ʿAlī ibn Abī Tālib

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Portrait of Ali by the Persian court painter Hakob Hovnatanyan (1806–1881)
Nickname "Asadullah" ( Arabic أسد الله 'Lion of Allah'), given by Mohammed to his cousin.

Abū l-Hasan ʿAlī ibn Abī Tālib ( Arabic أبو الحسن علي بن أبي طالب, DMG Abū l-Ḥasan ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib , born around 600 in Mecca ; died on January 28, 661 in Kufa ), often called Ali for short , was the cousin and son-in-law of Mohammed , who is considered a prophet and messenger of God, and is a central figure in Islam . He was the first male follower of Muhammad and married his daughter Fatima . After the Prophet's death in 632, he was caliph from 656 to 661. The Muslims fall apart over the question of whether he would have been entitled to succeed Muhammad immediately after the death of Muhammad: for the Shiites , whose name derives from shīʿat ʿAlī (شيعة علي / šīʿat ʿAlī  / 'Party ʿAlīs'), ʿAlī was the rightful successor of Muhammad, whereas the Sunnis believe that Muhammad's father-in-law Abū Bakr , who actually succeeded him, had a greater claim to it. For the Sunnis, Alī is the fourth and last right-wing caliph, while the Shiites and Alevis , whose name is also derived from ʿAlī, are the first of the Twelve Imams . ʿAlī's sons Hasan and Husain are also central figures in Shiite and Alevi Islam. To this day, the Aliden ( al-ʿAlawiyyūn , the descendants of ʿAlīs ) enjoy a high reputation in Muslim societies.


ʿAlī, who beheaded the
Quraishite an-Nadr ibn al- Harith in the presence of Muhammad with the two-bladed Dhū-l-faqār sword . Ottoman miniature, 16th century

ʿAlī was the son of Abū Tālib ibn ʿAbd al-Muttalib and Fātima bint Asad . Both through his father and his mother he belonged to the Quraishite clan of the Banū Hāschim . His father Abū Tālib was a grandson of Hāschim ibn ʿAbd Manāf through ʿAbd al-Muttalib , his mother Fātima was a daughter of ʿAbd al-Muttalib's brother Asad.


Role in the lifetime of the prophet

The Prophet Mohammed gives his daughter Fatima to marry his cousin ʿAlī ibn Abī Tālib

ʿAlī was born on Friday, the 13th Rajab , in the thirtieth year after the year of the elephant or on September 29th in 600 in the Kaaba in Mecca. His birth in the Kaaba is recognized by many Shiites (including al-Sayyid al-Radi, al-Shaykh al-Mufid , Qutb al-Rawandi, and Ibn Shahrashub) and many Sunni scholars (including al-Hakim al-Nishaburi, al-Hafiz al -Ganji al-Shafi'i, Ibn al-Jawzi al-Hanafi, Ibn Sabbagh al-Maliki, al-Halabi and al-Mas'udi) generally accepted. He is therefore the only person born in the Kaaba.

His mother initially wanted to give him the name araidar or Asad (both means “lion”), but when she and the child came to the house of Abu Talib, the father of ʿAlī, and the father asked for the child's name, Muhammad who was there was said to be there have said that his name is ʿAlī. Shiites in particular still use this or similar epithet such as Asad Allaah (“Lion of God”) today.

When ʿAlī was six years old, there was a famine in Mecca and Abu Talib, who had a large family, struggled to provide for his family. Mohammed helped Abu Talib and his family by taking the young ʿAlī into his household and looking after him.

ʿAlī then became one of the Prophet's closest confidants. His conversion to Islam took place in childhood. His exact age when he converted to Islam is disputed. According to al-Jahiz (d. 869), opinions of his time fluctuated between five and nine years. According to Laura Veccia Vaglieri , who does not give a source, ʿAlī was at most ten to eleven years old at this point in time.

ʿAlī played an important role during the pilgrimage in the year 9 after the Hijra (631 AD). While Mohammed entrusted Abū Bakr with the management of this pilgrimage, ʿAlī stayed with Mohammed in Medina . After Abū Bakr's departure, however, Mohammed received an important revelation concerning the handling of the Muschrik ūn who had remained in Mecca , namely the first seven verses of Sura 9 . He then sent ʿAlī to Mecca, who read the text of the seven verses publicly before the pilgrims' meeting in Minā .

