Imam Ali (a.s.) and the Caliphate
Ibn Abbas says: "Once when I visited Imam Ali, he was mending his
shoes. The Holy Imam asked me, 'What do you think will be the price of
this shoe?' I said, 'It has no value at all'. The Holy Imam then said,
'By Allah! To my mind this torn shoe is more valuable than my ruling over
the people provided I enforce the right and eradicate falsehood".
Even the issue of ruling was employed by Ali (a.s.) to serve the
Right, for he wanted the rule of the Message and not the person. That is
why he looked at the reality from the perspective of the Message, with
Allah, The Most Exalted, as his only concern, and safety of Islam and
Muslims as his only goals.
He says: "'I was surprised to see the people pour unto that person to
give him bay'ah; so I held my hand, until I saw the people heading
backwards and turning from Islam, calling for the annihilation of the
religion of Muhammad (p.), so I feared that if I did not support Islam
and its people, I would see its breakage and demolition, a disaster for
me which would be greater than losing my rule over you, which was after
all only few days long, and that it would vanish as a mirage vanishes or
clouds disperse ". And in another situation he said: I will remain
peaceful as long as the affairs of Muslim are secured.
Thus, his opposition, was no in no way personal. It aimed at serving
the right, which made him help those who denied his right with advice and
council, to the extent that it was said: “Had it not been for Ali, Omar
would surely have perished”. He did that because this is the attitude
Islam expects and demands from every believer.
Ali (a.s.) the Caliph
When the Muslims pledged their alliance to him and he started to rule,
his ruling represented what the Messenger(p.) had set as an example of.
He stood with the Right and abided by the Shariah of Allah, The Most
Exalted, . That is why he was strong and decisive.
But he believed in dialogue and opened his heart to those who revolted
against him. In a dialogue with Talha and Zabair, we find him saying: You
complain of such minor affairs, and neglect major things [done for you].
Can you tell me of an instance of my depriving you of your rights or of a
single thing that was your due, but I withheld it from you, or of a
single case brought before me for judgment but I failed to give a just
decision, or of a situation in which I gave an incorrect decree?
When they said no, Imam Ali (a.s.) asked them: ''What is it that you
so disapprove of in me that you seek other than me?"
They said: "you made our share of allowance the same as the others;
you made us equal to those who are not like us regarding the booty
bestowed upon us by Allah through our swords and spears, and which we
charged our horses and men, upon which our mission was established, and
which we took by force from those who reluctantly look at Islam”
"By Allah I never craved for the caliphate or authority. All of you
invited me to accept it, and when I did, I looked into the Book of Allah,
The Most Exalted, and to what we had been ordered to do, and I followed
it, as well as the traditions of the Messenger of Allah (p.), and I
exemplified it. In following those, I never needed your opinion, or the
opinion of anybody else. Nor was there a judgment, which I knew not so as
to need your consultation or other Muslims. Had there been such a need I
would have turned not away from you or from the others.
"As to what you say about equal distribution of wealth, I should say it
is not my opinion which I follow, nor is it a desire of mine to control.
It is what you and I found the Messenger of Allah doing. There, too, I
needed no help from you, since Allah, The Most Exalted, had already
ordained its dividends. Therefore, neither you nor anyone else are
justified in blaming me for this. May Allah, The Most Exalted, guide our
hearts and yours to the truth and grant us patience. May Allah, The Most
Exalted, have mercy upon him who, when he sees the truth, helps it to
spread, who, when he sees inequity, rejects it, and who rightly backs his
This is the logic of Ali (a.s.) , it is the calm but decisive logic of
the Right, even when old companions of the Prophet(p.) ask for certain
Then when they declared war against him and brought the Mother of
Believers, Aisha, with them, he tried to avoid the war in every possible
way, but he had to go to war in the end to uphold the general order of
He also did not go to war with Muawiyah, until the latter wanted to
rule Syria as independent from the caliphate, challenging the authority
of Imam Ali (a.s.) which was given to him both by Allah, The Most
Exalted, and by the people through their pledge of alliance.
And when the khawarij protested, because he accepted arbitration, he
did not harm or fight them. He only fought them when they killed Khabab
and his wife, for he had to restore order, after they had turned to
Thus, Ali (a.s.) did not fight anybody because he opposed him. He gave
the opposition the right to ask and protest. But when they undermined the
general order he had to interfere. It has been reported that one of the
Khawarij was listening to the Imam (a.s.), and he exclaimed: "May God
fight this unbeliever for he is so well vested in jurisprudence". The
people wanted to kill him but the Imam (a.s.) asked them to take it easy,
for you either curse him back or you forgive his sin.
The Imam (a.s.) used to abide by Allah's rulings in his personal
affairs too. His entire life was dedicated to the commitment to the
Right, whether towards his personal affairs, or in the Muslims, general
affairs. He used to say in this context: The weak among you is dignified
until I bring him back his rights, and the strong among you is weak till
I force him to restore the rights of others.
Ali (a.s.) does not recognize class divisions in Islam. He believes
that the strong and the weak are equal before the Right. He has learnt
this from the Prophet (p.) who used to say: What destroyed those who
became before you was that if the noble amongst them stole, they would
leave him, and if the weak stole they would inflict the penalty upon Him.
By Allah, if Fatima daughter of Muhammad stole, I would cut off her hand.