The Birth and Family of Imam Ali
In The Name of Allah
..:: The Birth and Family of Imam Ali (Peace Be Upon Him) ::..
By Freda Stuffer
Quran and Etrat Internet University
Imam Ali - Fall 2009
The content of this article is on the subject of the unusual circumstances surrounding the birth of Imam Ali (PBUH). Furthermore, there are some hadith about the characteristics of Imam Ali’s near relatives (peace be upon them all). Amazing as his birth and family were, the information below is not well known by all Muslims. Thankfully, finding facts about Imam Ali’s history is not that difficult or mysterious a task that anyone who desires to learn the truth must remain oblivious.
Birthday of Imam Ali, details about Imam Ali’s mother, Fatima binte Asad, and their relationship to Prophet Mohammed
Fatima Binte Asad (PBUH) Imam Ali’s mother was from a family who followed all the books that were previously revealed to the other prophets sent by God, such as the Tarat (Jewish scriptures) and the Injeel (Christian scriptures). After prophet Mohammed (PBUH) was orphaned, Fatima bint Asad and her husband, Abu Talib, were also prophet Mohammed’s adoptive parents, who raised him from the time he was approximately eight years old (Abu Talib was actually prophet Mohammed’s biological Uncle).
Imam Ali was born inside God’s house, with his eyes closed, so he would not see the idols that the pagan Arabs had enshrined within the walls of the Kaaba. His mother, Fatima Binte Asad was also Prophet Mohammed’s aunt and adoptive mother. Prophet Mohammed was thirty years old when Imam Ali was born, (PBUT) and Imam Ali would not open his eyes until he saw Allah’s prophet in front of him, even though Prophet Mohammed had not yet begun his overt prophetic mission. Baby Imam Ali and his mother Fatima Binte Asad lived with Prophet Mohammed until the day she died. Prophet Mohammed had called her ‘mother,’ since she took care of him after his natural mother passed away. Prophet Mohammed also considered Imam Ali as his brother. In fact, Imam Ali was raised a Muslim, because he grew up in the prophet’s own house, peace be upon them all.
The miraculous birth of Imam Ali Ibn Abu Talib (PBUH)
On Friday, the 13th of the month of Rajab, a child was born in the family of Abu Talib, the light of whom kindled the whole World.(1) It was twelve years before the actual ordainment of Prophet Mohammed as the messenger of Islam, and twenty-three years before the migration of the Prophet (PBUH). Kunaab Makki(2) narrates about his birth: "We and Abbas (Ibne Abdul Mutalib) were sitting together when suddenly we saw Fatima bint-e-Asad moving towards the Kaabah in the condition having delivery pain and saying "Oh God I have faith in you and the Prophet (i.e., Abraham) who by your command laid the foundation of this house. O God! I swear you by the same Prophet (PBUH) and swear you by the child in my womb make this birth comfortable and easy for me."
The first House of God was rebuilt and renovated at the command of Allah by the Prophet Abraham assisted by his worthy successor, his son Ismail, under the supervision and guidance of the Angel Gabriel. The verses of the Koran say:
"And remember when we made the House a resort for mankind and a sanctuary (saying), Take ye the station of Abraham a place of prayer (For you); and covenanted with Abraham and Ismail (saying) purify ye two my House for those who make the circuit, and for those who prostrate (adoring)". Chapter 2, verse 125
"And remember when Abraham raised the foundation of the House with Ismail, (Praying) Our Lord! accept (this service) from us; verily Thou and Thou (alone) art the All-hearing and All-knowing." Chapter 2, verse 127(3)
This verse clearly depicts the purpose of the Kaaba, namely that it was to be a place of worship and that it was pure and sacred.
At the time of the birth of the Prophet Jesus (Isa) (PBUH) his illustrious mother was forced to leave the Holy House. A voice said to her: O MARY (MIRIAM)! LEAVE THE BAITU'L-MUQADDAS, SINCE IT IS THE PLACE OF WORSHIP AND NOT OF CHILDBIRTH. But when the time of Hazrat Ali's birth approached, a voice was heard saying: O FATIMA BINT ASAD! ENTER THE HOUSE (KAABAH). This was the time when all of us saw with our own eyes that the wall of the Kaabah broke apart and Fatima bint-e-Asad entered into the Kaabah. Then the wall again united.
