The reigns of Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman as the first three khalifas (caliphs/successors) of Muhammad instead of Ali are one of the main point of contention in the Sunni/Shia split.
I wonder if Ali gave allegiance to (or otherwise accepted the reigns of) these three caliphs? Did he do this freely or under duress? There wasn't any major conflict started by Ali during these reigns, and "the establishment" eventually elected Ali as the fourth caliph after Uthman, so it seems that he got along fine?
The accepted story is that he did (according to Al-Tabari, for example). Each time a Caliph was chosen, all top early Muslim commanders gathered during the crowning ceremony and swore allegiance to the new leader.
That said, there are a number of dissenting scholars who consider that the official Muslim accounts are unreliable to the point that the first three Caliphs might not be actual historical figures. See for example this book.
Ali (ra) and Aisha (ra) did not go to War over Power: Response to a New York Times Journalist
As we pass through the holy month of Ramadan, while millions of Muslims around the world take this time to self-reflect and strive to emulate the example of our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (sa) and his Noble Companions (ra), regrettably, there are some who hold negative views about the pristine character of these eminent companions, about whom the Holy Prophet (sa) himself stated: ‘My Companions are like the stars, whichever one of them you decide to follow, you will be guided.’ 
I recently read a tweet by a prominent journalist from the New York Times and scholar of Islam, which surprised me to say the least. He said the following:
‘Personally, I wouldn’t condemn any of the early figures in Islam – but I would not sacralise them either. #Ali and #Aisha went to war over power. The all-glorious Sahaba killed each other for power. Obviously this was a very human history, whose full truth we may never know.’
There are two monumental errors in this understanding:
1) ‘#Ali and #Aisha went to war over power’
2) ‘The all glorious Sahaba killed each other for power’
I will come on to point number 1 later. With regard to point number 2, it should be noted that after the demise of the Holy Prophet (sa), the first issue faced by these glorious Sahaba [Companions] was the matter of successorship. The Companions disagreed about the course of action to take and by the time Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) and Hazrat Umar (ra) reached the Thaqeefah of the Banu Sai’dah, the Ansar [Muslims native to Medina] had all but chosen a Caliph from among them. Upon the advice of Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) the Ansar then agreed to electing two leaders – one from among the Ansar and one from among the Muhajireen [Muslims native to Mecca]  . Eventually, after an extensive debate, the Companions came to the realisation that if there was to be a successor to Prophet Muhammad (sa), he ought to be from among the Muhajireen and also the Quraish.  Thus, the events unfolded in such a way that the Muslims agreed upon the successorship of Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra), the first Caliph of Islam.
If point number 2 were correct, then this was the perfect scenario for the Ansar to attack the Muhajireen and their chosen leader, so that the power could shift to the Ansar, but they did no such thing and instead continued to show obedience to him throughout his Caliphate. When Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) fell ill and was close to his demise, after much prayer and contemplation, he appointed Hazrat Umar (ra) as his successor.  Again, those desirous of Caliphate should have risen up against Hazrat Umar (ra) or at least expressed some sort of discontentment at his appointment. No such incident took place.
When Hazrat Umar (ra) was fatally wounded (by a Christian slave, not a Companion!), prior to his demise he entrusted the responsibility of electing the next Caliph to six people stating that they ought to choose between themselves.  If ever a there was a chance for a power struggle, now was the time, but instead, some of these glorious Companions even began withdrawing their names in favour of their fellow candidates.  Hardly the trait of those hell-bent on acquiring power. Hazrat Uthman (ra) was peacefully elected and no Companion waged war to overthrow him. Many years later, he was brutally murdered by rebels working under the orders of Abdullah bin Saba, who again, was not a Companion but a Jewish convert.  In the midst of this rebellion, the people of Madinah turned to three prominent Companions Hazrat Ali (ra), Hazrat Zubair (ra) and Hazrat Talha (ra), to take up the responsibility of leading the Muslims. All three of them refused, stating that whoever is appointed as the Caliph will be associated with the blood of Hazrat Uthman (ra). However, the rebels issued an ultimatum that if a Caliph was not elected, they would begin a killing spree starting with the Companions. Under these dire circumstances, it was the valiant Hazrat Ali (ra) who accepted this mantle, surrounded by friend and foe alike.
Now we come to the first instance in the history of Islam when the Companions (ra) of Prophet Muhammad (sa) fought in opposite camps, i.e. the Battle of the Camel. This took place in 36 AH (656 CE), approximately 24 years after the demise of the Holy Prophet (sa) and more than 45 years after the advent of Islam. In all these years, the companions never once fought for power whereas there were ample opportunities to do so, had they so desired. Thus, the onus of proof is on the claimant to provide evidence where in history these noble Companions were at war with each other. On the contrary, volumes and volumes of history are replete with their noble characteristics and if there was anything they wanted over their fellow companions, it was to excel one another in virtuous deeds.
Why then did Hazrat Ali (ra) and Hazrat Aisha (ra) end up on opposing sides during the Battle of the Camel and what was the context of this clash?
Prior to understanding the context of this war, a logical question arises why would Hazrat Aisha (ra) fight Hazrat Ali (ra) over power? Would she become the Khalifa had she won? Remember that it was the Holy Prophet (sa) who has said to ‘learn half of the faith from Aisha (ra),’ which meant that having spent a long time in the company of the Holy Prophet (sa), she understood the deep intricacies of faith better than most. No prophet of God had ever been a woman, nor had the first three Caliphs of Islam. Why then would she fight Hazrat Ali (ra) for power and what position was she after?
It is an erroneous view to think that Hazrat Aisha (ra) and Hazrat Ali (ra) went to war over power. The issue was never over the legitimacy of Hazrat Ali’s (ra) Caliphate. The difference of opinion was over what to do with the killers of Hazrat Uthman (ra). Hazrat Ali (ra) was of the view that owing to the unrest and disorder, it was vital to allow matters to settle before punishing those responsible for this heinous act. Hazrat Aisha (ra), Hazrat Zubair (ra) and Hazrat Talha bin Ubaidullah (ra) were of the opinion that according to the dictates of the Sharia, the killers of Hazrat Uthman (ra) should be brought to justice immediately. Both opinions were correct in their own right.
When the two armies met at Basra, Hazrat Ali (ra) sent an envoy to enquire why Hazrat Aisha (ra), had come with an army, to which she replied that she only sought reconciliation. In fact, once the talks had begun, it was decided that there was no need for war, as both parties desired the same outcome.
