Dealing with Unprovoked Annoyance
One day a man came to the Holy Prophet (s) seeking advice on how to deal with his neighbour’s unprovoked annoying behaviour. He (s) said, ‘Be patient and do not raise any hue and cry. Besides, try changing your own attitude towards him.’
A few days later the man returned more exasperated than before. He (s) repeated, ‘Be patient’.
The third time the man came, he was at the end of his rope. He said, ‘I’m sorry, but I can’t take anymore. He is pestering me and my family beyond measure.’
The Holy Prophet (s) then advised him, ‘Today is Friday. Go home and place your household baggage on the main street where people can see it. When they ask you the reason tell them that your neighbour’s behaviour is unbearable. Thus, everyone will learn about your complaint.’
The man followed the Holy Prophet’s (s) advice to the letter. His neighbor was under the impression that he would continue bearing his excesses, not realizing that Islam preaches forbearance to a certain limit. Once that limit is crossed, the oppressor has to face the consequences. Transgressors do not deserve anyone’s respect.
As soon as he learnt that his neighbour had decided to place his excesses into the people’s court, and was apprising them of his behaviour, he got unnerved, and begging forgiveness, requested him to take his baggage back to his house. He promised never to bother him again, and maintain good neighbourly relations with him.
Protecting Ones Rights
Samra ibn e Jundab planted a date-palm in the orchard of an Ansar (Medinite). The domestic lodgings of the owner were within the precincts of his orchard. Samra was granted the right to enter the orchard to water his tree or pick fruit when ripe.
However, Samra abused the right granted by Islamic law. He entered the orchard nonchalantly, in fact, irresponsibly, without announcing himself. In the domestic quarters of the owner, his family members were busy in their chores, sometimes not dressed for strangers’ eyes.
The owner requested him to observe the rules of Islamic etiquette and enter after gaining permission from his family members. Samra blatantly refused to comply with his request and walked in without announcing himself. He also eyed whatever he saw, not lowering his gaze as commanded by Almighty Allah.
Exasperated with his behaviour, the owner complained to the Holy Prophet (s) about him, requesting him to advise Samra.
The Holy Prophet (s) called for him and said, ‘There is a complaint lodged by the owner of the orchard against you. He is annoyed by your indecent behaviour. You enter his orchard unannounced and eye his women, who don’t get a chance to go indoors. You are advised to enter only after getting permission from his family from this day onward.’ Samra refused to comply with his (s) directive.
The Holy Prophet (s) offered another alternative. He (s) suggested he sell his tree. He refused outright. He (s) raised the price of the tree. He still refused. He (s) promised a tree in heaven for this one. He rejected every offer.
The Holy Prophet (s) then gave his verdict on the situation. ‘You are a stubborn
and sadistic person. Islam does not permit anyone to harass or harm anyone.’ He ordered the owner of the orchard to cut down Samra’s tree and throw it in the street. The people went and did as directed.
The Holy Prophet (s) looked at Samra and said, ‘Go hence, and use the tree in the open fields you see around.’
Honouring the Caliph
The people of Anbar, Iran, were overjoyed to learn that their beloved Caliph Ali ibn e Abi Talib, Ameer ul Momineen (‘a) would be passing through their town on his way to Kufa. At the appointed time, they all gathered on the sides of the highway that led to Kufa and waited to catch a glimpse of him.
Soon, they caught sight of their Caliph entering their town. They all started to run in front of his entourage. Imam Ali (‘a) stopped and asked those people why they were all running, and what purpose it was serving.
They explained, ‘This is our conventional way of honouring our popular leaders and honourable personalities, as well as the rich and powerful. It is an old custom of our region.
Imam Ali (‘a) shook his head with disapproval and said, ‘O people! Your act does not trouble you in this world alone, but will also create problems in the next. Never abase yourself before anyone in this manner. Think for a moment: How will this obsequiousness on your part benefit your master or leader, positively?’
