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  • The lineage of Umar

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  • Before accepting Islam

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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Are narrations attributed to Ali about his praise of Caliphs correct?

Answer to this question can be on two divisions:

Part A: Narrations in Sunni books

“In books of people opposed to Amirul Momineen (a.s.) it is attributed that: Ali (a.s.) has praised the two Caliphs in different words. Like:
“The best of the men after the Prophet is Abu Bakr and after him it is Umar.’”[4]
Rather Ibne Taimmiyah writes in his book Minhaj al-Sunnah: Ali often used to say: If a man comes to me and says I am superior to Abu Bakr and Umar I would carry God’s decree against him for lying and lash him.

[1] Tahdhib al-Kamal: Vol. 21, Pg. 467
[2] Tahdhib at-Tahdhib: Vol. 7, Pg. 411
[3] Ustad Sayyid Ali Husaini Milani: Imamat-e-Bila Fasl (Edit. Muhammad Reza Kareemi), Pgs. 235-236
[4] Sharh al-Mawafiq: Vol. 8, Pg. 367


We have spoken in the past regarding this subject referring to the words of Ibne Abdul Barr.[1] Now we wish to dwell on details.
First: Such matters attributed to Imam Ali (a.s.) are mostly and only mentioned in the books of Sunnis; such things are never found in Shia books. The logic of argument is lame here. They always trod over norms and trespass the standard formulas whenever Amirul Momineen (a.s.) comes into question.
Second: No books of repute among Sunni authorities have mentioned these things. If at all anything is mentioned, it is mentioned not as an established fact. They mention under a guise of: It is told of Ali or: Having had told of Ali…Such a tone of narration eschews responsibility. It does not establish the narrated matter as solid truth. Such type of narration either in history or by any authority in itself loses credibility. They are deprived of any strength that a document or a reality should have.
Third: Existence of words and plenitude of narrations besides the multitude of narrators about superiority of Ali and about the best qualities in his person, in addition to the constant sayings of Prophet regarding the worth and highly dignified status of Ali repudiate praise for Caliphs. There remains no room to any praise for any Caliphs. It is invented to bedim the widespread glitter of Prophet’s praise of Ali: There was no need for Ali to praise Caliphs.
Fourth: There are evidences in excess that prove attributions such as these as false and absolutely lie. We suffice with one:
Ibne Abdul Barr in his book Al-Istiab Fil Marefat-al-Ashaab writes on the authority of reputed personalities such as Salman, Miqdad, Abu Zar, Habbab, Jabir bin Abdullah al-Ansaari, Abu Saeed Khudri and Zaid bin Arqam:
Ali bin Abi Talib is the first one to embrace Islam. After that he writes: They all gave Ali priority over others.[2]
Here it is necessary to point out that those who had such a belief in Ali or they viewed Ali at such a station, were in all twenty persons. They were themselves companions and enjoyed a good reputation in society.
The author of Al-Istiab has avoided many others and only refers to these  

[1] [This statement will be repeated further in this text.]
[2] Al-Istiab: Vol. 3, Pg. 109, Edit. Bajawi


twenty persons that he deems fit. The question who was the first to become Muslim has a great bearing on worth or reputation in Sunni books. Its answer is Ali. Therefore this very element singly brings much credit and worth to Ali. Sunni sources have narrated that Abu Bakr embraced Islam after fifty persons[1] had become Muslims. Therefore they created such baseless stories to stain Ali’s reputation because of the realities of his personality, which cannot be denied. More strange is that they have created stories to say that it was Abu Bakr who embraced Islam first though they have no evidence to prove it. There are several such false stories but don’t have to argue their worth. The theme of our argument is the saying of a highly reputed scholar among adversaries of Shia. He is Ibne Abdul Barr Qurtubi. He says in his book that many among the Prophet’s companions have acknowledged Ali’s superiority over Abu Bakr. We all know this but Ali during all the periods, including when he was in power did not punish any for this matter.
Here we see Ibne Hajar Asqalani helpless and seeking to rescue himself. On the other hand they attributed Ali having told that he would punish those who say Ali was better than Abu Bakr and Umar. If it was true why Ali did not punish anyone? Ibne Abdul Barr adds: And they preferred him upon others. So contradiction is quite obvious in his saying.
We have evidences that say similar things attributing it to the past scholars and some to recent ones – each trying to establish his claim.”[2]
In the end it is noted that Caliphs themselves have admitted superiority of Ali in learning and knowledge. In many cases, Ali went to their help. He solved their problems and clarified many issues. This aspect of knowledge is very important for a Caliph. This itself is enough to refute what Ibne Taimmiyah has claimed.

