Imam Ali's Authority on Holy Scriptures
There is ample evidence to show that Ali was well acquainted with both the Old and New Testaments, which he applied frequently when deciding judicial cases involving Jews and Christians respectively. He was similarly well-versed in the Quran, (the fountainhead of the teachings of Islam) and the prerogative of interpreting the Quran could only be entrusted to a learned scholar of divine choosing and Ali’s commentaries on the Holy Book are the only authoritative ones.
Despite his extreme intellectualism, he employed the language of the common man using everyday phraseology and imagery such as could be understood by the layman. His commentaries gave a new conception and strength to Islamic creed, for which they formed a doctrinal basis; it was his expositions which transformed Islam into a practical code for everyday living. Islam ceased to be a mere collection of beliefs and formulae and came to stand for the principles of life. As an intimate of the Prophet he knew at what time and under what circumstances each Verse of the Holy Quran had been revealed and to the work of the Holy Prophet he was able to add eloquent and illuminating adornments and explanations. His legal knowledge was also most useful in the exposition of the Quranic laws.
It was his knowledge of these laws which made him refuse to agree to the Kharijites slogan, “The kingdom and decision belong to God alone.” Au would not negotiate with the rebels, recognizing a seditious purpose behind their quasi-religious sentiments. Instead, he assembled leading scholars of the Quran and said to them, “Has not the Quran ordained that a judge be appointed to act as arbiter in the case of differences between husband and wife and the like, then how can it be that at the occurrence of a rift between the ranks of Islam and its followers, God can withhold the appointment of arbiters? Is the position of a nation of less importance than of an individual couple? How can a matter of such magnitude be left unattended by God?”
“The Almighty God has collected the whole Quran in the heart of Ali.” The duty of the collection and codification of the Quran was entrusted to Ali.
Imam Ali (A.S.) the Founder of the “Ilm-ul-Tafseer”
The credit of founding the “Ilm-ul-Tafseer” or “The science of Commentary” on the Quran also goes to Ali. The analysts unanimously declare that when any chapter or verse was revealed to the Holy Prophet he used to acquaint Ali with it. Thus as Ali was intimately connected with the source of the Quran at first hand, Ali’s expositions and interpretations were authoritative and binding. It was in imitation of Au that later commentators promoted the exposition of the Quran into a regular science. The elaboration of the various doctrines and dogmas which have since enlightened the Muslims was thus chiefly due to the initiative taken by Ali.
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