Hazrat Ali (AS) was a short statured man. He was strong and stout. He wore a long beard. He had a smiling countenance. He was a distinguished personality of Islam. Hazrat Ali (AS) was endowed with versatile gifts and great intellectual qualities. It was a matter of rare distinction for him that he was born in the sacred precincts of the Kaba. He was extremely fortunate to have been brought up by the Prophet (Suallu Alaihe Wa Aalehi Wasallam). He grew up in an atmosphere that helped him to imbibe many of the virtues of his Benefactor (Suallu Alaihe Wa Aalehi Wasallam). Hazrat Ali (AS) was his cousin and son-in-law. Since his childhood he was very intelligent, hard-working and sagacious. The excellence training which was imparted to him by the Prophet (Suallu Alaihe Wa Aalehi Wasallam) had left an indelible impression on his mind. He had learnt the Holy Quran direct from the Messenger of Allah (Suallu Alaihe Wa Aalehi Wasallam) who awarded him the title of “The Gate of Knowledge”. He was a commentator of unique standing. He acted as one of the special scribes of the Messenger of Allah (Suallu Alaihe Wa Aalehi Wasallam), he had gained a vast knowledge regarding the revelations of the various verses and Chapters of the Holy Quran. He rendered valuable services to Islam in arranging these Chapters in the order of revelation during the Caliphate of Abu Bakr (RA). His services in connection with the preservation of the Traditions of the Prophet (Suallu Alaihe Wa Aalehi Wasallam) were highly creditable. He was well versed in Islamic Jurisprudence. He was a first class orator:
It is related by Ibn Babawe on the authority of Jaffer (RA), who said: “One day the companions of the Messenger of Allah (Suallu Alaihe Wa Aalehi Wasallam) had gathered at a place. During the discussion it was pointed out that Alif is mostly used among all the alphabetical letters in Arabic and without it, it is quite impossible to speak out. On hearing this, Hazrat Ali (AS) delivered an extempore speech in which Alif was not utilized at all”.
Hazrat Ali (AS) was deeply religious. He never acted contrary to the teachings of the Holy Quran. One day on the field of battle, Hazrat Ali (AS) overpowered his sworn enemy. He mounted his chest and was about to put him to the sword. The infidel spat on his face. Hazrat Ali (AS) spared him at once and stepped aside. The Jew was wonder-struck and said, “Why have you spared me inspite of the fact that you have sound reasons to slay me more ruthlessly”? Hazrat Ali (AS) replied, “I owe no personal enmity against you. I determined to kill you for the sake of Allah. When you spat on my face, I changed my mind. How could I slay you to wreak my personal vengeance. It is strictly prohibited in my religion to kill others out of vindictiveness”. The jew was much impressed by the sublime teachings of Islam and the noble behaviour of its followers. He felt penitence and entered the fold of Islam. Hazrat Ali (AS) was a model of simplicity just like the other heroes of Islam. He wore clothes made of coarse cloth and ate ordinary food. He laboured hard to earn a livelihood for his family. There was no servant in his house. His beloved wife, Fatima (SA) used to grind corn with her own hands. The riches of the world and comforts of life had no fascination for him. As a Caliph when danger was knocking at his door, he stationed no body-guard at his residence for his safety.
