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Imam ‘Ali’s (‘A) transactions with the Caliphs for Islamic Unity

Apr 20, 2012, 2:40 PM | Article By: Alhaji Ousman M. Jah

During the opening days of his rule, in relating the conditions after the passing of the Prophet (s) with regard to his right being abused; Ali (s) stated:

After the Prophet (s), our right was usurped and we were positioned among the mass of traders and marketers. Our eyes shed tears and distress was caused. By God! If there was no fear of sedition among Muslims, return of unbelief, and ruination of the religion, we would act differently with them and we would wage war against them.

Not only did he prevent the people from dispute after the passing of the Prophet (s) but he also gave allegiance in the Assembly of Six even though he had perceived ‘Abd al-Rahman’s fealty to Uthmman as a ruse. In this way he averted altercation among the people. He addresses the members of the assembly as follows:

Even thought leadership is my right and your usurpation of it is oppression towards me, as long as the affairs of Muslims are in order and the oppression is only towards me, I will not mount opposition.

Before entering into the assembly, ‘Abbas, the Prophet’s uncle, asked ‘Ali not to take part because he was positive that ‘Uthman would be chosen. The Imam confirmed the outcome of the assembly but turned down his uncle’s suggestion. He said:

I hare disagreement.

The day ’Ali opted to do nothing about the issue of rule, noble Fatimah (a) asked him to rise up against the oppressors. At that moment, the call of the muezzin rose with the cry:

I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah

The Imam faced his noble wife and said, “Would you like this call to be extinguished upon the earth?” Fatimah (a) replied, “Never” the Imam then said, “therefore, the way is the one I have set upon”.

During the battle of Siffin, a man from the tribe of Bani Asad asked the Imam became upset at the inappropriateness of the man’s question since some of Imam ‘Ali’s soldiers believed in the previous caliphs and propounding such matters at that time could have caused division among their ranks. Thus, after expressing his vexation, the Imam stated:

In respect for the relation you have with the Prophet (s) and since every Muslim has the right to ask questions, I will succinctly answer you. Leadership of the Ummah belonged to us and bond with the Prophet (s) was stronger than that of others but some were envious and others shut their eyes to the truth. The arbitrator between them and us is God and the return of everyone is to Him.

Hence, Imam ‘Ali (a) remain quiet to safeguard Islam and Islamic unity as he was well aware of the dangers that threatened the newly established Islamic society and religion. Of cause, the Imam’s since meant desisting from armed contention.He never renounced his right and continuously verbalized his criticism of the issue throughout the rule of the caliphs as well as after. Sometimes he would also show his dissatisfaction through his actions but he never refused their requests for help.


After the passing of the Prophet (s), many problems assailed the recently established religion. Neglect of these issues could have posed a threat to the foundation of Islam and the Ummah

During this sensitive period in history, ‘Ali (a) mainly exerted himself in carrying out of his divine mandate as well as his social responsibilities through counsel and scholarly collaboration in order to preserve the religion and maintain the stability within society. With the survival of Muslims and the new religion at stake, he could not be indifferent to the major difficulties that had befallen Islam and the Ummah; especially on the pretext that his rights had been usurped.


  1. Political Counsel

Some opportunists sough to return to the religion of their ancestors after the passing of the Prophet (s). Their Islam was in a precarious state even when they had first accepted the religion. In order to subdue them, the first caliph was in dire need of the elite among the companions of the Prophet (s), including ‘Ali (a) and the clan of Bani Hashim. If ‘Ali were to support the caliph in this area, many related problems could swiftly be resolved because notwithstanding his substantial credibility and reputation in the society he was the chief of the great and well-respected clan of Bani Hashim and many people supported and followed him.

Many of the advocates of Imam ‘Ali were elite companion that were highly respected an enjoyed an elevated statue in society. ‘Ammr Yasir, Miqdad, Abu Dhar Ghifri, and Salman number among these intimate Companions of the Prophet (s). In the event that ‘Ali was to support the caliph, naturally great number of these personages accompanied by their clans were substantial source of power for the caliph.

Needless to say, after the cautious appearance of Imam ‘Ali (a) on the scene, the supporters and his followers followed him into action to the extent that they considered it obligatory in order to defend Islam. Thus they played an important role in the eradication of apostasy. In Tarikh al-Riddah, Hudhayfah ibn Yaman and Uday ibn Haam Ta’I (companions of ‘Ali) were named among those who endeavored to prevent the apostasy of their clans.

Other companions of ‘Ali (a), including ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud Talhah, and Zubayr, were among those who the first caliph stationed at the gates of Madinah to defend against attacks from apostate tribes. When Madinah was assaulted at night, they defended it with utmost bravery.

More important that all this was the Imam’s sound advice to the caliph at Dhu al-Qissah where he was stationed for battle. The Imam dissuaded the caliph from his resolution to fight himself by telling him that if he entered the fray personally, exiting the region, order would never return to the Islamic territories. Abu Bakr accepted the counsel of the Imam and sent Khalid ibn Walid to battle the apostates in his stead.

B. Military Counsel

Over a year of Abu Bakr’s rule was spent in battle with apostates, false prophets, and obstructers of zakat (religious tax). After the disturbances caused by the apostates were resolved, Abu Bakr was not able to attain any significant conquest (such as the ones after his region). His military movements went only as far as beginning the campaign against the Romans in Damascus and Syria.

Certainly t, the caliph was fully acquainted with the necessary battle skills and experience as well as the selflessness and bravery of ‘Ali (a). He knew that the decisive role of ‘Ali (a) in battle against unbelievers had made him an uncontested military hero, something that could not be overlooked. However, his absence in wars and conquests and his withdrawal could cause great questions such as, “Why is ‘Ali (a) indifferent to unbeliever such as the Romans?” beyond question, it was clear for everyone that fear of death or indolence regarding jihad were not factors in the matter. Thus, what could cause such a war hero to withdraw in this manner? This question might have been considered by the society of the time.

For the reason, the caliph and his supporters endeavored to make ‘Ali participates in the wars and conquests so that such questions would not be raised. Also the entrance of ‘Ali (a) into the war arena would bring substantial legitimacy to the matter in the minds of many, especially the Banu Hashim.

(To be continued)