His Legacy
Muslim and Non-Muslim Point of View
A.S. Hashim, MD
Sources of Reference
ibn Jarir al-Tabari,
Ibn Qutaybah,
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. "Ali".
Encyclopaedia of the Holy Prophet and Companions
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward
Al-Shaykh Al-Mufid
Nahj Al-Balagha, Sermon 3
Holt, P.M.; Lambton, Ann K.S.; Lewis, Bernard. Cambridge History of
Watt, William Montgomery. Muhammad at Mecca. Oxford University Press.
In this Slide Show
According to Henry Corbin
Nahjul Balaaghah
Muslim Points of View about Ali
Sunni Views
Shi'a Views
Sufi Views
Non-Muslim Point of View of Ali
Historiography of Ali’s life
Wilferd Madelung
The Reports and Monographs
Ali is revered not only as a warrior and leader,
but as a writer and religious authority.
Range of disciplines:
from theology and exegesis to calligraphy and numerology,
from law and mysticism to Arabic grammar and Rhetoric
regarded as having been first adumbrated by Ali.
Shi'a and Sufis believe that Muhammad told about Ali
"I'm the city of knowledge and Ali is its gateway..."
‫ فمنْ أراد المدينه فاليدخل ِم َن البا‬،‫أنا مدينة ال ِع ْلم وعليٌّ بابها‬
Muslims regard Ali as the major authority on Islam. Ali
himself gives this testimony:
Knowledge Continued
Ali has said:
Not a single verse of the Quran was revealed to the
Messenger of God which he did not proceed to dictate to me
and make me recite.
I would write it with my own hand, and he would instruct me as
its Tafseer ‫( تفسير‬the literal explanation) and the Ta'wil ‫( تأويل‬the
spiritual exegesis),
the nasikh ‫( ناسخ‬the abrogating verse) and the mansukh ‫منسوخ‬
(the abrogated verse),
the muhkam ‫ محكم‬and the mutashabih ‫( متشابه‬the fixed and the
the particular ‫ الخاص‬and the general ‫ العام‬...
According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr,
Ali is credited with having established Islamic theology
and his quotations contain the first rational proofs among Muslims
of the Tawhid (Oneness of God).
Nahjul Balaaghah contains 11 references about Tawhid,
Ibn Abi al-Hadid has quoted
As for theosophy and dealing with matters of divinity, it was not an
Arab art.
Nothing of the sort had been circulated among their distinguished
figures or those of lower ranks.
This art was the exclusive preserve of Greece whose sages were
its only expounders.
The first one among Arabs to deal with it was Ali.
In Sermon 168,
Ali: about Allah
ْ‫ َوال َ إِ َّياهُ َع َنى َمن‬،ُ‫صا َ َمنْ َم َّث َله‬
َ َ ‫ َوال َ َحقِي َق َت ُه أ‬،ُ‫ َما َوحَّ د َ هُ َمنْ َك َّي َفه‬
.‫ار إِ َل ْي ِه َو َت َو ََّّ َم ُه‬
َ ‫ص َمد َ هُ َمنْ أ َ َش‬
َ َ ‫ َوال‬،ُ‫ َش َّب َهه‬
.‫ َو ُك ُّل َاا ِمم فِي ِس َواهُ َمعْ لُو ٌل‬،‫ُك ُّل َمعْ رُوف ِب َن ْف ِس ِه َمُُ صْ ُنو ٌع‬
….،َ ‫ ََنِيٌّ ال َ ِباسْ ِت َفاد‬،،‫ ُم َق ِّد ٌر ال َ ِب َج ْو ِل فِ ْك َر‬،‫اع ٌل ال َ ِباضْ ِط َرا ِ آ َلة‬
ِ ‫ َف‬
Assigning to Allah conditions means disbelieve in His Oneness, or making
the likes of Him negates His reality, or illustrating Him would not signify
Him, or he who alludes to Him or imagines Him would not mean Him.
Everything we know has been created, but what exists beyond that is the
very source to create it.
Allah works not with help of instruments. He fixes measures but not with a
variation of thoughts. He is most rich but not by acquisition…..
