So if we are interested in treading the straight path (Siraat Al Mustaqeem) which belongs to these luminous personalities whom Allah (SWT) has blessed with Ne’mat, how can we accomplish that? Well, Allah (SWT) gives us the answer in the Quran when He (SWT) says,
"ومن يُطع الله والرسول فأولائك مع الذين أنعم الله عليهم من النبيين والصديقين والشهداء والصالحين وحسن أولئك رفيقا."
And whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger, they will be in the company of those on whom Allah has bestowed His Grace, of the Prophets, the Sidiqeen (those followers of the Prophets who were first and foremost to believe in them), the martyrs, and the righteous. And how excellent are these as a company! [4:69]
So the key to joining these blessed individuals in their straight path is to obey Allah (SWT) and His Prophet, and the Quran verifies to us that the Prophet (SA) does not speak out of his own will or desire. Tafseer Bayan Sa'ada explains that in this verse the obedience to Allah (SWT) and His Prophet (SA) is specifically in reference to the order of Wilayah to Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS). Whoever accepts the Wilayah of Ali (AS) will return and resort to him, and whoever sincerely resorts to him will be accepted by him, and whoever becomes accepted by him will attain his mercy.
Hence, the servant's pledge of allegiance and covenant with Allah (SWT) will be accepted and he will enter the domain of his Wilayah. And whomever Ali (AS) welcomes in his realm of Wilayah, they will then be in the company of those whom Allah (SWT) has bestowed His Grace. It follows that whoever reached the stage of prophethood did not reach its perfection except by the Wilayah of Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS). Thus, we can understand Prophet Muhammad's proclamation in Ghadeer Khum when he declared, “Whomsoever I am his Mawla (master/guardian), then Ali is his Mawla.”
Here, the Prophet (SA) is telling us that anyone who takes him as his master, whether human or jinn, should also take Ali (AS) as his guardian. We know that all the other prophets and messengers consider the Seal of Messengers Prophet Muhammad (SA) to be their guardian and superior to them. Hence, they also take Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS) to be their master and believe him to be superior over them, and they also believe in his Wilayah.
According to reliable sources as cited in Volume 1 of Hayaat Al Qulub, Abu-Sa'id narrates that he heard Prophet Muhammad (SA) say to Imam Ali, “O 'Ali! Allah did not send any Prophet but ordered him of your love and Wilayah whether he liked it or not.”
According to another authentic tradition, the Prophet (SA) said “I asked Allah whom I should nominate and He revealed to me, 'Nominate your cousin Ali ibn Abi Talib, whose name I have mentioned in the previous divine Books and stated that he is your successor. I have also obtained the oath of fealty for My Lordship, your Prophethood and Imamate and Wilayah of 'Ali ibn Abi-Talib from all the creatures and Prophets.'”
When analyzing the above verse [4:69], we will observe that Allah (SWT) states that He (SWT) granted his special divine blessings to those among the prophets, the Sidiqeen (truthful), the martyrs, and the righteous. Interestingly in his exegesis, Ali ibn Ibrahim Al Qummi identifies the “prophets” to be in reference to Prophet Muhammad (SA), and the “sidiqeen” to be Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS) as he was the first to believe in the message of Prophet Muhammad (SA).
Also, in the book of Uyoon, it is narrated that the Prophet (SA) said, “Every Ummah has a Sideeq (truthful) and Farooq (separator), and the Sideeq of this Ummah and its Farooq is Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS).” Furthermore, Al Qummi states that “martyrs” in this verse is in reference to Al-Hasan and Al-Husain (AS), while the “Saliheen” or the righteous ones are the Infallible Imams from the progeny of Imam Husain (AS). This verse concludes with وحسن أولئك رفيقا"” And how excellent are these as a company. Al Ayaashi in Tafseer Safi states that the “best companionship” is represented in Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS).
If we analyze the autobiography of the Prophet (SA) as well as Imam Ali (AS), we will realize the strong bond that they cherished with each other which exceeded the relation of brotherhood to the level of them representing the Nafs/self of each other.
Historians write that Ali (AS) used to always accompany the Prophet (SA) even when he would go to the desert or mountains. It was this unique relationship that Imam Ali (AS) describes in these words in Nahjul Balagha:
"كنت أتبعه اتباع الفصيل أثر أمه يرفع لي في كل يوم من أخلاقه علماً ويأمرني بالاقتداء به."
“I followed him [Prophet Muhammad (SA)] step by step as a baby camel follows its mother. He used to place a fresh code of behavior before me daily and order me he to follow it.”
In the same speech Imam Ali (AS) continues,
"وقد علمتم موضعي من رسول الله (ص) بالقرابة القريبة ، والمنزلة الخصيصة ، وضعني في حجره وأنا وليد ، يضمني إلى صدره ، ويكنفني في فراشه ، ويمسني جسده ، ويشمّني عرفه وكان يمضغ الشئ ثم يلقمنيه."
You know that due to my close relationship, and my special rank I enjoyed with the Messenger of Allah (SA), I have a distinguished position with him. He took me in his lap when I was a baby. He often kept me embraced to his heart. He used to make me sleep next to him. We used to be so close to each other that I felt the warmth of his body and smelled the fragrance of his odor. When I was a baby, He fed me from his mouth, chewing hard bits for me.”
Hence, it follows human logic that we refer to the closest personality who is the “gate of knowledge” and has inherited the teachings of the pure Islam from the city of knowledge - the Holy Prophet (SA).