January 15, 2015 By Alpha R. Jalloh
Imam Ali the Holy Prophet’s cousin was a man who was described as a man with exemplary qualities and virtues and admirable knowledge that Muslims have regarded as a role model in their social, economic, cultural and religious life. In this first part of a series of articles Sheikh Ahmad Tejan Sillah gives the readers an exposé of this unique man and reasons that have been proffered for attributing such qualities on him.
First: When the Quranic verse “And warn your nearest relations” (26: 214) was revealed, the Holy Prophet (S.AW) gathered Abd al-Muttalib’s sons numbering forty altogether in Abu-Talib’s house and had a meal of a leg of mutton, one kilo of wheat and some milk prepared for them whereas the meal of each one of them at one meal was four years camel and sixteen pounds of milk. This group of people ate from that little food and felt full. This was nothing but a miracle becoming manifest in that gathering.
After eating the food, the Holy Prophet (S.A) addressing the gathering and declaring his divine mission, said, “Let it be known to you that God has sent me to you, sons of Abd al-Muttalib in particular and to other people in general, for He says: ‘And warn your nearest relation ‘. “I hereby invite you to two formulas which are light on the tongue but heavy and meaningful in action. By uttering these two formulas, you will soon wield the control of affairs of the Arab and Non-Arab and various nations that will be subdued to you. You will be redeemed from the fire of Hell and enter Paradise. Those two formulas are bearing witness to my unity mission and Prophethood. Anyone of you, who will respond positively and assist me in my mission, will be my brother, my heir and successor after me”. From that gathering, not even a single person gave a positive answer.
Ali (A.S), who was the youngest in the gathering, rose up saying; “O messenger of Allah, give me the honor of this mission”. The Holy Prophet (S.A) said, “Take your seat and let me see what the others say. The Holy Prophet (S.A) repeated his words for the second time but there was still silence. “Again I rose up expressing my positive response. The Holy Prophet (S.A) again ordered me to sit down”. He then repeated his words for the third time. This time too, all kept silent and there was no response. “I rose up and expressed my readiness”. The Holy Prophet (S.A) was hungry for knowledge on the one hand and the student’s interest in learning from childhood till the end of his life had made Ali a student of high capacity who was walking in a path leading to the zenith of perfection of the other.
Second: Ali’s superiority over the people of his time is that God Almighty has said of him. “And the retaining ear might retain it “(69:12). Tha’ labi, a Sunni commentator, in interpreting the verse says: “The messenger of Allah said to Ali: ‘I called on God Almighty to make you a true example of this verse”.
Abu – Nasir Hafiz, the Shafi’ite, has related; “The messenger of Allah said to Ali: ‘God Almighty has ordered me to call you and teach you the knowledge so that you will retain it”. The above mentioned verse was revealed on the same occasion. “O Ali, you have the hearing ear and the retainer of knowledge”.
The Prophet was also reported to have said, “O Ali! Remain in your place. Verily, you are my heir, successor, brother and vizier”. When the Holy Prophet (S.A) completed his words, those in the gathering rose up and addressing Abu Talib mockingly said; “Congratulation to you that if you accept the religion of your nephew son, Ali will be your leader and chief”.
It is unanimously believed that Ali was the wisest among the people of his time. All people resorted to him learning from his rational and transmitted science. There are proofs testifying to what we have said.
First, Ali Ibn Abi- Talib was extremely clever and intelligent, having a hunger for knowledge. He was a constant company of the Holy Prophet, from childhood to the day the messenger of Allah departed from this world. Benefiting from the ocean of his knowledge. Evidently, the Holy Prophet (S.A) was superior to all human beings and his knowledge was above all. Naturally such an intelligent and clever student who accompanied such a perfect man.