What is the real meaning of Ameerul Momineen?
Many claimants to caliphate have usurped titles that were exclusively for Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.), like the title of ‘Ameerul Momineen’.
As usual, they have erred in understanding the title and its implications.
They assumed that Ameerul Momineen means ‘Commander of the Faithful’. So by virtue of being the ‘caliph’ of the nation, the title of Ameerul Momineen rightfully belonged to them.
However, they erred in the interpretation of the title. ‘Commander of the Faithful’ is only the literal translation of Ameerul Momineen (a.s.), it is not its real meaning. The title has a deeper meaning, on understanding which we come to realize why all except Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) are disqualified from assuming the title of Ameerul Momineen (a.s.).
Of course, all claimants are immediately disqualified from assuming the title of Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) by virtue of the Ghadeer sermon wherein the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) exclusively appointed Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) as Ameerul Momineen (a.s.).
However, it is important to know what it is about the title that makes it exclusive for Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.).
The answer is given by Imam Ali Ibn Moosa al-Raza (a.s.).
Real Meaning of Ameerul Momineen
Narrator asked Imam (a.s.):
Why is he (Ali Ibn Abi Talib ((a.s.)) called Ameerul Momineen?
Imam Ali Reza (a.s.) replied:
Because he (a.s.) fed them knowledge. Have you not read in the Holy Quran:
وَ نَمِيرُ أَهْلَنا
‘…and we shall bring food grain for our family…’ (Surah Yusuf (12): 65)
- Al-Kafi v 1 p 412
- Basaer al-Darajaat v 1 p 512
- Tafseer al-Ayyashi v 2 p 184
- Elal al-Sharae v 1 p 111
Clearly, Muslims have misinterpreted Ameerul Momineen to mean the ‘Commander of the Believers’. While this may be the apparent meaning, the infallible Imams (a.s.) have pointed to a deeper meaning which is why it is suitable only for Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.).
That is why Allah commanded Holy Prophet to appoint Ali (a.s.) as Ameerul Momineen and make all others address him as such in Ghadeer.
No Ameerul Momineen except Ali (a.s.)
On divine command, the Holy Prophet appointed Ali (a.s.) as Ameerul Momineen in Sermon of Ghadeer:
Indeed, there is no Ameerul Momineen save this brother of mine (Ali a.s.), and it is not permissible to call anyone other than him with the title of ‘Ameerul Momineen’ after me.
- Al-Ehtejaaj v 1 p 56-66
Ali (a.s.) appointed Ameerul Momineen in the skies
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) informed:
When I was raised to the skies (Meraj) I was close to my Lord as ‘the measure of two bows or closer still And He revealed to’ me:
O Muhammad! Confer on Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) with the title of Ameerul Momineen. I have not named anyone with this title before or after him.
- Manaqib Aal Abi Talib (a.s.) v 2 p 229
- Ithbat al-Hodat v 3 p 106
- Al-Jawahir al-Saniyyah p 514
- Madinah al-Maajiz v 1 p 71
- Mustadrak al-Wasail v 10 p 398
So, there are two aspects of the title of Ameerul Momineen that Muslims must pay close attention to:
First, the meaning – ‘One who provides the believers with knowledge’ which is suitable only for Ali (a.s.) given that he is the ‘Door of the City of Knowledge’ – Bab Madinah al-Ilm. All others were taking their knowledge from Ali (a.s.).
Second – it is a divinely assigned title with which the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) honoured Ali (a.s.) exclusively and all other companions and Muslims till Judgement day were commanded to address Imam (a.s.) as such. Even the infallible Imams (a.s.) did not wish to be addressed with this title and frequently referred to Ali (a.s.) as Ameerul Momineen.