Realising that if the Muslims became united, their days would be numbered, the evil rebels, headed by Abdullah bin Saba, the very same group who had murdered Hazrat Uthman (ra), launched a night assault on both camps and ensured that each one was informed of the ‘treachery’ of the other party.  Yet even when fighting had begun, Hazrat Ali (ra) erred on the side of caution, forbidding his men to fight. It was only when the battle ensued that he reluctantly took part.
Furthermore, Hazrat Talha bin Ubaidullah (ra) and Hazrat Zubair (ra), both eminent companions of the Prophet Muhammad (sa) who were with the army of Hazrat Aisha (ra), both died having pledged allegiance to Hazrat Ali (ra).  When Hazrat Zubair (ra) was reminded of a prophecy of the Holy Prophet (sa) in which he would be in the army opposing Hazrat Ali (ra) and the one to transgress, he left the battlefield and was martyred by a wretched individual while he was offering his prayers.  Similarly, Hazrat Talha bin Ubaidullah (ra) did not breathe his last until he had affirmed his pledge of allegiance to Hazrat Ali (ra).  Hazrat Aisha (ra) also deeply regretted the incident and returned to Medina. Many years later when the incident of the Battle of the Camel was mentioned before her, she said: ‘Alas, if only I had remained sitting like the people who remained behind that day. This would have pleased me more than if I had given birth to 10 children from the Holy Prophet (sa), each of whom were like Hazrat Abdur Rahman bin Harith bin Hisham.’ 
Hence, the motive of this war was not power instead it was a disagreement about what to do with the killers of Hazrat Uthman (ra). Both Hazrat Uthman’s (ra) killing and the Battle of the Camel were instigated by Abdullah bin Saba and his band of followers. (For more details about the Battle of the Camel, please see https://www.reviewofreligions.org/17631/jang-e-jamal-the-battle-of-the-camel/)
Perhaps then, the journalist is referring to the Battle of Siffin, which took place between Hazrat Ali (ra) and Hazrat Ameer Muawiya (ra) – who likewise was a companion. This too was a war, the context of which was governed by revenge against the killers of Hazrat Uthman (ra). Being from the same tribe as Hazrat Uthman (ra), his motive for revenge is understandable. But even whilst they were in a state of war, when one of the Byzantine rulers wished to seize the opportunity to launch an attack, Hazrat Ameer Muawiya (ra) learnt of this and wrote to him stating that should he decide to launch an attack on Islam, he, (Mu`awiya) would be the first general to fight against him in the army of Hazrat Ali (ra). 
I will not go as far as to say that this is the only version of history we find. Indeed, a plethora of books has been written on the history of Islam, and indeed some portray certain figures of Islam in a different light to what has been presented here. So the question really is do we take those dark accounts to be closer to the truth, or do we take the overwhelming majority of accounts that sing praises of their noble deeds? After all, it was the Holy Prophet (sa) who said: ‘Follow my practice, and the practice of the Khulafa al-Rashideen who were rightly guided.’ 
I for one would never condemn the early figures in Islam, and I WOULD sacralise them, as their noble character and example have shown us that they are worthy of this honour.
About the Author: Zafir Malik serves as the Associate Editor of The Review of Religions, having graduated from Jamia Ahmadiyya UK – Institute of Modern Languages and Theology. He is also an Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and regularly appears as a panellist on MTA International and Voice of Islam radio station answering questions on Islam.
 Abu Bakr Ahmad bin Husain Al-Bayhaqi, Al-I’tiqad Wal Hidaya Ila Sabil Al-Rashad, pg 319,
Ibn Babawayh al-Qummi, ‘Uyun akhbar ar-Rida Vol.2, 2015, Qom: (Beirut, Lebanon: Mu’assasat al-Bayt li-Ihya’ at-Turath, 2015) 187
 Ali ‘Izz ad-Din Ibn al-Athir al-Jazari, Al-Kamil fi at-TarikhVol. 2, (Beirut, Lebanon: Dar Sader, 1965 (A.H.1385), 328-329
 Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hanbal, Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal Vol.3, Hadith No. 12332, (Riad:Bait al-Afkar Ad-Dauliyya, 1998 (A.H.1419) 129
 Ali ‘Izz ad-Din Ibn al-Athir al-Jazari, Al-Kamil fi at-TarikhVol. 2, (Beirut, Lebanon: Dar Sader, 1965 (A.H.1385), 425
 Ali ‘Izz ad-Din Ibn al-Athir al-Jazari, Al-Kamil fi at-TarikhVol. 2, (Beirut, Lebanon: Dar Sader, 1965 (A.H.1385), 66
 Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Fadail Ashab an-Nabi, Hadith No.3700
 Muhammad bin Jarir Al-Tabari, Tarikh at-Tabari Vol 5, (Beirut, Lebanon: Dar al-Fikr, 2002) 147
 Akbar Shah Najeebabadi, History of Islam Vol 1, (Darussalam International publishers & Distributors) 451
 Jalaluddin Al-Suyuti, Al Khasais al Kubra Vol.2, pg 115
 Akbar Shah Najeebabadi, History of Islam Vol 1, (Darussalam International publishers & Distributors) 453
 Jalaluddin Al-Suyuti, Al Khasais al Kubra Vol.2, pg 115
 Nawab Siddique Hasan Khan, Hujjaj Al-Karamah fi Athar Al-Qiyamah, pg 167
 Isma‘il bin ‘Umar bin Kathir, Al-Badayah wa an-Nawaya, (Beirut, Lebanon: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 2003) Vol 8, pg 126, Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyya, Beirut, 2001
 Jami’ at-Tirmidhi, Kitab al-Ilm, Bab al-Akhz bi as-Sunnah, Hadith No. 2676
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Rashidun, (Arabic: “Rightly Guided,” or “Perfect”), the first four caliphs of the Islamic community, known in Muslim history as the orthodox or patriarchal caliphs: Abū Bakr (reigned 632–634), ʿUmar (reigned 634–644), ʿUthmān (reigned 644–656), and ʿAlī (reigned 656–661).