Part B: Narrations mentioned in Nahjul Balagha and Al-Gharaat

They say:
“As Umar loved Ali and showed his deep affection to him, Ali also reciprocated. Ali helped him as much as he could. When Umar was martyred, Ali used to remember him saying: May God bestow good on him as he straightened the crooked.”![3]

[1] Tarikh Tabari: Vol. 2, Pg. 316
[2] Ustad Sayyid Ali Husaini Milani: Imamat-e-Bila Fasl (Edit. Muhammad Reza Kareemi), Pgs. 237-241
[3] Muhammad Barfi: Seemai Ali Az Manzar Ahle Sunnat (Portrait of Ali from the Sunni


“On many occasions Ali has praised them. Among such utterance is his statement about the Second Caliph in Nahjul Balagha…”![1]

Dr. Muhammad Asadi Garmarudi says in reply:

“It is said that in Sermon 228 of Nahjul Balagha[2] the Second Caliph is referred with admiration and appreciation.
In this respect we should know that:
First: Does this sermon contradict matters of other sources, even Shiqshiqya sermon and letters of His Eminence in criticism and objections against the Caliphs or not?
Second: If we pay attention to moderation, preference and accuracy in principle not in hearsay, with this attitude if we glance at the lecture in question, can we still say it is in praise of the Caliph? Mr. Hujjati Kermani claims that there is a reasoning weakness.
Third: Whether by principle this lecture is attributed to Ali. Is it not doubtful to researchers?
In Tarikh Tabari – a reputed book among Sunnis – it is mentioned:
When Umar died, daughter of Abi Khathima wept and said: Ah! Umar! Straightened the crooked; and cured the sick.
Mughaira Ibne Shoba said: When Umar was buried, I came to Ali. He had just taken the bath. His head and beard were still wet. He was wrapped in a wide towel. He was sure that Caliphate would reach to him. He said: May God send His mercies on him. Daughter of Abi Khathima spoke the truth. He gained the good and is saved from the evil of the world. By God! She did not say these words. But she was told to say these words …[3]
The foregone text in lecture No.228 (219 Faizul Islam) runs:
May God bestow on him the good. He made straight the sinuous and cured the ill. He attained good of the world and is rescued from its evil.
There is a similarity in both.
Now, Tabari narrates the incident of the year 23 A.H. The text too is said  

point of view), [1st Edition 1380], Pg. 115
 Muhammad Jawad Hujjati Kermani: Ittelaat Daily, Issue No. 29, Khordad 1379
[2] Sermon 219, Faid al-Islam Edition.
[3] Tarikh Tabari: Vol. 3, Pg. 285, Account of Year 23 A.H.


by Ali in the same year. Its reason is also obvious. Ali says the words do not belong to the daughter of Abi Khathima but were dictated to her.[1] Ali might have repeated those words out of astonishment.
On the other hand the principle of accuracy obliges one to be attentive of Mughaira bin Shoba. He is not trustworthy. Narrations from him are bereft of credibility. Therefore how can this narration be worthy to accept its authenticity? When the narrator is Mughaira how can we accept it as saying of Ali?
Besides, in the lecture of Ali where is that part that compels us to believe that he means the Second Caliph?
Ibne Abil Hadeed Motazalli in Vol. 12 of Sharh Nahjul Balagha while explaining the sermon 228 refers to this subject too. Hajj Mirza Habeebullah Hashimi Khoei the famous commentator of Nahjul Balagha says in Vol. 14 Pg. 371 onward of Minhaj al-Baraya fee Sharh Nahjul Balagha that after such a criticism against Caliphs how could he have said so? We can ignore all these things.
The Late Ustad Mutahhari in his essay Sairi Dar Nahjul Balagha says:
“Ibne Abil Hadeed believes the story that there are sentences in Nahjul Balagha in praise of Umar.
But there are some contemporaries who have narrated in different form. It runs thus: Ali came out of his house and saw Mughaira. In a tone of interrogation, he asked Mughaira whether was it true what the daughter of Abi Khathima said in praise of Umar?
Therefore as such this cannot be confirmed that it was Ali’s saying or Ali’s acceptance of the words of the speaker that Sayyid Razi included in the text of Nahjul Balagha by mistake.[2]
Of course through careful attention, study of the text of Tabari’s saying Abi Khathima’s daughter and text of the sermon 228 we can distinguish the subject matter.”[3]
Thus it seems Imam Ali (a.s.) has repeated the words of the girl by way of surprise. There is another point to be paid attention to:

