قَالَ الصَّادِقُ: حَدَّثَنِي أَبِي عَنْ أَبِـيهِ أَنَّ رَجُلاً مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكُوفَةِ كَـتَبَ إِلـى الْحُسَينِ بْنِ عَلِيٍّ: يَا سَيِّدِي أَخْـبِرْنِي بِخَيْرِ الدُّنْـيَا وَ الآخِرَةِ. فَكَتَبَ: بِسْمِ اللٌّهِ الرَّحْمٌنِ الرَّحِيمِ. أَمَّا بَعْدُ فَإِنَّ مَنْ طَلَبَ رِضى اللٌّهَ بِسَخَطِ النَّاسِ كَفَّاهُ اللٌّهُ أُمُورُ النَّاسِ وَ مَنْ طَلَبَ رِضى النَّاسَ بِسَخَطِ اللٌّهِ وَكَلَّهُ اللٌّهُ إِلـى النَّاسِ، وَ السَّلاَمُ.
Imam Ja’far b. Muhammad as-Sadiq (as) has said, “My father narrated to me from his father (as) that a man from Kufah wrote a letter to Husayn b. ‘Ali (as) which stated: “O' my master! Inform me of a program (to follow) which would contain the goodness of the world and the next life.” The Imam (as) wrote back to the man, 'In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Whoever seeks to please Allah by displeasing the people, surely Allah will be sufficient for him in his affairs with the people; the person who seeks to please the people through displeasing Allah, Allah will leave him to the whims of the people. And peace (be upon you).'”1
In many instances, we see that the pleasure of the Creator and the creations are at opposite ends of the spectrum. If we seek to earn the pleasure of the creations, then we end up distancing ourselves from the pleasure of Allah (SwT); if we seek the pleasure of the Creator, then we must distance ourselves from the pleasure of the creations. In this instance, what must one do?
The Imam has stated that, “Hasten towards the pleasure of Allah and do not sell the anger of Allah for the meagre price of earning the pleasure of the people. If you truly seek His pleasure, then He will pull the hearts of the people towards you and will repair the problems that the people may encounter with you. However, if you seek the pleasure of the creations, then Allah will leave you at the whims of the people such that you will have to ask them for whatever you need. You will need to ask from people who:
لاَ يَمْلِكُونَ لِأَنْفُسِهِمْ نَـفْعاً وَلاَ ضَرًّا…
“They neither possess the ability to bring any profit nor harm to their selves…”2
These are people who do not have the power to do anything in this world of the next.”
The issue mentioned can sometimes be seen within a person's life, and at other times within the countries of the world. For example, sometimes there are two friends and one of them requests the other to lie on his behalf and in this instance, we see that a person is placed in the dilemma of either pleasing the Creator or pleasing the creation. In this instance, we are told that we must place the pleasure of the Creator above all else:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَ عَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ سَيَجْعَلَ لَهُمُ الرَّحْمٌنُ وُدًّا
“Those who possess true faith and perform righteous deeds, shortly shall the All-Merciful (al-Rahman) place true love amongst them.”3
One of the great sages has stated that when a person's long-time friend requests him to do something which goes against the laws of Allah (SwT), the person should reply, “I am your friend right up until the brink of the pit of Hell, however I am not going to follow you into it!”
When ‘Aqil, the brother of the Commander of the Faithful, ‘Ali b. Abi Talib (as) requested him for more than his share from the public treasury, we see that since Imam ‘Ali b. Abi Talib (as) was active in seeking the pleasure of Allah (SwT), he denied his own brother a 'bonus'! This well-known event is a story that has been taught and passed down for generations and is a lesson for all of us to learn from.
Sometimes this act (of trying to please the people) is committed at the level of the society, while at other times the actual leader of the people is their true faith, meaning that fulfilling the needs of the people is done under the guidance of gaining the pleasure of Allah (SwT). However, the world today does not accept this - rather, they say that the only important thing is that the needs of the people are fulfilled and because of this belief, things such as homosexual relations are now being made legal!
We see that the leadership of the people by the people in the meaning stated above has brought us many wars. The leadership of the American people revolves around the wants and desires of the American nation; in England, the government bases their policy on the needs of their people.
Sometimes we see the desires of these two nations differ from one another since naturally, the material goals of the people differ from one another. Sometimes, the leadership of the people clash and at election time, the interests of 25% of the population would take precedence over 75% of the population - and even in some instances we see that 51% of the population would be on one side while 49% of the population would be on the other side, however the desires and wishes of the 49% of the population are entirely neglected!
However, if mankind permitted religion to lead them, then not only would the needs of the people of the country be met, rather, even the needs of the neighbouring countries would also be maintained!
We are all for leadership of the people by the people, and even in Nahj al-Balagha we read that the masses of people have been encouraged to lead the society and this can be clearly seen in the letter issued to Malik al-Ashtar in which the Imam wrote that the majority of people are supporters of Islam and are his defenders.
Thus if today, the people of the world do not wish to become engulfed in wars, then the leadership of the people by the people of true faith must take control and the pleasure of Allah (SwT) alone must be kept in one's sight.
In the tradition under review, the Imam noticed that the person asking the question was from Kufah - without doubt, they were people who had placed the pleasure of the creations above the pleasure of the Creator and it is for this reason that the Imam said to him (in a part of the tradition) that, “If you had not left the side of ‘Ali (as) and Imam al-Hasan (as), then you would have achieved greatness in this world and the next! However since you did not observe their rights upon you, you are now trapped in the clutches of the Bani Umayyah.”
Therefore anytime we are given advice, we must look it over, ponder over it, and then see what Allah (SwT) would want and expect from us!