Forbearance of the Holy Imams (a.s)
Forbearance is that human quality which can be described as the control of self in such a way that every disrespectful and displeasuring thing is not able to cause one consternation.
Ghazzali has written in Ihyail Uloom that one day the Imam called for his slave. He did not reply. He called him two or three times but he still did not reply. The Imam arose from his place and saw that he was sleeping. He asked him, “O boy! Did you not hear my call?” “Yes, I heard it.” “The why didn't you reply?” “Because I was fearless of your punishment,” he replied. The Imam said, “Go! I free you for the sake of Allah.”
Umair Ibn Ishaq says: Marwan was the governor upon us in Medina and every Friday he maligned Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) from the pulpit. Though Imam Hasan (a.s) heard about it, he did not react. Once he conveyed some things to him through a messenger. The Imam told the messenger, “Go and tell Marwan that we have not forgotten anything from whatever he has said. Allah will decide between him and me. If he is telling the truth Allah would reward him and if he is lying the chastisement of God is very terrible.”
The same narrator has reported that once there was a property dispute between the Imam and Amr bin Uthman. The Imam made him an offer but Amr did not accept it. The Imam said, “We have nothing but to put dust on our nose.” Thus this was the stern-most statement uttered by this forbearing Imam. Though he didn't even say this much to anybody else.
When a Syrian saw him mounted on a horse, he began to abuse him. The Imam observed forbearance and did not react to his abusive language. When the fellow finished ranting to his heart's content the Imam said to him, “O gentleman! If you are in need, we can help you. If you have lost your way we can guide you. If you need a riding animal we can provide you with it. If you are hungry we can serve you food. If you require clothes we can offer them to you. If you are poor we can make you self-sufficient. If you are a visitor we can host you.”
Hearing these statements the Syrian began to weep and said, “Today I confess that you are the rightful caliph of God. I used to harbor great avarice against you and your respected father, now no one is dearer to me than you.”
Imam Husayn (a.s) was the epitome of forbearance and magnanimity. Most of the people were astounded at his forbearance. One day a man asked his co-travelers about him, “Who is that wearing the turban of the Prophet, dressed in his clothes and carrying his sword?” They replied, “Do you not recognize him? He is the maternal grandson of the Messenger of Allah (S), Husayn Ibn Ali (a.s).”
Hearing this, he began to abuse and malign the Imam. The Imam said, “O dear man! If the wind of the deserts has created dryness in your head, stay with us for some days so that we may have you cured. If your wife has troubled you and you have come here after having a fight with her, take some money from me and go and make up with her.” The companions of the Imam were surprised at these gentle words. Some of them wanted to revenge that behavior, but the Imam sternly advised against it and said, “We are the mountains of forbearance and nothing can move us.” The man was very regretful of his behavior and he begged the Imam's pardon.
Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) was very forbearing. From Karbala’ to Sham, he exhibited his exemplary forbearance at every place. When the caravan of the prisoners of the Imam's clan was moving through the town of Kufa a Syrian thought that they were Kharijis and he began to taunt and abuse them. The Imam continued to hear him with perfect forbearance. When he finished the ranting the Imam said in the most gentle way, “O gentleman! If you knew who we were you would never have uttered such words and you would have developed hatred for our killers and oppressors. We are the Progeny of Muhammad. We are the descendants of the Prophet whose Kalimah (Formula of Faith) you recite.” After this, the Imam related the virtues of Ahl ul-Bayt. The man was so much affected that he began to weep and say, “I was completely ignorant of these facts. O Son of Allah's Messenger, please forgive me.”
Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) was a very forbearing person. Students of Abu Hanifah often came to him and talked in an insulting manner but he always remained forbearing. The Imam always replied to their objections in a civilized way. Thus one student went back to his teacher and said, “I think there is no one more forbearing than Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) in the world.”
The forbearance of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) was of such a level that he never punished his slaves for the mistakes they committed. Once someone said, “O Son of Allah's Messenger, these slaves of yours cause such losses and sometimes they are lazy also, but you do not give them any punishment?” The Imam said, “Slavery is sufficient enough punishment for them.” One day he sent a slave on errand, when there was too much delay in his return he came out in search of him and found him asleep at a place. Instead being angry with him he began to fan him. When the guy felt cool air on his face, he awoke. The Imam asked him in a very gentle way, “Man, what is this habit that you sleep during the day as well as the night? Allah has created the day for work and the night for sleeping.”
Sufyan Thawri narrates: One day I went to meet Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s). At that time, the Imam looked very worried. When I asked him the reason he said, “I had ordered that no one should go to the terrace. When I went to the house I saw the slave-maid appointed to look after children, ascending the steps with an infant in her arms. Seeing me she was so terrified that she dropped the infant and he died. I am not so much aggrieved at the death of the child as I am of the fact that why the maid was so much horrified of me.” Then he said to the maid, “Do not be at all afraid, I free you for the sake of Allah.”
