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Ali: The Secret Door of Knowledge

Night had opened its treasure chest and poured out all its stars. While drifting towards the earth slowly like snowflakes, they would soon cover the mountains, plains and deserts; while floating towards the rivers and seas, they were about to hit the sea shores.

That night a rain of stars was expected instead of a sand storm; the wind was not going to allow him to see the dazzling silver specks this time. As the witness tried to see the stars falling with his open eyes, the wind would blow the stars towards the sky. At the moment he thought he would be totally disappointed, the wind would hold him from the hand and take him to a reality as beautiful as a dream. Someone holding his beard was standing on the slope of a high hill where stars had fallen.

He was writhing with pain as if he had been bitten by a snake and crying out, "My Lord! My Lord!" He must have been blaming the world for his tears, for he dressed the world in prisoner's clothing and began talking to it: "You gave me false pride; you appeared attractive. In reality you're not like that at all. Then leave me alone and busy yourself with others! Because I tried you three times. Life is short, your conversation is bad and it is so easy for you to put people in danger!"

The witness was Dirar el-Kinani and the ascetic was Ali. Saying, "The world turned its back and said farewell; the afterlife appeared. Know that today is a day to prepare for the race; tomorrow is the day of the race. Is there no one who wants to repent before death? Is there no one who wants to work on his own behalf before that day of violent need arrives?" Ali was shaken and shook others.

While he was only twelve years old, it was this loyal child who had said, "I'll help you!" when everyone else responded to the Prophet Muhammad's request for help with silence. He was the first person to pray with the Prophet! He was the one who had lain in the Prophet's bed and confused the enemies! When everyone chose a spiritual brother after the Migration, he was chosen by Muhammad (pbuh)! He was the only mate of Fatima.

He was both the Prophet's son-in-law and his flag bearer. He was the lion mentioned in the Prophet's words, "I am going to give this flag to such a man that Allah will grant victory through his hand. He loves Allah and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and Allah and the Prophet love him." He was the shield rising before the Prophet at Badr, the Ditch, and Hayber! He was the Muslim who broke the idols at the Kaaba when Mecca was conquered! He was the deputy left by the Prophet in Medina in the Tabuk military expedition. He was the scribe of revelation who said, "The Quran is a cure." He was the hand that held the pen at the Hudeybiya treaty!

Yes, it was Ali who rebuked the world on a starry night. It was Ali who tied a rock to his stomach from hunger on days when he distributed forty thousand dinars in charity! It was Ali who drew water from a well until his hands were swollen in return for a handful of dates which he took to Muhammad's (pbuh) house to share! Seeing old clothing and a new heart as satisfactory, it was Ali who had to sell his sword in order to buy some clothes! He said with a rising voice, "Who will buy this sword from me? I swear to Allah who brings seeds to fruition, I eliminated the sadness on the Prophet's face many times with this sword. If I had enough money to buy clothing, I would not sell my sword!" Perhaps it is Ali who not only put up his sword for sale, but maybe the world, too! According to him the world was a deceitful lie, a confusing dream and a meaningless poem.

Even when heaps of goods are living, they are dead. Only those who do not hold on to the world with their hearts could see this.  They bought what is permanent with what is passing, and they made preparations for the journey. For this reason he said, "Prepare for death; it is near to you!" He continued, "Awaken when you are called and, knowing the world is not a motherland, become a community that exchanges it for the afterlife!"

Ali said this, but the people were baring their teeth to Allah's Lion and giving orders to their servants to silence those who invited others to the afterlife. While drawing arrows from their pouches and swords from their sheathes, they were hiding behind the sacredness of spears. But during the return from a pilgrimage, didn't the Prophet hold his hand and say, "Whoever's friend I am, he is his friend, too.

Didn't he say, "My God! Love those who love him and be the enemy of his enemies!" After the Hayber battle didn't he ask, "Shall I point out to you someone who will not stray as long as you support him?" and then point to Ali? Did he not ask as a last request from this lover of the Prophet and door to the city of knowledge that he wash his corpse at his death?

When the Master of the Universe met his Lord, his dear cousin Ali was at his blessed head. Crying, he and the Prophet's close relatives Abbas and his two sons had just completed the duty of washing the body, along with Usame b. Zayd, and it was time to wrap the Prophet in a winding sheet.