Duties of a Neighbour
A Medinite (Ansar), once moved into a new house, only to find his neighbor to be a very unpleasant person.
He went to the Holy Prophet (s) and presented his problem, ‘I have moved into a new locality and found myself living in close quarters with so-and-so. I am sorry to complain but my neighbour is not only an unpleasant person but also ill-intentioned and quarrelsome. I am afraid I will not be able to save myself from his dangerous and damaging intentions.
The Holy Prophet (s) immediately called Imam Ali (‘a), Salman, Abu Dharr and Miqdad (May Allah be pleased with them). He deputed all four to go to the mosque and convey the message to all the men and women present there.
The message: Any person found guilty of discourteous behaviour or bad conduct that annoyed or upset his neighbour would not be considered a believer.
The Holy Prophet (s) then entered the mosque, and moving his arms in all four directions, said ‘People occupying forty houses on each side of your house are your neighbours.’
Imam Jafar al-Sadiq was travelling between Mecca and Medina. Musadaf, his famous serving man, was accompanying him on this journey. On the way, they sighted a man lying under a tree. He seemed in bad shape from a distance. The Imam (‘a) said to Musadaf, ‘Let us go and see what’s wrong with him. It is possible that he has fainted because of thirst and dehydration.’
The Imam (‘a) ordered Musadaf to slake his thirst. He got off his horse and gave the thirsty man enough water to satisfy his thirst. He noticed from his appearance and dress that he was not a Muslim, but a Christian.
One day Imam Ali (‘a) was passing by a street when his eye fell on a blind old man begging for alms. He was extremely disturbed by his condition and asked the people if he had no family to support him. On investigating, he found that he was a Christian by faith, and had earned his living through hard labour until he lost his eyesight because of age. He was on his own and had no one to care for him. He had also not saved any money because of meager earnings.
‘It is amazing how you people use a human being for as long as he can serve you and discard him after he cannot. You all testify that he served society as long as he could see. It is, therefore, the duty of the society and government to ensure him a decent life, now that he cannot fend for himself. I hereby institute a regular allowance to be paid to him from the State Treasury for as long as he lives.’
Abdul A’ala ibn e A’in of Kufa was preparing to go to Medina to visit Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (‘a). The followers of the Ahl al Bayt (‘a) thought it was a good opportunity to get answers to the questions that cropped up every now and then, and confused them. They all wrote down their questions and handed them to him. However, they added, ‘Ask Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (‘a) to let us know orally, what the duties of a Muslim are towards his Muslim brethren.’
Ibn e A’in reached Medina and went straight to the Imam (‘a). After the initial courtesies were over, he presented the written questions to him and added the one asked orally by the people of Kufa. The Imam answered all the questions but did not respond to the oral one.
Many days passed, but no one referred to the question that remained unanswered. Finally Ibn e A’in decided to return home, so he came to bid the Imam (‘a) farewell. Before leaving, he said, ‘Ya ibn e Rasool Allah, I have received all the answers but one. Now that I’m leaving, I’d be grateful if you gave me the answer to that one, so that I might be able to satisfy the thirst for knowledge of those who asked it.’
Lastly, following the above two will become easy if you always remember the Lord under all circumstances. This does not mean repeating Alhamdolillah, Subhan Allah all the time on the rosary. It means a constant awareness of His presence, which prevents you from committing a forbidden act. Society would face fewer problems if everyone was convinced that he was being watched.’
Rights of a Mother
Zakaria ibn e Ibrahim of Kufa, was born to Christian parents. When he grew young, he was exposed to Islam, and was very strongly attracted by it. Islam seemed to stir his soul and urge him to accept it as his faith. Finally, one day, against the approval of his family, he declared his conversion to Islam. Thenceforth, he observed the Islamic code of law and practiced it dutifully.
Soon it was time to perform Hajj. He left Kufa and went straight to Medina to meet Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (‘a). He related his entire experience of being a Christian and then converting to Islam. The Imam (‘a) asked him, ‘What was it about Islam that attracted you the most?’
