Sunday, May 7, 2017

Hazrat Ali; Father of Sufism

Thinking about the beginning of Ramadan.
Thinking about the beginning of the Qur’an.
Thinking about the line of Imams.

Everything has a beginning.

The Qur’an begins with the fatihah. 

There is a tradition that the entirety of the knowledge of the Qur’an can be found in the fatihah; the entire fatihah is contained in the first line, bismillah ir-rahman ir-rahim, everything in that phrase is found in bismillah; all of that knowledge is found in the first letter, beh – a boat-shaped letter with a dot underneath; all of the knowledge of the beh is found in the dot, and that dot is Hazrat Ali.

The fatihah begins our prayers; it begins our interaction with revelation.

All of that is encompassed in a dot. 
That dot is Hazrat Ali. 
The first dot of the Qur’an, the meaning of the Qur’an, the beginning of the line of Imams, Hazrat Ali AS.

 Who is the king of men?
Who is the Lion of God?
 Who is the hero without peer?
Who is Hazrat Ali?

No figure in the early history of Islam, except the Prophet himself, has been the locus for so much controversy and debate as that of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. These controversies exist on more than one level, ranging from questions of politics and history to issues in theology and metaphysics.

I am not here to give the biography of a great man. I am not here to give a history lesson. I am here to talk of the importance of Hazrat Ali to sufi's.

Who is the Ali, the father of sufism and holder of all occult mysteries?

The last of those who are known as the Rightly Guided Caliphs, the greatness of Imam Ali is best represented by story of Khaybar. The story begins that Prophet Muhammad SAW laid seige to the fort of Khaybar, but the walls were so well-fortified that the army could not break through. The Angel Gabriel came to the Prophet Muhammad and told him to recite the nad-e ali:
Call Ali call Ali call Ali
Call Ali, the manifestation of marvels
He will be your helper in difficulty
Every anxiety and sorrow will end
Through your friendship. O Ali, O Ali, O Ali

The following passage from the Nahj al-Balaghah speaks of esoterism and the initiation:

"Here (and he pointed to his heart) I have abundant knowledge, if only I could find people to bear it. Unfortunately, I have found learners who are not faithful to it, applying it to the devices of belief in this world Thus does knowledge die out with the passing of its bearers. O God! Certainly the earth is not devoid of those who rise in honor of God for good reason, either openly and notably, or in fear and obscurity, so that the proof and clarifications of God may not be in vain. But how many are they, and where are they? They are, by God, fewest in number but greatest in rank with God. By them God preserves the divine proofs and clarifications until they entrust them to others like them and plant them in their hearts of others like them. By them knowledge enters into real insight, and they are imbued with the spirit of certainty.They consider easy what seems hard to those who lead a life of comfort, and they take to what the ignorant are averse to. They are physically in the world, yet their spirits are suspended in the highest liberation. They are the deputies of God on earth, and are those who invite people to the religion of God. Oh, how I long to see them!"

Here ‘Ali was speaking of none other than the esoteric teachings of Islam and the idea of the khawass, or spiritual elite. He was speaking of the true mystical knowledge, which can only be carried by those who are transformed by its truths. 

This is why it dies out with the passing of its bearers; books cannot convey such knowledge, they can only speak of it. He also echoes here the fact that many are called, but few are chosen, making note of those who did not make proper use of what he had taught them.

Even in the time of ‘Ali those qualified to receive spiritual teachings and pass them on to others like them were in the minority, although sanctity was of course much more widespread. 

This explains why out of thousands of Companions of the Prophet, and even of the smaller group who were closer to the Prophet, only a small handful of men were to pass on the inner teachings of Islam, with ‘Ali functioning as the main channel for this transmission

Even in the time of ‘Ali those qualified to receive spiritual teachings and pass them on to others like them were in the minority, although sanctity was of course much more widespread. This explains why out of thousands of Companions of the Prophet, and even of the smaller group who were closer to the Prophet, only a small handful of men were to pass on the inner teachings of Islam, with ‘Ali functioning as the main channel for this transmission. 

There are traditions that after Hazrat Fatima's death, he was deeply immersed in meditation and spiritual works.  Many sufi vigils and rituals trace their origin from him or his disciples. 

So renowned was Ali's occult knowledge about kabblah and astronomy that Jewish sages would routinely come and discuss meanings of astrological phenomenon with him. 

 In the  Mathnawi below by Rumi we have a reference of ‘Ali, Like ‘Ali, sigh into the well.  This refers to the tradition that tells that ‘Ali once whispered into a well the secret, esoteric doctrine taught to him by the Prophet, along with a warning against its being divulged. 

O ‘Ali, thou art all mind and eye, relate a little of that which thou hast seen!
The sword of thy forbearance has rent my soul, the water of thy knowledge has purified my earth.
Tell it forth! I know that these are His (Gods) mysteries, because tis His work (way) to kill without sword
Thine eye has learned to perceive the Unseen, (while) the eyes of the bystanders are sealed
Inasmuch as the moon (even) without speech is showing the way, when it speaks it becomes light upon light.
Since thou art the gate of the city of Knowledge, since thou art the beam of the sun of Clemency,
Be open, O Gate, to him that seeks the gate, so that by means of thee the husks may reach the core

Prophet Muhammad, the undisputed head of the Muslim community during his life, said at Ghadir-e Khumm:
He whose mowla I am, Ali is his mowla
Now, this declaration is universally recognized – it mentioned in the Qur’an:

In the Sufi tradition it is related that the Prophet once said to ‘Ali, You are of the rank of Aaron in relation to Moses, except that there will be no prophet after me

Perhaps we may examine this statement in light of the prophetic hadith stating that there will be ulama (those endowed with knowledge) of my ummah who will be of the rank of the prophets of the Children of Israel. Here we can draw a parallel between the spiritual function of at least some of the Hebrew prophets with the great saints of Sufism, lines beginning respectively with Aaron and ‘Ali.  No Hebrew prophet after the Sinatic revelation was of the same rank as Moses, just as no saint in Islam could duplicate the role of the Prophet.

