“Why didn’t Imam Ali (as) react when he witnessed his wife being attacked by Umar khattab & Co.?
The argument usually put forward by the sunni sect is :
How could Imam Ali (as), the one dubbed the “Lion of Allah” who single-handedly removed the Gate of Khaibar, witness his wife (as) being attacked, and not react?
In order to deny the attack of Umar b. Khattab on Lady Fatima (as) and her household, Sunnis have put forward many baseless arguments. One of the most common arguments they use is something like this:
“Will a Muslim who is witnessing his wife being attacked show no reaction and just watch the assailants and allow them to do what they want? Especially someone like Amir al-Mu’minin who was the “lion of Allah” and showed much heroism in the wars he fought! We cannot accept the fact that Umar attacked Lady Fatima because if he had, Ali (as) would have stopped him and confronted him. History shows that such a confrontation never occurred!”
Shia scholars throughout history have repeatedly shown that this argument is baseless and Imam Ali (as) had reacted very strongly.
The strong reaction of Amir al-Mu’minin Ali (as) against Umar ibn Khattab
When Umar and co. attacked the house, Amir al-Mu’minin Ali (as) showed strong reactions and stood up against Umar. He threw him on the floor and punched him in the face and neck. However, since Imam Ali (as) was ordered to be patient, he stopped and chose the path of patience, just as the Messenger of Allah (s) had ordered him. Imam Ali (as) wanted to show them that if he (as) had not been ordered to be patient, and if the order of Allah was other than this, no one could even consider doing such a thing to the Ahl al-Bait (as). Nevertheless, Imam Ali (as), as always, obeyed the divine orders.
Regarding this event, Sulaim b. Qays al-Hilali who was one the greatest companions of Amir al-Mu’minin (as) writes the following:
“Umar asked for fire and set the door on fire. He then pushed the door and went in. Fatima (as) confronted Umar and shouted: ‘Ya Abata! Ya RasulAllah! (Oh father! Oh messenger of Allah!).’ Umar raised his sword while it was in its sheath and hit Fatima (as) on her side. She cried: ‘Ya Aabta! (Oh father).’ Umar raised his whip and hit Fatima’s (as) arm with it.
She (as) wailed: ‘Ya RasulAllah! (Oh messenger of Allah!) How evil are Abu-Bakr and Umar (acting) after you have left!’
Ali (as) jumped up and grabbed Umar by the collar while pulling him by force. He then threw him on the floor and hit him on the nose and neck, wanting to kill him. However, He (as) remembered the order of the messenger of Allah (s) and his will and said: ‘O son of Sahhak! I swear by the one who gave Muhammad (s) high stature by assigning him as a Prophet, if it was not because of what Allah had destined, and the covenant between the Prophet (s) and me, you would have known that you couldn’t enter my house!’” 
1. Sulaim b. Qays, The book of Sulaim, p.568
Aloosi the famous Sunni interpreter (mufassir) mentions the following from Shia sources:
“Umar got angry and set fire to the door of Ali’s (as) House and entered. Fatima (as) confronted Umar and cried: ‘Ya Aabta! Ya RasulAllah! (Oh father, Oh Messenger of Allah).’ Umar raised his sword while it was in its sheath and hit Fatima (as) on her blessed side and then raised his whip and struck her arm. She cried again: ‘Ya Abta!’ (By seeing this) Ali (as) grabbed Umar by his collar and forcefully threw him to the floor then hit him on the nose and neck.” 
2.Al-Aloosi, Tafsir Rooh al-Ma’ani, vol. 3, p.124
Imam Ali and his Submitting to the will of The Prophet (s)
Imam Ali (as) was obedient to the divine orders throughout his life and all of his actions and behaviors were based on divine order. He had never reacted to any situation as a result of prejudice, anger or self-profit. Imam Ali (as) was ordered by Allah and The Messenger (s) to be patient in confronting these great tragedies, therefore, he did what he was ordered and didn’t unleash his sword. Below we will show a few narrations which directly mention the Prophet’s (s) orders to Imam Ali (as) to have patience regarding the events which would happen when he passed away.
Sayyid al-Radi (the author of Nahj al-Balagha) narrates in his book Khasa’is al-A’imma from Imam al-Kazim (as), that he asked his father Imam al-Sadiq (as): “What happened after the Prophet (s) gained consciousness?” Imam al-Sadiq (as) had answered:
“The women entered while crying and wailing. The Muhajirin and Ansar gathered behind the door and screamed with grief. Suddenly the Prophet (s) asked: ‘Where is Ali?’ Ali (as) came forward and entered. Ali (as) said: ‘I entered and hugged the Prophet (s).’ He said to me: ‘My Brother… these people will leave me and they will be busy with their affairs. The example of you is like the Ka’ba which Allah has made a sign so that people would come to it from deep valleys and faraway places, but the Ka’ba does not go to those places. I swear by Him who has sent me (as a Prophet), I warned them of great punishments after I informed each one of those men about your rights and I committed them to obey you and they all answered (positively)and submitted to you, but I definitely know they will act the opposite of what they have pledged. Once I leave this world and you have acted upon my will and placed my body in the grave, stay in your House until you compile the Holy Quran… Have patience regarding what will befall on you and her (Fatima) (as) until you meet me.’” 
