The Virtues of Ameerul Momineen Ali ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) as Mentioned in Shia and Sunni Exegesis

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In the Holy Quran, there is a verse that clearly indicates that a person from Bani Israel has testified on the Prophethood of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). The verse is

قُلْ اَرَئَيْتُمْ اِنْ كَانَ مِنْ عِنْدِ اللهِ وَ كَفَرْتُمْ بِهِ وَ شَهِدَ شَاهِدٌ مِْنْ بَنِىْٔ اِسْرَآئِيْلَ عَلٰى مِثْلِهِ فَاٰمَنَ وَ اسْتَكْبَرْتُمْ، اِنَْ اللهَ لاَ يَهْدِى الْقَوْمَ الْظَْالِمِيْنَ

‘Say “Have you considered if it is from Allah and you believe in it and a witness from Bani Israel has testified to it, so he believed while you are arrogant. Surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.”‘[19]

Based on this verse, we can say that ‘the one with whom there is knowledge’ refers to this very person from Bani Israel and he is none other than Abdullah Ibn Salaam.


Although a few scholars are of the view that the above verse refers to Abdullah Ibn Salaam, but this observation cannot be accepted nor does it have any historical backing. For, Surah Ahkaf was revealed in Makkah while Abdullah Ibn Salaam accepted Islam in Madina. This verse had already descended before his acceptance of Islam. Tabari writes in his Tafseer that the ‘people of Ta’veel’ differ in their views concerning this verse. Thus some of them have said that “like the example” refers to “Torah” and the word “witness” refers to “Hazrat Musa (a.s.)” When Dawood was asked about the same verse, he said, ‘Aamir has quoted Mashrook that ‘I swear by Allah. This verse was never revealed for Abdullah Ibn Salaam because Abdullah accepted Islam in Madina while this verse was revealed in Makkah. Rather this verse (of Surah Ahqaaf) was revealed concerning the enmity and hatred of the people for the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). This is because ‘similar to the Quran‘ refers to ‘Torah‘ while ‘Hazrat Musa (a.s.)’ is similar to ‘the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)‘ Thus, this verse is trying to convey that ‘the Bani Israel accepted the Torah and their Prophet while you are denying him.’[20]

The best reply to this objection is that the verse of Surah Ahqaaf does not fit into our discussion because it refers to the ‘Torah’ and the people who accepted it. While, here we are discussing about the Holy Quran and the truthfulness of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Thus, if the verse was revealed in Madinah and “a witness” refers to Abdullah Ibn Salaam, then too it cannot be a proof that it refers to Abdullah Ibn Salaam.

In short, if we were to accept that this verse speaks about Abdullah Ibn Salaam, yet there is no witness and evidence in support of this claim. On the other hand, we have proofs to establish that this verse was revealed in Makkah and the view that “the entire Surah is from Makkah but this verse is from Madina” is only of the narrator and he does not corroborate it with evidence. Thus, it cannot become an argument (hujjah) for us. An unsubstantiated matter can never be used as evidence and intellectuals too are averse to this approach. Then, how will Allah use an argument whose evidence is weak, unverified and unconfirmed?


Who is greater?

In a long tradition, Ameerul Momeneen Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.) asked the people, “Is your Prophet more esteemed and honourable or Hazrat Sulaiman (a.s.)?” The people said, “Our Prophet (s.a.w.a.), O Ameeral Momineen!” Ameerul Momineen Ali (a.s.) retorted, “Then the successor of your Prophet (s.a.w.a.) too is more esteemed and honourable than the successor of Hazrat Sulaiman (a.s.). The successor of Hazrat Sulaiman (a.s.) had only one word from the ‘Asmaa-e-A’zam‘ (Great Names of Allah) due to which the distance between the throne of Queen Bilqees and himself became small and he was able to get her throne in the court of Hazrat Sulaiman (a.s.) in the twinkling of an eye. But we have the knowledge of seventy-two ‘Asmaa-e-A’zam‘ while one Ism-e-A’zam – Allah the High – has kept it exclusively for Himself and has not given to any of His creatures.’

