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Hazrat Malik Ashter

Hazrat Malik Ashter r.a 
A heavy-built man was passing through the market of Kufa, his step was firm and assured. He had a fine physique and sun-burnt face; encounters of the battle-field had left their marks on him and the corner of one of his eyes was slit. A shop-keeper, to amuse his friends, threw a handful of sweepings onto the man. The man continued his walk in the same assured and firm manner, without raising an eye-brow or looking towards the shop-keeper. When he went away, a friend of the shop-keeper said:"Do you know who the man is whom you have insulted just now?"
"No, I do not recognize him. He was a passer by like thousands of people passing this way every day. But tell me who this man is."
"Strange! Didn't you recognize him? He was Malik Ashtar, the renowned commander-in-chief of Imam Ali."
"Strange! He was Malik Ashtar! The same Malik whose bravery turns the heart of lions into water and mention of whose name makes his enemies tremble with fear?"
"Yes, that was Malik himself."
"Woe to me! What did I do? Now he will give orders to punish me severely. I must run to him immediately to apologize and request him to forgive my misbehavior."
He ran after Malik. He saw him turning towards a mosque. He followed him to the mosque and saw that he had started praying. He waited till he finished his prayer. Humbly introducing himself he told him:
"I am the man who had committed the silly prank and behaved disrespectfully to you."
Malik said: "By Allah, I did not come in the mosque but for your sake, because I understood that you were a very ignorant and misguided man and that you give trouble to the people without any reason.
I felt pity on you and came here to pray for you and ask Allah to guide you onto the right path. No, I did not have any such intentions that you were afraid of."
Malik Ashtar (May Allah Be Pleased with him) commander-in-chief of Imam Ali's Army
When Imam Ali learned about the martyrdom of Malik Ashtar, he exclaimed: "Malik, what a man Malik was! By Allah, if he had been a mountain he would have been a big one, and if he had been a stone he would have been tough; no horseman could have reached it and no bird could fly over it. (Nahjul Balaqa, Saying no. 441)Malik Ashtar is among those great men of Islam who chose justice and truth in the conflict between the Right and Wrong, between justice and injustice. During his life, he fought so long and so zealously against tyrants and rebels that he was eventually appointed as the general of Imam Ali's army.
Besides being a brave combatant, Malik Ashtar was a virtuous man of learning. At the height of authority as Imam Ali's commander-in-chief, he was regarded among the humblest men of society. This man of God was the distinguished disciple of Imam Ali. The best way to describe his character is to quote the comment which the superman of Islam, Imam Ali, made on him. We may note in what terms the Muslim great teacher, the Master of the Pious, and the Commander of the Faithful, i.e., Imam Ali, spoke about that self-made man. He entrusted Malik Ashtar with such difficult commissions which the latter always fulfilled successfully.
When, after a succession of transient governors, Imam Ali gave Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr the rule of Egypt, the troops of Muawiya, the rebellious governor of Syria, had expanded their invasion deep inside Egypt, creating tumult and disarray in the largest and the most strategic territory within Imam Ali's realm. The critical circumstances demanded a wise brave fighter, able to put down the enemies. Although Imam Ali needed Malik Ashtar in his army, he sent the latter to Egypt in the better interests of Islam, and wrote an important letter to the Egyptians by way of introducing Malik Ashtar:
From the creature of God, Ali ibn Abu Talib, to the people whose anger was for the sake of God. They got angry when they saw that their land was being run over by people disobedient to God; when rights were being crushed and obligations were being ignored and spurned; when tyranny and oppression were the order of the day, and every good or bad person and every local resident or outsider had to face them; when goodness and piety were taboos; and when nobody cared to keep himself from vices and sins.
After praise of God and compliments and homage to the Holy Prophet, be it be known to you that I am sending to you such a creature of God who forsakes rest and sleep during days of danger, who does not fear his enemy at the worst frightening and critical junctures, and who is more severe than burning fire to sinners and vicious people. He is Malik ibn Harith from the tribe of Mazahaj. Hear him and obey his commands which you will find to be right and according to true canons of Islam. He is such a sword among the swords of God that its sharpness will never get blunt or whose stroke will never miss. If he orders to advance against your enemies, then advance. If he commands you to stay, then stay, because he neither advances or attacks nor puts anyone backward or forward save with my command. In sending him to you I have given preference to your needs to those of mine, so that he may serve you faithfully and may treat your enemies severely and strongly. (Nahjul Balaqa, Letter no. 38)
That was a precise description by Imam Ali of a man who was a true and sincere servant of Islam.
In another letter, from Imam Ali to two army generals, Malik Ashtar is described as:
I have placed Malik Ashtar in command over you and over all those under you. Therefore follow his orders and take him as the armor and shield for yourselves because he is one of those from whom I have no fear of weakness nor any mistakes, nor laziness where haste is more appropriate, nor haste where slackness is expected of him. (Nahjul Balaqa, Letter no. 13)
That was Malik Ashtar as characterized by Imam Ali, the symbol of piety and virtue.
On the other side, we have different views on him held by the vicious gang of Umayyad criminals. "Muawia ibn Abu Sufyan," writes the great historian Ibn Athir, "always cursed Ali, Ibn Abbas, Hasan, and Husayn in his prayers." Muawia, the embodiment of unbelief and hypocrisy, head of tyrants and rebels of history, after having had martyred Malik Ashtar by his traitorous agents, thanked God (the kind of God he believed in) for the great favor endowed upon him, and went on thus: "Ali ibn Abi Talib had two hands: one was Ammar Yaser that was cut off in the Battle of Seffin; the other was Malik Ashtar that has just been cut off."
Malik Ashtar as known on both Right and Wrong sides was indeed a great man.
He was born in pre-Islamic period and was converted to the new monotheistic religion proclaimed by Muhammad the Messenger of God. After the death of the Messenger, he frequently took active part in battles between Muslims and the tyrannous Sasanian State, and between Muslims and Byzantine Empire. During the just caliphate of Imam Ali, he was among the most excellent generals of the former. He also took part in the armed conflicts with the seditious Nakethin, with Mareqin or the Khawarij of Nahravan, and with Qasetin or the apostates and tyrants of Syria, winning brilliant victories for the Army of the Right.
During the caliphate of Uthman, Malik Ashtar incurred the Caliph's disfavor and was thereby sent into exile. He had the honor to be in Muhammad's company, and was among Imam Ali's close companions. When Egypt was rent with disorder by the Umayyad sinister agents, Imam Ali substituted Malik Ashtar for Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr as governor of Egypt. But before reaching his destination, Malik was martyred by Umayyad assassins in the village of Qulzom near Egypt.

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