We ran terrified and trembling to our houses to send our women into the Kaabah for the help and assistance of Fatima . We did our best but the door did not open. This event surprised all the people of Mecca . The women of Mecca were anxiously counting moments to meet Fatima till three days later, when she came out of the Kaabah along with a beautiful baby, saying, "God has chosen me from among the ladies of Mecca and He made me His guest in His house and gave me meals and fruits of the heaven to eat.
The ladies who were surrounding her in the form of a circle to escort her to her home asked her, "What name have you given to this child?" She said: "When I was in the Kaabah, I heard a hidden voice call," Name this child "ALI". The name Ali is an optimistic and cheerful name. It signifies nobility, eminence, and elevation. No one before Ali (PBUH) had ever had that name, and no one before him or after him ever had the honor of being born inside the sacred walls of the Holy Kaabah.(4)
When Imam Ali (PBUH) was born within the Kaabah his eyes were closed and his body in humble prostration before the Almighty Allah. Fatima stayed in the Kaabah for three days and as the fourth day approached, she stepped out, carrying her baby in her arms. The Holy Prophet (S.A.W) waiting to receive the newly-born child in his anxious arms. So the first face that little Ali (PBUH) saw in this world was the smiling face of the Apostle of God, Muhammad (S.A.W). He never looked at the three hundred and sixty pagan idols that had been enshrined there. Izalat-al- khafa,(5)Hakim in his Mustadrak (6) and Nuru'd-din Bin Sabbagh Maliki (7) also say: "No one before Ali(A.S.) was born in the Ka'ba. This was a distinction given to Ali(A.S.) in order to enhance his honor, rank, and dignity." Imam Ali's (A.S.) birth inside the honored Kaabah is unique in the history of the world. Neither a prophet nor a saint was ever blessed with such an honor. It is an undisputed historical fact recognized by all historians that the Holy Kaabah is the birthplace of Ali bin Abi Talib (PBUH). Glad tidings were brought to Abu Talib and his household. Upon their arrival at the Sacred House they saw Muhammad al-Mustafa (S.A.W) there with the child in his arms. (8)
The Holy Prophet who was eagerly waiting outside, went forward and took the son of his beloved uncle in his arms. The baby opened his eyes and the first person on whose face he set his eyes was the Holy Prophet (PBUH) The Prophet( a.s) put his tongue in the mouth of newborn and, they say, he transferred the Divine Prophetic Knowledge to him. Witnessing this event, the Prophet has said, "He chose me for the first glimpse and I selected him for the Knowledge".(9) He carried the baby Ali to the house of Abu Talib, where he, himself was brought up.
The first words out of the child‘s mouth were, "Assalaamo alaika ya Rasoolallah" (Peace be upon thee 0 Prophet of Allah). Thus it is an undisputed fact that Ali was born a Muslim, and his first words testified to the Prophethood of Muhammad. Ali's first bath after his birth was given by Muhammad with a prediction that this babe would give him his last bath. This Prophecy was fulfilled on the death of the Holy Prophet. The child accepted no other food other than the moisture of Muhammad's tongue, which he sucked for several days after his birth. Muhammad cuddled him in his lap in his infancy, and chewed his food and fed Ali on it; he often made him sleep by his side, and Ali enjoyed the warmth of Muhammad's body and inhaled the holy fragrance of his breath.(10)
Fatima binte Asad, the mother of Imam Ali Ibn Abu Talib (PBH)
Fatimah bint Asad, the mother of ‘Ali bin Abu Talib. Besides ‘Ali, she had other sons, Ja’far Tayyir was a famous General. He led the forces of Islam in the battle of Mu’tah and was martyred in the same battle. Fatima has four sons: Talib, Aqeel, Ja’far and Imam Ali. She also had two daughters: Umme Hani and Jumana. Her home was the real “cradle of Islam” as she had the future Prophet of Islam and the future leader of Islam growing up with her and Abu Talib (PBUH).(11)
She was born into a household that was the center of spirituality. Her grandfather Hazrath Hashim b. Abd Manaf was the leader of Quraysh and keeper of Kaaba. He was a capable and generous man. He married a girl from his own family who gave birth to his son, Asad, who was father of Fatima Bint Asad. The Hashimi family in the tribe of Quraysh is well-known (famous) for its moral virtues and respectable humanistic characteristics among the Arab tribes. Magnanimity, generosity, courage and so many other virtues are characteristics of Bani-hashim. Abdul Muttalib , who was a very discriminating man had assessed her nature, her intelligence and her capabilities from the very beginning and proposed her for his son, Abu Talib.
