Rasheed Ahmad Chughtai
Published in Pressreader & in Daily Messenger
“…Remember, Malik, that amongst your subjects there are two kinds of people: those who have the same religion as you have – they are brothers to you, and those who have religions other than yours – they are human beings like you. Men of either category suffer from the same weaknesses and disabilities that human beings are inclined to, they commit sins, indulge in vices either intentionally or foolishly and unintentionally, without realizing the enormity of
their deeds. Let your mercy and compassion come to their rescue and help in the same way and to the same extent that you expect God to show mercy and forgiveness to you (a letter to Malik al-Ashtar) From the second half of 658, MUAWIYA, the governor of Syria, had been steadily escalating violence against the dominions of Ali. Some of his inroads reached Ainat-Tamar and Anbar, only 170 miles north of Kufa. The men of Kufa were so unwilling to fight against the Syrians that Ali found it impossible to take effective punitive action. Muawiya himself led a raid right across the Jazira from Raqqa to Mosul, and met no resistance anywhere. At last, Ali declared in the mosque of Kufa
that he would leave the city with the few of his faithful followers in an attempt to halt the Syrian aggression against Iraq, even if it cost him his life. This threat awakened the citizens of Kufa to the specter of being left leaderless if Ali was killed fighting against the Syrians. They were stung into action and they began to mobilize for defense.
The battle of Siffin had been the first trial of strength between Ali and Muawiya. Militarily, the battle had been a near-victory for Ali, but politically, it had become a stalemate. After some time, it began to appear that Ali would take up the challenge of Muawiya. But just then Ali was assassinated in the mosque of Kufa, and the
second trial of strength never took place. According to the historical accounts some of which are quite plausible, three Kharijites met in Kufa (some say in Makkah) to hatch a conspiracy. Each of them volunteered to kill each of the three leading political figures of the Dar-ul-Islam – Ali, Muawiya and Amr bin Aas. By killing them, it is alleged, they hoped to put an end to civil wars in Islam, and to restore peace to the Muslim umma. One of the three conspirators was a certain Abdur Rahman bin Muljam. He stayed in Kufa to kill Ali, and the other two went to Syria and Egypt to kill Muawiya and Amr bin Aas. The plans of the would-be assassins of Muawiya and Amr bin Aas, according to the stories in circulation, went awry, and they were captured and were executed. The Kharijis had been defeated at Nehrwan, and most of them had perished in the battle but a few had escaped. Abdur Rahman bin Muljam was one of those who hadescaped. He was consumed with the desire to kill Ali, and was in quest of an
opportunity to do so. By a coincidence, he met a Khariji woman, one Qattama, whose father and brothers had also been killed in Nehrwan, and she too had nursed anundying hatred of Ali.
Abdur Rahman fell in love with Qattama, and proposed marriage to her. She toldhim that the price of her hand was the head of Ali ibn Abi Talib. This only
strengthened Abdur Rahman in his resolution. He promised his inamorata the moon
if she asked for it, but she said that nothing was of interest to her if she could not get
the head of Ali ibn Abi Talib!
Abdur Rahman bin Muljam carefully worked out his plans to kill Ali. A few other
trusted Kharijis also volunteered their services to him, and together they rehearsed
the assassination. Abdur Rahman bin Muljam took one extra precaution – he put his
sword in deadly poison, and let it soak in it for three days.
On the morning of the 19th of Ramadan of the year 40 A.H., Ali came into the Great
Mosque of Kufa, and called Adhan (the call to prayer). He took his place in the
alcove, and moments later, the worshippers began to arrive. They stood behind him
in serried ranks, and the prayer began. Standing in the front row, with other
worshippers, were Abdur Rahman bin Muljam and his confederates. They were
watching Ali’s movements. In the folds of their cloaks, they were carrying swords
burnished to a high sheen, and soaked in poison.
Just when Ali touched the ground with his forehead for sajda, Abdur Rahman bin
Muljam stepped out of his row and crept into the alcove. And just when Ali lifted
his head from the ground, ibn Muljam struck the fatal blow at his forehead with such
deadly force that it split open.
Blood squirted from Ali’s forehead in several jets, and he exclaimed:
“By the Lord of the Kaaba, I
(“Fiztu wa rabbil Ka’ba”!)
