By Mansoureh Tajik for the Saker Blog

Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim, “In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

If we were to understand Imam Ali (Allayhu-Salaam) merely as an individual by examining slices of his life in isolation and dimensions of his socio-political praxis in bits and pieces, we could advance our understanding of his wilayat no more than we would if we tried to make sense of how a clock works and what its purpose is by simply observing the structures and functions of its minute and hour hands, or any other components for that matter, detached from other parts and the clock as a whole. Imam Ali (AS) himself is a system within a larger system of Wilayat and Imamat. If we aim to study him as such, we might then be able to perhaps develop some sense of apparently perplexing events during his life, the circumstances of his martyrdom, and what happened thereafter. Most importantly though, we might learn what it really means, in practical sense, to follow him as his Shi’a.

It is therefore through a dynamic systems’ lens that I hope to look and discuss a few major events of Imam Ali’s (AS) life and his martyrdom. In the previous essay (here), three groups who opposed and fought Imam Ali (AS) and against whom the Imam (AS) actively fought were introduced. They were Nakithin [the Pledge Breakers], Qasitin [the Transgressing Oppressors], and Marighin [the Abandoners]. It might baffle many minds who are unaccustomed to Wilayat and Imamat the fact that of the three groups who could have killed Imam Ali (AS), it was one of Marighin, Abdul-Rahman Ibn Muljam, who martyred him at the end.

Marighin perceived themselves to be pure Muslims and right in their beliefs and they killed Imam Ali (AS) believing they were doing God’s work and with that, they would gain an express ticket to heaven. Ibn Muljam did not kill Imam (AS) in a battlefield, nor did he kill him while facing him in a one-to-one battle. He did so in a very cowardly manner using a poison-laced dagger striking Imam (AS) on the back of the head while he was in the position of prostration before God and leading the morning Salaat prayer in a mosque on the 19th of Ramadan, year 40 HQ [661 AD]. They chose the 19th of Ramadan, one of the holiest and most likely nights believed by Muslims to be Lailati-l-Qadr, or the Night of the Power[1]. They wanted to double or triple their rewards for doing God’s work during a holy night!

So, one could have understood if Imam’s (AS) killer had been one of the Nakithin. They falsely pledged their allegiance with Imam Ali (AS) in the hope that such pledge could pave their way to material gains. When that did not happen and Imam Ali (AS) blocked their access to Baytul-Mal, they broke their pledge, showed their true face, and picked up their swords and began to fight him. One could have also understood if the killer had been one of Qasitin. Their modus operandi was to transgress against and oppress those with less power in order to further their material gains and strengthen their grip on power. Anyone who could effectively oppose and challenge them, must be taken out. But why was it one of Marighin who ended up killing Imam Ali (AS)? They were supposed to be warriors and believers in God and not afraid of losing their lives in the cause of God? How could that be?!

There is no way on earth I could somehow sugarcoat this. There are two types of believers in God: there is deep thinking, knowledgeable, and wise type and there is senseless, ignorant, and jackass type. I am not so careless with words as to choose a term to be disrespectful of a pitiful, innocent, and gentle animal. It is in Quran that some verses draw such analogy and liken to donkeys which are used to carry books those followers who have cursory and crude approach to God’s revelations and neither really “get” true spirit and essences of God’s commands nor do they act appropriately according to those commands:

The example of those who were given the Torah but then they never observe it truthfully as they should is that of a donkey carrying on its back works of literature. Miserable indeed is the example of those who took God’s Words in falsity and God does not guide the people who are wrongdoers.” [Chapter 62 (Al-Jumu’ah), Verse 5].

Late Allameh Hasan Mustafavi, a great Muslim Shi’a thinker and scholar of the last century, has a brief explanation beneath this verse in his Tafsir Roshan as follows:

“On carrying Torah, if it only meant carrying the cover, pages, and its physical weight, then any four-legged animal can carry that in the best possible way. So, it really means to “carry” the essence of their meaning and to act correctly according to the content of that heavenly Book. Therefore, this meaning applies to all other heavenly Books including Quran Al-Majid. In this case, the follower of this Book [i.e. Quran], too, must carry the truths and essence of it into their hearts and behave according to its edicts. This truth also applies to saving these Verses to one’s memory. It is not a mere memorization of words like some utterly ignorant folks imagine.”[2]

Before getting deeper into the role the Book-carrying Marighin played in opposing Imam Ali (AS) and his eventual martyrdom, I would like to bring us back to our current time and provide a modern-day example of a Shi’a of Ali (AS), Mohsen Hujaji. This could help us unravel bits and pieces of some very convoluted notions and appreciate the complexity of human cognition.

