During a battle Ali (May Allah be pleased with him) had captured an enemy soldier and was about to kill him. The man suddenly spat on the blessed and radiant face of Ali (May Allah be pleased with him), in response to the nasty inclination that had arisen within him.
It would have been mere child’s play for that brave and gallant ‘lion of Allah’ to cut off the head of that enemy with one fell swoop. However, Ali stopped suddenly, anxious that at that moment his nafs had tainted his intention which was to fight for Allah and nothing else. He stopped and slowly put down his sword, which had been named Zulfikar and had been a gift to him from the Prophet, deciding not to kill his enemy.
The shocked man on the ground lay in a wretched state awaiting his death. He had thought that Ali (May Allah be pleased with him) would display an even more intense effort with greater anger and rage as a result of his spitting in his face. However, it was not as he expected. Suddenly he came face to face with a truth that he could never have imagined. The enemy, who could not make sense of this action of this hero of Islam and hero of the hearts of people, asked Ali in shock and with great curiosity:
“O Ali! Why did you stop when you were just about to kill me? What brought about this change of mind? What happened that made you go from a violent rage to a remarkable calmness… You were like a bolt of lightning about to strike before you suddenly calmed down…”
Hazrat Ali (May Allah be pleased with him) replied:
“I use this sword of the Prophet in the path of Allah only. I never let my nafs interfere… When you spat on my face you wished to anger and insult me. If I had succumbed to my anger at that point I would have killed you for the base reason of giving in to my own whims, which is something that does not befit a believer. Whereas I fight for the sake of Allah, and not for the satisfaction of my pride”.
As a result the heart of that enemy found life again in response to the lofty, praiseworthy character of the person he had come to kill. He took heed from Ali’s faith, his sincerity and his opposition to his own desires. The man subsequently became Muslim.