The 29-year rule of the Rashidun was Islam’s first experience without the leadership of the Prophet Muhammad. His example, however, in both private and public life, came to be regarded as the norm ( Sunnah) for his successors, and a large and influential body of anṣār (companions of the Prophet) kept close watch on the caliphs to ensure their strict adherence to divine revelation (the Qurʾān) and the Sunnah. The Rashidun thus assumed all of Muhammad’s duties except the prophetic: as imams, they led the congregation in prayer at the mosque as khaṭībs, they delivered the Friday sermons and as umarāʾ al-muʾminīn (“commanders of the faithful”), they commanded the army.
The caliphate of the Rashidun, in which virtually all actions had religious import, began with the wars of the riddah (“apostasy” 632–633), tribal uprisings in Arabia, and ended with the first Muslim civil war ( fitnah 656–661). It effected the expansion of the Islamic state beyond Arabia into Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Iran, and Armenia and, with it, the development of an elite class of Arab soldiers. The Rashidun were also responsible for the adoption of an Islamic calendar, dating from Muhammad’s emigration (Hijrah) from Mecca to Medina (622), and the establishment of an authoritative reading of the Qurʾān, which strengthened the Muslim community and encouraged religious scholarship. It was also a controversy over ʿAlī’s succession that split Islam into two sects, the Sunni (who consider themselves traditionalists) and the Shiʿah (shīʿat ʿAlī, “party of ʿAlī”), which have survived to modern times.
The religious and very traditionalist strictures on the Rashidun were somewhat relaxed as Muhammad’s contemporaries, especially the anṣār, began to die off and the conquered territories became too vast to rule along theocratic lines thus, the Umayyads, who followed the Rashidun as caliphs, were able to secularize the operations of the state.
A Difficult Start for Hazrat Ali (RA)
While beginning his tenure as the new caliph, Ali faced a number of challenges – the likes of which none of the three previous caliphs had experienced. There was chaos all over the Islamic State. The wounds from Uthman’s brutal assassination were still open, and people wanted justice. At the same time, the culprits continued to spread their evil messages and ideas among the people. These insurgents and rebels were massive in number, and they had no intention of letting the caliph rule with ease. Hence, they did all they could to disrupt him.
One of the things causing the most chaos in the state was that many Muslims wanted quick justice for Uthman. This led to them expressing themselves in very strong ways. At times, they were even engaging in open protests so that Ali would accept their demands. However, the fourth caliph wasn’t accepting the demands for a reason. The fact is that in the aftermath of Uthman’s assassination, there were many things that Ali had to worry about. The whole of the Islamic State was in chaos, and he had to work on rectifying that.
While Hazrat Ali focused on consolidating the state and rectifying the many problems that had now cropped up, the conspirators continued to cause problems. Hence, Hazrat Ali decided to restructure the leadership hierarchy of all provinces. So, he decided that he must replace the current governors and leaders with others who would be capable of dealing with what now seemed to be quite a messy situation. However, the move largely backfired since people in many areas didn’t welcome the newcomers. Sometimes, they even failed to enter their provinces since their people weren’t supportive of them. Eventually, all this would culminate in a civil war.
Map of the First Fitna. The areas shaded in green and pink respectively represent the territories under Caliph Ali’s and Mu’awiya’s control in 658.
Ali was caliph between 656 and 661 during the First Fitna, one of the most turbulent periods in Muslim history. Since the conflicts in which Ali was involved were perpetuated in polemical sectarian historiography, biographical material is often biased. However, the sources agree that he was a profoundly religious man, devoted to the cause of Islam and the rule of justice in accordance with the Quran and the Sunnah. The sources abound in notices on his austerity, rigorous observance of religious duties, and detachment from worldly goods. Authors have noted that Ali stood firmly by his principles and would not compromise them for political self-gain.
Uthman’s assassination meant that rebels had to select a new caliph. This met with difficulties since the rebels were divided into several groups: the Muhajirun, Ansar, Egyptians, Kufans and Basrites. There were three candidates: Ali, Talhah and Al-Zubayr. First the rebels approached Ali and offered him the caliphate. Some of Muhammad’s companions tried to persuade Ali to accept the office, but he turned down the offer, requesting he be made a counsellor instead of a chief. Talhah, Zubayr and other companions also refused the rebels’ offer as well. Therefore, the rebels warned the inhabitants of Medina to select a caliph within one day, or they would take drastic action. In order to resolve the deadlock, the Muslims gathered in the Prophet’s Mosque on 18 June 656, to appoint the caliph. Initially, ‘Ali refused to accept the office, simply because his most vigorous supporters were rebels. However, when some notable companions of Muhammad, in addition to the residents of Medina, urged him to accept the offer, he finally agreed. According to Abu Mekhnaf’s narration, Talhah was the first prominent companion who gave his pledge to ‘Ali, but other accounts claimed otherwise, stating they were forced to give their pledge. Also, Talhah and Al-Zubayr later claimed they supported him only reluctantly. Regardless, Ali refuted these claims, insisting they recognised him as caliph voluntarily. Wilferd Madelung believes that coercion was not a factor and that they pledged publicly in the mosque. While the overwhelming majority of Medina’s population as well as many of the rebels gave their pledge, some important figures or tribes did not do so. The Umayyads, kinsmen of Uthman, fled to the Levant, or remained in their houses, later refusing ‘Ali’s legitimacy. Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas was absent and ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar abstained from offering his allegiance, but both of them assured ‘Ali that they would not act against him. Ali thus inherited the Rashidun caliphate – which extended from Egypt in the west to the Iranian highlands in the east—while the situation in the Hejaz and the other provinces on the eve of his election was unsettled.
Uthman had appointed his family members as governors and in other positions of power, and public dissatisfaction with this nepotism was one of the factors that had caused a rebellion against him. In addition, Uthman’s governors were widely known for their corruption and plundering. Soon after Ali became caliph, he dismissed Uthman’s governors immediately, against the counsel of his advisers that it would not be politically wise to do so, as he refused to be complicit in their injustice and corruption. According to Madelung, Ali was deeply convinced of his right and his religious mission, unwilling to compromise his principles for the sake of political expediency, and ready to fight against overwhelming odds. Some of Uthman’s governors were replaced, but others, such as Muawiyah I (a relative of Uthman and governor of the Levant), refused to submit to Ali’s orders.
Inaugural address in Medina
When he was appointed caliph, Ali stated to the citizens of Medina that Muslim polity had come to be plagued by dissension and discord he desired to purge Islam of any evil. He advised the populace to behave as true Muslims, warning that he would tolerate no sedition and those who were found guilty of subversive activities would be dealt with harshly.
