Wisdom from Imam ‘Ali, the fourth caliph of Islam

Wisdom from Imam ‘Ali, the fourth caliph of Islam March 17, 2020


Shrine of Ali
The Shrine of Imam ‘Ali b. Abi Talib in Najaf, Iraq     (Wikimedia Commons)


Many wise sayings are attributed to ‘Ali b. Abi Talib (d. AD 661), the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad and, eventually, the fourth Islamic caliph (and the figure around whom the Shi‘i form of Islam ultimately coalesced).  I’ve selected a few of them for sharing here, in no particular order:


“If you want to know someone’s character, examine the friends he sits with.”


“There is no wealth like education and no poverty like ignorance.”


“Be an enemy to oppressors and a helper to the oppressed.”


“To fight against one’s desires is the greatest of all fights.”


“People are of two types: They are either your brothers in faith or your brothers in humanity.”


“Be respectful to women, for they are the mothers of mankind.”


“Don’t speak wisdom in front of someone of an ignorant mentality.  First he’ll debate you, and then he’ll become enemy through seeing his defeat.”


“I was not created to be occupied by eating delicious foods like tied-up cattle.”


“Hide the good you do, and make known the good done to you.”


“Don’t follow the majority.  Follow the truth.”


“The worst of our faults is our interest in other people’s faults.”


“A wise man first thinks and then speaks, but a fool speaks first and then thinks.”


“Never trust in your physical strength and wealth, because illness and poverty will arrive shortly.”


“If, one night, you see someone committing a sin, don’t look at him tomorrow as a sinner. He may have repented during the night and you did not know.”


“Act for this life as if you live forever.  Act for the afterlife as if you die tomorrow.”


“The biggest shame is to mock something that you have in yourself.”


“Anger begins with madness and ends with regret.”


“A true friend is one who, upon seeing a fault, gives you advice — and who defends you in your absence.”


“Greed is permanent slavery.”


“Don’t talk about your riches in front of the poor.  Don’t talk about your good health in front of the sick.  Don’t talk about your power in front of the weak.  Don’t talk about the joys of your life in front of sad people.  Don’t talk about your freedom in front of those in captivity.  Don’t talk about your parents in front of orphans, for their wounds cannot withstand more pain.”


“Our enemies are not Jews or Christians.  Instead, our enemies are our ignorance.”


“Don’t use sharpness of speech on the mother who taught you how to speak.”


“See the bad inside yourself, and see the good inside others.”


“An alert and learned man will take advice from any incident.”


“Meet people in such a manner that, if you die, they will weep for you, and if you live, they will long for you.”


“The strongest amongst you is he who subdues his self.”


“It is easier to turn a mountain into dust than to create love in a heart that is filled with hatred.”


“Do not criticize too much. Too much criticism leads to hate and bad behavior.”


“Gold is tested with fire, and the believer is tested with trials.”


“When proven wrong, the wise man corrects himself and the ignorant man argues.”


“Don’t show pleasure in anybody’s downfall, for you have no knowledge of what the future holds in store for you.”


“The tongue is like a lion.  If you let it loose, it will wound someone.”


“Fear God and you will have no cause to fear anyone else.”


“A friend cannot be considered a friend until he is tested on three occasions: in time of need, behind your back, and after your death.”


“Beautiful people aren’t always good, but good people are always beautiful.”


“If you are the recipient of kindness, remember it. If you are the giver of kindness, forget it.”


“When the people of truth remain quiet against falsehood, the people of falsehood start believing it is the truth.”


“Don’t hate what you don’t know, for the greater part of knowledge consists of what you don’t know.”



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