Ali ibn Abi Talib was born in 599 CE, the son of a powerful Sheikh in the Quaraysh tribe of central Arabia. He was the cousin, and later the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammad through his daughter Fatima Zahra. He would grow to become one of the most powerful and influential heroes of Mohammad's army, would rule the Muslim Empire as the last of the Four Rightly-Guided Caliphs and would garner himself a place as one of the greatest and most badass heroes in the history of Islam.
Ali and Mohammad were cousins, both of whom were raised as brothers by Ali's father. When Mohammad received the word of Islam and made a call for all to join him in his new religion Ali was one of the first to take up the sword for his new faith, converting at age ten. He supported Mohammad throughout his persecution in Mecca by the Quaraysh tribe, even going so far as to sleep in Mohammad's bed one night to thwart an assassination attempt. That's pretty hardcore, when you're willing to put your life on the line to save your friends. When the Muslims escaped to Medina, Ali made the trip as well.
When fighting broke out between the Meccan Quarayshi and the Muslims, Ali was on the forefront of the battlefield, eager to prove his devotion by hacking some infidels new assholes. When the Muslims and the Meccans lined up across from each other at the Battle of Badr, both armies decided to send out their three biggest badasses to settle their differences in a Texas Tornado three-on-three meleé to the death. Ali stepped forward as one of the Muslim warriors, and promptly defeated the Meccan champion Walid ibn Utba in single combat. Once the Muslim heroes defeated the Meccans, a large-scale battle ensued. Ali was out in front with the other warriors, bravely battling large numbers of enemy soldiers. His valor that day is what prompted Mohammad to grant Ali Fatima Zahra's hand in marriage.
One of the things that made Ali such a badass on the battlefield was his mythical sword Zulfiqar. Zulfiqar was a large scimitar with a two-pronged v-shaped point, and was described as being the Muslim Excalibur. Considering how badass Excalibur was, you can only imagine how much more awesome it would have been if it was a bitchin'-ass scimitar instead of a boring European longsword. It's also fucking radical because Zulfiqar translates to either "the two-pronged one" or "the cleaver of the spine". That's pretty awesome. According to Shi'a myth, Ali once used Zulfiqar to cleave both a horse and it's rider in half with one swing, and it would have actually cut a gaping hole in the Earth if the Archangel Jibreel hadn't stayed Ali's hand. Now you know you've got a badass sword when you need a fucking Archangel to stop you from creating a damn fissure in the ground.
Some dude looks over at Zulfiqar (in the foreground) and says to 'Ali,
"Daaaamn G, you ain't fucking around none are you?"
As the war with Mecca went on, Ali continued to show his battle prowess. In the Battle of Uhud, Ali fought bravely and was wounded seventeen times (!!) while fighting off hordes of Meccan troops. He also managed to help rescue The Prophet when Mohammad fell into a hidden pit trap. Ultimately, the Muslim forces were beaten back by the superior generalship of mega-badass Khalid ibn Al-Waleed, an incredibly powerful Meccan tribesman who would go on to be one of the greatest heroes of the Muslim Empire. I pretty much envision this battle going down like a game ofDynasty Warriors 4 for the PS2, where you've got like Ali and Khalid running around killing everything that moves and being totally awesome, but I guess Ali didn't take out enough Gate Captains or whatever so he ended up losing out on all the good Morale bonuses.
After Uhud, the Meccans decided to lay siege to the Muslim home base of Medina. They attempted to assault the fortifications, and all of a sudden this gigantic beast of a man named Abdwood went totally balls out and leapt over the wall on horseback. Now this guy Abdwood was well-known and feared throughout the Muslim ranks for his badassitude, and here we was standing face-to-face with Ali and Mohammad. Ali took one step forward and drew Zulfiqar:
"Remember, Ali," said the Holy Prophet, "it is Abdwood."
"Yes, Oh Messenger of Allah, I know it," replied Ali.
Two minutes later Ali returned with the decapitated head of Abdwood. The Meccan seige fell the following week.
After Uhud and the seige of Medina, Ali let the Medina community for ten years as a Lieutenant of Mohammad, serving in the armies and going on numerous raids and battles throughout the middle east in the name of Islam. Mohammad's death in 632 CE resulted in a dispute over succession - many believed the Ali should be the one to step into the role as leader of the Muslim people, but Abu Bakr was the one voted into the Caliphate. This division marks the major break between Shi'a and Sunni Islam: the Shi'a believe that Ali was tapped by Mohammad to be the next spiritual leader of his people, while the Sunni believe that Abu Bakr was the correct decision. Whatever the reasoning, the fact is that Abu Bakr was the first Calph of the Muslim Empire. He was succeeded by 'Uman and Uthman, while Ali continued to serve as a faithful lieutenant, writing numerous works on religion and morality and providing wisdom and sermons to all who would listen.
After Uthman was assassinated in 656 CE, Ali was elected Caliph. This did not sit well with Mohammad's widow Aisha, who raised an army to battle Ali. Ali's army was able to crush this insurgency, but instead of throwing Aisha into prison or executing her as a traitor, Ali decided to respect her status as a Wife of the Prophet and allowed her to move to Medina with a full widow's pension. That's pretty hardcore when you can still show mercy and compassion to someone who declared you unfit to rule and then tried to fucking kill you.
Ali would later do battle with the governor of Syria, a relative of Uthman's named Mu'awiya. Ali was assassinated at age 63 when he was hit in the back of the head with a poisoned sword when he was in the middle of his morning prayers at Ramadan. He was buried in secret to prevent the desecration of his grave by his enemies.
Ali had nine wives and thirty-six children in his lifetime. He was just that damn smooth. His two sons from Fatima, Hasan and Husayn, did not assume the Caliphate after Ali's death; rather it went to Mu'awiya, who established the Umayyad Dynasty. Ali's sons are considered by the Shi'ites to be the continuation of the line of the Imams that began with Ali - sacred heroes destined to act as the guardians (wali) of Islam and the divinely appointed successors of Mohammad.
Ali was known throughout the Muslim world by such badass nicknames as The Commander of the Faithful, The Charging Lion, and The Winning Lion of God. He was pious and played a pivotal role in the development of his fledgling religion; essentially serving as like a St. Peter to Mohammad's Jesus. He preached his religion, and defended it bravely with the sword when necessary. He was badass.
"The zeal and virtue of Ali were never outstripped by any recent proselyte. He united the qualifications of a poet, a soldier and a saint; his wisdom still breathes in a collection of moral and religious sayings; and every antagonist, in the combats of the tongue or of the sword, was subdued by his eloquence and valour. From the first hour of his mission to the last rites of his funeral, the apostle was never forsaken by a generous friend, whom he delighted to name his brother, his vicegerent, and the faithful Aaron of a second Moses."
- Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire