A full-length text focusing completely on the topic of Gheebah (backbiting). Using the Qur'an and aHadeeth it describes the different types of Gheebah, makes distinction between the permissible and impermissible Gheebah, explains the consequences of engaging in it and describes methods of preventing ourselves from it.
Ansariyan Publications, publishers of quality Islamic literature in various languages, is pleased to present this book to you which is one of the translated works of our brother, Yasin T. al-Jibouri. We have already published a number of books written or translated by al-Jibouri and are pleased to add this one, too, to the list. The first book written by al-Jibouri which Ansariyan published in 1421 A.H./2000 A.D. was Fast of the Month of Ramadān: Philosophy and Ahkām followed by Allāh: The Concept of God in Islam and Kerbala and Beyond. This book is one of his numerous translations.
Our readers often ask us to introduce the authors or translators to them; therefore, instead of repeating ourselves, we would like to refer them to our Publisher's Preface in Uswat al-Arifeen if they wish to read full details about the translator. Here, we would like to give you just a brief idea about him:
Al-Jibouri was born in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1946 and lived most of his life in holy al-Kadhimiyya city. He obtained his B.A. in English on June 30, 1969 from the College of Arts, Baghdad University, and his M.A. in English from (then) Atlanta University (now Clark-Atlanta University), Atlanta, Georgia, on December 20, 1978, and in March of 1988 a Certificate with Honors in Microprocessors and Microcomputers from N.R.I. of Washington, D.C. in addition to three certificates in electronics and programming, including advanced programming, writing more than 100 programs.
He taught English as a second language at high schools in Iraq, a vocational institute in Saudi Arabia, and a University in the U.S. He edited and revised three English translations of the Holy Qur’ān: 1) by S.V. Mir Ahmed Ali, 2) by A. Yusuf Ali, and 3) by M.H. Shakir. He also edited several newsletters and magazines, including Middle East Business Magazine, a high quality business magazine headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, U.S.A., of which he became Senior Editor. Among the books he edited are: Socio-Economic Justice with Particular Reference to Nahjul-Balagha, A Biography of Leaders of Islam and Your Kalima and the Savior. He is the first person ever to translate works of the martyred economist Imam Ayatullāh Muhammad Bāqir al-Sadr such as: Contemporary Man and the Social Problem, A General Outlook at Rituals, The General Bases of Banking in the Muslim Society, and What Do You Know About Islamic Economics? The second title only is available with the U.S. Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., U.S.A. He also translated and/or published numerous titles; among them are: A Biography of Muhammad Bāqir al-Sadr, The Form of Islamic Government and Wilāyat al-Faqeeh, About the World Political Situation From a Muslim’s Viewpoint, Our Faith and A Biography of Imam al-Rida by the late Shaikh Muhammad Jawad Fadlallah, in addition to a large number of political tracts, pamphlets, translations, and newsletters.
His translated works include the following:
1) The first four volumes of the series titled Al-Islam Risālatuna,
2) Al-Muraja`āt: A Shi`i-Sunni Dialogue, the first authentic English translation of Al-Muraja’at by Imam Sayyid Sharafuddeen Sadrud-Deen al-Musawi,
3) Al-Shi`a hum Ahl al-Sunnah by Dr. Muhammad al-Tijani al-Samawi,
4) Al-Maqtal (the martyrdom epic of Imam Husain) by Abd al-Razzaq al-Muqarram's book.
He also translated the following titles originally authored in Arabic by Rachad el-Moussaoui: Best Month, Best Night; The Book of Istikhāra; Weapon of the Prophets; Miracles of the Holy Qur’ān; and The Great Names of Allāh (Asmā’ Allāh al-Husna). These titles do not carry the Translator's name, however.
He translated 2 books by the late Grand Ayatullāh Muhammed al-Shirazi: 1) Canon: A Glimpse at the Islamic Law and 2) The Pathway to an Islamic Revival.
He wrote several articles for Islamic Monitor, bulletin of the Islamic Research & Information Center.
He has written eight books:
1) Volume One of his autobiography titled Memoirs of a Shi`a Missionary in America: Two Decades of Da`wah,
2) Fast of the Month of Ramadān: Philosophy and Ahkām,
3) The Ninety-Nine Attributes of Allāh,
4) Mary and Jesus in Islam,
5) Allāh: The Concept of God in Islam,
6) Muhammed: The Prophet and Messenger of Allāh,
7) Ghadir Khumm: Where Islam was Perfected, and
8) Kerbala and Beyond
He was quite active in Islamic Da'wa work in the United States. He founded the Islamic Society of Georgia, Inc. (Atlanta, Georgia) in 1973, the Islamic Revival Movement in 1980, the International Islamic Society of Virginia, Inc. in 1982, and the Iraq News Monitor in 1992. Edited Islamic Affairs newsletter from January 1974 – June 1989.
On September 3, 2003, he returned to his homeland and resumed living in al-Kadhimiyya where he has so far translated five books one of which is this title in addition to Kashf al-Reeba an Ahkam al-Gheeba by Sheikh Taqi ad-Dīn Ibraim son of Ali al-`Āmili, Al-Sirāj: The Lantern (towards the Path of Allāh) by Sheikh Hussain bin Ali bin Sadiq al-Bahrāni and The Truth about the Shi'ah Ithna-Asheri Faith by As'ad Wahid al-Qasim. All these books are available with Ansariyan.
We solicit your comments about these and other books which we publish, and surely your opinion counts with us.
Praise be to Allāh Who purified the tongues of His friends from vain talk, backbiting and slandering, purifying their souls from low manners and contemptible habits. Praised be His Chosen Prophet, too, who was sent with the easy-to-practice Sharī`a and the straight path, and praised be his purified Progeny who follow his path and are fully knowledgeable of his Sunnah and who are protected from low conduct and known for their virtues.
I have seen most folks of this age described as having knowledge and virtues and to whom justice is attributed, and they are nominated for being the masters safeguarding the performance of the prayers, regular in their fast, their acts of adoration being abundant and are steadfast in seeking nearness to Allāh. They avoid a host of prohibitive sins such as adultery, wine drinking and such clearly ugly deeds. Yet the folks of this age, despite all of this, are spending a great deal of their time having fun in their gatherings and dialogues, feeding our souls with charges leveled against the honor of their believing brethren and Muslim peers without regarding doing so as a sin, nor are they cautious lest the Great One of the heavens should overtake them on its account.
The excuse presented to them for this, rather than any other obvious transgression, is perhaps heedlessness about its being prohibited despite all the discussions of verses and narratives warning us all in its regard. This is the least excuse presented by those who are habitual in being thus heedless. Perhaps they take these sins as being not affecting their status of mastership on account of this type of contemptible behavior being hidden from those who seek a station with the ignorant ones. If Satan insinuates to them to drink wine or commit adultery with chaste women, they would not obey him because it is seen as a sin by the masses of people who see its place as being low. To them, it is one of the clearly visible sins.
Had people referred to their power of reasoning and sought light from their intellects, they would have found a distant difference between both sins and a great deal of variation. Nay! There is no way to compare sins which undermine the right of Allāh, Praise to Him, in particular and what is relevant of them to His servants, especially the latter’s honor, for honor is greater than wealth and more precious. The more precious a thing is, the greater is the sin of violating it in addition to total corruption as we, God willing, will be witnessing.
I liked to place in this message a group of statements about backbiting, how the Book and the Sunnah prohibit it, how reason leads to this conclusion, naming it Kashf al-Reeba an Ahkam al-Gheeba (removing doubt about the rulings relevant to backbiting), following it with whatever relates to backbiting and some rulings about envy, concluding it with urging communication, enjoining love and kindness. I have arranged it into an Introduction, Chapters and a Conclusion.
About the Introduction, its definition and a group of prohibitions which carry warnings, here below are some of them:
We say that gheeba, backbiting, as an expression, has two definitions:
One of them is famous: It is mentioning someone’s condition during his absence in a way which he hates, attributing to him what is regarded as a shortcoming according to convention in order to belittle and speak ill of him. Beware of underestimating something wrong when you speak to the doctor, for example, or when you plead to the ruler for mercy when you condemn time or talks about a blind man and point out their shortcomings. One can do away with doing so by voicing displeasure with these things which are attributed to him.
The other is attracting one’s attention to something whereby he hates to be identified. This is more general than the first because of making a statement, a reference, or narrating a tale or other things, and it is better because of what we will be explaining about backbiting not being restricted to only making statements.
A famous tradition cites the Prophet (ص) asking his companions, “Do you know what backbiting is?” They said, “Allāh and His Messenger know best.” He said, “It is when you say something about your brother which he hates.” It was said to him, “Suppose what I say about my brother is true.” He said, “If what you say is true, it is backbiting, and if it is not, it is slandering.” This is recorded in Tanbīh al-Khwatir, Vol. 1, p. 118. It is also recorded in Al-Targheeb wal Tarheeb, Vol. 3, p. 515.
Some people mentioned the name of a man in the presence of the Prophet (ص), saying, “How weak he is!” He (ص) said, “You have backbitten your fellow.” They said, “O Messenger of Allāh! What we have said about him is true!” He (ص) said, “If you wrongfully attribute something to him, you will be slandering him.” This is stated in Ad-Durr Al-Manthoor, Vol. 6, p. 96.
There is consensus about prohibiting backbiting. It is a major sin due to both the Book of Allāh and the Sunnah warning against it.
Allāh Almighty clearly holds it in contempt in His Book, making a similitude between one who is guilty of it to one who eats the flesh of his dead brother. He says, “O you who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible), for suspicion in some cases is a sin, and do not spy on each other, nor speak ill of others by way of backbiting. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay! You would abhor it... but fear Allāh, for Allāh is oft-Returning, Most Merciful” (Qur'ān, 49:12).
The Messenger of Allāh (ص) has said, “A Muslim, all of him, is prohibited from harming another Muslim, whether shedding his blood, or robbing him of his possessions, or harming his honor” (Vol. 1, p. 115 of Tanbīh al-Khawātir).
Jābir [ibn Abdullāh al-Ansāri] and Abū Sa`īd al-Khudri have said, “He (ص) has said, ‘Beware of backbiting, for backbiting is worse than adultery. An adulterer repents, so Allāh accepts his repentance, but one who backbites is not forgiven unless his fellow [whom he had backbitten] forgives him’” (Vol. 1, p. 115 of Tanbīh al-Khawātir; p. 116 of Irshād al-Qulūb).
In a famous lengthy narrative, the Prophet (ص) is quoted as having said, “The recording angels report the deeds of a servant of Allāh, and he has a light like the rays of the sun which stays on till it reaches the lower heavens as the recording angels think greatly of his deeds and testify for him. But when it reaches the gate, the angel in charge of the gate says, ‘Smite the face of the doer of this deed! I am in charge of monitoring backbiting; my Lord ordered me not to let any good deed of one who backbites people reach my Lord’” (see p. 74, Vol. 1 of Al-Targhib wal Tarhib).
Anas is said as having quoted the Prophet (ص) saying, “During the night of isrā', I passed by people who were scratching their noses with their nails. I asked Gabriel about them. Gabriel said, ‘These are the people who backbite others and speak ill of their honor’” (p. 115, Vol. 1 of Tanbīh al-Khawātir; p. 116 of Irshād al-Qulūb).
Al-Barā' [ibn `Āzib] has said, “The Messenger of Allāh delivered a sermon to us once till the free ladies in their own homes heard him. He said, ‘O folks who have believed in tongue but not in heart! Do not backbite the Muslims, and do not trace their shortcomings, for if one keeps track of the shortcoming of his brother, Allāh will track his shortcoming, and if Allāh tracks his shortcoming, He will expose him even in the deepest depth of his home’” (Tanbīh al-Khawātir, Vol. 1, p. 115).
Sulaymān ibn Jābir has said, “I went to see the Messenger of Allāh, peace and blessings of Allāh be with him and his progeny, and said to him, ‘Teach me something good whereby Allāh benefits me.’ He said, ‘Do not underestimate any good deed even if it is an act of pouring from your bucket into a cup of one seeking a drink, and when you meet your brother, meet him with a smile. When he goes away, do not backbite him’” (Tanbīh al-Khawātir, Vol. 1, p. 115).
Anas [ibn Mālik] has said, “The Messenger of Allāh (ص) delivered a sermon to us once and mentioned usury, touching upon its magnanimity. He said, ‘One dirham is won by a man through usury is looked upon by Allāh as greater than thirty-six acts of adultery a man commits. The most serious type of usury is when one speaks ill of a Muslim’s honor’” (Tanbīh al-Khawātir, Vol. 1, p. 116).
Jābir has said, “We were in the company of the Messenger of Allāh (ص) when he approached two graves of persons being tormented. He said, ‘They are not being tormented because of having committed a major sin. One of them used to backbite people. The other was too careless to cleanse himself after urinating.’ He (ص) called for a fresh palm leaf or two which he broke, planting one on each grave. He (ص) said, ‘This will lighten their torment as long as they are not dry’” (Tanbīh al-Khawātir, Vol. 1, p. 116).
Anas has said, “The Messenger of Allāh (ص) ordered people once to fast then said, ‘Nobody should break his fast till I give him permission.’ People fasted. When it was evening, a man would come and say, ‘O Messenger of Allāh! I have kept my fast; so, please grant me permission to break my fast,’ and he would give him permission. A man came and said, ‘O Messenger of Allāh! Two young women from among your folks have kept fasting, but they are too shy to come to you; so, please give them permission to break their fast.’
The Prophet (ص) turned away from him. The man repeated his request, whereupon the Prophet said to him, ‘They did not uphold their fast. How can one fast while eating people’s flesh? Go and tell them that if they were fasting, they should vomit.’ The man returned to the young women and narrated the above to them. They vomited. Each of them vomited a clot of blood. The man returned to the Prophet (ص) and told him about it. He (ص) said to him, ‘I swear by the One Who holds the soul of Muhammad in His hand that had they (clots) remained in their stomachs, they would have consumed them like fire.’”
Another version of this incident says that when the Prophet turned away from the man, the latter returned and said, “O Messenger of Allāh! They, by Allāh, have almost died [of hunger and thirst].”
The Prophet (ص) told the man to bring him the two women whom he ordered to vomit. Each vomited blood, filling a whole container. He (ص) then said, “These women abstained from what Allāh had permitted them and broke their fast on what Allāh had prohibited them. Each sat with the other and both kept eating people’s flesh” (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 134. Ad-Durr al-Manthūr, Vol. 6, p. 96).
It has also been reported that “One who eats his brother’s flesh in the short life will have the flesh brought near to him in the Hereafter and it will be said to him, ‘Eat it dead as you ate it alive.’ He will eat it and will cry out and frown indignantly” (Ihyā' Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 135).
The Messenger of Allāh (ص) stoned a man once on account of having committed adultery. Someone said to his fellow, “This man used to squirt like dogs.” The Messenger of Allāh (ص) brought them a carcass and said to them, “Eat it.” They said, “O Messenger of Allāh! Must we really eat a stinking carcass?!” He (ص) said, “What you have just eaten of the flesh of your brother is more stinking than it” (Tanbīh al-Khawātir, Vol. 1, p. 116).
Imām al-Sādiq (ع) has said, “Backbiting is prohibited on every Muslim. It consumes good deeds as the fire consumes firewood” (Musbāh al-Sharī`a, pp. 204-205).
Al-Sadūq has cited his forefathers citing Ali (ع) saying that the Messenger of Allāh (ص) said, “Four persons shall add harm to the residents of the fire to the harm from which they already suffer: They shall be given to drink of the boiling water in hell. They shall lament, so much so that the people of the fire shall say to each other, ‘What is wrong with these four harming us in addition to the harm from which we already suffer?’ One of them will be dangling from a coffin made of burning timbers and a man runs with him. A man’s mouth will be dripping blood and pus. And a man will be eating his own flesh. It will be said to the man of the coffin, ‘What is wrong with the furthermost man, for he has added to our harm?’
He will say, ‘The furthermost man died owing people money; he did not feel like paying them back or fulfilling his obligations to them.’ Then it will be said to the man running with him, ‘What is wrong with the furthermost man who has added harm to our harm?’ He will say, ‘The furthermost man used not to care where his urine fell on his body.’ Then it will be said to the man whose mouth drips blood and pus, ‘What is wrong with the furthermost man, for he has added to our harm?’ He will say, ‘The furthermost man used to mimic people: He would look at every foul word, praise then repeat it.’
Then it will be said to the one who eats his own flesh, ‘What is wrong with the furthermost man, for he has added to our harm?’ He will say, ‘The furthermost man used to eat of people’s flesh through backbiting, slandering others’” (`Iqbāl-A`māl, p. 294).
Through tracking the isnād back to the Prophet (ص), the Messenger of Allāh (ص) said once, “One who delves into backbiting his brother, revealing his shortcomings, will have placed his first step in hell, and Allāh will reveal his shortcoming to all creation” (`Iqāb al-A`māl, p. 337).
One who backbites a Muslim will have his fast nullified, and his ablution will be void; so, if he dies in such a state, he will be regarded as having permitted what Allāh prohibits (`Iqāb al-A`māl, p. 332).
