In our definition a brave is one who puts himself in some danger, then saves himself or someone else from it. We call every such person as brave, who gains victory over his enemy. We consider them valiant, all those who are successful in territorial conquests. But the fact is that being actually 'brave' and 'valiant' is something altogether different. It is a middle line, thinner than hair and sharper than the sword's edge. Even a slight deviation of man takes him away from the path of moderation, and instead of virtue, a defect is created in him. There are many qualities that resemble virtues but actually they are not included among the virtues. For example, bravery is a virtue. But above it is dare-devilry or ferocity. That is to jump into danger without any thought and consideration. As much this course of actions moves to the upper side as much it deviates from the path of virtue. The second line is on the lower side. It is termed as cowardice. As much this also increases, as much it would be distant from the virtue of bravery. Actual bravery is only that has none of the above two deviations.
Whenever the Holy Imams exhibited their bravery it was always purified of both the extremes. Most of the warriors are such that the give a free rein to their ferocity and rarely keep in mind the actual aim of their fighting. Thus they become distanced from the virtue of bravery. Valour does not mean that one shows force in each and every occasion and that he should always be ready with a brandished sword. However, if one reflects on the consequences of the incidents and then to protect himself from future perils he takes up the sword, it is true valour.
Since the Holy Imams were cognizant of what valour actually means, therefore whenever they found the circumstances fit for the use of sword they resorted to force. And when conditions demanded patience and peace they put their swords away and exhibited their valour. We cannot call this cowardice because coward is one who only due to the weakness of his heart bears the oppression of his enemy and it is not the one who finds his strength ready for confrontation. But due to the exigencies of circumstances and with an eye on the consequential matters he stops from confrontation. These are such subtle differences as cannot be understood by the common people.
One who fights for territorial annexations, for gathering war-booty and wealth, killing innocent people and oppressing the masses, one who threatens those who are weaker than him and forces his obedience upon them. According to the Islamic view such a one does not deserve to be called valiant. He is actually a ferocious beast. The actual brave is one who refrains from fighting when there is risk of spread of mischief and turmoil. He avoids fighting to maintain peace in the Islamic lands, to keep the innocent people safe and for the defense of religious sanctity. One who does not use his military power and does not proceed with the violent option, in the view of Islamic morals such a one is truly brave and valiant. He is not a coward at all.
Anyway, after this brief introduction let us study about the valour of the Holy Imams (a.s).
Valour Of Amir’ul-Mu’minin (a.s)
If a detailed account were complied regarding the valour of Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) it would make up a considerably thick volume. It is the unanimous opinion of all the Muslim historians that a brave and valiant warrior like Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) has not been born into this world to this date. On the day of the battle of Uhad a call emanated between the earth and the sky: “There is no brave youth except Ali and there is no sword except Zulfiqar.”
In the battle of Khyber the Prophet (S) gave him the title of “The victor who does not flee” and the Holy Quran said:
Surely Allah loves those who fight in His way in ranks as if they were a firm and compact wall. (Surah Saff 61:4)
This proves that Ali (a.s) was a champion beyond comparison. Not once, but hundreds of times, the bravery of Ali (a.s) became apparent to all the people. And every time he remained unprecedented. It is narrated from Musab Ibne Umair in Mustatraf that Ali (a.s) used to be very careful and knew well all the techniques of offence and defense. It was not possible for anyone to get a hit at him. He wore the coat of mail only on his chest and it did not cover his back. Someone said: Do you not fear that someone may attack you from behind? He replied, “May Allah not keep me alive if I allow the enemy to approach me from behind.” It is mentioned in Khazinatul Adab that when Adi bin Hatim had the honor of meeting the Messenger of Allah (S), during the conversation he remarked, “The greatest poet, the greatest philanthropist, and the greatest warrior was from our community.” The Prophet (S) asked him who they were. He replied, “The greatest poet was Imrul Qays bin Hujr, the greatest philanthropist was Hatim bin Sa'ad (that is my father) and the greatest warrior was Amr bin Maad Yakrab.” The Messenger of Allah (S) said, “It is not this way; the greatest poet was Khunsa binte Amr, the greatest philanthropist is Muhammad the Messenger of Allah and the greatest warrior is Ali Ibne Abi Talib.”