[1] That is there were such people who publicized such things and introduced the Caliphs as such.
[2] Seeri Dar Nahjul Balagha, Pg. 164
[3] Dr. Muhammad Asadi Garmarudi: Haqeeqat Sookhte, Pgs. 49-54


In the closing sentences, Ali says:
“The astrayed cannot be guided and the guided one cannot retain certainty nor could he rest assured.”

The Researcher Shushtari’s outlook

Perhaps in the end it would still be hard to believe the mistake committed by Sayyid Razi. Because it is said:
“Shias accept Nahjul Balagha and whatever is in its text. The relation between Ali and Caliphs as indicated in the text is acceptable to a Shia because it is the most creditable book among Shias. If any narration any book happens to be in contrast with Nahjul Balagha they (Shia) prefer Nahjul Balagha.”![1]
But it must be said:
“The past commentators because of extraordinary reputation of Nahjul Balagha were fond of Sayyid Razi and took it for granted to be perfect and without any error since it was the work rendered by Sayyid Razi.
Therefore no one dared to criticize or venture thereat. All considered it the saying of Ali.
But the researcher Shushtari has shown in his other works such as Qamoos ar-Rijaal and Al-Akhbaar ad-Dakheela that he is a skilled commentator; a traditionist and a narrator. Likewise, he is daring to the extent of getting appreciation in literary circles and has gained worldwide reputation. In the town of Shushtar in a corner, he retired from propaganda and was mindful of his own work. He has thoroughly scrutinized the work of Sayyid Razi in compiling Nahjul Balagha. As he appreciates his labor so he criticizes too. He does not see the compiler who is Sayyid Razi but he sees into the quality of his work. In his view, knowledge is more important than the person who holds it.
Now we dwell on some of his criticisms:
Statements under the title of ‘Book 62’ are only a letter of Imam Ali (a.s.) to Malik Ashtar in Egypt. It is the text of the speech delivered after the martyrdom of Muhammad bin Abu Bakr. Martyrdom of Malik Ashtar was before Muhammad bin Abu Bakr. The letter was read in Kufa. Imam Ali  

[1] Sayyid Jawad Mustafawi: Article quoted in Kitab-e-Wahdat, Pg. 139; article quoted in Mashkoot Magazine, Issue No. 2, Spring 62, Pg. 58


(a.s.) had written it and wanted it to be read out to the people.[1]
The sentence ‘do not kill the Khawarij after me’, itself says that it is not of Ali. We do not find any proof by Sayyid Razi. Had Imam issued such an order his followers would have not killed them. On the other hand we see followers of Ali, at their head Sa’sa bin Sauhan, then Ma’qel bin Qays and Adi bin Hatim and Shareek bin Awar and Shia of Kufa and Basrah all of them exerted their efforts to kill them.[2]
Sermon 168: The statement ‘…O brothers! I do not ignore that you know. But how can I be powerful when the people draw their greatness upon us to possess us and we don’t.’ This is not of Ali. It is composed by Muawiyah in imitation to Ali.[3]
Letter 58: Shushtari does not consider it to be of Ali. This letter is also invented. Sayyid Ali Razi has included it unknowingly. Anyway, it is attributed to Ali wrongly.[4]
Sermon 228: According to research, which Shushtari has carried, it is impossible to be of Imam.[5] Ibne Abil-Hadid and his followers are wrong who consider it to be of Imam.
Sermon 8: According to Shaykh Mufeed, Sayyid Razi attributes this to Imam Hasan.[6]
Sermon 92: ‘Leave me alone and request other than me. If you leave me I will be one like you…’ is not from Imam Ali (a.s.). This too is invented  

