One of greatest tragedies to afflict the Muslim community of late is that well-established precepts of faith like monotheism, Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) status in Islam, intercession, mediation, affection for Ali (a.s.) and Faatemah (s.a.) and their children, status of Imam Husain (a.s.), degradation of Yazid, etc. to cite a few, on which Muslims were united until a few years ago have become major points of polarization among Muslims today. Matters have reached a stage that the party opposed to the consensus ironically accuses those who are with the consensus of apostasy and polytheism!

One such issue is the status of Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) – Ali b. Abi Taalib (a.s.). Virtues of Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) on which there was total unanimity and consensus among Muslims have been put under a cloud by skeptics. They have either denied the virtues altogether or have adorned others with these virtues.
For example, regarding the descent of the Quranic verse:

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَشْرِي نَفْسَهُ ابْتِغَاءَ مَرْضَاتِ اللَّهِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ رَءُوفٌ بِالْعِبَادِ

And among men is he who sells himself to seek the pleasure of Allah; and Allah is Affectionate to the servants. (Surah Baqarah (2): Verse 207)

It is widely recorded in Sunni commentaries (tafaaseer) and books of tradition that this verse refers to Ali b. Abi Taalib (a.s.) when he willingly offered to sleep on the bed of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) on the night of migration, also known as Lailah al-Mabeet, thereby saving the life of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and risking his own.

However, some Muslims claim that it refers to among others Suhaib b. Sinaan, an old Muslim who migrated to Madinah.

Others claim that it refers to Muslims in general under the verse of Surah Taubah (9): Verse 111 – Surely Allah has bought of the believers their persons and their property for this…

That this verse refers to Ali b. Abi Taalib (a.s.) is not a matter of dispute according the Shiite scholars. And according to many Sunni scholars too, Ali b. Abi Taalib (a.s.) is the individual described as the one who sold his self to acquire Allah’s Satisfaction.

Therefore by consensus (ijmaa) of both sects, the verse refers to Ali b. AbiTaalib (a.s.). Attempts to include others in its interpretation go against the consensus and are misguided at best. If nothing else, Ali b. Abi Taalib (a.s.) must be listed as one of the parties referred to in the verse instead of excluding him completely from its ambit, which many skeptics have tried to do.

Listed below are the leading Sunni scholars who have confessed to Ali b. Abi Taalib’s (a.s.) sacrifice for the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Islam being the subject matter of the verse:

1. The renowned interpreter of the Sunnis – Tha’labi in the interpretation of this verse (Surah Baqarah (2): Verse 207 – And among men is he who sells himself to seek the pleasure of Allah… through his chain of narrators says:

When the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) decided to migrate, he appointed Ameerul Momineen – Ali b. Abi Taalib (a.s.) to repay his debts and to return the trusts entrusted to him. On the eve of migration before departing with the polytheists having surrounded his house to attack him, he (s.a.w.a.) ordered Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) to sleep in his bed and cover himself with the green blanket associated with him.

At that moment Allah revealed to Jibraeel and Mikaaeel – I make you two as brothers and grant one of you a longer life than the other. Now which one of you is ready to sacrifice his life and give preference to other’s life over his own? Neither of them volunteered.

He revealed to them – Now Ali (a.s.) will sleep on the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) bed and is ready to sacrifice his life for him. Go to the earth and be his protectors. When Jibraeel was sitting near the head of Ali (a.s.) and Mikaaeel was sitting near his feet, Jibraeel said – Congratulations to you, O son of Abu Taalib. Allah prides over you near His Angels.

At this juncture the verse – And among men is he who sells himself to seek the pleasure of Allah; and Allah is Affectionate to the servants (Surah Baqarah (2): Verse 207. It is due to this that this night is famous as the Night of Selling.
(Tafseer-e-Tha’labi, vol. 6 pg 479)

2. Kashf al-Bayaan by Tha’labi vol. 1 pg 409 3

3. Tafseer Mafaateeh al-Ghaib (famous as Tafseer-e-Kabeer) by Fakhruddin Raazi vol. 3 pg 222

4. al-Mustadrak alaa al-Saheehain, vol. 3, pg 4

5. Usud al-Ghaabah fi Marifah al-Saḥaabah, vol. 4 pg 25

6. Tafseer-e-Qurtubbi, vol. 3 pg 347

7. Shawaahed al-Tanzeel vol. 1 pg 123

8. Majma al-Zawaaid by Haithami, vol. 7 pg 27

9. Zakhaair al-Uqbaa by Muhibuddin Tabari, pg 86 etc.

10. Noor al-Absaar by Shablanji, pg 86

11. Tafseer-e-Nishapuri vol. 2 pag 8

12. Tafseer-e-A’qam Zaidi vol. 1 pg 41

13. Jaame’o Lataaif al-Tafseer vol. 5 pg 111

14. Jawaahir al-Mataalib vol. 1 pg 241

15. Al-Salaato Khairun min al-Naum vol. 5 pg 13

16. Kunooz al-Haqaaiq, pg 31

17. Ghaayah al-Maraam pg 344-345

18. Yanaabi al-Mawaddah vol. 1 pg 274

19. Kifaayat al-Taalib fi Manaaqebe Ali b. Abi Taalib pg 114

As is apparent from the list, there is no shortage of Sunni scholars who regard Ali b. Abi Taalib (a.s.) as the sole person referred to in the 207th verse of Surah Baqarah. Therefore attempts to name others instead can only be termed as mischievous and a bid to keep the general Muslims in the dark about Ali’s (a.s.) numerous virtues.