A Letter from Father to Son: The Last Will and Testament of Imam Ali
Posted on 6th July 2015
In the 40th year of Hijri, in the small hours of the morning of 19th Ramadan, Imam ‘Ali (as) was struck with a poisoned sword by the Kharijite Ibn Maljam while offering his prayers in the Masjid of Kufa.
He was born in the House of Allah, the Kaaba, and martyred in the House of Allah, Masjid al-Kufa. The Lion of Allah, the most brave and gentle Muslim after the Prophet (S) himself, began his glorious life with devotion to Allah and His Messenger, and ended it in the service of Islam.
In only a few brief words, Imam Ali left a tremendous treasure – clear and simple instructions that if you had followed them, maybe you could also be exclaiming, “By the Lord of the Ka’ba, I am successful!” As you draw your last breath.
Imagine: Today, as you are driving home from work, it happens. After the initial jolt, you find yourself strangely detached from your body and the twisted metal around you. As you assess the situation, you realize that this is an accident you won’t survive.
As you begin to evaluate your life, your thoughts turn to Imam Ali (peace be upon him), approaching death after receiving the fatal blow while he offered his prayers. He had exclaimed, “By the Lord of the Ka’ba, I am successful!” What an upright life he lived – a model of success for all – and what perfect, simple advice he had left in his last will and testament!
The Will of Imam Ali (as):
“My advice to you is to be conscious of Allah and steadfast in your religion.”
Now at the hour of your death, you are wholly conscious of Allah. So many hours of your life were spent without thinking of Him, when there really is nothing but Him. At this moment, you yearn for all those hours back to remember God, to pray intently, to give thanks for your countless blessings.
“Do not yearn for the world, and do not be seduced by it. Do not resent anything you have missed in it.”
It seems so silly now how intent you were on getting a bigger house. You wanted it so badly you could taste it, and you resented your coworker who never seemed to have to work hard for anything. You secretly yearned to be free of responsibility to your family that always made demands of you, feeling you were missing out on the pleasures of life. But right now at this moment, you realize you would be content to spend a lifetime living in a tent or a car and that you would love to redo all your time with your family so that you could appreciate your blessings this time around. All your complaints seem so petty now!
“Proclaim the truth; work for the next world. Oppose the oppressor and support the oppressed.”
You spent years of your life working for money and respect. While some of it was necessary and good, much of it was for status or excess wealth. You always intended to prepare for the next world, but this one always seemed to consume your full attention. You let lies pass or confused you, and you let oppressors stand unopposed because you were too busy and didn’t want to bring trouble to yourself.
“I advise you, and all my children, my relatives, and whosoever receives this message, to be conscious of Allah, to remove your differences, and to strengthen your ties. I heard your grandfather, peace be upon him, say: ‘Reconciliation of your differences is more worthy than all prayers and all fasting.”
You had estranged yourself from kin and brethren. You had quibbled with them over various things, like who should be the prayer leader or paying off a debt. But now you realize they were all a test for you, and you failed the test. All of them could have been a source of blessing and companionship in your life if you had softened your heart toward them.
“Fear Allah in matters concerning orphans. Attend to their nutrition and do not forget their interests in the middle of yours.
Fear Allah in your relations with your neighbors. Your Prophet often recommended them to you, so much so that we thought he would give them a share in inheritance.”
Your neighbors included a single mother and her children. You knew that she struggled to pay her rent and to get gifts for her kids on the holidays. How nice it would’ve been to bring smiles to their faces and ease their worries. Instead, you are now haunted by their troubles, knowing you could have helped.
“Remain attached to the Quran. Nobody should surpass you in being intent on it, or more sincere in implementing it.
Fear Allah in relation to your prayers. It is the pillar of your religion.
Fear Allah in relation to His House; do not abandon it as long as you live. If you should do that you would abandon your dignity.”
Regret consumes you for the way you treated the Qur’an. You took it down only during the month of Ramadan and recited it without understanding. How foolish you were, when you had access to the guidebook of life, not to read it often, ponder it and put its guidance to action! And how many times had your prayers been hasty and thoughtless, instead of the worship that would have purified you? How many times had you delayed going for Hajj for worldly reasons, seeing it as a burden rather than an opportunity? And when you did go, you treated it like a vacation and complained about the hotel not being fancy enough. Even on Hajj, your focus was worldly, and you missed out on seeing the signs of Allah all around you.
“Persist in Jihad in the cause of Allah with your money, your souls, and your tongue.”
You had hated that word: Jihad. It made you think about bringing hardship and terrorism. But now you want to live your whole life struggling in the Way if you could do it over.
“Maintain communication and exchange of opinion among yourselves. Beware of disunity and enmity. Do not desist from promoting good deeds and cautioning against bad ones. Should you do that, the worst among you would be your leaders, and you will call upon Allah without response.”
Most of the world is in the hands of bad leaders. But you yourself had done nothing to bring the good people together to strive in the way of Allah and to improve yourselves and the world. When others had made effort, you had mocked them as naïve. But if you had worked with them, maybe it would have made a difference. Did you make all your prayers be blocked by your own deeds or inaction?
“O Children of Abdul Muttalib! Do not shed the blood of Muslims under the banner: ‘The Imam has been assassinated!’ Only the assassin should be condemned to death.
If I die of this stroke of his, kill him with one similar stroke. Do not mutilate him! I have heard the Prophet, peace be upon him, say: ‘Mutilate not even a rabid dog.’”
So many times in your life you had desired revenge more than justice. Now you see your anger and hatred as blackness consuming your heart. If only you could go to your Creator with a pure and free heart.
In only a few brief words, Imam Ali left a tremendous treasure – clear and simple instructions that if you had followed them, maybe you could also be exclaiming, “By the Lord of the Ka’ba, I am successful!” As you draw your last breath, you recite Salawat, grateful that there had been such people on the earth as the Prophet and his Ahlul Bayt (as) to guide mankind, but wishing you had lived by that guidance before this moment arrived.