On Monday morning at dawn on 16th of Mordad, 1396 [August 7, 2017] somewhere in At-Tanf region in Syria, a fierce fire exchange took place between the Daesh/ISIS fighters and the Resistance forces. Folloing that exchange, a member of the Iranian forces by the name of Mohsen Hujaji was wounded and captured by the ISIS/Daesh. Within hours, his wife and then his parents learned of his capture through social media when they saw some images released by Daesh. Daesh forces then decapitated him (a wounded captive), cut him into pieces, took video images of their action, and the decapitated head, and broadcast it to the world through the Public Relation offices of the axis of London-Washington, Tel Aviv, and Riyadh.

An abridged version of the several-minute-advertisement video released by Daesh about their handiwork of the capture and the decapitated head of Shahid Mohsen Hujaji could be found here. In the video, Daesh clearly presents this as a good deed in the cause of God, or a “Jihad fi sabillillah.”

I would like to juxtapose that video with another video which is of an interview with the father of Shahid Hujaji conducted by Fars News Agency about three months after Mohsen Hujaji’s martyrdom. The original interview is in Farsi (see here) but I have translated for you a segment which is illuminating and sufficient for the points I shall be making:

 “We were made aware of the video clip about his capture through his wife around 8 in the morning. It was then we knew he had been captured. Because she was searching in Telegram for something when she suddenly sees the image. If you’d like to know how we were feeling at that moment, the worst condition we were, myself and his mother, was only when he had been captured and before his martyrdom. We were so worried about it that Mohsen’s mother made a nazr [Pledge to God] to sacrifice a sheep for Mohsen’s martyrdom. No father and mother willingly wants the martyrdom or death of his/her child. But she did that!”

“His mother now says, ‘When Mohsen asked for my permission to go to Syria, I told him that I will permit you to go but I do not want you to be martyred.’ But when she found out Mohsen has been captured, she wished from the bottom of her heart that he would be martyred so much so that she even made a nazr for it. Because we knew Mohsen was now in Daesh’s hand and we knew Daesh does not return any prisoner to anyone and less so when the prisoner was someone like him.”

“When he was going to Syria, he got a ring on which it was written ‘Ya Zahra’ [O Zahra – reference to the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Allihi Wasallam)]. And he had written that as a direct challenge to Daesh. He had realized that this trip was his last trip and very soon he would reach what he wished for. Martyrdom was his own wish because in his writings when you pay attention, every page is about martyrdom and there is no talk of return. In parts of Agha Mohsen’s writing you see this, ‘O God, grant me a taste of Ahlul-Bayt’s calamities and hardship.’ This shows that he didn’t even want a martyrdom without suffering.”

“That night when his body was brought back and we went to M’iraju-Shohada when I touched my child’s kafan [white cloth in which the dead body of a Muslim is wrapped], that which we touched, it was one leg and only a portion of a body. The rest was cotton filling. I turned to the fellow and asked, ‘Then, what exactly did you wash?! What are you giving us?! What exactly am I receiving from you?!’ The poor fellow took my hand and put it next to the kafan and said, ‘Haj Agha, this is his leg.’ Then he took my hand and put it higher up and said, ‘And this is parts of his ribs.’ That was it. What we touched was just that. This is the whole story and I, from the very beginning, didn’t try to find more details because firstly, I couldn’t bear it. Also, we believe that our martyr has taken a pure and holy path. A path that we, too, wish to have gone. Now, here it’s possible for emotions, fatherly emotions, motherly emotions, to cause us, God Forbid, to say something that might go against the belief and the path our martyr has taken. And doing so might cause us shame before our martyr. For a father to become ashamed before his child. For a martyr to become ashamed before other martyrs. Our belief is that the martyrs are alive and are witnessing our conducts, our behavior, and our actions. So, we never tried to actually see the body and we didn’t want to.”

“That painting, the image that the dear painter Mr. Ruhul-Amin has drawn paints a truly appropriate image. That look [of Mohsen] shows that he is being guided from a given direction. [Like] someone is telling him to come. That’s why you notice that when he is sitting in the car he is not even paying attention who is sitting on this and that side of him.”

