Amir al-Mu'minin Hadrat 'Ali (AS) is the first perfect example of the education and training of the Holy Prophet (SA).
'Ali (AS) was educated by the Holy Prophet (SA) from the period of his infancy. 'Ali (AS) was always with the Holy Prophet (SA) like a shadow until the last moment of the Prophet's life. Like a butterfly which sacrifices its life for the candle, 'Ali (AS) also was with the Holy Prophet (SA). 'Ali (AS) parted with the Holy Prophet (SA) when he took the sacred body of the Prophet (SA) in his arms and buried him.
'Ali (AS) was endowed with a worldwide personality. One may dare say that the discussions and deliberations about this important personality have not been made to such an extent about any other important personality of the world. Shi'ah, Sunni, Muslim, and non-Muslim scholars and writers have written more than one thousand books regarding his personality.
With all the innumerable discussions and inquisitiveness made by friends and foes about 'Ali (AS), no one has been able to find any weaknesses in his faith. Nor has any one been able to find any weak point in his bravery, piety, knowledge, justice, and other praiseworthy ethics, because he recognized and possessed nothing but virtue and perfection.
According to history, from among all rulers who have come to power since the demise of the Holy Prophet (SA) until the present time, 'Ali (AS) is the only person who fully complied with the sirah of the Holy Prophet (SA) and who never deviated from the policies of the Prophet (SA) in the period of his rule over the Islamic society. 'Ali (AS) implemented the laws and religious precepts of Islam without any misinterpretation or distortion just as they were executed in the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (SA).
In the case of "the 6-member council" for the selection of the khalifah (caliph) which had a meeting according to the order of the second khalifah after lengthy discussions the uncertainty regarding khilafah emerged between 'Ali (AS) and 'Uthman. The "council" conditionally offered the position of khilafah to 'Ali (AS) provided that he would deal with the people in the same manner as the first and second khalifahs did. Imam 'Ali (AS) rejected the offer and said: "I will not transgress the limits of my knowledge." Then the "council" offered the khilafah with the same condition to 'Uthman. He accepted the offer and became the khalifah, although he adopted a different sirah afterwards.
No one from among the Companions of the Holy Prophet (SA) could be a match to 'Ali (AS) insofar as self-sacrifices, self-devotion, self-dedication, etc for the cause of the truth were concerned. It cannot be denied that in the absence of this devoted harbinger of Islam, unbelievers and polytheists would have easily extinguished the light of the Nubuwwah in the night of Hijrah and afterwards in any one of the battles of Badr, 'Uhud, Khandaq, Khaybar, and Hunayn and would have resulted in the fall of the banner of the truth.
Upon first entrance into the social environment, 'Ali (AS) had a very simple life. During the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (SA), after the Prophet's demise, and even during his own glorious khilafah period, he lived like the poor and in the most humble condition. He had no superiority over the needy insofar as food, clothing, and housing were concerned and used to: "The ruler of a society should live in such a way so as to be the source of consolation for the needy and the distressed and not the cause of their regret and disappointment." Although the ruler of the entire Islamic State, he had only seven hundred dirhams on the day of his martyrdom with which he wanted to hire a servant for his house.
'Ali (AS) used to work to meet the needs of life. Particularly he was interested in agriculture and spent his time in planting trees and digging water canals. Whatever he earned in this manner or through the war-booty, he distributed among the needy. He endowed the properties which he had cultivated for the needy or distributed among them the money received as sale proceeds of such properties. Once, during the period of his own khilafah, 'Ali (AS) ordered to those concerned to bring the revenues of his endowments to him and then spend them. When these revenues were collected, the amount reached 24 000 gold dinars.
'Ali (AS) always defeated his rivals in all the battles in which he took part. He never refrained from combatting an enemy. 'Ali (AS) said: "If the entire Arabia rises up in opposition and combat against me, I will not lose my courage and I will not fear anything."
With such bravery and valour, for which the history of the brave men of the world has not found any equal, 'Ali (AS) was extremely compassionate, kind, generous, and magnanimous. In the battles, he never killed women, children, and the weak. 'Ali (AS) did not take anyone as a captive and did not pursue those who ran away. In the Battle of Siffin, the army of Mu'awiyah took a lead, occupied the canal of Euphrates, and banned the water on 'Ali (AS). Later, after a bloody battle, 'Ali (AS) occupied the water canal. Then he issued orders allowing the enemy to take water.
In the period of his khilafah, 'Ali (AS) welcomed everyone without having chamberlains and doorkeepers, walked on foot. all alone, and walked in the alleys and the bazaars. He ordered the people to fear Allah and guard against evil and protected them against injustice of one another. 'Ali (AS) helped the poverty-stricken people and widows kindly and humbly and kept the shelterless orphans in his own house, personally providing their requirements and educating them.
'Ali (AS) had a special regard for knowledge and learning and gave particular attention towards promotion of knowledge and education and used to say: "There is no suffering like ignorance." While 'Ali (AS) was arraying his troops in the bloody Battle of Jamal, an Arab went forward and asked him the meaning of Tawhid. The people rushed toward the Arab from every direction and confronted him by saying that such a moment is not an appropriate time for asking such questions and for discussion. 'Ali (AS) asked them to disperse away from the Arab and said: "We are fighting the people in order to revive such truths." Then, while arraying the troops, 'Ali (AS) called forth the Arab and clarified the matter for him with an eloquent statement.
Another similar case symbolizing the religious discipline and amazing divine power of 'Ali (AS) has been narrated in the course of the Battle of Siffin. While the two armies, like two roaring seas, were intermingling and fighting and much blood was gushing out from every direction, 'Ali (AS) came to one of his soldiers and demanded a glass of water for drinking. The soldier filled a wooden bowl with water and offered it to 'All (AS). 'Ali (AS) noticed a crack in the bowl and said: "Drinking water in such a bowl is makruh (undesirable -though not unlawful but refraining from it is preferable in Islam)". The soldier said: "This is not a time to be so meticulous about these things in such a situation when we are under the shower of arrows and the flashes of thousands of swords". In short, the answer he got from 'Ali (AS) was: "We are fighting for the enforcement of such Islamic precepts and insofar as the rules are concerned there is nothing large or small".
After the Holy Prophet (SA), 'Ali (AS) was the first person who talked about scientific realities by the philosophical mode of thinking, that is, he talked with independent logic. He also coined many scientific terms. In order to safeguard the Holy Qur'an from error and mutilations, 'Ali (AS) formulated and arranged the rules of Arabic grammar.
Scientific intricacies, divine knowledge, ethical, social, and political matters, and even mathematics that are made available to us by means of the lectures, letters, and other eloquent remarks of 'Ali (AS) are amazing.
Lectures, letters, aphorisms, and the short remarks available as a memorial of 'Ali (AS) all testify that from among Muslims, 'Ali (AS) is most familiar with the sublime aims of the Qur'an and has duly perceived the principal and practical education of Islam. He has proved the authenticity of the hadith of the Holy Prophet (SA): "I am the city of knowledge and 'Ali is the gate of the city". 'Ali (AS) has combined this knowledge with practice.
In short, the prominent personality of 'Ali (AS) is beyond description and his infinite virtues are countless. History has never witnessed a personality attracting as much the attention and the views of the scholars and philosophers of the world as he has.