Abū Abdullāh (ع) has said that the Messenger of Allāh (ص) said, “Backbiting is more swift in undermining a Muslim’s creed than the food in his stomach” (Al-Kāfi, Vol. 2, p. 357; see also Al-Ikhtisās, p. 228).
The Messenger of Allāh (ص) has said, “Sitting in a mosque waiting for the prayer is adoration as long as one does not do something awful.” It was said to him, “O Messenger of Allāh! What is this awful thing?” He said, “Backbiting” (Rawdat al-Wāizeen, p. 470; see also Al-Kāfi, Vol. 2, p. 257).
The son of Abū Omer has cited Abū Abdullāh (ع) saying, “One who mentions what he sees in a believer with his own eyes and hears with his own ears is included among those about whom Allāh has said, “Those who love (to see) scandal publicized widely among the believers will have a grievous penalty in this life and in the hereafter” (Qur'ān, 24:19); Al-Kāfi, Vol. 2, p. 357.
Al-Mufaddal quotes [Abdullāh] ibn Omer saying that Abū Abdullāh has said, “One who tells a tale about a believer whereby he intends to dishonor him, undermine his prestige and make people think lowly of him, Allāh gets him out of His protection to the protection of Satan, and even Satan will not accept to protect him” (Al-Kāfi, Vol. 2, p. 358; see also Al-Ikhtisās, p. 32).
Allāh Almighty has inspired to Moses son of Imran [Amram] that if a backbiter repents, he will be the last to enter Paradise, and if he does not, he will be the first to enter hell (Masābih al-Sharī’a, p. 205).
It has been narrated that Jesus, peace be with him, and his disciples passed once by the carcass of a dog. The disciples said, “How foul its stink is!” Jesus, peace be with him, said, “How white his teeth are!” (Tanbīh al-Khawātir, Vol. 1, p. 117). It is as though the prophet was prohibiting them from speaking ill of the dog, attracting their attention to mentioning only what is best of Allāh’s creations.
It has been indicated with regard to the interpretation of this verse of the Almighty: “Woe unto every (kind of) scandal-monger and backbiter” (Qur'ān, 104:1) that the scandal-monger is one who slanders people, while the backbiter is the one who eats people’s live flesh (Ihyā `Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 135).
Al-Hassan has said, “By Allāh! Backbiting is faster in [bearing an impact on] the faith of a believer than what he eats bears on his body” (Ihyā `Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 135).
Be informed that the reason which requires emphasizing the issue of backbiting and making it look greater than many major transgressions is its inclusion of all what contradicts the goal of the Wise One, Praised is He, unlike the rest of transgressions, for these cause partial harms.
The explanation of the above is this: The important goal of the legislator is to unite the souls on one concern, one way, which is: treading the path of Allāh in all its provisions, what it allows or prohibits, and this cannot materialize except through cooperation and solidarity among humankinds. The latter depends on their determination being united, on their innermost becoming pure, and on their collective fellowship and love so they may be like one single slave obeying his Master. This, too, will never materialize except by getting rid of grudge, hatred, envy and the like. One who backbites his brother incurs his grudge and prompts a similar reaction. This surely is the opposite of what the legislator ultimately seeks. It is an overwhelming harm; therefore, Allāh and His Messenger (ص) have emphasized its prohibition, warning against it, and surely success comes only from Allāh.
Having completed what the Introduction requires, let us start delving into this book's Chapters:
Since you have come to know that gheeba means mentioning something which displeases your brother if he comes to know about it, or if he is informed of it or his attention is brought to it, including anything relevant to a shortcoming in his physique, lineage, conduct, or anything he says or does about his creed or worldly affairs, even if it is about what he wears or rides.
Imām al-Sādiq (ع) has pointed to this saying, “The facets of backbiting is that you mention a defect in form [or conduct], deeds, treatment, sect, ignorance or the like” (Musbah al-Sharee’a, p. 205).
Regarding one's physique, you may refer to his being blear-eyed, cross-eyed, one-eyed, bald, short, tall, black, yellow and anything one can imagine as being "defective" or deforming.
As for lineage, one may say that someone’s father is a debauchee, mean, low, a shoe-mender, merchant, weaver, ignorant or the like, anything which one may dislike no matter what it is, period.
As for conduct, one may say that someone is bad-mannered, tricky, haughty, bragging, irritable, coward, weak-hearted, etc.
As regarding his creed-related deeds, you may say that he is a thief, liar, wine drinker, betrayer, oppressor, does not take his daily prayers seriously, his bowing and prostrating are not good, he takes no precautions with regard to cleanliness, unkind to his parents, does not safeguard himself from backbiting or speaking ill of people’s honor, etc.
As regarding his worldly deeds, it is like your saying that he is impolite, does not take people seriously, feels no obligation towards anyone, talkative, glutton, sleeps too much or sits where he does not belong, etc.
With regard to dressing himself, you may say that his sleeves are too wide, his robe drags behind him, his clothes are not clean, and the like.
Be informed that backbiting is not confined to articulation. Rather, it is prohibited because it conveys to others a shortcoming in/about your brother, identifying him in a way which he hates. Exposing him is similar to scandalizing him about anything relevant to any action such as speech, signal, gesture, beckon, defamation, censure, motion… and everything which lets the other person form a bad impression. All these fall in the category of backbiting and are equivalent to articulation of a thought the pronouncement of which is prohibitive.
An example for this is narrated about `Aisha having said, “A woman came to us once. When she left, I signaled with my hand that she was short. The Prophet (ص) told me that I had thus backbitten her” (Tanbīh al-Khawātir, Vol. 1, p. 118).
Another example is mimicking. One walks as though he is lame or imitating someone's gait. It is backbiting. It is even more so; it is greater in conveying a picture and thus getting an idea across. It also includes backbiting by writing. A book, it is said, is one of the two tongues. Also included is one who mentions a particular classifier and misrepresents his statements in his own book unless he mentions excuses requiring it such as ijtihād issues without which the goal behind a fatwa is not reached, or producing evidence for the point he drives unless he labels as "wrong" someone else's statements and the like.
Still included is one saying something like this: "One of those who passed by us, etc.," or "Someone we saw today looks like such-and-such, etc." Thus, a particular individual is understood to be implied by the statement. What one should avoid is getting others to identify who exactly he means. If such an individual is not thus identified, understood to be the one spoken about, it is alright. The Messenger of Allāh (ص), whenever he saw someone doing something which he hated would say, "What is wrong with people who do such-and-such?" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 137). He would not specify.
Among the most harmful types of backbiting is one done by pretenders who would like others to characterize them as being men of understanding. They convey their thoughts in the method employed by true righteous and pious people so they may pretend to be above backbiting while transmitting their thought. Due to their ignorance, they thus combine two sins: pretension and backbiting.
An example for it is that one hears someone mentioning the name of someone else, so he says, "Praise be to Allāh Who did not afflict us with love for authority" or for love for this world, or to seem in a particular way similar to the individual mentioned. Or one may say, "We seek refuge with Allāh against immodesty" or against ill luck, or "We plead to Allāh to protect us from such-and-such."
Actually, one merely praising Allāh for not making him the opposite of what another person is characterized is regarded as backbiting in the form of supplication while hiding under the cloak of men of righteousness. His intention is actually to mention that person's fault by saying something which includes both backbiting and pretension even as he supplicates to Allāh to rid him of sins, not knowing that he already has committed these sins; in fact, he has committed the worst of these sins.
An example for the above is when one starts by praising someone whom he wants to backbite, so he says, "How good the condition of so-and so! He never fell short of performing his acts of adoration, but lately he has slackened and has been afflicted with that whereby we all are afflicted: impatience." Thus, he speaks ill of himself while in reality he intends to speak ill of someone else. He praises himself by comparing himself with the righteous as the latter condemn their evil-insinuating selves.
Thus, he backbites; he is being a pretender. He praises himself, combining three sins while, due to his ignorance, he thinks he is among the righteous who are above backbiting others. Thus does Satan play havoc with ignorant folks if they seek knowledge but act without having become fully acquainted with the paths of such knowledge. Satan follows them and surrounds their deeds with his schemes, laughing at them and making fun of them.
Also included is one who mentions someone's shortcoming, but nobody among his audience notices it, so he says, "Praise be to Allāh! How strange it is!" The backbiter indicates so in the hope the inattentive person may listen to him carefully and get to understand his hint. He mentions the Name of Allāh, Praise to Him, using His Name as a means to achieve his own meanness and falsehood. Due to his ignorance and conceit, he thinks he is doing Allāh a favor by mentioning His Name.
Also included is one who says that someone did such-and-such or has been afflicted with such-and-such. He may even say, "Our fellow, friend, may Allāh grant him and our own selves acceptance of repentance…, etc." Thus, he pretends to supplicate for him, feeling pain on his account, being a friend and a fellow, while Allāh is acquainted with the meanness of his inner self and the corruption of his conscience. Due to his ignorance, he does not know that he has exposed himself to a greater contempt than that to which the ignorant ones are exposed when they openly backbite.
Among its hidden types is listening to backbiting in the way of expressing amazement. One demonstrates amazement in order to energize the backbiter as the latter is at it, encouraging him to continue backbiting, as if he is extracting backbiting out of him in such a way. He may say, "I have been amazed at what you have just stated. Till now, I never knew it! I did not know that that individual is like that!" He wants to testify to the backbiter being truthful, asking him in a nice way to provide him with more. Testifying to the truth of backbiting, actually even listening to it, even remaining silent about it, is by itself an act of backbiting.
The Messenger of Allāh (ص) has said, "One who listens (to backbiting) is one of the two backbiters" (Tanbīh al-Khawātir, Vol. 1, p. 119). Imām Ali (ع) has said, "One who listens to backbiting is one of those who backbite" (Ghurar al-Hikam, p. 74).
He (ع) means that if one listens to backbiting with enjoyment, not (necessarily) agreeing, or who can deny what he hears but does not do so, is included in the sin. Since both individuals, the one who listens to, or who hears in such a way of enjoyment, actually backbite, this is due to his sharing the pleasure which the backbiter feels when he backbites.
It is due to their minds, both of them, being conditioned with contemptible images which should not be there even when they differ in the fact that one of them is articulating and the other is being receptive. But each of them is using a mechanism that helps him backbite: One of them uses his tongue to express a soul that has been polluted by drawing images of lies, prohibitions and the determination to be involved in them. The other listens as his soul accepts such effects due to taking such a bad option, becoming used to them, accustomed to it, enabling the poisoning of the subconscious mind with falsehood.
An example for the above is the wise saying that the listener is the speaker's partner. In the previous example, there is an indication that when the Prophet (ص) said to one of the men who said about another that the latter squirted like dogs, "Eat of this carcass!", thus putting them both in the same box although one of them was a speaker and the other a listener.
The listener does not get out of the sin of backbiting except if he rejects it by his tongue, but if he fears, he rejects it by his heart. If he can stand and leave or interrupt such talk with something else but does not, the sin will be attached to him. Had he said with his tongue, "Shut your mouth!" while inwardly he liked to hear, it would have been hypocrisy, another sin added. Nothing gets him out of the sin (of backbiting) unless he sincerely hates it with his heart.
The Prophet (ص) is reported as having said, "One who witnesses a believer being humiliated without supporting him, while being able to do so, will be humiliated by Allāh on the Day of Judgment as the creation looks on" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 138).
Abū al-Dardā' is quoted as having said that the Messenger of Allāh (ص) had said, "One who protects his brother's honor as it is charged with backbiting, Allāh will protect his honor on the Judgment Day" (Tanbīh al-Khawātir, Vol. 1, p. 119).
He (ص) has also said, "One who defends his brother's honor with regard to backbiting, Allāh will set him free from the fire" (Tanbīh al-Khawātir, Vol. 1, p. 119).
Through his isnād to the Messenger of Allāh (ص), al-Sadūq has stated that the Prophet (ص) said, "One who defends on behalf of his brother, because of backbiting which he had heard in a gathering and which he refutes, Allāh will close a thousand gates of evil in his face in the life of this world and in the hereafter. But if he does not refute it while being able to do so, his burden will be seventy times as much as that of the person who had backbitten him" (Al-Sadūq's A`māli, p. 350).
Through isnād to Imām al-Bāqir (ع), the Imām said, "One who listens to his believing brother being backbitten, so he defends and supports him, Allāh will support him in the life of this world and in the hereafter. Allāh will abandon one who does not defend such a brother, while being able to defend and help him, in the life of this world and in the hereafter" (Al-Mahāsin, p. 103, tradition No. 81).
Be informed that one is prohibited from speaking ill of a believer, and he is prohibited from mentioning the wrongdoings of others. He also is prohibited from thinking ill and from contemplating it inwardly. What is meant by the inwardly evil thought, which is prohibited, is judging one as being a wrongdoer without making sure about it.
As regarding illicit thoughts, and since its insinuations are forgiven, doubt in this sense is also forgiven; Allāh Almighty has said, "O you who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible), for suspicion in some cases is a sin, and do not spy on each other, nor speak ill of others by way of backbiting. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay! You would abhor it... but fear Allāh, for Allāh is oft-Returning, Most Merciful" (Qur'ān, 49:12).
You have no right to think ill of someone unless you see with your own eyes what has no room for interpretation. If you do not know something, yet it finds its place in your heart, Satan places it there, and you ought to belie it, for it is the worst type of sin. Allāh Almighty has said, "O you who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth lest you should harm people unwittingly and afterwards become full of repentance for what you have done" (Qur'ān, 49:6). Eblis must not be believed.
In such a situation, the Sharī`a says that if you detect the smell of wine in someone, you cannot judge that he has drunk wine, and he is not to be penalized on its account, for it is possible he gargled it and detested it, or he was forced to drink it, and both are possible; so, a Muslim must not be the object of our suspicion.
The Prophet (ص) has said, "Allāh Almighty prohibits a Muslim from having a free hand in another Muslim's life or possession even if he thinks ill of him" (Ihyā' Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 142). Hence, ill thoughts are not permitted unless the shedding of blood and the confiscation of wealth become permissible: One is sure by seeing or due to fair evidence, or their equivalent among matters which bring about conviction, or whatever the Sharī`a deems as being certain.
The father of Abdullāh (ع) is quoted as having said, "If a believer accuses his believing brother of something, conviction (imān) melts in his heart just as salt melts in water" (Al-Kāfi, Vol. 2, p. 361).
He (ع) has also said, "If one charges his brother about his creed, the sanctity between them will be violated" (Al-Kāfi, Vol. 2, p. 361). He (ع) has also said, "The Commander of the Faithful (ع) has said, 'Think best of your brother till something convinces you of the contrary, and do not think ill of something which your brother says if you can at all find a good justification for it" (Al-Kāfi, Vol. 2, p. 362), that is, think well of what your brother says or does even if it can be interpreted differently without having to spy on him till you come to know about something which has no room for interpretation, for ill thoughts can be wrong whereas spying is prohibitive.
The way whereby one can get to know what the heart contemplates, whether it is an ill thought or an insinuation, is that you subject yourself to a test. If you change and your heart is displeased with him, or if you belittle him, or if you are reluctant to look after him, to find out how he is doing, to honor him, to care about his condition and feel sad because his condition has changed…, it is a sign that doubt has entertained your mind.
The Imām (ع) has said, "Three things in a believer for which there is a way out: One's exit out of an ill thought is not to think of it as being certain (Ihyā' Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 143), that is, do not carry out an investigation through thoughts or actions, neither in the heart nor in the senses. As regarding the heart, it is through turning it towards revulsion and contempt.
Regarding the senses, it is acting upon them. What ought to be done when an illicit thought about a believer is entertained is that one increases paying good attention to him and supplicating for him, for this angers Satan and it thus is pushed away from you. Satan will then avoid casting an illicit thought in your mind out of his fear you would supplicate for your brother and look after him, which is the opposite of his goal.
No matter how many faults about a believer you come to know, advise him inwardly, and do not let Satan deceive you and call upon you to backbite him. If you admonish him, do not do so while you are pleased you came to know about his shortcoming so he may think highly of you while you think lowly of him, while you see yourself as being higher in status than him by token of your admonishment of him. Rather, let your objective be ridding him of the sin, and you feel sorry for him just as you would feel sorry for yourself if a shortcoming is attached to you.
You ought to think inwardly that leaving him without advising him is dearer to you than leaving him on account of an advice with which you admonished him. If you do so, you will have combined the rewards of admonishment with the rewards of feeling sad about your brother's misfortune as well as the reward for helping him keep his faith strong.
One of the fruits of ill thoughts is spying. The heart is not convinced with doubts. It demands an investigation. Thus, one occupies himself by spying, something which is prohibitive.
Allāh Almighty says, "… And do not spy (on each other)" (Qur'ān, 49:12). Allāh, praise belongs to Him, has prohibited in this verse backbiting, ill thoughts and spying. The meaning of spying is that you do not leave the servants of Allāh being shielded by Allāh's covering, so you seek to familiarize yourself (with what they try to hide or conceal), thus tearing apart this covering. Had you kept that covering as it is, it would have been better for your heart and creed; so, think about it, may you be guided rightly, and surely success comes from Allāh.
