# Stories from the Life of Ali (ra)

Hazrat Ali (ra) was well-known for his brilliance in mathematics. In the following stories, he provided immediate yet accurate answers to complex mathematical problems that were brought to him:

Problem # 1:

Two men travelling together sat down to have lunch. One had five loaves of bread, the other three. Another traveler joined them, and they all decided to share the eight loaves by dividing each loaf into three parts. Each man then ate eight pieces.

When the third man got up to leave, he left the two men a total of eight Dirhams to pay for their loaves of bread.

The man who had five loaves gave the one with three loaves three Dirhams and kept five for himself. The man with the three loaves didn’t agree – he wanted a 50% share, i.e., four Dirhams. The man with the five loaves refused and the dispute was brought before Ameer-ul-Mumineen, Ali (ra) bin Abi Talib. Upon hearing their story, Ali (ra) told the man with three loaves that the man with five loaves had already given him more than his fair share and requested him to accept the three Dirhams. The man with the three loaves refused.

Ali (ra) said that in fact the man with the three loaves was entitled to only one dirham out of the eight! He then offered the following explanation: the men had eight loaves of bread divided into three equal parts each, which was equal to twenty-four pieces. Each traveler ate 8 pieces. The man, who had three loaves, had a total of nine pieces from his loaves, out of which he ate eight, leaving only one piece for the third traveler. The man with the five loaves had contributed fifteen pieces, out of which he ate eight, leaving seven pieces for the third man. Hence, the man with the five loaves was entitled to seven Dirhams, whereas the man with the three loaves was entitled to only one Dirham! Subhan’Allah!

Problem # 2:

In another case, a dying man made a will stating that out of his seventeen camels, half were to be given to his eldest son, one-third to his second son and one-ninth to his youngest son. After his death, his relatives could not figure out how to divide the seventeen camels according to the man’s will. So they took their problem to the Caliph Ali (ra) bin Abi Talib, knowing that he would have the answer. Ali (ra) listened to the problem then said, “I will lend one of my camels so that there are eighteen camels and then divide them according to the man’s will. So the eldest son gets half of the eighteen camels, which is nine. The second son gets one-third of the eighteen camels, which is six. The youngest son gets one-ninth of the eighteen camels, which is two.” “That’s seventeen camels,” he said. “And now I will take my camel back!”

# Tackling Teenagehood

Raising teenagers is a herculean task. Raising teenagers in the West is even more wrought with obstacles. Or so I thought, until I realized that I was approaching my duty with a wrong frame of mind. I read the following. It is a letter written by Ali (rtam) to his son. It exemplified my feelings and set me thinking about approaching parenting from a different angle. Ali (rtam) wrote:

“I found you a part of myself; rather, I found you my whole, so much that if anything befell you, it was as though it befell me, and if death came to you, it was as though it came to me. Consequently, your affairs meant to me as my own matters would mean to me. So I have written this piece of advice as an instrument of help…

Certainly, the heart of a young man is like an uncultivated land. It accepts whatever is strewn on it. So I hastened to mold you properly, before your heart hardens up and your mind gets occupied…”

My task was clear. This is what I need to do:

1. What I should not do. I wasn’t supposed to stop my son from logging into Facebook, or from tweeting all afternoon, or from asking silly questions that made no sense. My actual task was to instill in him three things. Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “The best gift to children from parents is their correct training.” (Tirmidhi) Once these things became second nature, he would monitor himself, and my job would be done. We all forget that when we ourselves were teenagers, we used to have an insufferable attitude: “I can do whatever I want, because I’m an adult.”
1. The meaning of Abd-Allah should be clear to your teenager. “The most beloved of your names to Allah are ‘Abd-Allah and ‘Abdur-Rahman.” (Muslim) Iman is a wavering thing. Sometimes it is strong, while at other times it becomes weak. Do not be hard on your teenager; he will follow his peer group, which does not mean he is ‘bad’. It only means that he needs a direction. Give him an alternate. Make him think it is his choice.

I met a young high school girl at the Masjid. She always dressed decently and wore Hijab. It’s been a year since we met, and I have never seen her in skinny jeans, t-shirts or tight revealing clothes. I asked her what her parents did that made her so confident. She said they gave me a choice: either I practice Hijab correctly or I don’t do it at all. “What if you had chosen not to wear Hijab?” I asked. “Actually, I knew that Allah (swt) commands women to cover their beauty, so the choice was obeying Allah (swt) or disobeying Him.” I was stunned… so simple. Conclusion: instill in your teenager the love of Allah (swt), His Prophets (as) and His Taqwa. Your child will choose the correct path by himself.

1. Teach your child the Quran. You would say that every parent does it. What’s so great about this piece of advice? Actually, teach your child the Quran, in terms of the stories and what they signify: the commandments, the recitation and memorization, the meaning and depth of the message, and the philosophy. This will elevate your child’s intellect. He will no longer accept anything at face value, unless he double checks and verifies it against the Quran and the Sunnah. It will inculcate in him Islamic morals, values and manners. Most importantly, your child will look beyond his daily routine and ponder over the reason for his existence, his real aim in life.
1. Just don’t talk the talk, but walk the walk. The single most important factor is you as a role model. If you lie, your child will know it is acceptable. If you indulge in questionable behaviour, your child will find the door open. One day, my daughter started yelling at her younger sister for not wiping the toilet sink clean after herself. I asked her to calm down. She looked at me and said: “But Mama, you always use that tone.” I was taken aback! Now, we, as a family, have decided to get rid of our habit of yelling at each other. Accept your vices, as we are not perfect, and work on them with your kids. They will learn that life is about continuous striving to please Allah (swt).
1. Pray for your children. Always, everywhere and in everything they do. We can only guide. Allah (swt) is the One, Who will accept their struggle.

