MALIK-AL-ASHTAR: The Fearless Tiger
“He was to me what I was to the Holy Prophet.” Imam Ali (‘A)
Malik-Al-Ashtar was a disciple and companion of Hazrat Ali (‘A). Malik bin al-Haarth al-Nakhay belonged to an old Yamani tribe, and was head of the Bani Nukha’s clan. He embraced Islam during the time of the Prophet (SAW) and became one of the loyal followers of Islam. He took part and fought bravely in the battle of Yarmook. He displayed his valor in stopping the Romans’ attacks against the Muslim army. His eye was hit with sword in this event, leaving a scar on its lower lid. Thus, he was called al-Ashtar.
Malik was a brave warrior who had acted as a commander-in -chief of Hazrat Ali’s armies. Hazrat Ali had trained him in the principles of administration and jurisprudence.
His valor had earned him the name of ‘the fearless tiger’. He created fear in the ranks of the enemies of Islam.
On ordinary days, he looked like a poor man, wearing simple clothing and walked humbly. Thus, most people didn’t recognize him.
Malik was devoted to Hazrat Ali ('A). This earned Mu’awiyah’s (Caliph at that time) enmity. Malik Ashtar was steadfast and a determined man. He invited people to follow Hazrat Ali (‘A). He did not kill the wounded and didn’t chase those who run away from the battlefield.
He was given the trust by Imam Ali (‘A) to translate into action the Imam’s famous letter to him, which according to the Arab Christian jurist, poet and philosopher, Abdul Masiah-i Anthaki, (who died about the beginning of the 20th century) is far superior and better code than the ones handed down by Prophet Musa (‘A) and Hammurabi. It explains what human administration should be in relation to the Divine Ruler, God. Malik Ashtar followed Imam Ali’s good behavior. Imam Ali (‘A) held Malik dear to his heart, for he was God-fearing.
When Hazrat Ali (‘A) appointed Malik as Governor of Egypt,
Mu’awiyah was anxious, for he knew that Malik would save Egypt. Mu’awiyah, thus, plotted against him. He thought about a way to kill Malik, assigning someone to poison Malik.
When Malik understood that the honey given to him was poisoned and felt the pangs of death, he said: “In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. We belong to Allah, and we’ll go back to him!” He faced death with the certainty of a believer, who knew that his way was Islam and his destination, Paradise.
His untimely death brought great sorrow to Hazrat Ali ('A), who expressing his grief had said, “He was to me what I was to the Holy Prophet.”
Malik Ashtar lived a life committed to jihad (struggle). His exemplary behavior will always remain as a model for the young Muslim men everywhere!
Malik Ashtar had said: “Death is that in which man is pleased with abasement. And life is that in which man dies and becomes a martyr.”