In later Islamic Philosophy
In later Islamic philosophy:
(especially in the teachings of Mulla Sadra and his
followers, like Allameh Tabatabaei),
Ali's sayings and sermons were increasingly
regarded as central sources of metaphysical
knowledge, or divine philosophy.
Members of Sadra's school regard Ali as the
supreme metaphysician of Islam.
According to Henry Corbin:
According to Henry Corbin,
the Nahjul Balaaghah may be regarded as one of the
most important sources of doctrines professed by Shi'a
thinkers especially after 1500AD.
Its influence can be sensed in the logical co-ordination
of terms,
the deduction of correct conclusions,
and the creation of certain technical terms in Arabic
which entered the literary and philosophical language
independently of the translation into Arabic of Greek
Nahjul Balaaghah
Nahjul Balaaghah, a highly valued book, consists of:
254 sermons,
48 letters, and
212 sayings of Imam Ali
Nahjul Balaaghah is unique to Imam Ali
None of the Sahaaba was ever able to produce anything like it:
neither in substance
nor in literary eloquence.
No wonder Ali was referred to as:
Sayyid al-Bulaghaa‘ ‫( سيد البلغاء‬Prince of Literary Expression) and
Sayyid al-Fu'qahaa, ‫( سيد الفقهاء‬Prince of the Jurisprudents)
Scholar of Arabic Literature
Ali was also a great scholar of Arabic literature
and pioneered in the field of Arabic grammar and rhetoric.
Numerous short sayings of Ali have become part of
general Islamic culture
and are quoted as aphorisms and proverbs in daily life.
They have also become the basis of literary works or
have been integrated into poetic verse in many
Already in the 8th century AD, literary authorities such as
Abdul-Hamid al-Amiri pointed to:
the unparalleled eloquence of Ali's sermons and sayings,
as did al-Jahidh ‫ الجاحظ‬in the following century.
Ali's Quotations
Even staffs in the Diwan of Benu Umayya recited Ali's sermons to
improve their eloquence.
Of course, Peak of Eloquence (Nahjul Balaaghah) is an extract of
Ali's quotations from a literal viewpoint as its compiler mentioned
in the preface.
While there are many other quotations, prayers (Du'aas), sermons
and letters in other literal, historic and religious books.
In addition, some hidden or occult sciences such as
Jafr, Islamic numerology, the science of the symbolic significance
of the letters of the Arabic alphabet,
are said to have been established by Ali through his having
studied the texts of al-Jafr and al-Jamia ‫الجامعه‬.
In Sermon 1,
Ali: about Tawhid
ُ ْ‫ َو َك َما ُل َمعْ ِر َف ِت ِه ال َّتص‬،ُ‫ين َمعْ ِر َف ُته‬
‫ َو َك َما ُل‬،ُ‫يق ِب ِه َت ْو ِحي ُده‬
ِ ‫ َو َك َما ُل ال َّتصْ ِد‬،‫ديق ِب ِه‬
ِ ‫أ َ َّو ُل ال ِّد‬
ْ ‫ َو َك َما ُل ا‬،ُ‫ال ُِ ْخالصُ ل َه‬
ْ ‫حي ِد ِه ا‬
ِّ ‫الص ل َ ُه َن ْف ُي ال‬
‫ص َفة أ َ َّنها‬
ِ ‫ ُك ِّل‬،ِ ‫ لِ َش َها َد‬،ُ‫ت َع ْنه‬
ِ ‫ص َفا‬
ِ ‫ َت ْو‬
ِ ‫ال ُِ ْخ‬
ِّ ‫ ُك ِّل َم ْوصُوف أ َ َّن ُه ََ ْي ُر ال‬،ِ ‫ َو َش َها َد‬،‫ُوف‬
،‫ص َف ِة‬
ِ ‫ ََ ْي ُر ال َم ْوص‬
‫ َو َمنْ َج َّزأ َهُ َف َق ْد‬،ُ‫و َمنْ َث َّناهُ َف َقد َج َّزأ َه‬،ُ
َ ‫ َو َمنْ َا َر َن ُه َف َق ْد َث َّناه‬،ُ‫هللا ُسب َْحا َن ُه َف َق ْد َا َر َنه‬
َ ‫ص‬
َ ‫ َف َمنْ َو‬
َ ‫ف‬
.…،ُ‫ َو َمنْ َح َّدهُ َف َق ْد َع َّده‬،ُ‫ار إِل َ ْي ِه َف َق ْد َح َّده‬
َ ‫ َو َمنْ أ َش‬،‫ار إِل َ ْي ِه‬
َ ‫ َو َمنْ َج ِهل َ ُه َف َق ْد أ َش‬،ُ‫ َج ِهل َه‬
Foremost in Faith is to acknowledge Allah, and to acknowledge Him is to
attest to Him. The height of attesting is to believe in His Oneness. The
height of believing in His Oneness is sincerity to Him. The height of
sincerity to Him is to disavow descriptions of Him (since every description
is unlike the described), and to attest that descriptions attributed to Him are
not His.