Qutaybah has written in Ma'rif that when the confrontation of Siffin intensified, Ali (a.s) challenged Muawiyah to a duel and said: Let the two of us fight it out among us, so that after the slaying of one the Muslims would be safe. Amr Ibne Aas said: Fair enough! Muawiyah said, “You are asking me to fight Abul Hasan? While you know that he is such a warrior that none can escape him? This shows that you desire the rulership of Syria after me.”
It is narrated from Ibne Abbas in Riazun Nazarah that a person asked him, “Was Ali (a.s) himself participating in fighting in the battle of Siffin?” Ibne Abbas said in reply, “I have not seen anyone like him, ever ready to put his life into perils. I used to see him come out fighting bare head (without a helmet), holding the turban in one had and sword in the other. He was so confident of himself that he did not even fear that the enemy may attack his head.”
It is mentioned in Hayatul Haiwan that such powerful was the strike of Ali's sword that it used to cut everything in half in a single shot. If his sword fell on the head it cut the full body into half and if it fell sideways, it similarly divided the body into half.
From the instructions Ali (a.s) issued to his son Muhammad Ibne Hanafiah during the battle of Jamal, we come to know the level of his courage and his method of fighting. He said, “A mountain may move from its place but our feet must not. Fight with your teeth clenched and do not worry if you have to sacrifice your life on the way of Allah. Keep your eye on the last row of the opponent army. Keep your feet fixed on the ground like a tent-peg.”
No precedent can be found of the bravery Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) exhibited on the night of Migration (Hijrat). Surrounded by the bloodthirsty enemies it was only Ali (a.s) who could sleep with utmost tranquility on the bed of the Holy Prophet (S). After migration to Medina, the series of battles started. Ali (a.s) was the standard bearer in all these campaigns and in all of them the credit for victory went to him alone. If we go into the details of each and every battle the present work may be so prolonged as to fail in the aim for which it is written.
However, there is a very significant point in all these battles. Wherever and whenever Ali (a.s) exhibited his unsurpassed bravery it was invariably with the aim of achieving victory for Islam. Not once did he attack or slay anyone due to personal grudge or selfish motives. Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) lifted his sword only against the infidels who attacked the Muslims or the Muslims who created mischief and corruption and oppressed innocent people. He never slew any innocent person. Neither did he ever harm women or children, burn inhabitations or destroy them.
As long as he felt that the well being of Islam was in fighting he fought in an exemplary way. When he saw that the well being of Islam or Muslims was not in violent combat he sheathed his sword and acted with patience.
This is how a true warrior should be. In Islamic terminology this is the definition of a brave one. It is this type of valour that is one of the meritorious moral virtues.
Valour Of Imam Hasan (a.s)
Imam Hasan (a.s) was the son of the Lion of Allah, Ali al-Murtada (a.s). Why shouldn't the quality of valour be not found in him in the best way? The first opportunity that he got to exhibit the gems of his valour was in the Battle of Jamal. Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) gave his standard to Imam Hasan (a.s) and said, “Son, go and confront the enemy with your feet firmly fixed to the ground.” Thus he proceeded to the battlefield and fought with such bravery that the opponents were left astounded. When after slaying hundreds of enemies he returned, Ali (a.s) embraced his son and showered him with praises. After this he participated in the Battle of Siffin. For many days he continued to confront the Syrian forces with a battalion. At last the enemy fled in defeat.
After the Battle of Siffin, again he exhibited a valiant disposition in the Battle of Naharwan. He fought with such bravery that the Kharijis of Naharwan could be seen running here and there.
