Why People Deserted Imam Ali (A.S.) after Knowing His Distinction?
Another person asked him about the Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali (A.S.) as to why people deserted him after knowing his distinction, his past feats, and the status he enjoyed in the eyes of the Messenger of God (S.A.W.). He answered, "They deserted him and favoured others to him after having come to know of his merits simply because he had killed a great number of their fathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles, and other relatives who defied God and His Messenger (S.A.W.); therefore, they kept their grudge against him inside their hearts and they did not like it when he became their ruler. They did not have grudge against anyone else as much as they had against him, for nobody else was so forceful in making jihad in the defense of the Messenger of God (S.A.W.) as much as he was; so, they deserted him for someone else."
In his answer, the Imam (A.S.) was making the point that the nation deep down was still suffering from deviations the causes of which rested in the period of the foolish days of ignorance; otherwise, the removal of Imam Ali (A.S.) from the responsibility of government, despite the qualifications and merits he enjoyed, which raised him above anyone else in the nation, was not a natural matter necessitated by an innocent political mistake. It was the result of a move which knew its direction and whose indications became apparent during the moments when Ali's sword was dripping with the blood of the enemies of God, so much so that there was hardly a house in Arabia where Ali's sword did not cause a mourning.
The Prophet (S.A.W.) realized the seriousness of Ali's stance, the difficulty of the situation after his demise, and the dire consequences awaiting him due to his firm jihad in the Cause of God. The statements he (S.A.W.) made regarding Ali (A.S.), therefore, were meant to deter those who were waiting for a chance to get even with him. Had they not been veiled by grudges, and by his own glorious past, they would have been described as the beginning of the tragedy of justice and righteousness.
We cannot find a better explanation for the change in public opinion regarding Ali's stance after the death of the Prophet (S.A.W.) better than what Imam al-Reza (A.S.) provided. If we set aside the clear ahadith which named the Imam (A.S.) as the caliph succeeding the Prophet (S.A.W.) without any question, and we consulted the faculty of reason in all the criteria and logical orders it has to define for us the person who should succeed the Prophet (S.A.W.) as the caliph, the unavoidable outcome would certainly be none other than Ali (A.S.). Besides, had the grudges and the past not been the cause of the removal of Ali from the post of ruler, the question would have remained unanswered by any honest and equitable person.
Another person asked him, "Tell me, O son of the Messenger of God! Why didn't Ali ibn Abu Talib (A.S.) fight his enemies during the twenty-five years after the demise of the Messenger of God (S.A.W.) as he did during the days of his caliphate?" He answered, "It is due to his following the example of the Messenger of God (S.A.W.) who did not fight the polytheists of Mecca during the thirteen years after his Prophethood, or the ones in Medina during the nineteen months period of his stay; it is due to the number of his supporters being too small. Likewise, Ali (A.S.) did not engage himself in fighting his enemies because his own supporters were too few. Since the Prophethood of the Messenger of God (S.A.W.) was not nullified by the fact that he did not make jihad during the period of thirteen years (in Mecca) and nineteen months (in Medina), the Imamate of Ali (A.S.) was not nullified because he did not perform jihad for twenty-five years, for the deterring factor in both examples was one and the same."
What the Imam (A.S.) has indicated here can be used as an answer to those who regarded the peaceful stance taken by the Imam (A.S.) towards his opponents for twenty-five years as an evidence to the Imam's satisfaction with the legitimacy of the then government, or to his relinquishing of his own right to be the caliph. What is most beautiful in this narrative is the comparison between the peaceful stance of Imam Ali (A.S.) towards his opponents before assuming the caliphate and the stance of the Prophet (S.A.W.) prior to the hijra (migration to Medina) and thereafter, giving the explanation that the reason in both instances is the small number of supporters and the scarcity of followers, and that had the Imam's reluctance to wage a holy war in order to achieve his objective been the reason for the invalidation of his Imamate, the reluctance of the Prophet (S.A.W.), likewise, to wage a holy war during that period of time would have been a reason for the invalidation of his Prophethood, for the Prophet (S.A.W.) had set the example, and the Imam (A.S.) and all other Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) followed suit.
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