Thus he who describes Allah would have associated with Him, and he
who associates would have duplicated Him; and he who duplicates Him
would have subdivided Him; ….
Nahjul Balaaghah (Way of Eloquence) contains:
Eloquent sermons, letters and quotations attributed to
It was compiled by al-Sharif al-Radhi (d. 1015AD).
Despite ongoing questions about the authenticity of the
Recent scholarship suggests that most of the material
in it can in fact be attributed to Ali.
This book has a prominent position in Arabic literature.
It is also considered an important intellectual, political
and religious work in Islam.
Also: Nahjul Balaaghah ‫نهج البالَه‬
Also Nahj al-sa'adah fi mustadrak Nahj al-balaghah by
Muhammad Baqir al-Mahmudi represents all of Ali's
extant speeches, sermons, decrees, epistles, prayers,
and sayings have been collected.
It includes the Nahjul Balaaghah and other discourses
which were not incorporated by al Sharif al-Radhi or were not
available to him.
Apparently, except for some of the aphorisms, the original sources
of all the contents of the Nahjul Balaaghah have been determined.
There are several Comments on the Peak of Eloquence by Sunnis
and Shi'as such as Comments of Ibn Abi al-Hadid and comments
of Muhammad Abduh.
Honorific titles
Ali's descendants by Fatimah are known as:
Sharifs ‫ شريف‬, or Sayyids ‫ سيد‬.
These are honorific titles in Arabic,
Sharif ‫ شريف‬means 'noble' and
Sayed or sayyid ‫ سيد‬means 'lord' or 'sir'.
As Muhammad's only descendants, Sharifs
and/or Sayyids are respected:
by both Sunni and Shi'a,
though the Shi'as place much more emphasis and
value on the distinction.
Muslim Points of View about Ali
Muslim View
Sunni View
Shi'a View
Sufi View
Muslim Views about Ali
Except for Muhammad,
there is no one in Islamic history about whom as much has been
written in Islamic languages as Ali.
Ali is revered and honored by all Muslims.
Having been one of the first Muslims and foremost Ulamaa
(Islamic scholars),
Ali was extremely knowledgeable in matters of religious belief and
Islamic jurisprudence,
as well as in the history of the Muslim community.
Ali was renowned for his unparalleled bravery and
Muslims honor Muhammad, Ali, and other pious Muslims
and add pious interjections after their names
Sunni Views about Ali
Contemporary Sunni Muslims generally regard
Ali with respect as
one of the Ahlul Bayt and
the last of the Rashidoon Khalifas
and view him as one of the most influential
and respected figures in Islam.
Also, he is one of the Al-Asharah Al-Mubashsharah,
which is The Promised Ten to be in heaven.
Shi'a Views about Ali
The Shi'a regard Ali as the most important figure after Muhammad.
According to them, Muhammad suggested on various
occasions during his lifetime that Ali should be the leader
of Muslims after his demise.
1. This is supported by numerous Hadith, including Hadith of the
pond of Khum,
Hadith of the two weighty matters,
Hadith of the pen and paper,
Hadith of the invitation of the close families,
and Hadith of the Twelve Successors.
In particular, the Hadith of the Cloak is often quoted to illustrate
Muhammad's feeling towards Ali and his family: See next slide
Sahih Muslim, Book 031, Number 5955
One morning Muhammad went out wearing a striped
cloak of black camel's hair when along came Hasan b.
He wrapped him under it, then came Husain and he
wrapped him under it along with the other one (Hasan).