If Muawiyah had not spread the net of his intrigue everywhere, there would not have appeared signs of revolt in the army of Imam Hasan (a.s). And like the Battle of Siffin, he would again have subdued Muawiyah. However, when each soldier of his army fell a prey to Muawiyah's intrigue and became the Imam's fatal enemy, what could the Imam do in such in circumstances?
Valour Of Imam Husain (a.s)
Like Imam Hasan (a.s), Imam Husain (a.s) also earned accolades for his bravery during the lifetime of Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) in the battles of Jamal, Siffin and Naharwan. The greatest achievement of his in this regard is the battle of Kerbala on the day of Ashura. Hamid Ibne Muslim, a soldier of Yazid's army and the narrator of those events says, “I did not find anyone in the world more valiant than Imam Husain (a.s). Hunger and thirst of three days, the burning sands of Kerbala, the corpses of relatives, friends and children before his eyes, the fear of the dishonor of women, wounds in every inch of the body. None in the world could fight so bravely as Husain did, despite all those things. The first attack mounted by Husain had created turmoil in the Yazidite forces. People were fleeing at his sight like locusts. Imam Husain (a.s) waged many attacks, one after the other. The result was that at very many places piles of corpses laid. His last attack was terrific. The enemy fled in such a terror that the last men of that army entered Kufa. Everywhere there were screams of: Spare us! Spare us! O son of the Messenger of Allah! Seeing their wretched condition the son of the Mercy of the worlds had pity on them and put his sword in its sheath. Now it was time to display gems of patience.
Valour Of Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s)
After the martyrdom of Imam Husain (a.s), no ruler demanded oath of allegiance from any of the Holy Imams. Also none of the Imams was having any connection with apparent rulership. Therefore there was no occasion for them to perform the Jihad of the sword. Haider Husain the poet of Lucknow has worded this beautifully in one of his panegyrics:
Zainul Abideen changed the meaning of Jihad.
The daring is the same but battlefields have changed.
From Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) to Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) there were numerous occasions when need arose to exhibit valour of moral behavior. The Holy Imams (a.s) were never awed by the ruling powers to conceal truth. They never refrained from Amr bil Maroof (Enjoining good) and Nahy Anil Munkar (Forbidding evil).
If the calamities that befell Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) had descended on mountains they would have melted away like wax. If they had fallen on days, they would have changed into nights. However he bore everything with the strength of faith, and did not allow his ancestral valour to leave him for a moment.
Ibne Ziyad and Yazid in their respective courts, tried their utmost to overawe the Ahl ul-Bayt through a shameless display of their power and tyranny, but Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) rebutted their efforts through his daring and irrefutable replies, such that they were humiliated beyond description. The Imam also ascended the pulpit in the Damascus mosque and in the presence of Yazid, praised the Ahl ul-Bayt and denounced Bani Umayyah. Anyone else would have found it difficult to even utter a word in such circumstances.
Valour Of Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s)
Once, Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) delivered a sermon in the Holy Mecca and said, “We are the favorite and chosen servants of God, and His vicegerents on the face of the earth. One who obeys us is successful and one who opposes would be evil and wretched.”
Someone conveyed these statements to Hisham, the ruler of Syria. He summoned Imam Ja'far as Sadiq (a.s) and Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) to Damascus. When the two Holy Imams (a.s) reached the court of Syria, Hisham was practicing archery with his officials. He said to Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s): You also try shooting the target. Imam (a.s) said, “I have become aged and cannot perform archery.” Hisham said in a taunting manner, “You are the selected servant of God. You claim that you possess special expertise in every field. Archery in easy for you.” Saying this he gestured his men to hand over to the Imam the bow and arrows. Imam (a.s) took hold of the bow, fixed an arrow and shot it at the eye of the target. It hit the target right at the center. The Imam fixed another arrow and shot it. It penetrated into the tail of the first arrow. He continued till he had shot altogether nine arrows one after the other. Seeing this unimaginable feat Hisham was embarrassed.
