The Protector and the Defender of the rights of downtrodden, Imam Ali (a.s.) had left an unusual and exemplary mark on human history by his humane behavior toward his enemies. John J. Pool, historian says in his book, “Studies in Muhamadanism”; “Truly a noble man, a man of righteousness, and a brave man, forgiving spirit.” Oelsner, a French orientalist, says about Imam Ali (a.s.), “Pure, gentle and learned, without fear and without reproach, setting the noble example of character to the world.”
Out of hundreds of examples of kindness and mercy exhibited by Imam Ali (a.s.) toward his enemy, some of them are:
Talha bin Abi Talha was an arch-enemy of Islam. He was the flag bearer of the infidels in the Battle of Uhad. Imam Ali (a.s.) gave him a blow of his sword and he fell but not dead yet. Imam Ali (a.s.) walked away without killing him. Many Muslim warriors ran up to Imam Ali (a.s.) and advised him to kill Talha. Imam Ali (a.s.) replied, “He cannot defend himself now, and I cannot strike a man who cannot defend himself. If he survives he is welcome to live as long as his life lasts.”
During the Battle of Jamal, his slave Qambar brought some soft drink and said, “Master, sun is very hot and you are constantly fighting, have this drink to refresh yourself.” Imam Ali (a.s.) looked around and said, “Shall I refresh myself when hundreds of people are lying wounded and dying of thirst and wounds? Give this drink to some of the wounded persons” Qambar replied, “But they are our enemies.” Imam Ali (a.s.) said, “But they are human beings!”
In the Battle of Siffin, Muawiya’s forces captured the banks of river Euphrates and refused to allow Imam Ali (a.s.)’s forces to take water. Imam Ali (a.s.) sent a messenger saying that it was against the canons of humanity and Islam. Muawiya’s reply was, “A war is a war; hence one cannot accept principles of humanity and the doctrines of Islam. My sole aim is to kill Ali and to demoralize his army and this stoppage of water will bring about these results quickly and easily.” Imam Ali (a.s.) sent Imam Husayn (a.s.) to retake the river and it was captured. It was Muawiya turn to beseech to get permission to get water. Imam Ali (a.s.) told them take as much water as they want. When Imam Ali (a.s.)’ officers objected. Imam Ali (a.s.) replied, “They are human beings, though they acted inhumanly, yet I cannot follow their example and refuse water because they are my sworn enemy!”
In the Battle of Nahrawan, Imam Ali (a.s.) was fighting like any other soldier when a man faced him and in the encounter lost his sword. Imam Ali (a.s.) said, “Runaway friend you are not in apposition to defend yourself. The man said, “Why don’t you kill me?” Imam Ali (a.s.) replied, “I cannot strike a man who cannot defend himself. You were begging for your life and it was spared” The man said, “I was told that you have never refused a beggar, now I beg of your sword.” The Imam gave him the sword. Taking the sword in hand he said, “Now Ali, who is going to defend you from me?” Imam Ali (a.s.) replied, “Of course, Allah will defend me if He so wills! He has appointed my death to be my guardian angel, no one can harm me before it is due and no one can save me when it arrives!” Nobility of thought and action affected his foe and he kissed the bridle of Imam’s horse and said, “O Master! You are a great man indeed. You can not only forsake the life of your enemy in the battlefield but also grant your sword. May I have the honor to act as your body guard and fight for you?” Imam Ali (a.s.) replied, “Friend, fight for truth and justice and don’t fight for individuals.”
On the night of 19 Ramzan, when his assassin was brought before him, the Imam saw that the rope which was bounding him was so tightly tied that it was piercing his flesh. Imam Ali (a.s.) told the Muslims, “You should not be so cruel with your fellow-beings, slacken his ropes and decrease his agony.” Further, when some sherbet was brought for Imam Ali (a.s.), he ordered that it may be given to his assassin!
Source: Seraj.net/Fourteen Infallible