[1] Bahjus Sibagha: Vol. 4, Pgs. 369-373
[2] Ibid. Vol. 5, Pg. 473
[3] Ibid. Vol. 9, Pgs. 448-465, especially Pgs. 428 & 449
[4] Ibid. Vol. 9, Pgs. 466-480
[5] Ibid. Vol. 9, Pgs. 480-509
[6] Ibid. Vol. 9, Pg. 536; quoting from: Al-Jamal, Pgs. 322-327


and inserted into the contents[1].[2]
Sermon 169: ‘God has sent a Prophet…’ too is a creation of others. It does not belong to Ali, or its contents are distorted.[3]
In Sermon 27: There is difference in one sentence.[4]
Saying 289: ‘To me in the past was a brother in way of God.’ This saying is of Imam Hasan and not of Ali.
Saying 22: ‘He who is detained by his work…’ Sayyid Razi attributed this sentence to the Prophet in another book of his[5]but now he is attributing it to Ali.[6]
Saying 296: Is among the saying fabricated and presented by Saif.[7]
We suffice here only with these twelve items. There are several other items also that we refer as follows according to Bahjus Sibagha:
Vol. 4 / Pg. 67, 401, 519
Vol. 6 / 369, 371, 401, 443
Vol. 7 / 334, 598
Vol. 8 / 82

[1] Ibid. Vol. 9, Pg. 564
[2] [It is necessary to mention that this statement of Nahjul Balagha is used to show separation between Imamate and Caliphate and in the end to make rulership of Amirul Momineen (a.s.) valueless.
(Abdul Kareem Bi-Aazaar Shirazi: Seemai Imam-e-Muttaqeen, (Portrait of the Imam of the Pious), Vol. 7, Pg. 17)]
[3] Bahjus Sibagha: Vol. 10, Pgs. 40-44
[4] Ibid. Vol. 12, Pgs. 90-91
[5] Sayyid Razi: Al-Majazaatun Nabawiyyah, Pg. 401, Tr. 317
[6] Bahjus Sibagha: Vol. 14, Vol. 477
[7] Ibid. Vol. 14, Pg. 573


Vol. 9 / 59, 360, 362, 423
Vol. 10 / 339, 562, 577
Vol. 11 / 526
Vol. 12 / 59-60, 94-95, 217, 541, 574
Vol. 13 / 23, 355, 361
Vol. 14 / 330, 552, 595
These are the examples we came across while turning the pages of Bahjul Sibagha. Each one of it might seem trifle and trivial, but it attains magnitude while explaining, commenting, translating and researching Nahjul Balagha.
It goes without saying that Shushtari appreciates the work of Sayyid Razi.
He has dwelled more on preface in which he has made a research in the work of Sayyid Razi. This is not repeated in his other works.[1]
In the same way the claim that Ali has praised Umar is reflected in this text:
“Ibrahim bin Muhammad Thaqafi in his book Al-Gharaat, Pg. 307 has mentioned that Ali said about Umar: “We heard and we obeyed. He was our advisor. He took over the charge. His conduct was satisfactory…”![2]
We can investigate and analyze this in the following points:

Point One:

The matter taken from the text of Al-Gharaat is a portion from letter of Ali to his followers. This is mentioned in the book also beneath the heading.
It should be reminded here that the letter exists in other sources too.[3] Likewise, in Al-Mustarshid fil Imamah[4] by Muhammad bin Jurair Tabari Imami Kabeer (died around year 310 A.H.) Reference to the text makes clear the matter.

[1] Muhammad Sahati Sardarudi: Article quoted in the book, Mashal-e-Javed, Dalil Publishers
[2] Muhammad Waizzaada Khorasani: Article quoted in Kitab Naqd Magazine, Issue No. 19, (Vol. 2), Summer 80, Pg. 31
[3] Refer: Ali Akbar Zakiri: Hukoomat O Siyasat (Letter of Amirul Momineen (a.s.) to Shias about Caliphs), Pgs. 29-36
[4] Research: Ahmad Mahmoodi: Mausisa Thaqafatul Islamiya, Pgs. 409-427


Point Two:

What Ali has mentioned in the letter is in connection to his previous sayings about Abu Bakr. This should be read after studying the conditions prevalent in society in those times.
On the same page of Al-Gharaat, following sentences of Ali are mentioned regarding Abu Bakr:
“…He obeyed God…”[1] Then he repeats about Umar “…We obeyed him.”
Imam Ali’s (a.s.) obedience is to God not to Caliphs. He obeyed where obedience to God was necessary.