Be informed that all ill manners are treated with a mixture of knowledge and the acting upon such knowledge. The treatment of an ailment is done with the opposite of its cause, its antidote. So, let us look first for the cause behind backbiting, we will then state how a tongue is restrained from articulating it in a way that suits the treatment of these causes.
We are stating below some of the causes that have been indicated as resulting in backbiting, and they are ten in number. Imām al-Sādiq (ع) has drawn attention to it by saying that the root of backbiting is of ten types: 1. seeking satisfaction for one's anger, 2. agreeing with some people, 3. believing a report without verifying it, 4. an accusation, 5. ill thinking, 6. jealousy, 7. ridicule, 8. conceit, 9. displeasure, and 10. bragging (Misbah al-Shari'a, p. 205).
Now we point out to them in detail:
First: One seeks to satisfy his anger. If one has a reason to be angry, and when his anger rages, he seeks to quell it by mentioning the faults of the individual who caused him to grow angry, and he would first do so by his tongue unless he is pious, God-fearing. One may avoid having to satisfy his anger, so his anger is stored inwardly, turning into a fixed grudge. This will become a permanent cause for mentioning those faults.
Grudge and anger are major causes for backbiting.
Second: Agreeing with some companions and being nice to fellows by assisting them with such talk. If they have fun speaking ill of some people's honor, one may see that if he disagrees or terminates a gathering, he will be belittled by the others who will avoid him, so he agrees with them, seeing that doing so is indicative of good companionship, and he thinks he is just being nice to his companions. His companions may get angry, so he, too, feels he should be angry, too, seeing it as a sign of good companionship when sharing with his fellows their sentiments openly as well as inwardly. He, therefore, takes part in mentioning others' faults and shortcomings.
Third: One may sense that someone targets him and speaks ill of him or of his condition in front of a good person, or he may testify against him, so he takes the initiative and speaks ill of him in order to foil the impact of his testimony and action. Or he may start by mentioning how one truly is so after that he may tell lies about him. Thus, he circulates his lies by first being truthful. He seeks support from facts saying, "It is not my habit to tell a lie, for I have told you such-and-such about his conditions, and he has been just as I had said."
Fourth: Something may be attributed to someone, so the latter wants to clear himself of it. He, hence, speaks ill of the person who had done so. He had the right to clear himself of the charge without mentioning the name of the person who charged him. He does not have to make a connection between the charge and the person who made it. He does not have to tell others that he was a partner in an action in order to pave the way for finding for himself an excuse for his deed.
Fifth: Affectation and bragging: One may try to raise his status above that of others, so he labels someone as ignorant, weak of understanding, weak in stating something with the goal being to prove that he is better than him. He wants to show others that he is better than that person, or he may thus take a precaution against people honoring someone as much as they honor that person, so he belittles him.
Sixth: Jealousy: One may feel jealous of someone praised, loved or honored by others, so he wants these blessings to be removed from that individual. He finds no way to do so except by speaking ill of him. He wants to discredit that person to people so they may stop honoring and praising him because it is heavy on his heart to see people praising him, honoring him. Such is jealousy, and it is anger and grudge. One may be jealous of a benevolent friend or a relative who is in harmony with him.
Seventh: Sporting, jesting, agreeing with others and having fun laughing at others: One may mention someone else in a way that prompts the listeners to laugh when he imitates him or seeks to show that he is better than him.
Eighth: Ridiculing, making fun of someone in order to downgrade him: This may take place in the presence of someone or behind someone's back as well, and it originates in one being arrogant and desiring to belittle one whom he ridicules.
Ninth: This is difficult to detect and may cause even the elite or cautious persons to fall into speaking ill of others: One may feel sad because of something with which someone is afflicted, so he says, "Poor so-and-so, I am really sad about what has happened to him and about his affliction." He would then mention the cause of his sadness. He will then be truthful if it comes to the reason behind his grief, but his grief distracts him from taking precaution, so he mentions his name and says something which that person hates.
He will in that case be backbiting him. His grief and his seeking Allāh's mercy for him are acts of righteousness, but they led him to evil without being aware of it. Seeking Allāh's mercy for someone and feeling sad about someone are both possible without one having to mention the name of an individual then attributing to him what he dislikes. Satan stirs him to mention his name in order to void the rewards of his grief and his pleading to Allāh to have mercy on him.
Tenth: Feeling angry for the sake of Allāh Almighty: One may feel angry because of something wrong which someone did, so he shows his anger and mentions that person's wrongdoing, thus committing a wrongdoing himself without prohibiting a wrong deed. What he should have done is to show his anger specifically in that manner. This is a pitfall in which even the elite may fall. They think that feeling angry for the sake of Allāh Almighty is an excuse no matter how it is expressed, but it is not so.
If you come to know that these are the causes of backbiting, be informed that the path towards preventing the tongue from backbiting is of two types: One of them is general, whereas the other is particular:
Regarding generality, one must know that he exposes himself to the wrath of Allāh Almighty when he backbites, as you have already come to know from the previous reports. And he must be informed that such wrath voids his good deeds, his acts of righteousness. On the Day of Judgment, backbiting shifts his good deeds to the scales of those whom he had backbitten. If he has no good deeds, the backbitten person's wrongdoings will then be shifted to the backbiter's scales, and he remains the object of the wrath of Allāh Almighty and will be like one eating dead flesh.
It has been narrated about the Prophet (ص) that he said, "Fire burning what is dry is not faster than backbiting as it burns the good deeds of a servant of Allāh" (Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 140).
It has been narrated that a man said to a man of virtue, "It has come to my knowledge that you speak ill of me behind my back." The virtuous man said, "Your status in my eyes does not permit me to let you fare thus with my own good deeds!"
No matter how much one believes in reports coming to him, his tongue must not articulate backbiting. He must fear for his good deeds being thus burnt. It also avails him if he looks at his own self. If he finds fault with himself, he ought to feel ashamed lest he should leave himself out while speaking ill of others. Rather, he ought to know that if others are unable to rise above committing backbiting, whether it is relevant to something which he did by choice or because of a deformity or shortcoming in him, he likewise is unable to rise to admit his own defects and shortcomings.
If the matter is relevant to his physique, speaking ill of it is actually speaking ill of its Creator, for when one faults something, he faults its maker. Someone once said to a wise man, "How ugly your face is!" The wise man said, "I had no choice in creating my face so I would make it very good." If one does not find fault with himself, let him thank Allāh and not pollute himself with the greatest of faults, for finding fault with people and eating their dead flesh is surely the greatest of all faults. He will then be faulty. Had he been fair to himself, he would have realized that his belief that he is faultless proves the extent of his ignorance of himself, which is one of the greatest of all faults.
It behooves him to know that when others suffer because he backbites them, he likewise suffers when others backbite him. If he does not like others to backbite him, he ought not accept others to be backbitten.
Such are general remedies.
As regarding delving into the details, one ought to look into the reason that prompts him to backbite and deal with it, for an ailment is treated by eradicating its cause. And you have already come to know the causes behind backbiting:
• Regarding anger, he can treat it by saying, "If I overlook my anger with him, perhaps Allāh Almighty will overlook His wrath against me because of speaking ill of others behind their backs, for He has prohibited me from doing it, yet I dared to defy his prohibition, taking His prohibition lightly." He (ع) has said, "There is a gate to hell which is entered only by those who satisfied their personal anger by angering Allāh Almighty through committing a transgression" (Tanbīh al-Khawātir, Vol. 1, p. 121). In one of the Books which Allāh Almighty has revealed, it is stated: "O son of Adam! Remember Me when you are angry so I may remember you when I am angry, perhaps I will not include you among those whom I obliterate" (Tanbīh al-Khawātir, Vol. 1, p. 121)
• Regarding agreeing with others, you must come to know that Allāh Almighty is angry with you if you seek to anger Him by thus pleasing others. So, how can you honor others while dishonoring your Lord? How can you avoid pleasing Him by seeking to please them, unless your anger is solely for the sake of pleasing Allāh Almighty, and this requires you not to speak ill of one with whom you are angry? Rather, you ought to feel angry for the sake of Allāh: If your fellows speak ill of Him, they commit the most foul of all sins: backbiting.
• Regarding one trying to raise his status at the expense of that of others, without mentioning the name of those others, this situation is treated by knowing that if you expose yourself to the wrath of the Creator, it is much more severe than being exposed to the contempt of His creation. If you backbite, you are for sure exposing yourself to the wrath of Allāh Almighty while not knowing if you will get rid of people's wrath or not. So, you save yourself in this life by your whim while permitting yourself to perish in the hereafter. Or you for sure lose the rewards of your good deeds while earning the contempt of the Almighty, expecting people to remove their speaking ill of you, which is the utmost ignorance and loss of all.
• Regarding your statement that you consume what is prohibitive because so-and-so does it, and if you do such-and-such, someone else is doing the same, or if you fall short in an act of obedience to the Almighty, someone else is likewise guilty of the same…, it is an indication of your ignorance because you are seeking to emulate those whom you are not supposed to emulate. Anyone who violates the command of Allāh is not to be emulated whoever he may be.
If someone else is hurled into the fire while you are able not to avoid entering it, you should not be in agreement with that person. Had you agreed with him, you would have lost your wits. What you state is backbiting and an additional transgression which you piled up on that from which you sought an excuse for yourself. The Almighty will then have recorded your name as having combined two sins due to your ignorance and stupidity. You were like a she-camel looking at a goat that fell from the mountain, so it, too, throws itself from up high. Had she had a tongue and articulated an excuse, she would have said, "The goat was wiser, yet she perished, and so did I." You would then have laughed on account of her ignorance. But your condition is similar to hers, yet you do not wonder, nor do you laugh at yourself.
• When it comes to your objective behind bragging and praising yourself in order to gain more recognition by speaking ill of others, you ought to know that due to what you stated, you lost your status with Allāh while jeopardizing your status among the public: People may think less of you if they come to know that you speak ill of others. You will then have sold what the Creator has for sure in store with Him, trading it for what people have with them due to your own whim. If people think well of you, it will not help you win favor with the Almighty at all.
• Backbiting someone because of envy combines two types of penalties: You have envied him for a worldly blessing while your envy torments you. Yet you were not satisfied with all of this till you added to it a torment in the hereafter, thus losing in the short life as well as in the hereafter; hence, you combine two punishments. You targeted the one whom you envied while harming your own self. You have given him by way of a gift the rewards of your own good deeds; thus, you are his friend and the enemy of your own self!
Your act of backbiting him does not harm him but harms you while benefiting him! It shifts your own good deeds to him or shifts to you his wrongdoings which do not benefit you at all. You thus combine the ugliness of envy with foolish ignorance. Your envy and speaking ill of him may become the reason for the individual whom you envy gaining more prestige. It has been said that if Allāh wants a forgotten virtue to be disseminated, He permits an envious tongue to propagate it.
• You mean by ridiculing someone to demean him by actually demeaning your own self in the sight of Allāh, His angels and prophets. Had you contemplated upon your shame, infamy, sigh and sorrow on the Day when you bear the sins of the person whom you ridiculed and when you are led to the fire, this would have shocked you and distracted you from shaming your fellow. Had you come to know your condition, you would have preferred to laugh at its account, for you ridiculed him before a small number of people while exposing yourself to your hands being taken on the Judgment Day and led away before a huge crowd of people. You will be led away under the burden of that person's own sins like a donkey led to the fire, while he ridicules you and is pleased at you being thus shamed, happy because Allāh supports him against you and seeks revenge against you for his own benefit.
• As regarding pleading to Allāh to have mercy on him on account of his own sin, it is something good, but Eblis envied you and made you articulate something because of which the rewards of your good deeds are shifted to someone else. And it is more so than the rewards which you gain for having pleaded to Allāh to have mercy on him. Thus, the one for whom mercy is sought gets out of the category of one in need of mercy while you yourself become worthy of being stoned: Your [hypocritical] plea foiled your rewards and diminished your good deeds.
• Feeling angry for the sake of Allāh does not necessitate backbiting. Satan made backbiting look good to you so the rewards for your anger are voided, and you become the target of the wrath of Allāh Almighty because of being guilty of backbiting.
As a whole, the treatment for all of this comes through knowledge which is achieved by considering these matters that are among the divisions of conviction (imān). One whose conviction is strong through combining all of the above prevents himself from committing the sin of backbiting, that is for sure.
Be informed that mentioning one's wrongdoing is a sound objective according to the Sharī`a in order to achieve one's objective for the removal of such wrongdoing. Thus, the sin of backbiting is voided, but this is limited to ten situations:
First: One seeks redress. If someone mentions the name of a judge as being unjust, treacherous and accepting bribes, he is one who backbites while being a transgressor. As far as a judge is concerned, one can complain about him to someone who he hopes can remove his injustice. He will be attributing injustice to such a judge who is the only person who can grant him what rightfully belongs to him.
The Messenger of Allāh (ص) has said, "One with a [usurped] right has the right to complain about it" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 144).
He (ص) has also said, "A rich person commits injustice if he looks down at others" (Al-`Awāli, Vol. 4, p. 45).
Second: One seeks help to correct a wrongdoing. One has the right to seek help to correct a wrongdoing and bring an aggressor back to the path of righteousness. In the achievement of this sound objective, the matter is alright but is prohibitive otherwise.
Third: One seeks someone's opinion, such as you may say this to someone: "My father—or brother—has been unfair to me; so, what is the way out of it?" In this regard, it is safest if one refrains from identifying the oppressor. For example, one may say, "What would you say about a man whose father or brother has oppressed him?"
It has been narrated that Hind said to the Prophet (ص), "Abū Sufyān is a miser man; he does not give me money to meet my needs and those of my children. Should I take some of his money without his knowledge?" He said, "Take only what suffices you and your children fairly" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 144). She complained about not having enough to spend on herself and her children, so the Messenger of Allāh (ص) did not rebuke her since her objective was to seek his opinion.
Fourth: One warns another Muslim against falling in danger, in evil, and how one seeking counsel is to be advised. If you see someone pretending to be a faqīh (jurist), pretending to be someone whom he is not, you have to attract people's attention to his shortcoming and inability to rightfully qualify himself. You must alert them about the danger that may fall upon them if they obey him. Also, if you see a man making too frequent visits to the house of a debauchee who is covering up for him, and if you are concerned about this man falling down on account of such companionship in a way which violates the Sharī`a, you have the right to attract his attention to this person being a sinner no matter what motive you have, whether it may be concern about the dissemination of an innovation in the creed or the spread of corruption.
This may be prompted by conceit and Satan's foolhardiness, for your motive may be envy of that man because of the status which he enjoys. Satan will then confuse you when you pretend to have compassion for people. Also, if you see a man buying a slave, and if you know that this slave has defects, you can mention these defects to the buyer, for if you remain silent, you will be harming the buyer. Your stating these faults harms the slave, but the interest of the buyer ought first to be taken into consideration.
And you have to mention only the defect which is relevant to the matter and not mention anything relevant to anything else that may undermine the partnership, the contract, or one's trip. Rather, you must mention in each situation what is relevant to it and not go beyond it aiming at advising rather than harming. If a man shies away from getting married when you advise him that marriage will not be good for him, you will be doing what you ought to be doing. But if one is not dissuaded except when explicitly told about something, let it be so.
The Prophet (ص) has said, "Do you hesitate to name a corrupt person before people find it out? Say that against which people ought to guard themselves" (Ihuyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 144).
He (ص) has also said to Fātima daughter of Qays when she consulted him about men seeking her for marriage, "As regarding Mu'āwiyah, he is a penniless pauper. Regarding Abū Jahm, he never lets the [whipping] baton descend from his shoulder" (Al-`Awāli, Vol. 1, p. 155).
Fifth: Slandering and making amends for both an eyewitness and a narrator: Scholars have written about narrators of traditions, dividing them into "trustworthy" and "doubted", often mentioning the reasons behind their being doubted. A sincere advice is shared in this situation, as we have stated above, when it is meant to protect the Muslims' wealth, control over what they say and protect them all from telling lies.
And it is conditional upon one having neither animosity nor fanaticism nor stating anything that violates his testimony and narrative, and he does not stand hostile to others such as being a man of taunting or casting doubts except, perhaps, when he openly commits transgression as we will state later.
Sixth: The object of the statement must deserve it because he is a pretender on its account such as a sinner who openly shows his sin, so much so that he does not hesitate to talk about the sin which he commits. He must be referred to with regard to what he admits and nothing more.
The Messenger of Allāh (ص) has said, "One who puts down the covering of modesty from his face, to backbite him is not a sin at all" (Al-`Awāli, Vol. 1, p. 105). From this, it is quite obvious that to backbite him is permissible even if the sin is not mentioned. Regarding the permission to absolutely backbite the debauchee, the possibility stems from this statement of the Prophet (ص): "A debauchee is not backbitten" (Al-`Awāli, Vol. 1, p. 438, tradition No. 153).