The members of the congregation realized what had happened, and as soon as they
concluded the prayer, they surrounded him. His sons, Hasan and Husain, carried him
to his house. A physician came, and tried to dress the ghastly wound but could not
stop the bleeding. The blow of the sword was fatal anyway, but the poison from its
blade was also spreading rapidly in his body. The Arab historians say that it was the
second time that Ali was wounded in the forehead, the first time being when in the
battle of the Trench fought in 627, the sword of Amr bin Abd Wudd cut through his
shield and helmet, and struck it. His forehead still bore the scar left by the sword of
This is the account left by the Arab historians of the assassination of Ali, and it has
been accepted as authentic by the vast majority of Muslims.
Though this account has the authority of “consensus” of the historians behind it, its
authenticity, nevertheless, is suspect on the grounds of “circumstantial evidence.”
There are too many “coincidences” in it.
No one questions the fact that it was Ibn Muljam who killed Ali. But was it his own
idea to kill him? It is quite probable that the idea was planted in his mind by someone
else who used subliminal techniques for doing so. Ibn Muljam didn’t know that he
was only a cat’s paw, and he went ahead and killed Ali.
At this time no one in Dar-ul-Islam was more interested in the assassination of Ali
than Muawiya. The plot to kill Ali, the skill displayed in its execution, and its
success, show the touch of consummate subtlety and a high degree of
professionalism which were characteristic of Muawiya alone, whereas Ibn Muljam
was nothing more than a bumpkin. Muawiya employed the same “skill” in removing from the scene, real or fancied threats to his own security and power, on numerous
other occasions in later times, with the same results.
Muawiya’s spies had informed him that Ali was making preparations for the invasion
of Syria. In the battle of Siffin, Muawiya had not responded to chivalrous treatment
by Ali. This time, therefore, Ali had decided, not to fight a lingering action but a
swift one that would quell Muawiya’s rebellion, and would restore peace to the
embattled Empire of the Muslims. Muawiya also knew that Ali had, this time, both
the ability and the resolution, to bring the conflict to a speedy and successful
conclusion. His only hope, therefore, for his safety in the future, as in the past, lay in the
succor that he could get from his old and trusted “allies” – treachery and intrigue.
He, therefore, mobilized them, and they didn’t disappoint him.
Muawiya made the act of the assassination of Ali look absolutely spontaneous and
convincing by making himself and his crony, Amr bin Aas, the potential and
intended “victims” of the conspiracy and fanaticism of the Khariji anarchists. But
both of them “escaped” assassination by a rare “stroke of good luck.” One of them
“fell ill” on the day he was to be “assassinated,” and did not go into the mosque; the
other did not fall ill but went into the mosque wearing his armor under his cloak.
He was “attacked” by his “assassin” but was “saved” by his armor. “Falling ill” would
have been an indiscreet act, and would have exposed both “victims.” In this manner,
“illness” and the armor “saved” both Muawiya and Amr bin Aas from the daggers of
their Khariji “assassins.”
But Ali was not so “lucky.” He did not fall ill, and he did not put on his armor when
entering the mosque. In the mosque, Ibn Muljam was awaiting him with a sword
soaked in poison. When Ali rose from sajda, he struck at his forehead, and cleft it.
The blow proved to be fatal.
Most of the Arab historians wrote histories that were “inspired” by Muawiya and
his successors. He was of course free to inject any account into those histories. He,
therefore, managed to save himself and Amr bin Aas from the indictment of history,
and it was Ibn Muljam alone who went down in history books as the real and the
the only villain of the crime.
By a coincidence, the assassination of Ali took place on the eve of his invasion of
Though the Khariji anarchists had aimed their daggers at all three of the leading
political figures of the Muslim world, viz., Ali, Muawiya, and Amr bin Aas, by a
coincidence, the latter two escaped the attempts on their lives, and Ali alone was
By still another coincidence, the two men who escaped, i.e., Muawiya and Amr bin
Aas were intimate friends of each other, and both of them were – coincidence again
– the mortal enemies of the third, i.e., Ali, who was the only one to be killed.
There are too many mysterious coincidences that saved the lives of Muawiya and
Amr bin Aas but took the life of Ali. Ali spent the time still left to him in prayer and
devotions; in dictating his will; in giving instructions to his sons, ministers and
generals regarding the conduct of the government; and in urging them all never to
forget the old, the sick, the poor, the widows and the orphans at any time.
Ali declared that his elder son, Hasan, would succeed him as the head of the
Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, and as the sovereign of all Muslims. Though Ali was
steadily weakening from the loss of blood and from the action of poison, all his
faculties were sharp and clear right to the last moment. To all those people who came
to see him, he said that they ought to be aware, at all times, of the presence of their
Creator in their lives, to love Him, to serve Him, and to serve His Creation.
