It is mentioned in the traditions that one, who shows greed, is humiliated and one who adopts contentment gains satisfaction. Even if the whole world becomes gold for the greedy person, he is not satisfied and one, who observes contentment, is satisfied with just the bare necessities. All the mischiefs and corruption in the world are due to greed and jealousy. If all the Muslims follow the Islamic teachings and observes contentment, the civilization and society would be so reformed that this world, which is called as hell would become a part of Paradise. If we survey, in an unbiased way the lives of the Holy Imams (a.s) we would find that they had absolutely no connection to greed and avarice. Gathering and hoarding of wealth, most of the time takes man towards stone-heartedness and narrow mindedness. The hoarders gradually become more and more greedy. The Holy Imams (a.s) never allowed this contemptuous thing to approach them. The incidents mentioned below illustrate this in a beautiful way.
Comfort-loving people increase the necessities of life so much that a drop becomes a sea. On the other hand Ali (a.s) reduced the necessities of life to such an extent that the sea was reduced to a cup. All the necessities of life were so less that lesser than it is not possible. He was content with whatever came his way and thanked the Almighty. The desire to hoard or save anything never arose. He never stored anything more than was needed. The thought of tomorrow never bothered him, neither was he aggrieved at what was happening that day. During the time of his caliphate he had control over the Islamic wealth. At this time also Ali was the same. He still ate the same barley bread soaked in salted water, wore the same patched dress, sat on the ground created by Allah and the same broken sack was Ali's seat. Whatever share of stipend he received from the public treasury he gave it all away to the destitutes and the needy people. Then he relied on the Almighty and maintained self-control. He was only trying to have just sufficient strength to enable him to survive and always strived to gain the pleasure of Allah. The minimum needed for life was maximum for Ali. He remained hungry often through two meal times. Never asked anyone for anything. Always obtained livelihood through hard work. Never complained to Allah. He was happy in whatever condition Allah kept him. More than himself, he cared for others. Always tried to assure that none should sleep hungry, though himself often remained hungry.
One day a person requested Imam Hasan (a.s) for a thousand dirhams. He asked his servant how much they had. He said it was not more than a thousand dirhams. The Imam told him to give them to the petitioner. The servant reminded the Imam that they had nothing beyond that; not even anything to eat and drink at home. He suggested that something be retained from this amount for household needs. “Why should I retain something?” asked the Imam, “Would my Creator and Master not be there tomorrow?” And the dates that had arrived from the orchards were distributed but a handful that no one liked to take were left over. The Imam said that they were sufficient for removing hunger, “Fulfillment of the needs of those who ask for it is top priority for Ahl ul-Bayt.”
Imam Husayn (a.s) was also a very contented person. One day Abu Darda came to him with a bag of dates and said, “Son of Allah's Messenger, these are very high quality dates from my gardens. I have brought them as gift for you. Store them and eat from them for some days. The Imam smiled and asked, “O Abu Darda! When have you seen us storing something? We are content on that which Allah gives us everyday. We never hoard anything.” This conversation was going on when some companions of the Holy Prophet (S) arrived to meet the Imam. He distributed all those dates among them saying, “This was a gift to me from Abu Darda that I give to you from myself.”
Minhal Kufi says: One day I came to Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) and found him covered with a worn-out sheet. I had purchased a new sheet recently and had not yet started using it. I presented the same to the Imam (a.s) who said, “O Minhal! Give it to some eligible person. The sheet I am having is sufficient for me. We Ahl ul-Bayt are not fond of decorations and fashion. That which protects us from cold and hot is sufficient. So far my sheet has not become useless that I should take yours and forget about the needs of others.”
Hisham was deeply inimical to Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s). He was always in the dread that the Imam would gather the followers of Ali and rise up in revolt against him and he was always thinking up of a way to distance the Imam from Medina and keep him at Damascus under his surveillance. Once he sent the message to the Imam that since he was spending life under such difficult financial circumstance be should come over to Damascus. Hisham told him that he would provide the Imam with a magnificent house and fix for him sufficient pension so that his life passes in peace and comfort. He also said that for the time being he was sending one thousand gold coins to the Imam. When the messengers of Hisham conveyed Hisham's message and placed the bag of gold coins before Imam (a.s) his face became red with anger and he said, “When have I expressed my financial problems to Hisham or his agents? By Allah! This tattered mat and old worn-out cloak of mine is much better than the kingdom of Hisham. We have no need for material wealth. We have no desire for comfort and luxuries. Take these gold coins back and tell him that wherever and in whichever condition I am, it is better for me.”
One day Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) said to his manager Motab, “Day by day there is increase in the food-grain prices of Medina. How much food-grain do we have with us?” He said, “We have no fear of famine, we have sufficient rations.” The Imam told him to sell it all. He said that it would not be advisable to sell it at that time and it would be difficult to purchase it later. The Imam said it didn't matter, “Whatever others undergo, we would also face it.” When all the grain was sold the Imam instructed his employee to purchase it on day-to-day basis like other people do. And also told them to mix barley flour in wheat flour at a 50-50 percent proportion for making bread. Even though there was enough wheat the Imam said that it was by way of sharing the hardships of the people. After some days inflation increased and the Imam distributed all the money among the needy people. Now the situation so worsened that there was nothing to eat at the Imam's place. Motab says that he told the Imam, “If we had not sold our stocks we would not have to face this.” The Imam said, “O Motab! Then how would we have realized the people's hardships? O Motab! We are content in all conditions and we are thankful in every calamity.”
When Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) was under arrest of Harun Rashid half of the food he received was returned everyday, and the Imam ate very less. The warden thought that Imam did not like the prison food so one day he brought some delicious foods for the Imam from his own house. When they were served to the Imam he refused to eat anything. When he asked the reason he said, “We are not fond of delicious foods. We like only the diet that has been our family diet. We are content and thankful for plain and austere food.”
Sulaiman Ibn Ja'far says: When I came to Imam Ridha’ (a.s) one day I saw that he was seated on an old mat. I said, “Though the Imam is the heir-apparent of the kingdom nothing royal is seen in his house.” He said, “What all according to you should be there for a person over whom death is hovering?” I said, “At least there should be something.” He said, “O Sulaiman! You want to see that which people like and I see that which Allah likes. Everything is available for my needs. See this drinking bowl, this mat, this sheet, this container for vinegar. Tell me what else is needed? Do these things not fulfill my needs?” I said, “What the Imam says is right.” The Imam said, “Then this much is sufficient for us, we do not need anything else. O Sulaiman! I have not come here to rule. I have accepted the heir-apparency to protect the rights of people.”
Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s) used to lead a very simple and austere life. His dress used to be of very ordinary fabric. One day someone told him that since he sat besides the king it did not befit him to wear such simple clothes. The Imam said, “If my value had been due to my clothes it would have befitted me to wear expensive clothes. But when it is not so, why should I give up simplicity? My present dress is concealing my body and it is also comfortable. Then why should I give it up for a fashionable one? We Ahl ul-Bayt are content on whatever we get and we do not allow greed to approach us.”
One day in the presence of the ruler people were discussing about the piety, austerity and reliance on God and contentment of Imam Ali Naqi (a.s). The person praised all this highly and the ruler said: When he does not have anything, what else can he do but be content with his condition? But the people said it was not so. The ruler said that he would test the Imam. One day he sent different kinds of expensive clothes, a tray full of gold coins and other luxurious items to the Imam with special instructions that the Imam put them to his use. The slave who brought all these things also delivered the ruler's message. The Imam said, “All these things are higher than our needs, what can I do with them?” When the slave insisted much the Imam told him to place all those things in a corner. The ruler sent spies to find out whether the Imam was using all those things or not. Everyday they reported everything lay unused. At last one day the ruler came and asked his slave to check whether anything was missing from those items. The slave said that nothing has even been moved from its place. This proved that the Imam had not even touched anything. Finally the ruler ordered his slave to take back all the things.
The contentment of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) was such that his slave used to say the Imam never asked him for anything. He used to be content with whatever he got easily.
We have mentioned some incidents in brief regarding the high moral qualities of the Holy Imams (a.s). Although a much detailed account can be prepared on it to form a very lengthy book. It is a pity that people did not realize the value of such noble personalities and did not derive any lesson from their lives. The reason is that due to utter greed and avarice people were not having any criterion upon which they could have discriminated between truth and falsehood. Similar to these qualities are debased traits, which the people cannot differentiate. Thus people took as models those who were not remotely connected with the genuine moral virtues. That is the reason that people with utterly debased morals were accepted as successors of the Messenger of Allah (S). But their wealth had concealed their defects.
As we have already explained every moral quality has a medium line. To be a little more or little less renders it useless and results in something, which resembles that moral virtue but actually it is a great defect. Many people are considered as saints of Allah, like the Sufis and Dervishes but if their moral qualities were compared to those of the Holy Imams (a.s) a vast difference would be noticed. If it had not been so they would not have considered Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) as their greatest guide. We could mention them by name and expose them all before the vast multitude of their followers in this country, but it is sufficient to state that it was a great misfortune for Muslims that they did not recognize the true ones from the charlatans. Even those undeserving of any merit were accorded great honor by the people and their defects were disguised as merits.
However the efforts of the Holy Prophet (S) did not go in vain. In every age there was a successor of the Prophet who acted as a model of perfection and the ideal to be emulated by all. If people did not value them they are responsible for their deficiency.
After this let us mention the bitter fact that like the enemies did not gain from the moral virtues of the Imams (a.s), their followers (Shias) similarly remained at loss in spite of knowing those merits. Their condition is that though they listen with great interest when mention is made about the Imam's high qualities but it there is no practical response to it. They do not struggle and try to emulate their guides, as they should. As if we have decided that whatever was supposed to be done is already performed by our Imams (a.s) and there is no need for us to do anything!
There had been a time for many years when our morals matched those of the Imams (a.s) to a great extent. But today our moral conditions are very low, though it is true that they are still better than those of ordinary Muslims, but day by day there is deterioration in our manners. God forbid if one day we also do not become like other people.
If we claim to be the lovers and followers of Ahl ul-Bayt our foremost duty is keep aloof from such defects as lying, back-biting, jealousy, hatred, avarice, show-off, cheating etc. We must take sufficient steps to reform our morals and ensure that we do not stray to a deviated path.
Our Imams (a.s), who are aware of all our conditions can never be happy at our present situation. Our way of life does not resemble theirs; rather it is like that of their enemies. We should remember that the world is the place of action and the farm for the Hereafter. What we sow here would be reaped by us in the Hereafter.
Till the time we do not reform our morals we cannot gain proximity to our Holy Imams (a.s).