Amir al-Momineen Ali (A.S.) and the Roman Archbishop

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SHAFAQNA-

By: Salman Farsi
Translator: Sayyed Zainul Abideen Razavi, Tehran, Iran

Foreword
Salman e Farsi was from Fars i.e. Persia or Iran; but the Grand Ayatullah Khamenaie, the venerable Supreme Leader of Islamic Revolution in Iran has said: “Fars is from Salman” because the Persians gave up Zoroastrianism and fire worship and became Muslims through Salman Farsi, who had learnt Islam directly from the Holy Prophet (SAWA). Thus Iran although far away from Arabia, is the follower of true Islam.
Salman, although from Iran, had attained tenth degree of faith, so he had the privilege of inclusion with Ahle Bayt, the holy family of Allah’s Messenger (SAWA). Arabs could not attain this privilege nor could they reach the tenth degree of faith.
Ignorance, injustice, “truthophobia” and dreadful might shall dominate over Right, Truth, Justice and Wisdom as long as rulers are tyrannical and barbarous and reliant on power instead of God, the Most Supreme.
Salman was in quest of truth, so he had escaped from the prison of his Zoroastrian parents, and took asylum with Christian priests and then went to Syria. He learnt from a Christian priest about the prophecy of Jesus (AS) regarding Allah’s messenger who would appear in Arabia. Salman was keen to discover the truth but he could not pay his fare to reach Madinah, so he sold himself to a Jew businessman to take him to Madinah, where he was extremely happy to meet God’s Final and Last Messenger (SAWA) with all the signs as described by the Christian priest. Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) personally paid the ransom and released him from the slavery of the Jew merchant. Salman was taught everything about Islam, the religion finalized by God, directly from Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and he became a lover of Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and his progeny. Then Salman played a key role in making his countrymen Iranians to follow true Islam. Thus Iran or Persia is the cradle of true Islam although far away from Arabia.
It is said that Salman became the lover (Shia) of Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and his progeny and attained the tenth degree of faith but Abuzar could reach only up to the ninth degree of faith because he lacked the talent and capacity for it and would have fought andquarreled with Salman, who could not therefore pull him up to the tenth degree of faith.
Salman’s date of birth is uncertain, so his exact age is not known. Salman died in Madaen near Baghdad (Iraq) in 35 AH and his funeral rites were performed by Imam Ali (AS), who came miraculously by Tayyel Arz from Madinah and returned to Madinah the same night.
Note: Tayyel Arz is mentioned in the Holy Quran during Ascension (Meraj) of Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and also Asef Barqia the vizier of Prophet Solomon when he brought the throne of Queen Bilqees in a winks time.
A tomb was built on Salman’s grave, much later between 203 to 232 AH and pilgrims recite Ziarat for him. Salman was really a prominent personality, who cannot be forgotten by Iranians, as they have learnt true Islam because of Salman-e-Muhammadi, the greatest lover of Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and his Holy Ahle Bayt (AS).