Then came Fatima and he took her under it, then came
Ali and he also took him under it and then said:
َّ ‫إِ َّن َما ي ُِري ُد‬
‫ت َو ُي َطه َِّر ُك ْم َت ْط ِهيرا ا‬
ِ ‫س أ ََّْ َل ْال َب ْي‬
َ ْ‫هللا ُ لِي ُْذ َِّ َ َعن ُك ُم الرِّ ج‬
God only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you,
O People of the House! and to purify you a (thorough)
Ali as Viewed by the Shi’a
According to this view,
Ali (as the successor of Muhammad) not only ruled
over the community in justice,
but also interpreted the Shari’ah Law and its esoteric
Hence Ali was regarded as being free from error and
sin (infallible),
and appointed by God by Divine decree (Nass ‫) نص‬
through Muhammad.
Ali is known as the "perfect man" (al-insan al-kamil
‫ ) االنسان الكامل‬according to Shi'a viewpoint.
Ziyarah ‫زياره‬
Shi'a usually go to Shrine of Ali in Najaf for Ziyarah ‫زياره‬
They pray there and read “Ziyarah Aminul-Allah ‫ أمين‬،‫زيار‬
or other Ziyarah names.
Under the Safawi Empire,
Ali’s grave became the focus of much devoted attention,
exemplified in the visitation made by Shah Ismail to Najaf and
The Shrine is visited especially more on religious
occasions, such as during Ramadhan and Ashuraa.
Burial Place in Najaf
Imam Ali’s Shrine:
Multitudes of visitors
every year.
Inside it reflects
reverence that
uniquely affects the
Sufi Views about Ali
Almost all Sufi orders trace their lineage to Muhammad through Ali,
an exception being Naqshbandi, who go through Abu Bakr.
Even in this order, there is Ja'far al-Saadiq, the great great
grandson of Ali.
Sufis, whether Sunni or Shi'a,
believe that Ali inherited from Muhammad the saintly power
Wilaayah ‫الواليه‬,
Wilaayah makes the spiritual journey to God possible.
Imam Ali represents the essence of the teachings of the School of
Islamic Sufism.
Sufis recite Manqabat Ali ‫ منقبات‬in the praise of Ali (Maula Ali), after
Hamd and Naat in their Qawwali.
Non-Muslim Point of View of Ali
Thomas Carlyle
Dr. Henry Stubbe
Charles Mills
Washington Irving
Edward Gibbon
William Muir
Khalil Gibran
Wilferd Madelung
Ali: Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)
Scottish historian, critic, and sociological writer:
“As for this young Ali, one cannot but like him.
A noble-minded creature, as he shows himself, now
and always afterwards;
full of affection, of fiery daring.
Something chivalrous in him; brave as a lion;
yet with a grace, a truth and affection worthy of
Christian knighthood.”
[On Heroes, Hero-Worship, And the Heroic In History, 1841, Lecture 2: The
Hero as Prophet. Mahomet: Islam. May 8, 1840)]
Ali: Dr. Henry Stubbe (1632-1676)
About Ali:
“He had a contempt of the world, its glory and pomp,
he feared God much, gave many alms,
was just in all his actions, humble and affable;
of an exceeding quick wit and of an ingenuity that was not
he was exceedingly learned, not in those sciences that terminate
in speculations but those which extend to practice.”
[An Account of the Rise and Progress of Mohammedanism, 1705, p. 83]
Ali: Charles Mills (1788 - 1826)
“As the chief of the family of Hashem and as the cousin and son-inlaw of him whom the Arabians respected …,
it is apparently wonderful that Ali was not raised to the Caliphate
immediately on the death of Mohammad.
To the advantages of his birth and marriage was added the friendship
of the Prophet.
The son of Abu Talib was one of the first converts to Islamism and
Mohammad’s favorite appellation of his was the Aaron of a second
His talents as an orator, and his intrepidity as a warrior, were grateful
to a nation in whose judgment and courage was virtue and eloquence
was wisdom.”
[An history of Mohammedanism, London, 1818, p. 89]
Ali: Washington Irving (1783-1859)
"He was of the noblest branch of the noble race of Koreish.