3.Al-Radi, Khasa’is al-A’imma, p. 73
Al-Majlesi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 22, p. 474
Sulaim b. Qays also narrates:
“The Prophet (s) then looked at Fatima (as), her husband and her two sons and said: ‘O Salman! I hold Allah as witness that I am at war with those who are at war with them, and have peace with those who are at peace with them. They will be in heaven with me.’ Then the Prophet (s) turned towards Ali (as) and said: ‘O Ali! Soon after me you will be troubled by the Quraish and their unity and tyranny against you. If you find supporters, then rise in jihad against them and with your followers fight with those who oppose you. If you do not find supporters, then pause and be patient. Do not destroy yourself by your own hands. Your position with respect to me is like that of Aaron (Harun) to Moses (Musa). Aaron (Harun) is a good example for you. He said to his brother Moses: ‘The people considered me weak and nearly killed me (Quran 7:150).’” 
4.Sulaim b. Qays, The book of Sulaim, p.569
We also mentioned in the first narration that Imam Ali (as) said to Umar:
“If it was not because of what Allah had destined, and the covenant between the Prophet (s) and me, you would have known that you couldn’t enter my house” 
5. Sulaim b. Qays, The book of Sulaim, p.568
The narrations regarding this matter are abundant and it is not possible to include them in this short article; therefore we will rely on these few narrations for now.
Truly, who but Imam Ali (as) can emerge successful from such a test? The value of his actions can only be understood when we realize that this is the same Imam Ali (as) who bravely fought against the enemies of Islam and the disbelievers like a Lion. One day he was winning over the Arab hero Amr b. Abdu-Wud and another he was splitting the head of the Jewish champion Marhab through his helmet. One day, Allah orders that the Dhulfaqar must be the nightmare of the disbelievers, and another, He orders that the same Dhulfaqar must stay in its sheath to preserve the foundations of Islam from its enemies.
The Possibility that Amir al-Mu’minin and Lady Fatima (as) could have been killed if Ali (as) reacted more harshly
Although defending ones family from enemies is one of the obligations that all men have, sometimes it is necessary that one controls himself in situations where the enemy is making provocative moves, to prevent the opponent from reaching his objectives.
If Imam Ali (as) had used his sword on those who attacked his house, he would have given them a good excuse to kill him. There was the possibility that in between this, Lady Fatima (as) would have also been martyred, causing their enemies to spread rumors that Imam Ali (as) sacrificed his wife in order to reach worldly powers. Then they could have easily labeled Imam Ali (as) as the killer of Lady Fatima (as), the exact plot they used on Ammar, the loyal Companion of Imam Ali (as):
When the Prophet (s) was building the Mosque of Medina, Ammar would bring two bricks at a time for building while others would only bring one. When the Prophet (s) saw this, he removed the dust from Ammar’s face with his own hands and said:
“Mercies be upon Ammar, he will be killed by a rebellious aggressive group. Ammar will invite them to Heaven and they will invite him to Hell.” 
6.Al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 3, p. 1035, no.2657
English translation of Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 4, Book 52, No. 67, Available Online
Everyone was aware that the Prophet (s) had said this and when Ammar was killed by Muawiya’s people in the battle of Seffin it was clear for everyone that Muawiya and his people were the “rebellious aggressive group”. Ahmad b. Hanbal narrates the solution Muawiya came up with:
“When Ammar b. Yasir was martyred, Amr b. Hazm went to Amr b. al-Aas and said: ‘Ammar has been killed and the Messenger of Allah (s) had said: ‘A rebellious, aggressive group will kill Ammar.’’ Amr b. al-Aas stood up very frightened. He then started saying ‘we belong to Allah and to Him we will return’ until he reached Muawiya. Muawiya asked: ‘What do you want?’ He said: ‘Ammar has been killed.’ Muawiya said: ‘So what that Ammar has been killed!’ Amr replied: ‘I heard the Messenger of Allah (s) say: ‘A rebellious aggressive group will kill Ammar.’ Muawiya said: ‘May you fall in your urine if we killed him! Ali and His men killed Ammar. They brought him here and placed him between our swords and spears!’” 
7.Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad Ahmad, vol. 4, p. 199, No. 17813
Al-Bayhaqi, Sunan Al-Bayhaqi Al-Kubra, vol. 8, p. 189Al-Dhahabi,
Tarikh al-Islam, vol. 1, p. 420 & 426
Al-Haakim Al-Nisaburi narrates this narration then says:
“This Hadith is authentic based on the criteria of Bukhari and Muslim, but they have not narrated it like this.” 