The image below on the left is the image released by Daesh. The one on the right is a painting inspired by that image and it is created by Hasan Ruhul-Amin in which a decapitated Imam Hussain (AS), standing next to Lady Zaynab (Sallamullah Alayha), has opened his arms to embrace martyr Hujaji.

One God, one Book, one Prophet (SAWAW) but the followers are cognitively and quintessentially in two different leagues. How a prisoner, wounded at that, must be treated in Islam and according to Quran, for instance, is not ambiguous and subject to alternative interpretation:

 “O Prophet, say to whoever is in your hands of the captives, ‘If Allah knows [any] goodness in your hearts, He will decidedly give you something better than what was taken from you, and He will forgive you; and Allah is All-Forgiving and All-Merciful.’”[Quran, Chapter 8 (Infaal), Verse 10]

And they give food, in spite of their love for it, to the needy, the orphan, and the captive, [while saying,] ‘We feed you only to please Allah. We do not wish from you any reward or gratitude.’” [Quran, Chapter 76 (Insaan), Verse 8-9]

Fair-minded people with hearts untarnished with deviance are capable of realizing that there are clear and unequivocal points at which certain conducts could not be attributed to lack of clarity, ambiguity in the Verses of Quran, and just different way of interpreting things. We could either accept Quran in its entirety, reflect deeply and wisely on its commands, and act accordingly with sincerity to the best of our abilities, or, we could become donkeys carrying the Book on our back and rent ourselves out as useful mediums through which Nakithin and Qasitin of any era (the likes of Washington-London-Tel Aviv- Riyadh) could channel their hate messages and exact devastation upon humanity.

Let us now return to Marighin of Imam Ali’s (AS) time and the grounds based on which they turned against Imam (AS). In the previous essay, I explained when in Seffin Battle Muawiah’s army raised the Qurans atop the spears, some among Imam Ali’s army fell for the trick and refused to fight even though Imam Ali reasoned with them how that was just a deceptive tactic. Then, without Imam’s consent, members of that group entered into backdoor negotiations with Muawiah and agreed to what was called the Hakamiyyat, or the arbitration, supposedly in accordance with Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet (SAWAW). A ceasefire was agreed upon during which a representative from Sham Army (Muawiah’s side) and a representative from Iraq Army (Imam Ali’s (AS) side) would be chosen to devise and jury a deal.

Again, Imam Ali fiercely objected to that agreement on the account that it, too, was also a trap. His warnings and lectures, however, fell on deaf ears once again. The group, while fully armed, stood before Imam (AS) and insisted that he either accepts their position or they would kill him just as they killed Othman. Imam Ali was forced by his own companions to accept the Hakamiyyat and the arbitration. According to the agreement, each of the two sides would designate someone as an arbiter to negotiate a comprehensive deal. On a set date in a location called Dumah al-Jandal [somewhere at the border between Shaam (Syria) and Iraq], during a public session and before the commanders of the two armies, the two would then reveal their final decision.

Muawiah chose Amr ibn al-‘As, the same advisor who plotted the Qurans atop spears con. The opposition group within Imam Ali’s army, having succeeded to impose the Hakamiyyat on Imam (AS), nominated Abu Musa Ash’ari. When it comes to choosing the best person for a negotiation, especially if the opponent is quite crafty, worse than a not-so-bright, unskilled, and craven fellow for the job is one who thinks he is clever and skilled. Imam Ali (AS) insisted on sending someone more astute and insightful like Ibn Abbas or Malik Ashter to deal with Amr ibn al-‘As. The group did not accept and pressed for Abu Musa Ash’ari.

During the discussion between the two arbiters, Amr convinced Abu Musa that Ali (AS) is not suitable for the position of khilafat. Abu Musa emphasized Muawiah’s transgressions. The two then decided that each would renounce his respective leader and remove them from their positions in Iraq and Shaam. That is, Amr would remove Muawiah and Abu Musa would remove Imam Ali (AS) and leave it up to the Muslims to choose someone else for khilafat.

On the designated day, when everyone had gathered at Dumah al-Jandal to hear the final decision of the two arbiters of Hakamiyat, Abu Musa asked Amr ibn al-‘As to go first but Amr insisted that Abu Musa should go on account of the fact that he was one of the companions of the Prophet and he would not dare to go before him! Meanwhile, Ibn Abbas warned Abu Musa to let Amr ibn al-‘As make his announcement first since this could be another trap.

