The Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (p), is an incredible role model in all his words and actions. We see this throughout his life and even during his very last moments. The nineteenth of the holy month of Ramadan marks the anniversary of the day Imam Ali (p) was struck on the head by a man named Abd al-Rahman Ibn Muljim. As tragic as this episode was in Islamic history, it is also a timeless lesson for all humanity.

In the religion of Islam, it is highly recommended that a person leaves a will behind before passing away. God states, “If one of you facing death can leave a legacy, he should bequeath it to his parents and relatives, according to the law. This is the duty of the pious.”1

In his last will, Imam Ali (p) offered deep and profound advice to his family and “everyone whom [his] writing reaches.”2

What Happened to Imam Ali on the Nineteenth of the Month of Ramadan?

As the eve of the nineteenth of the month of Ramadan was setting in, Imam Ali (p) readied himself and made his way to the mosque of Kufa to offer morning prayers. When he reached the mosque, he saw some people who were still fast asleep. He woke them up, advising them that the time of prayers was approaching. After the call to prayer (adhan), the Muslims gathered behind Imam Ali (p) to join in congregational prayer. The Imam (p) started the prayers. He recited the two chapters from the Holy Quran and bowed down. He then went into prostration. While in the state of prostration, a man standing in the front row of the congregation, Abd al-Rahman ibn Muljim, struck the Imam on his head with his poisoned sword.3 The Imam (p) then asked to be taken home and placed where he usually said his prayers.

Before Imam Ali (p) passed away, he made sure to leave his will with his sons. We can derive numerous lessons from the blessed words that he left behind.

Do Not Run After the World

Imam Ali (p) begins his will by advising his sons, Imam Hasan (p) and Imam Hussain (p), and all his followers by extension, not to run after worldly desires no matter what the situation. Imam Ali (p) states, “I advise you…not to [yearn] after the (pleasures of this) world even though it may run after you.”4 The Holy Quran also advises us, “Let not the worldly life deceive you.”5 Thus, we should not focus on the material pleasures of this world, as they are transient and passing.

God created this world as a trial for us. Some people will use it to seek closeness to God, and some people will allow themselves to be deceived by its false illusions. It is important to be cautious and make sure that material things do not consume us, as that has the potential to move us away from God’s obedience.

Helping Orphans

Imam Ali (p) was known for his deep love and help for orphans. He states, “(Fear) God (and) keep God in view in the matter of orphans. So do not allow them to starve and they should not be ruined in your presence.”6 Imam Ali (p) was called Abu al-Yatama or the “father of the orphans”7 because of the way he treated them. He took so much care with them by speaking, feeding, and playing with them. They were so important to him that he made it one focal point in his will before he passed away.

Click here to find out more about how Imam Ali (p) treated orphans and the less fortunate.

Importance of Keeping Family Relations

Islam stresses heavily the importance of keeping good family relations. In his final will, Imam Ali (p) advises, “You should have respect for kinship and spending for others. Avoid turning away from one another and severing mutual relations.”8 Our families, and especially our parents, are those who loved, cared, and nurtured us from a young age. They deserve all the respect we can give them.

In one occasion, the Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) advised his companions, “Every righteous child who looks at his parents with mercy and affection shall be granted, for every look, rewards equivalent to that of an accepted Hajj.” Those around the Prophet (pbuh&hp) asked, “Oh Prophet of God! Even if he were to look at them a hundred times a day?” The Messenger of God (pbuh&hp) replied, “Indeed! God is the Greatest and Most Kind.”9

Putting Imam Ali’s Advice into Action

Fasting. Fasting is one way to allow us to discipline ourselves in a way that will break our attachment to this world. Daily, we spend so much of our time with food and drink. Just one example is the time we spend on our morning coffee. Fasting can be a means to remind us that all these blessings come from God. Through training our souls, we will be able to recognize that we are not dependent on the materialism of this world. The Holy Prophet states, “Fasting…severs the roots [of desires] and removes [negative thoughts].”10

Giving charity. There are so many ways we can give charity to those in need. Charity does not have to be giving away a sum of money that we cannot afford. Narrations tell us that the Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) said, “Indeed every Muslim gives charity every single day… Removal of an obstacle from the road is a charitable act. Guiding someone [who is lost] is a charitable act. Visiting the sick is a charitable act. Enjoinment of being good to others is a charitable act. Warning others from wrongdoing is a charitable act. And returning the greeting of peace is a charitable act.”11

Be good to family members. We must always be good and respect our family members especially our parents (even if we disagree with them about certain things). God says, “We have advised the human being to be kind to his parents.”12 The one who is good to his parents has a very high rank in the eyes of God. Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (p) is reported to have said, “When Prophet Musa (p) was engaged in a conversation with God, he saw a person beneath the throne of God. Prophet Musa (p) then asked, ‘Oh my Lord! Who is this person, who is being sheltered by Your throne?’ God replied, ‘This person has been kind and good towards his parents and never indulged in slandering.’”13

Moreover, we should not cut ties with family members. Even if we are not close with some members of our families, we should at least make the effort to greet them when we see them. Imam Ali (p) says, “Maintaining family relations [silat al-rahm] increases your lifespan.”14

From the advice of the successor to the last Prophet of God (pbuh&hp), we should do our best to apply these practical lessons to make ourselves better individuals as well as to improve the communities that we live in. For as much as Imam Ali (p) dedicated himself to his Creator, he also outlined for us how to live among others and do our best to establish a just and ethical society.

1. The Holy Quran 2:180.
2. Nahj al-balagha, Will 47.
3. Shaykh al-Tusi, Amaali, p. 365.
4. Nahj al-balagha, Will 47.
5. The Holy Quran 35:5.
6. Nahj al-balagha, Will 47.
7. Shathan al-Qummi, Al-fadhail, p. 84.
8. Nahj al-balagha, Will 47.
9. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 71, p. 80.
10. Muhammadi M. Rayshahri, The Scale of Wisdom: A Compendium of Shi’a Hadith, ICAS Press, 2009.
11. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 96, p. 182.
12. The Holy Quran 46:15.
13. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 71, p. 65.
14. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 71, p. 383.

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