General Information

Ali (Ali ibn Abi Talib), b. c.600, d. Jan. 24, 661, fourth caliph of the Muslim community, is regarded by Shiite Muslims as the only legitimate successor of the Prophet Muhammad. The first cousin of Muhammad and husband of the Prophet's daughter Fatima, Ali was passed over in the caliphal succession until 656, when he received the office after the murder of Uthman, the third caliph.

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He was immediately challenged by an aristocratic faction led by the prophet's widow, Aisha, whom he defeated. Ali then became involved in a civil war with Muawiyah, governor of Syria, and at the same time a group known as the Kharijites ("seceders") created a schism among his own followers. When Ali was murdered by one of the Kharijites, Muawiyah seized the caliphate and founded the first Muslim dynasty, the Umayyads. Ali's partisans, the Shiites, never recognized Muawiyah, claiming that only Ali's sons could rightfully have succeeded him.


General Information

Ali, in Arabic, Ali ibn Abi Talib (600?-661), fourth caliph of Islam and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. He was born in Mecca, the son of Abu Talib, Muhammad's uncle. Ali was one of the first converts to Islam and one of the most faithful followers of the Prophet. He married Muhammad's daughter Fatima, who bore him two sons, Hasan and Husayn. In 632, when Muhammad died, Ali claimed the right of succession. He was preceded in the caliphate, however, by Abu Bakr, Umar I, and Uthman ibn Affan, and did not become caliph until 656.

In the first year of Ali's reign he was forced to deal with a rebellion led by Aisha, whom Muhammad had married after the death of Fatima's mother and who bitterly opposed Ali's claim of succession. Although the rebellion was suppressed in late 656, disputes over Ali's right to the caliphate were not resolved. Muawiyah I, a member of Uthman's family, refused to recognize Ali as caliph and claimed the caliphate himself. This dispute continued until 661, when Ali was murdered at Al Kfah by a member of the Kharijite sect; Muawiyah I was then acknowledged caliph.

Dissension between Ali's adherents and his opponents continued to shake the Muslim world. This conflict led to the first and most important schism in Islam, between the Shiites (adherents of Ali) and the Sunnites (orthodox Muslims). Ali is the ancestor of the Fatimid line of caliphs, who traced their descent from Ali and Fatima.


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Unfortunately, we are not aware of any scholarly texts on this subject which have yet been translated into English. We know that a number of Arabic scholars have written wonderful texts in Arabic, and look for the day when we will be able to add higher quality texts to this presentation.

Also, see:
Islam, Muhammad
Koran, Qur'an
Pillars of Faith
Testament of Abraham
Revelation - Hadiths from Book 1 of al-Bukhari
Belief - Hadiths from Book 2 of al-Bukhari
Knowledge - Hadiths from Book 3 of al-Bukhari
Times of the Prayers - Hadiths from Book 10 of al-Bukhari
Shortening the Prayers (At-Taqseer) - Hadiths from Book 20 of al-Bukhari
Pilgrimmage (Hajj) - Hadiths from Book 26 of al-Bukhari
Fighting for the Cause of Allah (Jihad) - Hadiths of Book 52 of al-Bukhari
ONENESS, UNIQUENESS OF ALLAH (TAWHEED) - Hadiths of Book 93 of al-Bukhari
Hanafiyyah School Theology (Sunni)
Malikiyyah School Theology (Sunni)
Shafi'iyyah School Theology (Sunni)
Hanbaliyyah School Theology (Sunni)
Maturidiyyah Theology (Sunni)
Ash'ariyyah Theology (Sunni)
Mutazilah Theology
Ja'fari Theology (Shia)
Nusayriyyah Theology (Shia)
Zaydiyyah Theology (Shia)
Imams (Shia)
Qarmati (Shia)
Ishmael, Ismail
Early Islamic History Outline
Kaaba, Black Stone
Sunnites, Sunni
Shiites, Shia
Sahih, al-Bukhari
Abu Bakr
Fatimids (Shia)
Ismailis (Shia)
Islamic Calendar
Interactive Muslim Calendar

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in December 1997.

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