Meaning of 'ALI in English


in full 'ali Ibn Abu Talib born c. 600, , Mecca died January 661, Kufah, Iraq son-in-law of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, and fourth caliph (successor to Muhammad), reigning from 656 to 661. The question of his right to the caliphate resulted in the only major split in Islam (into Sunnah and Shi'ah branches). He is revered by the Shi'ah as the only true successor to the Prophet. 'Ali was the son of Abu Talib, chief of a local clan. When his father became impoverished, 'Ali was taken under the care of Muhammad, then still a businessman in Mecca, who himself had been cared for by 'Ali's father as a child. When Muhammad felt God's call to become his prophet, 'Ali, though only 10 years old, became one of the first converts to Islam and remained a lifelong devoted follower of Muhammad. According to legend 'Ali risked his life by sleeping in the Prophet's bed to impersonate him the night that Muhammad fled in 622 from Mecca to Medina from enemies who were plotting to assassinate him. In addition, 'Ali is said to have carried out Muhammad's request to restore all the properties that had been entrusted to him as a merchant to their owners in Mecca. Only then did 'Ali himself leave for Medina. There he married Muhammad's daughter Fatimah, who bore him two sons, Hasan and Husayn. 'Ali is said to have displayed rare courage in battle during the military expeditions Muhammad conducted to consolidate Islam and always obtained a lion's share of the booty. 'Ali was also one of Muhammad's scribes and was chosen to lead several important missions. When the hostile inhabitants of Mecca finally accepted Islam without battle, it was 'Ali who smashed the pagan idols in the Ka'bah (holy shrine). Muhammad died on June 8, 632. Some say he had unequivocally nominated 'Ali as his successor while he was returning from his farewell pilgrimage to Mecca. Others reject this claim, maintaining that Muhammad died without naming a successor. 'Ali, while attending the last rites of the Prophet, was confronted by the fact that Abu Bakr, Muhammad's closest friend and father of 'A'ishah, one of the Prophet's wives, had been chosen caliph. 'Ali did not submit to Abu Bakr's authority for some time, but neither did he actively assert his own rights, possibly because he did not want to throw the Muslim community into bloody tribal strife. He retired into a quiet life in which religious works became his chief occupation. The first chronologically arranged version of the Qur'an is attributed to him, and his excellent knowledge of the Qur'an and Hadith (the sayings and deeds of Muhammad) aided the caliphs in various legal problems. Following the murder of 'Uthman, the third caliph, 'Ali was invited by the Muslims of Medina to accept the caliphate; reluctant, he agreed only after long hesitation. His brief reign was beset by difficulties due mostly to the corrupt state of affairs he inherited. Acutely aware of the neglect of the Qur'an and the traditions of Muhammad that his predecessors had allowed to develop, he based his rule on the Islamic ideals of social justice and equality. His policy was a blow to the interests of the Quraysh aristocracy of Mecca who had grown rich in the wake of the Muslim conquests. In order to embarrass 'Al i they demanded that he bring the murderers of 'Uthman to trial, and when he rejected their request, a rebellion against him was instigated in which two prominent Meccans along with 'A'ishah, Muhammad's widow and the daughter of Abu Bakr, the first caliph, took a leading part. This rebellion, known as the Battle of the Camel (the camel ridden by 'A'ishah), was quelled. A second rebellion was on the point of being crushed when its leader, Mu'awiyah, a kinsman of 'Uthman and the governor of Syria, averted defeat by proposing arbitration. 'Ali saw through the stratagem but was forced by his army to accept adjudication, which greatly weakened his position. Soon, moreover, he had to fight some of the very people who had earlier forced him to accept arbitration but now denounced it. Known as Khawarij (Seceders), they were defeated by Ali in the Battle of Nahrawan. Meanwhile, Mu'awiyah followed an aggressive policy, and by the end of 660 'Ali had lost control of Egypt and of the Hejaz. While praying in a mosque at Kufah in Iraq, 'Ali was struck with a poisoned sword by a Kharijite, intent on avenging the men slain at Nahrawan. Two days later 'Ali died and was buried near Kufah. 'Ali's political discourses, sermons, letters, and sayings, collected by ash-Sharif ar-Radi (d. 1015) in a book entitled Nahj al-balaghah (The Road of Eloquence) with commentary by Ibn Abi al-Hadid (d. 1258), are well known in Arabic literature. Ismail K. Poonawala

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