Khamenei said ‘Ya Ali’ at birth


Unlike most babies who cry at birth, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei improbably voiced the name of the first Imam of the Shiites immediately after he left his mother’s womb, the Friday prayer leader of the Iranian holy city of Qom said.

Ayatollah Mohammad Saeedi appeared in a video, circulated by the Iranian opposition, in which he is telling an audience that Ayatollah Khamenei’s half-sister said that the supreme leader said “Ya Ali” right at birth. The midwife responded saying, “May Ali protect you.”

Ali refers to Ali ibn Abi Taleb, a cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. Ali is believed to be the first Shiite Imam.

Supporters of Ayatollah Khamenei have tried to boost his religious and political authority by linking him to Ali and to the Mahdi, who is believed by the Shiites as the redeemer of Islam.

Musa Sharifi, a former researcher with the Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies in London, told Al Arabiya, “Ideas of this kind are not strange in Iran. Since the current regime came to power in 1979, the authority has used Shi’ism as a tool to advance its political agenda.”

Ayatollah Saeedi was appointed as the leader of Friday prayer in Qom by Ayatollah Khamenei following the controversial presidential elections in 2009, which led to the country’s worst social unrest in three decades.

Ayatollah Saeedi also leads Qom’s cultural council and the committee to revive “the propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice.”

Ayatollah Khamenei is defined as the country’s supreme leader and, according to the constitution, whoever holds this title, has the right to veto decisions made by the parliament.

During the administration of reformist president Mohammad Khatami from 1997 to 2005 the Iranian parliament passed with an overwhelming majority a law that sought to expand press freedom in the country. But the Supreme Leader vetoed the decision because it could cause people to question his religious and political authority.

This is Wikipedia’s entry on Imam Ali:

Ali was the cousin and son-in-law of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and ruled over the Islamic Caliphate from 656 to 661. Sunni Muslims consider Ali the fourth and final of the Rashidun (rightly guided Caliphs), while Shia Muslims regard Ali as the first Imam and consider him and his descendants the rightful successors to Muhammad, all of which are members of the Ahl al-Bayt, the household of Muhammad.

This disagreement split the Ummah (Muslim community) into the Sunni and Shia branches.

Muslim sources, especially Shia ones, state that during Prophet Muhammad’s time, Ali was the only person born in the Kaaba sanctuary in Mecca, the holiest place in Islam. His father was Abu Talib ibn Abd al-Muttalib and his mother was Fatima bint Asad, but he was raised in the household of Prophet Muhammad, who himself was raised by Abu Talib, Prophet Muhammad’s uncle. When Prophet Muhammad reported receiving a divine revelation, Imam Ali was the first male to accept his message, dedicating his life to the cause of Islam.

Imam Ali migrated to Medina shortly after Prophet Muhammad did. Once there, Prophet Muhammad told Imam Ali that God had ordered Prophet Muhammad to give his daughter, Fatimah, to Imam Ali in marriage. For the 10 years that Prophet Muhammad led the community in Medina, Imam Ali was extremely active in his service, leading parties of warriors on battles, and carrying messages and orders. Imam Ali took part in the early raids on caravans from Mecca, and later in almost all the battles fought by the nascent Muslim community.

Imam Ali was appointed Caliph by the Companions of Muhammad (the Sahaba) in Medina after the assassination of the third caliph, Uthman ibn Affan. He encountered defiance and civil war during his reign. In 661, Imam Ali was attacked one morning while worshipping in the mosque of Kufa, and died a few days later.

In Muslim culture, Ali is respected for his courage, knowledge, belief, honesty, unbending devotion to Islam, deep loyalty to Prophet Muhammad, equal treatment of all Muslims and generosity in forgiving his defeated enemies, and therefore is central to mystical traditions in Islam such as Sufism. Imam Ali retains his stature as an authority on Qur'anic exegesis, Islamic jurisprudence and religious thought. Imam Ali holds a high position in almost all Sufi orders that trace their lineage through him to Muhammad. Ali’s influence has been important throughout Islamic history.

(Mustapha Ajbaili of Al Arabiya can be reached at: [email protected])