Succession dispute

The death of the Prophet Mohammed raised the question of who should succeed the Prophet within the community for the Muslim ummah . However, Mohammed had taken precautions before his death. He announced his successor to Ghadīr Chumm with the following words: "Whose master (leader) I am, whose master (leader) is also Ali." The event of Ghadir Chumm took place on March 10, 632 (18th Dhū l-Hiddscha ) after the Hejra, in front of allegedly over 100,000 Muslims, during the last pilgrimage of Muhammad. Abu Bakr, Omar, Othman, Talha and Zubair were the first to take the hand of īAlī and swear allegiance. They were followed one by one by the emigrants ( Muhādschirūn ) and helpers ( Ansār ) , then the other participants in the assembly, who swore allegiance and congratulated ʿAlī on his appointment as leader of the believers. This celebration lasted for three days. After the death of Muhammad, however, serious differences of opinion arose between the Meccan muhādschirūn and the Medinan Ansār. Umar Ibn al-Khattab paid homage namely at a time when'Alī and his family of the Prophet were still busy with the burial, at a meeting of Ansar in the so-called Saqīfa of Sa'd ibn'Ubāda surprisingly Abu Bakr as the new commander. Abū Bakr subsequently assumed the title of “successor to the Messenger of God” (ḫalīfat rasūl Allāh) or caliph .

Many Ansār initially refused to pay homage to Abū Bakr. The Banū Hāschim , the Prophet's clan, also protested that they had been bypassed in the settlement of the succession. Alī apparently also had the support of the ʿAbd Shams clan . Only the intensive advertising of ʿUmar led to the fact that in the course of time most of the Prophet's companions recognized Abū Bakr as caliph. Ali refused to take the oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr. Under the leadership of Abu Bakr and Umar, the house of Fatima and Ali was set on fire as a means of exerting pressure on the oath of allegiance. Fatima died a short time later from the consequences of the event, she not only lost her own life, but also her unborn child. Ali took the oath of allegiance to Abū Bakr under duress and disgust only six months later , after Fatima had passed away. The question of succession was thus provisionally resolved.

Confrontation with ʿUthmān

When the second caliph Umar died in 644, ʿAlī, along with ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān , ʿAbd ar-Rahmān ibn ʿAuf , Talha ibn ʿUbaidullah, az-Zubair ibn al-ʿAuwām and Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqemium, belonged to the consultation to choose the new Kaliph should. Of the six people, he and ʿUthmān alone had ambitions for the succession. ʿAbd ar-Rahmān renounced the candidacy on the condition that, in the event of a disagreement, he would be assigned the role of arbitrator. Since Saʿd voted for ʿAlī and az-Zubair for ʿUthmān, Talha was absent, ʿAbd ar-Rahmān was used as arbitrator. After consultations with the heads of the Quraishite clans, he decided in favor of ʿUthmān, which made him the new caliph.

During the caliphate of ʿUthmān there was a violent dispute with him over the judgment of Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī , who had accused the Umayyads of self-enrichment. While ʿUthmān wanted to execute Abū Dharr for his criticism, Alī took over his defense. He recommended to the caliph not to kill Abu Dharr, but to adhere to the Qur'anic statement of sura 40:28 with regard to him: “If he is a liar, it is to his own detriment. But if he tells the truth, something will happen to you of what he threatens to do. ”When ʿUthmān finally banished Abū Dharr from Medina to ar-Rabadha, ʿAlī accompanied him out of the city despite a ban from the caliph. The defense of Abū Dharr by ʿAlī is mentioned not only in sources close to the Shia, but also in texts by Ibadite authors.

The controversial election as caliph

After the assassination of ʿUthmān on June 17, 656, many of the insurgents who had besieged his house, swore allegiance to ʿAlī and asked him to take over the caliphate. ʿAlī hesitated at first, but five days later accepted the homage as caliph. The Ansār also swore allegiance to him. The Alis caliphate, however, was not generally recognized. Many eminent Prophet Companions, including Tala ibn ʿUbaidallāh, az-Zubair ibn al-ʿAuwām, Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas , ʿAbdallāh, the son of ʿUmar and Zaid ibn Thabit , refused to pay homage to him. Others, such as Abū Bakra ath-Thaqafī, criticized the fact that there was no regular electoral body when ʿAlī was elected . Even if Mālik al-Ashtar, one of the most ardent followers of ʿAlī, harassed some of those who refused the oath of allegiance, this did not change their attitude.

The members and supporters of the Umayya clan , including several well-known poets, had already left Medina and went to Syria, where Uthman's governor and relative Muʿāwiya remained in power and ʿAlī refused to follow. They accused ʿAlī of being complicit in the murder of Uthman, especially since he was forced to rely on the forces that had opposed him.

