, Shabib ibn Bahirah attacked him with his sword, but the sword hit the pillar of the mosque and the attack went in vain. He then ran away to his house. One of his cousins, who was devotee of Imam Ali (‘a), suspected that his cousin had attacked the Imam (‘a); he thus struck him with the sword to death. (Al-Tabrisi, I’lam Al-Wara bi-A’lam Al-Huda, pp. 200)

[12] Ibn Taghri, Al-Nujum Al-Zahirah 1:119.

[13] Nahj Al-Balaghah, Precept No. 47.

[14] Nahj Al-Balaghah, Precept No. 149.

[15] Muhsin Al-Amin Al-’Amili, Al-Majalis Al-Saniyyah 2:235-6; Al-Mahmudi, Nahj Al- Sa’adah fi Mustadrak Nahj Al-Balaghah 8:137-43.

[16] Muhsin Al-Amin Al-’Amili, Al-Majalis Al-Saniyyah 2:241.

[17] Shaykh Al-tusi, Al-Amali, pp. 123.

[18] Shaykh Al-tusi, Al-Amali, pp. 123.

[19] ‘Allamah Al-Majlisi, Bihar Al-Anwar 42:290.

[20] ‘Allamah Al-Majlisi, Bihar Al-Anwar 42:290.

[21] ’Allamah Al-Majlisi, Bihar Al-Anwar 42:290.

[22] Shaykh Al-Kulayni, Al-Kafi 1:297-8. However, some writers, one of whom is Taha Husayn, argue that Imam Ali (‘a) did not appoint his son Imam Al-Hasan (‘a) as the next caliph and did not nominate him as the next leader. This argument is aroused from a narration that was reported by Shu’ayb ibn Maymun Al-Wasiti. This fabricated narration reads as follows:

Some people said to (Imam) Ali, ‘Will you not decide on the next caliph?’ He answered, ‘If Allah intends prosperity for this community, He will make them all agree unanimously on a certain person who will then be the best of them all.’

Recording the biography of Shu’ayb the narrator of this false report, Abu-Hatam (an experienced biographer) says, ‘He is anonymous in the field of reporting.’ Al-’Ajali also states that Shu’ayb is unknown (therefore, his reports cannot be trusted). Al-Bukhari also describes Shu’ayb as: ‘His reports must be investigated.’ As to Ibn Habban, he says, ‘Shu’ayb, although his reports are proportionally few, reports unacceptable narrations from the famous personalities. When he is the only reporter of a narration, his narration cannot stand as sufficient proof. One of his reports that is decided as unacceptable is his report from Husayn ibn Al-Shi’bi on the authority of Abu-Wa’il that Ali was asked to appoint a next caliph’ etc. (See: Ibn Hajar, Tahdhib Al-Tahdhib 4:357)

[23] Asma’ bint ‘Umays is reported to have said that Imam Ali (‘a), in his final spark of life, breathed in and fainted. When he recovered consciousness, he said, ‘Welcome! Welcome! All praise be to Allah Who has fulfilled His promise to us and made us inherit Paradise.’ When he was asked what he had seen, he (‘a) answered, ‘I can see the Messenger of Allah, my brother Ja’far, and my uncle Hamzah. I can see the doors to the heavens opened before me and the angles are descending to greet me and convey to me good tidings. I also can see Fatimah surrounded by her maidens and I can see my places in Paradise. ‘For the like of this, let the workers work.’’ (See: Al-Zamakhshari, Rabi’ Al-Abrar 4:208.).

The Selection taken from the “The Life of Ali Ibn Abi Talib” by Baqir Sharif al-Qurashi.

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