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Shawwal 23 Wednesday Hijrah 1443
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Title – The Message   Preface   Arabian Peninsula the Cradle of Islamic Culture   Arabia before Islam   Conditions of Roman and Iranian Empires   Ancestors of the Prophet   Birth of the Prophet   Childhood of the Prophet   Rejoining the Family   Period of Youth   From Shepherd to Merchant   From Marriage up to Prophethood   The First Manifestation of Reality   The First Revelation   Who were the First Persons to Embrace Islam?   Cessation of revelation   General Invitation   Judgement of Quraysh about the Holy Qur’an   The First Migration   Rusty Weapons   The Fiction of Gharaniq   Economic Blockade   Death of Abu Talib   Me’raj – The Heavenly Ascension   Journey to Ta’if   The Agreement of Aqabah   The Event of Migration   The Events of the First Year of Migration   Some Events of the First and Second years of Migration   The Events of the Second Year of Migration   Change of Qiblah   The Battle of Badr   Dangerous Designs of the Jews   The Events of the Third Year of Migration   The Events of the Third and Fourth years of Migration   The Jews Quit the Zone of Islam   The Events of the Fourth Year of Migration   The Events of the Fifth Year Of Migration   The Battle of Ahzab   The Last Stage of Mischief   The Events of the Fifth and Sixth years of Migration   The events of the Sixth Year of Migration   A Religious and Political Journey   The Events of the Seventh Year of Migration   Fort of Khayber the Centre of Danger   The Story of Fadak   The Lapsed ‘Umrah   The Events of the Eighth Year of Migration   The Battle of Zatus Salasil   The Conquest of Makkah   The Battle of Hunayn   The Battle of Ta’if   The Famous Panegyric of Ka’b Bin Zuhayr   The Events of the Ninth Year of Migration   The Battle of Tabuk   The Deputation of Thaqif goes to Madina   The Prophet Mourning for his Son   Eradication of Idol-Worship in Arabia   Representatives of Najran in Madina   The Events of the Tenth Year of Migration   The Farewell Hajj   Islam is completed by the Appointment of Successor   The Events of the Eleventh Year of Migration   A Will which was not written   The Last Hours of the Prophet  



Chapter 7: Ali’s Sense of Democracy


‘Ali acted towards the Khawarij with the utmost degree of liberality and democracy. He was the caliph and they were his subjects; every kind of punitive action was within his power, but he did not put them into prison, neither did he flog them; he did not even cut off their quota from the treasury (baitu ‘l-mal). He looked upon them in the same way as upon other individuals. This matter is no exception in the history of ‘Ali’s life, but it is something of which there are few examples in the world. Everywhere they were free to express their opinions, and ‘Ali and his companions freely opposed them with their own opinions and spoke to them. The two sides put forth their reasoning, and countered their opponent’s reasoning.

Maybe such a degree of freedom is without precedent in the world, in which a government acts towards its opponents with such a degree of democracy. They came into the mosques and disrupted ‘Ali’s speeches and sermons. One day, ‘Ali was speaking from the minbar when a man came forward and asked a question, and ‘Ali gave an impromptu answer. A Khawarij who was among the people called out: “May God kill this man; what a knowledgeable man he is!” The others wanted to hold him back, but ‘Ali ordered them to release him, saying: “It was only me he insulted.”

The Khawarij would not pray behind ‘Ali in communal prayers because they considered him a disbeliever, but they went to the mosque and refused to let `Ali alone, sometimes molesting him. One day, ‘Ali had stood up to pray and the people had stooped up behind him, when one of the Khawarij whose name was Ibn al-Kawwa’ shouted out, and read a verse from the Qur’an in allusion to ‘Ali:

This verse was addressed to the Prophet:

And indeed it has been revealed to thee and to those (prophets) before thee, “If thou associates’ (other gods with Allah), thy work shall surely fail and thou wilt be among the losers.” (az-Zumar, 39:65 )

Ibn al-Kawwa’ wanted to insinuate about `Ali by reciting this verse that:

“Yes, we know your past history in Islam! First you were a believer, the Prophet chose you as a brother, your selflessness shone out on the night of the Prophet’s escape from Mecca (laylatu ‘l-mabit) when you slept in the place of the Prophet in his bed, you put yourself forward as a lure for swords. Truly your service for Islam cannot be denied. But God also said to His Prophet: `If you associate (others with God) your work will come to naught.’ Now that you have become a disbeliever you have cancelled out your past deeds.”

What could `Ali do, faced with this, with this man’s voice shouting out the Qur’an? He remained silent until the man reached the end of the verse; and when he finished, ‘Ali continued with the prayer. Then Ibn al-Kawwa’ repeated the verse, and meanwhile `Ali fell silent again. He kept silent because it is a Qur’anic command that:

And when the Qur’an is recited, give you ear to it and be silent. (al-A’raf, 7:204)

And these are the proof for the fact that when the prayer leader is reciting the Qur’an, believers must be silent and listen.

After he had repeated the verse several times, wanting to disrupt the prayer, ‘Ali recited this verse:

So be thou patient: surely Allah’s promise is true; and let not those who have not sure faith make thee unsteady. (ar-Rum, 30:60)

Then he paid no more attention and continued with his prayer. 14

In the beginning, the Khawarij were peaceable, and contented themselves with merely criticizing and speaking openly. `Ali’s behavior with them was also just as we noted before, namely, he never caused them any trouble, not even cutting off their wages from the treasury (baitu ‘l-mal). However; as they began to despair of ‘Ali ever repenting, their activities gradually changed and they decided to bring about a revolution, so they gathered in the house of one of their brethren, who gave an aggressive and provocative speech in which he invited his friends to rise up in the name of “bidding to good and forbidding evil.” He said (after praise to God)

“I swear by God that it is not worthy of a group which has faith in a Merciful God and which adheres to the command of the Qur’an that the world should seem dearer to them than “bidding to good and forbidding evil” and speaking the truth, even though these (activities) may bring loss and involve danger; for everyone who incurs loss and danger in this world will be rewarded on the Day of the Resurrection with the felicity of God and the eternity of Paradise. O brothers! Let us go out from this city where injustice dwells (and go) to mountainous places or some other towns so that we can take a stand against these misguided innovations and put a stop to them.”

With this morale-raising and fiery speech, they became even fierier and went out form that place to try to bring about an uprising and a revolution. They threatened the security of the highways and took to marauding and sedition. Their aim was to weaken the government by this means, and to bring down the then existent rule.

Now it was no longer the time to leave them at liberty, for it was not a matter of the expression of beliefs, but of sabotage against public security and an armed uprising against the legal government. Thus ‘Ali pursued them and met them face to face on the banks of the Nahrawan. He made a speech in which he advised them and gave them an incontrovertible proof. Then he put the flag of true faith into the hands of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari as a sign that everyone who gathered round it was a true believer. Out of twelve thousand men, eight thousand turned back from Khawarijism while the remainder showed their obstinacy. They were severely beaten, and apart from a very small band none remained.


14. Sharh, Ibn Abi ‘l-Hadid, vol.6, p.311.

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