Camel fight

A third party in the conflict was formed by Muhammad's widow ʿĀ'ischa and the two companions of the Prophets Talha ibn ʿUbaidallāh and az-Zubair ibn al-ʿAuwām . They went to Basra and built a resistance base there. On the 10th Jumada th-thaniyya of the year 36 (= 4th December 656) there was a battle between the two camps, which ended with a crushing defeat for the ʿĀ'ishah party. Talha and az-Zubair fell, the VerbändeAlī associations emerged as clear winners. Since ʿĀ'isha attended this battle in a camel litter, it was called the camel battle .

Under Ali, the political center of the caliphate began to shift. Not only was his residence Kufa outside the Arabian Peninsula, but his enemies Aisha and Muawiya also relied on their supporters in Iraq and Sham (Syria).

Siffīn and the secession of the Kharijites

However, Ali was unable to obtain recognition of his caliphate from Muawiya. During the Battle of Siffin on the Euphrates in July 657, ʿAlī was persuaded to set up an arbitration tribunal to decide which of the two parties was right. This led to the split in his supporters and the apostasy of the egalitarian Kharijites who opposed negotiations with Muawiya. In the period that followed, Ali had to concentrate on fighting the Kharijites in Iraq. From September 658 onwards there was a whole series of Kharijite uprisings against him. In the dispute with the Kharijites, ʿAlī first referred to the fact that Mohammed had designated him as his successor before his death on his return from his last pilgrimage to the Ghadīr Chumm oasis . The words narrated by Mohammed in this context are: "Everyone whose master I am also has ʿAlī for master" (man kuntu maulā-hu fa-ʿAlī maulā-hu) .

Decline in power and death

Martyrdom of Imam Ali (by Yousef Abdinejad)

In February 659 the agreed arbitration court met in Dūmat al-Jandal, in which ʿAlī was represented by Abū Mūsā al-Aschʿarī and Muʿāwiya by ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀs . However, the two arbitrators could not agree on a joint arbitration award. ʿAlī's position of power deteriorated noticeably in the period that followed. In the summer of 660 he lost control of the Hejaz and Yemen to the troops of Muʿāwiyas.

On January 28, 661, ʿAlī was fatally injured in an assassination attempt by the Kharijite ʿAbd ar-Rahmān ibn Muljam al-Murādī in the Great Mosque of Kufa . The age at which ʿAlī died is a matter of dispute. The information in the Arabic sources varies between 58 and 68 years. The dispute over the age of ʿAlī at the time of his murder is related to the controversy over his age when he converted to Islam (see above). The Oxford historian James Howard-Johnston pleaded in 2010 that the death of the caliph should be dated to the year 658 AD; the chronology of the sources was subsequently falsified for various reasons.

The Aliden, the Schia and the discussion about the Imamate

Ali married a total of nine women in the course of his life and had several concubines who gave him a total of 14 sons and 19 daughters. Three of his sons played a political role after his death: his son Hasan followed him in the spring of 661 in the office of caliph, but then abdicated in the summer in favor of Muawiya I ; his son Husain rebelled against the Umayyads in 680 , but fell in battle at Karbala ; and his son Muhammad ibn al-Hanafīya was named in 685 in Kufa during the uprising of al-Muchtār ibn Abī ʿUbaid as the pretender to the throne .

A total of five of ʿAlī's sons left offspring. These Alids played an important role in the religious and political opposition movements of the Umayyad and early Abbasid periods . Those who saw only the Alides as entitled to rule were referred to as the "party of Ali" (šīʿat ʿAlī) , from which the German term Shiites is derived. The Shiites were of the opinion that ʿAlī was the most excellent person after Mohammed and was therefore entitled to succeed him. They also derived ʿAlī's claim to the Imamat from Muhammad's words on Ghadīr Chumm , which they interpreted as a designation .

Sunnis such as Abū l-Hasan al-Ashʿarī , on the other hand, said that Muhammad's saying on Ghadīr Chumm should not be understood as a designation, and pointed out that ʿAlī himself - albeit late - took the oath of allegiance to Abū Bakr. Al- Ashʿari held the doctrine that the excellence (faḍl) of the four first caliphs corresponded to their chronological order in the Imamate. Accordingly, ʿAlī only takes the fourth place after Abu Bakr, Umar ibn al-Chattab and Uthman ibn Affan .

ʿAlī worship

Interior of the tomb of Imam Ali

Ali is praised by Muslims for his wisdom and extraordinary literary talent. According to tradition, the Prophet Mohammed is said to have said: “I am the city of knowledge and Ali is its gate. If you want to get to me, you have to pass Ali first. ”According to a tradition that is handed down in various versions in many Sunni and Shiite hadith collections, Mohammed said in the same way:“ O ʿAlī, you are to me as Aaron is to Moses , only there is no prophet after me. ”These and similar statements of the prophet find general acceptance by the vast majority of Muslims.

