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Book Review: Polarization around the character of Ali ibn Abi Talib, By Mortada Motahhari

24 November, 2014 13:06
Book Review: Polarization around the character of Ali ibn Abi Talib, By Mortada Motahhari

By IRIC research team

Mortada Motahhari, in this book has studied Imam Ali’s personality in regard with the attraction and repulsion. According to the author, the great personality of Imam Ali is broader and more multi-faceted than to be addressed in all aspects. One of this aspects that is in focus of the book is effect of Imam Ali’s behavior on people, either positive or negative, or, in other words, his powerful "attraction and repulsion". 

The present book consists of an introduction and two chapters. In the introduction part Mortada Motahhari has addressed the law of attraction and repulsion in their broader sense, and the attraction and repulsion of men in particular. The differences in attraction and repulsion in humans have been discussed.

In the first chapter, under the title “the power of attraction of Ali (as)” Mortada Motahhari has discussed, attraction power of Imam Ali which has, and always will, pull the hearts of people towards him, the philosophy of this attraction power, and advantages and results of this capacity. In this part also the “Shi`ite” has been shown as religion of love. In the following pages the writer has introduced the concept of love, love in the Koran, examples from the history of Islam about love, and love for Ali in the Koran and Sunnah.

In the second chapter, the writer has discussed Imam Ali’s repelling effect, and how he strongly warded off and drove away certain elements. It is shown that Ali (as) was a man with these twin powers, and that everyone who wants to be taught in his way must possess these twin powers.

In the following pages of this chapter Mottahhari has tried to show what kind of individuals were attracted by his force of attraction, and what type of them were warded off by his force of repulsion. To do this in the first step he has described three groups of his enemies, the Nakithun, the Qasitun and the Mariqun. In the period of his caliphate, `Ali expelled three groups from beside him and rose up to do battle with them: the people of (the battle of) Jamal, whom he himself named the Nakithun (those who break their allegiance); the people of (the battle of) Siffin, whom he called Qasitun (those who have deviated); and the people of (the battle of) Nahrawan, the Khawarij, whom he called the Mariqun (those who miss the truth of the religion and were deviated from the true path of Islam). The main focus of the discussion in this book are the last group of people, the Khawarij. It has been discussed that the Khawarij came into existence under “bidding to good and forbidding evil” which has two fundamental principles. One is a profound and knowledgeable insight into the religion, and the other is a profound insight into how to act. The Khawarij had neither a profound knowledge of religion, nor a profound insight into prudent action; they were people of ignorance, lacking any profound knowledge. In fact, they rejected any kind of profound knowledge of how to act, because they understood this duty to be a matter of obedience and they claimed that it should be performed blindly.

According to the author, although they have been overthrown and do not exist anymore their thinking has rooted through history. 

During the discussion of the Khawarij, Motahhari also describes about Shi`a school of thought, the spirit of Shi`a and the truth of that. He explains that the Shi’I school of thought accepts the successorship to the Prophet as belonging to Ali without being subject to any doubt or wavering. Opposed to this spirit and this way of thinking was another spirit and way of thinking which, by a kind of justification, explanation or interpretation, ignored the successor ship to the Prophet while having complete faith in him.

In fact, this Islamic "schism" sprung from here, for one group, who were, of course, the majority, only looked at the superficial aspect, not being sufficiently sharp-sighted or penetrating to reach the depth and truth of every reality. They saw what was most apparent and found the most convenient solution. They said that some of the great men, the companions and elders, those who had served Islam for a long time, took a certain way, and it cannot be said that they were in error. But another group, who were the minority, said at the same time that they would respect anyone who respected the truth; however, where they saw that the fundamentals of Islam were violated at the hands of these very people who had served Islam for a long time, they would no longer respect them. They said they were partisans of the principles of Islam, not partisans of the personalities of Islam. Shi`ism came into existence in this spirit.

As the author wrote, after the death of Prophet, Ali was thirty-three years old with small group of supporters, his rival in contrast was an old men of sixty years with a large and numerous majority of followers. The logic of the minority at that time of Saudi Arabia was that successor ship to prophet belongs to the elders of the tribe.
Mottahhari counts the characteristics of Khawarij, as follows:
1- Struggle and self-sacrifice spirit
2- Worship and devotion spirit
3- Ignorant and unknowing spirit
4- Narrow-minded and short-sighted spirit

One of the fundamental beliefs of the Khawarij was that the perpetrator of any great sin, for example lying, backbiting or drinking alcohol, was a disbeliever (kafir) and was beyond the pale of Islam, eternal led condemned to the Fire. Thus, apart from a very limited number of people, everyone was condemned to the Fire. Religious narrow-mindedness was a special characteristic of the Khawarij, but we see this once again among the Muslims today. It is for this reason that we said that the banner of the Khawarij is dead and gone but the spirit of their religion still lives on, to a greater or lesser extent, among similar individuals and groups.
At last it was concluded that in all aspects of Ali's existence, of his history and biography, of his dispositions and habits, of his character and behavior, of his words and speech, there is instruction, examples to follow, teaching and leadership. Just as Ali's "power of attraction" taught us and instructed us, so also does his "power of repelling". Usually in ziyarat to Ali and the other Pure Ones we claim we are "the friend of your friend and the enemy of your enemy". Another way of putting this would be to say: "We will go towards that point which is in the lines of force of attraction to you and which you attract, and we will choose to be far from that point which you repulse." It is clear from what has been said that Ali strongly repelled two groups - artful hypocrites, and stupid ascetics. These two lessons are sufficient for those who claim to be his "party" - the Shi`as - to open their eyes and not be duped by hypocrites, to keep their vision acute and dismiss the outward aspect of things, two things with which the Shi`a community is now sorely afflicted.

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Book Review: Polarization around the character of Ali ibn Abi Talib, By Mortada Motahhari
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