Muslim scholars unanimously agree with the fact, “that none of the companions of the Holy Prophet was so widely praised by God (through the verses of the Quran) and His Prophet for his virtues and excellence as was Hadrat Ali.”
Ahmad ibn Hanbal says, “There hath not come down to us regarding the merits of any one of the Companions of the Apostle of God what bath been transmitted concerning Ali. At times they are represented as so astounding that it was for this reason that the Bani Umayyah were jealous of him and came to hate him. That he did enjoy the special confidence of Muhammad is acknowledged by all.” Numerous sayings of the Holy Prophet exalting the virtues and personal attributes of the first Holy Imam have been quoted both by Shia and Sunni scholars. “After the Holy Prophet,” says Allama Ibne abil Hadid al-Mutazali, ‘it was Hadrat Ali who devoted most of his time to the worship of God and spent the nights in silent devotion and the days in fasting. He was brave and forgiving, strong and understanding, religious and secular. He was the only person of his time who mastered the Holy Scriptures. Wise men from East and West came to quench their thirst from his unfathomable spring of Divine Knowledge.”
Imam Ali's Humility
Ali was humble and hated pomp and arrogance. Even as Caliph he used to sweep the floor of his own house, chop wood for fuel, carry water on his shoulders, mend his own shoes, wash his own clothes and milk his goat. Ali’s wife Fatima did similar domestic jobs with her own hands, grinding wheat in the hand-mill, baking bread, lighting the oven, washing the dishes and tending to her children.
Returning one day with some dates from the bazaar he received many offers from people anxious to carry them for him. Ali refused them all, saying. “Whosoever is responsible for looking after his children, has the bigger responsibility of carrying the burden himself.” Ali was often seen walking barefooted and on one occasion when he happened to be riding a horse he was distressed to find people following him on foot. Asking them what they wanted, he was told that they felt elated by walking in his retinue. To this Ali replied, “Go back to your business. By walking behind a rider, you will breed feelings of inferiority in yourselves and infect me with arrogance.
On another occasion when Ali was discussing the essential qualities of a ruler in a sermon, a member of the congregation rose and praised Ali for his eloquence. Ali said that his subjects ought not to praise him, for he wanted no flattery, being all too conscious of his own unworthiness. Concluding his sermon he said, “To a person who has been influenced by the superb Majesty of God, everything else appears petty and frivolous. He looks upon all other things as shallow and trivial. The worst ruler is one who is given to pride and arrogance and hears flattering words from other. Ali praise is due to God. You should not praise me because I herewith declare before God and all of you that are here that I have many responsibilities which still lie un-discharged. In the face of this how can any one applaud me and consider me praise worthy? You should not accord me that treatment which is only befitting to tyrants. Neither become afraid of me nor ever hesitates to tell the truth. Do not show any consideration to me if you feel that I am wanting in justice, and never conceal the truth from me. I cannot trust any flatter because he might mislead me and his tempting talk might beguile me into vainglory. I pray to God to save me from an erroneous path. We men are all alike and there is no other Master than God.”
Imam Ali's Piety
When Ali offered his prayers he was frequently observed to be in a strange physical condition. When asked to account for the pallor of his face and the way in which his body trembled he replied, “I present myself to the Almighty to render an account of the various obligations that devolve on me and I do not know whether I have discharged them dutifully by protecting the defenseless and aiding the oppressed.” His humility before God was one of the reasons why he was regarded as a saint of saints. Another factor which made him exceptionally pious was the important part which he assigned to prayer in his daily life.
One day when the Holy Prophet was sleeping with his head in Ali’s lap, the time of “Asr” (afternoon prayers) had passed. Informed by Divine revelation that he had caused Ali to miss his prayers; the Holy Prophet said, “Verily, Ali was busy in the service of God and His Apostle. O Lord! Command Thy sun not to set yet and to come back into the world again so as to enable Ali to perform his prayers.” The Sun re-appeared forthwith until Ali had finished his prayers.
In one of his many battles Ali is said to have been pierced by the head of an arrow, which could not be extracted and which caused him great pain for many months. One day, he was holding communion with God, he went into a state of reverie and on emerging from this trance he found that the head of the arrow had conic out of its own accord, through the intercession of Divine Favors. Because Ali was considered to be the most pious and most holy of all the believers in faith, the people also began to feel that God must have rewarded him by granting him the power to perform miracles. Tales abound of miraculous happenings. A withered tree grew again at Ali’s touch; pebbles turned into pieces of gold at his command, so that a believer in faith could find money to pay back a Jewish usurer; Ali was gifted with divine qualities.