Imam Ali (A.S.) Was as Renowned for His Charity as He Was for His Piety
Imam Ali (A.S.) gained great wealth from his hard labor and work but he lived like poor people and was as renowned for his charity as he was for his piety. Because he never owned any money or goods of his own, he had to be exempted from the Zakat, the obligatory alms tax levied on every male and female Muslim of means, but whenever his share of the “Ghanima” (booty) or “Fay” came into his hands, he immediately distributed it amongst the poor and destitute, giving not a proportion of it but all till nothing remained for himself or his family.
‘A beggar once received a ring while Ali lay prostrate on his prayer-mat.’ There are confirmed traditions that the angel Gabriel appeared to the Holy Prophet at that time and revealed the following verse of the Quran
“Your friend is only Allah and His Messenger and the Believers who observe prayers and charity, even in prostration when worshipping God alone.” (5:55)
That Ali’s charity had proved acceptable to the Almighty God was also revealed in the following Quranic Verse
“Men; whom neither merchandise nor business diverts from the remembrance of Allah and the observance of the prayers and the giving of alms. They fear a day in which hearts and eyes will be agitated.” (24:37)
On another occasion as related by Tabrani, Wahidi in Tafseer-e-Kashaf page 286 and Suyuti in Dur-e-Mansoor Vol. 1 page 363, Ali had Dirhams (about rupees two and fifty paise), with a view to spending it in a manner most agreeable to God, he gave one Dirham in charity at night in a hidden manner and one Dirham in the night openly and one Dirham in the daytime hiddenly and one Dirham openly. According to the same authority, God praised Ali in verse 274 of Surah Baqar approving all the four manners of his charity.
Not only did Ali practice charity himself but he preached it to others. A great many of his sermons stress the importance of alms giving. In one of these he said, “Of the various meritorious acts of a Believer, one of the most acceptable is “Zakat”. It behooves every one to give charity because from amongst the acts of worship this is the one most pleasing to God.” In another sermon he emphasized that God had sent men in this world only to test them. When a man dies his relatives ask how much wealth he has left, while the angels look to see how much he had given in charity, in the path of God. “O thou people! Send a part of your wealth in the way of God so that it may stand you in good stead in the next world. Do not leave your entire wealth here so as to be a source of annoyance to you (in the world to come).”
Whenever Ali learned that someone was hungry or thirsty, without clothes or in debt, he would provide food, water, clothes and money for him. He would go to the houses of the sick, nurse them and give them money and medicines. Although Ali’s shirts, wearing apparel and shoes were full of patches, yet he felt the greatest pleasure in providing others with clothes. Whenever Ali used to visit the bazars of Kufa, he would help the travelers, the aged and the infirm. He was particularly kind to the elderly who could not support themselves and the widows who were left destitute.
Once Ali saw a woman who was carrying on her shoulders a water skin which was too heavy a load for her feeble body. Ali took the load on to his own shoulder and accompanied her to her house. She had a number of children who awaited her arrival anxiously. In the course of talks, Ali came to know that her husband was a Kharijite who had fallen in a battle fighting against him (Ali). The widow tended the destitute children and earned her living by doing odd jobs and working for others. The next day Ali again repaired to the hut of the widow with a basketful of eatables. On his way towards her house, Ali met a number of people who wanted to carry the basket for him but the Caliph refused to take any one’s help saying, “You will share my burden today but who will be there to share it on the Day of Judgment.” Thus carrying the basket on his shoulders the Caliph reached the widow’s house, knocked at her door and put the provisions before her. The poor woman was overjoyed and in great excitement said, “May God blesses you. Let the Almighty decide between me and Ali”. At this Ali said,
“Either let me bake you some bread with this flour that I have brought you or you bake it and I will play with your children and try to cheer them up.” The woman replied, “I will do the baking if you will light the oven for me.” Ali, who had been distributing dates to the children immediately, apologized for his discourtesy in not having offered to light the fire. When it flamed up and he felt the heat of the oven scorching his face, he said, “Taste the heat of this fire; imagine what punishment awaits one who has neglected the widows and orphans.” In the meantime the next door neighbor had come in and had recognized Ali as the Caliph. “Cursed be thou”, she said, reprimanding the widow, “How dare you talk so insolently to the Commander of the Faithful?” The widow in great shame fell prostrate to the ground, begging forgiveness, but Ali said, “It is Ali who must feel ashamed at having neglected you.”
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