The aim of this book is to present the perfect morals of the Holy Imams. Topics include their knowledge, worship, bravery, justice, chastity, humility and contentment.
To praise Hazrat Adeebe Azam Maulana Sayyid Zafar Hasan Sahab Qibla or to write something about him is akin to lighting a lamp in front of the blazing Sun. He has written more than 200 books including some very voluminous ones like Manaqib of Ibn Shahr-e-Aashob, Majmaul Fazael and Four Volumes of Al-Kafi running into thousands of pages. After migrating to Pakistan he continued to bring out the “Noor” magazine. Apart from this he used to run a religious school, imparting education in Islamic sciences.
His students are still found engaged in the work of religious propagation. Keeping in mind the usefulness of his writings we have decided to publish them in India also. We have already published Hayat B'ad al-Maut (Life after Death). The second in this series, Akhlaq-e-Aaimma (Morals & Manners of the Holy Imams) is in your hands. If we continue to receive co-operation of the reading public, Insha Allah, we would endeavor to publish all the writings of this great scholar.
The enemies have not heard of the virtuous qualities of the Imams, and neither have they liked it - as for the friends; they listen to the merits and virtues of Imams and invoke blessings on them and send Salawat - but what about emulating them? That is why so many ethical weaknesses have developed among us. May Allah give us the divine opportunity to study this book and take account of ourselves; and resolve that by this we would amend whatever deficiencies we have. Amen.
Servant of Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s)
Proprietor: Haidery Kutub Khana, Mumbai - 3
The meaning of ethics has become so clear to people that it need not be explained even to the most simple-minded persons. However, the level of ethics in the view of the masses is such that it needs a lot of elucidation according to experts of ethical philosophy. It is possible that limits may overlap with the merits of ethics, but in the view of a philosopher they are not included in the perfections of the human soul.
A major portion of the detailed discussions in books of philosophy is beyond the understanding of ordinary people. They are not presented to guide people on the path of virtues but their intention is to confuse the people to an extent that they are not even able to do what they would do in the normal course, thus the dream of the philosophers is fulfilled.
Maybe a student scholar would spend a lot of precious time in explaining these things but the result would be nothing. Thinkers have formulated numerous theories regarding abstract things because they are beyond perception. Those who intend to falsify them cannot unveil the truth. We do not desire to delve into such farfetched theories and waste the precious time of our readers.
Rather than discuss the reality of the soul and its composition in detail we shall study the effects of ethical values in the practical life of man, so that readers may gain something useful. In spite of the elaborate explanations presented by philosophers of ethics it is necessary for us to say that the true meaning of ethics is least understood by common people.
If a good-natured person speaks to us with a smile, he is considered perfect in manners.
If we go to meet someone and he serves us a cup of tea, we take him to be of exemplary morals.
A person we know takes care of his family and we think he has very good morals.
If one is sympathetic to us in our difficult times, he is having perfect morals.
These are some prevalent notions in our society. Though these are some of the elements of ethics, we intend to explain to our readers true morals and ethical values that make a perfect human being. However, to explain such a vast subject is beyond the scope of this book and not its actual aim.
The aim of this book is to present the perfect morals of the Holy Imams. In the course of our discussion we would come across some philosophical discussions but we would touch upon them only as far as they serve our aim. We would refrain from profound philosophical theories that stump the human intellect.
Scholars have initiated many unnecessary discussions with regard to the human character just to prove their own expertise. For example:
What is the position of the soul?
Is it corporeal or otherwise?
Is it annihilated or not?
Is it created or eternal?
Whether it is material or abstract?
Whether the human body is a vessel of soul or not?
Does the moral sense deserve degradation?
Are good morals earned or gifted?
Are good morals related to the heart or the intellect? Etc. etc.
We are not concerned with any of the above topics. Only those bestowed with a lot of free time can afford to indulge in such discussions. Our aim in this book is also not that one can become a professor of ethics by studying it.
Our aim is to present the practical examples of the perfect morals of our Holy Imams and encourage the readers to walk in their footsteps.
The book discusses the perfect morals of those personalities regarding whom people tried to conceal their perfections using all means and encouraged by ruling powers. They opened up the royal treasure for achieving this end. Those who dared to relate their merits were beheaded, lynched and their tongues pulled out. They were imprisoned and their freedom of speech restricted. In such a situation there is no question of exaggeration. Rather it is an established reality that cannot be concealed even if the whole world tries to suppress it.
Whatever we shall discuss in the following pages can also be found in the books of those do not accept the Twelve Imams as their guides, and those who under compulsion of the ruling powers made a mountain of a molehill. The reality is so strong that floods of oppositions cannot dislocate it, and the fact is always confessed by those who have tried to conceal it. What can be said of the merits testified by ones enemy?
Just as man is created from four elements, the basics of ethical values are also four, wisdom, chastity, justice and valour. As if these are the four walls of a perfect character. Even if one of these walls is absent or dilapidated the morals are unsafe and the ethical character stained. These four qualities can be said to be the roots of the tree of morals. All the moral qualities are related to these four basic values. They are thus the branches of this ethical tree. Actually a tree is a tree because of its branches, while a dried barren tree is but used as firewood. The usefulness and value of a tree is proportionate to its foliage and shade-giving capability.
In fact, the magic formula of the establishment of the universe lies in these four words. It is the ladder to the ascension of spirituality. Success in life and the hereafter depends upon these four qualities. Innumerable weapons have been produced and are being produced for the establishment of kingdoms but their purpose is to defeat and conquer material things but they are not concerned with the reformation of hearts. This kingdom is beyond the power of those material weapons. If anything can gain control over it, it is these four weapons. How powerful these weapons are is beyond description and the extent of their capability is beyond perception. We can briefly state that they have the ability to control anything from the earth to the heavens. Every particle of the universe can kiss the feet. Humanity is raised so high in status that angels consider it a privilege to serve them. Let us now see their practical prowess.
The aim of sending the Holy Prophet (S) was to perfect the morals. That is, the mission that did not reach the peak of perfection even after the arrival of 124000 messengers, it was done in theory and practice to such a level of perfection that now there was no more any need of a new prophet or messenger. This required extraordinary capability. That too in the land of Arabs, which was the cradle of ill manners. As if, shameless traits had hammered the final nail in the coffin of humanity. This severe necessity could neither be fulfilled by wealth and money nor by a military system or by the edge of the sword. This needed another type of power.
The verse: “Certainly you are upon the best morals,” has revealed this secret and announced to the world that the aspect of Prophet's behavior is such that it transformed the Arab society completely. It displayed such a miracle of human intercourse that the world was spellbound. What actually happened may be understood in the words of Quran: People entered the fold of Islam in hordes.
The good moral behavior of the Prophet of Islam had the most important role in this magnificent victory. Though Khadija's wealth served a great deal in helping the poor and deprived ones among the Muslims and the awe of Abu Talib afforded some security but the thing that struck the hearts and minds of the polytheist and disbelieving Arabs was the good moral behavior of the Messenger of Islam. It was this that left an indelible mark on the hearts of ignorant Arabs and attracted the wild Arabs to the Prophet like a magnet pulls a needle.
At that time Prophethood was veiled due to hidden wisdom when the Prophet started secret propagation and obtained confessions of his truthfulness from those who were dead enemies of good morals, becoming well known as “The Truthful” and “The Trustworthy” among the Arabs. The blood of human perfections had started running in this body known as Muhammad from the day it breathed its first in the atmosphere of water and clay.
The teachings of Islamic morals to the people did not consist of mere oral admonitions, but it was accompanied by practical feats for every aspect. When those lacking any type of moral embellishments saw the flawless character of the Holy Prophet (S) they realized the degraded and shameful position of their own humanity.
And on every occasion their created nature was shook with a deep yearning. The moral teachings that the Prophet imparted were the nourishment of the face of Islam and the life of its body. When these teachings was recorded on the pages of history and reached the different corners of the earth, and when with the Muslim travelers those teachings reached the people of other nations they were awakened abruptly from their slumber like a slow horse is spurred by the crack of the whip. It was it was an opportunity for the religions to compare that they make Islamic morals the criterion of comparing their differences. Those who did this realized very soon what is the difference between genuine and artificial pearls.
The Messenger of Allah (S) has said: I was sent to perfect the morals. This shows that the one hundred and twenty four thousand prophets that have arrived till now, one of whose duties was to perfect the morals have not been able to achieve this object. Why is it so? Were they careless of their job? But this is against the status of prophethood. Then what is the reason that these teachings could not reach perfection?
Though apparently it is a difficult question, its answer requires a little explanation. The verse: “We blessed all those prophets, some of them excel others,” shows that the status of all the prophets was not equal. There was a difference in their grades and positions, whether it be in their practical value or by the limited scope of their propagation, or by way of their divine recognition, but Allah knows best about all that. Any conjecture in this regard can deviate us. We believe in the prophethoods of all of them.
“We do not differentiate between any of them.” Though it can be said that the previous prophets did not get the opportunity to highlight each and every aspect of perfection of morals. Some prophets were such that they were sent only for a particular group; some were sent for a particular country, some were appointed on one area. Some were prophets only for their families. Followers of certain prophets did not heed their teachings. Some listened but did not follow the teachings. In any case, there were many situations when all the moral qualities and their types could not be taught to the people and all the Islamic morals could not be explained clearly to them. Or sometimes the teachings of a particular prophet lasted for limited period and there was no arrangement to take it further.
It was the reason that the followers of every prophet became deviated after the passing away of their prophet, and with the passage of time the actual teachings assumed a completely different shape. Since the real examples did not exist any more they took the wrong ones as models and continued to follow them. Till the time that need arose again for the arrival of a new prophet. There are some prophets in whose generation prophethood continued in a serial order, but this also came to an end at some time. Since there was no permanent and everlasting arrangement, there was no possibility for the perfection of morals.
The best perfection of man is to set an example. There are innumerable people who display perfection of morals in their own selves but there are very few who can make others like themselves. Rather most centuries pass away without they're being any such personality in them.
When people with perfect morals are not able to pass on their traits to others, perfect morals gradually disappear from the society. Setting an example is not an easy job; it requires a very effective personality. To make someone else like ourselves is not possible till the time the personality of the owner of perfection is not so powerful that it could pull others towards itself. There are many who can create partial similarity; there are none who can create total similarity. Continuation of perfection is impossible till all the partial things, all the habits and all good traits and morals, all the actions and deeds, all the spiritual perfections are not transferred to someone else.
The Prophet was on the position of the best of morals. Its perfection was possible only if there was arrangement of its continuation. Otherwise it would have been temporary just like the teachings of other prophets, while creation of examples is impossible without continuity. Therefore the Prophet, first of all, paid attention to this, and in his lifetime made four persons (Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husayn , peace be upon them all) like himself in every aspect.
There was no quality of good morals that was present in the Prophet but not found in them. Just as the Holy Prophet (S) showed each and every virtue practically, they also did so. This was an arrangement of the perfection of good morals from Providence; that it created twelve such personalities, who had the privilege of the successorship of the Holy Prophet (S) one after the other.
They continued to present the examples of prophetic morals in every age and period. And they continued to display all the good morals possessed by the Prophet himself, without any increase or decrease. Just as the prophethood of the Holy Prophet (S) is to continue till the Day of Judgment, in the same way is to continue the examples of his good moral qualities.
All the four meritorious qualities mentioned by us above (wisdom, chastity, justice and valour) are such that each of them is a very difficult path, thinner than hair and sharper than a sword. The scholars of moral science have called this “Siratul Mustaqeem”, the right path. One who has achieved this path in the world and remained steadfast on it would easily pass over the Sirat Bridge in the Hereafter, because if he walks on this Siratul Mustaqeem there would be no defect in his deeds.
Consider this way to be a space between two written words. It is the smallest but the most upright one. All the writings besides it would be slanted and longer than it. All these writings would not be included in the merits; rather they would be called decline and the merit would be that middle writing alone. All the writings near to this middle one would be closer in merit and those further away would be further from merit also. The moral virtue would be only one and the declines numerous. Not a single word would be steadfast on this middle line.
It is this straight path in whose search remain the wayfarers and guides, day and night. They practice penance to achieve all this but first of all its achievement is very difficult. Even if they find it, it is very difficult to remain steadfast upon it. The feet waver in the slightest difficulty. What can be said of others, the prophets sometimes reached the juncture of “omitting the preferred option” (Tark-e-awla). The correct standard to distinguish this path is the morals of prophets and most of all the morals of the Holy Prophet (S).
It is this balance of deeds in which the actions of people shall be weighed. The Almighty Allah says,
Certainly We sent Our apostles with clear arguments, and sent down with them the Book and the balance that men may conduct themselves with equity. ( Surah Hadid, 57:25).
It is evident that none of the prophets were born with a book or a balance, then what does it denote? The fact is that 'book' denotes the book of the existence of the prophet.
Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) says: “O man! You are that magnificent book of Allah, each letter of which reveals the secrets of providence.”
When the existence of man is the magnificent book of Allah, what can be said of the existence of the prophets? The special miracle of divine power is found in each of their organs and powers. Their senses of hearing, speech and sight are more powerful than those of ordinary people. Their physical organs are superior to those of ordinary people in their special qualities. Even the seeds in the loins or wombs heard the voice of Ibrahim (a.s) when he recited the Call (Azan) for Hajj. His eyes saw the kingdom of the heavens and the earth. Prophet Sulaiman (a.s) heard the conversation of the ant. In this way other prophets were endowed with special powers and qualities. Each verse of the book of their existence is incomparable in its position.
As for the descent of balance, it denotes their good moral behavior. The morals of all people would be judged in relation to them. The criterion of each thing is different. Material objects are weighed in a different kind of balance, and non-perceptible things are weighed differently. The balance of poetic meter is not an ordinary one, or the one used to weigh gold or silver; their weights are also completely different. These weights are also not used in measuring temperature; a thermometer is required for this. In moral science also this criterion is useless. You will find a completely different standard there. In common parlance it is said: The habit of so and so is similar to the habit of so and so. He is like his father in moral qualities.
Thus we come to know that the morals of the prophets is that balance on which the morals of all the nations would be weighed on the Day of Judgment, and the morals of the people would be judged in accordance with the “best of morals” (of the Holy Prophet). Thus as far removed one is from the right path; the less would be the weight of his deeds.
One who is nearer to this true measure would be rewarded most. Allah says, “This weighing would be very accurate.” So that no one gets an opportunity to complain. “One who has done an iota of good or one who has done a little bit of evil” all would be accounted for. Actually this examination would be in relation to this “medium letter”. One who is nearest to it would have the heaviest pan of deeds, and the further away one is from the criterion, the lighter his deeds would become. Now consider how difficult this path is.
If it had been an easy way the divine saints would not have subjected themselves to severe penance and would not have forgone ease and comforts. Even those who are considered the patron saints of mysticism are found helpless and defeated at one time or the other. We can say without any doubt or fear that except for Muhammad and the Progeny of Muhammad no one else succeeded in achieving these positions. If this had not been so, the mystics would not have considered Ali (a.s) as the first guide. These pathways are so elevated that eyes snared by the enchantment of materialism cannot even see properly, then how can they be expected to recognize anything.
We have already mentioned that every superior quality is rooted in the four merits. The first is wisdom, secondly chastity, third is valour and lastly justice. All the remaining moral virtues like patience, thankfulness, contentment, reliance, generosity, humility, satisfaction, piety etc; that are around forty-eight qualities, are branches of the four main qualities. Let us now briefly study each of these four moral qualities.
It is of two types, theoretical wisdom and practical wisdom. The first is related to the thinking and opinions of man. When one has this type of wisdom one is free from mistakes of judgment and by arranging the preliminaries he is able to draw a correct conclusion. That is why it is said: Those who are given wisdom are given a great good.
It is under the heading of this wisdom that all religious sciences come. The philosophies of the world and the divine sciences are also included in it. Divine recognition, certainty of belief and realization is related to this. By its help man is able to save himself from sins; and he can distinguish between right and wrong. The second kind is practical wisdom, towards which one is led after theoretical wisdom.
If one deviates an inch from this medium line one loses the merit of wisdom and it is replaced by some decline or degradation. If he reaches towards the top he learns to fool people with cunning and deceptive knowledge. He becomes deviated and is not anymore connected to wisdom. In the same way if he slides below the medium line, it would be ignorance, and this also has a lot of variations.
Ignorance is not a single kind but has a thousand varieties and due to this, man commits innumerable mistakes in the sphere of actions. Thus in the terminology of ethics, a wise one is that who walks straight on the middle line and is not even slightly deviated. You will see many people who apparently are knowledgeable and wise but their actions are found above or below the line of the straight path. In mutual dealings they reach wrong conclusions, while making judgments they are unable to discover the correct causes and they solve their problems using their cunning.
This is also the middle line. If one goes above it, it would amount to jealousy and create extraordinary desires. If one goes below it, one would even destroy the permissible desires. They broke the ties of relationships, society and culture and took themselves to the caves of seclusion and thus gave up their life before time. In other words we can say that both types of extremisms are dangerous. Both are considered deviations. A chaste person would only be one who is not afflicted with jealousy and neither should he be the one who sacrifices natural inclinations.
This is also the middle line. Anything above this is called ferocity or cruelty and if one falls below the line it is cowardice.