Fatima was a most extraordinary lady who followed the religion of the Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH). She believed in Allah and acted according to all the teachings of the previous Prophets. She also believed and acted upon all the books of Allah. This is evidence the neither she nor her husband were pagans and were Muslims from the beginning and therefore did not need to swear allegiance to Islam. She was always at such a high level of piety that any Dua she said would be fulfilled immediately. Fatima took extreme care of her husband, her children and above all, the Prophet. She had the privilege of raising five of the Holy Masoomeen (PBUH): Holy Prophet, Imam Ali, Fatima Zahra (SA) and for a short period Imam Hasan (PBUH) and Imam Hussain (PBUH).
When the Prophet [sallallahu alayhi wa sallam] grew up and proclaimed himself to be the Prophet [sallallahu alayhi wa sallam] and Last Messenger of Allah, she still stood by him. All the relentless persecution did not deter her in any way. She was exceptionally fond of her son Ja’far, but for the sake of Islam she bore the separation from him and his wife, Asma bint ‘Omais, when they migrated to Abyssiniah on the Prophet’s orders with the first group of migrant Muslims.
Fatimah bint Asad, being one of the first to swear allegiance to Islam and its concept of the Oneness of Allah, faced the economic and social boycott of the Shi’ab Abi Talib for those three terrible years. She was also a member of the privileged group who migrated to Madinah. ‘Abdul Muttalib, who was a very discriminating man, had assessed her nature, her intelligence and her capabilities from the very beginning and proposed for her for his son, Abu Talib. When the Prophet [sallallahu alayhi wa sallam] was told by Allah to spread the Message of Islam among his kith and kin, it was she who immediately accepted this invitation and swore allegiance and entered the fold of Islam. When the Prophet’s grandfather, ‘Abdul Muttalib, passed away, the guardianship of the orphan Muhammad [sallallahu alayhi wa sallam] passed on to Abu Talib . His wife, Fatimah bint Asad, looked after him, loving him as if he were her own. He remembered in his later life that she would go hungry to feed him. He respected her so highly that whenever she visited him he would stand up and receive her with great love, addressing her as ‘Mother’.
His uncle, too, loved him deeply. Muhammad [sallallahu alayhi wa Alehe wa sallam] in his childhood was so well mannered and so fastidious about his personal cleanliness that Abu Talib would hold him up as an example to his other children. Normally boys would be dirty and tousled from playing rough games with the other boys, but Muhammad [sallallahu alayhi wa sallam] was always dignified with a neat appearance. People were impressed when they saw him. Abu Talib liked all the children to eat together because he felt that whenever Muhammad [sallallahu alayhi wa sallam] ate with other children, food would be sufficient, and when the children ate alone, they would remain hungry. Abu Talib often told his nephew that he was specially blessed, as there was plenty when he was around.
Fatimah bint Asad did not spare any pains and looked after the Prophet [sallallahu alayhi wa Alehe wa sallam] in his infancy, boyhood and youth. Once in his childhood he accompanied his uncle on a business trip to Syria . Some very unusual and surprising incidents took place on the journey, and Abu Talib described these to his wife when they came back. Historians explain that in the following verse from Chapter ‘Ad-Dhuha’, [93:6] Did He not find you an orphan and give you shelter,(12) the term shelter is being applied for both Hadhrat Abu Talib (PBUH) and Lady Fatima Binte Asad (SA), for their crucial role in raising prophet Mohammed (PBUH).
