Humility of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (RA)

Humility of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (RA)

From the Qur’anic character which is embodied in the personality of Commander of the Faithfuls, ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib (ra), is the character of humility. Allah, the Exalted, says (what means):

وَلَا تَمْشِ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ مَرَحًا ۖ إِنَّكَ لَن تَخْرِقَ ٱلْأَرْضَ وَلَن تَبْلُغَ ٱلْجِبَالَ طُولًا

“And walk not on the earth with conceit and arrogance. Verily, you can neither rend nor penetrate the earth, nor can you attain a stature like the mountains in height.” (Qur’an 17:37)

وَلَا تُصَعِّرْ خَدَّكَ لِلنَّاسِ وَلَا تَمْشِ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ مَرَحًا ۖ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ كُلَّ مُخْتَالٍ فَخُورٍ

“And turn not your face away from men with pride, nor walk in insolence through the earth. Verily, Allâh likes not any arrogant boaster.” (Qur’an 31:18)

The above-mentioned Verse of Al-Isra contains a clear call towards adorning good character with humility, tenderness, knowledge of self-worth, explicit prohibition of indulging the heart in frivolities like arrogance, pride, frolicking, disdain for the people as well as recommending the opposite of humility and moderation after understanding the foregoing prohibitions.

In addition to the previous prohibitions, Allah mentions His displeasure and severe anger with the one who is described with such descriptions. Allah says:

إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ كُلَّ مُخْتَالٍۢ فَخُورٍۢ

“Allâh likes not any arrogant boaster.” (Qur’an 31:18)

indicating the absence of His love for the one who is (described) in this manner, i.e. His anger with such a person. Similarly, just as the foregoing Verse indicates this, it equally contains encouragement for the believer to be humble, with the exception that the Qur’an is not restricted to this. Rather, it refers to the humble ones in glowing terms and says:

وَعِبَادُ ٱلرَّحْمَـٰنِ ٱلَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى ٱلْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ ٱلْجَـٰهِلُونَ قَالُوا۟ سَلَـٰمًا

“And the (faithful) slaves of the Most Gracious (Allâh) are those who walk on the earth in humility and sedateness, and when the foolish address them (with bad words) they reply back with mild words of gentleness.” (Qur’an 25:63)

This is a great tribute to the humble ones since Allah describes them with servitude to Himself, since servitude to Him, the Exalted, is the most noble of attributes and from the highest status of the beloved of Allah. It is by this quality that they pride themselves. This is why a poet said:

“From what increased me in distinction and pride 

And I almost stamp my feet on the earth (is)

My admittance under His Statement ‘O my servant’

And that Ahmad became for me a Prophet”

Our Prophet Muhammad ﷺ occupies the pinnacle of this great character in all of its various facets and there is little wonder in for he is the same person whose Lord had trained him and was well-trained, which is evident from the Statement of Allah the Exalted:

لَا تَمُدَّنَّ عَيْنَيْكَ إِلَىٰ مَا مَتَّعْنَا بِهِۦٓ أَزْوَٰجًا مِّنْهُمْ وَلَا تَحْزَنْ عَلَيْهِمْ وَٱخْفِضْ جَنَاحَكَ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ

“Look not with your eyes ambitiously at what We have bestowed on certain classes of them (the disbelievers), nor grieve over them. And lower your wings for the believers (be courteous to the fellow-believers).” (Qur’an 15:88)

as well as Allah’s statement:

وَٱخْفِضْ جَنَاحَكَ لِمَنِ ٱتَّبَعَكَ مِنَ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ

“And be kind and humble to the believers who follow you.” (Qur’an 26:215)

Lowering of wings is a metonym for being humble and gentle with them.[1] The Prophet ﷺ implemented this in a most brilliant manner and the effect of this humility became manifest in all his interactions with society and family (relationship), at all times and places, such that there was not a single incident that was bereft of humility for the believers.