Salman’s Book
One of the literary works of Salman Farsi is his famous book “Archbishop Jasleeq and Amir al-Momineen Ali (A.S). Jasleeq is a Greek word, meaning Archbishop. This book contains the discussion of Amir al-Momineen Ali (A.S) with the Roman Archbishop which was recorded by Salman Farsi.
Allamah Davood Ilhami has summarized a part of this book as follows:
Salman writes: The great danger Islam faced after the passing away of the Holy Prophet (SAWA) was that Islam’s light would have been extinguished forever if Ali (A.S) was not present at that time. The Roman emperor got the news of passing away of the Holy Prophet (SAWA) and he thought that the Holy Prophet of Islam (SAWA), contrary to the previous prophets had not appointed his successor and left it to the people.
Had the Prophet (SAWA) nominated a successor, Muslims would not have faced problems, so the emperor of Rome doubted the truthfulness of Islam and formed a committee of Christian priests and sent a group of one hundred intellectuals under the supervision of the archbishop Jasleeq to Madinah to discuss the truthfulness of Muslim’s religious beliefs.
Some historians have narrated that this group had a short stop at Baytul Moqaddas on their way to Madinah. They talked to the Jewish intellectuals about the purpose of their journey. So about the same number of Jews accompanied them to Madinah.
This intellectual group entered Madinah on Friday and soon they asked for the Holy Prophet’s successor. When this group of 200 people entered Madinah it caused much noise, so a great number of Muslims also entered the Holy Prophet’s mosque, they met Abu Bakr and some other Muslims there.
Salman says: I too was there. It was a great gathering with awe-inspiring silence. The archbishop broke the silence and addressed the Muslims, “Let us see your Prophet’s successor, I and my companions are here to investigate your religion. If we found it right, then we will accept your religion otherwise we will go back”. Omar bin Khattab who was sitting next to Abu Bakr, pointed at him, saying: “This man is our leader and master after the Holy Prophet (SAWA)”.
The archbishop Jasleeq turned to Abu Bakr and asked: “Are you the prophet’s successor?”
Abu Bakr said: “No, I’m not”.
The archbishop asked: What are you then?
Before Abu Bakr could answer, Omar said: “This man is the caliph after the Holy Prophet”.
The archbishop asked: “Are you that learned and self-sufficient caliph who on basis of his knowledge is able to satisfy all people in needs”.
Abu Bakr: “No, I’m not that caliph”.
The archbishop asked: “If so, what is this position you have been chosen for and consider yourself as the successor of Muhammad (SAWA)? In our books we have read that this position is specifically appropriate for God’s chosen prophets and it does not suit anyone else who is not divine. The Almighty God nominated Adam as His caliph on earth; and told David that I have nominated you as my caliph on earth. Has Muhammad (SAWA) given you this position?
Abu Bakr replied: “No, but his disciples and friends agreed with my caliphate”.
The archbishop remarked: “So you are the people’s caliph and not the caliph of the Prophet, as you have clearly stated that you were not nominated by the Prophet. Of course, it is against the Prophet’s Sunnah or way and no prophet ever passed away without announcing his successor; it seems that you have turned away from the traditions of all prophets and annulled Muhammad’s prophethood.
Salman was listening to the conversation between the archbishop and Abu Bakr carefully. At this moment, the archbishop turned to his companions and said: “It seem that Muhammad (SAWA) was not a Divine prophet from God but he was a ruler who ruled the Arabs with power and pressure because if he were a prophet, he would have definitely nominated someone to succeed him as all prophets have done!”
Salman says that the archbishop was extremely irritated and told Abu Bakr: “You old man! You have confessed that the prophet hasn’t nominated you as his successor but you were chosen by the people. Now I ask you if God follows people’s will, why did He send so many prophets to them? Actually you have denied the mission of all the prophets and you have practically affirmed that you do not need a divine prophet thus you have falsified God and accused your own prophet. Therefore, I find it necessary to talk to you people to know whether you have done this on basis of faith and truth or due to ignorance, infidelity and carnal aspirations?”
On hearing the archbishop’s arguments, the caliph was drowned in thoughts and the signs of helplessness and distress were apparent in his face. The archbishop finding himself victorious frequently shouted: “You old man! Answer my question!”
Silence like spell of death had overshadowed the caliph and all the Muslims present there. They were all quiet as if their lips were sealed. The archbishop addressing his companions, said: the religion of these people is not based on right. They all agreed with him. He then continued: “Are you ready for some more questions?”
Abu Bakr replied:” yes, you may ask”.
He said: ”Tell me who am I and what is my position near God? And who are you and what is your position near God?”
Abu Bakr said: “I feel I am a true believer but I do not know my position near God. In my view you are an infidel but I don’t know about your position near God.”
The archbishop: “But in my opinion, you have ruined your faith with infidelity and you do not know your position. You don’t really know whether you are supporting truth or falsehood? But I believe in God after denial and infidelity and I am completely satisfied about my position. But unknowingly, you have yourself given witness about my salvation and your own ruin and straying. Then the archbishop turned to his companions and said: My friends are happy because this person has announced your salvation. Yes, you old man! Tell me if you are a true believer and me an infidel, where is your place in paradise and where is my place in the hell?
Abu Bakr asked the people sitting next to him to help him answer the priest but unfortunately they were silent. Therefore very quietly in a shaking voice and terrified he replied: “I don’t know about your and my place in heaven or hell!”
The archbishop said: How did you dare to announce yourself as Muhammad’s successor when you are not learned enough to answer people’s needs but you are in need of others’ knowledge. Don’t you have anyone more learned than you among Muslims?
If your prophet was sent by God, he wouldn’t have ruined his promise with God but would have definitely kept his promise like other prophets, who nominated their successors.
If among Muslims anyone is wiser than you, then your religion could be right, but if he were like you, unable to answer me and devoid of any signs from the prophet then you have cheated these people, because the ignorant has no right to be a leader.

