The commentary of the word of Allah, the High:

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَشْرِي نَفْسَهُ ابْتِغَاء مَرْضَاتِ اللهِ وَاللهُ رَؤُوفٌ بِالْعِبَادِ

“And among men is he who sells himself to seek the pleasure of Allah; and Allah is Affectionate to the servants.”[1]

In Ghaayah al-Maraam, it has been recorded from Tafseer al-Tha’labi, Part I, in the exegesis of Surah al-Baqarah (2), verse 207, the saying of Allah – the High – “And among men is he who sells himself to seek the pleasure of Allah” that when the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) intended to migrate (to Madinah), he (s.a.w.a.) left behind Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) in Makkah to repay his (s.a.w.a.) debts, return the trusts that were lying with him (s.a.w.a.) and ordered him (a.s.) in the night when he (s.a.w.a.) left for the cave – while his (s.a.w.a.) house surrounded by the polytheists – that he (a.s.) should sleep on his (s.a.w.a.) bed. He (s.a.w.a.) said to him (a.s.), “O Ali! Cover yourself with my Hadhrami sheet and sleep on my bed. God willing, no difficulty shall reach unto you from them.” He (a.s.) duly obliged. So, Allah – Mighty and Majestic be He – revealed to Jibraeel (a.s.) and Mikaaeel (a.s.), “Verily, I made brotherhood between you two and made the age of one more than the other. Which one of you is willing to sacrifice his life for the other?” Both of them chose life. So, Allah – Mighty and Majestic be He- revealed unto both of them, “Can’t you two be like Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.)? I created between him (a.s.) and Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) while he (a.s.) was willing to sleep in the bed of Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) and sacrifice his life. Descend to the earth and protect him (a.s.) from his enemies.” So Jibraeel (a.s.) descended near his (a.s.) head while Mikaaeel (a.s.) came near his (a.s.) feet.  Jibraeel (a.s.) said, ‘Congratulations to a person like you, O son of Abu Taalib (a.s.). Allah is taking pride in you in front of the angels.’ At this juncture, Allah revealed on His Messenger (s.a.w.a.) who was on his way to Madinah in praise of Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.). “And among men is he who sells himself to seek the pleasure of Allah…”[2]

Al-Maaleki records in his book ‘al-Fusool al-Mohimmah’, “Imam Hujjatul Islam Abu Haamid al-Ghazzaali (r.a.) in his book, ‘Ehyaa al-Uloom al-Deen’ writes, ‘The night when Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) slept on the bed of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.), Allah – the High – revealed to Jibraeel (a.s.) and Mikaaeel (a.s.), “Verily, I made brotherhood between you two and made the age of one more than the other. Which one of you is willing to sacrifice his life for the other?” Both of them chose life and loved it. So, Allah – Mighty and Majestic be He- revealed unto both of them, “Can’t you two be like Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.)? I created between him (a.s.) and Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) while he (a.s.) was willing to sleep in the bed of Muhammad (s.a.w.a.), protecting him (s.a.w.a.) with his (a.s.) life and preferring his (s.a.w.a.) life to his own. Descend to the earth and protect him (a.s.) from his enemies.” So Jibraeel (a.s.) descended near his (a.s.) head while Mikaaeel (a.s.) came near his (a.s.) feet.  Jibraeel (a.s.) said, ‘Congratulations! Congratulations to a person like you, O son of Abu Taalib (a.s.). Allah is taking pride in you in front of the angels.’ At this juncture, Allah – Mighty and Majestic be He – revealed. “And among men is he who sells himself to seek the pleasure of Allah; and Allah is Affectionate to the servants.”[3]

In Majma’ al-Bayaan, it is narrated from al-Sudi from Ibn Abbas that this verse was revealed concerning Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) when the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) took flight from the polytheists to the cave and Ali (a.s.) slept on his (s.a.w.a.) bed. As a result, this verse descended while he (s.a.w.a.) was between Makkah and Madinah. It is narrated that when he (a.s.) slept on his (s.a.w.a.) bed, Jibraeel (a.s.) stood near his (a.s.) head while Mikaaeel (a.s.) was near his (a.s.) feet. Jibraeel (a.s.) was calling out to him, ‘Congratulations! Congratulations to person like you, O son of Abu Taalib (a.s.)! Allah is taking pride in you in front of the angels.’[4]

I say:  The traditions from both the sects are numerous; nay, they are almost consecutive. And indeed, in Ghaayah al-Maraam, eleven traditions have been narrated from Sunni sources and the same number from our sources.[5]

From what al-Tha’labi and Hujjatul Islam al-Ghazzali have mentioned, it is apparent that the descent of the verse in his (a.s.) glory, the coming down of the two proximate angels for his (a.s.) protection, the saying of Jibraeel (a.s.), ‘Congratulations! Congratulations to person like you, O son of Abu Taalib (a.s.)! Allah is taking pride in you in front of the angels’ for his (a.s.) sleeping upon the bed of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in that night, are all accepted and acknowledged facts for which there is no need to mention the chain of narrators since mentioning the tradition without the chain of narrators and both (al-Tha’labi and al-Ghazzali) have mentioned it without these chains considering it as accepted. If a person is bent upon rejecting something, he cannot see even something clearer than this.