Disregarding Ibn Abbas’s warning, Abu Musa stood up and announced: “After much debate and discussion, we have reached this conclusion to remove both Ali and Muawiah from khilafat and let Muslims choose the khalifah. Therefore, I remove Ali from khilafat just as I remove this ring from my finger!” Immediately afterwards, Amr stood up and announced: “He removed Ali from khilafat and I, too, remove Ali from khilafat and replace him with Muawiah just as I put this ring on my finger!” Abu Musa Ash’ari, having realized he had been had, shouted, “May God curse you, you are like a dog.” Amr ibn al-‘As, while stepping down from the stand responded, “And you are like a donkey who has been loaded with the Book.[3]

And thus has repeatedly been the disposition of Marighin.

Imam Ali (AS) says, “My back did not break but by two types of people: The learned scholar [of religion] who displays all sorts of misbehavior and the obtuse who is pompously sanctimonious. The former scares ordinary people away from religion by incessantly committing sins and the latter leads people astray by his ignorance.[4]

In other words, when ordinary people witness the hypocrisy of the first type, they either become cynical about the religion itself or very lax about their responsibilities – like when ordinary people observe an obese chain-smoking alcoholic physician who specializes, let’s say, in preventive medicine through healthy lifestyle. When ordinary people observe the second type, they make false associations and attribute the foolish practices of the person to the actual teachings of the Book.

Very well, then. Still, these events do not fully explain why Imam (AS) did not act more forcefully when such critical and pivotal events were involved and showed so much countenance. Some might wonder. To explain this, I need to discuss another key concept in Quran, Islam, and in all religions of God according to Quran. It is called Itmaami Hujjat. The term Itmaam means “absolute completion,” or “to complete something utterly and in its entirety.” The term Hujjat means well-founded reason, credible proof, and binding evidence. It is derived from the root word ḥā jīm jīm which means “to aim” and “to plan”. The derivatives of the term appear 33 times in Quran and cover diverse meanings such as hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca), argument, solid reason and evidence, dispute, and more. God’s Prophets (May peace be upon them all) and their teachings are God’s Hujjat for people, for example:

“Messengers as bringers of good news and warnings so that humankind will have no reason against Allah after the Messengers. And Allah Ever-Exalted n Might and Wise.” Quran, Chapter 4 (Nisaa), Verse 165.

“And that was Our proof which We gave Abraham over his people. We raise whom We Will in degrees. Certainly your Lord is All­-Wise, All­-Knowing.” Quran, Chapter 6 (In’am), Verse 83.

Imam Musa Kazim (AS), the 7th Imam of Muslim Shi’a Twelve-Imami, said to one of his companions, Hisham Ibn Hakam,

“O, Hisham, God has provided people with two [types] of hujjat [proof]: One is visible and external, the other is intrinsic and external. But the external one includes the Prophets, the Messengers, and the Imams, peace be upon them all. And the intrinsic one pertains to human faculty of reason.”[5]

In other words, humanity is not left dazed and confused wandering in a desolate and nihilistic nowhereland. Clear proofs, from Adam to the end of time and in taqwin [or evidence of nature] and in tashri’ [or evidence through Prophets of God] have been provided in all forms and shapes throughout times and places so that in the Day of Judgment, people could not claim ignorance, or insufficient guidance (or Prophets), or insufficient proof and evidence (or Messages and Books from God), or insufficient models and practical examples (or Imams), or insufficient tools and equipment (or human faculty for reason) for the hopeless predicament into which they have gotten themselves.

Regarding why Hujjat, or clear proof, is needed in the first place, Ayatullah Makarem Shirazi, a Shi’a faqih and scholar, states,

“Not only hearts [of people] that are fully prepared must be guided by the light of Imams (AS) to continue their path of excellence towards absolute perfection, but also there must be an Itmaami Hujjat [complete and exhaustive set of evidence and proof] for those who knowingly and willfully transgress and take the wrong path. This is so that what they receive as the consequence of their actions is not without clear proof and sufficient evidence. And no one could argue that only if God had taken our hands and guided us to the truth, we would not have committed any of these injustices/transgressions. In short, there would remain no room for any excuses. Truthful and just reasons will have been provided. Those who do not know will have been made aware and those who do know, will have been made reassured and their steps solidified.”[6]

So, we could now define the term Itmaami Hujjat as complete and exhaustive presentation of unequivocal proof and clear reason for or against something. However, how does this term and the definition explain why Imam (AS) did not act more forcefully during critical and pivotal moments?