At that time, the people said, ‘O Ameeral Momeneen! If you possess ‘Ism-e-A’zam‘ then why are you inviting the people to fight against Muawiyah? Why do you require helpers and soldiers?’ In reply, Ali (a.s.) recited the following verse

…بَلْ عِبَادٌ مُْكْرَمُوْنَ لاَ يَسْبِقُوْنَهُ بِالْقَوْلِ وَهُمْ بِاَمْرِهِ يَعْمَلُوْنَ.

‘…..Rather, they are His honoured servants. They do not precede Him in speech and (only) according to His commands do they act.’[21]

He (a.s.) continued,

‘I’m only calling the people to fight against Muawiyah so that my argument against them is completed and they are not left with any excuse.’[22]



‘When I pray to Allah, you say Aameen’

Muhammad Ibn Jurair Tabari writes in his exegesis, “Every morning, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) would come out of the house in a way that Imam Husain (a.s.) would be in his arms, Imam Hasan (a.s.) holding his (s.a.w.a.) fingers and Janab-e-Fatemah Zahra (s.a.) walking behind him (s.a.w.a.). May Allah shower them with His choicest blessings![23]

Haakem Neishapuri in his book ‘al-Mustadrak‘ and Abu Noaim in ‘Dalaael‘ mention a tradition from Jaabir Ibn Abdillah Ansari in which he says, ‘Aaqib and Saeed – the two leaders of Najraan – came to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Two people were sent to receive them but they refused to meet them ….. (In the end of the narration concerning the verse, Janab-e-Jaabir says) “The word ‘انفسنا‘ refers to Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Ali (a.s.), ‘ابنائنا‘ refers to Imam Hasan (a.s.) and Imam Husain (a.s.) while the word ‘نسائنا‘ refers to Janab-e-Fatima (s.a.).[24]

Jaarullah Zamakhshari writes in his Tafseer, ‘The Christians of Najraan had come to meet the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). At that time, he was carrying Imam Husain (a.s.) in his arms, while Imam Hasan (a.s.) was walking with him holding his (s.a.w.a.) finger. Janab-e-Fatima (s.a.) was walking behind him while Imam Ali (a.s.) was walking behind her. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was telling them, “When I pray to Allah, you say Aameen”. Looking at them, one of the Najraani said, ‘I’m looking at such faces that if Allah wants, He will move mountains in their honour. If you do malediction (مباهلة) with them then most certainly you shall be destroyed.’ This is the best and the strongest proof upon the greatness of “people of the cloak (اصحاب كساء).”[25]

Fakhruddin Raazi writes: When the Christians of Najraan refused to accept the proofs put forward by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) due to their ignorance and obstinacy, he (s.a.w.a.) said to them, “If you are not willing to accept our evidences, then Allah has commanded me to do malediction with you” They said, “We will discuss this with our people and come back to you tomorrow.” They returned to their people and told to their leader (Aaqib), “O servant of Isa! What is your opinion in this regard?” He said, “You know very well that Muhammad has been appointed as Prophet by Allah and whatever he says about your master – Hazrat Isa – is the truth.” At that moment, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) came out of the house wearing a black cloak on his shoulders, Imam Husain (a.s.) in his arms, Imam Hasan (a.s.) catching his finger, Janab-e-Fatemah (s.a.) walking behind him (s.a.w.a.) and Imam Ali (a.s.) walking behind her. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was telling them, “When I pray, all of you say Aameen.” When the Najraani chief saw them (a.s.), he told to his people “If they pray to Allah that mountains move from their place, Allah will fulfill their wish. Thus, don’t maledict with them, lest you be destroyed and no Christian shall survive on earth.”