“…You were unaware of the Book and the Faith. We revealed it to you through Inspiration and made it a light, guiding thereby whom We please of Our servants…”
The Imam (‘a) said, ‘I testify that Almighty Allah has guided you towards the path of Truth.’ The Imam then repeated this prayer three times, ‘O Sustainer of all creation, May You always be his guide!’
‘I certainly do. My parents and the entire family are Christians and I am a Muslim. My mother is blind. I live with them and am obliged to eat with them. What am I supposed to do under the circumstances?’
‘Then there is no objection in living and eating with them. Remember one thing. Do not be lax in serving your mother. Be kind and affectionate to her until she is alive, and after her death do not assign the task of burying her to others. Perform all the funeral rites yourself. Now I take my leave. Do not mention your meeting with me to anybody here. I am also going to Mina, and Insha Allah, hope to see you there.’
All the Hajjis gathered in Mina. Zakaria frantically looked for the Imam (‘a). Finally, he saw him (‘a) surrounded by hordes of Hajjis who were questioning him like children seeking advice from their teacher. Those standing behind him (‘a) would question from afar and get their answer.
After performing Hajj, Zakaria returned to Kufa. He remembered the Imam’s (‘a) advice concerning his mother, and started looking after her with great care and love. He fed her with his own hands, washed her clothes and combed her hair. His mother couldn’t help noticing the difference in his attitude.
One day she asked him, ‘Son, when we all professed the same religion, you did not behave in the same affectionate manner as you do now, after becoming a Muslim. What has brought about this visible change in you?’
The son read the (shahadah) statement testifying the Oneness of Allah and the Prophet-hood of Muhammad (s). His mother repeated it after him and became a Muslim. After that, he taught her how to perform wuzu and offer the obligatory prayers. She offered the afternoon (zuhr) and evening prayers (asr) and then the after-sunset (maghrib) and early-night (’isha) prayers.
After midnight, her condition suddenly deteriorated and she asked her son to repeat the statement and principles of Islam, which he had taught her that day. She repeated the statement after him and her soul flew out of her body to meet its Creator.
In the morning, the Muslim women came, bathed her body and wrapped it in the coffin cloth. The person, who led her funeral prayer and interred her into the grave, was none other than her son, Zakaria.
The Enemy is Also Human
Muawiya was ruling over Syria, as governor, sixteen years before Imam Ali (‘a) was forced by the people to accept the reigns of governing the Islamic State as caliph. He had entrenched himself firmly and raised an army to oppose Ali’s (‘a) leadership. After the battle of Jamal, he declared independence from the Islamic State and began concocting evidence for himself as caliph. Imam Ali (‘a) was dragged into another conflict, with the intention of destabilizing his (‘a) rule.
Muawiya’s troops attacked Imam Ali’s (‘a) army without forewarning and captured that corner of the river, called ‘Sharia’, from which both sides took water for drinking purposes. They, then, announced that Ali’s (’a) army would not be allowed, henceforth, to collect water to drink. Meanwhile, Muawiya arrived with more soldiers and encouraged them to control the water and try to weaken the opposing side by cutting off their water supply. Maalik e Ashter did not have permission to raise arms without permission from the Imam (‘a).
‘Our armies are facing each other, but it is our wish to avoid the unnecessary bloodshed of Muslims through battle. I seek to settle differences through talks, but you and your commanders have opted to use arms first. Besides, they have cut off our water supply. Order them to stop this inhuman behaviour. However, if you are intent on fighting, then, remember, your opponent is a fearless warrior.’
Muawiya thought the lack of water would weaken Ali’s soldiers, so he did not respond to the invitation to talk over the table. When Sa’s’ah requested a response to the letter, Muawiya said he would reply later, so he returned.
