Seyyid had invited all of his close students. There were about fifteen of them. Husayn and his wife had also come for a short break from their voluntary medical service to refugee camps and so they were also invited. It was a special gathering after maghrib and ‘isha prayers on Monday when others had left. Seyyid first offered them a dinner. After that, they all sat on chairs in a circle in front of Seyyid. They then looked at Seyyid and wondered why he had invited them that evening…
Seyyid smiled at them and said that about a year ago, we talked about birr and abrar. ‘At that time, I wished that some of those in the audience taste birr and become abrar. So as per my word, you are all invited today to answer the question: Did you taste the pleasure of birr or righteousness?’
All of them were quiet and expressionless. Some of them were looking at others if they would say something in response to Seyyid’s question so that they don’t have to say anything. However, no one said anything. They behaved as if this question doesn’t concern them…. It was a total suspense and silence prevailed the gathering for over a minute. Nobody spoke.
Seyyid was looking at their faces… he was expecting an answer from at least one of them. But then he smiled… Among the students, in order to keep the respect of Seyyid, Qamar was bold enough to speak out on their behalf: ‘Respected Seyyid, it seems that no one of us has done any good action that qualifies to be ‘birr’. The way you taught us how to achieve birr was probably out of our capacity. That’s why we are all quiet.’ They all agreed and most of them said: ‘Yes Seyyid, this is true. Brother Qamar is right. We didn’t do any good action like birr…’
Seyyid smiled and said: ‘However, it seems to me that all of you have done something to be qualified as birr. So let us share with each other so that we all learn more new ways to achieve birr. It will be itself a good deed. To share good action also has good reward.’
Everyone looked at Seyyid as if he was provoking them to speak out about their good deeds… Some of them smiled faintly to give a message to Seyyid that they will not be trapped…
Seyyid waited for a few seconds, looked at their faces one by one, but no one said anything. Then Asad said: ‘Respected Seyyid, even if a few of us have done some so called good action, it was done as a duty. So it doesn’t qualify as birr. Some of us may have done it only as a duty. May be some of us did it because we were forced to do it – we didn’t want to do good…’
Seyyid said: ‘Excellent. May God bless you all. You all are now abrar… because you have learned that keeping your good actions to yourself is the essence of a good action done purely for the sake of God. I tried to provoke you by saying that sharing good experience is a good deed but you didn’t fall in that trap. May God bless you all.
The beauty and the main attribute of birr action is that its pleasure remains fresh with that person and is always pleasurable. Every good action has a thawab, which is from the word thawb, meaning clean dress. Perhaps, it means that the reward or thawab of a birr action is such intense and powerful that the person feels it all the time in this world and it remains with him it like his clean dress.
Even if that person becomes old, blind, deaf and loses all his physical senses, the birr action remains with him like his clean dress. This is because it is related to the heart and spirit of that person and remains intact with him until the person dies. After death the real thawab will be granted to him by God and its intensity and pleasure will be much more, may be thousand times more than pleasure of the physical world.
Every good action has its own specific pleasure that we cannot differentiate or perhaps weakly differentiate in this world with our physical senses. However, after death, when the divine vision will be bestowed, the pleasure of different birr actions will be felt separately. Holy Qur’an provides details of such pleasures in heaven.
Perhaps this is a window to heaven that believers feel this pleasure in this world and when they go to heaven they say that they have felt it before. It is also mentioned in the Qur’an. But remember that this good feeling and pleasure goes away or its intensity becomes less when a person talks about it for riya. Sometimes it is necessary to talk; but the style and expression should be such as to not to seek praise or thanks from the creatures of God.’
At that point, Asad asked a question from Seyyid: ‘We know that every good action and bad action has an effect or reward and punishment. Qur’an says that even an atom’s weight of good and bad action will be seen by the doer. So how will a birr action have a reward that can be seen by the doer? The reason is because it is hidden and not disclosed by him.’ Seyyid smiled and said: ‘The reward of any good or bad action starts right at that time when a person does it. But we don’t see it with our physical eyes.’
‘The reward of birr action is very powerful and affects the entire existence of the doer. Not only that, it affects his next generation and purifies and protects it from evil influences. The effects can be barakah (blessing) in his life, protection from diseases, opportunities for doing more good deeds, acquisition of worldly gains, respect in the hearts of good people, virtuous children and so on.
However, a true believer knows the effects of birr, but he never wishes anything from creatures. He only likes to serve God and seek His pleasure. This is the highest station. Imam Husayn (as) is the best example of such a high status. When Shimr wanted to sever his head on the day of Ashura, he heard Imam Husayn (as) whispering prayers to God: ‘I am happy at Your decision and I have surrendered to Your order.’ Thus Imam Husayn (as) did all the sacrifices only for the sake of God until the last moment of his life.’ Everyone was moved by Seyyid’s words…
He continued: ‘So now you all keep your good actions preserved for the hereafter and do not ruin them by doing riya or making show of it, even by your subtle gestures. May God bless you all.’
Seyyid ended his talk with a hadith from Prophet (swas) which said that a righteous action has three characteristics: it is done quickly, it is kept hidden and it is considered insignificant by the believer who does it. Then Seyyid gave them a gift, one by one they went near him and received it and Seyyid prayed for them. They all thanked Seyyid for his guidance, care, and training, putting them to test smartly and asked him to pray for them… They left one by one saying goodbye to Seyyid.