He possessed the three qualities most prized by Arabs: courage,
eloquence, and munificence.
His intrepid spirit had gained him from the Prophet the appellation of
The Lion of God,
Specimens of his eloquence remain in some verses and sayings
preserved among the Arabs;
And his munificence was manifested in sharing among others, every
Friday, what remained in the treasury.
Of his magnanimity, we have given repeated instances; his noble
scorn of everything false and mean, and the absence in his conduct
of everything like selfish intrigue."
[Lives of the Successors of Mahomet, London, 1850, p. 165]
Ali: Edward Gibbon (1737-1794)
The British historian Edward Gibbon stated:
"The zeal and virtue of Ali were never outstripped by any recent
He united the qualifications of a poet, a soldier, and a saint;
his wisdom still breathes in a collection of moral and religious sayings;
and every antagonist, in the combats of the tongue or of the sword, was
subdued by his eloquence and valor.
From the first hour of his mission to the last rites of his funeral, the
apostle was never forsaken by a generous friend, whom he delighted to
1. his brother ‫أخي‬,
2. his vicegerent ‫ وخليفتي فيكم‬,
3. and the faithful Aaron of a second Moses
ِّ‫ ووصي‬.".
Ali: William Muir View
Scottish Orientalist William Muir declared that:
Ali was:
"Endowed with a clear intellect, warm in affection, and
confiding in friendship,
He was from the boyhood devoted heart and soul to
the Prophet.
Simple, quiet, and un-ambitious, when in after days he
obtained the rule of half of the Muslim world,
It was rather thrust upon him than sought."
[The Life of Mahomet, London, 1877, p. 250]
Ali: Philip Khuri Hitti (1886-1978)
Professor of Semitic Languages at Princeton
“Valiant in battle, wise in counsel,
Eloquent in speech, true to his friends, magnanimous to
his foes,
He became both the paragon of Muslim nobility and
chivalry (futuwah ‫) فتوه‬
And the Solomon of Arabic tradition,
around whose name poems, proverbs, sermons and
anecdotes innumerable have clustered.”
[History of the Arabs, London, 1964, p. 183]
Ali: Khalil Gibran View
The poet Khalil Gibran said of him:
"In my view, Ali was the first Arab to have contact
with and converse with the universal soul.
He died a martyr of his greatness,
He died while prayer was between his two lips.
The Arabs did not realize his value until
appeared among their Persian neighbors
some who knew the difference between gems
and gravels."
Historiography of Ali’s life
The primary sources for scholarship on the life of Ali are
the Quran and the Hadith, as well as other texts of early Islamic
The extensive secondary sources include, in addition to
works by Sunni and Shi'a Muslims,
writings by Christian Arabs, Hindus, and other non-Muslims from
the Middle East and Asia
and a few works by modern Western scholars.
However, many of the early Islamic sources are
colored to some extent by a positive or negative bias towards Ali.
About the Earlier Western Scholars
There had been a common tendency among the earlier
western scholars
against these narrations and reports gathered in later periods
due to their tendency towards later Sunni and Shi’a partisan
such scholars regarding them as later fabrications. This leads
them to regard certain reported events as inauthentic or irrelevant.
Leone Caetani considered the attribution of historical
reports to Ibn Abbas and A'isha as mostly fictitious
while proffering accounts reported without Isnad ‫اسناد‬by the early
compilers of history like Ibn Ishaaq.
Wilferd Madelung
Professor of Arabic at Oxford University
Wilferd Madelung has rejected the stance of:
indiscriminately dismissing everything not included in "early
and in this approach tendentious alone is no evidence for late
According to him, Caetani's approach is inconsistent.
Madelung and some later historians do not reject the narrations
which have been complied in later periods
and try to judge them in the context of history
and on the basis of their compatibility with the events and figures.
Until the Rise of the Abbasi Khilaafah
Until the rise of the Abbasi Khilaafah,
few books were written and most of the reports had been oral.
The most notable work previous to this period is:
The Book of Sulaym ibn Qays, who lived before the Abbasi
Sulaym ibn Qays, was a companion of Ali.
When paper was introduced to Muslim society,
numerous monographs were written between 750 and 950 AD.
According to Robinson, at least twenty-one separate
monographs have been composed on the Battle of Siffin.
