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Ali in Sufi Culture

Ali in Terms of His Historical Personality

Ali wholeheartedly believed in Allah and His Messenger and embraced Islam, and he was praised by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Ali fulfilled all the duties of Islam, performing the salah (daily prayers) five times a day, fasting in the months of Ramadan, carrying out the pilgrimage and the other principles of Islam; he was a worshipper; he was a zahid (ascetic) who preferred a modest life over being a servant of worldly things; he was also a dhakir (one who performs the dhikr - chanting the names of Allah in His glorification), he was one who recited the Holy Quran daily; he was a faqih (expert in canonical law) and a scholar whose fatwas were demanded on many issues; he was a mujahid who continued to carry out jihad till his death.

Ali was a mujtahid (expounder of Islamic law) with whom the first two caliphs consulted for his opinions on religious and intellectual matters; he was appointed as a member of the council by Umar and his opinions were taken into account in important issues. He was master of rhetorical skills. He was extremely intelligent and perceptive. He was the first person to determine the grammatical rules of Arabic.

Strong affection was shown to Ali because of the praise given to him by Prophet Muhammad. As a matter of fact, Ali was a figure who deeply affected Islamic Sufi thought. His intellect, morality, asceticism and taqwa (piety), in other words the importance he gave to religious life, have been taken as examples by Sufis. Junayd al-Baghdadi (d. 297/909) in the following words states that Ali has an important place in Sufi culture: "May Allah bless him; if  Ali had not been obliged to be involved in the battles, he would have taught us many things about Sufi thought. This is because he was blessed with knowledge of Allah...           

Ali as a member of Futuwwat

The organization of Futuwwat, an organization of gallantry, brotherhood, honesty and trust, took its name from the gallantry, honesty and reliability of Ali. He is one of the best examples of being the first place forward when service is concerned and the last to come forward when worldly rewards are concerned. However, Ali never exploited his youth, gallantry or his affinity with Prophet Muhammad.

The fact that Ali was an example of the concept of futuwwat was established with the expression "La fata illa Ali la sayfa illa Zulfiqar". This expression, denoting the gallantry of Ali, became the refrain of the Zulfikarnames that were recited in the dervish monasteries, and the "symbol" of the Janissary Corps. The futuwwat of Ali represented his bravery and gallantry as well as his morality and virtue. The most significant works in which real examples were given regarding the futuwwat of Ali are without a doubt the Cenknames. The Cenknames are extensively read in the dervish monasteries and village chambers, and the epics describing the struggles of Ali for spreading of Islam have been engraved on the minds and hearts of people. These epics were greatly influential in the development of such emotions as bravery, gallantry, sacrifice and faithfulness identifying Ali with the religion and faith. The people who took his morality as an example became role models themselves. Ali's great efforts to spread Islam both with his life and his possessions profoundly influenced the perceptions of Sufi life. In parallel with this point, Khwaja Ahmad Yasavi (d. 562/1116) described Ali's contributions and bravery in the spread of Islam with the following lines:

If I were to put it into words, I would say that Ali is the lion of Allah
Because he punishes the non-believers with his sword.
He invites non-believers to believe in Allah;
Giving strength to the existence of Islam.
 

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