The Commander of the Faithful had been influenced by the Noble Qur’anic training as well as Prophetic guidance such that this attribute became embodied in his unique personality. Here are some instances of that:

“I am the same person who has demeaned the world’:

On the authority of Salih Bin Abi Al-Aswad from someone who related to him that he saw ‘Ali ride a donkey, hanging his leg on one side and then said: “I am the same person who has demeaned the world.”[2]

This is the manner in which the Commander of the Faithful, ‘Ali (ra) apprises with joy of his triumph over his soul, by his humble appearance in the presence of people while he was the leader of the Muslims. Worldly position is deceptive and illusive. The trial of position is greater than that of wealth. Before they attain high position, responsible people are humble but when they attain a high position, haughtiness begins to occupy their hearts gradually until eventually, they become the most difficult persons to talk to and meet.

However, as for the friends of Allah, the pious, each time they increase in status in worldly positions, they increase in their humbleness to the people.

“The father (head) of the family is more deserving of carrying (it)’:

It is related from ‘Ali (ra) that he once bought a date with a Dirham and he carried it in a wrap. The people said: “Let us carry it on your behalf O Commander of the Faithful?” He said: “No, the father (head) of the family is more deserving of carrying (it).”

This is the example of his humility when he carried his goods himself inspite of being the Commander of the Faithful and elderly, and he did not see in that any justification for accepting the service of people to him. Through this, he made himself an exemplar of humility for the Muslims. If a person considers carrying a load by himself beneath his dignity, recollecting the instance of the Commander of the Faithful dispels what is in his heart of such feeling.[3]

His conduct with his uncle, Abbas (ra):

On the authority of Suhaib, the freed slave of Al-Abbas who said: I saw ‘Ali kissing Al Abbas’ hand and leg while he was saying: “O my uncle, be pleased with me.”[4]

Let us observe what has been related by a close observer of the attributes of ‘Ali (ra). He said: “He used to prefer of clothing what was short, of food what was coarse, he was just like anyone of us, he responded to us whenever we asked him, he informed us whenever we inquired of him.”[5]

From the statements of Commander of the Faithful on humility: ” A man’s humility ennobles him.”[6] Whenever a servant becomes well-Versed in the knowledge of the Book and Sunnah and acts by it and recognizes the reality of his soul, he increases in humility to Allah and His creation. Similarly, from the factors of self admiration which afflicts some callers (to the path of Allah) today is their paucity of knowledge and understanding.

In addition, their paying attention to the number of their followers around them and heedlessness in paying attention to what is with Allah. It also includes lack of looking up to those who are above them among the pious scholars. This is from the clandestine inroads of Shaitan into the student of knowledge and adherents in the field of Da’wah. According to a popular adage: “If you acquire knowledge, do not ruminate about the numerousness of those below you among the ignorant ones but look up to those above you among the scholars.”[7]

We close this description with the words of the Commander of the Faithful, ‘Ali: “There is nothing better than the humility of the rich for the poor in quest of Allah’s reward and what is even better than that is the pride (derived from the reliance on Allah) of the poor over the rich, trusting in Allah The Exalted.”[8]

[The Biography Of Ali ibn Abi Talib (RA) by Dr. Ali Muhammad As-Sallabi,p. 446-448]


[1] Ruh Al-Ma’aani of Al-Alusi 5/80.

[2] Al-Bidayah Wan Nihayah 8/5.

[3] Az-Zuhd by Al-Imam Ahmad p. 13.

[4] Ashab ar-Rasul 1/224, As-Siyyar of adh-Dhahabi, its chain is authentic.

[5] Al-Isti’ab 3/1108.

[6] Minhaj Ameer-ul-Mu’ mineen Ali fi Da’wah p. 523.

[7] Hidayat Al-Murshidin p. 105, Ali Mahfuz.

[8] Mau’izah Al-Muminin 2/344, Fara’id Al-Kalam p. 339.

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