A Historic Look At The Death of Imam Ali

Imam Ali was struck on 19 Ramadan and succumbed to his wounds two days later on 21 Ramadan. We look at the history and background surrounding his death.

Imam Ali was struck on 19 Ramadan and succumbed to his wounds two days later on 21 Ramadan. We look at the history and background surrounding his death.

As one of the most important figures in Islamic history, Imam Ali’s death holds a lot of significance for Muslims. Imam Ali was struck with a sword to the head at fajr prayers, whilst he was performing his sujood on the 19th of Ramadan by a man known as ibn Muljim. The sword was laced with poison and penetrated Ali’s entire body. He passed away two days later at his home on the 21st of Ramadan and was buried in Najaf, Iraq by his children and close companions.

why was imam Ali killed?

The murder of any individual is premeditated and so it’s important to understand what led to his assassination.

The Death of Uthman bin Affan

Wilferd Madelung is a scholar of Islamic history and is a non-Muslim, which means he has no reason to be biased. In his book The Succession to Muhammad, he states that Muslims were unhappy with Uthman as a leader because he would refuse to acknowledge their grievances. Imam Ali had advised Uthman to listen to the people and solve their problems. As Uthman persisted in keeping a deaf ear, they stormed the palace in their masses and killed him. Imam Ali tried to prevent this from happening by sending his son Hasan to guard the doors to Uthman’s palace but ultimately there were too many people and they could not be held off.

Despite the efforts to prevent Uthman’s death, Muawiya and Aisha held Imam Ali responsible, who was later elected caliph after Uthman. There was no evidence in history to suggest Imam Ali was directly or indirectly involved in the murder.

The Battle of Siffin

The second civil war in the history of Islam is the Battle of Siffin fought by Imam Ali against a governor of his Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan.

The main reason the battle took place was that Muawyiya refused to acknowledge Imam Ali as a legitimate caliph. The battle did not see a conclusion and ended in an arbitration between the warring parties. In short, the purpose of the arbitration was to decide the disputed matter based on the Qur’an and the authentic narrations of the Prophet.

The arbitrator from Imam Ali’s camp was Abu Musa al-Ash’ari and from Muawiya’s side was Amr bin Aas. Both arbitrators agreed that Imam Ali and Muawiya do not deserve to be caliph or have any power in a Muslim government. When it came to announcing this agreement, Amr bin Aas backtracked. Ash’ari was the first to publicly give the verdict, however, when it was Amr bin Aas’s turn to confirm the verdict, he only agreed with the first part (that Imam Ali should not be caliph). He backtracked on saying the same thing about Muawiya and instead said the opposite i.e. Muawiya deserves leadership.

The arbitration that was supposed to be done based on the Qur’an and sunnah turned out to be a farce.

Imam Ali’s camp is enraged by the outcome of the arbitration

The camp of Imam Ali was unhappy with the outcome and blamed Ali for it. Imam Ali was never a fan of the arbitration. Not because he thinks matters shouldn’t be resolved using Qur’an and the sunnah but because he knew the opposing camp was planning to use the arbitration as a means of tricking people and getting what they wanted.

As a result, a group known as the khawarij emerged from Imam Ali’s camp. They deemed the arbitration to be an act of infidelity and considered Ali an infidel.

It was a khawarij known as ibn Muljim who dealt the blow to Imam Ali.

imam ali knew who his killer would be

Imam Ali has a feeling his death would be at ibn Muljim’s hands. It was probably because of this incident reported in the biography of Imam Ali by Baqir Qureshi:

One day, Imam Ali was delivering a speech from the minbar when Ibn Muljim, threatening the Imam (‘a), said in a low voice, ‘By Allah, I will give these people rest from you!’ One of the attendants could hear him and arrest him. When he was brought before the Imam, he ordered them to release him, saying, he has not killed me yet.”

the last meal

On the night of the 19th of Ramadan, Imam Ali was in his daughter, Um Kulthoom’s house. Imam Ali had been rarely sleeping during the nights of the Holy Month of Ramadan and devoted himself to prayer despite the complicated political situation.

His daughter brought iftar for the Imam, which consisted of bread, salt, and yoghurt. The Imam told her that the Prophet would not eat two foods with bread in one meal and that he would not break his tradition. So he asked her to remove the yoghurt and only ate bread and salt.

imam ali knows his death is near

During the holy month of Ramadan, the Prophet came to Imam Ali in a dream and told him about his impending martyrdom. He relays this dream to his children:

In my sleep, I have seen the Messenger of Allah (S) saying to me, ‘O Abu’l-Hasan, you will very soon come to us. The most wretched of all people will come to you to dye your gray-haired beard with the blood of your head. I am truly eager to see you. On the last ten days of Ramadan, you will be with us.”

Imam Ali heads to the mosque for fajr prayers

Imam Ali frequently recited

la hawla wala quwwata illa billahi Al-’aliyyi Al-’asim (There is neither mighty nor power except with Allah the All-high and All-great).”

The Imam left his house to pray. When he reached the mosque, he recited the adhan loudly to wake the people up to pray. It was in his sujood during the prayer that ibn Muljim struck Imam Ali on the head. The Imam immediately said:

I have won. I swear it by the Lord of the Ka’bah!”

Ibn muljim is arrested

The assassinator was arrested and brought before Imam Ali. Despite being the victim and in a position of caliphate, the Imam ensured his perpetrator would be treated fairly:

Give him food and drink. If I survive this, I am then the patron of retaliation; I may kill him if I wish, and I may pardon if I wish. If I die, then you may retaliate and kill him. Do not transgress, because Allah does not like the transgressors.”

imam Ali writes his will

When the doctor informs the family of Ali that their father will not survive the poison of the sword, Imam Ali writes/dictates a will for his children. The will is full of advice and wisdom. A portion of it reads:

I advise you both to fear Allah and that you should not hanker after the pleasures of this world even though it may run after you. Do not be sorry for anything of this world that you have been denied. Speak the truth and act in expectation for reward. Be an enemy of the oppressor and helper of the oppressed.”

The Imam passes away and is buried and ibn Muljim is executed.

The legacy of imam ali

For many Muslims, Imam Ali is a symbol of what it means to be a good Muslim. He is someone who embodies the values of Islam, and who shows us that it is possible to live a life based on truth and justice.

His contributions to Islam are too numerous to count. He was pivotal in the victory of the Muslims at battles such as Badr and Khayber.

Above all else, he was a devout Muslim and God played a central role in his life. His actions, words and decisions were based on God-consciousness, which is what ultimately makes him a role model for Muslims around the world, and his legacy continues to inspire new generations.

The information about the death of Imam Ali was taken from a book titled ‘The Life of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib’ by Baqir Qureshi.