Imam ‘Ali (a.s) was passing by a place where a group of children were engaged in play. However, there was one boy who was not playing with them but stood aloof and sad. Imam (a.s) approached him and asked: “What is your name?” He replied: “Mat al-Din (Religion died).”
The Imam (a.s) desired to know the reason for such a name and so inquired about the child’s father. He was informed that his father had died, but his mother was alive. He (a.s) called for his mother and inquired about the reason for such a strange name, whereupon the mother said: “When this child was in my womb, his father had embarked upon a journey. After a period his companions approached me and said: “Your husband fell ill on the way and died, but before his death he requested us that if his child was born, he should be named Mat al-Din.”
Having heard this, the Imam (a.s) comprehended the reason for such a name and ordered all the people to gather in the mosque. When the people had gathered, he (a.s) said to them: “Whenever I recite Allahu Akbar, all of you should recite it in unison too.”
He then called for the dead person’s companions – who were four in number – and subjected them to individual and separate interrogation.
Turning to the first person, he (a.s) sought to know how he had killed the boy’s father. The man, who was stunned to hear the question, blurted out: “All I did was to present the cord.” The Imam (a.s) recited Allahu Akbar, and the people in the mosque chorused.
The second one, in answer to the Imam’s (a.s) question, said: “My only crime was to tie the cord around his neck.” The third person said: “I had brought the knife”, while the fourth person, recounting the incident explicitly, said: “We collectively murdered him for the purpose of seizing and appropriating his wealth.” The Imam (a.s) recited Allahu Akbar and the people too recited in unison.
Imam ‘Ali (a.s) took possession of the wealth which they had stolen from the deceased and handed it to the boy’s mother, and then subjected the killers to a severe punishment. Then turning to the boy’s mother, he (a.s) said: “Change his name to Asha al-Din (religion is alive).”3