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Imam Ali (as) and the Caliphate of Umar

Umar, according to the will of Abu-Bakr, dressed himself with the caliphate. He was a severe man. He would put the religious punishments into practice carefully and he had, personally, a careful control over the state affairs.

No one of his officers dared to misappropriate funds in his administrative charge or to make use of their positions unlawfully because he was too strict with the expenses of Bayt al-Mal (public treasury).

The Islamic conquests began to expand on all sides and consequently spoils and wealth were brought to Medina. The caliph used to keep the companions in Medina not to let them be affected by bad habits.

He always opposed bringing books from the conquered countries. He said: “These books are surplus to our requirements while the Qur’an is with us.” He ordered to burn those books.

But Imam Ali (s) often said to his followers: “Bring knowledge home even if it is in remote places.”

I just quote a wise saying of Imam Ali (s) from Nahj al-Bal?ghah where he says: “It is odd to the character of a liberal man to flatter or to be envious of the others except in searching for knowledge.”

Of course these two ideas of the two caliphs are so contrary to each other.

Although the people were kept away from Imam Ali's teachings and attainments but he was often asked for giving legal advices by the caliphs, in order to put the state affairs in good order or to correct their judgments about the religious laws.29

When Khuzestan (the southern part of Iran) was conquered by the Muslims, the wali named Hormozan and his slave Abu-Lu’lu’ were brought to Medina as captives.

Umar donated the slave to al-Mugheerah, who was a versed politician among the Arabs and he was close to the rulers. Abu Lu’lu’, as a functionary, was not paid his due wages by his master. He complained to the caliph Umar about it but the caliph did not pay any attention to him. He pleaded with justice repeatedly over and again but Umar did not take it seriously.

It reminds of a saying of Imam Ali (s), who often said to his followers: “You have to pay the laborer his wages before his sweat dries.” He also said: “Receive people humbly. Be kind and pitiful to them. Deal with them cheerfully and respectfully.”

At any rate Abu Lu’lu’ did not receive a convincing reply. Then he determined on avenging himself on the caliph and finally Umar was wounded by his dagger in the mosque and that fatal wound made him die.

When Umar knew that his end was coming soon, he formed a council and appointed six persons; Ali ibn Abu-Talib, Abd-al-Rahmaan ibn Awf, Talhah ibn Abdullah, Al-Zubayr ibn al-Awwam, Sa’d ibn Abu-Waqqas, Uthman ibn Affan as the main members and his own son as a substitute member.

At the caliph’s command, these six had to elect one of themselves as the caliph during three days after his death.

In the meantime he stated his opinion about each one of the members. He about Imam Ali (s): “Although Ali is eager for the caliphate but I know that he is the only one, who can manage it in the right way.”

In spite of this confession, the members of the committee did not give their votes to Imam Ali and Uthman held the position because all of the members were Uthman’s relatives except Al-Zubayr.

Any one could understand it guessing that Imam Ali (s) was with minority and Uthman would eventually the successor of Umar. In briefly speaking that Abd-al-Rahmaan was given the right by the majority to choose the caliph between two persons, Ali (s) and Uthman. He said to Ali (s): “I pay homage to you on the condition that you will follow the book of Allah (the Qur’an), the Sunnah of the Prophet and the policy of the two previous caliphs Abu-Bakr and Umar.

Imam Ali (s) replied: “I will follow the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (s) but I act according to my own judgments.

The proposal was repeated thrice and the answer was the same. Then Abd-al-Rahmaan turned to Uthman and asked him if he would accept the condition. Uthman agreed to follow the terms the condition and they paid homage to him.

Now it is important to know why the members of the committee ignored the Prophet's statements concerning Ali (s) again.

The prophet said: “Ali is the wisest and superior to all of you. He is the best judge among all.” 30

When Imam Ali saw his right being suppressed in this way, he said: “This is not the first time you wrong me, but patience is my only way. I swear by Allah that you have not paid homage to him (Uthman) but you expect of him to give you the caliphate later on when he is about to leave.”


29. Refer to Fadhlullah Roozbahan's Abtal al-Battil, ibn Hajar al-Asqalani's Tahtheeb at-Tahtheeb, ibn Hajar al-Makki's Sawa'iq p.p.78, as-Sayooti's Tareekh al-Khulafa' p.p.66, Nooruddeen as-Sabbagh al-Maliki's al-Fussool al-Muhimma p.p.18, Ahmad ibn Hanbal's Musnad and Fadha'il and it was mentioned by many other Sunni scholars.

30. Refer to Ahmad's Musnad, al-Khawarizmi's Manaqib, Meer sayyid Ali Hamadani's Mawaddatul Qurba and Abu Bakr al-Bayhaqi's Sunan.

Adopted from the book : "Imam Ali (a.s.); Sunshine of Civilized Islam" by : "Muhammad Huseyn Tahmasebi"

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