At that moment which anguished their hearts Ali said, "May my beloved parents be sacrificed for you! The apostleship that was not ended with the death of others and the knowledge and news of the heavens have ended with your death... Death cannot be rejected and put off. If you had not commanded patience and prohibited grief, we would have dried up our tear ducts... Mention us in your Lord's presence and don't forget us!"
****

No death left as great a vacuum in this world as the death of the Last Prophet. No separation increased loneliness this much. Those who loved him loved every word and memory of him.

They always carefully protected these trusts which they had placed in the deep lockets of their loneliness. "LOVING HIM MORE THAN THEIR OWN LIVES" took a place in their lives as action, not just words. For this reason, they wanted to protect their treasures in the same way. They feared that the heavens' doors of mercy might close if they added or detracted something from him. They accepted what he accepted and rejected what he rejected. They took the matters they presented to him when he was alive to the hadiths after his death. They never hesitated to retract their step when they remembered something they had forgotten earlier. They melted their doubts in his light which encompasses all time. They held on to branches of light that extended to their own time. Actually he had said everything. A little care, a little discernment, a little foresight would suffice to dissipate the shadows of copper attached to history's golden age.

The greatest loneliness, the weight on the Prophet's shoulders, was placed first on Abu Bakr, and then Umar and Uthman. During their terms of office fate granted the chair of spiritual knowledge and the essence of knowledge to Ali. Umar said, "From among us Ali was the one who made the most appropriate decisions;" he took refuge in Allah from a difficult issue surfacing when Ali was not there.  In fact, it was Ali who recommended to Umar the Hegira calendar which is accepted as the beginning of Islamic history. Undoubtedly his knowledgeable consultation played an important role in the success of the Righteous Caliphs before him. He also guided scholars of the time. Saying, "Tell people things they can understand," he was opening a golden window to scholarly ethics. According to him, what people did not understand was their enemy. For this reason, one should either possess knowledge that could convince people or one should remain silent so as not to prepare a foundation for denial. Maybe for this reason Ali had a page of hadith in the sheath of his sword. This sheath where knowledge and action came together carried hadiths he personally heard from the Prophet in regard to war jurisprudence.

Eventually fate carried Ali to the caliphate. Times were difficult when his door was knocked upon. Saying, "Leave me alone and find someone else!  Events are going to take place that are mind-boggling and heart-wrenching. I prefer to be an advisor, not the commander. I will pledge allegiance to whomever you choose," he rejected the offer made by the murderers of Uthman. When Talha and Zubayr, in particular, and other companions refused the offer of caliphate made to them, the rebels gathered the Medina people together and threatened, "If we can't convince one of you to be caliph, we will kill all of you!" Eventually, taking into consideration the hazardous situation the community had fallen into, Ali was forced to accept the caliphate.

Ali's caliphate lasted five years and three months. He encountered such great tests that his sword never entered its sheath. The fire kindled by the murder of Uthman grew by leaps and bounds and, unfortunately, Aisha, the beloved wife of the Prophet, eventually threw Ali, the favorite of the Ahl-i Bayt, into the very middle of this fire. When the Prophet was alive, he had pointed to this danger and one day he turned to his wives and said, "If you only knew for which one of you the dogs will howl at Hav'eb." The army going to Basra arrived at the Hav'eb Waters and the dogs began to howl. This sound made Aisha anxious. When she learned from her guide that the place they were passing was the "Hav'eb Waters," she began to wail. She read the verse which is recited when news of a death is given, "Inna lillahi ve inna ileyhi râciûn." Then shouting, "So it was me the Prophet meant!" she made her camel kneel and she shouted, "Oh, mercy, turn me around!" Those from this army, which had set out to propose to Ali that Uthman's murderers be found and punished, who feared that the army would disperse, tried to convince Aisha that this place was not Hav'eb Waters. On the other hand, spreading the news that Ali had set out with a great army, and in spite of the fact that Aisha had not budged for twenty-four hours and wanted to return home, they set out towards Basra.