He did not utter a word for a long time. The two Holy Imams (a.s) also remained silent for sometime. Then Imam Baqir (a.s) became infuriated. Hisham gauged his moods and he seated each of them beside himself and said, “It seems you have a lot of practice in archery. From where did you receive coaching in this skill?” Imam (a.s), “We are the Ahl ul-Bayt of the Prophet. Do not compare our knowledge and perfection to others. We received these perfections in inheritance. The earth can never remain devoid of us. We are perfect in every matter and other people are deficient in reaching our level.” Upon hearing this reply, Hisham was filled with anger and he said, “Do you claim that the people of the time are obliged to obey you?” Imam (a.s) replied without any fear or hesitation, “Indeed! We are those vested with authority (Ulil Amr).” Hisham said, “But your command is effective nowhere.” Imam said, “Those who do not consider us Ulil Amr, are sinners.” The anger of Hisham intensified. He said, “Am I also not Ulil Amr?” Imam (a.s) replied, “You are a king, made by the people and we are Ulil Amr, appointed by Allah.” Hisham decided that further debate in front of the courtiers was not advisable and thus he ordered that the father and son may be taken at such and such place and kept under detention. When the Imams (a.s) were leaving, someone remarked, “You were audacious to speak in such a manner before the ruler. Thank God he did not order your execution immediately.” Imam (a.s) said, “We Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s) are the announcers of Allah's word and exposers of the truth. We never hesitate in it and we are never afraid of death.”
Valour Of Imam Ja’far As-Sadiq (a.s)
During the tenure of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) the ruling power was in the hands of Mansur Dawaniqi, who had wrought destruction upon the Hasani Sadat (Descendants of Imam Hasan). Mansur wanted to make Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) his obedient one and that Imam (a.s) may begin to accept him as his leader. But he was not able to achieve his. When he realized that the Imam couldn't come into his control through this manner he became more infuriated. One day he said to the Imam, “Your example for me is like a bone stuck in the throat.” He replied, “Your suspicion is baseless. I do not interfere in any of your governmental matters. Why do you consider my guidance and teachings harmful? And why do you trouble me all the time? He said, “I consider your teachings anti-government, and thus command you to stop your classes and lectures.”
Imam (a.s) said, “I seek Allah's forgiveness! Who can dare restrain me from the propagation of truth?” Mansur said, “If you do not give it up I would have you killed.” Imam said, “Do you threaten me with murder? The Ahl ul-Bayt have always been martyred and imprisoned in the process of spreading the truth?” Mansur said, “I am the Caliph of the time. My obedience is incumbent on you.” Imam said, “No ones obedience is incumbent on us, Ahl ul-Bayt. Rather our obedience is obligatory on everyone.”
From that time Mansur was always thinking of ways to have the Imam murdered.
Now, this is moral valour. When the Shias of Khorasan and Yemen etc. learnt that Mansur was troubling Imam (a.s), his supporters came to him and said, “If the Imam allows, we can fill the fields with Shias and confront the armies of Mansur with absolute determination.” Imam said, “I do not find it expedient to have a violent confrontation. If he forces me to his obedience or tries to stop my guidance and teachings, I would wage holy war against him.”
Now this is true valour. On the other hand if one takes a step without any consideration causing mischief and turmoil, it would be an act of dare-devilry and not valour.