A’ishah, Talhah, Al-Zubayr and the Umayyads, especially Muawiyah I and Marwan I, wanted ‘Ali to punish the rioters who had killed Uthman. They encamped close to Basra. The talks lasted for many days and the subsequent heated exchange and protests during the parley turned from words to blows, leading to loss of life on both sides. In the confusion the Battle of the Camel started in 656, where Ali emerged victorious. Some historians believe that they used this issue to seek their political ambitions because they found Ali’s caliphate against their own benefit. The rebels maintained that Uthman had been justly killed, for not governing according to the Quran and Sunnah hence, no vengeance was to be invoked.
Some say the caliphate was a gift of the rebels and Ali did not have enough force to control or punish them, while others say Ali accepted the rebels’ argument or at least did not consider Uthman a just ruler. Ali himself writes, in the Nahj al-Balagha, that he was blamed by the Umayyads for the assassination of Uthman.
The Umayyads knowledge of me did not restrain them from accusing me, nor did my precedence in accepting Islam keep these ignorant people from blaming me. Allah’s admonitions are more eloquent than my tongue. I am the contester against those who break away from Faith and the opposer of those who entertain doubts. Uncertainties should be placed before Qur’an, the Book of Allah (for clarification). Certainly, people will be recompensed according to what they have in their hearts. – Nahj al-Balagha: Sermon 75
Under such circumstances, a schism took place which led to the first civil war in Muslim history. Some Muslims, known as Uthmanis, considered Uthman a rightful and just caliph till the end, who had been unlawfully killed. Some others, known as the party of Ali, believed Uthman had fallen into error, had forfeited the caliphate, and been lawfully executed for his refusal to mend his ways or step down thus, Ali was the just and true Imam and his opponents were infidels. This was not the position of Ali himself. This civil war created permanent divisions within the Muslim community regarding who had the legitimate right to occupy the caliphate.
The First Fitna, 656–661, followed the assassination of Uthman, continued during the caliphate of Ali, and was ended by Muawiyah’s assumption of the caliphate. This civil war is regretted as the end of the early unity of the Islamic ummah (nation).
Ali appointed ‘Abd Allah ibn al’-Abbas governor of Basra. Later, Muawiyah I, governor of the Levant and cousin of Uthman, refused Ali’s demands for allegiance. Ali opened negotiations, but Muawiyah insisted on Levantine autonomy under his rule. Muawiyah mobilised an army and refused to pay homage to Ali on the pretext that his contingent had not participated in the election. Ali then moved his armies north and the two sides encamped at Siffin for more than one hundred days, most of the time being spent in negotiations. Although Ali exchanged several letters with Muawiyah, he was unable to dismiss the latter, nor persuade him to pledge allegiance. Skirmishes between the parties led to the Battle of Siffin in 657.
A week of combat was followed by a violent battle known as laylat al-harir (the night of clamour). Muawiyah’s army was on the point of being routed when Amr ibn al-As advised Muawiyah to have his soldiers hoist mus’haf (either parchments inscribed with verses of the Quran, or complete copies of it) on their spearheads in order to cause disagreement and confusion in Ali’s army. Ali saw through the stratagem, but only a minority wanted to pursue the fight. The two armies finally agreed to settle the matter of who should be caliph by arbitration. The refusal of the largest bloc in Ali’s army to fight was the decisive factor in his acceptance of the arbitration. The question as to whether the arbiter would represent Ali or the Kufans caused a further split in Ali’s army. Ash’ath ibn Qays and some others rejected Ali’s nominees, ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abbas and Malik al-Ashtar, and insisted on Abu Musa Ash’ari, for his neutrality. Finally, Ali was urged to accept Abu Musa. Amr ibn al-As was appointed by Muawiyah as an arbitrator. Seven months after the battle, in February 658, the two arbitrators met at Adhruh about 10 miles northwest of Maan in Jordan. Amr ibn al-As convinced Abu Musa Ash’ari that both Ali and Muawiyah should step down and a new caliph be elected. Ali and his supporters were stunned by the decision, which had lowered the caliph to the status of the rebellious Muawiyah. Ali was therefore outwitted by Muawiyah and Amr ibn al-As. When the arbitrators assembled at Daumet-ul-Jandal, a series of daily meetings were arranged for them to discuss the matters in hand. When the time arrived for making a decision about the caliphate, Amr bin al-As convinced Abu Musa al-Ashari that they should deprive both Ali and Muawiya of the caliphate, and give the Muslims the right to elect the caliph. Abu Musa al-Ashari also concurred. According to Poonawala, it seems that the arbiters and other eminent persons, with the exclusion of Ali’s representatives, met in January 659 to discuss the selection of the new caliph. Amr supported Muawiyah, while Abu Musa preferred his son-in-law, Abdullah ibn Umar, but the latter refused to stand for election in default of unanimity. Abu Musa then proposed, and Amr agreed, to depose both Ali and Muawiyah and submit the selection of the new caliph to a Shura. In the public declaration that followed Abu Musa observed his part of the agreement, but Amr declared Ali deposed and confirmed Muawiya as caliph.
Ali refused to accept this state of affairs and found himself technically in breach of his pledge to abide by the arbitration. ‘Ali protested that it was contrary to the Qur’an and the Sunnah and hence not binding. Then he tried to organise a new army, but only the Ansar, the remnants of the Qurra led by Malik Ashtar, and a few of their clansmen remained loyal. This put Ali in a weak position even amongst his own supporters. The arbitration resulted in the dissolution of ‘Ali’s coalition, and some have opined that this was Muawiyah’s intention.
The most vociferous opponents in Ali’s camp were the very same people who had forced Ali into the ceasefire. They broke away from Ali’s force, rallying under the slogan “arbitration belongs to God alone.” This group came to be known as the Kharijites (“those who leave”). They considered everyone to be their enemy. In 659 Ali’s forces and the Kharijites met in the Battle of Nahrawan. The Qurra then became known as the Kharijites. The Kharijites then started killing Ali’s supporters and other Muslims. They considered anyone who was not part of their group as an unbeliever. Although ‘Ali won the battle by a huge margin, the constant conflict had begun to affect his standing. While dealing with the Iraqis, ‘Ali found it hard to build a disciplined army and effective state institutions. He also spent a lot of time fighting the Kharijites. As a result, ‘Ali found it hard to expand the state on its eastern front.