In the Imamitic Shia, ʿAlī was glorified and transformed into a semi-legendary figure with tragic and heroic features. A book is ascribed to him to contain the account of everything that will happen in the world up to the day of judgment. In addition, the wonderful abilities of FähigkeitenAlī are described in numerous Imamite texts. These include his knowledge of the invisible world (ġaib) , his ability to act on the cosmic elements, his mastery of the divinatory sciences and his prophecies. An integral part of Shiite piety is also the pilgrimage to ʿAlīs burial mosque in Najaf , Iraq , which has also become a center of Shiite theology. Another place where ʿAlī is worshiped is Mazar-e Sharif in what is now Afghanistan with the Ali mausoleum . The Uzbek town of Shohimardon also has a shrine that is venerated as the Ali mausoleum.

ʿAlī worship is also found among modern Arab Christians. The best-known representative of this trend was the Lebanese poet Jūrdj Jurdāq, who published a book in Beirut in 1956 with the title "The Imam ʿAlī, the voice of human justice" (al-Imām ʿAlī, ṣaut al-ʿadāla al-insānīya) , which saw translations into Persian, Hindi and English in a very short time and received enthusiastic approval from twelve Shiite authorities such as Hossein Borudscherdi . In 1958 Dschurdchān published a version of his work expanded to five volumes.

Works handed down by ʿAlī

  • Nahj al-Balāgha (method of rhetoric) is the most famous collection of sermons, letters and traditions assigned to Ali and compiled by the Shiite cleric Sharif Radi . The collection plays a prominent role in Shiite literature and is considered an important intellectual, political and religious work of Shiite Islam. The authenticity of this work is questioned by some Sunnis, since the narrators of the text and thus also the transmission chain of the individual traditions are said to contain weak points, while well-known Shiite scholars regard the work as authentic.
  • The government mandate to Malik al-Ashtar (contained entirely in Nahdj al-Balāgha) is a letter of instruction from Ali to his governor for Egypt, in which the ideas and procedures of a government are laid down. This mandate, which many Muslims and non-Muslims regard as the ideal constitution of an Islamic government, provides detailed descriptions of the rights and duties of rulers, but also the functions of a state and its social composition. In its Arab Human Development Report , published in 2002, the United Nations Development Program lists the government mandate as an example of good governance .
  • Duʿāʾ Kumail is Ali's best-known supplication among Shiites, which was transmitted through the companion of the Prophet Kumail ibn Ziyad and has been called the supplication of Kumail ever since .

See also


Arabic sources
  • Al-Masʿūdī : Kitāb at-Tanbīh wa-l-išrāf . French Translation by B. Carra de Vaux. Imprimerie Nationale, Paris, 1896. pp. 385-390. Digitized
Secondary literature