It is stated that the tradition must be understood as applicable to a particular debauchee or to [backbite him in order to] force him to stop his committing sins. Such is better except when the matter is attached to a religious objective and a sound goal which goes back to the backbiter who hopes the individual will on its account stop committing his sin. It will then enter the category of preventing a wrongdoing.
Seventh: One must be widely known by a name whereby his defect is identified, such as "the lame" or "the blear-eyed", etc. There is no sin if one identifies him by it. Scholars have done so due to the need for identification and because it has become so common, the individual himself no longer hates it, having come to know that he has become famous on its account.
In fact, what the reliable scholars have indicated can be relied upon with regard to their narrative.
As regarding identifying those who are still living, it is conditional on the acceptance of the individual to whom it is attributed as a general criterion for prohibition. In that case, it is not categorized as backbiting. How can it be since when one can be identified by some other way, it would have been better?
Eighth: If the number of individuals, according to whom a penalty is to be exacted for a sin, are eyewitnesses to the committing of that sin, it can be mentioned to the rulers as a testimony even in the presence of the doer or in his absence. It must not be mentioned in any other situation except if it meets other criteria.
Ninth: It has been said that if two persons witness a transgression committed, and one of them stated it in the absence of that transgressor, it is permissible because mentioning it has no impact on the listener although he ought to protect himself and his tongue from mentioning it for any other purpose especially with the possibility of forgetting the statement or out of concern it will be disseminated because of them.
Tenth: If someone listened to someone else backbiting another without knowing the rights of the person being backbitten or whether what is being said does not actually exist, the speaker cannot be prevented from articulating it due to the possibility it could be true, and the speaker may be accepted as factual unless he is known to be otherwise.
Deterring him from such talk requires the violation of his own sanctity, being one of the individuals involved. It is better to draw attention to such a situation unless general evidences surface that have no room for rebuttal. It is evident that the general will is to be cautious about ignorant folks being tempted in its regard. If this is done to those whom you know, the general evidences would not have surfaced, and they would not have been taken into consideration with regard to the listener due to the speaker perhaps knowing how to make his statement plausible, and it undermines the principle of prohibiting backbiting.
This individual is held as exceptional with regard to hearing backbiting, and it has already been stated that he is one of those who take part in backbiting.
Generally speaking, a virtuous soul takes precaution against backbiting although sometimes it is preferred that one tells what he knows so others may take their own precaution against a particular individual or action.
The testimony for its absolute prohibition, as has already been stated, is this statement of the Prophet (ص): "Do you know what backbiting is?" They said, "Allāh and His Messenger know best." He (ص) said, "It is saying something about your brother which he does not like" (Tanbīh al-Khawātir, Vol. 1, p. 118).
As regarding its permissibility, such as the response to innovations and the shaming of the debauchees from among them, getting people to stay away from them and taking precautions against following them, this is described as obligatory: It is possible and is preferable, and it is relied upon to achieve all these objectives. So, a vigilant person must not overlook the objective and the reform it contains, and surely Allāh is the One Who grants success.
It has a name of its own to which a particular prohibition is attached. You have already come to know that backbiting describes any statement that speaks ill of others and is hated by others, something which the speaker does not prefer, attracting attention to that statement by something which he writes or to which he points out or through other means. It also indicates the insinuation of one's own evil self, nafs, a pre-meditated intention even if it is not articulated. In this definition, other individuals enter places that are particularly prohibited. This includes the following:
One: Nameema, calumny. It is conveying a statement which someone articulated to another, such as you may say the following to the latter: "So-and-so said such-and-such about you," whether this is indicated orally, in writing, as a reference or through a symbol. Such a quotation is related to a shortcoming or default in the subject of the statement which obligates one to hate or avoid. The latter case is due also to backbiting. Thus, one combines between the transgression of backbiting and of nameema as well. There is no harm to attract attention in this dissertation to nameema, calumny, and how it is particularly prohibited, for it is one of the major sins as you will come to know.
Second: The speech of two contenders which goes on between them, or anything like that, and each contender articulates the same [bad speech, a similar taunting, etc.]. Due to the prohibition related particularly to it, it is rendered to either backbiting or calumny; actually, it is the worst type of calumny according to the tradition of the Prophet (ص) who has said, "You will find the most evil of the servants of Allāh on the Day of Judgment to be one who quotes a statement to these and these about what those had said" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 150). It is a speech which either party hates if he comes to know about it being cited. One does not like anything said that pleases his opponent or assists him in his pursuit. Such an individual is counted among the foes. Thus, hatred ensues because of exchanged statements thus propagated. Let us, then, discuss it briefly and quote the prohibition in its regard.
Third: Envy: It is hating for someone else to enjoy a blessing and desiring its disappearance. Besides being one of the special prohibitions and major sins, it is rendered to unspoken backbiting because one has passed a judgment against another about something relevant to that other which he would very much hate if he comes to hear about it. Thus, one combines two transgressions: envy and backbiting. So, let us quote a group of statements about it and its prohibition. Actually, it deserves more than any of these three to be mentioned due to its occurrence these days so often and even the elite among people are afflicted by it. Rather, it is their ailment for which they can find no remedy. A wise person's priority is to treat an ailment which he can see. Speech here falls into three categories:
First: Allāh Almighty has said, "… a slanderer, going about with calumnies" (Qur'ān, 68:11). He also says, "… besides all of that, [he is] base-born" (Qur'ān, 68:13).
Some scholars have said that these verses prove that one who does not keep a statement to himself but goes about committing calumny must have been born illegitimately because the "base-born" is called in Arabic "da`i" (one the name of whose father is claimed by someone else). Allāh Almighty says, "Woe unto every (kind of) scandal-monger and backbiter" (Qur'ān, 104:1). It is said that by "scandal-monger" in this verse is one who is guilty of committing calumnies. About the wives of Noah and Lot, the Almighty says, "Allāh sets forth, as an example to the unbelievers, the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot: They were (respectively) under two of Our righteous servants, but they were false to their (husbands), and they benefited nothing before Allāh on their [husbands'] account but were told, “Enter the Fire along with (others) who enter!” (Qur'ān, 66:10). It is said that the wife of Lot told others about the two guests whom they had received, while the wife of Noah used to say that her husband was a madman.
The Prophet (ص) has said, "Nobody who is guilty of committing calumny enters Paradise" (Al-Targhīb wal Tarhīb, Vol. 3, p. 496). In another tradition, he (ص) says that no "qattat" enters Paradise (Al-`Awāli, Vol. 1, p. 266, tradition No. 58). A "qattat" is one who is guilty of committing calumny. The Prophet (ص) has also said, "The one amongst you who is the most loved by Allāh is the one who is the best in his manners, those who humble themselves as they embrace others, who find others to be good company and whom others find to be good company. Those whom Allāh Almighty hates the most are those who go about committing calumny, who sever the ties between brothers, who look for fault in others" (Al-`Awāli, Vol. 1, p. 106, tradition No. 21, and Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 146).
The Messenger of Allāh (ص) also said once, "Shall I inform you about the worst evildoers among you?" People said, "Yes, indeed, O Messenger of Allāh!" He (ص) said, "They are the ones who walk about committing calumny, who spoil the good relationship between those who love each other, who seek to find fault even with the innocent" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 146. See also Al-Khisāl, Vol. 1, p. 86).
Abū Tharr has said, "The Messenger of Allāh (ص) has said that if someone articulates a word against a Muslim seeking to shame him without a just cause, Allāh will shame him in the fire on the Day of Judgment" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 147). Abū al-Dardā' has said once that the Messenger of Allāh (ص) said, "If a man propagates a bad statement about someone who is guilty in order to defame him in this life, it will be incumbent upon Allāh, the most Exalted and the most Great, to penalize him for it on the Day of Judgment with the fire" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 147).
He (ص) has also been quoted as saying that when Allāh Almighty created Paradise, He said to it, "Speak!" It said, "Happy is anyone who enters me." The most Great One said, "I swear by My Exaltation and Greatness, eight categories of people shall find no room in you: None will reside in you if he is a habitual drinker, or one who insists on committing adultery, or one who goes around committing calumny, or one who has no concern about his honor, or one who acts [with others] like a policeman, or a homosexual, or one who severs his ties with his kin, or one who says, 'I pledge to Allāh to do such-and-such' but does not do it" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 147).
The father of Ja`far (ع) is quoted as saying, "Paradise is prohibited from those who commit calumny, who slander others" (Al-Kāfi, Vol. 2, p. 365). The father of Abdullāh (ع) cites the Commander of the Faithful (ع) saying, "The most evil persons among you are those who spread calumny by slandering, who separate loved ones from each other, who seek fault with the innocent" (Al-Kāfi, Vol. 2, p. 369).
It has been narrated that Moses (ع) prayed for rain for the Israelites during a drought. Allāh Almighty inspired this to him: "I shall respond neither to you nor to those with you as long as there is one person among you who insists on slandering." Moses (ع) said, "Who is he, Lord, so we may get him out of our company?" Allāh Almighty said, "O Moses! Shall I prohibit you from calumny while I commit it?!" They all repented, and they had all been guilty of it (see Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 147).
It has also been narrated that someone followed a wise man the distance of seven hundred parasangs for the sake of seven statements. When he met him, he said, "I have come to meet you on account of the knowledge which Allāh Almighty has granted you. Inform me about the heavens, what is heavier than it, about the earth and what is more broad than it, about the stones and what is harder than them, about the fire and what is hotter than it, about the Zamharir (an ice-cold place in hell) and what is colder than it, about the sea and what is more precious than it, and about the orphan and who feels weaker than him."
The wise man said, "Articulating falsehood about someone innocent is heavier [with Allāh] than the heavens. Right is broader than the heavens and the earth. A contended heart is more precious than the sea. Miserliness and envy are hotter than the Fire. Need for help from someone close, when it is not met, is colder than Zamharir. The heart of an unbeliever is harder than stones. A slanderer the truth about whom is disclosed feels more needy than an orphan" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 147).
Be advised that calumny is more often applied to what results from someone telling someone else what a third party says, such as, "So-and-so says such-and-such about you." It is not specifically relevant to such a person; rather, it is applied to what is more general, as has already been explained while discussing backbiting and the penalty for committing it in a more general sense.
It is the disclosure of something which someone hates to be disclosed, whether the person cited or the person to whom it is cited, or even a third party, hates its citation, and whether the disclosure is done by word of the mouth or in writing or by a reference, a symbol, or by beckoning, and whether what is cited is an action or a statement, and whether or not it is about a defect or a shortcoming in the particular individual. Actually, the truth about calumny is this: revealing a secret and tearing down a veil to show what is hated to be revealed. In fact, all what one sees of the conditions of another person he must keep to himself except when talking about it is beneficial for any Muslim individual or to prevent the committing of a transgression. For example, if one sees how someone is mishandling the wealth of someone else, he has to testify to what he sees in order to protect the rights of the wronged person.
But if one sees another person hiding money for himself, so he talks about it, he will then be committing calumny and revealing a secret if the calumny which he articulates is relevant to a shortcoming or a defect in the individual who is the subject of the statement, he will then have combined both backbiting and calumny.
The reason which prompts one to commit calumny may be a desire to harm the person about whom he talks, or to show love for the person to whom he talks, or to see the impact of the narrative on the spectators or simply out of being nosy.
Anyone to whom calumny is carried and he hears that so-and-so said such-and-such about him or did something to him, plotting against him or trying to get close to his opponent, or to tarnish his image, or anything like that…, this necessitates six matters:
First: One must not believe such an individual because anyone who disseminates calumny is evil and his testimony is rejected. Allāh Almighty has said, "O you who believe! If an evil person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth about it lest you should harm people unwittingly and afterwards become full of regret for what you had done" (Qur'ān, 49:6).
Second: He must prohibit him from so doing, admonish him and shows him the ugliness of what he does. The Almighty says, "… enjoin what is just, and forbid what is wrong" (Qur'ān, 31:17).
Third: He must hate him out of his own fear of Allāh, for such an individual is hated by Allāh, and anyone who is hated by Allāh must likewise be hated.
Fourth: You must not think ill of your brother just because of what someone says on account of this verse by the Almighty: "O you who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible)" (Qur'ān, 49:12). Rather, he must remain steadfast till what he hears is confirmed.
Fifth: What is said to you must not prompt you to spy and look for something on account of this verse by the Almighty: "… and do not spy on each other" (Qur'ān, 49:12).
Sixth: You must not accept for yourself to commit that from the doing of which you prevented the calumny person, so you must not tell what he told you and say, "So-and-so told me such-and-such," for you will thus be committing calumny and backbiting and sinning the same sin against which you admonished someone else.
It is narrated about Imām Ali (ع) that a man came to him to speak ill of someone. The Imām (ع) said, "Man! We will inquire about what you have stated. If you are proven to be right, we will hate you, and if you are proven to be a liar, we will punish you. If you wish we retire you, we can do it." The man said, "Retire me, O Commander of the Faithful!" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 148. Also see Al-Ikhtisas, p. 142).
[Caliph] Omer ibn Abdul-Azīz followed suit in the Imām's steps. A man spoke ill to him of another, so Omer said, "If you wish, we look into what we should do about you: If you are a liar, you will be included in this verse: 'If an evil person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth' (Qur'ān, 49:6). And if you are truthful, you will be included in this verse: 'A slanderer, going about with calumnies' (Qur'ān, 68:11). And if you wish, we can forgive you." The man said, "Forgive me, O Commander of the Faithful, for I shall never do it again" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 148).
It has been narrated that a man was visited by one of his brethren who told him something about someone else. The wise man said to him, "You did not come here soon enough, and you have brought me three acts of treachery: You made me hate my brother, you put something bad in my empty heart [against him], and you have charged your own soul which is supposed to be safe" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 148).
It has been narrated that a caliph said the following to a man: "It has come to my knowledge that you said such-and-such about me." The man said, "I neither said so nor did so." The caliph said, "The person who informed me is truthful." Al-Zuhri, who was at the time present there and then, said, "A person who goes about spreading calumny cannot be truthful." The caliph said, "You have spoken the truth." Turning to that man, the caliph said, "Go; may you be accompanied with safety" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 148).
Imām al-Hassan (ع) has said, "One who conveys calumny to you does the same about you" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 148).
This points out to the fact that one who spreads calumny ought to be hated and not trusted as a friend. How can he not be hated while he keeps lying, backbiting, being treacherous, betraying others, bearing grudge towards others, being envious, hypocritical, tricky and spoiling relations among people? How can he not be hated while he remains to be among those who sever the ties which Allāh ordered to remain connected? Allāh Almighty says, "Those who break God’s covenant after its confirmation, and those who sever what Allāh has ordered to be joined and make mischief on earth…" (Qur'ān, 2:27).
Allāh has also said, "Blame is only against those who oppress men with wrong-doing and insolently transgress beyond bounds throughout the land, defying what is right and just" (Qur'ān, 42:42).
The Prophet (ص) has said, "Among the most evil of people is one who is shunned by people because of his mischief" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 148). He (ص) has also said, "One who severs [sacred] ties shall not enter Paradise" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 148). It is said that such an individual severs ties between people, one who spreads calumny. It is also said that one who severs his ties with his kinsfolk is included in such description.
Luqman the Wise said to his son once, "O son! I admonish you about attributes which, if you adhere to them, shall keep you a master: Be nice to those who are near [in kinship] to you as well as those who are far; withhold your ignorance from men of honor and from mean men; safeguard your brethren; stay in touch with your relatives and protect them from the statement of one with evil intentions or from listening to a mischief-maker who wants to corrupt you and deceive you; let your brethren be those who, when you are away from them, neither backbite you nor you backbite them" Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 149).
Some wise men have said, "If what a person going about disseminating calumny transmits to you is true, he would cause you to be condemned. The person whom he cites is more worthy of your clemency because he did not taunt you face-to-face" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 149).
On the whole, the evil brought about by one who disseminates calumny is great and ought to be avoided. It is narrated that someone sold a slave and said to the buyer, "There is no fault in him other than spreading calumny." The buyer said, "I agree to buy him." He bought him. The slave remained there for days. Then he said to his master's wife: "Your husband does not love you, and he wants to cheat you in secrecy; so, take this razor blade and shave hairs from his back so I may apply magic to him and he will thereafter love you."
He then went to the husband and said, "Your wife has taken a lover to herself and wants to kill you; so, pretend that you are asleep so you may come to know this fact for yourself." He pretended to be asleep. The woman brought the razor blade in her hand, whereupon her husband thought she wanted to kill him with it, but he killed her instead. The woman's family came and killed the husband, and fighting kept raging between both tribes for a long time.
The other discussion is that of one having two tongues: He goes between two persons, especially if there is enmity between them, telling each one of them something which he believes, thus, seldom can there be two persons bearing such animosity towards each other. This is hypocrisy, and it is one of the major sins regarding which there are specific warnings.
Ammār ibn Yāsir has quoted the Prophet (ص) saying, "One who has two faces in this life will have two tongues of fire on the Day of Judgment" (Al-Khisāl, Vol. 1, p. 38, tradition 18 and Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 149).
He (ص) is also quoted as having said, "You will find among the most evil of Allāh's servants on the Judgment Day one who has two faces: He brings these folks what those others say" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 150). In another tradition, he (ص) describes such an individual as "facing these with one face and those with another" (Ibid.).
It has been said that the following is written in the Torah: "Trust is now nil, and a man treats his fellow with two different lips" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 150).
The Prophet (ص) has also said, "The most hated from among Allāh's creation on Judgment Day are the liars, the haughty, and those who harbor hatred in their hearts against their brethren. If they meet them, they behave nicely to them, and if they are invited towards Allāh and His Messenger, they are slow, but if they are invited towards Satan and his scheming, they are swift" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 150).
Through his isnād to Imām Ali (ع) , al-Sadūq has narrated saying that the Messenger of Allāh (ص) said, "On the Day of Judgment, the one having two faces will come with his tongue outstretched all the way to his back, dragging another tongue behind him, both are aflame till they burn his body. It will then be said, 'This is the one who used to have in his lifetime two faces and two tongues.' He shall thus be identified on the Day of Judgment" (Al-Khisāl, Vol. 1, p. 37, tradition No. 16).
Through isnād to Imām al-Bāqir (ع) , the Imām said, "The worst type of a servant [of Allāh] is one who has two faces and two tongues. He praises his brother when he faces him and chews him when he is absent. If his brother is given something, he envies him, and if he is afflicted, he betrays him" (Iqāb al-A`māl, p. 317, tradition No. 3).
Through his isnād to him (ع), the Imām says, "The worst type of a servant [of Allāh] is one who goes around with calumny, slandering others. He faces one with a face and leaves him with another" (Iqāb al-A`māl, p. 317, tradition No. 4).
Also through isnād to him (ص), he (ص) said, "Allāh Almighty said this to Jesus son of Mary: 'O Jesus! Let your tongue be in secrecy and in open one and the same tongue, and so should be your heart. I warn you against your own soul, and you know it sufficiently. Two tongues do not fit in one month, nor two swords in one scabbard, nor two hearts in one chest, and so are the minds" (Iqāb al-A`māl, p. 317, tradition 5).
Be informed that one is proven to have two tongues through matters which include the following:
He carries what one person says to the other, and it is nevertheless calumny and more so, for calumny is committed when one quotes one person to another only.
Another is that one must be good to each one of them with regard to the enmity each bears towards the other even if he does not report what they say about each other.
Another is that he promises to support and assist each of them.
Another is that one praises each of them even during his hostility, and it is better if he praises him to his face even though he may speak ill of him once he leaves his company, while he ought to keep silent or praise righteousness in the presence of the individual as well as during his absence and even before his opponent. Both tongues will not be the same with regard to opponents.
Speaking nicely to each of them even in honesty, one may be a friend of both opponents, but it will be a weak friendship which does not reach the limit of brotherhood. If there is real friendship, such friendship would require hostility towards the foe as is well known: The friends are three types: the friend, the friend of the friend, and the enemy of the enemy. And the enemies, too, are three types: an enemy, an enemy of a friend, and a friend of an enemy (refer to Nahjul-Balāgha, p. 527, axiom No. 295).
We say that if one does not have to meet the person in authority or mix with the creed's enemy, and if he chooses to meet with him and accompany him, seeking prominence and wealth beyond what is necessary, he will fit the description of one having two tongues, a hypocrite, as al-Dahhāk states.
The Prophet (ص) has said, "Love for power and wealth plants the seed of hypocrisy in the heart just as water helps the growth of beans" (Ihuyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 150). If one has a need to do so in order to avoid a necessity, he is excused and there is no harm in him. Avoiding evil is permissible.
Abū al-Dardā has said, "We quite often smile for some people while our hearts hold them in contempt."
It is narrated that a man was excessive in flattering the Prophet (ص), so he said, "How bad the Bedouin is!" But when the man visited the Prophet (ص) again, the Prophet (ص) was very nice to him. He (ص) was asked about it, so he said, "The most evil person is one who is honored in order to avoid his evil" (Ihuyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 151).
The third type of envy is one of the greatest ills and transgressions, the most evil and the worst spoiler of one's heart, and it is the first sin that was committed on earth when Iblis envied Adam, so envy caused Iblis to commit a transgression. Thus, catastrophe happened from that time and it continues for eternity. Allāh has ordered His Prophet to seek refuge with Him against such evil saying, "[… seek refuge with the Lord of the Dawn] from the mischief of the envious one as he envies” (Qur'ān, 113:5).
The Messenger of Allāh (ص) has said, "Envy consumes good deeds just as the fire consumes firewood" (Tanbīh al-Khawātir, Vol. 1, p. 126; see also Jāmi` al-Akhbār, p. 186).
He (ص) has also said, "Six persons shall enter the fire on account of six reasons [respectively]: rulers because of inequity, Bedouin Arabs because of fanaticism, merchants because of haughtiness, business people because of betrayal, paper sellers because of ignorance, and scholars because of envy" (Tanbīh al-Khawātir, Vol. 1, p. 127).
He (ص) is quoted as having said, "The disease of the nations that have preceded you has crept into your community: envy, hatred and the shaver, and by the shaver I do not mean shaving the hair but shaving the creed. By the One Who holds the soul of Muhammad (ص)! You shall not enter paradise till you believe, and you shall not believe till you love each other. Shall I inform you about what firms love among you? It is the dissemination of greeting" (Ihuyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 177 and Tanbīh al-Khawātir, Vol. 1, p. 127).
In a narrative by Mu'āth [ibn Jabal], the Prophet (ص) said, "The recording angels ascend with reports about a good deed done by a servant of Allāh like a bride is wedded to her new family till they reach the fifth heavens with that good report about acts of righteousness such as jihād or hajj, and it has a light like sunshine. An angel would say, 'I am the angel in charge of recording envies. The doer of this deed used to envy people for what Allāh had granted them out of His favor, and he used to feel displeased about what pleases Allāh; my Lord has ordered me not to permit his good deed to bypass by me" (Uddat al-Dā`i, p. 228).
Imām al-Sādiq (ع) has said, "The envious person harms himself before harming the person whom he envies just like Iblis who left for himself, because of his envy, a curse and to Adam, peace be with him, the distinction, guidance and prominence to a station of the facts of the covenant and selection. So, be an envied person and do not be the envious one, for the scales of the envious person shall always be light on account of the scales of those whom he envies. Sustenance is already pre-determined; so, what good can envy do to the envious person, and what harm shall the envied person receive?
Envy originates in the blindness of the heart and the denial of the favor of Allāh, and they both are two wings of disbelief. It is due to envy that the son of Adam fell in deprivation for eternity, perishing in a way from which he shall never be saved. No repentance can be accepted from an envious person because he is habitual, believing in envy, being accustomed to it, so much so that he sees none as opposing him, nor is there a reason for his envy, either. Of course, one's nature can never change even if it may be treated" (Misbāh al-Sharī`a, p. 104). Suffices envy as an illness its hurling scholars into the Fire as the previous tradition indicates.
Be informed that envy stirs five things:
First: It undermines acts of obedience to Allāh. The Messenger of Allāh (ص) has said, "Envy consumes good deeds just as fire consumes firewood" (Tanbīh al-Khawātir, Vol. 1, p. 126).
Second: It stirs the doing of transgressions and evilness. Some men of virtue have said, "An envious person has three marks: He flatters someone when the latter is present, he backbites someone when he is absent, and he feels good when someone is afflicted. Suffices you the fact that Allāh has commanded us to seek refuge with Him from his evil, likening him to Satan and the wizard who blows on knots, as has already been indicated.
Third: Envy stirs weariness and distress in vain, rather, in addition to any burden or transgression. Someone has said, "I have never seen an oppressor whose condition is similar to an oppressed person more than the envious person: He continuously envies, his mind always wanders about, and distress never parts with him."
Fourth: Deprivation and disappointment are his lot; so, he hardly achieves his objective or wins victory over his foe. It is said that an envious person is never supported. How can he achieve his goal while his goal is actually the removal of a blessing which Allāh bestowed upon one of His servants?! How can he win victory over his foes while they are the servants of Allāh to whom Allāh cast His look and upon whom He bestowed His blessing especially since this blessing is knowledge?!
The talk about envy is quite lengthy due to the "scholars of the hearts" having looked into it, researched it and diagnosed its strong illness in the hearts of the elite folks, let alone the commoners; so, let us confine our research here to certain topics:
The truth about it is coveting what others possess, their status, etc. and its removal from others. It is set in motion concurrently with the force of anger, with an assertion of anger, its perpetuation and increase according to the increase in the status of the envied person to which envy is attached.
For this reason, Imām Ali (ع) has said, "The envious person is angry against one who has committed no sin" (Jāmi` al-Akhbār, p. 186). And it is a type of injustice and inequity. The Imām (ع) has also said, "There is no comfort with envy" (Ghurar al-Hikam, p. 525; There is no comfort for the envious person"). The envious person's desire and way of thinking about how to get the status of the one whom he envies and how it is removed from that person dominates the movement of his bodily parts, a movement which deprives him of comfort.
The men of wisdom have agreed that envy, besides being psychologically harmful to a great extent, is one of the great causes for the world's destruction. The envious person mostly moves and schemes in order to destroy those who enjoy blessings, prominence and wealth upon whose existence the earth stands. Envy is not attached to others, such as men of lowliness or poverty. The effort of the envious person never falters in his effort till the status of the envied person is removed. He himself will in the end perish due to the actual movements dictated by his senses or by what he says. For this reason, it is said that "One who envies a bliss is never pleased till it disappears" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 178). Since the motive in the power of anger stands, such power keeps mobile and mobilizing.
Quite often, the effort of mischief-makers between those in authority and their subjects proves to be quite effective due to the mischief-maker's knowledge that they, the men in authority, are capable of accepting what he says about others due to both parties having the same nature, their powers of desire and of anger being similar. But quite often, the endeavor of the envious person, who aspires to remove the bliss enjoyed by the persons whom he envies, brings about another bliss of the Almighty Who safeguards these envied persons and gives them an increase of His blessings. Hence, the envious person will have no way to harm them. Rather, harm will afflict those who oppress people and make corruption in the land without a just cause. The mischief of such persons will be a cause for the destruction of the land; the earth and those living on it will thus be corrupted, and Allāh does not love corruption.
Now, since you have come to know that only a blessing brings about envy, when Allāh bestows a blessing upon your brother, you have one of two options: One of them is that you hate that blessing and love its disappearance, and this status is called envy. The other is that you do not like to see it disappearing, you do not like to see it there and that it perpetuates, but you wish you have the same blessing, and this is called "commendable envy" and may be termed as "competition". Allāh Almighty has said,
"… and for this, let those who have aspirations aspire" (Qur'ān, 83:26).
Competition may be labeled as envy, or envy as competition, such as this statement by Abdullāh al-Fadl and Qatham ibn al-Abbās to Imām Ali (ع) when the Imām advised them not to go to the Prophet (ص) to ask him about placing them in charge of administering charity, and they were of the view to do just that: "What you say is only by way of competition; by Allāh, he married you to his daughter and we did not envy you for it!" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 180).
It is also similar to this statement of the Prophet (ص): "Nobody should envy anyone except when it comes to the creed: Allāh grants wealth to someone, making it a cause for his perdition for the cause of the truth, to a man whom Allāh granted knowledge, so he acts upon it and teaches it to people" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 180). What is prohibited is the first of both these cases, whereas the first is held as contemptible. The Prophet (ص) has said, "A believer articulates commendable jealousy, whereas a hypocrite envies" (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 179). But if a blessing reaches a sinner who uses it to harm people, fuel dissension, harm the creed and the like, hating it and desiring to see it disappear do not harm him so long as it is not looked upon as a blessing but a tool for corruption. The previously cited verse and tradition prove that the second case is not prohibitive.
Allāh Almighty has said, "Race in (seeking) forgiveness from your Lord" (Qur'ān, 57:21). Racing with time like that stems out of concern lest the opportunity should pass by. It is like two slaves racing with each other to serve their master. Each of them hopes he will out-race his fellow and thus earn a status with his master which the other does not. Competition may even be obligatory if what is being competed for is an obligation. If one does not like to race towards it, he will be contented with the prohibited transgression. Or it may be eagerly sought, such as with regard to virtues like spending money for a good cause or for ethical virtues, or it may be described as permissible if it is with regard to something permissible.
On the whole, it depends on the object of "competition". But in competition there is precision and a mysterious danger against which those who seek salvation must guard themselves. It is this: If one loses hope for acquiring a blessing similar to what is being competed for, and he hates to lag behind others and thus remain deficient, there is no option for him other than desiring the removal of such shortcoming. It is removed by one of two ways: He earns a similar blessing, or the blessing enjoyed by the competitor disappears. If one of the paths is blocked in the face of the endeavoring person, his heart will almost covet the other path, for with the removal of the blessing, the undesired shortcoming will disappear. He must put himself to test: If he feels he has a choice, and if he chooses to do his best so the blessing may be removed from his competitor, this is contemptible envy. But if his piety prevents him from doing anything at all to remove it, he will be forgiven for what he finds within him of the feeling of content regarding the disappearance of the blessing so long as his mind tells him that his rational power tells him he hates to see it disappearing.
Since you by now know the truth about envy, be informed that it has four stages:
First: One wishes a blessing to depart from another even if it does not go to him, and this is meanness and the worst degree of envy.
Second: He loves the blessing to depart and go to him due to his desire for it, so much so that his pursuit is the blessing itself and not just its departure from the other person who has it.
Third: He does not covet it in particular but wish for himself the like. If he cannot obtain its like, he loves to see it disappear so the difference between both of them will disappear, too. This third case is prohibitive and it ranks in strength as it ranks in pronouncement.
Fourth: He wishes for himself the like. If this cannot happen, he does not like it to part from that individual. This in particular is the commendable envy; actually, the creed praises it, and we call it "permissible envy".
These are Quite Few, but they are rendered [mainly] to seven causes:
1. enmity, 2. self-love, 3. pride, 4. conceit, 5. concern about missing pursuits, 6. love for authority, 7. corruption of the soul and miserliness of the "nafs"
1. The man is his enemy; therefore, he does not wish him any good, and this does not apply only to peers.
2. He is concerned the other person will feel superior to him on account of the blessing which he has, and he cannot tolerate this person's superiority and greatness because of his feeling of esteem which we describe as self-love.
3. It is his own nature to feel superior to the one whom he envies, but this cannot be due to the other person's blessing, and this is what is described as pride.
4. A blessing may be great and the position huge, so he wonders why someone else like that person wins them while he himself does not, and this is called conceit.
5. He may be concerned that he will miss his opportunity to achieve his pursuit because of that person's bliss, so he competes with him with regard to his own affairs.
6. It may be due to love for power and authority. This love is based on one having a blessing in which no two persons are equal.
7. It may not be due to any of the above-stated causes but to one's own soul being corrupt and to having no pleasure in seeing the servants of Allāh enjoying a blessing.
The most Praised One has pointed to the first cause in this verse: "… Hatred has already appeared from their mouths…" (Qur'ān, 3:118). Referring to the second, He says, "They also say, 'Why is not this Qur'ān sent down to some leading man in either of the two (main) cities?'” (Qur'ān, 43:31). In other words, "In that case, it would not have been hard on us to humble ourselves to him and follow him if he is such a great person."
Some people (pagans) had already said, "How can an orphaned young man be advanced over us, and how can we bow our heads to him?!"
In reference to the fourth, the Almighty says, "(People) said, 'You are only men like ourselves…!'" (Qur'ān, 36:15); "They said, 'Shall we believe in two men like ourselves?!'" (Qur'ān, 23:47); "… If you obey a man like yourselves, behold, you will certainly be lost" (Qur'ān, 23:34). They were amazed about a human being like themselves winning the status of carrying the divine message and inspiration and be so close to Allāh Almighty; therefore, they envied him and said in astonishment: "… Has Allāh sent a man like us to be (His) Prophet?!" (Qur'ān, 17:94). The Almighty, thereupon, said, "… Do you wonder that, through a man of your own people, a message has come to you from your Lord to warn you?!" (Qur'ān, 7:63 and 7:69).
The most damaging causes are the fifth and sixth above because they are relevant to evil scholars and their likes. The fifth is rendered to two persons competing for one pursuit. Both of them envy each other in every blessing which helps one become distinguished over the other.
Included in this category is the envy among fellow wives who compete with each other for married life's pursuits.
And there is competition among brothers to earn a status with the Almighty.
People crowd around members of a select group with each person trying to earn a status in their hearts so he may achieve his objectives.
The sixth is rendered to love for people desiring to monopolize power, win praise only for their own selves, feel happy when people praise them, etc. They think that they are unequalled, having no peers. If one of them hears about someone in the furthermost part of the world speaking ill of him, he loves to see that person dead or the blessing which he enjoys disappear so he may not share his status.
Add to this what the hearts of some scholars conceal: They seek prominence and a status in the heart of people in order to reach their goals and be the masters.