At about the same time, unrest was brewing in Egypt. The governor of Egypt, Qais, was recalled, and Ali had him replaced with Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr (the brother of Aisha and the son of Islam’s first caliph Abu Bakr). Muawiyah allowed ‘Amr ibn al-‘As to move against Egypt and ‘Amr eventually conquered it for the second time in his career. Amr had first taken Egypt eighteen years earlier from the Romans but had been dismissed by Uthman. Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr had no popular support in Egypt and managed to muster 2000 men but they dispersed without a fight.
In the following years, Muawiyah’s army occupied many cities of Iraq, which Ali’s governors could not prevent, and the people offered no support for a defense. Muawiyah overpowered Egypt, Hijaz, Yemen and other areas. In the last year of Ali’s caliphate, the mood in Kufa and Basra changed in his favour as the people became disillusioned with Muawiyah’s reign and policies. However, the people’s attitude toward Ali differed deeply. Just a small minority of them believed that Ali was the best Muslim after Muhammad and the only one entitled to rule them, while the majority supported him due to their distrust and opposition to Muawiyah.
Anti-corruption campaign and egalitarian policies
Ali is said to have vowed an uncompromising campaign against financial corruption and unfair privileges after he assumed the caliphate following the death of Uthman. Shias argue that his determination in pushing these reforms aroused the ire of the wealthy and the privileged former companions of the Prophet. In a well-known letter to one of his governors, Malik al-Ashtar, he articulates his pro-poor, anti-elitist approach:
Remember that displeasure and disapproval of common men, have-nots and depressed persons more than overbalances the approval of important persons and displeasure of a few big will be excused by the Lord if the general public and masses of your subjects are happy with you. The common men, the poor, apparently less important sections of your subjects are the pillars of Islam….be more friendly with them and secure their confidence and sympathy.
‘Ali recovered the land granted by ‘Uthman and swore to recover anything that elites had acquired before his election. Ali opposed the centralisation of capital control over provincial revenues, favouring an equal distribution of taxes and booty amongst the Muslim citizens he distributed the entire revenue of the treasury among them. ‘Ali refrained from nepotism, including with his brother ‘Aqeel ibn Abu Talib. This reflected his policy of offering equality to Muslims who served Islam in its early years and to those Muslims who played a role in the later conquests.
Ali succeeded in forming a broad coalition, especially after the Battle of the Camel. His policy of equal distribution of taxes and booty gained the support of Muhammad’s companions, especially the Ansar who were subordinated by the Quraysh leadership after Muhammad, the traditional tribal leaders, and the Qurra or Qur’anic reciters that sought pious Islamic leadership. The successful formation of this diverse coalition seems to be due to Ali’s charisma. This diverse coalition became known as Shia Ali, “adherents of Ali” or “followers of Ali”. However, according to Shia, as well as non-Shia reports, the majority of those who supported ‘Ali after his election as caliph were Shia politically, not religiously. Although at this time there were many who were counted as political Shia, few of them believed in Ali’s religious leadership.
See also: Letter of Ali ibn Abi Talib to Malik al-Ashtar
His policies and ideas of governing are manifested in the letter he sent to Malik al-Ashtar after appointing him governor of Egypt. This instruction, which has historically been viewed as the ideal constitution for Islamic governance, alongside the Constitution of Medina, involved detailed descriptions of the duties and rights of the ruler, the various functionaries of the state, and the main classes of society at that time. Ali wrote:
Infuse your heart with mercy, love and kindness for your subjects. Be not in face of them a voracious animal, counting them as easy prey, for they are of two kinds: either they are your brothers in faith or in creation. Error catches them unaware, deficiencies overcome them, (evil deeds) are committed by them intentionally and by mistake. So grant them your pardon and your forgiveness to the same extent that you hope God will grant you His pardon and His forgiveness. For you are above them, and he who appointed you is above you, and God is above him who appointed you. God has sought from you the fulfillment of their requirements and He is trying you with them.
Since the majority of ‘Ali’s subjects were nomads and peasants, he was concerned with agriculture. He instructed Malik to give more attention to land development than to the tax collection, because tax can only be obtained by the development of the land and whoever demands tax without developing the land ruins the country and destroys the people.
Assassination in Kufa
On 19 Ramadan AH 40, which would correspond to 26 January 661, while praying in the Great Mosque of Kufa, Ali was attacked by the Kharijite Abd-al-Rahman ibn Muljam. He was wounded by ibn Muljam’s poison-coated sword while prostrating in the Fajr prayer. ‘Ali ordered his sons not to attack the Kharijites, instead stipulating that if he survived, ibn Muljam would be pardoned whereas if he died, ibn Muljam should be given only one equal hit (regardless of whether or not he died from the hit). ‘Ali died two days later on 29 January 661 (21 Ramadan AH 40). [Al-Hasan fulfilled Qisas and gave equal punishment to ibn Muljam upon Ali’s death].
The Fourth Caliph, Ali (656-661 A.C.)
Ali bin Abi Talib was the first cousin of the Prophet (peace be on him). More than that, he had grown up in the Prophet's own household, later married his youngest daughter, Fatima, and remained in closest association with him for nearly thirty years.
Ali was ten years old when the Divine Message came to Muhammad (peace be on him). One night he saw the Prophet and his wife Khadijah bowing and prostrating. He asked the Prophet about the meaning of their actions. The Prophet told him that they were praying to God Most High and that Ali too should accept Islam. Ali said that he would first like to ask his father about it. He spent a sleepless night, and in the morning he went to the Prophet and said, "When God created me He did not consult my father, so why should I consult my father in order to serve God?" and he accepted the truth of Muhammad's message.
When the Divine command came, "And warn thy nearest relatives" [Qur'an 26:214], Muhammad (peace be on him) invited his relatives for a meal. After it was finished, he addressed them and asked, "Who will join me in the cause of God?" There was utter silence for a while, and then Ali stood up. "I am the youngest of all present here," he said, "My eyes trouble me because they are sore and my legs are thin and weak, but I shall join you and help you in whatever way I can." The assembly broke up in derisive laughter. But during the difficult wars in Mecca, Ali stood by these words and faced all the hardships to which the Muslims were subjected. He slept in the bed of the Prophet when the Quraish planned to murder Muhammad. It was he to whom the Prophet entrusted, when he left Mecca, the valuables which had been given to him for safekeeping, to be returned to their owners.
Apart from the expedition of Tabuk, Ali fought in all the early battles of Islam with great distinction, particularly in the expedition of Khaybar. It is said that in the Battle of Uhud he received more than sixteen wounds.