Point Three:

Whatever Ali has said about Caliphs, depends on the same circumstances and conditions, which we dwelt in the chapter concerned.
There is an obvious contradiction in Al-Mustarshid page 415 in the text. This confirms an idea that whatever said or done was with an aim to protect Islam and hold the people at it. Else, there was a strong likelihood of people’s reverting to ignorance, i.e. the pre-Islamic days – to idol-worship. The words impart such a sense.

Point Four:

The text: a desired conduct and a blessed soul had a great influence on the people of that time which has a bearing on Caliphate. Imam Ali (a.s.), in fact, has sketched a general picture of people’s outlook concerning the Caliphs.
A little attention to the norm and nature of Ali’s statement clearly confirms the said conjecture. In reverting to Al-Gharaat, which is newly printed with a commentary and correction of Mir Jalaluddin Husaini known as Traditionist Armavi.
On the same page of the book in Footnote No. 5 he mentioned Allamah Majlisi’s words that the Imam’s words are in keeping with the delicate situation.
Similarly in Footnote no. 6 of the same page he points out the location of some words, which are ahead and some behind. Imam was then speaking about the general condition of the society.

[1] This statement is also mentioned in Kashful Muhajja of Sayyid bin Tawoos, al-Mustarshid of Tabarai Imami Kabir and Al-Imamah was Siyasah of Ibne Qutaibah


This also applies to the letter of Ali for Egyptians.[1]
Late Mirza Habeebullah Hashimi Khoei in his commentary on Nahjul Balagha says:
“It seems so with the people and possibly it could be by persuasion of adversaries”[2]
Of the indications that attest Khoei’s viewpoint is the difference between text of Al-Gharaat[3] and Al-Darajaat Ar-Rafia.[4] Although late Sayyid Ali Khan Madani has copied the letter from Al-Gharaat, the text is short of some words of praise, which exist, in the present text of Al-Gharaat. This in itself is a proof that the text is altered and added thereon some words.[5]
Another thing that confirms the views of Allamah Majlisi and Allamah Khoei is that the Imam had reflected people’s outlook. Therefore his words mirror people’s view about the two Caliphs. The letter is addressed to the people of Madayn. In the end, he adds:
“Then some among Muslims rose and accepted two persons and were pleased to be guided by them and the conduct of the two pleased them.[6][7]

Final Point:

The attitude of Amirul Momineen (a.s.) in the six-person Shura committee to appoint a Caliph is quite clear[8] as Imam rejects the proposal of Abdur Rahman bin Auf to follow the tracks of two preceding Caliphs. This proves the falsehood of their claims. When he is not willing to follow the policies of the first two Caliphs how can he praise them?

[1] Sayyid Abul Fazl Barqai in his Preface to the book, Shahira-e-Ittihaad has based his view on this document about good relations of Amirul Momineen (a.s.).
[2] Hashimi Khoei: Minhaaj al-Bara-a, Vol. 6, Pg. 106
[3] Thaqafi Kufi: Al-Ghaaraat, Vol. 1, Pg. 210
[4] Sayyid Ali Khan Madani: Ad-Darajaat ar-Rafia (Elevated Positions), Pg. 336
[5] This possibility is also applicable to the book of Ad-Darajaat ar-Raafia as it also contains many praises of the Caliphs.
[6] [For more information refer to Section One of the 4th volume of this book.]
[7] Muhammad Baqir Mahmoodi: Nahjus Saada Fee Mustadrak Nahjul Balagha, Vol. 4, Pg. 23
[8] Refer: Ibne Qutaibah: Al-Imamah was-Siyasah, Vol. 1, Pg. 26, Ibne Abil Hadeed: Sharh Nahjul Balagha, Vol. 1, Pg. 188, Yaqoobi: Tarikh Yaqoobi, Vol. 2, Pg. 162, Balazari: Ansaab al-Ashraaf, Vol. 5, Pg. 22


The denial of Ali to the proposal of Abdur Rahman in itself establishes the illegitimacy of Caliphate of the two.



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