This much is sufficient to prove his forbearance that his title itself was “Kadhim”, which denotes one who controls his anger. Yaqub Ibn Dawood says: When the soldiers of Harun arrested him from the tomb of the Prophet and took him forcibly, the Imam neither uttered a word of complain against the oppressors nor a single word of disrespect. He accompanied them with absolute tranquility and patience. The author of Sawaiqul Mohreqa writes that Imam Kadhim (a.s) was extremely kind-hearted and he used to forgive people, even the most serious sins. The writer of Faslul Khitab says: Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) was a very righteous, generous, forbearing, respectable and a knowledgeable person.
Abu Bakr Suli said that his grandmother used to narrate: Imam Ridha’ (a.s) had purchased me and some other slave-girls for Mamun. When we entered Mamun's palace, we saw numerous luxuries and comforts and our life passed in a peaceful way. But after some days Mamun gave me in the service of Imam (a.s). When I arrived at his place, I saw that here everything was different. In spite of the fact that the Imam was the heir-apparent of the kingdom, there was nothing royal in his house. He lived a very simple and ordinary life. Once a slave-girl talked in a taunting way that we all disliked, but the Imam observed forbearance and did not say anything to her. At last she was herself ashamed and then the austere life of the Imam had such a deep effect on her that she gave up all worldly things.
Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s) was absolutely forbearing and magnanimous. His wife Ummul Fadl, the daughter of Mamun Rashid, always spoke with him in a taunting and caustic way, but the Imam observed forbearance. One day she behaved like this in the presence of Mamun. Mamun scolded his daughter and said, “I do not like your audacious behavior with such a forbearing husband.”
Like his father, Imam Ali Naqi (a.s) was also bestowed with the excellent quality of forbearance. One day the caliph Muntasir said to him, “You consider yourself the most proximate creature of Allah and do not consider anyone as your equal in superiority and honor although we are much better and superior to you. If Allah had been pleased with you, you would have been the ruler and we, your subjects.”
Hearing these stupid words the Imam did not say anything. Again he repeated those words. Again the Imam observed forbearance. When he repeated them the third time, the Imam was infuriated and he said, “If temporal kingdom is the proof of rightfulness, every prophet must have been a king. Our superiority is due to our own merits, while your greatness is due to a rulership of limited duration. You rule over physical bodies while we reign over the hearts.”
In the year 255 A.H. Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) was released from the prison of Motamid and allowed to go home. At home, the Imam assumed seclusion but Motamid did not even like this. He had commissioned some anti-social elements, who used to come to the Imam (a.s) and utter nonsensical things and bad-mouth him. The Imam bore this patiently for sometime. At last one day the Imam told them, “So far I have overlooked your audacity, but remember if in the future you did the same I would invoke curse on you and you would be sick with leprosy.” They did not heed the Imam and at last one day they awoke in the morning to find their bodies covered with white patches.
The fact is that forbearance is the best human quality. Many difficult matters are solved by it. Opposition is transformed into friendship. It is mentioned in traditions that beware of the anger of the magnanimous. Because they are not easily angry but when they are angry, their anger is terrible.
Forgiveness means that if someone commits a mistake and expresses regret or his weakness is a cause of his insult, you being a good-natured person ignore his shortcomings and forgive his sins. In the world you would not even find one person in a hundred thousand who has this quality. Most of the people are such that when their emotion of revenge is awakened they do not rest without getting revenge. But the Holy Imams (a.s) always overlooked the mistakes of others and never did the urge to take revenge appeared in their hearts.
It is written in Sharh Nahjul Balagha that during the battle of Jamal when Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) overpowered Marwan, in spite of the fact that he was his deadly enemy, he did not kill him.
Ibn Abil Hadid has also written in Sharh Nahjul Balagha that in Siffin when the army of Muawiyah obtained control over the river, by the order of Muawiyah, water supply was cut off from the army of Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) and they were not given access to a single drop of water. When the Imam saw that his men were almost dying of thirst, he attacked the opponents and gave them a crushing defeat and snatched the control of the river. Now the Imam's men said that they would not give a drop of water to the enemy and let them die of thirst. The Imam said, “By Allah! I will not take revenge from them. I will not commit the sin they have committed.”
When Muawiyah came out for the conquest of Iraq with 60,000 troops and Imam came out to confront him with 40,000 troops, there were signs of revolt in his army and a group of Kharijis attacked him. Finding an opportunity a Khairjite, named Jarrah bin Aswad attacked the Imam with a sword, which left the Imam injured. People arrested him and brought him before the Imam. The Imam said, “If this man gives up treason and repents for this act, leave him.” This wretched man did not value this forgiveness and he did not agree to be loyal. At last he was executed.