It is our belief that only a pure and infallible Imam (AS) could know when all the possibilities for return (to the right path), reform, and redemption have been exhausted and the hujjat has been completed. The day before preparing the army to fight with Marighin in the banks of Nahrawan River, for example, Imam Ali (AS) delivered his last warning as follows:

“I discourage/deter you from the ending that involves your lifeless corpses having fallen along the banks of this river and around these low lands tomorrow while you are without any clear proof from your Lord and you do not carry with you any positive and solid evidence [of your deeds]. The material world annihilated you and you fell, by your own hands, into the traps of destiny and circumstances. I forewarned you against this Hakamiyyat, yet, you opposed me like those Pledge-Breakers did. So much so that I was forced to align my vote with yours. You are some senseless people drowning in fictional whims and are without roots. I never brought you any calamity and never wished for you any malevolence.”[7]

As stated earlier, Imam Ali (AS) was stricken by a poison-laced dagger wielded by Ibn Muljam on the morning of the 19th of Ramadan, year 40 HQ (661 AD) while he was leading a morning prayer in a mosque in Kufa. At the moment of strike, Imam Ali (AS) uttered, “Fuztu wa Rabb al-Ka’abah!” [“I swear by God of Ka’aba, I was granted deliverance!”]. Martyr Morteza Mottahri explains this phrase as follows:

“This is how we see Ali (AS), when he sees that he is receiving his death in the form of martyrdom, he is overjoyed. Therefore, in the last moments of his life he says, ‘By God, no abominable and unexpected deed has been done by me. That which I wanted occurred. I reached my wish that was martyrdom. My example is that of someone who goes in the search of water in a dark night in a desert land. Suddenly, he finds a well water or a spring. My example is that of a seeker who has found what he had been long searching for.”[8]

Two days after the strike, Imam Ali (AS) was martyred on the 21st of Ramadan and with his death, the Muslim Ummah entered into a long dark winter of oppression, injustice, and one ruthless and corrupt ruler and dynasty after another. For the Shi’a, in particular, a concealed identity, underground life and activities, and a tumultuous journey began. To be continued.

[Parts 1 through 5 of the topic could be accessed Here1, Here2, Here3, Here4, and Here5.]


[1] بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم. انَّا أَنْزَلْناهُ فِي لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ(1) وَ ما أَدْراکَ ما لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ (2) لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ خَيْرٌ مِنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ (3) تَنَزَّلُ الْمَلائِکَةُ وَ الرُّوحُ فِيها بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِمْ مِنْ کُلِّ أَمْرٍ (4) سَلامٌ هِيَ حَتَّي مَطْلَعِ الْفَجْرِ (5)

“In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Indeed, We sent the Qur’an down during the Night of Power. And what will explain to thee what the night of power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. On this Night, the angels and the spirit descend by the permission of their Lord with His decree. This Night is all peace until the break of dawn.” Quran Al-Karim, Chapter 97, Verses 1-5.

[2] Allahmeh Hasan Mostafavi. Tafsir Roshan. Vol. 16, Page 134. Center for Book Publications of Tehran, 1383 (HS).

[3] Muhammad Ibn Jarir Tabari (224-301 HQ). Tariq al-Rusol wa al-Muluk [The History of the Prophet and the Kings]. Vol. 5, Pages 71. School of Fiqahat Online Library. Available online at:

[4] Abul-Fath Amidi (~510 HQ). Qurarul-Hikam wa Durawul-Kalaam [Exalted Aphorism and Pearls of Speech], Vol. 1, Page 696. Jami-al Ahaadith, Hadith #459717. Available online at:

[5] Muhammad Ibn Ya’aqub Kulaini (255-329 HQ). Usul Al-Kaafi. Vol. 1, Page 16. Available Online at:

[6] Makarim Shirazi, Naser. Fifty Lessons in Principles of Belief for Youth. 14th Edition, Page 134. PDF format available online at:

[7] Khutbah #36, Nahjul-Balaqhah. Edit Sayyed Razi. Trans. Hussain Ansarian. Pages 33-34. Darul-Irfan Publishing.

[8] Mottahari M. Qiaam va Enqilab Mahdi (A.J.) [The Rise and the Revolution of Mahdi (AJ)]. 13th Edition, Pages 116-118, 1378 (HS). Sadra Publication.

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