The Prophet (peace be on him) loved Ali dearly and called him by many fond names. Once the Prophet found him sleeping in the dust. He brushed off Ali's clothes and said fondly, "Wake up, Abu Turab (Father of Dust)." The Prophet also gave him the title of 'Asadullah' ('Lion of God').
Ali's humility, austerity, piety, deep knowledge of the Qur'an and his sagacity gave him great distinction among the Prophet's Companions. Abu Bakr, 'Umar and Uthman consulted him frequently during their caliphates. Many times 'Umar had made him his vice-regent at Medina when he was away. Ali was also a great scholar of Arabic literature and pioneered in the field of grammar and rhetoric. His speeches, sermons and letters served for generations afterward as models of literary expression. Many of his wise and epigrammatic sayings have been preserved. Ali thus had a rich and versatile personality. In spite of these attainments he remained a modest and humble man. Once during his caliphate when he was going about the marketplace, a man stood up in respect and followed him. "Do not do it," said Ali. "Such manners are a temptation for a ruler and a disgrace for the ruled."
Ali and his household lived extremely simple and austere lives. Sometimes they even went hungry themselves because of Ali's great generosity, and none who asked for help was ever turned away from his door. His plain, austere style of living did not change even when he was ruler over a vast domain.
As mentioned previously, Ali accepted the caliphate very reluctantly. Uthman's murder and the events surrounding it were a symptom, and also became a cause, of civil strife on a large scale. Ali felt that the tragic situation was mainly due to inept governors. He therefore dismissed all the governors who had been appointed by Uthman and appointed new ones. All the governors excepting Muawiya, the governor of Syria, submitted to his orders. Muawiya declined to obey until Uthman's blood was avenged. The Prophet's widow Aisha also took the position that Ali should first bring the murderers to trial. Due to the chaotic conditions during the last days of Uthman it was very difficult to establish the identity of the murderers, and Ali refused to punish anyone whose guilt was not lawfully proved. Thus a battle between the army of Ali and the supporters of Aisha took place. Aisha later realized her error of judgment and never forgave herself for it.
The situation in Hijaz (the part of Arabia in which Mecca and Medina are located) became so troubled that Ali moved his capital to Iraq. Muawiya now openly rebelled against Ali and a fierce battle was fought between their armies. This battle was inconclusive, and Ali had to accept the de facto government of Muawiya in Syria.
However, even though the era of Ali's caliphate was marred by civil strife, he nevertheless introduced a number of reforms, particularly in the levying and collecting of revenues.
It was the fortieth year of Hijra. A fanatical group called Kharijites, consisting of people who had broken away from Ali due to his compromise with Muawiya, claimed that neither Ali, the Caliph, nor Muawiya, the ruler of Syria, nor Amr bin al-Aas, the ruler of Egypt, were worthy of rule. In fact, they went so far as to say that the true caliphate came to an end with 'Umar and that Muslims should live without any ruler over them except God. They vowed to kill all three rulers, and assassins were dispatched in three directions.
The assassins who were deputed to kill Muawiya and Amr did not succeed and were captured and executed, but Ibn-e-Muljim, the assassin who was commissioned to kill Ali, accomplished his task. One morning when Ali was absorbed in prayer in a mosque, Ibn-e-Muljim stabbed him with a poisoned sword. On the 20th of Ramadan, 40 A.H., died the last of the Rightly Guided Caliphs of Islam. May God Most High be pleased with them and grant to them His eternal reward.
'Ali's (a) Caliphate
After the death of 'Uthman, Muslims pledged their allegiance to 'Ali (a). Unlike the allegiances to the former three caliphs, the allegiance to 'Ali (a) was done by all people in Medina. At first, Imam 'Ali (a) was supported by Ansar in Medina, people of Kufa, Egyptians who had contributed to 'Uthman's murder, and a group of Muhajirun. For a while, he was also supported by the heads of prominent tribes.
'Ali's (a) Reforms
'Ali's (a) aims in his caliphate included a renewed stabilization of the political system as well as social and legal reforms. His first action was the removal 'Uthman's agents and the appointment of competent, conscientious agents. He also returned the usurped property to Bayt al-Mal (Treasury).
Internal Conflicts Again
Three battles were imposed to 'Ali (a) in his period.
The battles had different origins.
The first battle (Battle of Jamal) began under the leadership of Talha, al-Zubayr and Aisha who had broken their allegiances as a result of avarice.
The second battle (Battle of Siffin) was led by Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan by deceiving people under the pretext of a revenge for 'Uthman. The battle lasted for a few months, and finally when Mu'awiya's defeat was imminent, the event of Arbitration happened, and with the tricks of Mu'awiya's representative ('Amr b. 'As), the two arbiters ('Amr b. 'As and Abu Musa al-Ash'ari) decided to remove 'Ali (a) from power. The verdict was outside the authorities of the arbiters, and so, it was opposed by Imam 'Ali (a), though, to no avail.
After that, some people from Imam 'Ali's (a) army separated from 'Ali (a) by opposing his decision to accept Arbitration—on which they insisted during the Battle of Siffin—and as a result of their ignorance, the Battle of Nahrawan (with Khawarij) occurred.
Eventually, when 'Ali (a) was martyred by a person from Khawarij in Ramadan 40 (January 661), the fourth caliph was killed like his two predecessors. After his martyrdom, people of Kufa pledged their allegiance to al-Hasan b. 'Ali (a).
Caliph Ali assassinated
Richard Cavendish remembers the assassination of Caliph Ali, on January 24th, 661.
When the Prophet Muhammad died in Medina in the year 632 of the Christian Era, he was the most powerful figure in Arabia. His closest male relative was his cousin Ali ibn Abu Talib, the son of Muhammad’s uncle. To rescue him from poverty, Ali had been brought up in the Prophet’s household from boyhood and he later married Muhammad’s daughter Fatima. Now about 32, he may have been considered too young to succeed Muhammad. The inner circle in Medina chose Abu Bakr, the Prophet’s father-in-law and one of his oldest friends and allies, as caliph (in Arabic khalifah, ‘successor’ and ‘representative’). He died two years later.
It was under the next two caliphs, Umar and Uthman, both of them closely personally connected with Muhammad, that Islam started its triumphant march out of Arabia into the wider world. Arab armies conquered Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Iraq and Persia and penetrated along the North African coast. Caliph Uthman was killed in 656 by mutinous troops in Medina, who offered the caliphate to Ali. After some hesitation, apparently, he accepted.