Hazrat Ali (AS) never allowed any concession to h is kith and kin. He was very careful in utilizing public money. He adopted perfect equality in the distribution of the revenue among the needy and the destitute. Every one had equal status in his eyes. His decisions were just and impartial and no defaulter could escape the punishment awarded by him. Hazrat Umar (RA) appointed him as the Chief Justice during his Caliphate. He used to say that “Umar would be ruined if Ali (AS) were not present”. The statement of the second Caliph is based on an incident. In his era, two females gave birth to two kids in a house of maiden. One kid was male and the other female. The mother of male kid was unconscious while the mother of female kid was conscious. The mother of female kid took the male kid from his mother’s bed and laid her female kid in place. When the mother of male kid came into conscious, she saw a female kid laying on her bed. She started crying and stated that she had dreamed of son and she had the sure feelings of the birth of son. How it is possible that I have delivered a female kid. This dispute came before the second Caliph who demanded witness. The maiden appeared before him and stated that she was working at her home after both the ladies had delivered their kids and that she was unaware of the incident. Other family members of both the ladies were about to fight with on another on this dispute. Hazrat Umar (RA) immediately called Hazrat Ali (AS) and told the whole story. Hazrat Ali (AS) did not demand witnesses. He asked both the ladies to take two pots of one equal size and get their milk of their breasts into the pots in equal quantity. They went to another room and did so, and brought the pots before Hazrat Ali (AS). Hazrat Ali (AS) ordered to weigh both the pot and passed a very fair decision that pot of heavier weight belongs to the mother of male kid and little weight belongs to the mother of female kid. When the truth opened before vast majority of people, mother of female kid admitted that she replaced her female kid with male kid delivered by other lady. At that time, Hazrat Uman (RA) stated: “Umar would be ruined if Ali (AS) were not present”. As a Judge, Hazrat Ali (AS) had no equal. Even his opponents like Moavia highly priced his verdicts in connection with religious matters and used to get solutions from Hazrat Ali (AS) through correspondence. At this, Hazrat Ali (AS) used to say, “Our enemies are also getting benefits from us in religious matters”.
Hazrat Ali (AS) was very courageous and a dauntless soldiers of Allah. He won the title of “The Lion of Allah” due to his adventures of valour and bravery. His achievements in the propagation of Islam even in the teeth of opposition, are commendable. Whenever he was challenged to a duel, he invariably defeated his rival. He participated in the holy battles and won the admiration of all. The bravery which Hazrat Ali (AS) displayed in the battle of Uhad was well narrated by Umar (RA) in these sentences: “We were on the battlefield routing the enemy. Suddenly the force of the enemy made a stormy attack on us. It was then we saw the Prophet (Suallu Alaihe Wa Aalehi Wasallam) falling because he was unable to stand the onslaught. We took to our heels but Hazrat Ali (AS) stood firm. He did not budge an inch and stood guarding his Master. He was brandishing his sword and thus checked the advance of the enemy. He shouted at the top of his voice to protect the Prophet (Suallu Alaihe Wa Aalehi Wasallam) and not to desert him. He gave us fresh courage and turning back. We repulsed the enemy”. The impregnable fort of Khaibar fell due to his courage and skill. This conquest enhanced the prestige of the Muslims.
Hazrat Ali (AS) had no aspirations for the Caliphate. But when he was forced to shoulder these responsibilities, he tried his level best to justify his election. Although the country was in the grip of disruptions at that time, yet he did not lose heart and performed his duties earnestly and efficiently. He was sure to overcome all sorts of difficulties. He was honest and conscientious. He took strong measures to sweep out corruption and lawlessness from the Empire. He replaced all those officers and Governors whose conduct was undesirable. According to his opinion, Moavia had falled victim to temptations and had adopted the wrong path. He tried to dismiss him from the post of Governor. This bold step landed him in a dreadful clash with Moavia. He, however, managed to gain the victory in the battle of Siffin but he was deprived of the fruit of triumph of his sincerity and peace-loving nature.
Whenever he got the slightest opportunity to avert bloodshed and destruction, he restrained his hands and tried to pacify the opponents. He was kind and beneficient to his friends and treated his sworn enemies with generous forbearance. He forgave the Khawarij and the rebels of Persia when they felt penitence. The Parsians were much impressed and they remarked: “By Allah, this Arab reminds us of Nosherwan”.