The Prophet [sallallahu alayhi wa Alehe wa sallam] placed the invitation to a religion with a new and rational perspective before the Quraish of Makkah, the worshippers of all the false idols in the Ka’bah were infuriated. They could not dream that the Prophet [sallallahu alayhi wa Alehe wa sallam] would dismiss their gods as useless helpless creatures, and they became his bitter enemies for propagating a new faith that did away with their traditional and inherited practices. They adopted a very antagonistic attitude and swore to crush him and Islam. During this period they resorted to the most cruel and sadistic forms of torture to make the converts give up the new faith and return to their old barbaric practices and rituals. It was only the power and influence of Abu Talib that prevented them from doing any harm to Muhammad. He stood by him with all his love and carried out the responsibilities of a guardian faithfully by giving him his protection. No enemy could dare to do anything to him as long as he was under the mantle of his uncle’s protection.
Fatimah bint Asad cooperated with Abu Talib wholeheartedly and she was a mother, pure and simple, where the safety and well being of Muhammad [sallallahu alayhi wa Alehe wa sallam] was concerned. No wonder he loved and respected her so highly. Considering the dangerous conditions which developed for the Muslims in Makkah, he thought it was better that the Muslims migrate to Abyssinia where the ruler was known to be tolerant and hospitable. The leader of this first group of migrants was Ja’far bin Abi Talib, the brother of ‘Ali, and the favorite son of Fatimah bint Asad. She loved him more than the others because he resembled Muhammad [sallallahu alayhi wa Alehe wa sallam] very much, and was extremely intelligent. He seemed to have inherited the family’s mastery over language and was also an eloquent speaker who could win people over to his viewpoint. It was with this same skill that he had won over the king of Abyssinia when the Quraish appealed to him to surrender the Muslims to them.
The Quraish now decided to restrict the Muslims to one small area, besiege them and boycott them. Social and economic sanctions were imposed, and these three years were perhaps the toughest that the followers of Islam faced. Economically, it was certainly the worst ever. Children could be heard on all sides sobbing with hunger, and the elders looked on helplessly with tears in their eyes. To satisfy their hunger they started eating the leaves of trees and grass; they even sucked on wet skins to slake their thirst. Fatimah bint Asad passed this terrible period with fortitude and patience, and did not waver in the smallest degree. Ten years after the first revelation to Muhammad [sallallahu alayhi wa sallam] appointing him the Messenger of Allah, this harsh siege was finally lifted. It was in the same year that the Prophet’s wife and most faithful supporter, Khadijah, passed away. The pangs of separation from her were very strong for the Prophet [sallallahu alayhi wa Alehe Wa sallam] . He had not yet recovered from her loss, when he was dealt another terrible blow – his best ally, Abu Talib, also passed away. This year is known as ‘The Year of Sorrows’ in Islamic history.
The torture and torment, atrocities and cruelties reached such proportions that Allah finally ordered the Prophet [sallallahu alayhi wa sallam] to migrate to Madinah. Fatimah bint Asad was among these migrants.(13) In this context the Muslims found solace in Quranic revelations such as the following one: “So patience is most fitting. And it is Allah Whose help can be sought against that (lie) which you describe.” (12:18)(14)
When Lady Fatima Binte Asad (SA) left this temporary world to meet her Creator, Prophet (SAW) was heart broken. He gave her shroud of his own shirt, and he lowered her into the grave. Ahmad bin Abi Abdillah Al-Baraqi narrated from Muhammad bin Khalid, from Khalaf bin Hammad Al-Asadi, from Abil Hassan Al-Abdi, from Aamash, from "Abaya bin Rab'ee, from Abdullah bin Abbas, who said:
One day Ali bin Abi Talib (PBUH) went to the Prophet (PBUH) crying, "Verily we are Allah's and verily to Him we return."
The Prophet (PBUH) calmed Ali down. Ali (PBUH) said, "O Messenger of Allah! My mother, Fatima bint Asad (PBUH) passed away." The Prophet (PBUH) cried and then said, "Allah has mercy on your mother. Verily she was my mother as much as she was your mother. O Ali! take my turban and my shirt and use them as a shroud for her, and tell the women to perform ghusl perfectly. And do not move her after that until I come."
An hour later, the Prophet (PBUH) came and prayed on her in a way that he had never prayed on anyone else before. The Prophet (PBUH) said forty "Takbeers" to start the prayer on her.After the Prayer, the Prophet (PBUH) entered her grave and slept in it, and we could not hear a sound from him. After some time, the Prophet (PBUH) asked Ali and Hassan (PBUH) to enter the grave and they both did so. Then the Prophet (PBUH) asked them to exit the grave and they did.