Valour Of Imam Musa Kazim (a.s)
After being on throne for sometime, the Abbaside Caliph, Mahdi realized that in the presence of the Family of the Holy Prophet (S) people would scarcely value his spiritual or temporal status. Thus he began to devise ways to arrest the Imam (a.s). In 144 A.H. he went to Hajj with a lot of ostentatious arrangements. The Holy Imam had also arrived for Hajj. In the very days of Hajj, Mahdi dispatched a slave of his to the Imam and summoned him to his presence. When the slave arrived he found Imam (a.s) engrossed in the worship of Allah. When he concluded his prayers, the slave conveyed the caliph's message and waited for the Imam's reply. The Imam (a.s) said, “Tell Mahdi, that right now I am in the service of such a glorious Emperor Who is the Creator and Master of all the worlds. I don't have time to meet him (Mahdi). I will see after completing the Hajj.” Mahdi found this reply very distasteful. Finding this a good opportunity, his officials and agents began to tell him that Musa Ibne Ja'far intended to revolt against him. “He has raised a battalion of his Shias to fight you. He is collecting Khums and Zakat funds to use in war.” Hearing all this, Mahdi was further infuriated. After Hajj again he summoned the Holy Imam. He arrived. He accorded no honor to the Holy Imam and did not even invite him to be seated.
The Imam did not like these bad manners, and without his permission he seated himself next to him. Mahdi said tauntingly, “I had summoned you before but you did not oblige. Are such the manners of the family of the Prophet?” The Imam replied with utmost daring, “For me the command of Allah had more importance than your instructions. This is the sanctuary of Allah. Herein the ruler and subjects, the rich and the poor, all are same.” He said, “I have heard that you are raising an army against me?” “No”, said the Imam, “Whoever has conveyed to you thus is a liar and an enemy of us, Ahl ul-Bayt. We Ahl ul-Bayt never like mischief and turmoil.” He said, “Is my obedience not incumbent on you?” “Not at all!” replied the Imam, “Allah has made our obedience incumbent on all as we are Ulil Amr.” Mahdi said, “I desire to keep you at Baghdad with me, so that people of that region may also benefit from your knowledge.” Imam (a.s) said, “It would be unbearable for me to leave the Holy House.” But Mahdi did not relent and at last he took the Imam (a.s) along with him to Baghdad and put him in prison.
The above incident clearly shows the valour and courage of Imam Musa Kazim (a.s)
Valour Of Imam Reza (a.s)
Numerous incidents connected with the bravery and courage of Imam Reza (a.s) are recorded in the books of history. Here we can only mention one or two of such anecdotes.
Mamun invited Imam Reza (a.s) to his state capital and insisted upon him to accept his heir apparency. The Imam (a.s) continued to refuse it and told him in unequivocal terms that he would never be able to become his heir. He said that he would be poisoned to death before Mamun died. Mamun said, “Who can dare kill you, as long as I live?” The Imam said, “If it had not be expedient I would have even told you the name of my killer.” When Mamun realized that he was not relenting he was infuriated and he said, “By this refusal you aim to become famous for your piety and abstemiousness and that my helpless and weakness may become obvious.” Imam said, “I have never lied in my life. It does not befit me to pretend austerity for the sake of material gains. But your insistence in this matter shows that you want to prove to the world that Ali Ibne Musa (a.s) was not abstemious in the real sense. Material wealth had itself deserted him for some time. And when it came back to him he became involved in it with all desire and fondness.”
Hearing this reply Mamun became more angry and making a show of his apparent strength and power said, “If you do not accept my heir-apparency and continue to refuse it, I would have you killed.” Imam (a.s) said, “If the matter has reached to this point, I will accept it with the conditions that I will not be involved in administration, I would not refrain from enjoining good and forbidding evil and I will never support you in an unlawful matter.”
It is mentioned in Uyoon Akhbar ar-Reza that when Mamun held the commemorative function to celebrate the appointment of Imam Reza (a.s) as the heir apparent, he requested the Holy Imam (a.s) to deliver a sermon. The Imam came to the pulpit and after invoking praise on the Almighty and glorifications of the Holy Prophet (S) he said,“People! Due to our relationship with the Messenger of Allah! We have a right upon you and in the same way you have a right upon us. When you have fulfilled our rights it is also necessary on us to observe your rights. Thanks be to Allah that He has protected those of our rights that people had destroyed and raise those of our affairs that people had demolished. For a period of eighty years the people of disbelief and disobedience used to invoke curse upon us from the pulpits and they continued to hide our excellences and made false allegations against us. But Allah intended that out fame should rise high.