Imam Ali (‘a) realizing the evil intentions of Muawiya, which were further enhanced by his renewed orders to ensure that water did not reach Ali’s men, came to the battleground and addressed the army thus:
‘The opposing army has transgressed all limits of inhuman behaviour. They have cut off your water supply to let you die of thirst. Their thirst for war is as strong as a starving man’s desire for food. There are only two options before you: either accept humiliation and die of thirst, or quench the thirst of your swords with their impure blood.
Life has no meaning without victory and control, even if the head is severed from the body in the process. A life of humiliation and dishonour is equivalent to death. Let me inform you that Muawiya has gathered an army of contemptible, deviating individuals, whose folly and ignorance he has taken advantage of, and prepared those unfortunate ones to lay down their lives for him.’
When Ali (‘a) was asked for permission ‘to do unto them what they had done to them’, he (‘a) said: ‘We will never stoop as low as the ignorant ones. We will let them take water and invite them to the right path in the best manner possible, as commanded in the Holy Quran. If they respond positively, well and good, but if they don’t, we will fight them bravely like men, not like cowards, by cutting off their water supply and making them suffer the pangs of thirst.’
I Divorce You
There were two interpretations of the rules of divorce, maintained by the two main groups of Muslims. One followed the ruling Umayyad or Abbasid class, and the other followed the descendants of the Holy Prophet (s).
According to the first group, when a man declares, ‘I divorce you’, three times in one go, the two are separated and cannot remarry until the woman marries another man and is divorced or widowed.
The Shi’ah maintain that the three words, ‘I divorce you’ can be repeated 100 times in one go and still be considered one divorce. Husband and wife can reunite within a specified term if they wish to. If this incident is repeated, they can still reunite within the specified term. However, if it is repeated a third time they lose their chance of reconciliation. The woman must marry another man, fulfill the duties of a wife, then, if divorced or widowed, can marry him again.
In Kufa there lived a couple, happily married. They quarreled on a minor issue and the man declared ‘I divorce you’ thrice. Both were extremely unhappy after the incident and repented over their act. Those people that believed in the first interpretation insisted upon their separation. The Shi’ah scholars pacified them and allowed reconciliation. But the wife was afraid that if they united, their future offspring might be declared illegitimate. She insisted upon her husband to get a ruling from Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (‘a) himself.
The Abbasid ruler had forcefully brought the Imam (‘a) from Medina and isolated him in a house in Heerah, a town near Kufa. He was kept under strict surveillance. Nobody was allowed to meet him.
This man disguised himself as a greengrocer and crying, ‘Cucumbers, cool, tasty cucumbers,’ managed to gain entrance into the house. He then greeted the Imam (‘a) and quickly acquainted him with his problem. The Imam (‘a) admired his disguise and after learning the reason declared, ‘Go back to your wife, for she is legally yours till you don’t commit this mistake three times.’
Husband and Wife
Imam Ali (‘a), as Caliph, sat beside the outer wall of the Dar ul Ammara in Kufa, in the heat of the afternoon, to be available to anyone who had a problem and wished to see him. One day a woman came to him and complained, ‘My husband has beaten me, turned me out of the house, and threatened to kill me. If I return now he will kill me. I have come for help.’
‘By Allah, there should be no delay in ending the suffering of the oppressed. It is necessary to snatch the rights of the oppressed from the oppressor, and remove the fear of the oppressor from the heart of the oppressed, so that the oppressed can demand his/ her rights from the oppressor with out fear.’
The man flew into a rage and said, ‘She is my wife. I will treat her as I want. Who are you to advise me to be kind to her. Now that she has brought you, I will definitely throw her into the fire alive.’
Imam Ali (‘a) was touched to the quick by the barbaric manner of the young man. He pulled his sword from its sheath and said, ‘I am trying to guide you towards goodness and prevent you from committing evil, but you are responding by threatening to burn her alive. Do you think justice is dead?’
The arrogant young man realized whom he was facing, and came back to his senses. He pleaded, ‘Please forgive me, Ya Ameer ul Momineen, I am truly sorry. I admit my mistake and pledge to live in peace with my wife. I will be kind to her and respect her wishes from this moment onwards.’