Then the Prophet (PBUH) started crawling on his knees until he reached Fatima Bint Asad and said, "O Fatemah! I am Muhammad, the Master of Mankind. When Munkar and Nakeer come to you and ask you about your Lord, say, Allah is my Lord, Muhammad is my Prophet, Islam is my religion, Quran is my book, and my son is my Imam and my Wali."
Then the Prophet (PBUH) added, "O Allah ! Strengthen Fatemah with the confirmed word. And then he came out of her grave and poured some dust on her with his hands.
He clapped his hands and said, "I swear to He who has my life in His hands that Fatema heard this clap." Ammar bin Yasir asked the Prophet (PBUH), "May I sacrifice my father and Mother for you, O Messenger of Allah! You prayed on her in a way that you have never prayed on anyone else."
The Prophet (PBUH) replied: She is worthy of this respect from me. She had several sons from Abu Talib (PBUH) and they were wealthier than we were but she used to feed me and keep her other sons hungry. She used to clothe me but had nothing with which to clothe her own sons. She used to wash me and put perfume on me and keep her own sons dusty. Ammar asked, Why did you say forty "Takbeer" on her. The Prophet (PBUH) replied, "I will tell you O ammar! When I wanted to start the Salaat, I looked to my right and I saw forty lines of angels lined up to say salaat on her. So I said Takbeer for each line." Ammar asked, "Why did you sleep in her grave?" The Prophet (PBUH) replied: People will be resurrected on the Day of Judgment nude. I slept in her grave to ask Allah that she be resurrected clothed. I swear to He who has my life in His hands that I did not leave her grave until I saw two lamps made of light next to her head, two lamps next to her hands, and two lamps next to her feet. There are two angels that are responsible for staying with her and seeking forgiveness for her until the Day of Judgment.(15)
Based on these researches, there is no doubt about the noble characters of the family of Imam Ali. His mother was an admirable lady, who believed in the Books and the Prophets of Allah, even before Islam was initiated by Allah through Prophet Mohammed. Imam Ali was born inside the Kabaah, which is the house of God in Mecca , which was built by Prophet Ibrahim and his son, Prophet Ismail. Even though the pagan Arabs had turned the kaabah into a shrine for their wooden and stone idols, Imam Ali did not open his eyes to look at them. He waited to open his eyes until Prophet Mohammed came in front of him. Prophet Mohammed immediately adopted the baby and he took the baby and his mother to his house and they lived with Prophet Mohammed until Fatima binte Asad passed away from this life. Imam Ali was therefore raised as a Muslim from birth. This is a privilege that none of the prophet’s other companions or friends were blessed with. May Allah bless the Prophet Mohammed and his Family!
(1) Mustadrak, Vol 3, Page 483
(2) Kunaab Mecci
(3) Holy Qur’an. Chap. 2-Verse 125, 127
(4) Rana. (n.d.). Fatima Bint Asad. Retrieved 9 27, 2009, from Ya Zehra: http://www.yazehra.com/fatimabint.htm
(5) Izalat-al- khafa, Page 251
(6) Hakim in his Mustadrak
(7) Nuru'd-din Bin Sabbagh Maliki in his Fusulu'l- Muhimma, Fasl I, p.14
(8) Ibn al-Sabbagh al-Maliki, al-Fusul al-Muhimmah fi Ma'rifat al-A'immah, Ch. 1, p. 13
(9) Biography of Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib. By Mufti Jafar Husayn
(10) Ali, the Magnificient, Yousef Laljee
(11) Imam Ali. (n.d.). Retrieved 09 27, 2009, from Duas.org: http://www.duas.org/ImamAli.htm
(12) Holy Qur’an. Chapter ‘Ad-Dhuha’, [93:6
(13) Great Women of Islam (Who were given the good news of Paradise ) By: Mahmoud Ahmad Ghadanfar Revised by: Sheikh Safur-Rahman Al Mubarak puri
(14) Holy Qur’an 12:18
(15) Amaaliof Sadouq 189. Rowzatul Wa ezeen 123. Bihar Al Anwar 35:70. The Glad Tidings of Mustafa For the Shia of Murtaza by Shaykh Emadul Deen, Abu Jafa Mohammad Bin Abi Qasem Al-Tabari