The upper portion of this is referred to as injustice and the lower one is remaining under oppression.
To find out these medium lines is beyond the capacity of people. Then to walk upon them with firm steps, the whole life is much more difficult. Even our Holy Prophet (S) who was having the highest morals said on the difficult path that: Surah Hud has made me aged. People asked what the Prophet meant by this? He replied, “It is commanded therein: Be upright!” That is, do not deviate even a little bit from the path of morals. This was such a difficult task that even a personality like the Holy Prophet (S) aged prematurely. What can be said of other people?
It is our claim that none of the companions of the Holy Prophet (S) can say that he/she had all the four qualities with all their variations. It is possible that their followers may have attributed these qualities to them because false beliefs can make clay into gold, but till the time it is proved it cannot be considered true. This superiority was owned only by the Ahl ul-Bayt of the Holy Prophet (S). The chief of Ahl ul-Bayt, Ali (a.s) obtained these qualities directly from the Holy Prophet.
The Holy Prophet (S) said, “I am the abode of knowledge and Ali is its gate,” and Allah said: And no one knows its interpretation except Allah and those who are firmly rooted in knowledge. And also said: Say Allah is sufficient witness between me and you and one who has the knowledge of the book.
The Almighty Allah said:
…they shall strive hard in Allah's way and shall not fear the censure of any censurer…(Surah Maidah 5:54)
And He said,
…those who fight in His way in ranks as if they were a firm and compact wall. ( Surah Saff 61:4)
The Holy Prophet (S) said, “One stroke of Ali on the day of the battle of Trench (Khandaq) was superior to the worship of all men and jinns. And on the day of the battle of Khyber he said,
“Tomorrow I will give the standard to a man, who is victorious and who does not flee; who loves Allah and the Prophet and whom Allah and the Prophet love.”
And seeing the courage of Ali the unseen caller called: “There is no brave youth except Ali and there is no sword except Zulfiqar.”
The Almighty Allah says, “Allah certainly intends to remove all impurities from you O, people of the house and to purify you a thorough purification.” The Holy Prophet (S) said, “O Ali! You are to me as Aaron was to Moses.” That is you are infallible just as he was and like he was the successor of Moses, you are my successor.
The Almighty Allah says in Surah Araaf:
And of those whom We have created are a people who guide with the truth and thereby they do justice. ( Surah Araaf 7:181).
The Holy Prophet (S) also said, “Ali is the most just among you.”
Others could also have been included with Ahl ul-Bayt in these specialties. But they did not have any peers. Also no one else proved to be steadfast on the straight path all ones life, except the Ahl ul-Bayt.
Who could have been a better examiner than the Holy Prophet (S) whether Ali (a.s) had these merits or not. Even if there had been a slight deficiency the truthful tongue of the Prophet would not have uttered Ali's praise. Thus when it is proved that Ahl ul-Bayt had all these basic four merits then their derivations are automatically proved in their perfections because the sum total of all perfections are these four basic qualities.
Now we shall briefly discuss some of the qualities that Ahl ul-Bayt possessed. The most important of these is knowledge because no virtue is possible without it. However we would like to mention a few points as introduction to our discussion.
Knowledge is of two types, one is natural and the other acquired. The former is bestowed by the Almighty to His exalted servants by revelation. There is no chance of error in this because the Teacher here has knowledge in His essence. There is no scope of loss because the recipient is infallible. He is free from error and forgetfulness. In the worldly life the knowledge of the teachers is itself incomplete. Therefore such an education is not reliable. Human views keep on changing everyday. Conclusions based on conjectures, which prove wrong, create a lot of mistakes.
The knowledge of all our Imams was naturally gifted. They had not received instructions at any of the schools in this world because their nature was perfect, that is why the rays of divine endowments had begun to fall on them right from the time they were in the wombs. They had come from the Almighty with the radiance of belief and divine recognition in their hearts.
And whatever they had brought with them it was from those sources of perfection whose bodies were shaded by infallibility, whose wombs were truth personified. Thus their knowledge had no scope of satanic instigations. Neither was there any use of philosophy nor analogy. They were having the sea of truths and divine recognition raging in their hearts. There were many divine sciences that passed on from one breast to another. The real interpretation of the Holy Quran was present in those very illuminated hearts.
In this connection it is necessary to mention that in Islam the knowledge whose acquisition is given top priority is the knowledge of religion. That is the knowledge of all those laws that the Holy Prophet (S) related upon revelation from Allah or in the form of traditions. This includes the roots of religion, branches of religion (practical laws), laws of transactions and Hereafter. After this is the acquisition of other sciences depending upon the need, but it is not obligatory. It is permissible, those who require may obtain it and if there is no need, one does not have to acquire it. But it is compulsory to acquire religious knowledge.
In the science of religion the most important is the awareness of the secrets of divinity and heavenly sciences so that one gains divine recognition, otherwise without having divine recognition all the worship acts and deeds are useless. That is why Ali (a.s) said, “The first thing in religion is divine recognition.” It is the reason why our Imams have emphasized on sciences related to religion though they knew all the sciences better than even the prophets through direct revelation from the Lord. However they did not consider it necessary to teach them to the people while they considered the imparting of religious training obligatory upon themselves in all circumstances. After the passing away of the Holy Prophet (S) Muslims were caught in the quagmire of materialism and day by day they began to become ignorant of religious knowledge.
Firstly, these teachings had not become fully rooted in their hearts, and then military conquests had taken away their remaining attention. Thus they remained completely blank. The result was that scholars of other religions created tremors in their Islamic beliefs through their philosophical discourses. It was necessary to prevent this. Therefore our Imams spent a great deal of their time in the corrections of the distorted beliefs and presented the philosophy of Islam in the true form. That is why their sermons, supplications and advices are replete with the problems of divine sciences so as to halt the penetration of false ideas in the beliefs of Muslim people. It is a pity that the narrow-minded view of the people ignored their teachings and no one was given a chance to give an ear to what they said.
Severe opposition of the ruling powers, enmity of the contemporary rulers and bigotry of the general public continued to hinder the dispersal of their teachings. Even then they fulfilled each duty in every age, whenever and wherever they got the opportunity to do so.
In fact, wisdom is another name of knowledge. If the knowledge is not right or it has not reached its perfection, the theoretical and practical wisdom becomes meaningless. The thoughts of man are expressed in the form of knowledge and action. A person without knowledge cannot be wise and a wise person cannot be without knowledge.
Wisdom is having the highest status in morals. That is why it comes first in the form of good qualities. The Holy Prophet (S) was the city of knowledge and the abode of wisdom, and he had named Ali to be the door of this city or house. Just as a magnificent door or gate gives respect to a house or city, the sciences of the Holy Prophet (S) have got enduring honor in the world due to Ali (a.s). One who did not obtain knowledge from this door remained ignorant of authentic knowledge, and the true facts of Islam remained veiled for him.
Because wisdom is the first pillar of morals, as soon as false sciences gained currency in Islam, there was an earthquake in the pillars of morals and the right path or the straight line, that has been explained before, went away from below the feet of the people and they began to run helter-skelter in the thorny deserts of extremism and conservativeness. In comparison to extremism there was more conservatism and this ignorance then proved to be so powerful that the face of true Islam underwent a drastic transformation.
The morals of Muslims changed completely. There were numerous rulers but not a single Islamic thinker available. This was the first calamity that befell the Muslims.
Ali (a.s) was having a naturally purified nature. That is why he was blessed by the Creator of the universe with supreme knowledge and wisdom. In addition to that he was bestowed by the training of the Holy Prophet (S) from the day he was born. In fact we should consider Ali (a.s) a miracle of the Holy Prophet (S) with regard to knowledge, superiority, morals and good qualities.
That in whichever field one looks; Ali (a.s) is found to excel in it. None of the Prophet's companions got this superiority. It was due to the fact that the majority of them entered the company of Prophet after spending a better part of their life while Ali was with the Prophet every moment. They only got a chance now and then. On the other hand Ali (a.s) used to remain with the Prophet whether he was alone or in company. This was so because the Prophet had said that he was the city of knowledge and Ali, its gate and also said that one who desires knowledge should enter from that gate. Salman Farsi relates that the Holy Prophet (S) said, “In my community Ali (a.s) is the most knowledgeable after me.”
A saying of Ibn Abbas is recorded in the book of Istiab according to which Ali is given nine out of ten parts of knowledge and others are made to share the remaining tenth portion. At another place it is mentioned that total knowledge was divided into five parts, four of which were given to Ali and the fifth was shared by all the people and this part also is shared by Ali (a.s) and in this Ali is having the larger portion.
Ibn Abbas reportedly said that his knowledge was obtained from the knowledge of Ali (a.s) and the knowledge of Ali (a.s) was derived from the knowledge of the Prophet and the knowledge of the Prophet was derived from the knowledge of Allah. Ibn Abbas adds that his knowledge and that of all the companions of the Holy Prophet (S) together is like a drop in relation to the seven seas.
Dailami has related from Ibn Masood in Firdausul Akhbar that the Holy Prophet (S) said, “Wisdom is divided into ten parts, out of which nine are given to Ali (a.s) and the tenth is given to other people. Imam Razi has written in Arbaeen that Ali (a.s) said, “The Messenger of Allah (S) taught me a thousand chapters (doors) of knowledge and each door opened upon me a million doors.”
Ahmad Ibn Hanbal quotes Musayyab that from the companions of the Holy Prophet (S) there was none who could challenge: Ask me whatever you want. None of the companions was having the knowledge of Quran like Ali (a.s). Tibrani has quoted Umme Salma in Awsat that the Holy Prophet (S) said, “Ali is with the Quran and the Quran is with Ali. And the two shall not separate till they come to me at the Pool of Kauthar.” Ahmad Ibn Hanbal has related from Umar that the Holy Prophet (S) used to say to Ali (a.s), “You have the most knowledge of Quranic verses among them.”
Ali (a.s) was a great scholar of Taurat, Injeel and Zabur. Imam Fakhruddin Razi has quoted the following saying of Ali (a.s) in his book, Arbaeen: If I am given rulership I will judge the people of Taurat by Taurat, the people of Injeel by Injeel, the people of Zabur by Zabur and the people of Quran by Quran so perfectly that each book would say: Ali has commanded regarding us, the same as is the command of Allah.” In the science of Quranic exegesis also none could equal Ali (a.s).
Allamah Ibn Abde Barr has quoted Abdullah Ibn Abbas in his book, Al-Istiab that when we were proved something regarding the exegesis of Quran from Ali (a.s) there remained no need for us to ask anyone else. With regard to the knowledge of Quran also the status of Ali (a.s) is the highest. Most of the biographers are unanimous that Ali (a.s) had memorized the whole of Quran and recited it to the Holy Prophet (S) in his lifetime.
Ali was most knowledgeable in the science of traditions also, due to the fact that he had the most opportunity of the Prophet's company. Thus it is mentioned in Sawaiqul Mohreqa that when he was asked why he was the one to relate the traditions of the Holy Prophet (S) the most, he replied, “When I asked something from the Holy Prophet (S) he informed me of it and when I was silent he used to inform me himself.” In the same way Ali was most proficient of all in Islamic jurisprudence, legal code, scholastic theology, mysticism, astronomy, literature and eloquence, poetry, wit, science of the book, interpretation of dreams, knowledge of the 'Jafr' and 'Jame' (scrolls of knowledge) and mathematics etc. There are traditions with regard to all of the above in the book of Arjahul Matalib.
Please note, who can be wiser than the one who has proficiency in all the sciences? And how there be any error in his judgment or views. Error is possible when one is having deficient knowledge about a particular thing. There are many well-known thinkers and philosophers who presented theories regarding sciences and arts, against which people have raised thousands of objections.
Why is it that theories are modified or disproved everyday? The main reason is that they do not have the correct knowledge of the facts of the universe. They prop up theories based on conjecture and create a farce. On the other hand consider one who has authentic knowledge of the truths of divine recognition, who has received training from the Holy Prophet (S)? Can he ever commit a mistake in deriving conclusions? Also, his thoughts and judgments cannot move away from the correct center.
The fact is that the world has taken few benefits and guidance. After the Holy Prophet (S) there was such a powerful flood of materialism in the Islamic world that it completely turned away from religious instruction. And they dissociated from those who could have bestowed this treasure to them. In such circumstances, how could Ali have spread his sciences while for the ruling powers the aim of Islamic life was something else?
It is only to the credit of this divine thinker that even in such sorrowful period whenever he got an opportunity he provided guidance. His tenure of worldly rule was such that the enemies did not allow him to rule peacefully a single day. Even then he did not forget his duty in such severe times. The sermons he delivered everyday after the noon prayers were limitless treasures of sciences and arts.
He was always concerned for correcting the beliefs of the people and acting correctly on the religious commandments. He wanted to remove the defects in the knowledge and deeds of the people that had come into being during the tenure of the previous caliphs. It was a pity however that people were not ready to follow in the footsteps of Ali (a.s).
The wise sayings, wise thoughts and knowledgeable discussions of Ali (a.s) are still available. Which thinker has the audacity to refute them? No thinker, philosopher or reformer can dare to refute the views of Ali with regard to divine sciences, jurisprudence, secrets of nature and politics and administration, and replace them with his or her own theories.
The principles of governance keep changing everyday, but the system of Ali's rulership is such that there is no scope of changes and alteration as it is something that can never change. When the world realizes the truth and ponders upon them, it would certainly try to accept him.
In any case our aim for the above discussion was to prove that Ali is the wisest one in Islam and he was having perfect wisdom, which is the foremost among the four greatest moral qualities.
In this field the step of Ali is neither found towards extremism nor towards conservatism, it is on that middle or the medium line, which is known as the straight path. If he had moved away from this line even a little bit, Ali would not have been what he actually was. When people saw the cunning and intrigue of Muawiyah they mentioned it to Ali (a.s) and he said, “Muawiyah is not more cunning than I am but these things do not befit me.” Cunning is included among the low qualities and cannot be considered a virtue.
After this brief explanation we would now invite the attention of our esteemed readers to the intellectual accomplishments of our other Imams (Peace be upon them all).
Imam Hasan (a.s) was also a blooming and fragrant flower of this garden of virtue and perfection, which was irrigated by the Almighty with the water of knowledge and wisdom. And which used to bloom in the illuminated atmosphere of mercy and bounty. Which was guarded by infallibility and cared by prophethood. This prince of the two worlds had sucked the tongue of prophethood and was bred in the lap of Imamate. Like that of his father the breast of Imam Hasan (a.s) was also illuminated by the radiance of divine wisdom. His step also did not deviate from the straight path. He never paid any attention to the wisdom of extremism or conservatism. He continued to propagate divine religion all his life.
He had the natural gift of deriving correct conclusions by arranging the basic facts. That is why he was safe from the error of judgment or practical mistakes in all aspects of life. Ali (a.s) usually entrusted to Imam Hasan (a.s) the legal problems that were sent to him by the ruling caliphs. Not once is Imam Hasan (a.s) said to have given a wrong judgment. Let us read some incidents in this regard.
1. Imam Ridha’ (a.s) has narrated that once a man holding a bloodstained knife was brought to Umar. Those who had arrested him reported that a severed head was found in such and such desolate spot, and that they found this man standing near it. Umar asked the accused if he had committed the murder of the victim. He confessed to it. Umar ordered his execution. In a short while another person appeared and said, “Release him, because I am the actual murderer.” Umar was confused and could not decide what to do, so he sent the matter to Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s). Ali (a.s) asked the first accused, “Did you kill that man?”
He replied, “O Amir'ul-Mu'minin! The fact is that I am a butcher and I was slaughtering a goat at a place when I had the urge urinate. Holding the blood-smeared knife I went to answer nature's call in that ruin where I saw that murdered man. I was staring at the corpse when these people came and arrested me. When I was brought to the caliph I confessed to the murder because all the circumstantial evidence was against me and my denial would not have made any impact. But the truth is that I have not murdered anyone.” Now Ali (a.s) turned to the second man and asked if he was the murderer.
He said, “Yes, I wanted to run away where no one would learn about it but when I saw that an innocent man was falsely accused, my conscience could not bear it that I should be saved and an innocent is executed instead. So I came here myself and confessed to the murder. Ali (a.s) asked Imam Hasan (a.s) what judgment he would give in this case. He replied at once, “Both the men should be released and the blood money of the victim should be paid from the public treasury.” When Ali (a.s) asked him to justify his decision he said, “One of them is innocent and the other one deserves release because he has saved the life of an innocent person. Almighty Allah says: One who saved the life of one person, it is as if he has saved humanity.”
The above incident proves that judgment in material matters should not be based on conjecture; it should rely on hard facts. Also each of the judgment was supported by Quranic verses. If Quran had not been treasured in their hearts they would also have given judgments like those ignorant about Quran. Another important point is that how many lives were saved by their judgments and how many innocent people were saved from wrongful punishments.
If divine wisdom had been related to other people, they would never have expressed their inability and helplessness in giving legal decisions and solving intellectual problems. Because it is a matter of great shame that the ruler could not properly judge the affairs of his subjects. That is why the Creator of the universe has never entrusted rulership to the ignorant. When Bani Israel objected to the rulership of Talut, saying that he didn't have enough wealth, their prophet said that Allah has selected him because he was the most knowledgeable and strong among them all. This shows that a ruler can only be one who has knowledge and virtues so that he can rule his subjects according to divine will. Cunning, intrigue and deception cannot be called wisdom or knowledge.
