Among the unique virtues of Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) is his status as the distributor of Heaven and Hell. This is exclusively for him and no other companion or Muslim competes with him in this regard.
There are many reports from Muslim scholars on Ameerul Momineen’s (a.s.) role in the distribution of heaven and hell.
Even Shia critics like Ahmad Ibn Hajar al-Haithami al-Shafei, a resident of Mecca (exp 974 A.H.) has recorded this narration in his ‘lightning bolt on the Shias’ – Al-Sawaiq al-Muhriqa that Ali (a.s.) declared in a long speech to the six-member Shura set up by Umar:
I implore you for the sake of Allah, is there anyone among you to whom the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) said ‘You are the distributor of Paradise and Hell, except me?
They replied: No.
• Al-Sawaiq al-Muhriqah p 75
• Al-Ehtejaj v 1, p 134-145
The Holy Quran likewise hints at this reality when it declares:
Do cast into hell – both of you – every ungrateful, rebellious one. (Surah Qaaf (50): 24)
Allah is ordering the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Ali (a.s.) in the verse to cast the rebellious in hellfire.
• Shawahid al-Tanzeel v 2 p 260-265 (Ahle Tasannun)
• Tafseer al-Qummi (r.a.) v 2 p 324
• Tafseer Furaat al-Kufi (r.a.) p 436
• Al-Amaali of Shaikh Tusi (r.a.) p 290, 368
• Al-Jawahir al-Saniyyah p 532
• Tafseer al-Burhan v 5 p 139-147
How Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) came to acquire this position
There is an interesting incident behind how Ali (a.s.) came to acquire this position to the exclusion of others. Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a.) plays the most important role in this incident, which is summarized here:
The Muslims had just won the Battle of Khaibar. On the same occasion, Jafar al-Tayyar (a.s.) returned to Medina from Habash (Ehtopia) – prompting the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) to exclaim – I do not know which makes me happier – victory in Khaibar or Jafar’s arrival. Jafar (a.s.) gifted a maid to Ameerul Momineen (a.s.), his younger brother. Ali (a.s.) set the maid free to please Fatima Zahra (s.a.). He (a.s.) also distributed 500 dirhams among the needy muhajireen and ansar to please Fatima Zahra (a.s.).
This prompted Jibrail to descend with a divine message for Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.):
O Muhammad! Allah conveys greetings to you and says – Give Ali (a.s.) glad tidings that I have gifted him Paradise – all of it, for releasing the maid to seek Fatima’s (a.s.) pleasure. On the Day of Judgement, Ali (a.s.) will stand at the gate of Paradise and with My Mercy he will take whomever he wants to Paradise and with My Wrath he will forbid whomever he wants from entering it.
And I have likewise handed over Hell – all of it, to Ali (a.s.) for donating 500 dirhams as charity to please Fatima (a.s.). On the Day of Judgement, Ali (a.s.) will stand at the gate of Hell and will take whomever he wants to Hell with My Wrath and will forbid whomever he wants from entering it with My Mercy.
The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) informed Ali (a.s.) – Well done O Ali! Who can be like you – the distributor of Paradise and Hell!
• Bashaar al-Mustafa (s.a.w.a.) p 101-102
• Behar al-Anwar v 39 p 207-208
• Al-Jawahir al-Saniyyah p 543-544
Three points are clear from this incident:
i. Pleasure of Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a.) not only makes one eligible for Paradise / Hell, but in Ali’s (a.s.) case it made him the sole distributor of Paradise and Hell. In fact, even the weakest of Fatima’s (s.a.) Shias will rescue many people sentenced to the fire and usher them towards Paradise.
ii. Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) released the maid of his brother Jafar al-Tayyar (a.s.) to please Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a.). This proves that the incident of him wanting to marry the daughter of Abu Jahl and infuriating Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a.) in the process, is a fabrication by his critics to lower his status.
If Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) has been granted the distinction of distributing heaven and hell by Allah for earning pleasure of Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a.), then any incident to the contrary would have prompted Allah to seize this distinction.
iii. As this distinction, from scores of others, is solely for Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) and no other companion was considered eligible for it by Allah, then his rivals who challenged him over caliphate hold no superiority over him. This is just the point that Ali (a.s.) made in the Shura, which the members accepted.
iv. Since Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) is sole distributor of heaven and hell, it is his friend and devotee who will reach heaven and not the adherent of others.