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b Cf. Al-Masʿūdī: Kitāb at-Tanbīh , p. 385.
  2. Mufid: al-Irshad . tape 1 , p. 5 .
  3. Amini: al-Ghadir . tape 6 , p. 21-23 .
  4. Ibn Hisham: al-Sira al-nabawiyya . tape 1 , p. 162 .
  5. Cf. ʿAmr b Baḥr al-al-Ǧāḥiẓ: al-ʿUṯmānīya (= Maktabat al-Ǧāḥīẓ. Vol. 3). Edited by ʿAbd al-Salām Muḥammad Hārūn. Maktabat al-K̲ānǧī, Kairo 1374 (= 1955), p. 5.
  6. Veccia Vaglieri: ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib. In: The Encyclopaedia of Islam. Volume 1. 1960, p. 381b.
  7. Cf. Al-Masʿūdī: Kitāb at-Tanbīh , p. 360f.
  8. Kitabul Wilayah by Mohammad bin Jarir Tabari, died 310
  9. See Madelung: The succession to Muḥammad. 1997, pp. 28-34.
  10. See Madelung: The succession to Muḥammad. 1997, pp. 50-52.
  11. See Rotter: The Umayyads and the Second Civil War. 1982, p. 12.
  12. See Madelung: The succession to Muḥammad. 1997, p. 71 f.
  13. Cf. Abū l-ʿAbbās Aḥmad ibn Saʿīd aš-Šammāḫī: Kitāb as-Siyar . Ed. Muḥammad Ḥasan. 3 Vol. Dār al-Madār al-Islāmī, Bairūt, 2009. Vol. I, p. 144.
  14. Cf. al-Masʿūdī: Murūǧ aḏ-ḏahab wa-maʿādin al-ǧauhar . Ed. and translate into French. by Barbier de Meynard et Pavet de Courteille . 9 vols. Imprimerie Impériale, Paris, 1861–1877. Vol. IV, pp. 271f. Digitized
  15. Cf. Moncef Gouja: La grande discorde de l'Islam. Le point de vue des kharéjites . L'Harmattan, Paris, 2006. pp. 161-163.
  16. a b Cf. ʿAbd al-Malik ibn Ḥabīb: Kitāb al-ta'rīj = Kitāb at-ta'rīh (= Fuentes Arábico-Hispanas. Vol. 1). Edición y estudio por Jorge Aguadé. Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas et al., Madrid 1991, ISBN 84-00-07185-9 , p. 114.
  17. See Laura Veccia Vaglieri: Al-Ashtar. In: The Encyclopaedia of Islam. Volume 1: A - B. New Edition. Brill et al., Leiden et al. 1960, p. 704a.
  18. Cf. Rudolf Ernst Brünnow: The Charidschites among the first Omayyads. A contribution to the history of the first Islamic century . Brill, Leiden 1884, p. 22 (Strasbourg, University, dissertation, 1884).
  19. See Madelung 253.
  20. Cf. Al-Masʿūdī: Kitāb at-Tanbīh , p. 386.
  21. Cf. Al-Masʿūdī: Kitāb at-Tanbīh , p. 387.
  22. See James Howard-Johnston: Witnesses to a World Crisis. Historians and Histories of the Middle East in the Seventh Century. Oxford University Press, Oxford et al. 2010, ISBN 978-0-19-920859-3 , e.g. BS 382.
  23. Cf. Veccia Vaglieri: ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib. In: The Encyclopaedia of Islam. Volume 1. 1960, p. 385a.
  24. See Richard J. McCarthy: The Theology of al-Ashʿarī. Beirut: Imprimerie Catholique 1953. pp. 112-116.
  25. Cf. Abu-'l-Fath 'Muhammad asch-Schahrastâni's religious parties and schools of philosophers. For the first time completely translated from Arabic and provided with explanatory notes by Theodor Haarbrücker. First part. Schwetschke und Sohn, Halle 1850, p. 112, available online here .
  26. cf. B. Muslim ibn al-Hajajaj : Ṣaḥīḥ, K. Faḍāʾil aṣ-ṣaḥāba .
  27. See Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi : Savoir c'est pouvoir. Exégèses et implications du miracle dans l'imamisme ancien in Denise Aigle (ed.): Miracle et Karāma. Hagiographies médiévales comparées . Brepols, Turnhout, 2000. pp. 251-286. Here pp. 252, 257, 259.
  28. See Werner Ende: Arab Nation and Islamic History. The Umayyads in the Judgment of 20th Century Arab Authors. Beirut-Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner 1977. pp. 180-189.
  29. Reza Shah-Kazemi: Ali ibn Abi Talib. In: Josef W. Meri (Ed.): Medieval Islamic Civilization. To Encyclopedia. Volume 1: A - K, Index (= Routledge encyclopedias of the Middle Ages. Vol. 13, 1). Routledge, New York NY et al. 2006, ISBN 0-415-96691-4 , pp. 36-37.
  30. ^ Reza Shah-Kazemi: Justice and Remembrance. Introducing the Spirituality of Imam Ali. IB Tauris et al., London 2006, ISBN 1-84511-065-X .
  31. ^ Government mandate in English
  32. ^ Reliability of the Sermons. In: Nahjul Balagha. Retrieved February 20, 2019 (American English).
  33. FAQs - Nahjul Balagha. Retrieved March 26, 2019 .
  34. Reza Shah-Kazemi: Ali ibn Abi Talib. In: Josef W. Meri (Ed.): Medieval Islamic Civilization. To Encyclopedia. Volume 1: A - K, Index (= Routledge encyclopedias of the Middle Ages. Vol. 13, 1). Routledge, New York NY et al. 2006, ISBN 0-415-96691-4 , pp. 36-37.
  35. ^ Arab Human Development Report. Pp. 83-107 .
  36. Dua Kumayl in German
  37. ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib: Supplications. = Duʿā. Translated by William C. Chittick . Muhammadi Trust, London 1986, ISBN 0-9506986-4-4 .
predecessor Office successor
ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān Correctly Guided Caliph
Muʿāwiya I.
(first of the Umayyad caliphs)