O People! I did not accept the heir-apparency because I desire post and status and I am desirous of rulership. I accepted it so that if I see you walking on the wrong path I may restrain you, whether you listen to me or not. I inform you that I will never hesitate in the expression of truth, even though I may be killed for this. The existence of us, Ahl ul-Bayt in the world is only for the purpose that we may fearlessly support truth.”
Valour Of Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s)
During the time Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s) resided in Baghdad at the behest of Mamun and Mamun was making efforts to give his daughter Ummul Fadl in marriage to him, the Abbasids were severely opposed to him. Once, Imam (a.s) delivered some admonitions in the mosque of Baghdad, mentioning the atrocities committed by Bani Umayyah and Bani Abbas on the Sadats. 2) Hearing these things the Abbaside got infuriated and were ready to kill him. Someone reported this matter to Imam (a.s). He said, “Go and tell them that I am not at all afraid of those things. Can they terrorize me to restrain my tongue from expressing truth? We Ahl ul-Bayt are never afraid of such things.” When Mamun learnt about this intention of the Abbasides he strictly restrained them from it.
Valour Of Imam Ali Naqi (a.s)
In a field opposite his palace, Mutawakkil had kept in captivity many man-eating wild animals like lions, tigers, leopards and bears etc. A very high wall surrounded this field. The field was known as Barkatul Saba. When Mutawakkil used to be extremely angry with a criminal, he was pushed into this enclosure. The beasts inside used to pounce on him and finish him off in no time.
One day Mutawakkil summoned Imam Ali Naqi (a.s) and said to him, “I have heard that you are instigating people to revolt against me.” Imam (a.s) said, “Whoever has conveyed this has given you incorrect information. I have never taken part in any political matter.” He said, “You are trying to fool me.” Imam (a.s) became angry at this allegation and he said, “Do you consider me like yourself? We are Ahl ul-Bayt of the Messenger. We never resort to intrigue.” Mutawakkil ordered him to be thrown to the beasts, and he himself went to the terrace of his palace to watch the drama. The slaves tried to forcibly take Imam (a.s) to the enclosure of the wild animals but he said, “There is no need to apply force, I will go there myself.” The Holy Imam walked with absolute tranquility and opening the door of the enclosure stepped inside. All those who witnessed this daring were shocked. As soon as he reached inside all the beasts gathered around him and wagging their tails fell down at his feet, while the Imam caressed their heads and backs in affection. After this Imam (a.s) calmly spread his prayer mat and performed Prayer. The beasts surrounded him in a circle and watched his dignified worship. Seeing this, Mutawakkil was bewildered and he had to face intense regret.
Valour Of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s)
Mustainbillah, the Abbaside ruler was having a very uncontrollable horse, and anyone who mounted it was thrown off the back and trampled. Someone told Mustainbillah that Shias often chant the praises of the miracles of their Imams (a.s). “Make him ride this horse. If he tramples him, a great risk would be eliminated for the caliph. On the other hand if the horse is brought under control, we would be able to have it tamed.” Mustain summoned the Holy Imam and said, “I desire that you mount this horse today.” The Imam (a.s) had already heard about the wild nature of this horse, but not a slightest fear had a way with him. Without any hesitation the Imam moved towards it and mounted it fearlessly. Mustain was very much surprised and said, “How were you able to gain control on a horse that even the most daring people could not mount?” The Imam replied, “We are the Ahl ul-Bayt of the Messenger, our perfections cannot be compared to others.”
Adopted from the book: "Akhlaqe A'imma, Morals and Manners of the Holy Imams" by: "Maulana Sayyid Zafar Hasan Amrohi"
Share this article