2. A Syrian instigated by Muawiyah asked Imam Hasan (a.s) amidst a crowd, “What is the difference between faith and certainty.” Actually he wanted to pose a difficult question that required lengthy explanation going into complex debatable points which the Imam would take time to explain and hence people would think the Imam is deficient in knowledge, while the Syrian would get an opportunity to extol the virtues of Muawiyah. Imam Hasan (a.s) replied, “There is a distance of four fingers between faith and certainty.” “How is it so?” asked the Syrian. Imam (a.s) explained, “What you hear (by your ears) is faith and what you see (by your eyes) is certainty. Then the Syrian asked, “What is the distance between the sky and the earth?” Imam (a.s) said, “The length of ones eyesight.” He asked, “What is the distance between east and west?” Imam (a.s) said, “The distance the sun travels in a day.”
Now consider the depth of these replies. The questioner is a deadly enemy of Ahl ul-Bayt. He did not aim to gain any knowledge from Imam (a.s). It was rather to dishonor him. Think deeply on the replies of Imam (a.s). All the replies were short and to the point without any scope of further questions. This is the way a wise man speaks. Another thing worth attention is that these questions were posed to Imam (a.s) suddenly. Anyone else in place of Imam (a.s) would have become confused and offered incorrect explanations. However, even the most difficult questions are easy for those whose hearts contain the treasures of divine sciences and who are brought up in the lap of one who challenged: “Ask me”, from the pulpit. In such difficult circumstances he gave such replies that the opponent had no chance to move. This was the intellectual perfection of the Household of the Prophet.
3. Once Muawiyah came to Medina, met Imam Hasan (a.s) and asked, “You Bani Hashim claim that every dry and wet thing is mentioned in the Quran and you have the knowledge of all of them.” “Indeed,” said the Imam. Muawiyah said, “If it is so, tell me where is the mention of our beards in the Quran?” Now Imam Hasan (a.s) had a luxurious and thick facial growth while the beard of Muawiyah was scanty. “Why not!” said Imam (a.s), “Have you not read the verse of Quran:
And as for the good land, its vegetation springs forth (abundantly) by the permission of its Lord, and (as for) that which is inferior (its herbage) comes forth but scantily… (Surah Araaf 7:58).
There are subtle points in this and only those with a literary taste can appreciate them. It is sufficient if we can just realize how great was the Quranic knowledge of Imam Hasan (a.s).
4. The King of Rome sent two queries to Muawiyah. (1) Which house is in the middle of the heavens? (2) What is that place where the sun shines only once? Now how could Muawiyah reply these queries? He in turn asked Imam Hasan (a.s) who said, “The house in the middle of the heavens is the back of the Holy Ka'ba and the place where the sun shines only once is the spot in the Nile river where Prophet Moses (a.s) hit the staff and it opened (to make a path).
5. A bedouin asked Abu Bakr, “During the Hajj, I roasted and ate 70 eggs in the condition of Ehram (ritual dress), what penalty (Kaffarah) do I have to pay?” Abu Bakr said, “O Arab! You have posed a very difficult question. Go to Umar and seek the reply.” So the man went to Umar who instructed him to approach Abdul Rahman Ibn Auf. When he too could not reply he directed him to Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s), who told Imam Hasan (a.s) to answer the question. Imam Hasan (a.s) said, “O Bedouin, get as many female camels and have them impregnated, then after the calves are born, give them as offering to the House of Allah.” Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) asked, “But, son Hasan, sometimes the she-camels have miscarriages?” Hasan replied, “Father, eggs too go bad sometimes.”
Once in a gathering of Muawiyah, Amr Aas asked Imam Hasan (a.s) by way of testing him, “What is the difference between kindness, support and chivalry?” He replied, “The true meaning of kindness is to give something without expecting any recompense before the needy one asks for it; support means to dispel ones enemy by ones good behavior and chivalry denotes the condition whereby man should keep an eye on his religion and protect his self from dirt and sins and should fulfill the rights of Allah and the creatures.
Once a person asked Imam Hasan (a.s), what was the distinguishing feature of a eunuch. He said, “Regarding whom it is not known whether it is a man or a woman, but he is having both the sex organs. Then one should wait till his maturity. If he has ejaculation of semen, he is a man and if has menses and the breasts become prominent, it is a woman. And if this also does not establish the sex, then while urinating if the urine spouts in a straight line it is a man and if it drops like urine of she-camels it is a woman.”
This man further asked, “What are those ten things, that are harder than each other?” Imam (a.s) said, “Allah has made stone hard and made iron harder than it; because it breaks the stone and fire is stronger than iron because it melts the iron and water is more powerful than fire because it extinguishes the fire and the cloud is more powerful because it has control over water; and wind is more powerful than the cloud because it moves the cloud and more powerful than wind is the angel who controls it and more powerful than this angel is the angel of death who would capture his soul. And death is more powerful than the angel of death that he himself would be subjected to death. More powerful than death is the command of God Almighty, as by this death arrives and is warded off.”
Once Muawiyah heard about the generosity and kindness of Imam (a.s) and wrote to him, “There is no goodness in overspending.” The Imam wrote in reply, “There is no over-spending in goodness.”
Once when Muawiyah had come to Medina he requested Imam Husayn (a.s) to go on the pulpit and give some admonitions. He thought the Imam would say something in praise of Muawiyah. Thus he went to the pulpit and after praise of Allah and blessings on the Prophet, he said, “People, know that we are that divine group which is going to be victorious over the deviated people. We are the progeny of the Prophet and his closest relatives. We are his purified and clean Ahl ul-Bayt and one of the two weighty things. The Messenger of Allah (S) has referred to us as the second book of Allah; it is the book having details about everything. Neither falsehood is before it or after it. We are the ones who know its interpretation and explanation. Its realities are hidden in our hearts. Our obedience is obligatory. Our obedience is connected to the obedience of Allah. Ask us whatever you want to ask about the Holy Quran. We are the shoreless oceans of sciences.”
The sermons and sayings of Imam Husayn (a.s) regarding divine sciences quoted in books like Biharul Anwar, Nurul Absar and Irshadul Quloob show eloquence and how beautifully he has solved the problems of religious sciences.
It is related from Jabir Ibn Abdullah Ansari that Imam Husayn (a.s) was an unsurpassed scholar of Quran, exegesis and traditions. When Muawiyah came to Medina in connection with the allegiance of Yazid, many companions of the Holy Prophet (S) went to meet him. The conversation turned to the topic of the most superior personality of the day in knowledge and virtues. Muawiyah wanted them to mention the name of Abdullah Ibn Umar but no one expressed this opinion. All of them unanimously said that, “We cannot find anyone better than Imam Husayn (a.s).” And why it shouldn't be so? He was brought up by sucking the Prophet's tongue. His chest is joined to the chest of the Prophet. He rode upon the shoulders of the Messenger of Allah (S).
Various testimonies are available with regard to the intellectual accomplishments of Imam (a.s) in form of statements of Moayyad, Imam Zuhri, Saeed bin Musayyab, Ibn Jazm, Sufyan bin Uyanna and Abu Hamzah Thumali etc. who are called the best of Tabeins (companions of companions) and who were great scholars of their time. They used to express pride on their discipleship of Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s). They used to say, “When the springs of knowledge burst from the tongue of Imam (a.s) it seemed as if waves of precious stones were gushing out. Our mental capacities proved ineffective in preserving the sayings of Imam (a.s).”
Whatever benefits Muslims received from these gentlemen, it was due to the training of Imam (a.s). Imam Zuhri used to say, “We have not seen anyone more expert in knowledge and jurisprudence than Ali Ibn Husayn .” Imam Malik said, “Ali Ibn Husayn is among those virtuous personages praising whom is beyond my capacity. He is highly trustworthy and reliable. He is the narrator of a large number of traditions. He is having a very exalted status. He is very religious, pious and God-fearing.”
Ibn Abbas use to say to him, “Welcome O beloved of the beloved!” Saeed bin Musayyab used to say, “I have not found anyone more knowledgeable, pious and God-fearing than Ali Ibn Husayn .” Hammad bin Zaid used to say, “I have not found anyone among the Bani Hashim more knowledgeable and virtuous.”
Sahifa Kamila, also known as Sahifa Sajjadiya is the perfect example of his intellectual attainments and his inner virtues. One should reflect on its writings, the beauty of its discussions, supplications and effective sentences to fully realize the sciences of divine recognition of Imam (a.s) and his abstemiousness, purity of soul, enlightened heart, piety and religiosity etc. The scholars of both the sects have given it the title of “The Psalms of Aale Muhammad,” due to its greatness and exalted position.
All historians and traditionists of Islam are unanimous that among the descendants of Imam Hasan and Imam Husayn (a.s) maximum religious sciences were expounded by Imam Baqir (a.s). That is why the title of 'al-Baqir' was given to Imam (a.s), which denotes one who splits knowledge. He contributed greatly to the science of Quranic exegesis, scholastic theology, religious law and Islamic jurisprudence etc.
Muhammad bin Muslim says, “I learnt 30000 traditions from Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s).” Jabir Ibn Abdullah, one of the distinguished companions of the Holy Prophet (S) used to visit Imam Baqir (a.s) regularly and inquire about religious problems. Let us read some of the incidents of Imam Baqir (a.s) with regard to his teachings.
One day, Umar bin Ubaid, who was considered the leader of Mutazila sect asked Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s), “What is the meaning of the verse:
Do not those who disbelieve see that the heavens and the earth were closed up, but We have opened them. (Surah Anbiya 21:30)
Imam replied, “The sky was closed, means not a drop fell from the sky to the earth and the earth was closed means, no vegetation grew up from it. When Allah accepted the prayers of Adam (a.s) the earth burst forth and streams began to flow, trees grew and began to fructify. Rain fell from the sky. Thus this is the meaning of “closed up” and “We opened them”.
Once Tawus Yemeni asked Imam (a.s), “When did one-third of Adam die?” Imam replied, “It never happened so. Rather you should ask when did one-fourth of human population die? It was when Qabeel killed Habeel. At that time there were four human beings, Adam, Hawwa, Habeel and Qabeel. Thus by the slaying of Habeel, one-fourth of the population decreased.”
Tawus Yemeni asked, “What is that, which is permitted in small quantity but prohibited in large measure. Imam (a.s) replied, “It was the stream of Talut, drinking more water from it was not allowed, only a handful was permitted.”
Then he asked, “Which fast was it, when it was allowed to eat and drink?” “It was the vow of silence that Maryam (a.s) had observed,” replied the Imam (a.s). That is she did not speak to anyone in this fast.
Tawus asked, “What is that goes on decreasing and never increases?”
“Life,” replied Imam (a.s).
“What is that which goes on increasing and never decreased?”
“The sea,” replied the Imam (a.s).
Then he asked, “What is that, which became airborne only once?”
“Mt. Tur, which rose up and hovered on the heads of Bani Israel,” said the Imam (a.s).
He asked, “Who are those people who gave a true testimony that Allah considered false?”
“It was the testimony of the hypocrites regarding the prophethood of Allah's Messenger, but Allah considered it false.”
It means that what they had stated was correct but their statements were considered false because they did not testify with sincerity, they only claimed so verbally.
A dying person willed that a thousand dirhams from his property be donated to the Holy Ka'ba. After the person died, the executor of the will took the amount and proceeded to Mecca but upon reaching there he was confused how to spend the same. People brought him to Ibn Shayba who told him to hand over the money to him discharge his duty. But he did not agree and went to Imam Baqir (a.s) to know the right solution. Imam (a.s) told him, “The Holy Ka'ba is not needful of this money, rather you should find those Hajj pilgrims who do not have the means to return home, and this money should be given to them.”
Once Abu Khalid Kabuli asked Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) about the meaning of “Light” in the verse:
Therefore believe in Allah and His Apostle and the Light, which We have revealed. (Surah Taghabun 64:8)
Imam (a.s) replied, “It denotes us, the Imams. By Allah, only we are the light of Allah that have descended from Him and only we are the light of Allah in the heavens and the earth as mentioned in the verse:
Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth. (Surah Nur 24:35)
Imam (a.s) further said: When the verse:
(Remember) the day when We will call every people with their Imam… (Surah Bani Israel 17:71)
was revealed, people asked the Messenger of Allah (S), “Are you not the Imam of all the people?” The Prophet replied, “I am the Prophet for all the people till Qiyamat, but there would be Imams from my progeny, who would be appointed by Allah like I am. But the misguided people would consider them liars. They would oppress them and their followers. Only these people (Imams) are from me and only they would be with me in Paradise on the Day of Judgment. And those who have oppressed them and their followers would remain away from me.”
A person named Abdul Ghaffar Nasrani once posed the following questions to Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s):
1. Who is a true Muslim?
Imam replied, “One from whose tongue the Muslims are safe.”
2. Which is the best worship?
3. Who is a better believer?
“One who has the best behavior.”
4. Which is the best Jihad?
“One in which the legs of the warrior's horse are cut off and in which his blood is spilled.”
5. Which is the best prayer?
“That which has a prolonged 'Qunut'1”
6. Which is the better Sadaqah?
“Remaining away from prohibited things.”
7. What do you say about visiting the rulers?
“It is not good for you.”
8. I intend to visit Ibrahim bin Walid, the ruler of Syria, in Damascus. Is there anything wrong in that?
Imam replied, “Paying a visit to rulers attracts one towards three things, love of the world, forgetfulness of death and less contentment on divine will.”
He said, “Since I have to maintain a family, I aim to gain monetary benefits from there.”
Imam said, “I am not asking you to forsake the world, I am only asking you to abandon sins.”
Intellectual Accomplishments Of Imam Ja’far As-Sadiq (a.s)
The knowledgeable status of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) had earned such fame that people used to visit him from far-off places. He had many discussions and debates with unbelievers, polytheists, apostates and heretics. If all these were to be collected they would constitute a voluminous book. We shall mention some of them in the following pages.
Juad Ibn Dirham, a leader of atheist sect had kept some mud and water in a glass bottle. After some days worms grew in it and he claimed to be their creator. One day he came to Imam (a.s) and also claimed thus. Imam (a.s) said, “If you are their creator, tell us how many of them are male and how many female?” He said, “I don't know.” Imam said, “If you can't do that, command the worms going one way to crawl in the opposite direction.” He said, “I cannot do it.” Imam said, “All right, then tell us what is the weight of each of them?” He replied, “I do not know.” Imam said, “When neither you have any knowledge about them, nor any control over them, then how can you be their creator?”
Abu Shakir Disani who denied the existence of God told Hisham, a companion of the Imam, “There is a verse in Quran that is according to our belief and which goes against your faith.” Hisham asked, “Which verse is that?” He replied,
And He it is Who is God in the heavens and God in the earth…( Surah Zukhruf 43:84)
This according to him clearly showed that there are different gods for the earth and the heavens. Since Hisham had not pondered on this verse, he remained silent. When he came to Medina, he mentioned it to Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) who said, “If he says to you now, you ask him what his name is. He would tell you. Then ask him what his name is in Basra? He would mention the same name. At that time you tell him: Our God is also like that. He is God in the heavens and also God on the earth. He is God in the sea and on the land, in the plains and on the hill.” Hisham did as bidden. Abu Shakir said, “It is not your reply, it has come loaded on the camels from Hijaz.”
One day Abu Shakir came to the Imam and said, “Prove to me the existence of God.” Imam (a.s) told him to be seated. At that time a boy passed by holding a hen's egg. Imam (a.s) called him, and taking the egg from him kept it on his palm. Then he told Abu Shakir, “See, it is such a strong fort that has no doors. On its outside is a hard skin and below it is a thin membrane, inside which flow two seas of gold and silver. But neither can the yellow mix with the white nor the white can merge with the yellow. Neither can a repairer enter it nor a destroyer comes out of it. No one can even know whether the newborn would be a male or a female. Then all of a sudden it cracks and a beautiful chick emerges from it. Can your reason agree that all this happened without a designer or a maker?” Hearing this Abu Shakir bowed down his head and said, “I repent for my beliefs today and accept the religion of Islam.”
One day an atheist from Egypt came to Imam (a.s) who asked his name. “Abdul Malik,” replied he. Imam (a.s) asked what his agnomen was. “Abu Abdullah,” he replied.
Imam: The kingdom whose slave you are, is it from the kingdom of the heavens or from the kingdoms of the earth?
Atheist: I have never reflected on it.
Imam: Have you ever gone below the earth's surface?
Imam: Do you know what is below it?
Atheist: I have no knowledge of it.
Imam: Have you ever ascended to the sky?
Imam: Do you know what exists there?
Imam: Have you visited east and west? Do you know what lies beyond the limits?
Imam: It is surprising that when you do not have any knowledge about the earth or the sky, the east or west, how can you deny the existence of God? How can an ignorant man make such a great claim? Just ponder upon it; the moon, the sun, the night and the day, which all move in a particular way, are they not helpless and captive in their orbits? If they had not been so, they would not have returned after passing away once. If they are not helpless, why is it not that sometimes there is night instead of day? Don't you ever reflect on the earth and the sky that why the sky does not crash on the earth? Why the earth does not sink below itself? Who has made them stable? One who has done this is our and their absolute powerful God.” Hearing these words, he was astonished and at that very moment recited the dual testimony of Islamic faith and became a Muslim.