8.Al-Hakim al-Nisaburi, al-Mustadrak, vol. 2, p. 155
Al-Munawi narrates the following regarding the narration about Ammar’s death:
“This narration is amongst the strongest and most authentic narrations. Since Muawiya couldn’t deny it, he said: ‘He who had brought Ammar with him has killed him.’ Ali (as) replied like this: ‘(If so) then Hamza was also killed by the Prophet (in the battle of Uhud), because it was he who took Hamza with him.’
Ibn Dahiyya says: ‘This answer of Ali (as) is so strong that it leaves no room for an answer and it is a reasoning that prevents any objection.” 
9.Al-Munawi, Faid al-Qadir Sharh al-Jami al-Saghir, vol. 6, p. 366
Imam Ali (as) made the best decision
Amir al-Mu’minin (as) had to choose between saving Islam and sacrificing his rights for it; or fighting with that small group and killing them but allowing the enemies of Islam and the hypocrites, to take advantage of the situation and put Islam in danger. Amir al-Mu’minin (as) chose the second option and with this sacrifice he prevented the enemies of Islam from destroying it and shattered their hopes. This was surely the most logical choice.
Regarding this matter Imam Ali (as) says himself:
“Then I began to wonder whether I should rise against them without supporters or endure the blinding darkness in which the grownups become weak and the young become old and the true believer is tormented till he meets Allah (on his death). I found that enduring these was wiser. So I adopted patience although I felt as if ‘there was dirt in the eye and suffocation in the throat’*. I watched my inheritance being looted…” [10
*Used to show extreme hardship or torment
10. Sayyid al-Radi, Nahj al-Balagha, Sermon No. 3
Furthermore, when Abu-Sufyan – a man who used every opportunity for his own advantage – came to Him and offered his support to fight against Abu Bakr, Imam Ali (as) delivered a sermon and said:
“O People! Disrupt the waves of mischief by the ships of deliverance…, Prosperous is he who rises with wings (of power and defeats the enemy) or else he remains peaceful and others enjoy ease…, If I speak out they would call me greedy towards power and if I keep quiet they would say he was afraid of death. It is a pity that after all the ups and downs (I have been through they would say such things). By Allah the son of Abu-Talib (as) is fonder of death than an infant is of the breast of its mother. Verily I have hidden knowledge that if I disclose, you will start trembling like ropes hanging in deep wells.” 
11.Sayyid al-Radi, Nahj al-Balagha, Sermon No. 5
Why didn’t the Prophet (s) defend Summaya and the other Women of Islam?
The way Imam Ali (as) reacted was exactly like how the Prophet had reacted in the beginnings of Islam when Muslims were weak and had no means of defending themselves.
Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani writes:
“Summaya the daughter of Khabbat was the Mother of Ammar b. Yasir. She was the seventh person who accepted Islam. Abu-Jahl tortured her andrepeatedly stabbed her below her abdomen until she was martyred. She was the first martyr lady of Islam… The tribe of Bani-Mughayra tortured her because she had become Muslim and was not willing to give it up. The Messenger of Allah would pass by Ammar, his mother and his father (Yasir) while they were being tortured in a place near Mecca and would say to them: ‘O family of Yasir! Be patient for our meeting place is Paradise.’” 
12.Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Al-Isaaba Fi Tamyeez Al-Sahaba, vol. 7, p. 712
Although the Messenger of Allah (s) witnessed a kafir like Abu-Jahl torturing the women of Islam, he did not show any reactions and only ordered them to be patient. Why didn’t the Prophet (s) who was the bravest and most sympathetic man in the world, not defend Summaya? Why didn’t He unleash his sword and cut off Abu-Jahl’s head?
Why didn’t the Prophet (s) interfere and show any reaction when Umar b. Khattab would torture the women of Islam and would beat them up for accepting Islam? Why didn’t he stop him because of these actions:
Ibn Hisham in Sirat al-Nabawiyya writes:
“Abu-Bakr came across a Muslim slave girl who belonged to Bani-Muammil who were (people) from the tribe of Uday b. Ka’b. Umar was beating her so that she would renounce Islam and it was in those days that Umar was still a polytheist (mushrik). He beat her up until he became tired! and said: ‘I have an excuse for not beating you, it is because I am tired!!!’ The slave said in return: ‘May Allah treat you the same way.’” 
13. Al-Humayri, al-Seerat al-Nabawiyya, vol. 2, p. 161
Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Fada’il al-Sahaba, vol. 1, p. 120
Al-Kala’i, al-Iktifa Bima Tadammunahu Min Maghazi Rasool Allah Wal Thalathat al-Khulafa’, vol. 1, p. 238
Al-Ansari al-Tilmisani, al-Juwhara Fi Nasab al-Nabi Wa As’habihi al-Ashara, vol. 1, p. 244
Al-Tabari, Ahmad, al-Riyad al-Nadira Fi Manaqib al-Ashara, vol. 2, p. 24
Al-Nuwayri, Nihayat al-Arb Fi Funoon al-Adab, vol. 16, p. 162
Whatever answer Sunnis have regarding the patience of the Prophet (s) and him doing nothing when the Muslim women were being beaten up or killed, we will use the same answer for the patience of Amir al-Mu’minin (as).”