Salman felt Islam is in danger
Salman writes: “When I saw this painful scene, I felt Islam is in danger. I stood up and rushed like lightening towards the house of Ali (AS). I knocked the door, Ali (AS) came out and saw my fright and enquired about the cause of my awe.
I told him Islam is in danger “why are you sitting here? Muhammad’s religion is ruined. Muslims have lost their dignity. Then I described everything that had happened.”
Ali (A.S) who is the nation’s hope and the people’s rescuer and has always solved the problems of the Islamic world, moved towards the Masjid un-Nabi (SAWA) immediately and sat on the ground next to the Holy Prophet’s grave and said: “O Christian! Ask me whatever questions you have. I will answer all questions.
The Archbishop told him the reason for his visit was to find out the successor of the Prophet of Islam and said they have introduced this man (pointing to Abu Bakr) as the Prophet’s successor, but unfortunately I found him quite ignorant, so I am doubtful about the truthfulness of Islam.
Ali (A.S) addressing the Archbishop Jasleeq and his companions said: “I am the successor of the Prophet of Islam and the interpreter of Quran. I know Islam thoroughly and I know its firm and ambiguous aayat, its superseding and superseded aayaat. I have the knowledge for guidance of all people. Now ask me whatever you wish about the future up to the Doomsday. O the Christian Sage! Besides the aayat of the Qur’an, I have knowledge about the Bible as well as the Torah. The Holy Prophet (SAWA) has removed the curtains and familiarized me with all knowledge. I am the Prophet’s brother, cousin, and son-in-law. I and my descendants are the inheritors of his knowledge and we are like Noah’s ark whoever gets on it survives but whoever denies to mount it drowns and is devoured by stormy waves.
I and my descendants are like ‘Hitta’ for Israelites (See 2:158). For our prophet I am like Harun for Moses, with this difference that after him no other prophet will be sent. O the Christian Sage! “Anyone who has love for me is a true believer and anyone who has enmity with me is an infidel”. On hearing these wise words, the archbishop was delighted and turned to his companions and said: “I swear by God! This is the person who speaks with knowledge. I hope we have arrived at our goal and will find the religion for which we set out together.
Then he turned to Ali (AS) and asked: “O the learned intellectual! Tell me where is my and your place near God?
Ali (A.S) answered: “I am a true believer, due to God’s blessings and grace, but you are an infidel because you have violated your pledge with Him.
The archbishop asked: “where is your place in the heaven and mine in the hell?”
Ali (AS): “I haven’t entered heaven or hell to know mine or your place but it is mentioned in the Qur’an, concerning the good and bad people’s place in the hereafter, it is said in this book that God has promised different ranks and stages of paradise to His prophet and He has said that infidels and sinful criminals will be sent to the hell which has seven doors and each one will enter through a door.
The archbishop told his companions: “Friends, our wish is fulfilled and we have found what we were searching for. O great intellectual! Tell me if the Throne (Arsh) carries God or God carries the Throne?”
Ali (A.S): If you hear the right answer, will you embrace Islam?
The archbishop said: “yes, by God! If you answer my questions correctly, I and all my companions will accept Islam.”
Ali (AS) replied: God carries the Throne (Arsh) and the skies. He has stated in the Qur’an that God the Almighty prevents the skies and the earth from clashing against each other.
The archbishop: O the great wise man! Tell me where is God the Almighty?
Ali (AS): “Above and beneath, in the North, South, West, and East and He is dominant over all creatures. He encloses everyone everywhere and this aayat of the Qur’an is a witness to my words: “There is no secret talk among three but God is their fourth, nor among five but He is their sixth. God is with them (even if) less than that or more and wherever they may be. Then on the Day of Judgment, He will inform them about what they have done.”(Mujadelah: 7)
The archbishop: “I swear by God! His words are perfectly true he speaks with divine grace, exactly like Jesus (A.S), prophets and their heirs by the grace of God.
O the wise intellectual! Let me know whether Paradise is in this world or in the Hereafter and truly where are these worlds situated?
Imam Ali (A.S) answered: ” This world is in the Hereafter and the Hereafter has enclosed or surrounded this world. The Hereafter is the place of comfort for life. There a human being resembles a person in sleep while his soul is on excursion. Our body dies but our soul is eternally alive.
God says: The abode of the Hereafter is indeed life, if you comprehend.(Annkabut:64).
Then the archbishop Jasleeq asked: “O great intellectual! Your Quran states: The entire earth will be in His fist on the Day of Resurrection and skies will be folded or scrolled in His right hand. (Zumar: 67)
So when the earth is under full dominance of God and the skies are folded by Him, where would Heaven and Hell exist?”
Ali (A.S) asked for a paper and ink and wrote “Heaven and Hell” on it and folded the paper and gave it to Jasleeq and asked: “Haven’t I folded the paper?”
They all answered: ”Yes, you did.”
