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‘Ali and Mu’awiyah

It is reported that Mu’awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan asked Dirar ibn Damrah al Kinani to describe for him the character and demeanor of his adversary, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. Dirar requested to be excused but Mu’awiyah insisted. Dirar then said:

By God, Ali is far-sighted and dynamic. What he says is decisive and his judgement is just. Knowledge and wisdom spring from his lips and are reflected in his actions. He shows no particular liking for the world and its adornments and finds company in the night and its darkness.

By God, he was tender hearted and was wont to weep profusely. He would engage in deep thought while wringing his hands and talking to himself. He preferred clothes that were just adequate and food that was simple.

He was, by God, one of us. When we visited him he would draw us close to him, and if we asked him for help he would respond willingly. In spite of our closeness to each other we would hesitate to speak to him out of awe and reverence.

He had a generous smile, dazzling like a string of pearls. He respected the pious and loved the poor. The strong would not find in him encouragement for any excesses and the weak would not despair of his justice.

I bear witness by God that on many occasions in the middle of the night I saw him swaying side to side in his mihrab (prayer niche) holding his beard, in a disturbed and restless state, and weeping like a bereaved person. Even now it is as if I hear him saying: ‘Our Lord and Sustainer! Our Lord and Sustainier!’ while beseeching Him.

And to the life of this world he says: ‘Do you display yourself to me? Do you look out expectantly for me? Vanish from my sight. Entice someone other than me. I have relinquished you irrevocably. Your life-span is short, your company is wretched, and your temptation is easy to fall into. Ah! Ah! How little is the provision, how far away is the destination, and how desolate is the way…’

In spite of himself, the tears trickled down Mu’awiyah’s beard as he heard this account. As he wiped his beard with the palm of his hand, those who were present also wept bitterly.

Mu’awiyah remarked: “Such was Abu al Hassan, may Allah have mercy on him. Tell us of your grief for him, O Dirar.”

Dirar replied: “My grief (for Ali) is like the grief of a mother whose only child is slain on her lap. Her tears will never dry up and her grief wil never subsidise.”

Saying that, Dirar stood up and departed.

[Al-Hilyah, 1/84]

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Taken from: The Ethics of Disagreement in Islam by Tah Jabir al Alwani

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