Once some Christians came to Imam (a.s) and said, “Prophet Musa, Isa and Muhammad are equal in rank, because each of them got one book and one Shariat (Divine Law). Imam (a.s) said, Prophet Muhammad was higher to them in rank due to the knowledge and superiority Allah had given him exclusively. The Christians asked this to be proved by a verse of Quran. Imam (a.s) said, “It is mentioned regarding Prophet Musa:
And We ordained for him in the tablets admonition of every kind and clear explanation of all things; (Surah Araaf 7:145)
And regarding Isa (a.s) He says,
I have come to you indeed with wisdom, and that I may make clear to you part of what you differ in; (Surah Zukhruf 43:63)
Regarding the Messenger of Allah (S), it says,
…and We have revealed the Book to you explaining clearly everything… (Surah Nahl 16:89)
Umar bin Ubaid Mutazali, who was then the Imam of Mutazalite sect came to Imam (a.s) one day and recited the following verse of the Quran:
And those who shun the great sins and indecencies… (Surah Shuara 42:37)
Then he (Amr Ibn Ubaid) paused.
“Why have you become silent?” asked the Imam (a.s),
“I would like you to derive the Greater Sins from the Holy Quran.” he replied.
The Imam said, “O Amr, the Greatest of the Greater Sins is Shirk (to attribute partners) with Allah.
The Almighty Allah says,
Certainly whoever associates (others) with Allah, then Allah has forbidden to him the Garden (Paradise)… (Surah Maidah 5:72)
2) After this, is “to despair from the Mercy of Allah.” As the Almighty Allah says,
Surely none despairs of Allah's mercy except the unbelieving people... (Surah Yusuf 12:87)
3) Then, “not fearing the retribution of Allah.” The High and the Mighty Allah remarks,
But none feels secure from Allah's plan except the people who shall perish. (Surah Araaf 7:99)
4) One of the Greater Sins is to disobey ones parents because the Glorified Allah has said,
And dutiful to his parents, and he was not insolent, disobedient. (Surah Maryam 19:14)
Here the disobedience of the parents is considered a form of insolence or transgression.
5) To kill a believer is prohibited by Allah. Because Allah (A.J.) has informed,
And whoever kills a believer intentionally, his punishment is Hell; he shall abide in it, and Allah will send His Wrath on him and curse him and prepare for him a painful chastisement. (Surah Nisa 4:93)
6) To slander a believing man or a woman of adultery (or sodomy) is a Greater sin as proved by this statement of Allah:
Surely those who accuse chaste believing women, unaware (of the evil), are cursed in this world and the hereafter, and they shall have a grievous chastisement. (Surah Nur 24:23)
7) The usurpation of an orphan's property is a Greater sin, as is clear from the following verse:
(As for) those who swallow the property of the orphans unjustly, surely they only swallow fire into their bellies and they shall enter burning fire. (Surah Nisa 4:10)
8) It is a Greater sin to retreat from Jihad (Holy war) as the Divine verse says:
And whoever shall turn his back to them on that day- unless he turn aside for the sake of fighting or withdraws to a company- then he, indeed becomes deserving of Allah's wrath, and his abode is Hell; and an evil destination shall it be. (Surah Anfal 8:16)
9) One of the Greater Sins is to take usury. Allah, the Almighty informs:
One who swallows down usury cannot arise except as one whom Shaitan has prostrated by (his) touch does rise. This is because they say, trading is only like usury; and Allah has allowed trading and forbidden usury. (Surah Baqarah 2:275)
10) And magic is a Greater sin. Thus Allah (A.J.) says,
And certainly they know that he who bought it (the magic) should have no share of good in the hereafter and evil was the price for which they sold their souls; had they but known this. (Surah Baqarah 2:102)
11) Among the Greater Sins is Adultery (fornication). Allah says in the Holy Quran,
And they who do not call upon another god with Allah and do not slay a soul which Allah has forbidden except in the requirements of justice, and (who) do not commit fornication. And he who does this shall find a requital of sin. The punishment shall be doubled to him on the Day of Resurrection, and he shall abide therein in abasement. (Surah Furqan 25:68-69)
12) One of the Greater Sins is taking a false oath. Allah says regarding it:
(As for) those who take a small price for the covenant of Allah and their own oaths-Surely they shall have no portion in the hereafter, and Allah will not speak to them, nor will He look upon them on the day of resurrection nor will He purify them, and they shall have a painful chastisement. (Surah Aale Imran 3:76)
13) Among the sins, which are specifically graded, as Greater is a sin of “betrayal of trust”, or to act unfaithfully. Allah the Greatest has informed thus:
And it is not attributable that he should act unfaithfully; and he who acts unfaithfully shall bring that in respect of which he has acted unfaithfully on the day of resurrection; then shall every soul be paid back fully what it has earned, and they shall not be dealt unjustly. Is then he who follows the pleasure of Allah like him who has made himself deserving of displeasure from Allah, and his abode is Hell; and it is an evil destination. (Surah Aale Imran 3:161-162)
14) Failure to pay the Zakat is a Greater sin. Allah says regarding it:
And (as for) those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in Allah's ways, announce to them a painful chastisement. ( Surah Tawbah 9:34)
15) To bear a false witness is also a Greater sin. Allah says,
…and avoid false words. (Surah Hajj 22:30)
16) Do not conceal evidence, as it is a Greater sin. Allah says:
…and do not conceal testimony and whoever conceals it, his heart is surely sinful; and Allah knows what you do. (Surah Baqarah 2:283)
17) Drinking of wine is a Greater sin. As it is prohibited by Allah in the following verse of the Holy Quran:
They ask you about intoxicants and games of chance. Say: In both of them there is great sin and means of profit for men, and their sin is greater than their profit. (Surah Baqarah 2:219)
18) To willfully avoid the prayers is a Greater sin.
19) The failure to perform any obligatory religious act is a Greater sin. The Holy Prophet (S) says:
One who willfully avoids the prayers is away from the protection of Allah and His Messenger.
20) Breaking an oath is also a Greater sin. Allah has stated:
Who break the covenant of Allah after its confirmation and cut as under what Allah has ordered to be joined, (that is mutual relationships) and make mischief in the land; these it is that are the losers. (Surah Baqarah 2:27)
21) To break ties with the relatives is one of the Greater Sins. In the Quranic verse quoted below, Allah says,
and cut asunder what Allah has ordained…(Surah Raad 13:25)
When Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) concluded his tradition the narrator, Amr Ibn Ubaid rose up and while going out stopped and said, “Certainly, one who does not follow the guidance of the Imams (a.s) and gives his own opinion is doomed.”
Abil Awja first of all had a narrow-minded nature; secondly the company of Hasan Basri had further spoilt his belief, therefore doubts and conjectures used to fill his mind all the time. In addition to being an atheist, this fellow was also brash and foul-tongued. One day he came to Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) and said, “I don't understand how long the Hajj pilgrims would continue to trample the land of Mecca and how long would they continue to worship these stones and rocks? How long would they continue to run around it like runaway camels? Are these not actions of ignorant and stupid people? As you are the Imam of the Muslims and the son of the founder of Islam, give me a satisfactory reply.”
Imam (a.s) said, “O man! You have not reflected on the actual matter. The Ka'ba is the protected sanctuary through which the Almighty Allah tests His slaves, because this House is associated with Him. Therefore it is emphasized to respect and visit it. It is appointed as the place of worship for prophets and the direction of prayers of religious people. This house is the channel of His mercy and the medium of salvation. He created this house two thousand years before the creation of the world. The dignity of our slavehood is only that we follow each and every command of Allah and let the purpose for which the Ka'ba is created, be fulfilled.”
Awja said, “I am sorry to say that you have associated this house to such a personality whose existence, I refuse to believe. How can one believe in the existence of something, which is unseen? And till one does not believe, there is no question of obeying His commands.”
Imam (a.s) said, “You do not use your intellect. He is present and seeing everywhere and at every moment; and is nearer to you than your jugular vein. He listens to what we say and sees us and He knows the secrets of our hearts.”
He said, “First prove His existence. If he is on the earth, he went to the heavens and if he is on the heavens, how did he come to the earth?” Imam (a.s) said, “He is not confined in space, that another place should be empty of Him, or some place should surround Him. If He had been confined to a place what difference would have remained between Him and the creatures?
Awja asked, “But how does this prove that He is the Creator of all things?” Imam (a.s) replied, “Does such an obvious fact require a proof? I ask only you, who has created you?” “No one has created me,” replied he. Imam said, “Is it possible for a created thing to come into being without a maker?” When Awja heard this he became worried and changing tracks said, “Okay, let it be. Tell me what is the use of things like Day of Judgment, accounting, Paradise and Hell etc. of which you are a believer? After death, a man is mixed with the dust and all these things are mere assumptions. Imam (a.s) said, “Even if it is assumed that you are right, there is no fear for us after death and if your belief is wrong there is no scope for your salvation, while we are risk-free in both the cases. Now you tell me, which of us is better?”
Hearing this, he bowed down his head and after remaining silent for sometime said, “I accept your statement, but tell me, the Quran says, 'When the skins of the inmates of Hell are burnt down, they would be given fresh skins.' Can you explain that the skins that had committed the sins are burnt once, what is the fault of the new skins?” Imam (a.s) said, “They would be the same old skins, only their forms would be changed again. Like a brick is powdered and mixed with water and put in a die for making another brick. The same would be the case of the skins of the people of Hell.” He said, “Further, you tell me why different people die due to different diseases? What is the problem if all were to die due to the same disease?” Imam (a.s) said, “If it had been so, people would have remained fearless of death till the appearance of this disease and Allah does not like that anyone should be fearless of death.”
Although Sufyan Thawri had gained much knowledge from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s), he was against the Imam and he wanted to project his own image. One day Imam (a.s) was sitting in the Masjid, wearing a dress of thin white cotton. Seeing this dress Sufyan told his colleagues, “I will go and embarrass this Imam of the Rafidis2.” Saying this he came to Imam (a.s) and said, “Was your exalted and respected grandfather, the Messenger of Allah (S) also wearing these kinds of expensive clothes?”
Imam (a.s) said, “There is no restriction on wearing these types of clothes. In the time of the Prophet the poorest of the Muslims were leading a very frugal life, therefore the Prophet never used to wear expensive clothes, lest they may feel disheartened. Since the situation is not the same now, there is no harm in wearing these clothes. I have worn this dress only for the thankfulness of Allah, otherwise below this, see, I am wearing thick woolen clothes.” After this Imam (a.s) raised the skirt of Sufyan's dress and said, “See, you have worn a coarse dress outside, to show off, while below you have donned soft and expensive apparels, so that your body remains in comfort. On the other hand these thick fibers prick into my body and it is painful to it. You have seen my exterior but did not inspect your interior.” Sufyan returned in embarrassment. His students said, “If he had embarrassed you, we would also not remain without taking revenge from him.” So they came to Imam (a.s) and said, “Are piety and asceticism worthless in your opinion?”
Imam: What do you mean by this?
Students: We mean to say that if you had valued piety you would not have worn such a good quality dress.
Imam: Is it prohibited?
Students: No, it is not so. But the Almighty Allah has praised those companions of the Messenger of Allah (S), who used to prefer others to their own selves.
…and prefer (them) before themselves though poverty may afflict them, (Surah Hashr 59:9)
And at another place He says:
And they give food out of love for Him to the poor and the orphan and the captive. (Surah Dahr 76:8)
Imam: Both these verses were revealed in the honor of us, Ahl ul-Bayt, and they denote our condition. Since you people do not know the abrogating and the abrogated verses of Quran, you are wandering in misguidance. Remember, the people regarding whom these verses were revealed were allowed and permitted to do so and it was rewarding and recompensing; but after this the Almighty Allah had mercy on the condition of the believers and abrogated this command so that their families were not put to inconvenience. At that time even if one had a single loaf of bread, one gave it in the way of Allah and did not think of ones young child or aged parents. Since this command was fatal to such people it was abrogated. That is why the Messenger of Allah (S) said, “One who has five grains, or five dirhams or five loaves of bread and he intends to spend them, then it is necessary for him to give one to his parents, one to his family, one to his needy relatives, one to his poor neighbors and the last one in charity on the way of Allah. This fifth position is lower and less rewarding than the previous four.”
Thus an Ansar (Helper) had five slaves and slave girls. Besides these he did not own anything. At the time of his death he freed all of them and did not leave anything for his young children. When the Holy Prophet (S) heard of their condition, he said, “He has left them to solicit alms. He has done a bad thing. If I had known of this before I would not have allowed him to be buried in the Muslim cemetery.
The Almighty Allah has praised those who are not spendthrifts and who practice frugality. The Holy Prophet (S) said, “There are some people in my community whose supplications are not accepted. First of all, those who criticize and curse their parents. Secondly one who lends something without taking anything in writing, or keeping a witness; and when the lender does not repay he begins to curse him. Thirdly, one who criticizes and curses his wife, though Allah has given him the option to divorce her. Fourthly, one who sits at home and does not go out in search of livelihood and who asks Allah for lawful sustenance. So Allah asks this man, “have I not given you limbs to work and have I not opened channels of obtaining livelihood for you?” Fifthly, one who is bestowed a great wealth by Allah and he squanders it all and becomes a pauper. Then he prays to Allah for sustenance. Allah replies to him, “Did I not give you extensive wealth, then why did you squander it away?”
One day the Holy Prophet (S) received gold and he gave it away in charity before the next morning. After this a beggar came seeking alms. The Prophet had nothing to give him. Since he was extremely softhearted he could not bear to see a beggar going away dejected and he was very sorrowful about it. The Almighty Allah revealed the verse,
And do not make your hand to be shackled to your neck nor stretch it forth to the utmost (limit) of its stretching forth, lest you should (afterwards) sit down blamed, stripped off. (Surah Bani Israel 17:29)
Thus all these verses and traditions abrogate the actions that you have mentioned. Let alone this, even Abu Bakr, whom you call 'Siddiq', has proved by his actions that your opinion is wrong. Even though Allah ahs permitted making a will for a third of ones property, he willed a fourth of his property. If he had considered one-third better he would have made a bequest of that much amount. Rather if the donation of all of ones wealth had been better the Almighty would never have limited it to one-third.
Salman Farsi used to take out his yearly expenses from his share of war booty despite his ascetic nature and his contentment with little or nothing. The balance he used to give away in charity. Once someone objected to this that even though he were pious and God-fearing he did thus. “Are you certain of remaining alive for a year that you collect provision for this period?” He asked, “Even though you are my friend, why do you not hope I would live for a year? Why do you prefer the thought of my death to that of my survival? When a person has assured rations for a year he concentrates fully on the matters of the world and the Hereafter and a bankrupt man is always tense. He is not able to perform any worldly task or a deed for the Hereafter in the proper way.”
See the life of Hazrat Abu Zar Ghiffari; that inspite of his inclination towards frugality and seclusion, he never reconciled to destitution. He had reared some camels and goats and through them he maintained his family and served his guests. He helped the needy among his neighbors and acquaintances.
See these are the people regarding whose piety and fear of God there is no doubt, but they also lived in a way that they were never penniless by giving everything away in charity, as you people think. Mostly, this explanation of mine would have comforted you and if it is not so, I can explain further.” They said, “Please explain further.” Imam (a.s) said, “The Almighty Allah had made it obligatory for the believers to fight Jihad against people ten times their number, then He had mercy on them and reduced this number; that is Jihad is to be done against twice ones numbers. This command abrogated the previous one.
See, if a woman appeals to religious judge that her husband does not provide her bread and the Qazi compels him to provide her food and he says, “I am a pious person and I have no worldly possessions, how can I pay for it?” Now if the Qazi does not accept his excuse, then, whether in your opinion is this Qazi unjust or just?”
If you say he is unjust then he would not be qualified to remain a judge and if you say that he is just, then this command would be against your opinion.
If, as per your belief the entire world becomes ascetic and no one cares for any worldly thing, then who would accept charity, which is made so much rewarding by Allah? And how could the rich people produce the recipients of alms? The problem is that you have not understood the book of Allah and the practice (Sunnah) of the Prophet. You have neither understood its reality nor learnt about its abrogated and abrogating ones. Neither have you learnt about His commands and prohibitions. You don't even know that Sulaiman, being a prophet of Allah asked for a kingdom that no one had ever acquired. Allah accepted his prayer and bestowed him such a kingdom. No one objected to him. In the same way his respected father, Prophet Dawood (a.s) was also a King. Prophet Yusuf (a.s) was the Aziz of Egypt. Dhurqarnain was a beloved servant of God. Allah also gave him the rulership of east and west. Thus, O people! Fear Allah and follow His commands and prohibitions. Ask those who know about that which you don't know. The ignorant are always of lesser status than the people of knowledge.”
An atheist came to Imam (a.s) and posed many questions. We present here the Imam's replies to some of these questions:
Atheist: Please tell me why your God has allowed His enemy, the Satan to have power over His creatures. He takes them away from the path of guidance and putting them into doubts, makes them deny God?