The result was war between Ali and his opponents, who were enraged by his failure to punish Uthman’s killers and suspected him of involvement in the murder. They included Muhammad’s widow Aisha (Abu Bakr’s daughter) and Uthman’s cousin Muawiyyah, who was governor of Syria. Ali won the battle of the Camel, so called because it raged around the camel Aisha was riding, but in 657 the contending armies fought each other to a standstill in Syria at what is now Ar-Raqqah until, in a famous episode, Muawiyya’s men fixed copies of the Koran to their spears and cried out to let God decide. Ali’s army agreed and he had to accept independent arbitration. The panel of arbitrators ruled against Ali and Muawiyya claimed the caliphate for himself.
Ali, who had moved his capital to Kufa in present-day Iraq by this time, refused to accept the decision. A group of puritanical Muslims called Kharajites (‘seceders’) now turned against him and one of them stabbed him with a poisoned sword when he went to pray at the Kufa mosque in 661. Ali died two or three days later. At his own request, it is said, his burial place was kept secret, but it is generally believed to have been in today’s Imam Ali mosque at Najaf in Iraq, near Kufa, which is a major place of pilgrimage.
These events created the division in Islam between the Sunni majority and the Shiites (pronounced She-ites, from Shiah i-Ali, ‘upholders of Ali’), who believe that the caliphate should have passed to the Prophet’s descendants by Ali and Fatima instead of to the Umayyad dynasty founded by Muawiyyah. The split has lasted ever since.
Ali b. Abi Talib (a) has always had a high status in the eyes of the Shia. He was the most pious and the most knowledgeable companion of the Prophet (s) and his rightful successor. Because of his virtues, a number of the Companions loved and were attached to Ali (a) at the Prophet's (s) time and were called "Shi'at Ali" (the partisans of Ali) since then. Ώ] However, the word "Shi'a" came to indicate those who consider Ali (a) the rightful successor of the Prophet (s), ΐ] in contrast to "Sunnis" who maintain that the rightful successor of the Prophet (s) was chosen by the people. Α]
In the Shiite view, the coming to power of Imam Ali (a) as the caliph on Dhu l-Hijja 19, 35/June 18, 656, was the late execution of the Prophet's (s) multiple instructions in different occasions, especially in Ghadir Khumm, that Ali (a) should succeed him and lead the Muslim community after him. The Shia maintain that the Prophet (s) appointed Ali (a) as his successor by the statement "For whomever I am the master, Ali will be his master." This is what the audience understood at the time and thus congratulated Ali (a) for this appointment, calling him Amir al-Mu'minin (the Commander of the Faithful). Β]
The First Imam: Ali ibn Abu Talib
The First Infallible Holy Imam Ali(as)
He is the son of the Clan Chief Abu Taleb(as) of the family of Bani Hashim and his wife Fatimah Bint Al-Assad(as).
He's the nephew and the son in-law of The Prophet Mohammad(pbuh&hf).
He was the designated as the Calipha or the First Legitimate Successor of The Holy Prophet(pbuh&hf) and the Leader of all mankind and he is the holy Father of all the Eleven Infallible holy Imams(as) after him.
The Imam Ali Ibin Abe Taleb(as) was the only person to have the honour bestowed upon him of being born in The Sacred Holy Kaba in Mecca on friday, 13th day of the month of Rajab, 600AD. Thirty years after the year of the Elephant in 570 AD.
Nobody before him or after him has ever had the honour bestowed upon him by Allah(swt), to be born in The House of God, The Most High, thus his position in Islam is being dignified in its all greatness.
He was fatally wounded by the blow from a poisionous sword upon his head, by an assasin Abdurrahman Ibin Al-Muljim on Friday, 19th. of the Month Ramadan in the great Mosque of Kufa, while the Imam(as) was leading the early morning prayers.
Three days latter at the age of sixty three he died in his home of his fatal head wound.
His body was prepared for burial by his two holy sons Imam Hassan(as) and Imam Hussain(as) and was secrectly buried, as explicitly willed by him, in an umarked grave, at Najaf, in southern Iraq, where his Sacred Shrine stands now.
His excellent attributes are of a great number
- He was brought up and taught by The Prophet Mohammad(pbuh&hf) himself.
- He was the first to become a Muslim.
- He never worshiped any kind of pagan idols or other gods.
- He was the most closest, faithful and the most loyal to The Prophet(pbuh&hf), of all his Companions.
- Under his flag of Leadership, victory was always assured.
- He never turned his back on the enemy.
- His courage was magnificent and second to none.
- As a Judge he received this compliment from The Holy Prophet(pbuh&hf),
"Ali is the best judge, amongst all of you."
" I am the city of knowledge and Ali is it's gate!"
"Ali is with the Truth, and Truth is with Ali."
"White and yellow attracts the people, but not me!"
White meaning silver and yellow meaning gold
In short he was very much like The Holy Prophet(pbuh&hf) in virtuous attributes and for this reason Allah(swt), The Most High, has considered him in the Holy Koran as the Soul of The Holy Prophet Mohammad Al-Mustafa(pbuh&hf).
- Warn Thy Family The Prophet(pbuh&hf) invites Ali(as) to help him in a task, that God had commanded of him
- Succession Ali(as) is clearly appointed the Calipha to succeed The Prophet(pbuh&hf)
- Migration The Prophet(pbuh&hf) ask Ali(as) to cover for him, by sleeping in his bed, so that he may escape undetected
- Nahj Al-Balagh, A fine collection of Speeches and Hadeeths of Ali(as)
- His Exploits Describes how Ali(as) endeavored for the sake of Islam
- Battle of the Camal Rebels try to seize the Caliphate from Ali(as), by raising a formidable force in Basra, Iraq
Amir al-mu'minin Ali - upon whom be peace - was the son of Abu Talib, the Shaykh of the Banu Hashim. Abu Talib was the uncle and guardian of the Holy Prophet and the person who had brought the Prophet to his house and raised him like his own son. After the Prophet was chosen for his prophetic mission, Abu Talib continued to support him and repelled from him the evil that came from the infidels among the Arabs and especially the Quraysh.
According to well-known traditional accounts Ali was born ten years before the commencement of the prophetic mission of the Prophet. When six years old, as a result of famine in and around Mecca, he was requested by the Prophet to leave his father's house and come to the house of his cousin, the Prophet. There he was placed directly under the guardianship and custody of the Holy Prophet.