The poison had done its work, and on the morning of the 21st of Ramadan of 40
A.H., Ali ibn Abi Talib left this world to go into the presence of his Creator whom
he had loved and served all his life. He was “God-intoxicated.” His greatest ambition
in life was to wait upon his Creator, every moment of his existence, and he realized
it, and this is the meaning of his exclamation in the alcove of the mosque when he
felt the edge of the sword at his forehead: “By the Lord of the Kaaba, I am
Hasan and Husain washed the body of their father, draped it in a shroud, offered the
funeral prayers for it, and then buried it silently at midnight at Najaf Ashraf, at some
distance from Kufa. No markings were placed on the grave, and the grave-site was
kept a secret, as desired by Ali himself.
Ali, Islam’s greatest saint, hero, statesman, philosopher and martyr, had left this
world, and the world was not to find a man sublime like him to all eternity.
Many among the Muslims were the mourners of Ali’s death but none mourned him
more dolorously than the Dhimmis (the Jews, the Christians, and the Magians). They
were utterly heart-broken. And when the sick, the disabled, the cripples, the orphans
and the widows in the empire heard that he had died, they felt that their world had
collapsed. He had been a father to them all. He had taken them all by the hand. He
had taken them all into his prayers. Many among them did not know until after his
death that it was he who had fed them and had taken care of them. He had taken all
mankind into his grasp.
Whereas Ali was accessible at all times to the poor and the weak, his own greatest
anxiety and fear were lest any of them be inaccessible to him. It was only in his
dominion that the Dhimmis (non-Muslims), the powerless and the defenseless
enjoyed complete security. No one could terrorize them or exploit them. With his
death, their security was gone forever!
It is a truism that exercise of power cannot be combined with saintly purity, since
once a man assumes responsibility for public affairs, the moral simplicities within
which it is just possible, with luck, to be able to lead a private life, are soon hideously
complicated to an extent that precludes all clear distinctions between right and
wrong. This truism, however, has its own exception – in Ali. He upheld principle, in
public life as in private, regardless of cost. He invariably put the right thing ahead of
the smart thing, regardless of cost. The source of the principles which guided his
private and public life, was Al-Qur’an al-Majid as it was also the source of his
Ali has many critics and enemies but they cannot point out a single instance when
he deviated from a principle. They cannot point out any conflict between his thought
and speech on the one hand, or between his speech and deed on the other. He was
consistently consistent in thought, speech and action.
Ali represented the ultimate triumph of character and ideology. He was a rare
combination of love of God, devotion to duty, strength tempered with tenderness,
symmetry of disposition, and inflexible integrity. His greatest legacy to the world of
Islam will remain forever his sublime character.
The Last Will of Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS)
Imam Ali’s (AS) last will to his sons Imam Hasan (AS) and Imam Hussain (AS) after
the attempt on his life by a stab from Ibn Muljam:
-My advice to you is to be conscious of Allah and steadfast in your religion. Do not
yearn for the world, and do not be seduced by it. Do not resent anything you have
missed in it. Proclaim the truth; work for the next world. Oppose the oppressor and
support the oppressed.
-I advise you, and all my children, my relatives, and whosoever receives this
message, to be conscious of Allah, to remove your differences, and to strengthen
your ties. I heard your grandfather, peace be upon him, say: “Reconciliation of your
differences is more worthy than all prayers and all fasting.”
-Fear Allah in matters concerning orphans. Attend to their nutrition and do not forget
their interests in the middle of yours.
-Fear Allah in your relations with your neighbors. Your Prophet often recommended
them to you, so much so that we thought he would give them a share in inheritance.
-Remain attached to the Quran. Nobody should surpass you in being intent on it, or
more sincere in implementing it. -Fear Allah in relation to your prayers. It is the
pillar of your religion.
-Fear Allah in relation to His House; do not abandon it as long as you live. It you
should do that you would abandon your dignity. -Persist in jihad in the cause of
Allah, with your money, your souls, and your tongue. -Maintain communication and
exchange of opinion among yourselves. Beware of disunity and enmity. Do not
desist from promoting good deeds and cautioning against bad ones. Should you do
that,the worst among you would be your leaders, and you will call upon Allah
-O Children of Abdul Mattaleb! Do not shed the blood of Muslims under the banner:
The Imam has been assassinated! Only the assassin should be condemned to death.
-If I die of this stab of his, kill him with one similar stroke. Do not mutilate him! I
have heard the Prophet, peace be upon him, say: “Mutilate not even a rabid dog.”