During the Battle of the Trench in Shawwal, 627 CE, Amru bin Abd Wudd, a Quraish chief, challenged the Muslims to a sword duel. Known as a fearless warrior and great wrestler, Wudd’s challenge was not to be taken lightly. Answering Amru’s challenge, Hazrat Ali (ra) went to Prophet Muhammad (saw) and gained permission to engage Wudd. Prophet Muhammad (saw) also gave Hazrat Ali his sword, the famed Dhul-Fiqar. Before the duel took place, Hazrat Ali (ra) asked Amru to accept Islam, but he refused. Towering over Hazrat Ali (ra), Amru gained the early advantage. After some time, however, Hazrat Ali dropped Amru to the ground. Standing over Amru, Hazrat Ali (ra) asked him to accept Islam. In response, Amru spat in Hazrat Ali’s (ra) face. Now was the time for Hazrat Ali (ra) to exact his revenge. But Hazrat Ali (ra) rose calmly from ‘Amru’s chest, wiped his face, and said, “Know, O Amru, I only kill in the way of Allah and not for any private motive. Since you spat in my face, my killing you now may be from a desire for personal vengeance. So I spare your life. Rise and return to your people!” Despite Hazrat Ali’s (ra) magnanimous gesture, Amru lunged as Hazrat Ali (ra) walked away, inflicting a shallow cut to Hazrat Ali’s (ra) temple. Hazrat Ali (ra), in turn, decapitated Amru. He then returned Amru’s armor, adorned with gold, to Amru’s sister lest someone think Hazrat Ali (ra) killed Amru to take his armor [collected from Ibn Sa’d, Ibn Hisham, al-Tabari].
Even when his life was threatened, Hazrat Ali (ra) demonstrated how important it is to keep our intentions pure. And while Amru was too ignorant to see the grandeur of Hazrat Ali’s (ra) behavior, similar acts in history have not gone unnoticed.
For example, on September 7, 1191, Christians and Muslims met at Arsuf, Palestine. The Battle of Arsuf saw King Richard the Lionheart of England and the Crusaders defeat Salahuddin Ayyubi and the Muslims. But Christians do not remember this battle only for this reason. During the battle, King Richard was left horseless on the battlefield. Upon seeing this, Salahuddin sent Richard two horses so that he would not be at a disadvantage (Morris Bishop, The Middle Ages, p. 102). The gesture has colloquially come to be known as “Saladin’s gift.” A few months following the Battle of Arsuf, Richard fell ill. Salahuddin, in turn, sent Richard snow and fresh fruit (Kubilay Akman, The Esoteric Paths: Philosophies, Teachings and Secrets, p. 96), and offered his personal doctor to treat Richard (Hela Tamir, Israel, History in a Nutshell, p. 39). The gestures affected Richard so deeply that he proposed the marriage of his own sister Joan of England to Salahuddin’s brother Saphadin (Hela Tamir, Israel, History in a Nutshell, p. 39).
Salahuddin’s commitment to guarding his intention, even with his enemy, has left a lasting impact. “The Crusaders were fascinated by a Muslim leader who possessed virtues they assumed were Christian” (Percy Newby, Saladin in His Time).
Thus, a spiritually fit Muslim always keeps the following hadith in mind:
إِنَّمَا الأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّاتِ وَإِنَّمَا لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مَا نَوَى