One day the food spread of Imam Hasan (a.s) was laid out and some guests were dining upon it. The Imam was also seated with them. A slave inadvertently dropped a bowl of soup on the Imam's dress, then began to tremble with fear, and said:
…and those who restrain (their) anger… (Surah Aale Imran 3:134)
The Imam said, “Go, I have forgiven you.” Then the slave said:
…and pardon me; (Ibid.)
To this the Imam (a.s) replied, “I free you for the sake of Allah.” Then at last he said:
…and Allah loves the doers of good (to others). (Ibid.)
The Imam handed him money wrapped up in a handkerchief and bid him adieu.
One day Imam Husayn (a.s) was somewhat displeased with Muhammad Hanafiyah. Some of his friends told him that now Imam Husayn (a.s) would never come to him. To this he replied that Imam Husayn (a.s) was very kind-hearted and he would definitely forgive his mistake. Then he wrote a letter as follows:
The father of both of us is Ali (a.s). Thus from the aspect of paternity neither you have any precedence nor me. However, you mother is the daughter of the Messenger of Allah (S). If all the gold and the silver of the world come into the ownership of my mother, she cannot be compared to your mother. Thus you have a great superiority over me. I desire that you bless me with your visit and increase my honor.”
As soon as he read the letter, the Imam arose and came to Muhammad Hanafiyah.
Forgiveness Of Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s)
The virtue of forgiveness was found in Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) to a great degree. If someone caused him a hurt he forgave him. The expression of this virtue was most apparent during the holy month of Ramadan. Every day the Imam would sit among his followers and say, “If you commit a mistake, I forgive you. You also pray to Allah that He forgive Ali Ibnul Husayn and shower him with His Grace and blessings.”
One day a slave committed a blunder and being terrified he hid himself somewhere. The Imam desired that if he came to him, he would inquire about his well being. Someone informed the Imam that the runaway slave was hiding in the house of one of his neighbors. The Imam said, “Go and tell him on my behalf that he is needlessly terrified and worried. I had forgiven his mistake that same day.” When the slave received the Imam's message, he returned to the Imam happily. The Imam said, “Go I have freed you for the sake of Allah.” Hearing this, the slave began to weep. The Imam inquired about its reason and he replied, “O son of the Messenger of Allah (S), do you want to make my life difficult? I sacrifice a thousand freedoms over your slavery. I would never leave your service.”
Forgiveness Of Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s)
Zaid Ibn Ali Ibn Husayn was the half brother of Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s). One day when he came to the Imam, he found that the Imam was having some letters of Kufans before him saying that they have raised a powerful army and they invited the Imam to rise against Bani Umayyah. The letter writers pledged their loyalty and support. After reading the letters, the Imam said, “The letters only prove that those people have tried to have our rights restored and that they are having great concern for our hardships. Yet, it is not advisable for you to rise up in revolt. Just as the obedience of the Imam is incumbent on others, it is also incumbent on you. Eligible for obedience can be only the Prophet or his legatee and not every person. During the period of the rule of oppressors it is the command of Allah to His saints that they observe patience and dissimulation. O brother! I am worried that these people may not befool you and put you into some trouble. Their outward and inward is not the same. Do not be fooled by them.”
Hearing these words Zaid became very angry. He said, “That person from us Ahl ul-Bayt cannot be the Imam who keeps sitting at his home in complacence. Who neither performs Jihad himself nor permits others to do it. Rather, Imam is the one who fulfills the needs of the nation and wages Jihad in the way of Allah. Actually the letter writers mean to say that you are not the Imam, I am.” This diatribe of Zaid was so caustic that the Imam should have broken off relationship with him, but he did not. He forgave him, and when Zaid started for Kufa, the Imam came out to bid him adieu and said farewell to him with tearful eyes.
Forgiveness Of Imam Ja'far As-Sadiq (a.s)
A Hajj pilgrim came to Medina and went to sleep in the Prophet's Mosque. When he awoke he became suspicious that a bag containing one thousand dinars has been stolen from him. He looked here and there but could not find anyone. At that time, Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) was praying in a corner. This man did not recognize him. He insisted that the Imam had stolen the bag. When the Imam asked him the man replied that it contained one thousand gold coins. Hearing this, the Imam came out of the Mosque to his residence and gave one thousand gold coins to this man. He took them and returned to his place, but he found his bag lying there.
