On Monday, Muslims around the world celebrated the birth anniversary of Imam Ali (AS), one of the greatest humans to have lived, not only because he was a loyal companion and successor to the Holy Prophet (SAW), but because he was a pure reflection of his excellence in wisdom, character, and humanity.
When we celebrate this magnanimous man, we often bring to mind miraculous feats attributed to his name, such as his blessed birth within the walls of the Holy Kaaba — something that no other person can ever claim — or his unparalleled strength that allowed him to lift the door of Khyber with his bare hands, a door so heavy that it could only be lifted with the strength of forty men.
But alongside these astounding historical feats that distinguish Ali (AS), he is most recognized for the simple and day-to-day acts that he displayed with sincerity and love for the people around him – acts that every person can adopt as a way to walk in his footsteps and share in his magnanimity. Amongst these acts, Imam Ali (AS) was most loved by the people for the attention and care that he provided to the orphans of his city. Imam Ali (AS) prioritized their needs not only as a ruler governing over his people, but also as a fellow human who had a social responsibility to the people he lived with. For this, he was known as The Father of the Orphans.
As a caliph with a responsibility over the people he ruled, he wrote in his famous letter to Malik al Ashtar, “Take care of the orphans and the aged who have no means (for livelihood) nor are they ready for begging. This is heavy on the officers; in fact, every right is heavy.” Here, he demonstrates the importance of being the advocate for those who may not have the ability or means to advocate for themselves.
As a fellow human concerned for the welfare of his neighbours, Ali (AS) would wander the streets at night in search of those who may need assistance. In one instance, he was reported to have personally visited the home of a widow and her orphaned children to bring them groceries to cook a meal. Not only did he provide them with a fresh, hot meal that he prepared himself, he also stayed after the meal to spend time with the children, play with them, and bring laughs and smiles to their faces.
We often underestimate the value of the little acts of kindness. To us, an act may seem small and insignificant; it may take only a few minutes of our time or minimal effort on our part. But to someone else, a small gesture like a phone call or visit, a home-cooked meal, or simply sharing a part of our day with someone who may feel lonely, can truly mean the world. To orphans who are already cut off from their roots and deprived of physical and psychological needs, these acts are everything.
Let us learn from the example of Imam Ali (AS) and walk in his magnanimous footsteps. Sponsor an orphan today.