Hazrat Ali (AS) was Allah-fearing in the real sense of the word. Sometimes tears welled up in his eyes wheever he happened to pass near the grave-yard. One of his friends, Kumail, related an incident which clearly manifested that he was of a highly sensitive nature. He says: “One day I accompanied Hazrat Ali (AS) to the grave-yard. He said, “ dwellers of the graves! You live among ruins in solitude. How are you passing your days in the other world? Do you remember your riches or not? Now let us have news about you”. Then he turned to me and said, “O Kumail! If they could speak they would have informed us that the best provision for the Hereafter is Taqwa. The grave is the storehouse of the deeds; but one realizes it only after his burial”. After this Hazrat Ali (AS) wept bitterly and lost consciousness. The imagination of the torment of hell shuddered his body.
Whenever Hazrat Ali (AS) stood up in Salat, humbling himself before his Creator, tears rolled down his cheeks to his beard and on to his breast. He would turn pale and quake at the time of the prayers. Somebody asked him the reason for this awe and he said: “It is the time to discharge that trust which Allah offered to the heavens, the earth and the hills but they shrank from bearing it but I h ave assumed it”.
Hazrat Ali (AS) was the true devotee of the Prophet (Suallu Alaihe Wa Aalehi Wasallam). He had a deep love for his Master. Somebody questioned him: “How much affection have you for the Prophet (Suallu Alaihe Wa Aalehi Wasallam)? He replied, “By Allah! To us the Prophet (Suallu Alaihe Wa Aalehi Wasallam) is dearer than our riches, our children and our mothers. His company is more cherishable than the cold water at the time of the severest thirst”.
There is no exaggeration in Hazrat Ali (AS)’s statement. As a matter of fact, he had gone to extremes of love for the Prophet (Suallu Alaihe Wa Aalehi Wasallam) to attain perfection of his faith.
On account of this deep love for the Prophet (Suallu Alaihe Wa Aalehi Wasallam) and good qualities of head and heart, Hazrat Ali (AS) was declared as his Successor by the Holy Prophet (Suallu Alaihe Wa Aalehi Wasallam) as the first Imam at the time of Prophet (Suallu Alaihe Wa Aalehi Wasallam)’s last and the only pilgrimage. These are people who disobeyed the Holy Prophet (Suallu Alaihe Wa Aalehi Wasallam) and took the control of Government on their own after the disappearance of the Holy Prophet (Suallu Alaihe Wa Aalehi Wasallam). As a result of their personal attempt to control the government on their own, such disturbances occurred that Hazrat Ali (AS) had to face.
The Holy Quran says in the honour of Hazrat Ali (AS): “Muhammad (Suallu Alaihe Wa Aalehi Wasallam) is the Messenger of Allah, and those with them are firm of heart against the infidels, but kind among themselves; you will see them bowing down, prostrating themselves, seeking grace and pleasure from Allah; their marks are in their faces because of the effect of prostration”.
Apparently, Hazrat Ali (AS) looked to be poor but he was able to do everything possible for the good of his and his family’s life. He led a life of austerity but he was generous at heart. Once he had to go without food for a few days. He laboured hard and thus got a meager remuneration. He cooked food to satisfy his hunger when a beggar came to his door and begged for alms. Hazrat Ali (AS) gave him all he had and himself began to bear the pangs of starvation. This happened three times. Allah was pleased at this deed of selflessness and revealed this verse in appreciation of Hazrat Ali (AS): “And they feed for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan and the captive”.
These verses of the Holy Quran also throw light on the outstanding status of Hazrat Ali (AS), stating: “In houses which Allah has permitted to be erected, and that His name may be remembered in them: they glorify Him therein in the mornings and evenings”.
Explaining these verse, Ibn Abbas writes that one day they were in the Mosque. After prayers one of the followers recited the above verse, whereupon the Prophet (Suallu Alaihe Wa Aalehi Wasallam) was asked which were the houses referred to by Allah in the verse. The Prophet (Suallu Alaihe Wa Aalehi Wasallam) replied that the houses referred to in the verse were the houses of the Prophets gone-before and also that of Fatima (SA) and Ali (AS)”.