Why did Ali stay silent for over 20 years if his rights were truly usurped?
In the Name of Allah, the All-Beneficent, the All-Merciful.
May Allah bless Muhammad and his Family and damn their enemies.
It is a widely spread misconception that the Commander of the Believers, Ali son of Abi-Talib (peace be upon him), remained silent after his rights were usurped. He was not silent, rather he exercised patience, as several historical accounts confirm.
Many narrations report that Imam Ali (peace be upon him) tried to take back his rights from the very moments after the martyrdom of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his family). This was through gathering supporters to remove the regime of Abu Bakr and Omar, giving public speeches denouncing the new tyrannical government and the betrayal of the Muslim nation to the Prophet’s Household (peace be upon them) and engaging in confrontations with the corrupt individuals leading the tyrannical regime and their subordinates.
For instance, it is narrated in the book of the renown Tabi’ee, Sulaym, son of Qais al-Hilali, in a long narration that on the Day of the Saqifa (when the power was usurped by the group of hypocrites):
When the night approached, Ali (peace be upon him) carried Fatima (peace be upon her) on a donkey and he held the hands of his two sons Hassan and Hussain (peace be upon them). And he did not leave anyone from the People of Badr, nor anyone from the Muhajireen and the Ansar, except that he went to their homes and mentioned his right to them and called them to support him. None responded to him except for forty-four men. So he ordered them to meet him the next morning with shaved heads and with their weapons so they can pledge allegiance to him till death. When the morning approached, none of them remained loyal except four.
So I (Sulaym) said to Salman: “Who were the four?”
He said: “Me, Abu Dharr, Miqdad and Zubayr son of Awwam.” Then Ali (peace be upon him) went to them the night after that and called them, and they said: “We will meet you tomorrow morning”, and none came except us. Then he went to them the third night, and none came except us.”
Al-Hilali, Sulaym son of Qais (1430 H). Kitab Sulaym son of Qais al-Hilali. Qom: Dalilema, p. 143-163
It is also reported that Imam Ali (peace be upon him) directly confronted Abu Bakr and Omar in a gathering on one occasion. This was reported by one of our scholars, Sayed Mohammad Riza al-Kamali al-Esterabadi (14th Century scholar) in his book As-Sawarim-ul-Hasima fi Tareekh-iz-Zahra’i Fatima, whereby he narrates of another of the book Kashf-ul-La’ali’ compiled by another of our scholars, Sheikh Saleh of Abdul-Wahhab, son of Arandas (9th Century scholar):
O treacherous and obscene people! O filthy and disgusting sperm! O animals who walk their path as they wish! You stood up on your legs and deviated away from your Leader (Prophet)! With that, you intended hypocrisy! And you love to observe ignorance and to cause disunity!
Al-Esfahani, Mohammad Hassan al-Mirjahani (1388 H). Mustadrak Nahjul-Balagha. Tehran: (publisher unclear in print), vol. 1, p. 285
We, therefore, proved the Imam (peace be upon him) did not remain silent towards the injustice he faced. Let us now examine why he did not perform a military revolution to remove the new tyrannical regimes and take back his right.
The main reason for this can be derived from the many historical reports on the matter. Imam Ali (peace be upon him) was indeed foretold by the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family) of the injustice he would face after the Prophet’s demise. Moreover, the Prophet ordered him to remain patient and not to revolt against his enemies unless he was able to gather a certain number of individuals to support him.
Without a doubt, the Imam (peace be upon him) would’ve been capable of defeating his enemies by himself. However, he was also bound by the orders given to him by God and His Messenger (peace be upon him and his family) and by the oath he took (is there a better way to explain this? Meaning the oath bit). This is the main reason why the Imam did not forcefully take back his rights.
For instance, it is narrated that Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) was asked why Imam Ali (peace be upon him) did not fight the three tyrants that ruled before him, upon which he said:
Because he was not allowed to fight them when he had none with him but three believing individuals.
Al-Qummi, Mohammad son of Ali son of Hussain son of Babawayh (2006 AD). Ilal al-Shara’e’. Beirut: Dar Al-Mortada, vol. 1, p. 149
Umm Salama (peace be upon her), the Prophet’s wife, narrates that once the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family) was informing Imam Ali (peace be upon him) of the events that will take place after his demise, upon which Imam Ali said:
May my father and mother be sacrificed for you, O Messenger of God. When such-and-such happens then what do you order me to do?
The Prophet then replied:
”I order to you remain patient.”
And he repeated the same word three times.
Al-Tabarsi, Ahmad son of Ali (1380 H). Al-Ihtijaj. Qom: Intisharat ash-Shareef al-Razi, vol. 1, p. 257-258
It is reported in the book of Sulaym, son of Qais al-Hilali, in a long narration, that following the Battle of Jamal, Imam Ali (peace be upon) was told the following by an individual named Ash’ath, son of Qais, whilst in Kufa:
What prevented you, O son of Abi-Talib, to fight and hit with your sword when the brother of Taim, son of Murra (Abu Bakr) and the brother of the Sons of Adi, son of Ka’b (Omar) was pledged allegiance, and the brother of the Sons of Umayya (Uthman) likewise after them?
You have not held a speech for us – since you came from Iraq – except that you have said before you step down from your pulpit: “By God, I have more authority over the people, and I remain oppressed since God took Mohammed unto himself.” So what prevented you from hitting with your sword while you were oppressed?
Upon which he replied:
”O son of Qais, hear the answer: I was not prevented from doing so by cowardice, nor by dislikement to meet my Lord (martyrdom), nor by not knowing that what God has for me is better than this world and dwelling in it.
However, what prevented me from doing this was the commandment of the Messenger of God (may God’s blessings be upon him and his family) and his covenant to me.”
The narration continues until the Imam says:
”And so when the Messenger of God (may God’s blessings be upon him and his family) demised, the people inclined towards Abu Bakr and they pledged allegiance to him, while I was busy washing and burying the Messenger of God (may God’s blessings be upon him and his family).
Then I was busy with (compiling) the Qur’an. And so I promised myself that I will not wear my robe – except for prayer – until I compile the Book, and so I did.
Then I carried Fatima, and I held the hands of my two sons Hassan and Hussain, and I did not leave one person from the People of Badr and those who preceded in accepting Islam, from among the Muhajireen and the Ansar, except that I called them by God for my right and called them to support me.
None responded to me from all the people except four individuals: Salman, Abu Dharr, Miqdad and Zubayr. And I had none from my household whom I could rely upon or who could strengthen me.
As for Hamza, he was killed on the Day of Uhud. As for Jafar, he was killed on the Day of Mu’ta, and I remained between two ill-mannered, rude, despicable, miserable and incompetent men: Abbas and Aqeel, and they were disbelievers not long ago. And so they (the enemies) constrained me and oppressed me.”
The narration goes further until the Imam says:
“O son of Qais, by He who split the seeds apart and created the human beings, if those forty who pledged allegiance to me remained loyal to me and came to me the next morning with shaved heads before I was forced to pay allegiance to Ateeq (Abu Bakr), then I would have risen against him and prosecuted him to God (Glorious and Exalted is He).”
Al-Hilali, Sulaym son of Qais (1430 H). Kitab Sulaym son of Qais al-Hilali. Qom: Dalilema, p. 213-220
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