Ali ibn Abi Talib


The seventh century in which the Prophet came was an age of kingship and dynasties. Democracy was unknown in that period. The king was succeeded by his son or relative. In the light of this tradition, Ali was Prophet's political heir. That is, Ali should have held the position of head of state after the Prophet. But the Quran had advised Muslims to decide issues through consultation. This was the first lesson in democracy: people's opinions should be taken and one on whom they are unanimous should become leader. Following this principle, the Companions of the Prophet made Abu Bakr the first caliph, who was followed by Umar and then Uthman. After the Prophet three people other than Ali successively became caliph. All the three were accepted as caliphs by Ali. This was a great sacrifice on Ali's part. After Uthman's death, Ali became caliph at a time when there was anarchy in society. Some historians believe that Ali was not a successful caliph, however, this is not true. The role of the caliph is 50%, while the rest 50% is the role of society. At Ali's time many old companions had died and new people had embraced Islam. The society had changed considerably. When a person asked Ali why affairs in his time were not as good as they were when Abu Bakr and Umar were caliphs, Ali replied: 'Abu Bakr and Umar ruled over people such as me, while I have to rule over people like you.'