excerpts from ALI

This selection has been excerpted from a poem-in-progress called ALI (formerly ‘Hagdar’), an American English epic poem exploring the life and times of Ali ibn Abi Talib (عَلِيّ ٱبْن أَبِي طَالِب), the cousin, companion, and successor of the Prophet Muhammad. The complete poem is estimated to comprise over 12,000 lines, spanning almost a century of Arab and Islamic history.

1

In the name of the Gracious, Merciful God,

The Master of the Heavens and the Earth,

The Knower of the Hidden and the Bared,

In His Most Holy Name We now begin:

They sing of warriors and timeless kings                               

From far and wide, who seemed to spread their wings

Above the lengthy lands and endless seas!

They sing of lords whose stunning wealth could please

A thousand dying nations and the sons                                  

Of these tenfold. They sing of mighty ones,                          

Of warriors who shamed the mountains high

With brutish strength, and quenched the thirsting eye

With handsomeness and daring unsurpassed.

They sing of men whose names will ever last.

So let them sing, but here’s the Truth: That We                                

Will never find one greater than ALI.

2

So when the call for sacrifice was made,

They bowed, and their allegiances were paid

To God and their most Visionary King.

And here begins our story: Here we sing

Of news which from the Mother of the Tribes                       

Was brought before that Prophet. It describes

A troubling and most horrific sight:

“An army of such great and massive might

Approaches us from mountain tops! They seem

To be a most ferocious, deadly team.

I saw that there were thousands—surely more!

Their battle cries did quake me to my core.”

The King abruptly sent a scout to see

How great a threat this army force could be.

The news he brought was not of pleasant taste:

“Prepare for war. Amass our forces—haste!

They come in crowds uncountable—with swords

And steeds and arrows come these dreadful hordes:

Ten thousand strong, an army truly great— 

The largest force we’ve ever seen to date!

Prepare for battle! Go, Protect the King!”

But all of this did not the spirit ring

Of he whose Faith resides in God Alone,

Of he who shatters gods of wood and stone.

3

And from among the silent multitude, 

He rose and spoke with such determined mood.

“I wish to fight, O Messenger of God,”

Said Ali with his sword raised, and a nod.

But kindly did the King respond, and say:

“O Noble youth, I must refuse thee. Nay!

There are among thee older men, with wit,

Men worthier to fight this day, so sit.”

Obediently, Ali took his seat.

Again the King proposed the trying feat:

“I ask again, who from among you will 

This godless foe, this vile villain, kill?”

Again, the King’s request was proven weak,

For none of them would rise, or even speak.

When silence seemed to never reach an end,

One single youth demanded to contend.

Again, Ali spoke out with gallant might:

“O Messenger of God, I wish to fight!”

Behind his grin, the Messenger replied:

“O young one, you were formerly denied,

And now you are again. We seek the Greats—

The ones who do not Fear to Face their Fates!”

NOTES

Achilles the Greek hero of The Iliad. Beowulf…Grendel’s Day from an Anglo-Saxon epic. King of Beasts the Lion, king of the jungle. Rostam a Persian hero. Mother of the Tribes Mecca. The largest force…date the Meccan army at the Battle of the Trench was the largest military force ever organized by the Arabs until that time. shatters gods…stone i.e. the pagan idols.

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