There are three phases in every human being’s life: childhood, youth and old age. There are different requirements in every phase of ones life. Childhood is for play. In this phase the individual does not have full sense of things. The childish activities prove this. They cannot distinguish between right and wrong while at play
The aptitude of Abu Talib’s son was different from the other children. He was never seen at childish games and play. He was away from other activities that children enjoy indulging in. His looks indicated courage and determination and his actions dignity. His physical and mental activities were different from those of other children. The development of his physical identity was faster than that of the children of his age. He grew in a day as much as another child in a month. Therefore, his body was strong and the sense of comprehension far advanced. The author of Arhaj al Matalib, Najmuddin Fakhr al Islam Abu Bakr ibne Mohammed al Marandi writes in Munaqib al Ashab about the reason for giving the name Haider to Hazrat ALI (a.s.) that while he was still a babe in arms, his mother once left him alone at home. The house was at the foot of a hill. A snake came down from the hill, came near the baby and started hissing. The baby caught the snake in one hand and pressed it till it died. When his mother came back, she noted the dead reptile in the hand of the babe and said, “Haiyyak Allah! Ya Haidara! – O my tiger! May Allah keep you alive!” When he grew up and started walking around, he used to lift heavy stones with ease.and bring them down from the top of the hills. He was fond of breaking the idols.
According to the norms of Arab upbringing, Hazrat Abu Talib trained his children in archery, horse riding and wrestling. He used to gather his sons and nephews together and arrange their matches in these disciplines and taught them the finer points of the martial arts. Hazrat Ali (a.s.), though he was the youngest of all, was never subdued by the others. He used to defeat all his brothers and cousins without any difficulty. This was a Divine Gift to him. Ibne Qatiba writes:
“Lam yasara Qat Ahd al asra-aa”
“With whomsoever he wrestled, he defeated him!’
Ref: Al Ma-arif, Page 91
Besides this physical strength, Hazrat Ali (a.s.) was far advanced in the development of his mental capabilities. He had a great sense of distinguishing between the right and wrong from his very childhood. He recognized the Real Creator (Allah) as soon as he opened his eyes. Living in the environment of idolatory, he never thought the idols fit for worship! When people were hesitant to accept Islam for long after the Prophet declared his Annunciation, he had understood its importance prior to this declaration. Therefore he himself has said:
“Ari nural wahi war Risala waasham reeh al Nabuwa
I see the light of Wahi and Nabuwat and get the
Fragrance of Nabuwat,
Ref: Nahj al Balagha
His high vision saw the light of Nabuwat and smelled its fragrance. Even before the Annunciation of the Prophet (s.a), he made him his role model.
Therefore, Hazrat Ali (a.s.)’s childhood, like his youth and old age, was a mountain
of greatness.. Viewing the period of his childhood, one understands that a great personality was in the making. This greatness was a gift from the Almighty Allah!