Faith and Values: The legacy of Imam Ali gives guidance for today

By Fatima Kermalli (Masters in Islamic Studies)

The month of Ramadan, a month of fasting, giving, forgiveness and spiritual upliftment is currently upon us. Along with all the virtues which we derive from this period of fasting, such as empathy towards the impoverished and strengthening of both the body and soul, we also commemorate important occasions that transpired in this month.

The Quran, a Holy Scripture from God was revealed to Prophet Muhammad in this month. What is more, the grandson and second successor to the Prophet, Imam Hasan was born. The demise of Lady Khadija, the Prophet’s beloved wife also occurred during this month. Moreover, Imam Ali,  the cousin and first Imam or leader after the Prophet was assassinated whilst in prostration during morning prayers in the mihrab [praying niche] of the Mosque. Hence, it is his death anniversary that will be commemorated this upcoming week

For Muslims and all people who stand for justice, this is a tragedy that can never be overcome because the life of a great man who offered so much to the world in way of knowledge, bravery, humanitarian services, righteousness, worship and much more was put to an end. However, the legacy that Imam Ali has left in the various facet of life continues and is just as relevant today as it was then. Some of his guidance, wisdom and knowledge can be found in the sermons, letters, and sayings that are compiled in a book called the Nahjul Balagha, The Peak of Eloquence. It is a simple read, but yet full of depth in meaning that anyone can benefit.

In regard to justice, Imam Ali sermonized, “One who exhibits fairness on his part, the Lord shall increase him in glory”.

He also practiced fairness to such a capacity that would be difficult to find either in the past or present. a man named Shu’bi narrated an incident he witnessed during the time Imam was ruling an empire. He said, I entered the vast open ground of Kufa (city located in what is today Iraq). I saw that Imam Ali was standing beside two containers filled with gold and silver coins. A huge crowd had gathered around him. Imam Ali had a whip for preventing the people from obstructing  distribution. He began distributing the money until nothing remained for himself and returned home empty handed.

I went home and said to my father: “I witnessed an odd act today but do not understand if this person’s action was good or bad because he never kept anything for himself”. When asked who the person was, I said, “Imam Ali “ and told him what had transpired. Hearing Imam Ali’s justness, my father began to cry and said, “My son! You have witnessed the most excellent person from amongst the people”.

Imam Ali was not only a man of one of the highest calibers, but he is a model and a guide for anyone who wishes to stride towards betterment. His empathy toward humanity knew no bounds.

Narrated by a famous man, Ibn Abi Rafe’, that. he went to Imam Ali on Eid. He saw a bag being brought before the Imam, thinking it might contain jewels. The Imam opened the bag, it had dried pieces of bread, which he softened with water. Ibn Abi Rafe’ asked him why he sealed such food that nobody would care to steal. The Imam smiled and said: “I keep it sealed because my children try to substitute softer bread, containing oil or butter in it.” Ibn Abi Rafe’ said, “Has God prohibited you from eating better food?” He replied: “No, but I want to eat the kind of food which the poorest of this region can afford at least once a day. I shall improve the food I eat after I have improved their standard of life. I want to live, feel and suffer like them”.

“A person is either your brother in faith, or your equal in humanity”
– Imam Ali Ibn Abu Talib (as)



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