Ali(A.S) asked: ”Unfold it” and they did.
Ali(A.S) asked: Has the writing disappeared or vanished?
They replied: ”No”.
Ali(A.S) said: As the writing “heaven and hell” has not vanished, heaven and hell themselves won’t disappear when God folds the skies.
The archbishop: “You the great intellectual! It is stated in your Qur’an ‘Kulla Shayin Halikun illa wajhah’ “All things shall perish except God.” What does it mean and what is its reason?
Imam Ali (AS) asked a Muslim to get some logs of wood and to kindle them with fire. The Imam asked the archbishop to tell him the direction of the fire.
The archbishop Jasleeq replied: “you can assume it to be in any direction.”
Ali(A.S) answered: It is God’s creation and you cannot assume its direction or face. How could you recognize the nature of God when eyes cannot see Him and mind cannot imagine Him. (laysa kamithlihi shay wa huwa Samiun Haleem) “There is nothing like God and He is All Hearing and Forbearing.”
The archbishop was deeply influenced by Ali’s discussion and strong logic behind his words and said: You the true successor of the prophet! Have answered all my questions and I am guided through you.
The Roman Archbishop Jasleeq accepted Islam and became a Muslim.
He then turned to his companions and said: “Oh my friends! We have finally found the person we were in search of and reached our goal. We should all follow Ali to be blissful, Here and in the Hereafter”.
Actually, the archbishop’s confirmation was considered really important by Salman who had the experience of church and Christian teachings. He actually knew the rank of an archbishop and how his conversion to Islam would affect the Christian world?
The archbishop and all his companions became Muslims and entered Islam through its gateway Ali bin Abi Talib (AS) the prophet’s successor.
So Muslims were full of happiness and Ali’s face gleamed with joy. Ali (AS) humbly stated with pleasure: “I praise God the Almighty, who illuminated his finalized religion and helped Muslims prevail in the discussion.”
Abu Bakr and his disciples were also happy on seeing this scene when Ali (AS) wiped off all misery and humiliation from their faces and saved Islam from the danger of extinction forever.
The Muslims said: “Abul Hasan! May God, the Almighty reward you.”
Salman Farsi who has written this event so precisely says: when the newly converted Roman Muslims wanted to leave Madinah, they all visited Ali’s house to bid him farewell.
Ali (AS) sat next to them.
The Roman archbishop, who had embraced Islam, said: O the prophet’s successor! , the people who have usurped the caliphate are like Israelites, who destroyed everything intentionally and deserve hell!
NOTE: Imam Ali(A.S) has reported that once a Jew had detained Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) because he had no money at that time to pay off his debt to the Jew. So the prophet (S.A) sat there only; and said his daily prayers, from noon to morning prayers the next day. His companions came there and threatened the Jew.The Holy Prophet (SAWA) told them that he was not sent as God’s messenger to be tyrannical against anyone under pledge or with no pledge. On hearing these words ,the Jew recited:” There is no God except Allah and I bear witness that Mohammad is His messenger” and became a Muslim. The Jew said he had not acted with impudence, but only wanted to identify Muhammad(SAWA)with what he had read in Torah that Muhammad bin Abdullah will be born in Makkah and shall migrate to Madinah, and he is not harsh nor evil in conduct and never speaks with a rude high tone, he does not scold and abuse and is gentle and polite. Then the rich Jew placed all his wealth at the disposal of Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) to spend it as directed by God. (Biharul Anwar V:16 Page16)
The archbishop then said we frankly ask you to decide for us whether we should return to our cities, or stay here and fight for your right.
After a long discussion, Ali (AS) said: ” It’s better you return to your cities. Our late prophet (SA) has asked me to be patient as it is more important to protect true Islam. Whoever accompanies me at the proper time to fight will be praised and whoever dies before the warfare may be considered as a victim of tyranny.”
Tears dropped from Ali’s eyes when the Roman Muslims left for their cities, weeping over Ali’s helplessness.
This debate which forms a part of Salman’s book was recorded authentically by some of the great intellectuals of Islam:
1. Sheykh Tusi, in Fehrist.
2. Sheykh Najjashy in his book ‘Mosannafeen and Mosannafaat’.
3. Sheikh Mohammad Deylamie in ‘ Irshad al-Qoloob’.
4. Ibn Babewyh in his book ‘ Al-Tawheed’.
5. Sheikh Mufid in ‘Amali’.
6. Majlesi in ‘Bihar al Anwar’.
7. Ibn Shahr Ashoob in his book “Ma’alem al Ulama”
Ibn Shahr Ashoob writes that the first person who has written on Islam and compiled the traditions of the Holy Prophet (SAWA) was Amir al- Mu’mineen Ali (AS) and then the second person was Salman e Farsi…….

Salman guided people to Ali’s house
During the caliphate of the Shaikhs, Salman-e-Farsi constantly tried to make people aware of the rank of Ali (A.S.) as a divinely nominated Imam and caliph and whenever these caliphs elected by people were helpless and unable to solve people’s problems, Salman-e-Farsi guided them to Ali’s house although disliked by the ruling party.

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