This incident is also narrated in another way that when Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) came out of the house wearing his black cloak, and when Imam Hasan (a.s.) came, he (s.a.w.a.) took him under his cloak. The same thing he did when Imam Husain (a.s.) came to him. Then, Janab-e-Fatemah (s.a.) followed them and the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) recited the Verse of Purification (آية التطهير) (Surah Ahzab: Verse 33). Know that this tradition is authentic and reliable and accepted by all traditionalists and scholars.[26]

Qurtubbi writes that the term ‘our sons’ proves that grandsons can be called as ‘sons’. That is, the reason that Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) took them along with him, while Janab-e-Fatemah (s.a.) was walking behind him (s.a.w.a.) and Imam Ali (a.s.) was behind her. On the way Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was telling them, ‘When I pray, you say Aameen.’[27]

Let us analyze some doubts raised concerning this verse in the words of the great research scholar Mohaqqiq Taqi Falsafi, ‘The malediction of the five chosen ones of Allah with the Najraani group can be rationally analyzed in four ways:

1. The prayers of both the parties are accepted and both are destroyed.

2. The prayers of both the groups are not accepted. In that case, both the groups will lose respect and value in the eyes of the people and will be rejected.

3. The prayers of the Christian group are accepted. In that case, divine wrath will afflict the opposite party.

4. The prayers of Ahle Bait (a.s.) are accepted and the Christians of Najraan are annihilated.

So, the reason (from among the four) which is applicable will become the cause of the other group withdrawing itself from the malediction otherwise, they have to face destruction and obliteration. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was dead-sure on the veracity of his claim. If he had even an iota of doubt, he would not have insisted on this malediction as there were two possibilities. Either he would be destroyed or his group would have been humiliated. Therefore, the Christians of Najraan turned away and could not muster up the courage to do malediction. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) informed later, ‘The shadow of destruction was lurking on the Christians of Najraan. If they would have cursed, they would have certainly been transformed into pigs and monkeys. This desert would have become a sea of fire. Allah would have destroyed all of them within a year.[28]

And he says that the word ‘liars’ (كاذبين), in the above verse, refers to this particular group only and not all the liars. One group believed that Hazrat Isa (a.s.) was the servant of Allah and His messenger, while the other group claimed him to be the son of God. Then, if the malediction would have been with the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) on one side and the group of Christians on the other side, the verse should have contained the singular as well as plural. That is, Allah should have said, “Then we shall send the curse of Allah on the one who is a liar.” This is the best proof to show that two groups were present in the malediction. It also proves that everyone who was present over there was a party to the claim and the word ‘liar’ would be applicable on everyone. This proves that those who accompanied Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in the malediction (viz. Imam Hasan & Imam Husain (a.s.), Janab-e-Fatemah (s.a.) and Imam Ali (a.s.) were allied to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in his claim. This is the best evidence to establish the supremacy of the Ahle Bayt (a.s.) and Allah has exclusively honoured them through it because the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) took only these infallible personas (a.s.) with him in the malediction.’

Muraghi writes in his exegesis, “In the place of malediction, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) has given preference to himself over his sons and daughter, while no sane person will ever put their lives in peril. This is because the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had absolute certainty that truth is with them and there was no danger to the lives of Ahlul Bait (a.s.).”[29]

Jaarullah Zamkhshari writes, “If the malediction is to be assumed as an event where the liars from each side become manifest, then only the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) should have gone for it because the opposite group (Christians) were denying only him. Then why did Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) take his ladies and children along? Hence, we say that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was so certain about his own truthfulness and that of the message, that he took his most beloved family members for the malediction. Among all men, women and children, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) chose to take his own family, thereby showing to the people that they (the Ahle Bayt (a.s.) were the dearest to him (s.a.w.a.). One of them in the group always sacrificed himself for the others. The bringing of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) of these infallible personalities for the malediction is a proof that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was totally convinced of the veracity of his mission. By bringing his women and children, he (s.a.w.a.) wanted to show that these individuals were precious to him and he (s.a.w.a.) also wanted everyone to take cognizance of their elevated rank and status.”[30]

Position of Imam Ali (a.s.) and Verse of Malediction (Mubaahelah)

Fakhruddin Raazi, while narrating the above point from Hamasi, raises an objection. He writes, “Just as there is consensus among all Muslims that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is the greatest among all Prophets (a.s.), similarly, before Hamsi, there was consensus on the point that a Prophet is superior to any other individual of the society. Also, all Muslims agree that Imam Ali (a.s.) is not a Prophet. Hence, all Prophets (a.s.) are greater in rank and status to Imam Ali (a.s.).”