Think also of the tradition of the Prophet:
I am the City of Knowledge and Ali is the gate.
The intellect – aql – and knowledge – ilm – are complementary parts of a larger ethic – the ethic of education. Hazrat Ali once said that all containers are filled when things are placed in them except the container of knowledge which expands. He standardized Arabic grammar so that the Qur’an could be understood by everyone. His sayings and writings, preserved in Nahj ul-Balagha – are full of teachings that are applicable today as when he wrote them.

The Nahj al-Balaghah is replete with passages where ‘Ali is giving answers of a theological nature to questions of the nature of God and the cosmos. Notably we find eloquent descriptions of tawhid, or the Doctrine of Divine Unity, which are expressed with in Arabic of almost matchless conciseness and power.

Unfortunately, not much remains of ‘Ali’s interpretation of the Qur’an. He wrote an esoteric commentary on the Qur’an, which is now lost, and which survives in fragments in the commentary of Jafar as-Sadiq.

Even without a great body of material directly attributable to him we still can get an idea of his understanding of the Qur’an. The Prophet said, O People, among you is one who struggles with the interpretation (tawil) of the Qur’an as I struggle with its revelation (tanzil),referring to ‘Ali. ‘Ali himself said, No verse has been revealed without me knowing for what it was revealed, and where it was revealed. 

The towering figure of Qur’anic commentary Ibn Masud said, The Qur’an has been revealed with seven readings, each with an inner meaning and an outer. ‘Ali ibn Talib knows the outer (al-zahir) and the inner (al-batin).[The Sufis have always held that each verse of the Qur’an holds meaning upon meaning, revealing truths much deeper than the surface meaning of the text, a meaning that is of course also true on its own level. Some have assigned four levels of meaning, others seven. These numbers must be understood metaphorically, of course, since in principle the meanings of each verse are infinite.

 Ibn Arabi said that each time one reads a verse a new meaning should be made clear. 

Therefore, when Ibn Masud said that ‘Ali knows the inner and outer meanings, this means that he was qualified to interpret the symbols (ayat) of the Qur’an.

The great Persian poet, Nasr Khusraw says:
The springtime of a friend of Ali is always full fo the efflorescence of Ali.
None deserves eminence and praise among the people except he who befriends Ali.
The heart of every Shi’i is protected from Satan in the fortress of Ali.
As Ali is from the Prophet’s family, the true Shi’i belongs to the family of Ali.
A hundred years of praise is not equal to even one in a thousand praises of Ali.
Courage, knowledge, abstinence, generosity: these are the qualities I revere in Ali.
Therefore, my back is bent with gratitude under the weight of the favours of Ali.
My under and outer garments are faith and knowledge, just as they were for Ali.
If you want to understand his status, reflect upon the role and the deeds of Ali:
he was a lion, the battlefield his meadow, and Gabriel was the spearman of Ali.
Ali’s cave is of knowledge, not stone, for stone does not befit the glory of Ali.
The clouds of ta’wil do not shed their droplets except on the trees and the seed-fields of Ali.
Ali had no desire for gold or silver; faith and knowledge were the choice of Ali.
There was not fault in him nor blemish in the tongue, hands and garments of Ali.
Husayn and Hasan, the Prophet’s reminders, were none other than the reminders of Ali.
Truly no one can be saved from the fire unless he comes under the protection of Ali.

So in this Ramazan on the date of his martyrdom, send blessings on the father of Sufism; the holder of occult mysteries and the savior of the downtrodden and persecuted.

Call Moula Ali to open your heart to mysteries of Quran and the universe and read the following lines Rumi wrote about Hazrat Ali

Come into the shade (protection) of the Sage whom no conveyor can carry off the Way.
His shadow on earth is like Mount Qaf, his spirit is (like) the Simurgh that circles (soars) exceedingly high.

If I should tell of his qualities until the Resurrection, do not seek (expect)and conclusion and end to them.

The (Divine) Sun has veiled Himself in Man: apprehend (this mystery), and God knows best what is right

O ‘Ali, above all devotional acts is the Way (of God) do thou choose the shadow (protection) of the servant of God

Everyone took refuge in some act of devotion and discovered for themselves some means of deliverance.

Go thou, take refuge in the shadow of the sage, that thou mayst escape from the Enemy that opposes (thee) in secret

When the Pir [master] has accepted thee, take heed, surrender thyself (to him): go, like Moses, under the authority of Khizr

God has declared that his (the Pirs) hand is as his own, since he gave out (the words) the Hand of God is above their hands.


  1. Hello! My first visit, will visit you again. Seriously, I thoroughly enjoyed your posts. Congratulations for your work. If you wish to follow back that would be great I'm at
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thankyou Nelson.Would definitely follow you!

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. the study of islam cannot be completed without the study of ali ibn abu talib. Islam is not in quran,neither it is at hadith or sunnah. Islam is at your heart. A muslim need purity of sunni's,spirituality of shii'as,and realisation of sufi's. Then he can see his lord at his heart.

  5. Study of islam is empty without study of ali.Islam is neither in quran,nor in hadith or sunnah,islam is at your heart. A muslim need retuals and purity of sunni's,spirituality of shii'as and realisation of suffi's.

  6. Greetings,

    Very nice post about Hazrat Ali. Much food for consideration here. Thank you for this!

    All good wishes,


  7. Thanks Robert, I really appreciate your feedback. To read more, you must read Najal Balagha to understand his true impact on sufism and occult