Jewish scholars knew about the message of the Messenger of Allāh (ص), but they denied and disbelieved in it for fear it would foil their mastership, and they would thus become followers after having been followed, regardless of the fact that their knowledge is now history.
One or more of these causes, or most of them, or even all of them, may be incorporated in one and the same person: Thus, the illness of envy in him is magnified manifold. It takes control of his heart and becomes so strong, he cannot hide it or try to be nice about it. Instead, he tears off the veil of nicety and openly reveals his hostility. This can hardly be removed except through death. It is quite seldom one single cause is behind such envy.
The root of enmity and envy is more than one person seeking the same objective, and one objective cannot incorporate two contradictory matters but, rather, parallel ones; therefore, you can see envy spreading among like-minded persons, peers, brothers, cousins and relatives. It is much less among others except in the case when they all are combined in one particular goal. Yes, due to one's extreme desire for power and fame in all corners of the world, he envies everyone in the world who is regarded as his peer in the merit about which he brags. And the origin of all of this is love for this world. To the competitors, this world is too narrow.
As for the Hereafter, there is now narrowness in it. Rather, its similitude is knowledge: One who knows Allāh Almighty, His angels, prophets, the domains of His land and heavens, will not envy others if he also knows that knowledge is never too narrow for those who seek it. Rather, the One Who is known is also known by a million scholars. Each person feels happy when he knows Him, finding such knowledge to be delicious, and there will be no joy lacking because of others. Rather, when those who have such knowledge, closeness and the fruit of knowledge and of benefiting are all there, there can be no envy among the scholars of religion because their pursuit is a wide ocean which has no narrowness, and their goal is a status with Allāh where also there is no narrowness: The more there are such seekers, the more joy there is.
Yes, if scholars seek in return for their knowledge money and power, they will envy each other because money is a material thing; it is tangible. If it falls in the hand of one person, it does so because it leaves the hand of another. So is power: It implies domination over the hearts. When someone's heart is filled with glorification for one particular scholar, or if one's heart is empty of it, there will definitely be a reason for envy.
As for knowledge, there is no end to it, nor can anyone imagine absorbing it. One who exerts his effort to attain it and occupies himself with thinking about the Greatness and Glory of the Almighty, this will become sweeter to him than all material blessings. He will not prevent anyone else from enjoying the same, nor will he compete with anyone else in this regard. So, there will be no envy in his heart towards any human being. If someone else gets to know similarly to what he knows, this will not decrease his pleasure. Rather, his pleasure is increased by finding out that someone else feels the same way. Rather, the similitude of those who know the truth and who follow the path is just as Allāh Almighty has said in this verse: "And We shall remove any lurking sense of injury from their hearts: (They will be) brothers (joyfully) facing each other on thrones (of dignity)" (Qur'ān, 15:47).
Such is their condition in the life of this world. What do you think will happen, then, when the veil is removed and when the Loved One is seen at the time of receiving the rewards?! There shall be nobody envying another in Paradise because there is neither limit to it nor competition in it. So, Brother, may Allāh enable us and your own self, if you have the insight and if you are concerned about your own soul, to seek a bliss that has no narrowness in it and a pleasure that can never be spoiled, and surely Allāh is the One Who grants success.
Be informed that envy is one of the illnesses that greatly affect the hearts, and that the illnesses of the heart cannot be cured except with knowledge and with acting upon such knowledge. The knowledge which cures the sickness of envy is that you should know for sure that envy harms you in the life of this world and harms your creed while it does not harm the one whom you envy, neither in his life nor in his creed; rather, he actually benefits from it.
When you come to know this out of true insight, and you are not your own enemy or the friend of your enemy, envy will definitely part with you. As regarding its being harmful to you with regard to your creed, it is due to the fact that through envy, you angered Allāh Almighty with regard to what He decrees and hated His blessing which He distributes to His servants as well as His justice which He has established in His domain due to His knowledge: You have found this to be too much and too awful.
Such an attitude is unfair towards the concept of Tawhīd and an eyesore to conviction, īmān, let alone its being injustice against the creed. Moreover, you have cheated a believer, abandoned his advice and parted with the friends of Allāh and His prophets in their love for goodness for Allāh's servants. You have shared with Iblis and the rest of unbelievers their love for affliction for the believers and for blessings parting with them.
All these are heart-filled impurities that consume good deeds just as fire consumes firewood, wiping them out just as night wipes out daytime.
As regarding its being harmful to you in the life of this world, it is so due to pain consuming your body. Thus, you are tortured, and you continue to be depressed because Allāh does not take away from others the blessings which He bestows upon them abundantly. For this reason, you continue to be tortured by each of these blessings which you see, and you feel the pain whenever any tribulation leaves them. You remain sad, deprived, your heart heavy, your soul strained, just the same status which you wish for your own enemies, and just as your enemies wish for you.
You wanted calamity to befall upon your enemy, whereupon immediately your own affliction and distress fell upon you. A blessing does not leave someone whom you envy. Had you not believed in resurrection and judgment, ultimate discretion, if you are wise, dictates a warning to you against envy due to the pain it causes to the heart, to you being one day questioned about it, to its being futile; so, how so since you know about the extreme pain envy carries for you in the hereafter? How amazing it is when a rational person is exposed to the wrath of Allāh without gaining anything in return but a harm which he has to suffer and a pain which he has to endure, thus destroying his creed and life without any gain or benefit whatsoever!
With regard to the fact that it causes no harm to the one who is envied with regard to his creed and life, it is quite obvious because a blessing does not leave him when you envy him. Rather, whatever Allāh decrees of acceptance and a blessing have to endure till a time which Allāh Almighty determines; there is no way they can be otherwise lifted. If he has earned a blessing on account of knowledge, or due to an act of righteousness for which he endeavored, there is no way it can be lifted, too.
Rather, you ought to blame your own self because he exerted an effort whereas you sat still; he was fired with energy while you remained lazy; he remained vigilant while you slept. Your condition fits the description implied in a verse of poetry that says, "They energetically labored, as good people do, so they achieved their pursuit, and they were safe as fates lied in ambush for them, too."
Since a blessing is not removed no matter how much its owner is envied, the envied person will not be harmed in this life, nor will he bear a sin on its account in the hereafter. You may tell yourself how you wished that blessing to part from the one whom you envy through your envy. This is the ultimate ignorance and stupidity: Your desire brings affliction to your own self first and foremost, since you, too, are not without an enemy who envies you! Had blessings been removed through envy, Allāh would not have kept one blessing which you yourself enjoy, nor will all people have had one blessing, not even the blessing of belief (īmān) in Him, for the unbelievers envy the believers for having believed. Allāh Almighty says,
"Some of the People of the Book wish to lead you astray. But they shall lead (only) themselves astray, and they do not perceive!" (Qur'ān, 3:69).
And if you desire a blessing to depart from someone else who does envy you but does not depart from you on account of others envying you for it, this is the ultimate ignorance and stupidity, for every stupid envier wishes the same, and you are not better than others! Allāh's blessing on you is that the blessing which you have is not removed on account of someone envying you, a blessing which you should thank Him for whereas you, due to your ignorance, dislike it.
As regarding the envied person earning benefits in his creed and life (when he is envied), it is quite clear:
Regarding benefiting in his creed, he is being wronged by you especially if your envy prompts you to articulate and act upon backbiting and slandering him, unveiling his faults, shortcomings and secrets, for these are gifts which you give him: You are giving him gifts from your own good deeds and you keep doing so till you meet this person on the Judgment Day having become bankrupt, deprived of blessings just as you had exited this life. It is as though you wanted the blessing to depart from him, but it did not, and your desire was a curse on you, for Allāh enabled you to succeed in earning good deeds but you transferred them to him, thus losing blessings which He had bestowed upon you, adding to your own self pain upon pain.
As regarding its worldly benefit, the most important concern among humans is to harm their enemies, cause them agony and pain and keep them tortured and agonized. There is no torture worse than the one from which you yourself suffer. The ultimate hope of your enemies is that they enjoy bliss while you remain in agony and sigh because of them, and you have done to your own self what these enemies seek.
Imām Ali (ع) has said, "An envious person never sees comfort" (Ghurar al-Hikam, p. 525). He (ع) has also said, "The envious person is always angry with someone who has not sinned against him" (Jāmi` al-Akhbār, p. 186).
You have come to know from these researches the meanings of both expressions, and for this sake, you ought not let your enemies desire your death but that your lifespan prolongs as the torture of envy keeps consuming you: When you cast a look at the blessings which Allāh has bestowed upon them, your heart will be torn to pieces by your envy. It is for this reason that the poet has said, "Your enemies did not die but live forever till they see something in you that pleases their hearts so long as you remain envied on account of a blessing, for only a perfect person is envied."
Your enemy is happier when you are distressed and envious than his happiness with his own blessing.
If you contemplate on all of this, you will come to know that you are the enemy of your own self and the friend of your own foe. You achieved what caused you harm in the life of this world and in the hereafter while your foe has benefited from it in this life and will benefit from it in the life hereafter. You have become a wretch among people and their Creator with regard to your condition and possessions.
Moreover, you did not confine yourself to earning your enemy's pursuit till you brought the greatest pleasure to Iblis who is the most avowed enemy among all your enemies because you did not love what the people of righteousness love for their own selves in order that you may be counted among them. This is so because one keeps company with those whom he loves, so Iblis loved you; thus, you became his companion. Reports about the Prophet (ص) are consecutive in saying that a person keeps company with those whom he loves (see Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 186).
Although you are neither a scholar nor a learned person, you must be a loving person. Due to your envy, you have missed out on the rewards of love and those who love. You may envy a man of knowledge and wish he may err with regard to Allāh's creed and his error will be revealed so he may be scandalized. And you may love to see something happen to him that prevents him from seeking knowledge or from teaching. What a greater sin is there than that?! How lucky you would have been had you joined their company then you felt sad because you could not, and due to your sadness you may be exempted from the sin and the torture in the hereafter!
Traditions tell us that the residents of Paradise are three categories: one who is a doer of good deeds, one who loves such a doer, and one who spares his harm from such a doer (Ihyā Ulūm ad-Dīn, Vol. 3, p. 187), that is, one who spares him harm, envy and grudge. So, look and see how Iblis has distanced you from all these three Gates of Paradise! Iblis has caused your envy to harm you more than it harmed your enemy.
Had your condition been revealed to you when you are awake or asleep, you would have seen yourself, you envious person, in the shape of one who tries to throw a rock at his enemy to harm his eyes, but the rock returns to harm his own right eye, blinding it. He will thus be angrier, so he goes back to throwing it harder than the first time, and it returns to his other eye, blinding it, too. His anger is now more intense, so he returns to try a third time, when this time the rock returns to his head to split it, while his enemy remains safe all the time while his own enemy is happy about what has happened to him, laughing at him.
Such are the conditions of the envious person. No, actually, his condition is uglier because if the stone misses a portion of the eye, that portion will eventually be gone at the time of death, whereas the sin committed by the envious person does not disappear by death but is driven towards the Wrath of Allāh and ultimately to the fire. So, if his eye is gone in the life of this world, it is better than he has an eye whereby he enters the Fire the flame of which blinds it.
So, look at how Allāh Almighty seeks revenge against the envious person: While he wishes the disappearance of a blessing from someone whom he envies, he causes its disappearance from himself. Safety from committing a sin is a blessing, and safety from grief is another. Now they both are gone by token of this verse of the Almighty:
"… But the plotting of evil will harm only its own doers" (Qur'ān, 35:43).
He may be afflicted by what he wishes his enemy to get. A wise saying states that whenever someone feels happy about someone else's calamity, he will be afflicted by the same. These are the scientific medicines. If one thinks about them with a clear mind and an attentive heart, the fire of envy in his heart will be put out, and he will come to realize that he is ruining his own soul, making his enemy happy, causing his Lord to be angry with him and turning his life into hell!
As regarding the practical medicine, if one contemplates on what has already been stated, he ought to exert himself in doing the opposite of what his envy [Satan] dictates to him: He will then praise the same person whom he envies when he is told to speak ill of him, humbles himself to him when he thinks he is greater than him, and increases his favors on him when he is told to withhold them. These will be preludes to a complete harmony: The envy stuff is circumvented, the heart becomes free of the pain and agony such envy brings about. These medicines are quite useful, but they are very bitter. Yet there is benefit in a bitter medicine, and if one is not patient about the bitterness of medicine, he will never earn the sweetness of cure.
What prompts to undertake the effort to earn these commendable merits is the desire to earn rewards from Allāh Almighty and fear from His penalty. May Allāh grant us and your own selves success to apply such an effort through the medium of Muhammad and the progeny of Muhammad, peace and blessings be with them all.
We have been informed by the happy and righteous mentor Noor ad-Din Ali ibn Abd al-Ali al-Maysi, may the Almighty sanctify him and fill his grave with light, through permission from his mentor, the late forgiven Shams ad-Dīn Muhammad son of the caller to prayer al-Jazeeni who quotes the mentor Diyā ad-Dīn Ali son of the happy imām, scholar and critic Shams ad-Dīn Abū Abdullāh, the martyred Muhammad ibn Makki, who quotes his afore-mentioned father quoting the master Amīd ad-Dīn Abdul-Muttalib and the mentor Fakhr ad-Dīn son of the mentor and virtuous imām, the scholar who brought the creed to life, Jamal ad-Dīn al-Hassan ibn Yousuf ibn al-Mutahhar who quotes his afore-mentioned father quoting his happy grandfather, the one whose creed is sound, namely Yousuf ibn Ali ibn al-Mutahhar.
Who quotes the mentor/critic Najm ad-Dīn Ja`far ibn al-Hassan ibn Sa'īd al-Hilli quoting Sayyid Muhyi ad-Dīn Abū Hāmid Muhammad ibn Abdullāh ibn Ali ibn Zuhrah al-Hilli quoting the honorable faqīh Izz ad-Dīn Abū al-Harth Muhammad ibn al-Hassan al-Husaini al-Baghdadi quoting the mentor Qutb ad-Dīn Abul-Hussain ibn Sa`īd ibn Hibatullah al-Rawandūzi quoting the mentor Abū Ja'far Muhammad ibn Ali ibn al-Muhsin al-Halabi quoting the mentor faqīh Abul-Fath Muhammad ibn Ali al-Karajki.
Saying that Abū Abdullāh al-Hussain ibn Muhammad ibn al-Sairafi al-Baghdadi has said that Judge Abū Bakr Muhammad ibn al-Ji'ābi has said that Abū Muhammad al-Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Ja'far, one of the offspring of Omer ibn Ali, peace be with him, has said that his father quotes his father citing his forefathers quoting Imām Ali (ع) as saying that the Messenger of Allāh (ص) said, "A believer has three rights which his brother owes him and from which he has no way out except by carrying them out or be exempted from them (or any of them): He must forgive him when he slips away, have mercy on him when he sees him in tears, covers up his defect, straighten him when he stumbles, accepts his excuse when he seeks it, visits him when he returns from absence, continues to provide him with advice, safeguards his friendship.
Protects his trust, visits him during his sickness, be present when he dies, responds to his call, accepts his gift, rewards him for keeping in touch with him, thanks him when he bestows a blessing upon him, supports him very well, safeguards his lawful possessions, performs his errands, responds to his request, seeks Allāh's mercy for him when he sneezes, guides him when he strays, responds to his greeting, finds his speech to be good, expresses appreciation for his bounties, believes him when he swears, befriends him and not antagonize him, supports him when he is an oppressor or when he oppresses:
As regarding supporting him when oppresses, he keeps him away from oppressing. As regarding supporting him when he is oppressed, he helps him take what belongs to him. He does not hand him over [to his enemy], nor does he betray him; he loves for him the same goodness which he loves for himself, and he hates the same evil to afflict him as he hates it for himself" (Kanz al-Fawāid, Vol. 1, p. 306). Then the Imām (ع) said, "I have heard the Messenger of Allāh (ص) saying, 'Some of you leaves out something which he owes his brother, and on the Day of Judgment, he will be tried on its account'" (Kanz al-Fawāid, Vol. 1, p. 307).
Be informed that it is mandatory on the backbiter to repent, regret and feel sorry for what he has done so he may get himself out of Allāh Almighty exacting on him what he deserves. After that, he must seek forgiveness of the person whom he had backbitten, perhaps he will forgive him and get him out of his wrongdoing. He ought to seek his forgiveness while he is sorrowful, regretful about what he had done, for a pretentious person may seek forgiveness just to feign piety while inwardly he is not regretful at all, thus he adds another sin. There are two traditions regarding its atonement:
One is this tradition by the Prophet (ص): "The atonement for the one whom you had backbitten is that you seek Allāh's forgiveness for him" (Ihyā al-Ulūm, Vol. 3, p. 145; also see Al-Kāfi, Vol. 2, p. 357 and p. 172 of Al-A`māli by Sheikh al-Mufīd).
