Martyred inthe mosque

Farhan Bokhari
Sunday, Apr 09, 2023

Barely moments passed after the morning ‘fajr’ prayer began at the ‘Kufa’ mosque in southern Iraq that an assassin, Abdul Rehman Ibne Muljim, armed with a poison dipped dagger struck at the head of Hazrat Ali (a.s), the fourth caliph of Islam – thus delivering a blow whose impact remains in place almost fourteen centuries later.

As blood oozed from his forehead, Hazrat Ali (a.s) received his fatal wound with the widely documented statement: Fuztu bi Rabbil Kaaba’ (By the grace of the Lord of Kaaba, I have succeeded). And that claim of success remains unchallenged to this day.

So powerful has been the legacy of the fourth caliph of Islam after Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), that Hazrat Ali (a.s) continues to have a widespread impact in more ways than one.

On Monday, the 19th of Ramazan, a large number of Muslims across the world including Pakistan will begin observing the three-day martyrdom commemoration of Hazrat Ali (a.s) from the day of the attack to the day of his martyrdom on 21st of Ramazan.

The persona of Hazrat Ali (a.s) pulls pilgrims to the historic grand mosque at Kufa and his final resting place in Najaf-e-Ashraf in Iraq, a city surrounded by inhabitants whose lives revolve around him. The history of Najaf, barring the ‘Wadi us salam’ historic cemetery, is built around Hazrat Ali (a.s).

Today, from centres of the Islamic scholarly world to businesses catering to the pilgrims, all exist around the shrine of Hazrat Ali (a.s). And not too far is Karbala, a captivating centre for pilgrims built around the place of martyrdom of Hazrat Ali’s son Imam Hussain (a.s) and his followers whose defiance of Yazeed bin Muawiya in an epic encounter on the 10th day of Muharram continues to inspire Muslims worldwide. In time, these two shrines have become connected, as each year pilgrims during Muharram set out on a 100 kms journey on foot from Kufa to Najaf.

The powerful legacy of Hazrat Ali (a.s) has inspired many Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The documentation of the life of Hazrat Ali (a.s) ranges from his command of knowledge and philosophy to his unparalleled chivalry on the battlefield.

Titles such ‘Asadullah’ (the lion of Allah), ‘Maulood-e-Kaaba’ (One who was born inside the Kaaba), ‘Fateh-e-Khyber’ (Conqueror of Khyber, the Jewish fort) and ‘Baab ul Madinatul Ilm’ (Passage to the city of knowledge), each demonstrate an aspect of the multi-faceted and rich life of Hazrat Ali (a.s).

Highlighting the persona of Hazrat Ali (a.s) as a unifying individual for Muslims across the board, Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri in his widely acclaimed ‘The Sayings and Wisdom of Imam Ali’ wrote: “Any attempt to describe the personal qualities of Imam Ali is a challenging task, for he has assumed [to all Muslims alike], an almost legendary status as a paragon of virtue, a fountain of knowledge and a model of chivalry, widely renowned for his piety, nobility and learning. Indeed it is at times difficult to find the true balance needed to love him without idolizing him”.

One of the most widely circulated writings of Hazrat Ali (a.s) remains a letter that he wrote to his close follower Malik Ashtar, upon the latter’s appointment as governor of Egypt, then a province of the Muslim empire. That letter, among others was publicly commended by the late UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as an ideal model for governance which deserves to be embraced by modern-day rulers.

Hazrat Ali wrote; “Be it known to you, O, Malik, that I am sending you as Governor to a country which in the past has experienced both just and unjust rule. Men will scrutinise your actions with a searching eye, even as you used to scrutinise the actions of those before you, and speak of you even as you did speak of them. The fact is that the public speaks well of only those who do good. It is they who furnish the proof of your actions. Hence the richest treasure that you may covet would be the treasure of good deeds”.

And in his widely read title ‘Ali the Magnificent’, Yousuf N Lalljee reflecting upon the quality of statecraft under the administration of Hazrat Ali (a.s) wrote; “It was the cardinal principal of Hazrat Ali’s administration that the ruler should adopt a standard of life equal to that of the humblest subject in the realm. He sincerely believed that the real greatness of a ruler did not consist in wearing rich and costly dresses, but in relieving the distress of the suffering subjects. The public treasury was meant to meet not the extravagant demands of a ruler’s vanity but the needs of the downtrodden people, to feed the starving population and to clothe the naked”.

One of the most impressive memories from the life of Hazrat Ali (a.s) remains his oft-repeated challenge, seeking all those around him to raise questions before he is not amongst them. “Salooni, Salooni, Kabla Ant’afkadoonee” (Ask me, Ask me before you miss me) was his statement repeatedly recorded in history, from his presence on the pulpit. For scholars seeking to track letters and sermons of Hazrat Ali (a.s), ‘Nahjul Balagha’ – a historical text remains a popular and comprehensive starting point.

Among writers who devoted time and energy to research the life and legacy of Hazrat Ali (a.s), George Jordac, the Lebanese Christian scholar remains a memorable figure. In his widely noted title ‘Sautul Adalatil Insaniyah’ subsequently translated in English as ‘The Voice of Human Justice: A Biography of Imam Ali’, Jordac wrote; “His (Hazrat Ali) laws were not formulated on account of the exigencies of government and polities, but government and polities were based on those laws. He purposely did not adopt a path which might lead him to rulership, but adopted that which might enable him to make his place in the pure hearts. Justice was a part of his soul and was ingrained in his heart, and it had combined other virtues also with itself”.

In a crisis-stricken era, Muslim countries including Pakistan have much to learn from the life and teachings of Hazrat Ali (a.s) as his martyrdom is remembered in the days to come.

The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist who writes on political and economic affairs. He can be reached at: