Subject : The Story of Caliph Ali Ibn Abi Talib Losing a Court Case to a Christian
Fatwa Number : 980
Date : 16-03-2011
Classified : Rules concerning Hadeeth
Fatwa Type : Search Fatawaa

Question :

Is the story of Ali`s shield true for I have heard that it isn`t?

The Answer :

Praise be to Allah the Lord of the Worlds. May His peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Mohammad and upon all his family and companions.


The story in which Ali Bin Abi Talib and the Christian went to judge Shurayh to settle a dispute between them is narrated by Al-Baihaqhi in [Al-Sunnan Al-Kubra. Vol.10:P.136]; Chapter on "Judge being Just to Litigants Seeking his Verdict…….." Al-Sha’bi reported: Ali Ibn Abi Talib saw a Christian man wearing his lost armor and he decided to take up the matter legally, so he brought the dispute to the judge Shurayh. When judge Shurayh saw Ali (Amir al-Mu'minin), he stood up and made Ali sit in his place while he sat beside the Christian. Ali said to Shurayh: "had my litigant been a Muslim, I would have accepted to bring the dispute to the judge. However, I heard the Prophet of Allah (PBUH) saying: "Don`t shake hands with them, don`t be the first to greet them, don`t visit their sick, don`t offer funeral prayer on them, force them off your way, and belittle them just as Allah Did." Ali said: “This is my armor and I have not sold it or given it away.” The judge said to the Christian: “What do you say about what the commander of the faithful has said?” The Christian said: “It is my armor, but I do not consider the commander of the faithful to be a liar.” The judge turned to Ali and he said: “O commander of the faithful, do you have proof?” Ali laughed and he said: “Shurayh is correct. I do not have proof.” Thus, the judge ruled in favor of the Christian. The Christian took the armor and began to walk away, but then he returned and he said: “As for me, I testify that this is the wisdom of the prophets. The commander of the faithful himself has taken me to his judge and the judge has ruled against him! I testify that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. By Allah, the armor is yours. I followed the army while you were on your way to Siffin and the armor fell from your luggage.” Ali said: “If you have embraced Islam, the armor is yours.”

After navigating relaible websites, we found that there are some weaknesses in this story:

In terms of the Sanad (Chain of the narrators), Ibn Al-Molkhin (May Allah have mercy on him) said: "There are weak narrators; the first of whom is Osayed Bin al-Jammal. Yahya said: "He is a liar." The second one is Amro Bin Shammar Al-Ja`fi who is also considered very weak. Sheikh Taqhi Al-Deen Bin Al-Salah said: "I haven`t found an authentic Sanad for this Hadith." {Al-Bader Al-Moneer, vol.9/pp.599}.

As regards the text of the Hadith, it isn`t surprising that justice and equity have prevailed during the reign of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, and the Islamic history as well as the Prophetic biography are replete with such role models in terms of achieving justice and the independence of the Islamic judiciary. We can`t rule out the fact that this story has a valid reference; however, the text of the narration reported by Al-Baihaqhi contains a Hadith, traceable to the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him), contradicting authentic narrations. For example: "Don`t shake hands with them" isn`t established in the Prophetic Sunnah. Also: "Don`t visit their sick" contradicts the guidance of the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) who used to visit the People of the Book. This is attested to in the following narration: Anas told that when a young Jew who was a servant of the Prophet became ill the Prophet went to visit him and, sitting down by his head, said to him: “Accept Islam.” He looked at his father who was beside him, and he said: "Obey Abul Qasim.” So he accepted Islam, and the Prophet went out saying: "Praise be to God who has saved him from hell.” {Related by Bukhari}. And Allah the Almighty Knows Best.





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