Another is his (ص) statement: "If one owes his [Muslim or human] brother for having wronged him, whether it may be with regard to his honor or wealth, he must seek his forgiveness for it before a Day comes when there is neither a dinar nor a dirham. It will be taken out of his good deeds. But if he has no good deeds, his fellow's bad deeds are transferred to him, adding to those of his own" (Ihyā al-Ulūm, Vol. 3, p. 145). One may combine seeking forgiveness for the one whom he backbit with seeking the Almighty's forgiveness especially if the backbitten person may not have come to know about the person who had backbitten him.
There is the possibility that if one goes to someone and seeks his forgiveness, this will further cause bad feelings and grudge. Such combination may also be applied in case one cannot meet the person whom he had backbitten because that person is now dead. It is commendable that one should go and seek forgiveness of one who knew that he had been backbitten by him, and it is commendable for the latter to accept the backbiter's excuse according to the verse by the Almighty that says, "… Hold to forgiveness; command what is right…" (Qur'ān, 7:199). The Messenger of Allāh (ص) asked Gabriel: "What is this forgiveness?" Gabriel said, "Allāh orders you to forgive whoever wronged you, to stay in touch with whoever severed his ties with you, and to give whoever deprived you" (Ihyā al-Ulūm, Vol. 3, p. 146).
According to another report, when humans are brought before Allāh Almighty on the Judgment Day, they will be addressed thus: "Let anyone who had sought rewards from Allāh stand", whereupon only those who had forgiven others would then stand" (Ihyā al-Ulūm, Vol. 3, p. 146).
It has been reported about someone that a man said to him, "So-and-so has backbitten you." He, therefore, sent him a platter of fresh dates and said to him, "It has come to my knowledge that you have given me by way of present some of your own good deeds; therefore, I wanted to reward you for them, but please excuse me because I can not reward you enough" (Ihyā al-Ulūm, Vol. 3, p. 146).
One route which the apologetic person can take is to exaggerate in praising the man whom he had backbitten and seek to be close to his heart and continue to do so till he wins his heart. But if he does not win his heart, his own apology and attempt to be close to that person will be regarded as good deeds counted for him, and they may suffice to wipe out the backbiting sin on the Judgment Day.
There is no difference between backbiting a young or an old person, a living or a dead one, a male or a female. Let seeking Allāh's forgiveness and supplicating for the person whom one had backbitten be done in a proper way that suits the person whom he had backbitten. He may supplicate the Almighty to grant a young person guidance, a dead person mercy and forgiveness, and so on.
The obligation is not dropped if one grants his honor to people because it is granting what should not be granted. Jurists have said that one who permits others to charge him doest not rescind his right for compensation. It has been narrated that the Prophet (ص) has said, "Can you at all be unable to do what Abū Damdam does? Whenever he leaves home, he says, 'Lord! I have offered my honor by way of charity to people'?" (Ihyā al-Ulūm, Vol. 3, p. 146).
It means: "I do not demand on the Judgment Day retribution from one who has wronged me [by backbiting me], and I do not complain about him." It does not mean that backbiting him had thus become permissible; rather, forgiveness must be sought for it as is the case with all other atonements, and surely Allāh is the One Who grants success.
What one can conclude is this: Be informed, may Allāh Almighty grant you and our own selves success, the ultimate goal of the most Exalted One with regard to His creation, and the first objective behind sending His prophets and messengers with divine books and legislated codes, is to attract the creation towards the One, Praise to Him, and to cure them of the ailment of ignorance. Their attention is to be directed towards the final abode, the rejection and safeguarding of this abode, lest one should perish if doing so is perilous, and they should be attracted to something which no eyes had ever seen, nor ear had ever heard, nor a human mind had ever imagined.
Attention is also drawn, thereafter, to managing the physical life-preserving needs and all means for preserving humankind. This depends on people getting together, cooperating and solidifying their ranks with each other through learning and teaching, reminding the men of reason, of knowledge and understanding, urging everyone to be of benefit to others in attaining what benefits him, too. By nature, man cannot be independent as he seeks his livelihood, nor can he alone meet all his needs such as food and other necessities.
There is no harm when the objective of the most Wise One, the most Great, focuses on people's togetherness, on hearts being in harmony, in love, when they are present or absent. Therefore, reports and legacies have all agreed to urge people to love each other, to abandon their disputes. The Almighty has increased the rights which His servants owe to each other, warning them against denying goodness and against being ingrates, promising them generous rewards when they care about each other and have affection for each other, warning them against abandoning such ethics with a great deal of punishment and retribution as you, by the will of Allāh, will come to know in the reports which we will cite about the Prophet (ص).
Let us state what suits this message twelve traditions so we may be brief. If one seeks the ultimate end, let him read the categorized books in this regard such as Al-Ikhwān book by al-Sadūq ibn Babawayh, the chapter on belief, the chapter on fellowship and other chapters in Al-Kāfi by al-Kulaini, may Allāh sanctify him, for there is in them sufficient wisdom for those who seek admonishment and a healing medicine for those who have vision.
Through the above-stated isnād tracked back to Sayyid Muhyi ad-Dīn Zuhrah, the latter says that he was told by Abul-Hassan Ahmad ibn Wahab ibn Sulaymān "… through my recitation to him in the month of Sha`bān in the year 591 A.H. (August of 1195 A.D.), he said that he was told by Judge Fakhrud-Dīn Abul-Rida ibn Sa`īd Abdullāh ibn al-Qasam al-Sahrawardi on Friday, 574 A.H. (September 22, 1178 A.D.) in Mosul saying that he was told by the hāfiz mentor Abū Bakr Wajeeh Tāhir al-Shahami in his recitation on a Wednesday, the fifth of the month of Ramadān of 539 A.H. (March 1, 1145 A.D.) saying that he was told by the kind mentor Abū Hāmid Ahmad ibn al-Hassan al-Azhari saying that he was told by the mentor Abū Muhammad al-Hassan ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hassan ibn Ali Mukhallad al-Mukhalladi al-Adl who recited the tradition to him and who acknowledged it. The latter said that he was told by al-Abbās Muhammad ibn Ishāq ibn Ibrahīm al-Thaqafi al-Sarraj with regard to his recitation to him in 312 A.H. (924 A.D.) which he acknowledged, saying that he was told by Qutaibah ibn Sa`īd who said that he had heard the tradition from al-Laith who quoted Aqīl quoting al-Zuhri quoting Sālim quoting his father saying that the Messenger of Allāh (ص) said, 'A Muslims is the brother of a Muslim; he does not wrong him or taunt him. When one is in need of his brother, Allāh will be behind him with regard to his need, and if one eases the distress of a Muslim, Allāh will reward him for it by easing one of his causes of distress on the Judgment Day. And if one covers the fault of another Muslim, Allāh will cover him on the Judgment Day'" (Al-`Awāli, Vol. 1, p. 128).
Through the previous isnād traced back to Sayyid Muhyi ad-Dīn saying that he was informed by the judge and Islam's mentor "Abul-Mahāsin" Yousuf ibn Rāfi` ibn Tamīm "… According to my recitation to him on the 14th of Jumada II in the year 618 A.H. (August 5, 1221 A.D.), he said that the imām/judge Fakhd ad-Dīn "Abū al-Rida" Sa`īd ibn al-Qasam al-Sahrūdi who was heard in Jumāda II of the year 574 (November of 1178 A.D.) saying that he was told by the imām/mentor "Abul-Fath" Muhammad ibn Abdul-Rahmān, the Kashmahini orator, according to my recitation to him on a Saturday, the 17th of Shawwāl of 541 A.H. (March 22, 1147 A.D.) saying that he was informed by Sheikh "Abul-Qāsim" Hibatullah ibn Abdul-Wārith ibn Ali ibn Ahmad al-Shirāzi, or he may have written it in person, in the month of Rabi` I in 486 A.H. (April of 1093 A.D.) saying that he was told by "Abū Nasr" Ahmad ibn Abdul-Baqi ibn al-Hassan ibn Tawq al-Mu`addal saying the he was told by "Abul-Qāsim" Nasr ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad, the jurist, saying the he was told by "Abū Ya`li" Ahmad ibn Ali ibn al-Muthanna, of Mosul, of Tamīm, saying that Habatullah and "Abul-Qāsim" Abdul-Azīz Ali ibn Ahmad al-Sukkari saying that he was told by "Abū Tahir" Muhammad ibn Abdul-Rahmān ibn al-Abbās al-Mukhallas saying that he was told by "Abul-Qāsim" Abdullāh ibn Muhammad ibn Abdul-Azīz al-Baghawi saying that he was informed by Abd al-A`la` ibn Hammād, the Tunisian, saying that he was informed by Hammād ibn Salāmah who quoted "Abū Rāfi`" quoting Abū Huraira saying that the Messenger of Allāh (ص) said, "A man visited his brother in another village, so Allāh placed an angel on his pathway. When he came to the angel, the latter asked him, 'Where are you going?' The man said, 'I am going to visit a brother of mine in such-and-such village.' The angel said to him, 'Has he bestowed upon you a blessing which you would like to see?' The man said, 'No, but I love him for the sake of Allāh.' The angel said, 'I am a messenger sent to you by Allāh to tell you that Allāh has loved you just as you have loved him'" (Muslim, Sahīh, Vol. 4, p. 1988, tradition 2567).
Through the previous isnād tracked to Judge Fakhr ad-Dīn al-Sahrawardi, the latter said that he was told by the hāfiz/sheikh Thiqatud-Dīn "Abul-Qāsim" Zāhir ibn Tāhir ibn Muhammad al-Shahham by way of recitation to him as the judge was listening on the 29th of Shawwl of 525 A.H. (September 24, 1131 A.D.) saying that he was told by Sheikh "Abū Nasr" Abdul-Rahman ibn Ali ibn Mousa saying that he was informed by "Abul-Hassan" Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Mousa ibn al-Salt al-Qazwini in Baghdad saying that he heard the tradition from "Abū Ishaq" Ibrahim ibn Abdul-Samad al-Hashimi by way of dictation saying that he was informed by "Abū Mus`ab" Ahmad ibn "Abū Bakr" al-Zuhri quoting Mālik ibn Anas quoting "Abū Shihab" quoting Anas ibn Mālik saying that the Messenger of Allāh (ص) said, "Do not hate each other; do not envy each other; do not turn your backs to each other, and be, servants of Allāh, brothers. It is not permissible for a Muslim to shun his brother for more than three nights" (Muslim, Sahih, Vol. 4, p. 1983, tradition 2559).
Through the past isnād tracked back to al-Shahami, the latter said that he was told by Sheikh "Abū Sa`īd" Muhammad ibn Abdul-Aziz al-Saffar who said he was informed by Sheikh "Abū Abdul-Rahman" Muhammad ibn al-Hassan al-Salami who said he was i nformed by "Abdul-Rahman" ibn Muhammad ibn Mahboob who said he was informed by Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Yahya who said he was informed by Muhammad ibn al-Azhari who said he was informed by Muhammad ibn Abdullāh al-Basri who said he was informed by Ya`li ibn Maymoon who said he was informed by Yazid al-Raqashi citing Anas ibn Mālik saying that the Messenger of Allāh (ص) said, "If someone pleases a believer or carries out an errand for this world or for the hereafter, whether small or big, Allāh will surely appoint a servant for him to serve him on the Judgment Day" (see Al-Kāfi, Vol. 2, p. 206).
Through the past isnād tracked to al-Salami, the latter said that he was informed by Abdul-Azīz ibn Ja`far ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hirāni in Baghdad saying he was informed by Muhammad ibn Harūn ibn Bariyya who said he was informed by `Īsa ibn Mahrān who said he was informed by al-Hassan ibn al-Hussain who said he was informed by al-Hussain ibn Zaid saying that he said to [Imām] Ja`far ibn Muhammad, "May I be your sacrifice! Was there any jesting in the speech of the Prophet (ص)?" He said, "Allāh described him as having the greatest moral code in jesting. Allāh sent His prophets and there was rigidness in them, and He sent Muhammad to be affectionate and merciful. One of the manifestations of his affection towards his nation is that he teased them so that none among them would glorify him to the extent that he cannot look at him in the eyes." Then he said, "I was told by my father, Muhammad, who quotes his father Ali (ع) quoting his father al-Hussain (ع) quoting his father Ali (ع) saying, 'The Messenger of Allāh (ص) used to entertain with jesting a man from among his companions whom he saw to be depressed. And he (ص) used to say, 'Allāh dislikes one who frowns in the face of his brothers'" (Makārim al-Akhlāq, p. 21).
Through the previously stated isnād tracked to the sect's mentor, the man who brought life back into it, and its critic, Jamal ad-Dīn al-Hassan ibn Yousuf ibn al-Mutahhar, who quotes his happy father, the man whose creed was sound, namely Yousuf ibn al-Mutahhar, saying that he was informed by the `allama genealogist Fakhar ibn al-Ma`add al-Mousawi from the faqīh "Sadīd ad-Dīn" (the one whose creed is sound), namely Shadhān ibn Jibra'eel al-Qummi, from Imād ad-Dīn al-Tabari from the mentor "Abū Ali" al-Hassan son of the mentor "Abū Ja`far" Muhammad ibn al-Hassan al-Tūsi from his father, the mentor, may Allāh sanctify his soul, from Sheikh al-Mufīd Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Nu`mān from Sheikh al-Sadūq Muhammad ibn Ali ibn al-Hussain ibn Babawayh al-Qummi from Sheikh "Abū Abdullāh" Ja`far ibn Qawlawayh from the mentor "Abū Abdullāh" Muhammad ibn Ya`qūb al-Kulaini from Muhammad ibn Yahya from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn `Īisa from Ali ibn al-Hakam from Abdullāh ibn Bakr from Mu`alli ibn Khanīs from "Abū Abdullāh", namely Imām Ja`far ibn Muhammad al-Sādiq (ع), whom I asked, "What obligation does a Muslim bear towards another Muslim?"
He said, "They are seven rights and obligations. Each of their rights is an obligation. If any of them is lost, he will get out of obedience of Allāh and His mastership, and there will be no share in him for Allāh." I said to him, "May I be your sacrifice! What are they?!" He said, "O Mu`alli! I worry about you. I am concerned you may lose track and not remember, and you may learn but not act upon your knowledge." The man said, "There is neither power nor might except in Allāh." The Imām (ع) went on to say, "The easiest of them is that you should love for him what you love for yourself and hate for him what you hate for yourself. The second right is that you avoid making him angry. You seek to please him and obey his command. The third right is that you help him with your own self, wealth, tongue, hand and leg.
The fourth right is that you are his eyes, his mirror and his guide. The fifth right is that you must not be satisfied while he is hungry, or quench your thirst while he is thirsty, or be clothed while he is without clothes. The sixth right is that you must not have a servant while your brother has no servant; you are obligated to send him your servant to wash his clothes, cook for him and makes his bed. The seventh right is that you accept his oath, respond to his call, visit him when he is sick, be present during his funeral, and if you know that he has a need, you must take the initiative to take care of it before you obligate him to request you in its regard. Rather, you must be the one who takes the initiative. If you do this, you will have connected your friendship with his, and you will have connected his friendship with yours" (Al-Kāfi, Vol. 2, p. 169).
Through isnād tracked to Muhammad ibn Ya`qūb al-Kulaini from Muhammad ibn Yahya from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn `Īsa from Ali ibn al-Hakam from Muhammad ibn Marwān from Imām Abū Abdullāh (ع) who has said, "If a man goes to take care of an errand for his believing brother, ten good deeds will be written down for him, ten bad deeds will be wiped out from his record and he will be raised ten degrees." Al-Kulaini goes on to add, "I think he also said, 'And his deed will be equivalent to setting free ten slaves and is better than one month of i`tikaf at the Haram Mosque'" (Al-Kāfi, Vol. 2, p. 196).
Through isnād tracked back to al-Kulaini, may Allāh have mercy on his soul, from Ali ibn Ibrahīm ibn al-Hāshim al-Qummi, may Allāh have mercy on his soul, from his father from Muhammad ibn Abū `Umaid from Hussain ibn Abū Na`īm from Masma` ibn Abū Sayar saying that he heard Imām Abū Abdullāh (ع) saying, "One who eases the depression of a believe, Allāh will ease from him one cause of depression on the Judgment Day, and he will come out of his grave with an ice-cool heart. And if one feeds him, Allāh will feed him from the fruits of Paradise. If one gives him a drink, Allāh will give him of the sealed nectar" (the sealed nectar is a brand of wine in Paradise) (Al-Kāfi, Vol. 2, p. 200).
We have narrated this tradition through many isnāds one of which is cited in Tradition 7 above tracked back to Sheikh Abul-Qasim Ja`far ibn Muhammad ibn Qawlawayh from his father from Sa`d ibn Abdullāh from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn `Īsa from his father Muhammad ibn `Īsa al-Ash`ari from Abdullāh ibn Sulaymān al-Nawfali. The latter said that he was once in the company of Imām Ja`far ibn Muhammad al-Sādiq (ع) when a slave of Abdullāh al-Najashi came to him, greeted him and delivered his master's letter to him. The Imām (ع) opened the letter.