A few years later, when the Prophet was endowed with the Divine gift of prophecy and for the first time received the Divine revelation in the cave of Hira', as he left the cave to return to town and his own house he met Ali on the way. He told him what had happened and Ali accepted the new faith. Again in a gathering when the Holy Prophet had brought his relatives together and invited them to accept his religion, he said the first person to accept his call would be his vicegerent and inheritor and deputy. The only person to rise from his place and accept the faith was Ali and the Prophet accepted his declaration of faith. Therefore Ali was the first man in Islam to accept the faith and is the first among the followers of the Prophet to have never worshiped other than the One God.
Ali was always in the company of the Prophet until the Prophet migrated from Mecca to Medina. On the night of the migration to Medina (hijrah) when the infidels had surrounded the house of the Prophet and were determined to invade the house at the end of the night and cut him to pieces while he was in bed, Ali slept in place of the Prophet while the Prophet left the house and set out for Medina. After the departure of the Prophet, according to his wish Ali gave back to the people the trusts and charges that they had left with the Prophet. Then he went to Medina with his mother, the daughter of the Prophet, and two other women. In Medina also Ali was constantly in the company of the Prophet in private and in public. The Prophet gave Fatimah, his beloved daughter from Khadijah, to Ali as his wife and when the Prophet was creating bonds of brotherhood among his companions he selected Ali as his brother.
Ali was present in all the wars in which the Prophet participated, except the battle of Tabuk when he was ordered to stay in Medina in place of the Prophet. He did not retreat in any battle nor did he turn his face away from any enemy. He never disobeyed the Prophet, so that the Prophet said, "Ali is never separated from the Truth nor the Truth from Ali."
On the day of the death of the Prophet, Ali was thirty-three years old. Although he was foremost in religious virtues and the most outstanding among the companions of the Prophet, he was pushed aside from the caliphate on the claim that he was too young and that he had many enemies among the people because of the blood of the polytheists he had spilled in the wars fought alongside the Prophet. Therefore Ali was almost completely cut off from public affairs. He retreated to his house where he began to train competent individuals in the Divine sciences and in this way he passed the twenty-five years of the caliphate of the first three caliphs who succeeded the Prophet. When the third caliph was killed, people gave their allegiance to him and he was chosen as caliph.
During his caliphate of nearly four years and nine months, Ali followed the way of the Prophet and gave his caliphate the form of a spiritual movement and renewal and began many different types of reforms. Naturally, these reforms were against the interests of certain parties that sought their own benefit. As a result, a group of the companions (foremost among whom were Talhah and Zubayr, who also gained the support of A'ishah, and especially Mu'awiayh) made a pretext of the death of the third caliph to raise their heads in opposition and began to revolt and rebel against Ali.
In order to quell the civil strife and sedition, Ali fought a war near Basra, known as the "Battle of the Camel," against Talhah and Zubayr in which A'ishah, "the Mother of the Faithful," was also involved. He fought another war against Mu'awiyah on the border of Iraq and Syria which lasted for a year and a half and is famous as the "Battle of Siffin." He also fought against the Khawarij at Nahrawan, in a battle known as the "Battle of Nahrawan." Therefore, most of the days of Ali's caliphate were spent in overcoming internal opposition. Finally, in the morning of the 19th of Ramadan in the year 40 A.H., while praying in the mosque of Kufa, he was wounded by one of the Khawarij and died as a martyr during the night of the 21st.
According to the testimony of friend and foe alike, Ali had no shortcomings from the point of view of human perfection. And in the Islamic virtues he was a perfect example of the upbringing and training given by the Prophet. The discussions that have taken place concerning his personality and the books written on this subject by Shi'ites, Sunnis and members of other religions, as well as the simply curious outside any distinct religious bodies, are hardly equaled in the case of any other personality in history. In science and knowledge Ali was the most learned of the companions of the Prophet, and of Muslims in general. In his learned discourses he was the first in Islam to open the door for logical demonstration and proof and to discuss the "divine sciences" or metaphysics (ma'arif-i ilahiyah). He spoke concerning the esoteric aspect of the Quran and devised Arabic grammar in order to preserve the Quran's form of expression. He was the most eloquent Arab in speech (as has been mentioned in the first part of this book).
The courage of Ali was proverbial. In all the wars in which he participated during the lifetime of the Prophet, and also afterward, he never displayed fear or anxiety. Although in many battles such as those of Uhud, Hunayn, Khaybar and Khandaq the aides to the Prophet and the Muslim army trembled in fear or dispersed and fled, he never turned his back to the enemy. Never did a warrior or soldier engage Ali in battle and come out of it alive. Yet, with full chivalry he would never slay a weak enemy nor pursue those who fled. He would not engage in surprise attacks or in turning streams of water upon the enemy. It has been definitively established historically that in the Battle of Khaybar in the attack against the fort he reached the ring of the door and with sudden motion tore off the door and cast it away. Also on the day when Mecca was conquered the Prophet ordered the idols to be broken. The idol "Hubal" was the largest idol in Mecca, a giant stone statue placed on the top of the Ka'bah. Following the command of the Prophet, Ali placed his feet on the Prophet's shoulders, climbed to the top of the Ka'bah, pulled "Hubal" from its place and cast it down.
Ali was also without equal in religious asceticism and the worship of God. In answer to some who had complained of Ali's anger toward them, the Prophet said, "Do not reproach Ali for he is in a state of Divine ecstasy and bewilderment." Abu Darda', one of the companions, one day saw the body of Ali in one of the palm plantations of Medina lying on the ground as stiff as wood. He went to Ali's house to inform his noble wife, the daughter of the Prophet, and to express his condolences. The daughter of the Prophet said, "My cousin (Ali) has not died. Rather, in fear of God he has fainted. This condition overcomes him often."
There are many stories told of Ali's kindness to the lowly, compassion for the needy and the poor, and generosity and munificence toward those in misery and poverty. Ali spent all that he earned to help the poor and needy, and himself lived in the strictest and simplest manner. Ali loved agriculture and spent much of his time digging wells, planting trees and cultivating fields. But all the fields he cultivated or wells that he built he gave in endowment (waqf) to the poor. His endowments, known as the "alms of Ali," had the noteworthy income of twenty-four thousand gold dinars toward the end of his life.