Ahead of the 13th day of the Islamic month of ‘Rajab ul Murajjab’ due to be observed in Pakistan today (February 5), scores of Muslims planned their journey for pilgrimage to Makkah with one common purpose: to visit the birthplace of Hazrat Ali Bin Abi Talib (a.s), the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
According to historical accounts, it was here that Bibi Fatima binte Asad, the mother of Hazrat Ali (a.s) while observing the tawaf – walking in circles around the holy ‘Kaaba’, entered the house of Allah SWT in Makkah.
Three days after the birth of Hazrat Ali on 13th ‘Rajab’ she emerged from the holy site bearing her newborn son. The arrival of the fourth caliph of Islam after Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) further lifted the already powerful status of the clan of Bani Hashim, long endowed with the highest respect among the people of Makkah.
Other elements which held him in high esteem included the honorable status of his father Hazrat Abu Talib (a.s), the paternal uncle of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), who raised him from childhood and protected the messenger of Allah SWT till his last breath.
To this day, other indications of his exclusive fame include honorific titles of Hazrat Ali (a.s) such as Maulood-e-Kaaba or he who was born inside the Kaaba. More than fourteen centuries later, the dates of the birth of Hazrat Ali on 13th ‘Rajab ul Murajjab’ and his martyrdom on 21st ‘Ramazan al Kareem’ in Kufa, southern Iraq, are widely commemorated worldwide for their significance.
Such has been the impact of Hazrat Ali (a.s) on a range of matters from knowledge and wisdom to fearless courage that his remembrance across historical timelines has become increasingly enduring. The inspiration for that remembrance is documented in ‘Nahjul Balagha’ – a book containing the teachings and sermons of Hazrat Ali (a.s) that has driven his rich legacy for almost fourteen centuries.
The multiple sources of scholarly research on the life of Hazrat Ali (a.s) and his impact on global history have documented the many facets of his powerful personality.
On matters of wisdom, his claim of “Salooni, salooni, Qable ant’afkadoonee” (Ask me, ask me before I am not amongst you) remained unchallenged throughout the life of Hazrat Ali (a.s) as his teachings from the pulpit inspired a large number of knowledge seekers to gather around him.
The well documented life of Hazrat Ali (a.s) is closely associated with the history of well-known battles during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and later. His mother named him ‘Haider’ or lion in Arabic, a title dedicated to a brave or a noble warrior. Other widely popular titles include ‘Asadullah’ or the lion of Allah and ‘Fateh-e-Khyber’ or the one who conquered the Jewish held fort of Khyber, in a widely remembered battle between Muslim and Jewish tribes just outside Madina.
“Ali was a brilliant genius” wrote Iftikhar Ahmed Shams in his book; ‘The Kingdom of Hazrat Ali – The Lion of Allah’. Shams went on to document various facets of the teachings of Hazrat Ali (a.s) ranging from his reflections on society to politics, administration of the state and conduct during battles. He wrote “Ali was the epitome of information and insight. Some of Ali’s words are recorded, inspired by discernment and contemplating the self-evident elements”.
The caliphate of Hazrat Ali (a.s) which compelled him to relocate from Madina to Kufa, Iraq, closer to the frontlines of recurring battles against the Damascus based ‘Bani Umaya’ led by Ameer Muawiya, brought out some very well-documented examples of statecraft. Through time, these have been repeatedly remembered by influential individuals ranging from historians and philosophers to global statesmen.
The late UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, is widely remembered for citing Hazrat Ali (a.s) as ‘the fairest governor’ when he said; “The Caliph Ali Bin Abi Talib is considered the fairest governor who appeared during human history (after the prophet) so we advise Arab countries to take Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s) as an example in establishing a regime based on justice, democracy and encouragement of knowledge”.
Edward Gibbon, the respected 18th century English historian and politician wrote: “The zeal and virtue of Ali (a.s) were never outstripped by any recent proselyte. 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 name his brother, his viceregent and the faithful Aaron of a second Moses”.
Closer to Pakistan, the life of Hazrat Ali (a.s) has inspired intellectuals and well respected Urdu poets notably Mir Babar Ali Anees and Syed Naseeruddin Naseer, the late custodian of the Golra Sharif shrine in Islamabad. Across Pakistan in the days leading up to today, scores of events such as charitable distribution of food and celebratory gatherings were dedicated to the life of Hazrat Ali (a.s).
As Pakistan faces the biggest economic crisis in its history, the guidance on the rules of governance by Hazrat Ali (a.s) provides a timely roadmap to a future based on unpreceded reforms. A letter written by Hazrat Ali (a.s) to Malik Al-Ashtar upon the latter’s appointment as the governor of Egypt, then a province of the Islamic empire, has been cited repeatedly as an unusually rich document outlining the best rules of statecraft.
“The public will speak well of only those who do good. It is they who furnish the proof of your actions. Hence the richest treasure that you may covet would be the treasure of good deeds” he wrote in outlining the main characteristics of a just ruler. The letter, which has been repeatedly shared over centuries outlines the best guidelines for ensuring security of the citizens, policies to ensure uninterrupted conduct of trade and industry, and essential actions to ensure the rights of the poorest of the poor.
Together, this set of principles form the very basis for a reformist state as outlined by Hazrat Ali (a.s). These principles continue to impress some of the world’s most well-respected policymakers and thinkers, bearing testimony to their relevance for all times to come more than 1400 years after they were first spelt out.
The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist who writes on political and economic affairs. He can be reached at: email@example.com
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