The first line in it read: "In the Name of Allāh, the most Gracious, the most Merciful. May Allāh Almighty prolong the life of my master and consider me as his sacrifice against any ill, prevents me from seeing anything bad happening to him; surely He is the Master of all of this and is Able to do it. My master! Please be informed that I have been tested by becoming the wali (provincial governor) of the Ahwaz (in Iran). If my master sees to draw a line for me in this regard or strike an example for me so I may find guidance in it in a way that brings me closer to Allāh, the most Exalted, the most Great, and to His Messenger (ص), and summarizes in his letter what he sees I should do, what I should change or replace, where I should place my zakat, who should receive it, with whom I should feel comfortable, whom I should trust, to whom I should refer in order to confide my secret…, perhaps Allāh will grant me salvation through your guidance and instruction, for you are the Proof of Allāh against His creation and His trust in His land, and may His blessing on you remain so."
Abdullāh ibn Sulaymān says that Imām Abū Abdullāh (ع) answered him saying, "In the Name of Allāh, the most Gracious, the most Merciful. May Allāh include you in His kindness and mercy and look after you through His care, for surely He is the Master of all of this. Your messenger brought me your letter. I read it and understood its contents, all what you stated and about which you inquired, claiming you have been tested by becoming the wali of al-Ahwaz. This pleased me and displeased me. I shall inform you about what has displeased me and what has pleased me by the will of Allāh Almighty. As regarding my pleasure with your becoming the wali, I have thought that perhaps Allāh will enable you to help one of the followers of the Prophet's Progeny who is in dire need for help, guide you to raise the status of those whose status has been lowered, enable you to clothe those who have no clothes to wear, strengthen through you the weak from among them and through you puts out the fire of those who disagree with this Progeny. As regarding what has displeased me, the least about which I have concerns for you is that you may stumble on one of our followers [and be unfair to him], and this will deprive you of inhaling the presence of the Holy One.
"I am going to summarize for you all what you have asked about. If you act upon it and not overlook it, I hope, by the will of Allāh, you will be safe. I have been told, O servant of Allāh, by my father who has been told by his forefathers back to Ali ibn Abū Talib (ع) who quotes the messenger of Allāh (ص) saying that if one is sought for counsel by his believing brother and did not grant him his pursuit, Allāh will take wisdom away from him (see Bihār al-Anwār, Vol. 72, p. 104, Tradition No. 36).
Be informed that I am going to suggest something for you which, if you implement, you will be ridden of your concerns. And be informed that your salvation lies in preventing bloodshed, stopping those who harm the servants of Allāh, being kind to the subjects, not being hasty, being a good companion, lenient without being weak, tough without being arrogant. You should tolerate your superior and whoever brings you his messages. Mend the cracks among your subjects by showing them what agrees with righteousness and justice by the will of Allāh Almighty. Beware of busy-buddies and those who disseminate calumny, and you should not keep company with any of them, and Allāh should not see you during your day or night accepting their own judgment about who is right and who is wrong and thus Allāh becomes angry with you and reveals your covering. Beware of the trickery of the Ahwaz Bedouins, for my father has informed me that his forefathers, up to the Commander of the Faithful (ع), say that the Imām (ع) said, 'Conviction never remains firm in the heart of a Jew or a [Bedouin] from Khuzistan" (Kitāb al-Arba`een [manuscript]).
"As regarding who you should keep company with, feel at ease and resort regarding your affairs, it is a man with an insight, a trustworthy man, one who agrees with you when you adhere to your creed. Compare your assistance, try both sides; if you see that there is someone there who can provide you with guidance, you ought to choose him as such. Beware of giving one dirham or taking off one garment or loading a beast of burden for a poet or entertainer without paying the same in the way of Allāh.
Let your rewards, gifts, outfits be for the commanders, messengers, grandchildren, letter carriers, police commanders and those who levy the khums. Let whatever you wish to spend be on acts of righteousness in order to achieve success, to set someone free, by way of charity, for performing the pilgrimage, quenching someone's thirst and for the attire in which you perform your prayers and visit others wearing it, and the gift which you present to Allāh Almighty and His Messenger (ص)… be all from the best of what you earn.
"O servant of Allāh! Exert your effort so you may hoard neither gold nor silver so you may be included in this verse: Allāh Almighty has said: '… And there are those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend in God’s way: Announce a most grievous penalty to them' (Qur'ān, 9:34). Do not underestimate anything sweet or food leftovers with which you fill empty stomachs; such deeds puts out the fire of wrath of Allāh, the most Praised One, the most High.
"Be informed that I heard my father quoting his forefathers quoting the Commander of the Faithful (ع) saying that he heard the Prophet (ص) say this to his companions one day: 'Nobody is counted among those who believe in Allāh and the Last Day if he spends his night satisfied while his neighbor is hungry.' The companions said to him, 'O Messenger of Allāh! Now we all have perished!' The Prophet (ص) said, 'Do so from the leftovers of your food, of your dates, of your sustenance, of the clothes which you do not want whereby you put out the fire of the Lord's Wrath' (Al-Kāfi, Vol. 2, p. 668).
"And I shall inform you of when life becomes so unwanted, so low, in the sight of the predecessors and the tabi`īn: I have been informed by Muhammad ibn [Imām] Ali ibn al-Hussain (ع) saying that when al-Hussain (ع) prepared to depart to Kūfa, [Abdullāh] Ibn Abbās came to him and pleaded to him in the Name of Allāh and of kinship to be the one who will be killed in the Battle of Taff instead. The Imām said, 'When I am killed instead of yourself, the only difference will be that I will simply part with this life. Shall I tell you, O son of Abbās, what the Commander of the Faithful (ع) had said about this life?!' Ibn Abbās said, 'O yes, indeed, by my life, I would love that you narrate it to me.'
The Imām (ع) said, 'Ali bin al-Hussain (ع) said that he had heard his father Abū Abdullāh (ع) saying, 'The Commander of the Faithful (ع) said to me once, 'I was in Fadak once at one of its walls when it was inherited by Fātima (ع). A woman suddenly forced her way towards me. I had a spade in my hand with which I was working. When I looked at her, my heart flew from its place due to her beauty; she was so beautiful, she looked like Buthaina daughter of `Āmir al-Jamhi, the most beautiful woman in Quraish. She said to me, 'O son of Abū Talib! Would you like to marry me so you will no longer have to work with this spade, and I shall lead you to the treasures of the earth and to possessions that will be yours and your offspring's after you?' Ali (ع) said to her, 'Who are you so I may approach your family and seek your hand?' She said, 'I am life.' He said to her, 'Get back right now and seek another husband.' The Imām (ع) went on to say that he returned to his spade and composed these verses of poetry:
"Disappointed will be whoever is tempted by a covetous life,
Even if it tempts for centuries, it shall never last forever.
She came to us outfitted like the dear one Buthaina,
With ornaments similar to her decorations,
So I said to her to tempt someone else because
I have no desire for life, and I am not ignorant.
What shall I do with life since Muhammad's life
Has been snatched away in the midst of heroes?
Suppose she brings me means to access treasures
And the wealth of Qarun and the domains of the tribes,
Will fate not render them all to naught?
And its treasures are sought with tribulations; so,
Tempt someone else for I am not willing to have
All what you offer: possessions, prominence and pursuits.
I have satisfied myself with what has been destined for me,
So, do what you will, O Life, with those who are easy to lure,
For I fear Allāh on the Day I shall meet Him for sure,
And I fear a torment that
Stays and will never depart'
(see Manāqib Al Abi Tālib, Vol. 2, p. 102).
"He left this world without owing anything to anyone till he met Allāh praised, having no blame on him, nor was he spoken ill of. Then the Imāms (ع) after him followed in his footsteps as has reached you. They were not stained with any of this life's filth, peace and blessings be with them all, and may Allāh reward them with the very best. I have informed you of the best of this life and of the Hereafter, and I have cited for you what the truthful one, the one who is believed by Allāh, the Messenger of Allāh (ص), has said; so, if you act upon my advice to you in this letter of mine, and if your sins weigh as heavily as the mountains and count as many as the sea waves, I will wish Allāh to overlook them all, the most Exalted One, the most Sublime, in His own Power.
"O servant of Allāh! Beware of scaring a believer, for my father, [Imām] Muhammad ibn Ali (ع) , has quoted his father citing his grandfather Imām Ali ibn Abū Talib (ع) saying, 'One who casts a look at a believer in order to scare him, Allāh will scare him on the Day when there is no shade except His, and Allāh will resurrect him in the form of particles, his flesh, body and all his parts, till he is lodged in his final abode' (Jami` al-Akhbār, p. 154 in a chapter dealing with harming a believer; see also Al-Kāfi, Vol. 2, p. 368).
"My father has quoted his forefathers quoting [Imām] Ali (ع) citing the Messenger of Allāh (ص) saying, 'One who relieves the distress of one of the believers, Allāh will remove his distress on the Day when there is no shade but His and will grant him security on the Day of the greatest fear and protect him from an evil reverting. And if one meets the need of his believing brother, Allāh will meet many of his needs one of which is Paradise. If one clothes his believing brother, Allāh will clothe him of the silk of Paradise, its shiny silk, and he will wade in the Pleasure of Allāh as long as he is outfitted in it.
If one feeds his brother to satisfy his hunger, Allāh will feed him of the good things of Paradise, and if he gives him a drink to quench his thirst, Allāh will let him drink of his Lord's sealed nectar. If one serves his brother, Allāh will let the immortalized youths be his servants and lodge him in the company of His pure friends. If one transports his believing brother on his conveyance, Allāh will let the conveyances of Paradise convey him and brag about him before the angels who are close to Him on the Judgment Day. If one marries off his believing brother to a women with whom he feels comforted, who strengthens him and with whom he feels restful, Allāh will marry him to the huris with large lovely eyes' (see Thawāb al-A`māl, p. 177).
"'And if one visits his believing brother without seeking his brother to do something for him, Allāh will record him among the guests of Allāh, and it will be binding upon Allāh to be generous to His guest' (Jāmi` al-Akhbār, p. 90 in a chapter about pleasing a believer; see also Al-Kāfi, Vol. 2, p. 176).
"O servant of Allāh! My father has also narrated to me quoting his forefathers quoting Imām Ali (ع) saying that he had heard the Messenger of Allāh (ص) saying one day to his companions, 'O folks! One is not counted as a believer who just believes with his tongue but not with his heart; so, do not track the faults of the believers, for if one tracks the faults of a believer, Allāh will track his faults on the Judgment Day and expose him even in the depth of his own home'" (see Al-Kāfi, Vol. 2, p. 355).
"And my father has also narrated to me that his forefathers quote Imām Ali (ع) saying that Allāh took the covenant of a believer to be truthful when he speaks and not to seek revenge against his foe, that he should not satisfy his anger by exposing his own self. A believer is gagged for a short-lived goal followed by a lengthy rest. Allāh has taken upon the believer a covenant about many things the easiest of which is that a believer makes his statement, so he finds him truthful yet he envies him; Satan tempts and prevents him, while the ruler tracks his steps and counts his faults. One proves his disbelief if he sees the shedding of the blood of another believer as a way of life and violates his honor as a gain; so, what is the value of a believer's life after all of this?' (see Bihār al-Anwār, Vol. 75, p. 276 where an Appendix disclosing benefits in the book titled Al-Ghāba is quoted).
"O servant of Allāh! My father (ع) has also quoted his forefathers citing Imām Ali (ع) citing the Prophet (ص) saying, 'Gabriel (ع) descended once and said, 'O Muhammad (ص)! Allāh greets you and says: I have derived for the believer an attribute from one of My own Names and called him a mu'min; for a believer is of Me and I am of him, and anyone who takes a believer lightly starts a fight with Me'" (Ibid.)
"O servant of Allāh! My father (ع) has also quoted the Prophet (ص) saying, 'The lowest degree of apostasy is when a man hears a statement by his brother which he memorizes so that he may later expose him by it. Such people have no manners' (see Bihār al-Anwār, Vol. 75, p. 276; see also Al-Mahāsin, Vol. 1, p. 104, tradition No. 83).
"O servant of Allāh! My father (ع) has quoted his forefathers citing Imām Ali (ع) saying, 'If a believer says about a Muslim what he had seen with his own eyes and heard with his own ears things that shame him and undermine his dignity, he will be included by Allāh, the most Great, the most High, in this verse: '… Those who love (to see) scandal publicized widely among the believers will have a grievous penalty in this life and in the hereafter' (Qur'ān, 24:19) (Jāmi` al-Akhbār, p. 154 in a chapter about harming a believer; see also Al-Kāfi, Vol. 2, p. 357).
"O servant of Allāh! My father has narrated to me citing his forefathers citing Imām Ali (ع) saying, 'If one narrates an incident about his believing brother with which he wants to defame him or scandalize him, Allāh Almighty will penalize him for his sin continuously till he gets out of what he had said, and he will never find an exit for it. If one brings happiness to his believing brother, he will be as though he made Ahl al-Bayt (ع) happy. And if one makes the Ahl al-Bayt (ع) happy, he will have made the Messenger of Allāh (ص) happy. And if one makes the Messenger of Allāh (ص) happy, he will have pleased Allāh, and if one pleases Allāh, it will be incumbent upon Allāh to permit him into Paradise' (Jāmi` al-Akhbār, p. 90 in a chapter about pleasing a believer; see also `Iqāb al-A`māl, p. 286 in a chapter about the penalty of one who narrates an incident about a believer; see Al-Kāfi, Vol. 2, p. 192).
"I further admonish you to fear Allāh and prefer to obey Him and hold on to His rope, for if one holds on to the rope of Allāh, he will be guided to the Straight Path. So, fear Allāh and do not prefer anyone over pleasing Him and doing what He likes, for this is the admonishment of Allāh, the most High, the most Sublime, to His servants; He does not accept from them anything else, and He does not deem as great anything else. And be informed that the beings have never been held responsible for anything greater than piety, for it is our admonishment, we members of Ahl al-Bayt (ع). If you are able not to obtain of this life something about which you will tomorrow be questioned, do just that."
Abdullāh ibn Sulaymān says that when the letter of Imām al-Sādiq (ع) reached al-Nejashi, he looked into it and said, "Surely Allāh, there is no God but He, has said the truth, and my master [al-Sādiq], too, has said the truth. Anyone who acts upon the contents of this letter will surely achieve salvation." Abdullāh kept acting upon it during his life's days (Al-Arba`īn, p. 97, a manuscript; the entire tradition is quoted on p. 271, Tradition No. 112, Vol. 75 of Bihār al-Anwār as a citation from the chapter on backbiting appended to the book titled Kashf al-Fawāid, p. 264.
Through isnād tracked back to al-Kulaini from Muhammad ibn Yahya from Ali ibn al-Nu`mān from Ibn Maskan from Khaythamah saying that he went once to visit Imām Abū Ja`far (ع) to bid him farewell. The Imām (ع) said to Khaythamah, "Convey our greeting to those whom you will see and who follow our leadership, and admonish them to fear Allāh, the Great, and that the rich among them should visit the poor and their strong ones should visit the weaklings. The living should be present during the funeral of their dead. Let them meet at their homes, for when some of them meet each other, they will bring to life our causes; may Allāh have mercy on a servant who keeps our causes alive. O Khaythamah! Notify our followers that only those who do deeds of righteousness have a status with Allāh. They will never earn the honor of our mastership except through piety, and the one who sighs the most on the Judgment Day is one who describes justice yet shrinks from it to doing the opposite" (Al-Kāfi, Vol. 2, p. 175).
Through isnād to the same man, may Allāh have mercy on his soul, from Muhammad ibn Yahya from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn `Īsa from Muhammad ibn Sinān ibn al-Alā ibn al-Mufaddal who quotes Imām Abū Abdullāh (ع) saying that Abū Ja`far, blessings of Allāh be with him, used to say, "Think highly of your fellows. Look at them with awe, and do not charge each other, nor should you oppose or envy each other. Beware of miserliness, and be sincere servants of Allāh " (Al-Kāfi, Vol. 2, p. 637).
Thus do we come to the conclusion of the dissertation. We plead to Him, the most Exalted One, through the medium of His overwhelming grace and tremendous honor, and through the medium of Muhammad and his progeny, the best of blessings and salutations be with them, to grant us the honor of acting upon the perfection towards which the message directs one, and not to let our portion of it be merely narrating, to reform us for the sake of our own selves and our brethren and to reform them for us; He surely is the most Merciful of those who are merciful and the most Generous when it comes to giving. All praise is due to Allāh, Lord of the worlds, and may His blessings be with the master of His messengers and the best of His creation, Muhammad, and with his pure Progeny.
This text has been sorted out in distant places by the one who badly needs Allāh Almighty, Zayn ad-Dīn son of Ali ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Jamal ad-Dīn ibn Taqi ibn Sālih ibn Ashraf al-`Āmili Takharizi, may Allāh Almighty overlook his sins and enable him to please Him. He completed it on a Thursday, the 13th of the month of Safar, the month sealed with goodness and success, of the year 949 A.H. (May 29, 1542 A.D.), praising Him, praying to Him, surrendering to Him, seeking His forgiveness. Blessings of Allāh be with Muhammad and the progeny of Muhammad, the pure, the righteous.