Imam: It is true that Satan is the enemy of God, but his enmity is in no way harmful to God. Fear and risk is with regard to the enemy from whom there is possibility of some harm. Allah had created Satan like the other creatures for His worship. Thus he remained busy in worship with the angels. But at the time of prostrating before Adam (a.s) his vanity overcame him and he disobeyed the command of Allah. The result was that he was taken out from the ranks of the angels and thrown to the earth. So, he is the enemy of human beings but only to the extent that he can create evil doubts and misguided suggestions; and apart from this he does not have any kind of power. As for his misguidance, to counter this, the Almighty has bestowed intellect, with which man can confront Satan.
Atheist: Is it permitted to prostrate before anyone except Allah?
Atheist: Then what about prostrating before Adam?
Imam: Prostration done under command of Allah is prostration for Allah only.
Atheist: Is it permitted to find defects in the creation of Allah? Is there some hidden wisdom behind whatever Allah has created?
Imam: There is no defect in the creation of Allah. Whatever He has created is having hidden wisdom behind it.
Atheist: Then why Muslims spoil the creation of Allah by performing circumcision?
Imam: This is your misunderstanding. Circumcision does not give rise to defect in the creation of Allah; neither does it introduce any defect in His divinity. Circumcision is a Sunnat (recommended act) of Allah. Just like the cutting of the umbilical cord of the newborn is necessary and if it is left uncut it would cause harm. In the same way cutting of hair and trimming of nails are recommended acts of Allah. It would be detestable (Makruh) to leave these things alone. If He had desired He would have created such a face that does not require trimming and cutting and they would not have overgrown.
There are some animals that have to be necessarily be castrated though Allah created them as males by His practical wisdom. Could He not have created them castrated?
Atheist: Tell me, why the Ghusl Janabat3 is made compulsory? Why should there be a ritual bath after a permissible and legal action?
Imam: The impurity of Janabat is also like the impurity of menstruation. During sexual intercourse there is intense activity inside the body, due to which a liquid is ejected making the whole body smelly. Ghusl is very much needed to remove this.
Atheist: What in your opinion is closer to Islam? The Magian religion (of fire-worshippers) or the pre-Islamic Arabian faith?
Imam: The pre-Islamic Arabian faith is nearer. The Magians deny all the prophets. Apart from this, the Magians never perform Ghusl Janabat, while Arabs did it. Ghusl of Janabat is a practice of the prophets. The Magians did not practice circumcision, while the Arabs did it, and the first to establish this custom was Prophet Ibrahim, the Khalil (friend) of Allah. The Magians do not bathe and shroud their dead, while Arabs do so.
The Magians threw away their dead on the mountains and forests while Arabs buried them. The burial of the dead is in practice since the time of Prophet Adam (a.s). The Magians marry their mothers, sisters and daughters, while the Arabs consider it absolutely prohibited. The Magians were deniers of the House of Allah while Arabs honored it and called it, “The house of Allah”. They agreed that Injeel and Taurat were heavenly books and sometimes they even sought solution of some problems from the People of the Book.
Atheist: The Magians say that marriage between siblings is the practice of Prophet Adam (a.s) as he used to perform it?
Imam: They are liars. It never happened thus. All right, they allege thus regarding marriage with sisters but what do they say about marrying mothers and daughters?
Atheist: Wine is a very enjoyable thing, why religion has prohibited it?
Imam: Wine is the root cause of all evils. The imbiber of wine loses intelligence completely. He does not recognize God. He begins to perform all kinds of evil deeds. He is in complete control of Satan who steers him in whichever direction he likes, so much so that he makes him prostrate to the idols.
Atheist: Why is the blood of the slaughtered animal prohibited?
Imam: Consumption of blood causes hard-heartedness and evil nature. It makes the heart merciless, the body filthy and bad smelling and the complexion discolored. It causes leprosy.
Atheist: Why is the slaughtered animal made lawful and the dead unlawful?
Imam: There is a great difference between the two. The slaughtered animal is slaughtered by uttering the name of God, which is considered best in all religions. Since the blood of the animal that dies on its own does not flow out, and it remains inside it, it flesh becomes heavy and detestable.
Atheist: Fish is not slaughtered, therefore it also becomes carrion.
Imam: There is very less blood in it. Its slaughtering is that you take it out from the water and it dies. In the same way there is not enough blood in the locust that it should be needed to slaughter it.
Atheist: Is there weighing of the deeds in the Balance (Meezan) on the Day of Judgment?
Imam: Action is not a corporeal thing that it can be weighed and weighing is done when the quantity is not known. Allah is cognizant of the weight and quantity of every thing. There is no need for Him to weigh anything.
Atheist: Then what is Meezan?
Imam: It is the Justice of Allah.
Atheist: Then what does the Quranic term: “His balance would be heavy” denotes?
Imam: It is the enforcement of the deeds.
Atheist: It is said that the people of Paradise would consume food but no excrement would be ejected from them. Is it possible?
Imam: Their victuals would be so subtle and fine that there would not be any trace of waste matter in them. A slight perspiration would come to them and their stomachs shall be emptied. Then they would again begin to feel hungry.
Atheist: It is said that the Houries would be dressed in seventy raiments but their skin, rather the cores of their bones would be visible. How is it possible?
Imam: This is due to the delicacy of their clothes and bodies. Just like something is dropped in crystal clear water. It would be visible even under the layers of water.
Atheist: How would the people of Paradise enjoy the pleasures and comforts when their relatives and friends would not be with them? Their remembrance would spoil their pleasure.
Imam: The Almighty would remove their remembrance from their hearts.
One day, the Imam was in the gathering of Caliph Mansur. At that time a physician was reading from a book of medicine. After he finished he addressed the Imam, “Even you are in need of this knowledge.” Imam said, “We are not in need of it. What we know is much better than what you know.” “How?” asked he.
Imam said, “We cure the diseases caused by cold, through hot medicines and diseases of heat, through cold medicines. In the same way we cure diseases of dryness, by wet medicines and diseases of wetness by dry medicines. Then in all those matters we have absolute confidence in the Almighty God. Apart from this we act upon the divine command that avoidance of harmful things is the actual cure. It is a must for everyone to observe the diet he is accustomed to.”
Hearing these statements of the Imam, the Physician said, “You are right, this is actual science of medicine.” Then he asked, “What is your opinion regarding the sneeze?” Imam replied, “Though apparently it comes out through the nose, actually it comes out from all over the body. Have you not observed that the whole body shakes during a sneeze? Remember! The person who sneezes, is assured of health for seven days.”
The Physician asked, “What do you say about rice?”
“It widens the intestines and it is beneficial in piles,” replied the Imam.
“What is your opinion about grapes and raisins?”
“They strengthen the muscles of the body, maintain the strength in the eyes, and the heart remains healthy.”
“What things are harmful to the body?”
“Firstly, dry and smelly meat, secondly, taking a bath on a full stomach. Thirdly, copulating with an aged woman. Sometimes, these even cause the death of man.”
“Please inform us about some cure.”
“Wash the hands thoroughly after eating and rub them over the eyes.”
Such was the knowledge and superiority of Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) that no scholar of his time could dare compete with him. He had many debates and discussions with the inimical scholars whereby they had to face humiliation and defeat.
Once, Harun Rashid came to Mecca for the Hajj. At the time of Tawaf 4 he ordered that none should accompany him. But soon a youth arrived and also began to perform the Tawaf. A soldier told him to move away from the caliph.
“Why should I move away? This is the House of Allah”, said the youth. “Here, the dwellers of the cities and the villagers, all are equal.”
Hearing this Harun refrained his soldier and continued his Tawaf. The youth was walking ahead of him. When Harun wanted to kiss the Black stone, the youth preceded him and kissed it before him. In the same way, when he wanted to pray at the place of Ibrahim, the youth moved forward and performed the prayer before Harun could.
After completing his prayer Harun sent his soldier to summon that youth. The youth said, “Why should I go to him? If he wants to speak to me he should come here.” The royal servant reported this statement to the caliph. Harun himself arrived and began the following conversation:
Harun: I will ask you some questions, if you do not give proper replies, I will punish you severely.
Youth: Do you ask by way of testing me or to gain knowledge thereby?
Harun: For gaining knowledge.
Youth: Then sit in the way a student sits before a teacher.
Harun: Tell me, how many obligatory things are there in religious law?
Youth: One, five, seventeen, thirty-four, ninety-four, then one in twelve, one in forty, forty in two hundred, once in the lifetime and on in place of one.
Harun: (Laughing) Glory be to Allah! I am asking you about religions obligations but you mention mathematical figures to me.
Youth: The basis of religion and the world is on mathematics. If it had not been so why Allah would have taken account of the people on the Day of Judgment?
Harun: All right! But explain to me what you have mentioned. Otherwise I would slay you between Safa and Marwah.
(One of his officers said: O chief! This is the sanctuary of God. Do not make an intention of killing the youth here. Hearing this, the youth laughed all of a sudden).
Harun: Why do you laugh?
Youth: I don't know who is more foolish. One who wants to deflect death that is decreed for one or that who wants to summon death for someone not yet to die?
Harun: Anyway what is the use of such talks? Now you explain your statement.
Youth: When I said that there is one obligation; it is the religion of Islam. Because apart from this no other religion is acceptable to Allah. When I said: Five, it denotes the five obligatory prayers and “seventeen” is the number of their rakats (units). “Thirty-four” is the sum total of the prostrations; two in each rakat. Ninety-four obligations, denotes the ninety-four Takbirs (Allaho Akbar), that are recited in every rakat with every bowing (ruku) and prostration (Sajdah). And “one in forty” means the Zakat. As one in forty Dinar is liable to be given in Zakat. “One in twelve” denotes one month of fasting of the twelve months of the year. And “forty out of 200” means Khums. That is if one saves 200 Dirhams after taking out his expenses for the year he has to pay forty Dirhams as Khums and none but the Prophet is eligible for this. “Once in the lifetime” means the Hajj, which is made obligatory once in a lifetime. “One in the place of one” is the retaliation of one killed unjustly. That is, the murderer becomes liable to capital punishment.
Upon hearing this reply, Harun was astounded and holding forth a bag of gold coins he said it was the recompense of the reply.
Youth: Is it for solving the problem or for gaining benefit?
Harun: For gaining benefit.
Youth: All right! Now I am asking you a question. If you reply correctly we will distribute these coins here otherwise you have to give me one more bag and I will distribute both among the poor people of my tribe and community.
Harun: Very Good!
Youth: Tell me, when the young one of the “Khanshaw Mushkill” (a type of worm) is born, is it fed by its parents with grains or nursed by its mother?
Harun: Surprising that I am asked such a question.
Youth: The Holy Prophet (S) has said: When a person is the chief of a community, he is given the same type of intellect. Since you are the chief of this nation at present you should have the most knowledge regarding it.
Harun: Tell me what is the correct reply, as I am ignorant about it. And take this bag of gold coins also.
Youth: When the Almighty Allah created the earth, He created many crawling creatures in it, which were created from the soil itself. When a young one is born to them, neither its mother nurses it nor is it fed any grain. Rather its life is from the soil. Same is the condition of this worm.
After this, the youth picked up both the bags of gold coins and distributed them among the needy at that very place. Harun inquired about the name of this young man from some people. Someone said: Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s)
Harun said: Why shouldn't it be? Such are the fruits of a great tree!
A Christian monk came to Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) claiming to have very deep knowledge about Taurat and Injeel. Imam (a.s) asked him the name of Maryam's (s.a.) mother and also the date, time and place of the birth of Prophet Isa (a.s). The monk said that he didn't know.
Imam said, “I will inform you about it. The name of Maryam's mother in Greek language was “Martha” which is equivalent to the Arabic “Wahba”. The conception of Prophet Isa (a.s) took place at the time of noon on a Friday. Jibraeel (a.s) descended for Maryam (a.s) at that very moment. The Holy Prophet (S) has ordained it to be a day of Eid (Festive) and Muslims are commanded to congregate at a place and perform worship. The day Prophet Isa (a.s) was born was Tuesday. The day has risen four and a half hours. He was born on the banks of Euphrates.
The Almighty Allah bestowed such bounty to his birth that farmers said that it was very beneficial for the cultivation of dates and grapes. On that day Maryam (s.a.) did not speak to anyone. When King Qaidoos heard about it, he summoned the people of her tribe and ordered them: All of you go and ask Maryam about the truth behind this birth.
The people came to Maryam (s.a.) and said, “O Maryam! You have done a strange thing! O sister of Harun! Neither was your father an evil-doer nor your mother.” O Monk! Tell me what day was it?” The monk replied, “In our Injeel it is mentioned as a “New day.” Imam (a.s) said, “It is not a particular day. Thus it shows that people have made distortions in the book of God.” The monk said, “In order to confirm that you have the knowledge of the unseen. I challenge you to tell me the name of my mother.” Imam said, “In the Syrian language it is Utgaliya and in Arabic Maliha. The name of your grandfather was Unfoor and that of your father is Abdul Masih. This name is incorrect; it should be Abdullah because no one can be the servant of the Masih (Christ). The name of your maternal grandfather was Jibraeel. It is also incorrect. It should have been Abdur Rahman. Because it is not allowed to name people with the names of angels. Now you also listen to the account of the killing of your grandfather. The Syrians surrounded his residence and then killed him.” The monk said, “Now tell me, what my name is?” Imam said, “Your name is Abdul Saleeb but it should be Abdullah.” When the monk heard all these things, by the Grace of the Almighty he became a Muslim.
Abu Hanifah, an Imam of Ahle Sunnat told Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s), “Your son, Musa Ibn Ja'far (a.s) was performing prayers in such a way that people were passing across him in the front. Does this not make a difference in concentration and humility?” Imam said, “I will call him, you may ask him directly.” When this objection was mentioned to him he said, “One to Whom I was praying was more near to me than those people. He himself says: We are closer than the jugular vein.”
As soon as he heard this the face of Abu Hanifah paled and he could not say anything. Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) embraced his son and said, “Bravo! O protector of the divine secrets!”
One day Hisham Ibn Hakam asked Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s): Why are there seven Takbirs (Allaho Akbar) in the beginning of the prayers? And why is “Glory be to Allah, the Mighty and Praise be to Him” recited in the bowing (ruku) and “Glory be to Allah, the High and praise be to Him”, recited in the prostration (Sajdah)?
The Imam (a.s) said, “When the Holy Prophet (S) went to the heavens on the night of Ascension (Meraj), the curtains began to move aside from before his eyes. When the first curtain moved, he said Takbir. When the second one moved he recited the second Takbir. In the same way, he recited seven Takbirs on the opening of seven curtains. After this when he saw the Divine Glory, he began to tremble and he bowed down and said, 'Glory be to Allah, the Great and Praise be to Him', when he arose from the bowing (ruku) he beheld the Divine Glory more enhanced, he at once fell down in prostration and said, 'Glory be to Allah, the High and Praise be to Him' seven times in the Sajdah (Prostration). Then the trembling of his heart abated.”
Time and again, people used to benefit from the source of knowledge and intellectual virtues of Imam Ridha’ (a.s) also. In comparison to the other Imams, Imam Ridha’ (a.s) had more opportunities to express his teachings. Till the time he was at the Darul Hikmah5 in Merv, with Mamun, he was questioned by the greatest scholars and thinkers of that time. But in all those discussions he came out victorious. Mamun himself was also intellectually accomplished. But he has confessed to the unsurpassed knowledge of the Imam. He used to admit before the people that in comparison to the knowledge of the Imam he knew nothing and that the Imam is the unbounded shoreless ocean of knowledge.
Till the time, the Imam resided in Medina, all the scholars there referred to him when faced with difficult problems and the Imam used to provide them satisfactory replies based on proofs.
Abu Salt Abdus Salam bin Salih al-Hirvi used to say, “I have not seen anyone more knowledgeable than Imam Ridha’ (a.s). and whoever came to meet the Imam, he invariably confessed to the high station of the Imam's intellectual accomplishments.”
It is mentioned in Shawahidun Nubuwwah that Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) said, “I saw the Holy Prophet (S) and Ali al-Murtada (a.s) in the dream. The Holy Prophet (S) said: Your son, Ali ar-Ridha’, sees with the light (Nur) of Allah and speaks with the wisdom of Allah. All his words and actions are correct. There is no mistake in them. He is knowledge personified.”
It is mentioned in Mufradat of Imam Raghib Isfahani that, “Never before have such personalities lived on the face of the earth one after the other, such that their statements were acceptable and reliable to all classes of people, as those of Imam Ridha’ (a.s) and his seven predecessors.”
Muhammad Isa al-Yaqtini reports, “When people differed regarding Imam Ridha’ (a.s) I began to collect the religions questions, the replies to which I had obtained from the Imam (a.s). When they were counted, they were found to be 18000 altogether.”
One day a denier of God came to Imam Ridha’ (a.s) and said, “Tell me, how your God is? And where He is?” Imam said, “What a baseless question is this? Where and how are the qualities of the creatures and not of the Creator. He is the Creator of space and conditions and He is the Maker. How can He have any relation to these things? He is not something that can be perceived by the five senses. Also, nothing can be compared to Him.” He said, “You say that God is nothing because He cannot be perceived by the five senses and He also cannot be compared to anything? Then you only tell us what He is?” Imam said, “You deny Him because you cannot perceive Him. And we believe that He is God, for the same reason. If he had been perceptible He would also have become a creature like us. His imperceptibility is the proof of our helplessness and imagination and His perfection.”
