Sermon 93 Allah's praise and eulogy of the prophets
Exalted is Allah Whom heights of daring cannot approach and fineness of intelligence cannot find. He is such First that there is no extremity for Him so that He be contained within it, nor is there an end for Him where would cease.
Allah kept the Prophets in deposit in the best place of deposit and made them stay in the best place of stay. He moved them in succession from distinguished fore-fathers to chaste wombs. Whenever a predecessor from among them died the follower stood up for the cause of the religion of Allah.
Until this distinction of Allah, the Glorified, reached Muhammad - peace and blessing of Allah be upon him and his descendants. Allah brought him out from the most distinguished sources of origin and the most honourable places of planting, namely from the same (lineal) tree from which He brought forth other Prophets and from which He selected His trustees. Muhammad's descendants are the best descendants, his kinsmen the best of kin and his lineal tree the best of trees. It grew in esteem and rose in distinction. It has tall branches and unapproachable fruits.
He is the leader (Imam) of all who exercise fear (of Allah) and a light for those who seek guidance. He is a lamp whose flame is burning, a meteor whose light is shining and a flint whose spark is bright. His conduct is upright, his behaviour is guiding, his speech is decisive and his decision is just. Allah sent him after an interval from the previous Prophets when people had fallen into errors of action and ignorance. Allah may have mercy on you.
May Allah shower His mercy on you ! Do act according to the clear signs, because the way is straight and leads to the house of safety while you are in the place of seeking Allah's favour, and have time and opportunity. The books (of your doings) are open and pens (of angels) are busy (to record your actions) while your bodies are healthy, tongues are free, repentance is accepted and deeds are accorded recognition.
(1). Amir al-mu'minin delivered this sermon after the battle of Nahrawan. In it, mischief imply the battles fought in Basrah, Siffin and Nahrawan because their nature was different from the battles of the Prophet. There the opposite party were the unbelievers while here the confrontation was with those who had veils of Islam on their faces. So people were hesitant to fight against Muslims, and asked why they should fight with those who recited the call to the prayers and offered the prayers. Thus, Khuzaymah ibn Thabit al-Ansari did not take part in the Battle of Siffin till the falling of `Ammar ibn Yasir as martyr did not prove that the opposite party was rebellious. Similarly the presence of companions like Talhah and az-Zubayr who were included in the "Foretold Ten" on the side of `A'ishah in Basrah, and the prayer signs on foreheads of the Kharijites in Nahrawan and their prayers and worships were creating confusion in the minds. In these circumstances only those could have the courage to rise against them were aware of the secrets of their hearts and the reality of their faith. It was the peculiar perception of Amir al-mu'minin and his spiritual courage that he rose to oppose them, and testified the saying of the Holy Prophet:
You will fight after me with the breakers of allegiance (people of Jamal), oppressors (people of Syria) and deviators (the Kharijites). (al-Mustadrak `ala as-Sahihayn, al-Hakim, vol.3, p.l39,140; ad-Durr al-manthur, vol.6, p.l8; al-Ist`ab, vol.3, p.1117; Usd al-ghabah, vol.4 pp.32,33; Tarikh Baghdad, vol.8, p.340; vol.13, pp.186,187; at-Tarikh, Ibn `Asakir, vol. 5, p. 41; at-Tarikh, Ibn Kathir, vol.7, pp.304,305,306; Majma` az-zawa'id, vol.7, p.238; vol.9, p.235; Sharh al-mawahib, vol.3, pp.316-317; Kanz al-`ummal, vol. 6, pp.72,82,88,155,319,391,392; vol. 8, p.215)
(2). After the Holy Prophet no one save Amir al-mu'minin could utter the challenge "Ask whatever you want to." Ibn `Abd al-Barr in Jami` bayan al-`ilm wa fadlihi, vol.1 p.58 and in al-Isti`ab, vol.3, p.l103; Ibn al-Athir in Usd al-ghabah, vol.4, p.22; Ibn Abi'l-Hadid in Sharh Nahj al-balaghah, vol.7, p.46; as-Suyuti in Tarikh al-Khulafa', p.171 and Ibn Hajar al-Haytami in as-Sawa`iq al-muhriqah, p.76 have written that "None among the companions of the Holy Prophet ever said 'Ask me whatever you want to' except `Ali ibn Abi Talib." However, among other than the companions a few names do appear in history who did utter such a challenge, such as Ibrahim ibn Hisham al-Makhzumi, Muqatil ibn Sulayman, Qatadah ibn Di`amah, `Abd ar-Rahman (Ibn al-Jawzi) and Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi`i etc. but everyone of them had to face disgrace and was forced to take back his challenge. This challenge can be urged only by him who knows the realities of the Universe and is aware of the happenings of the future. Amir al-mu'minin, the opener of the door of the Prophet's knowledge, as he was, was the only person who was never seen being unable to answer any question on any occasion, so much so that even Caliph `Umar had to say that "I seek Allah's protection from the difficulty for the solution of which `Ali would not be available." Similarly, the prophecies of Amir al-mu'minin made about the future proved true word by word and served as an index to his vast knowledge, whether they be about the devastation of Banu Ummayyah or the rising of the Kharijites, the wars and destruction by the Tartars or the attacks of the English, the floods of Basrah of the ruination of Kufah. In short, when these events are historical realities there is no reason why this challenge of Amir al-mu'minin should be wondered at.