# The Wonder Boys Who Became Great Men

They were like a couple of scattered pearls during the life of the Prophet (sa), running to and fro like naughty children at any place and time. As their loving grandfather prostrated during earnest prayer, one of them would playfully climb up on his head. Like any innocent child, fond of sweet treats and naturally curious about environmental stimuli, one of them would pick up a date lying on the ground in Madinah and innocently put it into his mouth.

It was narrated that Aisha (rta) said: “The Prophet (sa) went out one morning wearing a striped cloak of black camel hair. Al-Hasan Ibn Ali (rta) came, and he enfolded him in the cloak; then, Al-Hussain (rta) came, and he enfolded him in it, then Fatimah (rta) came, and he enfolded her in it, then Ali (rta) came, and he enfolded him in it; then, he said: “Allah wishes only to remove Al-Rijs (evil deeds and sins) from you, O members of the family (of the Prophet (sa)), and to purify you with a thorough purification.” (Al-Ahzab 33:33) (Muslim)

The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “Al-Hasan and Al-Hussain are the chiefs of the youth of Paradise, and Fatimah is the chief of their women.” (At-Tirmidhi, Ibn-Majah and Ahmad)

The Prophet’s (sa) grandsons, Hassan (rta) and Hussain (rta), grew up to be laudable leaders and heroes, who shunned worldly glory and honour. Despite their lineage, they didn’t feel “entitled” to occupying positions of authority and power over people. Their deaths as martyrs have raised their status and honourable mention even in this world. But we know that it is not just their blood connection that has earned them supreme success in the hereafter. As the Quran tells us, Prophet Nuh’s (as) pleas were of no avail for his son. He drowned because he didn’t submit to Allah’s (swt) commands.

Therefore, the question is: what did Hassan (rta) and Hussain (rta) do as youths that paved way for their lofty characters as adults?

1. They were brought up on a solid foundation of Islamic morals.
2. They had the correct Aqeedah in their hearts and witnessed it being confirmed by the actions of their parents and extended family.
3. They were never denied the company and love of pious older people.
4. Their chaste mother shunned the glitter and glamour of the life of this world.

Their mother will be the chief of the women of Paradise in the hereafter! Without a long string of intellectual achievements or accomplishments to her credit, she lived a life of hardship. She died very young, after living a life of forbearance in the face of abject poverty. Despite her short lifespan, she gave birth to and reared children, who not only carried forward her father’s mission, but also left notable marks in Islamic history.

Hassan (rta) and Hussain (rta) are role models for Muslim families today: reminders for new mothers that Tarbiyyah begins from conception and is pivotal in the early childhood years. For the youth, “Hussnayain” continue to belie the fact that “youth is wasted on the young”. Rather, when the foundation is strong, in very short lives, young people can achieve what the majority cannot accomplish in decades.

# Ali (rta) vs. a Jew

Once, during his Caliphate, Ali Ibn Abi Talib (rta) lost his armour. One day, he saw a Jew in possession of an armour he recognized as his own. Ali (rta) approached the Jew and asked him to return his armour. The Jew refused to do so and, instead, demanded that the matter be settled by the reigning Muslim Qadi (judge).

Hence, Ali (rta) and the Jew appeared before the Qadi to settle this dispute. Qadi Shurayh was a very competent judge from Yemen, who was famous for settling Fiqh related matters. He had performed the duties of a Qadi in Kufa during the caliphate of Umar Ibn Khattab (rta), and Usman Ibn Affan (rta) as well. He was well known for his integrity and insight.

When the judge saw Caliph Ali (rta) approach his court, he stood up for him out of respect. Ali (rta) requested him to stay seated. Qadi Shurayh took his seat. Ali (rta) initiated the conversation: “I have lost my armour and found the same in this man’s possession.”

The Jew replied: “This is my armour and I own it.”

Qadi Shurayh inspected the armour in dispute and addressed the Caliph: “By Allah! Your claim is correct. This, indeed, is your armour. However, the court of law demands that you produce two witnesses to substantiate your claim.”

Ali (rta) produced his slave Qanbar as his first witness, who testified in favour of Ali (rta). Then, the Caliph produced his sons Hassan (rta) and Hussain (rta) as his second witnesses to testify for him.

Qadi Shurayh stated: “I accept the testimony of your slave; however, I still need another witness, as the testimony of your sons is not acceptable.”

The Caliph said: “By Allah! I heard Umar Ibn Khattab (rta) narrate the Prophet’s (sa) Hadeeth stating that Hassan (rta) and Hussain (rta) are the leaders of the youth in Paradise.”

The judge replied: “By Allah! This is the truth.”

Ali (rta) demanded: “Then why are you unable to accept the testimony of the leaders of the youth in Paradise?”

Qadi Shurayh explained: “Because they are your sons, and a son cannot testify in favour of his father.”

Hence, the judge settled the dispute in favour of the Jew and handed over the armour to him.

The Jew remarked in absolute astonishment: “The Amir-ul-Momineen of the Muslims brought me in the court of his own appointed judge, and the same judge gave a verdict against the Caliph. And the Caliph accepted the verdict gracefully without any resistance.”

Then, the Jew glanced towards Ali (rta) and continued: “Amir-ul-Momineen! Your claim is true. This armour definitely belongs to you. You had lost it the other day and I found it. Therefore, it is your property. Please, accept it.”

The Jew then recited his Shahadah: “I testify that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger.”

Ali (rta), the wise and honourable Caliph, replied: “I give you not only my armour but also my horse.”