He said, “Then tell me, since when did He exist?” Imam said, “Tell me, when He did not exist?” He said, “I am asking you and you question me in return?” The Imam said, “When you have no knowledge about His non-existence, the question itself is invalid. That since when He exists?” He said, “What is the proof of His Being?” Imam said, “Not one, there are thousands of proofs. Observe your body itself, when we are not having control over its height and width and none of its aspects, and we have no control over its benefit and harm, we realize that there is someone else who has created it. Apart from this, the movement of the heavens and the structure of the clouds. The speed of the winds, the proper movements of the Sun, the moon and the stars etc. Are these not proof enough of a wise maker?”
He said, “If He had existed He would have been visible, like all the things of the world are visible.”
Imam said, “Visible are those things, that are created by Him. If He also becomes visible what difference would remain between Him and His Creation? He is such a Being that neither can the eye behold nor the intellect understand.”
He said, “But He should be at some place?” Imam said, “He is not encompassed at a particular place. Being in a limited space is the quality of a Created thing, and not that of the Creator. He is the Creator of space and Universe, and not that He Himself is enclosed in space. There is increase and decrease in limited things and His being is immune to increase and decrease. He is not made by synthesis of anything. He hears without ears and sees without eyes.”
He said, “How can it be that He can hear without having ears and see without having eyes? If He has created multi-colored things, He must also have hands.” The Imam said, “Do you think the Creator is like the creatures? Don't look for the qualities of the creatures in the Creator? If He is also perceived with senses like us, what would be the difference between us and Him? According to you our Creator should be like us.”
Jasliq was a great scholar of the Christians, and he used to have debates with Islamic scholars. He used to say: The Muslims and we both agree on the prophethood of Isa (a.s) and that his book is a heavenly scripture. Also that he is alive in the heavens. The disagreement is over the prophethood of Muhammad al-Mustafa. They believe in it and we do not. But we both agree that he has died. Thus when he is no more, what is the use of his prophethood? On the contrary, since Isa is alive, it is necessary to believe in his prophethood. Most of people who heard these statements were unable to refute him.
Once, this man came to Imam (a.s) upon the instructions of Mamun and began the conversation thus:
Jasliq: First tell me whether you believe in Isa (a.s) and his book or not?
Imam: I have faith in the prophethood of that Isa who gave glad tidings to his companions regarding the prophethood of Muhammad al-Mustafa. And I testify that Taurat, which mentions this good news. But I have no faith in the Isa who does not confess the prophethood of the Seal of the Prophets and that book which does not mentions it.
As soon as he heard these words, Jasliq became speechless.
Then Imam (a.s) said, “We believe Isa to be a true prophet who gave glad tidings of the prophethood of Muhammad al-Mustafa. However, you make him defective and consider him to be needful of Prayers and fasting.” He asked, “What does that mean?” Imam replied, “When in your belief, he is God himself (we seek Allah's refuge!), for whom did he pray and fast?” Jasliq could not offer any reply. After some time he said, “If he were not God, how did he enliven the dead, cure the lepers and give vision to the blind? Who can do this besides God?”
Imam said, “This was not restricted to only Isa (a.s). It was found in other prophets also. Al Yasa (a.s) used to walk on water and cure the blind and the lepers. Prophet Hizqil (a.s) made 35000 people alive after they were dead for sixty years. Prophet Ibrahim (a.s) made the birds alive. By the prayers of Prophet Musa, seventy people became alive on Mount Tur. In the same way, many people became alive after dying, due to the prayers of Prophet Muhammad al-Mustafa. Are all these prophets deserving of Godhood, according to your belief?” Hearing all this, Jasliq fell silent and at last accepted Islam.
A Jewish scholar was very proud of his knowledge. One day he came to Imam Ridha’ (a.s) and posed many questions to him. The debate is very lengthy. Here we mention only a few of his questions and their replies.
Imam: What proof do you have that Musa (a.s) was a prophet?
Ras: He performed such feats that the past prophets did not do. Like the splitting of the Nile, the staff turning into a serpent, the bursting forth of twelve springs from the stone and the “Shinning hand” etc.
Imam: You say the truth. Your statement shows that a prophet should show such feats that others are unable to do.
Ras: Without any doubt.
Imam: Then it is necessary that whoever shows such feats must be accepted as a prophet.
Ras: In addition to those miracles, Musa (a.s) had such proximity to God that none other possesses. Thus till one does not show us the same miracles and feats, we cannot accept his prophethood.
Imam: All right! Tell me, do you believe in any prophet before Musa (a.s)?
Imam: But how that is correct? Before him no prophet split the river, caused springs to flow from a stone, had a shining hand or made his staff into a snake?
Ras: No, what I mean to say is that if someone performs such feats that ordinary people are unable to do, even if they are not the same feats, we are obliged to accept his prophethood.
Imam: If it is so, why do you people not accept Isa as a prophet? He also enlivened the dead, cured the blind and lepers and made a bird of clay and blew life into it?
Ras: We did not see him do anything of the sort. People claim he did it.
Imam: Then, did you see the miracles of Musa (a.s) with your own eyes? You have heard about them also from other people.
Upon hearing this Ras al-Jalut fell silent and he did not have any reply to this.
Imam said, “In the same way you should testify to the prophethood of Prophet Muhammad al-Mustafa also because he also performed many miracles despite the fact that he was an orphan, a homeless shepherd and a paid employee of someone else. And he also did not learn a single letter from anyone. Even then he brought a perfect book like the Holy Quran, which has all the incidents of the previous prophets. In addition to this, he used to tell about what other people thought and what they had hidden in their houses.”
Hearing this, Ras al-Jalut replied shamelessly, “All this is right but since the prophethood of Isa and Muhammad is not proved to us we cannot accept them as prophets.” Imam said, “This is obvious ignorance. No one has any remedy for it.”
Harbaz Akbar was a great Zoroastrian scholar. One day he came to Imam (a.s) and said, “I have come to make you confess the prophethood of Zoroaster.”
Imam: What proof are you having about the prophethood of Zoroaster?
Harbaz: He informed us of such wonderful things that none had taught before. He made such things permissible for us, as none had made lawful before.
Imam: Did you get the teachings from Zoroaster directly?
Harbaz: No. We heard them through our elders.
Imam: Then how are you certain that except for Zoroaster no one has taught such good things?
Harbaz: This is what we have heard so far.
Imam: This is not a valid reason. Have you heard no mention about the previous prophets till now?
Harbaz: Why not?
Imam: Then why do you not testify their merits and perfections? It is possible that their perfection may be more than the perfections of Zoroaster.
Hearing these words, the priest became so confused that he was at a loss for words. So he just got up from there and left the place in haste.
It is mentioned in the History of Tabari that one day some people gathered in a special gathering of Mamun in order to debate with the Imam regarding Imamate. They selected Yahya bin Dhahak, who was a great Sunni scholar of that time to represent the Sunni group and debate with the Imam. Imam (a.s) told Yahya to ask him whatever he liked.
Yahya: I want you to pose questions to me.
Imam: All right, I will ask you. Tell me. What do you say about one who claims to be truthful himself, but lies about those who are truthful? Is such a person truthful? Tell me, with regard to religion is he on the right or falsehood.
Hearing this Yahya felt silent. After sometime Mamun demanded a reply. He said, “O Chief! I have no reply to this.” Mamun asked Imam, “Please explain to me what you asked, that a great scholar like Yahya cannot reply.” Imam said, “What reply can this poor Yahya give? If he says that the truthful ones did not lie, his reply would be incorrect. When Abu Bakr sat on the pulpit of the Prophet and confessed his helplessness and said: Though I am a ruler on you I am not better than you. Then after this his claim that he was a caliph of the prophet was incorrect or not? In the circumstances that he was not better than the people how did he become a ruler? It is necessary for the chief to be superior to the subjects. In addition to this he said from the pulpit: There is a Satan who overcomes me. Then how can he be an Imam? An Imam is one who is safe from the Satan. Thirdly, how can such a person become a ruler and caliph whose followers themselves say: The allegiance of Abu Bakr was a hasty matter. Allah saved the people from its mischief. If anyone does it again, I will kill him.
When Mamun heard this, he told those present in the assembly, “All those present here may please leave. Did I not advise you against debating with him? They are the inheritors of the knowledge of the Prophet.”
One day the Abbaside Caliph Mamun asked Imam Ridha’ (a.s):
Mamun: Do you believe in the infallibility of the Prophets?
Mamun: But the Holy Quran itself says regarding Adam (a.s): Adam disobeyed his Lord and then he became misguided. This clearly shows that Adam was a sinner.
Imam: It was Allah's command that: O Adam, you and your wife, both remain in Paradise and eat whatever you like but do not eat from that tree or of its same kind. He did not eat from that tree; rather it was Satan who instigated him to eat from another tree of the same kind.
The Satan told him, “Allah has forbidden you to eat from this particular tree and not from other tress of the same kind.” Then Satan also took a false oath. Since Adam and Hawwa had never seen anyone taking a false oath before this, they were befooled. And trusting this oath they committed that act. And Adam performed this thoughtless action even before he became a prophet.
It was not a greater sin that he should become deserving of Hell. It was merely a case of giving up a preferable option (Tark-e-Awla). Or it was a detestable act (Makruh), which is acceptable from prophets before receipt of divine revelations.
When Allah appointed him as a prophet, he was infallible. He did not commit either a greater or a lesser sin.
Mamun: All right. What do you say regarding Prophet Ibrahim? The Quran mentions in clear words: “When the darkness of the light spread on him he saw a star and said: This is my Lord.” Is this not obvious polytheism, that a star should be addressed as ones Lord?
Imam: The phrase: “This is my Lord” is interrogative which means; “Is this my Lord?”
Since the people of that time were star-worshippers and their belief had reached his ears, thus when he came out of the cave and saw the stars he asked by way of question: Is this my Lord? Thus when it disappeared, he said: I do not like those who disappear. That is, this cannot be a quality of my Lord. It is a quality of a creature.
When the moon arose, again he asked in a negative interrogation: Is it my Lord. In the same way he mentioned this for the sun.
Thus whatever he said was against the falsehood of the star-worshippers and not regarding his own beliefs.
Mamun: O son of the Messenger of Allah (S)! May Allah give you a good recompense. You have given a very good reply. But there remains a slight misgiving in the heart. The Almighty Allah says in the Quran: “Ibrahim said: Show me how You enliven the dead. He said: Don't you have faith (in it)? He said: yes, but that my heart should be satisfied.” So, tell me, did the Khalil (friend of Allah) not have faith in the power of Allah before this?
Imam: The Almighty Allah revealed upon Ibrahim (a.s) that I will make a righteous slave of Mine as the Khalil. And if he asks Me to enliven the dead for him, I will fulfill his desire. So, Ibrahim was uncertain whether, he was that Khalil or someone else. That is why he said thus. That is, he desired certainty of the heart for this matter.
Mamun: May Allah recompense you! You have removed this objection in a beautiful manner. Now, there is one objection regarding Prophet Musa (a.s). It is that Musa (a.s) said: My Lord! Show Yourself to me so that I can see You. This shows that Prophet Musa did not even know that ones eyes could not see Allah.
Imam: It is not so. Musa (a.s) well knew that He is not visible to the eyes. But his people were insisting that he should pray to Allah to show Himself to him. “We will not bring faith in Him without seeing Him with our eyes.” Thus, becoming helpless of his people he prayed to Allah in the same words, that the people insisted. Thus this request of Musa was on behalf of the people.
Mamun: It is mentioned about Yusuf (a.s) that: She intended with him and he intended with her. If Yusuf was a prophet how can he have such intention?
Imam: You have not recited the complete verse, which is as follows: Yusuf would also have intended if he had not seen the proof of his Lord. Since he was an infallible prophet, he did not make such an intention. Another meaning of this is that Zulaikha made an intention of sin, and Yusuf (a.s) made an intention “not to do it”.
Mamun: All right. It is mentioned about the Messenger of Allah (S) in the Quran: Indeed We gave you a clear victory so that Allah may remit your past and future sins. This shows that the prophet was a sinner.
Imam: This verse does not denote the sin of the Prophet. Rather it means that: O Prophet! Your denouncement of the idols of the polytheists and your invitation towards the oneness of God, which were sinful actions in the eyes of the people, now that Mecca is conquered, and people willingly or unwillingly have become Muslims, thus all your past actions (sins in the view of the polytheists) are forgiven. That is, you are no more a sinner in their view.
Mamun: Son of the Messenger, I am thankful to you that you removed all my doubts.
We hereby present the Imam's replies to queries posed to him by different people.
Question: Is man helpless in his actions that Allah compels him to do whatever he wants?
Imam: Allah is Just. How is it possible that He should compel one to do something and then punish him for it?
Question: Is man completely free in his actions?
Imam: How is it possible? That Allah should create the people and remove His law from over them completely, leaving all their affairs to them. Neither has Allah made the people absolutely helpless nor gave them free will. Rather it is an affair between the two (extremes).
Question: There is a tradition: Allah created Adam in His own image. Does this not prove that Allah has a face?
Imam: People have not reflected on the circumstances surrounding this tradition. The actual matter is that one day the Messenger of Allah (S) passed by two people who were abusing each other. One of them said: May Allah make your face ugly and also of those who resemble you. The Prophet said: O man! Do not say this the Almighty Allah created Adam also with this same face.
Question: What does this tradition mean that the believers in Paradise would sit in their homes and continue to see their Lord?
Imam: The Almighty Allah has bestowed superiority to Prophet Muhammad al-Mustafa over all the prophets. He ordained his obedience as His obedience, his allegiance as His allegiance and his visitation as His visitation. Thus he said: One who visited me in my lifetime or after I pass away, he has visited Allah. Thus the tradition means that the believers in Paradise would be seeing the Messenger of Allah (S).
Question: What does this tradition mean: The reward of saying: There is no god except Allah (La ilaha illallaah) is equal to that of looking at the face of Allah? Does the Almighty have a face or a shape?
Imam: It is infidelity to attribute shape or face to Allah. The faces of Allah are in fact His prophets and their legatees through whom ones attention is guided to Allah. That is why they are the face of Allah. Looking at their faces carries great rewards and to remain deprived of their visitation (Ziyarat) causes loss.
Question: Are the Paradise and Hell already created?
Imam: Indeed, they are already created. Those who say that they are not yet created, they are merely in the intention of Allah, are not from us. Rather they deny us and are deniers of our Wilayat (mastership). On the Day of Judgment they would be cast into Hell forever, because they deny something that is one of the necessities of faith. The Almighty Allah says: “This is that very Hell that the people used to deny, the inmates of Hell will go about in it in boiling water.”
Question: Why are men allowed four wives and women are prohibited more than one husband?
Imam: If a woman has more than one husband it would not be determined whose seed it was and in such circumstances it would be impossible to prove the paternity of the child. But in case of multiple wives this danger is absent. In addition to this, men are allowed four wives because in comparison to men the population and births of females is much more than that of males.
Question: Please explain about the birth of the male and the female child.
Imam: In the womb, the place of the male child is towards the right side and for the female child it is to the left. If the sperm goes to the right side a male child is conceived and if it goes to the left a female child is conceived. Often women are pregnant with twins. Thus if both her breasts are equally heavy, it should be known that she is carrying twins, and if only one is heavy, she is carrying one child. If the right breast is heavy, it would be a female child. If a woman carrying twins has her right breast lighter than the left, the fetus of the male child would be aborted and if the left breast becomes light the female fetus would be aborted. If both fall light, both the fetuses would be aborted.
Question: Why is fornication made unlawful?
Imam: Because, the lineage is broken. The inheritance goes away. The woman does not know by whom she has become pregnant and neither the child knows who its father is.
One day Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s), then aged nine, was standing with some boys in a lane of Baghdad. Seeing the entourage of Mamun all the others ran away, but as was his habit, Imam (a.s) continued to stand at his place. Mamun came forward and asked him, “Boy! Why did you not run away?” He replied, “O Chief! The passage was not narrow. There was no expectation that you would punish an innocent person. Then why should I run away?” Mamun liked this explanation and he asked the name of this boy and that of his father. He said, “I am Muhammad and Imam Ridha’ (a.s) was my respected father.” Mamun was moved by his condition and he spurred his horse forward. At that time he was going for hunting and he had some falcons with him. When he left the habitations he released a falcon to pursue a partridge. The falcon disappeared and returned after sometime carrying a small fish in its beak. Mamun was greatly astounded. On his return he found the boys playing. All ran away except Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s). Mamun approached him and asked, “Tell me, what I hold in my hand?” He replied, “The Almighty Allah has created little fishes in the sea of His power that the falcons of the kings prey upon and inform the sons of the Ahl ul-Bayt of the Prophet.”6
All the Islamic history books mention this debate in detail. This gathering was held on such a magnificent scale that in addition to the nobles of the ruling class, 900 chairs were occupied with scholars and great men of learning and such people as the Arabs were proud of their intellectual accomplishments. Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s) who was educated in the divine school could never be afraid of such people.
When the court was filled with the people, Mamun called Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s) and had him seated besides him on the royal throne and pillows placed on both his sides. Qadi Yahya bin Aksam was also present in his seat. He said, “If you allow me, can I pose a few questions to this lad?” Mamun said, “Your good manners demand that you seek his own permission.” Yahya sought the Imam's leave, which was granted immediately.
Yahya: What is the penalty for the one who hunts in the condition of Ehram.7
Imam: (Smiling) This question is absolutely absurd. First tell me, where this person hunted? In the surrounding area or inside the holy sanctuary? Whether he was aware of this matter or ignorant? Whether he did it willingly or by mistake? Whether he was a slave or a freeman? A matured person or a child? Did he do it first time or he had done it before also? Whether the hunted one was a bird or a quadruped? Small or big? Was the hunter regretful of his action or elated? Was the hunt conducted during the night or in the day? Was he wearing Ehram for Hajj or for Umrah?
Just as the Qadi heard these words he was speechless. The color of his face paled. Darkness appeared below his eyes. He continued to sit shocked. When the silence prolonged, Mamun could not restrain himself. He said to the Imam, “Now that you have told this, please also throw some light on its solution.”
Imam: If a person in Ehram hunts in the surrounding area and the prey is a bird, even if it is big, the penalty of the same is a goat. If he hunts a similar prey in the sanctuary, the penalty is two goats. If a young one of a wild animal is hunted in Ehram a ram is to be given as penalty. It should be one that is no more suckled by its mother. If the hunt is that of a deer a goat is to given as penalty and all these penalties apply for hunting wild animals in the surrounding areas.
However, if it is done in the sanctuary the penalty would be doubled. And one who gives the penalty has himself to take the animals to the Ka'ba. If this person is wearing Ehram for Hajj he should slaughter these animals in Mina, if he is wearing Ehram for Umrah, he should slaughter then in Mecca.
The aware and the ignorant are equally liable. One who does it willingly and knowingly is a sinner. Although in event of ignorance there is no sin. For a freeman the penalty is liable on himself, and the penalty of a slave is obligatory upon his master. There is no penalty on a small child. Penalty is incumbent on a matured person.
One who regrets this hunting would be saved from the punishment of the Hereafter. And if he is elated at his deed the punishment of the Hereafter is also there for him.
Hearing the reply the whole gathering was astounded and accolades and congratulations arose from everywhere. Mamun was so happy that he continued to repeat again and again, “Allah best knows where to place His message.”
After this Imam (a.s) asked Qazi Yahya, “Now let me ask you a question.” Mamun said, “Ask him, indeed.”
Imam said, “What do you say regarding this problem? A man looked towards a woman while she was prohibited for him. She became lawful at sunrise, unlawful at noon, again lawful in the afternoon, unlawful at sunset and lawful at night. Again unlawful in the middle of the night and then finally lawful in the morning?
Since Yahya was helpless, the Imam explained, “She was a slave-girl whom he purchased in the morning and she become lawful for him, at the noon time he freed her and she became unlawful for him. In the afternoon he married her. At Sunset he recited the words of Zihar (that she is to him like the back of his mother) and she became unlawful for him. In the night he paid the penalty and she became lawful for him again. During the night he gave her a revocable divorce and she became unlawful for him and finally he took her back nullifying the divorce in the morning, making her lawful for himself.”
Mamun told the people, “Have you seen the level of his knowledge?”
Like the other Imams, the knowledge of Imam Ali Naqi (a.s) was also divinely gifted and none had the capacity to excel him in knowledge and virtue. One day poison was administered to Mutawakkil. He made a vow that if he survived he would give a lot of money in charity. When he recovered there was a difference among the scholars regarding what constituted “a lot of money.” At last, Mutawakkil sent his slave to Imam Ali Naqi (a.s). He said, “Eighty Dirhams be given in Charity.” When Mutawakkil requested for an explanation, the Imam said, “The Almighty Allah said: Allah certainly helped you on a lot of occasions. Since the military expeditions of the Prophet were eighty in number, it shows that 'a lot' denotes 'eighty'. The reply of the Imam pleased Mutawakkil very much.
Once Mutawakkil said to Ibn Sikkit, “In my presence, ask Imam Ali Naqi (a.s) such a difficult question that he cannot reply.” Thus he posed the following questions:
Ibn Sikkit: Allah gave to Musa the miracle of the staff, to Isa the miracle of curing the lepers and the blind and the enlivening of the dead. To the Holy Prophet (S), He gave the miracles of the Holy Quran and the sword. Why were these miracles different? Why didn't He give the same sort of miracles to all the prophets?
Imam: Miracle was awarded depending upon the demands of that particular period. How could the same miracle have been effective in every age? During the time of Musa, magic was prevalent; therefore he was given the staff and the shining hand. During the period of Isa the science of medicine was dominating. Thus he was bestowed cure and the power to enliven the dead. In the time of the Messenger of Allah (S) the prevalent arts were of eloquence, literature and warfare. Therefore, in order to overcome them, he was given the Quran and the sword.
Ibn Sikkit: What is the proof for the people of today when no miracle is seen?
Ibn Sikkit: Intellect was present before also.
Imam: However, the methods of its utility were not known. The prophets opened up these channels.
Ibn Sikkit: Who does the Quranic words: “One with whom was the knowledge from the book” denote?
Imam: Asif bin Barkhiya.
Ibn Sikkit: When Sulaiman (a.s) asked his courtiers which of them could bring the throne of Bilquis along with her there, did he not know that Asif bin Barkhiya could accomplish it? If he was aware, why did he put up such a question?
Imam: He knew it, but he wanted to prove the superiority of Asif bin Barkhiya to the jinns and men of his community, that after him, he would be his vicegerent.
Ibn Sikkit: Why did Yaqub (a.s) prostrate before his son? Is it permitted for a father to prostrate before his son?
Imam: The prostration was by way of obedience to Allah and a mark of respect for Yusuf. It was like the prostration of the angels before Adam. Actually the prostration of Prophet Yaqub and sons was a prostration of thanks, because the Almighty Allah had again brought them together after separation.
Ibn Sikkit: The Almighty Allah says: “Then if you are in doubt regarding what is revealed to you then ask those who recite the book.” In this verse the doubt is related to the Prophet, was he really having any doubts?
Imam: Definitely not! The ignorant people used to say why Allah did not send a prophet from the angels. So that they neither would have the need to eat nor drink and neither to frequent the markets (to earn the livelihood). Such needlessness would have been more effective on the people. Thus the Almighty Allah revealed to His Prophet that: If due to ignorance the readers of the book are in doubt, do they not know that the prophets before you also ate and drank (were humans). If it had been so, what is the meaning of doubts regarding you? The doubt is ascribed to the Prophet is this verse only because that it should not offend those people. Have you not read in the verse of imprecation: “Then invoke the curse of Allah on the liars?” (Surah Aale Imran 3:61) Allah knew that His Messenger was on the truth and the others were lying, but by way of etiquette it was not considered proper to call them liars. Therefore the Prophet was also included with them.
A Christian who had committed fornication with a Muslim woman was brought to Mutawakkil. When Mutawakkil wanted to sentence him, he became a Muslim. Qazi Yahya said that he could not be sentenced now, because his conversion has remitted all his past sins. Someone suggested that the opinion of the master of the faithful, Imam Ali Naqi (a.s) might also be obtained in this matter. Thus Mutawakkil sent someone to him to inquire about this. He said, “He should be beaten till he dies.” The court scholars refused to accept this verdict and demanded justification. Again the Imam was petitioned and he said, “A clear verse is there regarding this:
But when they saw Our punishment, they said:
We believe in Allah alone and we deny what we used to associate with Him. ( Surah Momin 40:84)
During the time Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) was in imprisonment at Baghdad, for three years at a stretch there was a severe famine. A Christian scholar arrived there and showing a miracle of causing rain he created a great turmoil in the beliefs of Muslims. Everyone began to extol his spiritual feats and the truth of Christian faith. The news reached Motamid. He summoned him and requested him to cause rain. Immediately he raised his hands to the sky and uttered a few words. Within no time a black cloud spread on the sky and it began to rain. Motamid also began to have faith in his miracle and the beliefs of all his courtiers became shaky. Motamid realized that the best course of action was to somehow send this Christian away from his court. When he departed a debate began on this matter. No one could explain it away. A courtier said that except for Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) no one could solve this puzzle. It was ordered to bring him to the court at once. It is mentioned in Sawaiqul Mohreqa that when Imam (a.s) arrived, Motamid related to him the whole incident. He said, “What is so great about it? People should accompany me outside the town and if Allah wills, I will clarify the whole matter. But the condition is that all prisoners must be released.” Thus it happened in this way. The Christian monk was also summoned. Imam said, “Now you invoke and show your miracle.” He raised his hands and began to recite something inaudibly. At once, a cloud appeared. Imam (a.s) told a man next to him, “Catch hold both the hands of the monk and snatch whatever he is holding.” The man did as commanded and came to the Imam holding a bone. The Imam buried this bone in the soil and told the Christian, “Now lets see if it rains or not.” Again he raised his hands, but leave alone rain, the cloud that had appeared also dispersed.
Imam (a.s) told Motamid, “There was no miracle in this man; it is in the bone that he was holding. It is a bone of some prophet that he somehow got. It is the specialty of this bone that when it is shown to the open sky, at once a cloud will appear and rain.” Hearing this, the doubts of the people were dispelled and the misplaced faiths again returned to their original position.
The fame of the knowledgeable level of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) had spread to all the countries. People from far off places used to come to the Imam to inquire about difficult matters. According to Abu Hashim Jafari once he was in the presence of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) when a person well known for his knowledge and virtues came to the Imam (a.s) and said, “Women are naturally weaker than men. Then why is it that they are given one share in inheritance? And men, despite their strength are given two shares? While justice demands that it should be on the contrary.
Imam (a.s) said, “You have seen the apparent weakness of women but have not reflected on the duties of men and women. The difficulties of men are much more than those of women. Jihad is incumbent on men and not on women. The responsibility of earning livelihood rests on man and not on women. The maintenance of women is on men. Then in such circumstances if the share of men is double, is it against justice and equity?”
The level of the knowledge of Imam Hasan Askari can be estimated from the Exegesis of Quran that is famous as Tafsir Imam Hasan Askari. The compilation and the writing of this commentary is not done in a pre-arranged way. Rather they constitute his saying regarding the verses of Quran that he told to his two disciples while teaching them the Quran. The two of them had come to him from Qom to obtain knowledge from him. These two fortunate gentlemen collected the sayings of Imam (a.s) in the form of Quranic Exegesis (Tafsir). From the aspects of exegetical points, quality of matter and language flow it is such a commentary that even voluminous ones cannot be compared to it. Its translation is also available in Urdu and Persian.8
Once someone asked: Whom does the verse:
Nay! These are clear communications in the breasts of those who are granted knowledge (Surah Ankabut 29:49)
denotes? Imam (a.s) replied, “We Ahl ul-Bayt.” In the same way someone asked, “What does “good” in
Whoever brings good, he shall have better than it; (Surah Naml 27:89)
and “evil” in
And whoever brings evil, these shall be thrown down on their faces into the fire; (Surah Naml 27:90)
mean?” Imam replied ”'Good' denotes recognition (Marefat) of Imam and his obedience and “evil” stands for the denial of Imamate.”
Ishaq Kindi was a great philosopher of Iraq. He collected such verses of Quran whose meanings were apparently contradictory. He wanted to prove thereby that it was not the word of Almighty Allah. One day his disciples came to Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) who told them, “Refrain your teacher from such tactics.” They said, “We are students, how can we dare to do such a thing?” Imam (a.s) said, “All right, you ask him as I instruct you.” “Yes, that is possible,” they said. Imam said, “When he mentions to you such verses that apparently carry contradictory meanings you tell him: What would you say if the speaker of these words (Allah) comes to you and says: What you have understood is not what I meant to say. The words are Mine and you ascribe their meanings, what type of logic is it? Did you ever ask Me what I meant to say through these words? If you never had the opportunity to ask Me, why do you needlessly ascribe meanings to My words? You only have the right to invent meanings for your own words and not for My words. Only that can explain the meanings of My words whom I have informed.”
The students heard these statements of the Imam and returned to their teacher and repeated the same to him. He was absolutely shocked and he said, “Except for Ahl ul-Bayt no one can think of such a thing, I am sure Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) has told you all this.” After this he destroyed all the material he had collected on this subject.
Since his occultation occurred in early childhood itself, he did not get the opportunity to express his intellectual capabilities. However, his written epistles issued from behind the curtain of occultation show that the source of his knowledge was also the same as that of the other Imams. The proof that his knowledge is divinely gifted is that all his four special deputies were unsurpassed scholars of their times. Whenever they required the solution of a difficult problem they used to refer to Imam-e-Zamana (a.s) and obtain satisfactory replies.
Whatever we have mentioned above regarding the intellectual capabilities of the Holy Imams and their level of knowledge is just by way of examples. It is just a minute fraction or we can say a drop in the ocean. If all this is written in detail it may go on to make up volumes. Rather it is my personal opinion that it is quite impossible to confine all their capabilities to writing, as they are unlimited.
It is however possible that the 'enlightened' people of the present age, who are experts in philosophy and science and well-versed in intellectual discussions may consider these too simplistic. They may not pay due attention and only cast a cursory glance over the present book in order to belittle the purpose. However, those who are aware of the exigency of the time and have in-depth knowledge of the early conditions of Islam would testify that it is necessary to publicize these very facts so that truth may overcome the propaganda of falsehood, which is continuing even in the present age.
The teachings of the Holy Imams (a.s) pertain to a time period thirteen and fourteen centuries ago. Since the 18th and 19th centuries there is unprecedented progress in science and philosophy. But all these are only recent developments. It is our belief that all the sciences and arts that have endured till date and all that shall see the light of the day till the end of the world was known to the Holy Imams. However, they did not pass on all the sciences and knowledge to the people due to the inability of the people of those times to digest and carry it. Therefore sometimes they only mentioned some things in brief. Let us understand this through some examples.
(1) Astro-physicists have developed their researches to such an extent that they conclude that the rays of different stars have different effects. Some cause the hearts of people to widen in expressiveness, while the rays of some other stars act in the opposite way. Some increase blood circulation and some are capable of destroying disease carrying germs and some help in increasing them. The rays make different things their mediums. We only mention here one medium to achieve our aim. The well known German doctor Ismat, who was a great geologist of the 19th century, writes in his book, The Precious Stone: Precious stones are formed in sandstone, because there are pores in this stone through which the heavenly bodies are able to pass on their powers into it. When the stars continue to radiate their rays upon these stones for thousands of years, various kinds of gems are produced. These gems are called their mediums. For example, Jupiter's medium is Ruby. Thus wherever a Ruby would be, the rays of Jupiter would fall according to it. And these rays would enter the body to which that stone is touching. The specialty of these rays of Jupiter is that they widen the veins of the heart facilitating breathing and this causes increase in the intake of oxygen. This in turn bestows good health and jovial mood to the recipient and this finally becomes a cause for him to excel in his profession and thus there is increase in his earnings and other achievements.
Since during the time of the Holy Imams, the sciences of astronomy and geology had not made any progress, if they had explained all these details, instead of appreciation the people of that time would have denied the Imams and opposed them openly. Thus without going into details it was briefly told that wearing a ring of ruby increased livelihood. Along with this they also emphasized the wearing of a ring on ones finger. According to the traditions one of the signs of a believer is that he wears a ring on his right hand. Now let us reflect on the above discussion and then decide whether the Holy Imams were aware of the reality that is only made clear to people through scientific researches in recent times or not.
(2) According to the experts of human anatomy, the most powerful finger in human beings is the smallest one. When one receives a shock, it is this finger that continues to vibrate the longest. Now let us see how the Holy Imams explained this. It is advised that if one wears a ring on this finger of the right hand one must ensure that the stone fixed in ring should be in such a way that it is always in contact with the body of the wearer. So that of whichever star's medium it is, its rays would directly come in contact with the body.
(3) Scientists have perfected the technique of producing different rays and through them they treat various diseases. For example the use of ultra violet and infrared rays and also x-rays and gamma rays. The Holy Imams have also been cognizant of these facts and they have also advised the use of various gemstones for assisting in the cure of various diseases. The details may be referred to books on this subject.
(4) A tradition says that you must flee from a leprosy patient like one flees on seeing a lion. Modern researches show that the shape of leprosy germs is very much like that of a lion. Since in those days no instruments were available to derive such conclusions the Holy Imams only briefly informed about the facts without going into details.
If there had not been the risk of undue prolongation of the discussion, we would have presented hundreds of such examples to illustrate our points further. However, it is sufficient to prove that the Holy Imams had the knowledge of all that is discovered by science so far and all that shall be discovered in the future. However, whatever they said was only a brief indication because the people of those times had no recourse to the scientific theories and discoveries that appeared much later in time. Thus the Imams could not provide any details. Their only aim was to leave gems of knowledge among the people so that when sciences and arts progress sufficiently their true value would be realized.