Actually Ali did not want to do battle. Before his army reached Basra, he sent al-Ka'ka b. Amr to Basra as an envoy and he wanted him to find a means to prevent the conflict. Al-Ka'ka's recommendation, "Let's not destroy the unity of the ummah," was accepted, and the winds of peace and brotherhood had begun to blow again. However, there was someone who was upset with this situation: Ibn Saba! For union of the Muslims would mean his own end. In this case, the punishment of Uthman's murderers would be given by these two groups of Muslims. For this reason, Ibn Saba and his followers found a solution by attacking Aisha's side one night while everyone was sleeping. Suddenly the fire of dissention again flared up. Although Ali and Aisha tried to calm down their followers, they were not successful.

And as a final solution, Ali rode his horse to the middle of the battlefield and stopped there. Calling Zubayr from the ranks of Aisha, he reminded him that the Prophet had said that in a conflict between Ali and Zubayr, Zubayr would be wrong. Following this, Zubayr left the battlefield and, seeing this, Talha also began to leave the battlefield. However, a poisonous arrow hit Talha, and the fire of dissention that had again begun to abate suddenly flared up again.

****

If while going to battle a person loses his armor, he has another armor. If there is someone who responded to the question, "Shall I wait at his side?" with the answer, "A person's guard is death," it was Aliyyu'l-Murtaza.

If in wars where he was victorious, his face was full of sadness, not joy, then Talha and Zubayr were the ones killed, and the Prophet's wife was defeated. A little while ago, crying, he was burying those who had fought against him. He went to the Mother of Muslims and asked how she was. He sent her off to Medina accompanied by her brother Muhammad b. Abu Bakr and forty women from the Basra notables. If only everything had ended here. If only everything had begun here. If only the fourth righteous caliph had been given allegiance. Approximately seven months later a new disaster occurred: Siffin! It was such an event that Ali lost his armor while going there. He dropped it like a handkerchief and only remembered it after the battle. He remembered when he saw it on a Christian. "This armor is mine!" he offered. When the Christian denied it, the Kufe Qadi Shureyh asked for a witness from Ali. When one of the witnesses was his son Hasan, the Qadi said, "It is not legally acceptable for a child to bear witness for its father." He asked for another witness from Ali. Rather than disappointing Ali, Qadi Shureyh's fastidiousness pleased him. He smiled throughout the hearing. The accused remained in amazement in view of them. After getting the armor he took a few steps and stopped. Turning around he said, "The judgment made by this court can only be a prophet's judgment," and he became Muslim. Saying that the armor belonged to Ali, he returned it. As for Ali, he did not take the armor back, but gave it to his new Muslim brother and, furthermore, he gave him a horse as a gift.

Siffin is the place where the fire that was spreading from branch to branch made ashes of 70,000 Muslims in three months. It is the place where Muawiya tested Ali. When pages of revelation were hung on the tips of spears and it was said, "Let Allah's book be a judge between us," what else could Ali due but stop the war he was winning! However, "Discord is more violent than war" (Al-Baqara 191). Even if judges were appointed, in this kind of environment justice cannot prevail. Even worse, a new group of rebels called the Kharwarijs became enemies to Ali, although they were on his side, just because he stopped the war and made reconciliation. Ali became devastated in view of this. The weight of the caliphate cracked on his back. In order to suppress the rebellion, he had to withdraw his sword again. Even though he defeated the rebels, the Prophet's words came true. Once when Ali became ill, Abu Bakr and Umar shouted, "Oh, Prophet of God! Ali is dying!" The Prophet replied, "No, he will not die now. He will be martyred." On one Ramadan morning while going to prayer, death found Ali in the disguise of a poisonous dagger. The dagger was in the hand of a Kharwarij named Ibn al-Muljem. Ali told his son Hasan the following: "Feed him and give him a place to rest. If I live, I will punish him or forgive him. If I die, punish him, but don't go beyond your boundaries and have the blood of Muslims on your hands. Because Allah dislikes those who exceed their boundaries!" When his condition worsened, Ali called his sons again. After a talk sealed by the sentence, "Do not allow anything to prevent you from being on the path of Allah," he approached the border of the next world reading a verse from the Quran. Then saying, "La Ilahe illallah Muhammedun Rasulullah," he stepped into his home in heaven.

 

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