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  • 10/31/2012

The Benefit which the Shi'ah Derived from the Caliphate of Ali

kaba- imam ali (a.s)

During the four years and nine months of his caliphate, Ali was not able to eliminate the disturbed conditions which were prevailing throughout the Islamic world, but he was successful in three fundamental ways:

1. As a result of his just and upright manner of living he revealed once again the beauty and attractiveness of the way of life of the Holy Prophet, especially to the younger generation. In contrast to the imperial grandeur of Mu'awiyah, he lived in simplicity and poverty like the poorest of people. [1] He never favored his friends or relatives and family above others, [2] nor did he ever prefer wealth to poverty or brute force to weakness.

2. Despite the cumbersome and strenuous difficulties which absorbed his time, he left behind among the Islamic community a valuable treasury of the truly divine sciences and Islamic intellectual disciplines. [3] Nearly eleven thousands of his proverbs and short sayings on different intellectual, religious and social subjects have been recorded. [4] In his talks and speeches he expounded the most sublime Islamic sciences in a most elegant and flowing manner. He established Arabic grammar and laid the basis for Arabic literature. [5]

He was the first in Islam to delve directly into the questions of metaphysics (falsafah-i ilahi) in a manner combining intellectual rigor and logical demonstration. He discussed problems which had never appeared before in the same way among the metaphysicians of the world.[6] Moreover, he was so devoted to metaphysics and gnosis that even in the heat of battle he would carry out intellectual discourse and discuss metaphysical questions.[7]

3. He trained a large number of religious scholars and Islamic savants, among whom are found a number of ascetics and gnostics who were the forefathers of the Sufis, such men as Uways al-Qarani, Kumayl al-Nakha'i, Maytham al-Tammar and Roshaid al-Hajari. These men have been recognized by the later Sufis as the founders of gnosis in Islam. Others among his disciples became the first teachers of jurisprudence, theology, Qur’anic commentary and recitation. [8]


1. For instance, see the traditional commentaries which describe the circumstances at the time of the revelation of these verses: "The chiefs among them go about, exhorting: Go and be staunch to your gods!" (Qur’an, XXXVIII, 7) and "And if We had not made thee wholly firm thou mightest almost have inclined unto them a little" (Qur’an, XVII, 74 and "Who would have had thee compromise, that they may compromise." (Qur’an, LXVIII, 9)

2. Muruj al-dhahab, vol.ll, p.431; Ibn Abi'l-Hadid, vol.l, p.181.

3. Abu'l-Fidl', vol. I, p.182; Ibn Abi'l-Hadid. vol.l, p.181.

4. Nahj al-balaghah and hadiths found in books of both Sunnis and Shi'ites.

5. Kitab al-ghurar wa'l-durar of Amidi, Sidon, 1349.

6. Such works as the Nahw (Grammar) of Suyuti, Tehran, 1281 etc., vol.ll, Ibn Abi'l-Hadid, vol.l, p.6.

7 See Nahj al-balaghah.

8. Amidst the fighting of the Battle of Jamal a Bedouin asked Ali: "Oh, Commander of the Faithful! You say God is one?" People attacked him from two sides and said: 'Don't you see that Ali is worried and his mind occupied with so many diverse matters? Why do you engage in a discussion with him?" Ali told his companions. "Leave this man alone. My goal in fighting with these people is none other than to clarify true doctrines and the ends of religion." Then he set out to answer the Bedouin. Bihar al-anwar, vol.ll, p.65.

Taken from the book: SHI'A

By Allamah Seyyed Muhammad Hussein Tabatabai

Other links:

The Origin and Growth of Shiism

The Cause of the Separation of the Shiite Minority from the Sunni Majority

The Two Problems of Succession and Authority in Religious Sciences

Divine Designation

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