Discourse 3: Characteristics of The Shia – Part II
The 65th volume of Bihar al-Anwar consists of two important parts, The Greatness of the Shia (فضائل الشيعة) and the Characteristics of the Shia (صفات الشيعة). The chapter on the Greatness of the Shia, illustrates to us the superior status that the Shia possess, while the chapter on the Characteristics of the Shia discuss the characteristics and uniqueness which the Shia should have. For us (those who call themselves Shia), this means that in addition to the noble and lofty rank that is mentioned in the traditions which the Shia possess, they also have a great responsibility by being called Shia.
قَالَ الصَّادِقُ : إِمْتَحِنُوا شِيعَتِنَا عِنْدَ مَوَاقِيتِ الْصَّلوٌةِ كَيْفَ مُحَافِظَتَهُمْ عَلَيْهَا وَ إِلـى أَسْرَارِنَا كَيْفَ حَفَظَهُمْ لَـهَا وَ عِنْدَ عَدُوِّنَا وِ إِلـى أَمْوَالَهَمْ كَيْفَ مَوَاسَاتَهُمْ لِإِخْوَانِهِمْ فِيهَا.
Imam Ja'far b. Muhammad as-Sadiq (as) has said, “Test our Shia during the times of the (five daily) Salat - how do they protect them (the Salat) and (also test our Shia) in relation to our (the Ahlul Bait's) secrets - how do they protect them in relation to our enemies; and (also test our Shia) in relation to their money and wealth - how do they spend it among their fellow brothers.”
When the Shia have some work or job to perform and the time for Salat has also arrived, do they give precedence to their work or to the Salat? There are some people who think that the Salat is only to be done when there is nothing else to do, but one tradition tells us that, “Salat in its appointed, initial time (earns) the pleasure of Allah, and Salat in its last time (earns) the mercy of Allah.”
There are even some people from among the Ahlus Sunnah who claim that they are the only true Muslims since they give a great importance to the performance of Salat on time and that we (the Shia) do not!
In relation to the importance of Salat, Imam 'Ali b. Abi Talib (as), in his famous letter of recommendations to Malik al-Ashtar has stated:
إِجْعَلْ أَفْضَلُ أَوقَاتِكَ لِلصَّلوٌةِ. كَيْفَ مُحَافِظَتَهُمْ عَلَيْهَا.
“Make the best of the times that you reserve (during the day) for the Salat and see how all of you (you and your subjects) protect and safeguard this time.”
The word used in this tradition in regards to the Salat is محافظة, and this word intends to tell us that many things will cause the Salat to be destroyed. However, the Salat must be protected and of course in these regards, the 'Ulama and scholars must be a practical example for the people.
I will not forget the time when the late Ayatullah Khumayni was teaching classes in the Hawzah 'Ilmiyyah in Qum. We were (at that time) students of the Hawzah, and one day the late Ayatullah Sa'idi had invited us to go to his house and Ayatullah Khumayni was also present at that gathering. We were busying talking and having religious discussions when the time of the Salat came and the sound of the Adhan was heard (in the house). Without even a pause, Ayatullah Khumayni got up, and without any delay or hesitation, started to perform the Salat.
The same rule applies today that wherever we are and whoever we are with, we must give importance to the Salat - especially Salatul Fajr. There are some people that perform the Salat only when they are in the company of others - this is not the Salat (which can be expected from) a student of religion!
Continuing on in the tradition, the meaning of protection of the secrets is to safeguard the status and rank of the Ahlul Bait. By this we mean that the rank which the Ahlul Bait possess must not be spoken about while in the presence of their enemies who do not believe in them (things such as the Wilayatul Takwini (their power and jurisdiction (by the permission of Allah (SwT)) over the universe, Miracles, Knowledge of the Unseen, etc… which they possess) since these things are nothing other than the secrets of these Noble Personalities.
During our present time, there are some people, who in addition to mentioning their secrets (to the enemies of the Ahlul Bait), also resort to exaggeration in relation to them. For example, some people who compose poems in their praise who out of their own lack of intelligence say things such as Zainab binte 'Ali (s.a) is the manifestation of Allah (SwT) (may Allah (SwT) protect us from such words)!
Poets hold a very high status and the Infallible Leaders used to give them great importance - people such as Da'bal Khaza`i who held a great rank in the sight of the A`immah. However we must strive to make sure that the religious gatherings (Majalis) are not organized and held by people such as this (who write corrupt poems and have deviant thoughts).
Those who are writing poems and composing poetry in relation to the Prophet (S) and the Ahlul Bait must make sure that they present their poems to the 'Ulama first (to read over and make sure they are proper). They must keep away from all forms of exaggeration especially in those instances where the poets are competing with one another to attract the attention of the people.
In regards to this, sometimes we see that one person resorts to Ghuluw (exaggeration of the greatness of the Ahlul Bait) and thus, the next person is forced to present even greater exaggerations, and this act is very dangerous.
The third section of the tradition under review uses the word مواسات” “ and this word can be understood in two different ways from its lexical meaning.
The first is to assume that the word comes from the root واسي and the second is that the root word is آسي however both of these end up (after the rules of morphology are applied to them) in making the wordمواسات which is in the meaning of assistance and help.
The Shia is one who is tested through his wealth - how much of it does he keep aside for the help of others?
In our present time, we are faced with many difficulties:
1. Unemployment, which is the real root of all other forms of corruption scuh as: addiction to drugs, theft, robbery and prostitution;
2. Problems with the youth getting married;
3. Difficulties for people finding affordable housing;
4. Difficulties in going for further education. Many families face the difficulty of providing tuition fees for their youth to go and acquire further education.
Our society consists of people who claim to be Shia, however we see excessive amounts of wealth being wasted on useless things, yet some people in the society do not even have the basic necessities of life!
Therefore, the characteristics of the Shia must also be kept in view and we must remember that we cannot only concentrate on the status and rewards that are promised to the Shia - rather, we need to implement these characteristics within ourselves.
We hope that all of us can keep in mind the commandments of the A`immah in our day to day life and act upon them!