Ali bin Abi Talib (RA) was a companion, cousin and son-in-law of Holy Prophet Muhammad(PBUH). He was the fourth Caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate and became caliph after the martyrdom of third caliph Usman (RA). He was a brave warrior and able leader but his five years of caliphate ruined due to the First Fitna (first civil war) of Islamic State.
Ali (RA) was born in 601 AD in Makkah in the Bani Hashim clan of Quraysh. His father was Abu Talib (uncle of Muhammad (PBUH)) and his mother’s name was Fatimah bint Asad. At a younger age, Ali was adopted by Muhammad (PBUH) due to weak economic conditions of Abu Talib. He was one of the earliest converts to Islam even before his teenage.
Migration to Madinah & Later Life
On the night when Muhammad (PBUH) and Abu Bakr (RA) migrated to Madinah, Ali (RA) slept on the bed of Prophet (PBUH) and endangered his life. He later reached Madinah after returning the belongings of different persons who kept them to Muhammad (PBUH).
Ali (RA) took part in all the major battles except the Battle of Tabouk. He showed his skill and bravery in all these battles. In Battle of Badr, he killed a senior Quraysh warrior Waleed bin Utbah in a duel and also killed more than 20 enemies. During Battle of Uhud, he was among the few who guarded the Prophet (PBUH) at a difficult time. During the Battle of Trench, a Qureyshi warrior Amr bin Wad crossed the trench and challenged the Muslims to fight against him. Ali did so and killed him. Ali (RA) also commanded the Muslim Army against Jews in Battle of Khayber. He killed the leader of enemy Marhab and later the battle ended with victory for Muslims. Ali was given the title of Asadullah (Lion of Allah) by Muhammad (PBUH) after that battle.
Role During First 3 Caliphates
According to few sources, there were few differences between Ali (RA) and other prominent Muslims about the leader of Islamic Caliphate. But the issue was not much serious and Ali (RA) remained adviser of the first two Caliphs Abu Bakr (RA) and Umar (RA). Ali also married his daughter Umm-e-Kulsum bint Ali to Umar (RA).
During the critical situation in Usman’s era, Ali tried to resolve the issue peacefully and decline the offer of caliphate by the rebels.
Problems During Caliphate
After the martyrdom of Usman (RA), Ali (RA) accepted the caliphate in 35 AH (656 AD) due to risky situation in Madinah. Now the situation became more critical for Ali as the rebels, including killers of Usman, took an oath of allegiance to Ali while the prominent people of Madinah and relatives of Usman wants him to punish the culprits immediately. This situation paved the way for the First Fitna (First Civil War).
The first battle erupted near Basra (Iraq) between Ali (RA) and people of Madinah under the leadership of Ayesha (RA), wife of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The battle is known as Battle of Camel as the battle was mainly fought around the camel of Ayesha (RA). Ali (RA) remained victorious in the battle and he promised Ayesha (RA) that he would punish the killers of Usman (RA) after the establishment of law and order. Two prominent Sahaba, Zubayr (RA) and Talhah (RA) also died during the battle while fighting alongside Ayaesha (RA). After the battle, Ali moved his capital to Kufa (Iraq), his stronghold.
In 37 AH (657 AD), the second battle for the demand of punishment of killers of Usman was fought in Siffin (Syria) between Ali (RA) and Muawiya (RA), the governor of Levant who refused his dismissal decision by Ali. It was far more deadlier battle than the Battle of Camel as around 70,000 people from both sides lost their lives during the battle. The battle remained indecisive and the arbitration also could not resolve the issue.
The emergence of Kharijites (those who leave) in Ali’s army was the main reason for the indecisive result of Battle of Siffin. The last battle of First Fitna was fought between Ali (RA) and the Kharijites which is known as Battle of Nahrawan. Kharijites fought bravely but lost the battle due to their very small number. This battle provided a chance to Muawiya and his commander Amr bin al-As (RA) occupied Egypt. Now Muawiya (RA) became the ruler of the western part of Islamic State i.e. Levant and Egypt.
On 19th Ramadan 40 AH (661 AD), Ali (RA) was stabbed by a Kharijite Abdul Rahman ibn Muljam during the morning prayers in the Great Mosque of Kufa. Ali died two days later on 21st Ramadan. His burial place is in Najaf (Iraq).
Ali (RA) is regarded as a great soldier of Islam and a just ruler. He came into power at a very crucial time after the martyrdom of Usman (RA) and tried really hard to settle the issues but could not stop the civil war and bloodshed due to his limitations. The 5 years of his caliphate are known for the deadly civil war known as the First Fitna. During his reign, the caliphate split into two parts as Muawiya (RA) became the ruler of Levant and Egypt. He was the first person who replaced the capital of Islamic State from Madinah to Kufa.