Adapted from: Noor al-Islam No. (35-36) January/February 1992 pp.15-17
Talking about martyrdom and martyrs has never been an easy task, but it grows much more difficult when we are talking about the martyrdom of the Commander of the Faithful and the Master of the Pious: Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (A. S.).
Imam Ali was assassinated in Kufa by the most evil of Allah's creation; Abdel Rahman bin Muljim, a Khariji, on the twenty first of Ramadhan year 40 A.H.; of an age of 63 years that were spent in serving Allah's cause upholding justice, and establishing God's rule on earth.
The Imam's Fatal Hours
At about sunset on the eve of Ramadhan 20, year 40 A.H. Ume Kulthoum the Imam's daughter brought him his breakfast meal that consisted of two loaves of bread and a bowl of yoghurt, in addition to some salt. When the Imam finished his prayer, he sat down to eat. But when he saw the food, he shook his head and wept saying "I don't think that a daughter has ever hurt her father as you hurt me now". Confused, Ume Kulthoum asked her father; "But what did I do?" "How could you offer me two kinds of food in one meal? Do you want to elongate the time I stand before Allah on the day of judgement. My brother and cousin, Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah has never eaten two kinds of food in all his life. O my daughter, all those who eat delicious food or dress fine clothes will stand for a longer time before Allah, the most exalted, at the day of judgement. I swear by Allah that I will not eat anything before you remove one of the two".
After she obliged, he ate one loaf only with some salt. He then thanked God, and went back to praying. He prayed many prostration's and recited many invocations. And he used to look every now and then towards the sky, looking quite worried and restless. Then he went on to recite the, "Yassin" Surah.
When he finished it, he fell asleep for a while only to wake up in a state of shock. He stood up and said, "May Allah bless our meeting with Him" and repeated many times the invocations of "There is no strength or ability except in Allah the Most High, the Supreme".
The Crime and the Winning of Martyrdom
At dawn, when it was time to call for the morning prayer, he performed ablution and went down to the yard. The geese that were kept there began to scream for the first time since they were given as a present to Imam Husain. Noticing this, the Imam said, "These screams will be followed by cries". Yet once again when he reached the door he could not open it, and it caught his gown, but he pulled it out and said, "O God bless my death. O God bless this opportunity of meeting you".
The Imam then walked to the mosque, whose lights were out. There were three other men inside: The damned Ibn Muljim who killed the Imam, Shabib bin Buhairah and Wazdan bin Mujalik.
The Imam called for the prayer, and went down, reciting invocations and praising God. He then went to his niche and began to pray. Ibn Muljim knew that this was his chance. He stood behind the Imam and waited until the Imam prostrated and raised his head and hit him hard on it. The Imam fell on his face. Yet he did not moan; instead he said; "In the name of Allah, and on the religion of His Messenger". Then he shouted at the murderer saying: "Ibn Muljim killed me, the son of the Jewish women killed me. I have won by the Lord of Kaa'ba. I have won by the Lord of Kaa'ba".
People started to gather around the Imam who kept on trying to press on the wound and covering it with sand. Then he recited the following verse: "From the earth We have created you, and to the earth We shall restore you; and from it We will bring back (to life)" (Taha:55).
Merciful even on His Assassin
By the time some of the Imam's followers arrested Ibn Muljim and brought him to the Amir. Al-Hassan (A.S.) addressed his father saying; "We have brought in your enemy and the enemy of Allah". The Commander of the Faithful opened his eyes and saw Ibn Muljim whose hands were tied and whose sword was lying over his neck, and said in a faint but merciful voice: "You have committed a grave wrong. Have I not been a good Imam, to deserve such a penalty".
Then he addressed his son Al-Hassan; "Have mercy on your prisoner, my son, and treat him with pity and sympathy, Can't you see that he is trembling with fear and panic". In response Al-Hassan said, "This damned murderer has killed you and you want us to have mercy on him?" "Yes" said Imam Ali "We are the members of a house of whom any wrong committed against them, will only make them more generous, tolerant and forgiving. Mercy and kindness are our traits and not his. I want you to feed him from your food and give him a drink from your water. Don't tie his hands or his feet. And if I die then execute a just judgement by killing him with one blow only. And don't mutilate his body for I heard your grandfather say; "Don't mutilate even with the body of a rabid dog". And if I live, then I would know what to do with him, and I am rather entitled to pardon him".
The Murderer and His Motives
But who is Abdulrahman bin Muljim Al-Muradi? And why did he kill Imam Ali?
He is a Yemeni who was sent by the Wali of Yemen with ten others to pledge loyalty to the Imam. But he stayed on in Kufa. When Imam Ali prepared his army to fight in the conquest of Nahrawan, he went with the army and fought bravely. On the way back, he asked the Imam to go ahead of the troops, and announce the good news to the people of Kufa. The Imam granted him the permission and the man went to Kufa and started to walk down its roads telling everybody about the decisive victory. When he passed by the Tamim quarters, a woman called Fataam bint Souqainah Bint Aouf, who was famous for her beauty, heard him. She asked him to come in for a while so that she could inquire about her family. Now Fataam's people were Kharijis of whom the Imam had killed so many people in this war including her father, her brother and her uncle.
When Fataam heard these news she began to cry and mourn. Then she had this offer for him: "Isn't there anybody who can avenge my family and wipe out my disgrace? I would give him my money and my beauty". Ibn Muljim felt sorry for her and asked her to marry him so that he would take her revenge. Hearing this, she made it clear that her condition for marrying him is the death of Ali bin Abi Talib: "If you desire this wealth and beauty, I see no reason that would prevent you from killing Ali bin Abi Talib. You are not better or more pious than those who used to devote themselves to praying and fasting. But when they saw that he has turned to kill Muslims with no just cause, they fought against him and this led them to be unjustly killed by the Imam". Ibn Muljim said; "You have undermined my faith and made doubt penetrate into the inside of my heart".
Thus, he became one of the Kharijis who believed that it was their duty to kill Ali (A.S.), Mu'awiya and Amr Bin AI-Ass to enable the people to chose a new Imam and end the strife. He agreed with two other Kharijis (Turk Bin Abdullah Al-Tamimi and Abdallah Bin Uthman Al-Anbari) that they would kill all three of them, but the other two failed and only Ibn Muljim was successful in killing the Imam in the manner we explained earlier.
The Last Will
After the attempt on his life by a stab from Ibn Muljim, he had this will to all of his family and to Imams Hassan and Husain who were all around him:
"My advice to you is to be God-conscious and steadfast in your religion. Do not yearn for the world and do not be seduced by it. Do not resent anything you have missed in it. Proclaim the truth, work for the next world. Oppose the oppressor; support the oppressed... Fear God in matters concerning orphans... Fear God in your relations with your neighbors... Remain attached to the Qur'an... Persist in Jihad in the cause of Allah with your money, your souls and your tongues ... ".
A Painful Farewell.. and the Union with the Beloved Messenger
The Imam started to become unconscious for long intervals. He regained consciousness once, and looked at all his family one by one and said: "May Allah bless you all". Then he was sweating heavily, and he kept reciting the Shahadah and praising Allah. Towards the end, he faced the Qiblah and stretched his hands and legs and said: "I bear witness that there is no god but Allah alone with no other partner and that Muhammad is his Messenger". And with this final testimony he passed away.
Thus the life of the best of Allah creations with the exception of Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) ended. A life that he has devoted to the struggle for the cause of Allah, helping the oppressed and upholding justice. A life in which he was a symbol of all noble and sublime values, and one of the shining symbols of human perfection throughout history.