The Reports and Monographs
Abi Mikhnaf is one of the most renowned writers
of this period
who tried to gather all of the reports.
9th and 10th century AD historians collected, selected
and arranged the available narrations.
However, most of these monographs do not exist
except for a few which have been used in later works
such as History of the Prophets and Kings by
Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari (d.932AD).
Shi'a of Iraq Actively Participate
Shi'a of Iraq actively participated in writing monographs but most of those
works have been lost.
On the other hand, in the 8th and 9th century AD:
Ali's descendants such as Muhammad al-Baaqir and Ja'far al-Saadiq
narrated his quotations and reports which have been gathered in Shi'a Hadith
The later Shi'a works written after the 10th century AD are about biographies
of The Fourteen Infallibles and Twelve Imams.
The earliest surviving work and one of the most important works in this field is
Kitab al-Irshad ‫االرشاد‬by Sheikh Mufid ‫( مفيد‬d. 1022AD).
The author has dedicated the first part of his book to a detailed account of Ali.
There are also some books known as Manāqib which describe Ali's character
from a religious viewpoint.
Such works also constitute a kind of historiography.
In Sermon 110,
Ali: About the Quran
، ِ ‫ َو َت َف َّقهُوا فِي ِه َفإِ َّن ُه َر ِبي ُُ ْالقُلُو‬،‫ث‬
ِ ‫ َو َت َعلَّمُوا ْالقرْ آن َفإِ َّن ُه أ َحْ َسنُ ْال َح ِدي‬
ُّ ‫ور ِه َفإِ َّن ُه ِش َفا ُء ال‬
َ ‫ َوأ َحْ ِس ُنوا ِتال َ َو َت ُه َفإِ َّن ُه أ َ ْن َف ُُ ْال َق‬،‫ور‬
ِ ‫ص‬
ِ ‫ص ُد‬
ِ ‫ َواسْ َت ْشفُوا ِب ُن‬
ُ ِ‫ َوإِنَّ ْال َعالِ َم ْال َعا ِم َل ِب َغي ِْر ِع ْل ِم ِه َك ْال َجا َِّ ِل ْال َحا ِم ِر الَّ ِذ ال َ َيسْ َتف‬
،‫يق ِمنْ َج ْهلِ ِه‬
.‫هللا أ َ ْل َو ُم‬
ِ َ ‫ َوَّ َُو َع ْند‬،‫ُ ل َ ُه أ َ ْل َز ُم‬،‫ َو ْال َحسْ َر‬،‫ َب ِل ْالحُجَّ ُة َعل َ ْي ِه أ َعْ َظ ُم‬
Learn the Quran for it is the fairest of discourses; and understand the
Quran thoroughly for it is the blossom of the hearts.
Seek cure with its light for it is the cure for hearts. Recite it well for it is
well nigh the best narration.
Certainly, a scholar who acts not according to his knowledge is like the
off-headed ignorant who finds no relief from his ignorance,
But the plea of Allah is greater on the learned and the grief more
incumbent, and before Allah he is more blameworthy.
In Conclusion
Ali: His Knowledge, Works, and Views:
Nahjul Balaaghah
Sunni Views
Shi'a Views
Sufi Views
Non-Muslim Point of View of Ali
Historiography of Ali’s life
Finally we quote the Quran:
By the Token of Time
Verily Man is in loss,
Except those who
believe and do good
works, and exhort one
another to Truth and
exhort one another to
‫من الرَّ ِح ِيم‬
ِ ‫ِبسْ ِم‬
ِ ْ‫هللا الرَّ ح‬
‫ َو ْال َعصْ ِر‬
‫ان َل ِفي ُخسْ ٍر‬
َ ‫إِنَّ ِاالن َس‬
‫ين آ َم ُنوا َو َع ِملُوا‬
َ ‫إِال الَّ ِذ‬
‫ص ْوا ِب ْال َح ِّق‬
ِ ‫الصَّالِ َحا‬
َ ‫ت َو َت َوا‬
‫صب ِْر‬
َّ ‫ص ْوا ِبال‬
َ ‫ َو َت َوا‬
Be in God’s Care
Dr. A.S. Hashim

Ashuraa and Men of Valor