The World Federation One Stop Fiqh

Ask an Alim

Letter from Imam Ali (a.s) : Authentic ? sources ?


Al-salam Alaykum,

I have just read a text from that is supposed to be the last will of Imam Ali (as) to one of his sons. However there is no sources given on the website. Here is the link :

Do you know wheter this letter is authentic and really from Imam Ali (as) ? what is the source of the text ?

And if yes, is the entire letter authentic or only parts of it ? I am asking this because there is a part in the letter about women that I find very disturbing and I don’t fully understand the message behind the words. This is this an extract from the letter (see the link for the complete text):

“Do not seek the advice of women, their verdicts are often immature and incorrect and their determinations are not firm.

You must guard and defend them and act as a shelter to protect them from impious and injurious surroundings and infamous sights, this kind of shelter will keep them well-protected from every harm. Their contact with a vicious and sinful atmosphere (even with all the shelter that you can provide) is going to prove more harmful than being left with protection. Do not let them interfere with affairs where you cannot personally guide or protect them. Do not let them aspire for things which are beyond their capacities.

They are more like decorations to humanity and are not made to rule and govern humanity. Exhibit reasonable interest in things which they desire and give importance to them, but do not let them influence your opinions and do not let them impel you to go against your sane views.

Do not force them into marriages which they abhor or which they consider below their dignity because there is a danger of thus converting honourable and virtuous women into shameless and dishonourable beings.”

I hope you can help me understand better this point. Thank you for your help


Wa Alaykumussalam

Thank you for your query.

It is the 80th sermon from Nahjul Balagha and is authentic.  In the answer, I will focus on the main part where women are said to be deficient in Aql.

Alternative Sources for Sermon 80:

(1) Sibt ibn al-Jawzi, Tadhkirah, 85;

(2) Abu Talib al-Makki, Qut, I, 282;

(3) al-Kulayni, Furu’ al-Kafi, V;

(4) al-Saduq, al-‘Amali, Majlis 50;

(5) al-Mufid, al-‘Ikhtisas.


Amir al-Mu’minin delivered this sermon after the devastation created by the Battle of Jamal. Since the devastation resulting from the battle was the outcome of blindly following a woman’s command, in this sermon he has described women’s physical defects and their causes and effects. Thus their first weakness is that for a few days every month, they have to abstain from prayer and fasting, and this abstention from worship is proof of their deficiency in Faith. Although the real meaning of `iman (belief) is heartfelt testimony and inner conviction yet metaphorically it also applies to action and character. Since actions are the reflection of Belief they are also regarded as part of Belief. Thus, it is related to Imam `Ali ibn Musa ar-Rida (p.b.u.t.) that:

`Iman (belief) is testimony at heart, admission by the tongue and action by the limbs.

The second weakness is that their natural propensities do not admit to the full performance of their intelligence. Therefore, nature has given them the power of intelligence only in accordance with the scope of their activities which can guide them in pregnancy, delivery, child nursing, child care and house-hold affairs. On the basis of this weakness of mind and intelligence their evidence has not been accorded the status of man’s evidence, as Allah says: . . . then call to witness two witnesses from among your men and if there not be two men then (take) a man and two women, of those ye approve of the witnesses, so that should one of the two (women) forget the (second) one of the two may remind the other… (Surah Baqarah/282)

The third weakness is that their share in inheritance is half of man’s share in inheritance as the Qur’an says: Allah enjoineth you about your children. The male shall have the equal of the shares of two females…(4:11)

This shows woman’s weakness because the reason for her share in inheritance being half is that the liability of her maintenance rests on man. When man’s position is that of a maintainer and care taker the status of the weaker sex who is in need of maintenance and care-taking is evident.

After describing their natural weakness, Amir al-mu’minin points out the mischief of blindly following them and wrongly obeying them. He says that not to say of bad things but even if they say in regard to some good things it should not be done in a way that these should feel as if it is being done in pursuance of their wish, but rather in a way that they should realise that the good act has been performed because of its being good and that their pleasure or wish has nothing to do with it. If they have even the doubt that their pleasures has been kept in view in it they would slowly increase in their demands and would wish that they should be obeyed in all matters however evil, the inevitable consequence whereof will be destruction and ruin. ash-Shaykh Muhammad `Abduh writes about this view of Amir al-mu’minin as under: Amir al-mu’minin has said a thing which is corroborated by experiences of centuries.


In one of the hadith it has come: “Avoid consulting with women, except women whose understanding you have tested” (kanz al-Fawaid, vol1, pg376)

إِيَّاكَ وَ مُشَاوَرَةَ اَلنِّسَاءِ إِلاَّ مَنْ جَرَّبْتَ بِكَمَالِ عَقْلِهَا


The other explanation could be that, as we know men and women are different both physically and mentally.

Imam said that they are mentally deficient (ناقص العقل). He did not say that their intellect is half. This means that they are not different from men in terms of intellect rather, they differ in operating the intellect. Men have less feelings than women. This way men will be known to be deficient in sentiments. And this is not counted as man’s fault. God has placed a special characteristic for men and women. Women have more emotions. And as a result, their emotions make them unable to make decisions based on intellect. For example, while bringing up children, emotions and affection are needed more than intellect.

But on the other hand, because men do hard work, they need less emotion and need more intellect(aql). And this man and woman can have a good life together because sometimes life requires intellect and sometimes more emotions.

But at the same time, we have great examples of women in the Quran as stated in Surah Tahrim, where Allah(swt) mentions about Bibi Maryam and Bibi Asia(wife of Pharoah).


There is no doubt, that this sermon was said after the battle of Jamal where because of the decision of a woman thousands (some have mentioned 17,000) of people died.

May Allah(swt) give us Tawfiq to follow in the footsteps of Amirul Momineen(as).


Syed Haider