He went back at once and seeking forgiveness tried to return those gold coins. The Imam said, “We have given what we gave and we would not take it back.” The man was astounded at the high morals and forgiveness of the Imam. He asked someone who that gentleman was. He was told that it is Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s). Hearing this he threw himself at the Imam's feet and pleaded, “O son of the Messenger! Forgive my fault. I was in debt and this was the amount I was to repay to the creditor. That is why the imagination of its loss perturbed me.” The Imam said, “Go, I have forgiven you.”
Forgiveness Of Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s)
When Harun gave Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) into the captivity of Yahya Barmaki, he appointed a nasty slave of his to guard the Imam. This slave was of an extremely audacious and injustice-loving nature. He used to talk with the Imam in the most insulting manner. However, the Imam always acted with kindness and never retaliated with a harsh word. When he observed this behavior of the Imam for some days, he began to be devoted to his spiritual excellences. Finally he became one of the most ardent followers of the Imam. Instead of being harsh he used to behave with the Imam in the most gentle manner. When Harun got this information he demanded an explanation. The slave said, “Under no circumstances can I be harsh to this chosen guide. I can sacrifice my life but I cannot bear anything against my Imam.”
Forgiveness Of Imam Ridha’ (a.s)
When Mamun decided to appoint Imam Ridha’ (a.s) his heir apparent, the Abbasides opposed this very much and uttered many unbecoming words regarding the Imam (a.s). One of them went to the extent of calling the Imam an ignorant fellow (God forbid!) in the Imam's presence. When Mamun learnt about it he wanted to punish this courtier. But the Imam restrained him and said, “Forgive him like I have forgiven.” This fellow was surprised at the forgiveness of the Imam. The Imam said, “We Ahl ul-Bayt overlook the mistakes of those who are unaware of our status.”
Forgiveness Of Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s)
Not to mention the strangers, there were some relatives of Imam Ridha’ (a.s) who opposed him. Initially this opposition remained dormant because the Imam did not have any child and they used to consider themselves as his inheritors but when Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s) were born all their hopes were dashed. Now they resorted to open opposition and began to allege: Since Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s) is not of the same complexion, he is not the son of Imam Ridha’ (a.s). Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s) was all the time hearing such taunting remarks. One day some Khums money arrived and the Imam called his near and dear ones and distributed the amount. Among them was also the fellow most inimical to the Imam. The Imam also gave him his share. People were surprised at this. The Imam said, “He has spoken some false things or is still involved in it; and Allah would punish him for it. His revenge would be much more than my revenge. I am just fulfilling my duty.” When the fellow learnt about it, he was much ashamed. Throwing himself at the feet of the Imam he said, “Forgive my mistake.” The Imam said, “Go, I have forgiven you. May Allah also forgive you.”
Forgiveness Of Imam Ali Naqi (a.s)
Mutawakkil the Abbaside tyrant caliph was always trying to find means to discredit the Imam. One day while his court was in session he told Ibn Sikkit to ask the Imam such a question in the presence of all the people that he cannot reply. Ibn Sikkit posed many questions to the Imam one after another. The Imam replied to all the questions, but since Ibn Sikkit had other intentions he remained unrelenting and continued to say that the Imam has not replied to him satisfactorily. Along with this he passed some unbecoming remarks about the Imam. The Imam observed forbearance. One day Mutawakkil asked Ibn Sikkit a question that he could not answer. Mutawakkil was greatly displeased with him and he said, “I used to consider you a great scholar but it seems you are an ignorant fellow. If you cannot furnish a satisfactory reply within three days I would stop your stipend. Ibn Sikkit was much troubled. He came to the Imam (a.s) and said, “O son of Allah's Messenger! For the sake of Allah, forgive me the nasty way I behaved with you that day. And tell me the solution to this problem.” The Imam forgave him and also told him the correct solution.
Forgiveness Of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s)
When Motazbillah succeeded Mustain to the throne, this stonehearted fellow tried all the methods to make the life of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) difficult. Rather he became the bloodthirsty enemy of the Holy Imam. The Imam was given in captivity to Ali bin Yarmash. This man was very harsh and a staunch enemy of Ahl ul-Bayt (Nasibi). Seeing the Sadat (Syeds), this fellow became red-eyed with fury. He used to trouble the Imam in every possible way. One day his only son was seriously ill and there was no hope of his survival. Someone suggested that if Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) who was under his charge prays for this boy it is possible that he may survive. Because the Imam is a chosen one of the Lord, a descendant of the Prophet his prayer would not be rejected. The fellow at once came to the Imam and begged for forgiveness. The Imam forgave him and without his saying anything the Imam added, “Go, your son would be cured.” The man returned home happily and saw that the child showed signs of recovery. Now he became the sincere devotee and an ardent supporter of the Imam and all the time remained in the service of the Imam.