In reply to this objection, Allamah Mujahid Shaikh Hasan al-Muzaffar (r.a.) writes,

“From the objection raised by Raazi, it seems that he accepts that Imam Ali (a.s.) is superior to the companions of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) as he has quoted Shaikh Muhammad Hamasi in which he (Hamasi) says ‘Since Imam Ali (a.s.) is the self of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is superior to all Prophets (a.s.), thus Imam Ali (a.s.) too is greater than all Prophets (a.s.)’ and has objected to this statement. Moreover, the Shiites also believe that in the light of this Verse of Malediction, it is conclusively proved that Imam Ali (a.s.) is superior to the companions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). But Raazi has chosen to remain silent and has not given his comment on this matter. (Thus, he has objected only to one part of the Shiite view but has no objection to the second belief.).

Also, when Raazi claims that “before Hamasi, the Muslims were unanimous in their belief that a Prophet is superior to a non-prophet” is not valid and true. The consensus is on the point that the ‘lineage of the Prophet is superior to the lineage of the people and every Prophet is superior to the people of his own nation’ But it is not necessary that every Prophet is superior to ‘every ordinary individual’ even if that person is from some other nation.

Also, the belief that “Imam Ali (a.s.) is superior to all Prophets (a.s.) except the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is not only restricted to the view of Hamasi. Much before him – and even today – the Shiites hold this belief and cite this Verse of Malediction and similar verses to prove their point”[31]

It is possible that Hamasi may say “The consensus that does not include the companions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and the Bani Hashim cannot be called as a consensus in the first place even if Fakhruddin Raazi may say so. Also this ‘consensus’ does not hold the same value as the instances of consensus that are found among Muslims. Rationally too, it is not right to accept a consensus which does not include more than half the Muslim nation.”

In Tafseer-e-Minaar (of Shaikh Muhammad Abdoh), it is written that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) took Imam Ali (a.s.), Janab-e-Fatemah (s.a.) and her two children (a.s.) when he went for the malediction against the Christians of Najraan. Thus, under the word ‘our women’, he took just Janab-e-Fatemah Zahra (s.a.), while for ‘ourselves’, he took only Imam Ali (a.s.). He writes that the references of all these traditions are Shiite sources and their intent is also very clear. They have propagated this event to the maximum possible extent. So much so that today this event is found even in the books of Ahle Sunnah. But the one who fabricated this tradition and the event of malediction did not keep in mind the words of the verse of malediction. This is because no Arab has ever applied the word ‘نسائنا‘ to his daughter – especially if he has many wives. This is not correct even from the aspect of Arabic grammar. More amazing is that the word ‘انفسنا‘ has been applied to Imam Ali (a.s.).’

What can one say about such a person who is a victim of his carnal desires and who – inspite of his knowledge – was deviated by Allah. We wonder whom he is referring when he says that “all the references of this event are Shiite sources” while his Imam i.e. Fakhruddin Raazi says that all writers of exegesis and traditionalists are unanimous on this episode of the malediction (Mubaahelah)!

[19] Surah Ahqaaf : 10

[20] Jaame’ al-Bayaan, vol. 26, p.6

[21] Surah Anbiya (21), Verses 26, 27

[22] Tafseer-e-Burhan, vol. 3, p.205

[23] Jaame’ al-Bayaan, vol. 3, p. 299. Since the name of Imam Ali (a.s.) is not there in this tradition, it is not an authentic narration

[24] Tafseer-e-Durrul Mansoor, vol. 2, p.38

[25] Tafseer-e-Kashhaaf, vol.1, p.434

[26] Tafseer-e-Kabeer, vol.8, p. 85

[27] Tafseer Jaame’ al-Ahkam al-Quran, vol. 4, p.104

[28] Hadees in Tafseer Abu Saud, vol. 2, p. 47

[29] Tafseer-e-Muraghi, vol.3, p.174

[30] Tafseer-e-Kashhaaf, vol.1, p.434

[31] Dalail-us-Sidq, vol. 2, p.86

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