ʿAlī Ibn Abī Ṭālib

Moojan Momen and Omid Ghaemmaghami

in Islamic Studies

ISBN: 9780195390155
Published online May 2011 | | DOI:
ʿAlī Ibn Abī Ṭālib

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ʿAlī (c. 600–661) was the cousin, and at various times in his life, foster-brother, foster-son, and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. He was a young boy when he embraced Islam and is regarded as the first male to have accepted Muhammad’s prophetic call. After the migration from Mecca to Medina, he married Muhammad’s daughter Fāṭima (d. 633). Four surviving children resulted from this marriage. ʿAlī participated in almost all of the early battles and expeditions, during which his leadership, bravery, and skill as an expert swordsman—all of which posthumously took on mythic proportions—were well regarded. Following the death of Muhammad in 632, disputes over leadership and authority enveloped the nascent community. Those who affirmed ʿAlī’s right to rule came to be known as the Shīʿa ʿAlī (partisans of ʿAlī). The majority of the community came to be known as the Ahl al-sunna (Sunnīs) and acknowledged Abū Bakr (d. 634), ʿUmar (d. 644), and ʿUthmān (d. 656) as the first three caliphs, or leaders, of the community. ʿAlī was declared leader after the assassination of ʿUthmān in 656, but his five-year rule was marked by civil strife and disputes (fitna) that lingered from the death of ʿUthmān until ʿAlī’s eventual murder in a mosque in Kūfa in 661. ʿAlī’ is venerated by Sunnīs as the fourth and last rightly guided caliph, and by the Shīʿa as the first Imām, the rightful successor to the Prophet, and the progenitor, together with his wife Fāṭima, of the succeeding Imāms. Thus, his influence in the Islamic tradition is far-reaching. He is revered for his piety and righteousness, chivalry and bravery, adherence to justice and principle, and knowledge of the Qurʾān and the Sunna of the Prophet.

Article.  6690 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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