The usage of the present tense, and not the past tense, for the word ‘selling’ by Allah – Mighty and Majestic be He – although according to a view it would have been appropriate to use the past tense because it is informing about an incident that transpired in the past, is to notify that the quality of selling himself to gain the satisfaction of Allah – the High – is his (a.s.) noble virtue and honourable trait, which is continuously found in him (a.s.). It was not a thing which he (a.s.) did occasionally. For, the present tense shows that it was a characteristic that was found in him (a.s.) permanently as the frequent use in the instances of usage establishes. Hence, it is brought to show a quality that belongs to his (a.s.) essential being. Therefore, not using the past tense over here and instead using the present tense is to bring to attention that he (a.s.) was habitually possessing this noble quality and honourable trait. Due to which, Allah – the High – took pride in him (a.s.) in front of the proximate angels. Whoever is aware of his (a.s.) characteristics in wars and other occasions, will know for sure that this was indeed his (a.s.) characteristic.

When you have become acquainted of what we have explained, it will become clearer than daylight for you that the distinction of Caliphate and Imamate is for him (a.s.). For, the one who attained the most perfect levels of servitude from maturity to this great majestic position and for the one who enjoys such a status, it is irrational that he should be under the mastership of the one who is lower than him in status and esteem; leave alone the one who is far lower in degrees lower than him. Hence, the flight of the three caliphs along with those who fled in the Battles of Ohod and Khaibar and their lack of courage to fight against Amr Ibn Abdawud show the domination of their love for their own lives over the love of Allah and His Messenger (s.a.w.a). Thus, according to the consensus of both the sects, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) declared in the Battle of Khaibar, “Tomorrow, I shall give the standard to a man who loves Allah and His Messenger and whom Allah and His Messenger love. He will not return till Allah gives victory at his hand.[6]    Now, his (s.a.w.a.) declaration, along with proving the perfect position of our master Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) since he (s.a.w.a.) gave him (a.s.) the standard and Allah gave victory at his (a.s.) hands, it also establishes the weak position of the earlier ones in their love for Allah – the High – and His Messenger (s.a.w.a.) since they returned with the standard and Allah did not grant victory at their hands. And whoever is weak in his love for Allah – the High – and His Messenger (s.a.w.a.), how can Allah chose him over the one who loves Allah – the High and His Messenger (s.a.w.a.), was perfect in his (a.s.) love to the extent that he (a.s.) did not give preference to anything over His satisfaction.

Objection: Just as our master Ali Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) had the merit and privilege of sleeping on the bed of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and selling his self to seek the satisfaction of Allah – the High – , similarly, Abu Bakr too had the honour of giving him (a.s.) company in the cave and being his (s.a.w.a.) close companion. In fact, He declared him as the second of the two from His Messenger (s.a.w.a.). It proves the perfection of his merit and excellence, as the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) said to him, “Don’t grieve; surely Allah is with us.[7]

Answer: Mere accompanying and being together in one place and terming one person as the companion of the other neither proves merit nor demerit. Similarly, the term ‘the second of the two’ and its like too do not prove any superiority, leave alone perfect excellence and merit. Don’t you see that  Allah –the High – has made an unbeliever a companion of a believer and a believer a companion of an unbeliever. He – Mighty and Majestic be He – declares in Surah Kahf, “…so he said to his companion, while he disputed with him: I have greater wealth than you, and am mightier in followers.”[8] He also said, “His companion said to him while disputing with him: Do you disbelieve in Him Who created you from dust…?[9] And said, “Nowhere is there a secret counsel between three persons but He is the fourth of them, nor (between) five but He is the sixth of them, nor less than that nor more but He is with them wheresoever they are…[10] In none of the above terms, any virtue or merit has been mentioned for the companions of the secret counsel.

It can also be argued that in the saying of Allah – the High – “So Allah sent down His tranquillity upon him and strengthened him with hosts which you did not see…[11], singular tense ‘him’ has been used, which proves that the only common thing between Abu Bakr and the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was only in the company that he kept with the latter and being with him (s.a.w.a.) in the cave, not in the descent of tranquillity, along with the fact that tranquillity was something that was common and general for all the believers.

Objection: It can be debated that the singular verse refers to Abu Bakr as he was the one who grieved and was in need of tranquillity.

Answer:  The pronoun ‘him’ in ‘strengthened him’ refers to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), for sure, and separation between the two pronouns is removed from and unbecoming of an eloquent speech. In fact, it is not at all permissible over here because the beginning of the verse under discussion is explaining the help and assistance to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). So, Allah – the Mighty – informs, “If you will not aid him, Allah certainly aided him when those who disbelieved expelled him, he being the second of the two, when they were both in the cave, when he said to his companion: Grieve not, surely Allah is with us. So Allah sent down His tranquillity upon him and strengthened him with hosts which you did not see…[12] Therefore, the saying of Allah – the High – “So Allah sent down His tranquillity upon him” explains the help and assistance of Allah – the High – for him (s.a.w.a.) only. Had the pronoun implied Abu Bakr, the last part of the verse would not be in harmony and consonance with its beginning. Hence, it’s determined that the pronoun refers only and only to the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.).



[1] Surah Baqarah (2): Verse 207

[2] Ghaayah al-Maraam, p. 344

[3] Ghaayah al-Maraam, pp. 345-346; al-Fusool al-Muhimmah, p. 48; al-Mahajjah al-Baidhaa , vol. 6, p. 80; Tafseer al-Burhaan, vol. 1, p. 206

[4] Majma’ al-Bayaan, vol. 2, p. 301

[5] Ghaayah al-Maraam, pp. 344-347

[6] Ghaayah al-Maraam, pp. 465-470

[7] Surah Taubah (9): Verse 40

[8] Surah Kahf (18): Verse 34

[9] Surah Kahf (18): Verse 37

[10] Surah Mujaadelah (58): Verse 7

[11] Surah Taubah (9): Verse 40

[12] Surah Taubah (9): Verse 40