During the times of the Holy Imams, there was such a surge in the development of Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Babylonian and Persian philosophies that the Muslim Community was flooded with myriad views belonging to various schools of thoughts. This confused them to a great extent and the circumstances demanded that there should be someone who would not only defend the true teachings of Islam but also protect the beliefs of Muslims from alien philosophies and schools of thoughts that were threatening to blanket the whole Islamic world. The beliefs of these schools of thoughts were all opposed to the true Islamic beliefs. It was necessary that the true beliefs of Islam be protected against these invasions. The Christian and Jewish scholars had to a great extent distorted the accounts of the previous prophets therefore it was much needed to expose their plots. It was with these aims that the Holy Imams held debates with Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian scholars, so that Muslims may be protected from their false beliefs.
The Shariah law of Muhammad (S) had been legislated only some time ago and the Muslims had deviated from it completely. Or they had misunderstood the Islamic law. Therefore the Holy Imams found it necessary to explain the correct interpretation and exegesis of Quranic verses. The Muslims were very remote from the truth about Monotheism, prophethood, Imamat and Qiyamat also. Such beliefs held sway over the people, as had no relation with the true principles of Islam. As a result the form of Islam had been altogether transformed. Thus it was must for the Holy Imams to expend their energies in this regard.
The responsibility of Islam's survival rested on the correction of beliefs. If it is not done, nothing remains. All the scientific discoveries and inventions and the new theories of philosophy were useless, because Islam has given preference to religion over the world. The Holy Imams explained this need in detail and they were attentive only towards the remedy of this disease, which was fatal to humanity and God-worship.
Most probably the readers must have understood by now why the Holy Imams laid more emphasis on providing arguments for strengthening of faith and why they kept the scope of their propagation confined to these boundaries.
We have already presented the questions of different people in this regard that were duly replied by the Holy Imams. It is possible that since we have heard about these questions many times from our scholars we may not accord them much importance. However, the point to be noted is that there is no one who could provide a better reply than that given by the Holy Imams. It is our challenge that none before the Holy Imams have given such irrefutable and concise replies to these objections. In the present age the questions may seem very simple because their replies have somehow reached us from the Imams through the religious scholars. However, in order to have a comprehensive view of the matter we must keep in mind the circumstances that existed when these questions were actually raised.
Knowledge and actions are the two arms of Islam. Just as a bird cannot fly without two wings the Messenger of Allah (S) has said: Knowledge without action is a curse and action without knowledge is deviation. Just as for knowledge it is necessary to have information about the realities of various things and the causes of all the phenomena, in the same way sincerity and purity of intention is needed for all actions. No matter how difficult and significant a deed is; if it is not accompanied by sincerity it has no value in the view of the Almighty and there is no reward for it. According to a tradition: The doer of the greatest deeds will be touching the fire of Hell. None of the deeds of Holy Imams were bereft of sincerity. They always performed the good deeds to obtain the pleasure of Allah and never allowed a personal motive to come in between. Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) says: My God! Neither I worship You for the fear of Hell nor for the desire of Paradise. It is because I find You deserving of worship. The beast proof of his sincerity was that every deed of his was accepted by the Almighty and this is clearly certified in the Holy Quran. The traditions of the Messenger of Allah (S) have also testified to the purity of his actions. Now let us study the practical virtues of the Holy Imams in some detail.
Apparently there is no relationship between worship and good morals, but actually it has a very profound connection. The root of the correction of morals is itself worship. One who does not perform the religions duties could never perfect his morals. Let us just consider the relationship of Prayer to morals. The Almighty Allah says:
Surely prayer keeps (one) away from indecency and evil… (Surah Ankabut 29:45)
We should know that indecencies and unlawful things are roots of all evils. When prayer has protected one from those things, the morals of that person would definitely bloom into a beautiful form. Now just make an analogy with other worship acts. Worship denotes getting oneself connected to the Almighty. The result is that divine Graces fall upon the worshipper. Now what can be said about the perfection of morals of a person who is the recipient of divine graces? One who leaves the worship acts can never put forward his good morals. Therefore it became necessary that first of all we must discuss the worship of the Holy Imams. It is our challenge that the type of sincere worship they had performed in the world was not possible by anyone else. Those who worship do so in any of the following ways (1) Merely performing worship in a mechanical way. There is no benefit in such a kind of worship (2) Worship for showoff - Leave alone benefits, it is a sin (3) Worship with sincerity - It earns rewards (4) Worship with divine realization (wijdaan) - It creates a spiritual aura. The worshipper experiences such pleasure that he cannot obtain it in anything else in the world. It causes one to become more proximate to the Almighty. The worship of the Holy Imams was of this category.
When the time for prayers arrived he used to pale. Once, someone inquired about this. He said, “It is the time for fulfillment of that duty, the burden of which was refused by the heavens, the earth and the mountains. But despite my feeble physique I agreed to carry the burden.” The Imam used to say, “I do not know anyone in this community who has prayed with the Messenger of Allah (S) before me. I have prayed nine years before others did.”1
It is mentioned in Sharh Nahjul Balagha that during the battle of Siffin, Ali (a.s) used to spread his prayer mat between two rows of fighters and perform the prayers even as arrows rained from all sides and the battle continued to rage. He had not a slight fear of those arrows. Even after the completion of prayers he did not leave his place before reciting additional supplications and devotions. Allamah Ibn Abil Hadid writes that Ali (a.s) was so habitual of recommended prayers (Nafila) and performed such lengthy prostrations that his forehead began to resemble the knee of the camel. He used to be so much engrossed in Prayers that he became absolutely oblivious of everything else. So much so that he was not even aware of his body. It is mentioned that once an arrow pierced his foot but it was very painful to him if someone tried to remove it. So they were advised to wait till Ali (a.s) was engrossed in prayers. Thus when Ali (a.s) was praying, the people removed the arrow and Ali (a.s) was hardly aware of it.
The way of their fasting was such that when Imam Hasan and Imam Husayn were indisposed, all made a vow to keep three fasts. When it was time to fulfill the vow they all fasted for three days. But everyday at the time of breaking the fast a beggar approached their door and each of them gave him their shares and broke their fast with only water. Again the next day they fasted without eating anything else. Thus they fasted for three days continuously. The Almighty accepted their fasts and Surah Dahr was revealed in their praise.
Imam Ali (a.s) fasted most of the days and was busy in prayers all night long. So much so, that the neighbors report hearing one thousand Takbiratul Ehram (Allaho Akbar) in one night.
Many times his condition became so serious that people used to think that his soul has departed from him.
Imam Hasan (a.s) used to perform excessive worship and devotions. He used to spend a better part of the night in the worship of Allah. He used to pray and supplicate with such a devotion and pleading that people used to think he was weeping due to the passing away of a close relative.
Like his respected father, Imam Hasan (a.s) also kept many fasts. He performed twenty-five Hajj pilgrimages on foot. He used to say: I am ashamed to meet my Lord in a condition that I fail to reach His House on foot. Once he was traveling for Hajj and his mount was being led alongside. When after walking a long distance swelling appeared on his legs someone suggested, “O Son of Allah's Messenger (S)! When your mount is present why do you not travel upon it?” He replied, “I have not kept the mount with me to ride upon it myself. It is there in case I find a traveler too tired to walk and I may give him a lift.”
What can be said about the worship of the one who was brought up in the laps of the Messenger of Allah (S) and Imam Ali (a.s), and had benefited from their company. Imam Husayn (a.s) was fond of worship since his early childhood. He often used to pray with the Messenger of Allah (S). Hafas bin Ghayas reports that one day the Messenger of Allah (S) stood up to pray and Imam Husayn (a.s) also came and stood besides him. When the Messenger of Allah (S) recited the Takbir (Allaho Akbar), Imam Husayn (a.s) who was aged five or six at that time also tried to recite it but could not do so properly. The Messenger of Allah (S) repeated the Takbir. But again it didn't come out perfectly from Imam Husayn (a.s). Thus the Messenger of Allah (S) had to recite the Takbir seven times altogether. Therefore since that time it became a Sunnat (recommended act) to recite seven Takbirs before Takbiratul Ehram (Allaho Akbar at the beginning of Prayers).
Someone asked Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) why his respected father had so few children. He replied, “The reason is that he used to recite one thousand rakats (units) of prayers every night,” Imam Husayn (a.s) also performed twenty-five Hajj pilgrimages on foot though his vehicles used to remain with him during the journeys.
He was so much fond of the worship of Allah that on the eve of Ashura he obtained respite with a lot of difficulty from Umar Ibn Saad. Such a difficult night the eve of Ashura was that all the calamities had surrounded the Imam (a.s); even then he was engrossed in prayers and devotions all night long with utmost sincerity, humility and devotion. Only a person like Imam Husayn (a.s) could have performed such worship. The most difficult was the time of the noon prayers. The opponents were showering arrows and Imam Husayn (a.s) was performing the prayers. More significant was the time of the afternoon (Asr) prayers. A wounded and oppressed creature was surrounded by the enemies who attacked him from all sides while he performed his Asr prayers in gestures. The climax was that they beheaded him while he was in prostration.
At the time of worship, such a fear used to overcome Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) that the color of his face used to become yellow (Pale). This condition endured from the beginning till the end. At the time of ritual ablution (wuzu) the same condition occurred. Once someone asked the reason for it. Imam (a.s) replied, “At this moment I am standing before a glorious and a divine Emperor Who is the Creator of all the worlds, in Whose hands is the reward and punishment of every creature. What is so surprising that my condition is such due to His fear?”
Once he went to perform the Hajj pilgrimage. When he reached the point where pilgrims put on the ritual dress he was about to recite the Thalbiya (Labbaik) and put on the dress when all of a sudden the color of his face underwent a change and the body began to shake terribly. At last, he could not even utter Labbaik. People asked him why he didn't recite the thalbiya. He said, “I was afraid to say Labbaik (here I am at your service) lest Allah may reply: La-Labbaik (I am not for you).” Saying this he wept so much that he lost consciousness. He performed all the rituals in this fearful condition. Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) used to recite altogether one thousand rakats (units) of prayers in twenty-four hours, and in every prayer he used to tremble severely.
Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) says that whenever his respected father mentioned a bounty of Allah, he used to perform a prostration of thanks, whenever he recited a verse of Quran his condition used to be such that whether it be an obligatory prostration or a recommended one he used to invariably perform it. When he got relief from a particular difficulty he performed a prostration. He used to prostrate after the obligatory prayers. The signs of excessive prostration were apparent on his forehead? That is why he had earned the title of Sajjad (one who prostrates too much). Due to such excess two corns had formed on his forehead like the knee of a camel. Such was his sincerity and humility that once there was a fire in his house. At that time he was in prostration, people began to shout, Fire! Fire! But he did not raise his head from prostration. Finally the fire was brought under control. Someone asked him, “You did not even notice that there was a fire? What made you so oblivious of everything?” “The fire of the Hereafter,” replied the Imam.
Once Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) fell down in a well. Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) was reciting the prayers. The mother of Imam Baqir (a.s) screamed, “O Son of Allah's Messenger! Our son has fallen in the well.” However, as was his practice, he remained engrossed in his prayers. When he finished the prayers he came to the well, put his hand inside it and pulled out Imam Baqir (a.s) and told his wife, “If I had become negligent of Allah, He would not have restored this boy safe and sound to me.”
After half the night had passed, he used to come to his private prayer room and recite devotional prayers aloud: O my Lord! The fear of meeting You on the Day of Gathering did not allow me to remain on my bed. And sleep abandoned my eyes. Saying this he used to place his cheeks on the ground and wept so profusely that the ground became wet with his tears. Seeing this condition his family members used to gather around him but he paid no attention to them. He continued to weep and supplicate in the same plaintive way.
O my Lord! Here I do not seek rest, but on the day I am summoned in Your presence, please look at me with a glance of mercy.
Tawus Yamani narrates that Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) was seen during the Hajj season rubbing his cheeks on ground near the black stone and reciting devotions to his Lord.
“O my God! Your slave has come to Your House. Your impoverished one has come to Your House. Your beggar has come to Your House. Your pleader has come to Your House.”
The Imam used to say that three types of people worship in this world: The first type worship due to fear. It is the worship of slaves. The second type worship for rewards - It is the worship of business people. The third type worship with thankfulness - This is the true worship of the servants of Allah.
He used to subject his body to utmost penance. One day Imam Baqir (a.s) asked him why he practiced such a severe penance? He replied, “Don't you like that I should obtain divine proximity?”
Like his respected father, Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) was also fond of worship. Most of his nights passed in wakefulness and in remembrance of Allah. The better part of the day was also spent in worship. Similar was the case of his fasts. Most of the time he used to observe fasts. When he stood up in the prayer niche his body shook with the fear of the Almighty. As long as he sat in a gathering, the glorification of God was on his lips. Once someone asked him why he worshipped so much? He began to weep and said, “Ugh! You call it excessive worship? While I consider it nothing with regard to the glory and the magnificence of the Lord.”
People used to be astounded seeing the glory of his worship. Thus once Abu Hanifah saw him praying and was left perplexed by it. When the Imam completed the prayers he said, “O Aba Abdillah! How torturous is your prayer!” Imam (a.s) replied, “Don't you know that among all the worship acts, prayer is the greatest cause of divine proximity?”
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) used to prolong the recitations of his bowing (ruku) and prostration (Sajdah) so much that sometimes he recited them more than sixty times. The narrator says: One day I went to Imam (as.) to inquire something from him. I found him lying in prostration in the Prophet's mosque. I sat down near him thinking that when he completes his prayer I can ask him the question. The Imam prolonged the prostration so much that I was fed up sitting there. I thought up of some idea to somehow convey to him that I was present there. I decided to also go into prostration and recite the recitation of prostration loudly so that the Imam would hear my voice and complete his prayer. Thus I began to pray and when I went into prostration I recited the recitation loudly. When I had recited it more than 360 times I realized that the Imam has concluded his prayer. I also concluded my prayer then addressed the Imam, “Master, if this is the level of your prayer, what is the worth our prayers?” He said, “More or less, both are accepted from our Shias (followers)”
One day the Imam was passing by the orchards of Kufa. After walking for sometime he sat under a date palm. There he performed the ritual ablution and began to pray. He prolonged the recitation of his prostration so much that it exceeded five hundred times.
It is mentioned in Faslul Khitab that at the time of sunrise he used to go into a prostration for the Creator and he used to so much prolong this prostration that it extended upto noontime. Due to intensive worship he had become so lean and emaciated that people barely recognized him. It seemed as if only a white cloth was lying on the prayer mat. Seeing the level of his worship, once Harun Rashid said: You are the monk and the pious one of Bani Hashim.
During the period he was in prison, it was customary for him to complete his morning prayer, recite the additional supplications and devotions and then go into a prostration and remain thus till noon. After the decline of the sun from its zenith he used to raise his head and perform the Noon (Zuhr) Prayer. Then he spent the whole day in worship. At night he slept for a few moments and spent the rest of the night in worship. After the Noon (Zuhr) and Afternoon (Asr) prayers he used to go into prostration and remain in this position till sunset. As soon as it was evening he stood up for the evening (Maghrib) prayer. After the evening prayer he recited the supplications till the time of the Night (Isha) prayers. Again after the Night (Isha) prayers he began to recite supplications and invocations. When he finished all this he broke his fast and used to eat a little food then go into prostration of thanks. Then after sleeping for a little while he was engrossed in the Midnight prayer till it was the time for Morning Prayer.
One day Harun Rashid sent a very attractive slave girl to the prison to seduce the Imam in any way possible. She came to the prison and employed all the tactics but to no avail. The Imam was not even slightly attracted by her. On the other hand the intensive worship of the Imam and his devotional recitations in the court of Allah had such profound effect on the maid that she began to regret her own evil intentions and became engrossed in Allah's worship. When Harun was informed of this he summoned her and asked, “Why did you not perform the job I sent you for?” She said, “O Chief! Listen! This man is not human. He is an angel. How could I have attracted him? I had gone to attract him towards myself but on the contrary his spirituality affected me.” After that, the slave girl receded into seclusion and spent the rest of her life in worship.
Like his forefather, Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s), Imam Ridha’ (a.s) also used to pray a thousand rakats (units) of prayers in a day and night. He concluded his prayers before a little while before noon and till the time of sunset at the end of the day. Otherwise most of the time he used to stand on his prayer mat. He also remained very thoughtful and contemplative. After completing the Morning Prayer he used to be engrossed in recitations and supplications and he prolonged the glorifications of God to such an extent that it was mid-morning. At this time he went into prostration of thanks to remain therein till noon. After that he issued admonitions and advices and returned to his prayer mat for the noon prayer. He recited the supererogatory (nawafil) till the sun began to decline from its zenith. After the noon prayer he prolonged his recitations and then performed the prostration of thanks. He used to recite: Thanks be to Allah (Shukran Lillaah) a hundred times. Thus, this type of worship continued till midnight. Then he slept for sometime and arose for the midnight prayer.
Mamun tried his utmost to involve the Imam in the affairs of the government but how could he do that? One day Mamun said, “O son of the Messenger of Allah! I fear that you may perish due to excess worship.” Imam (a.s) replied, “Such a death is everlasting success.” Mamun said, “What sins have you committed that you pray day and night for their forgiveness?” Imam (a.s) replied, “Not for the forgiveness of sins, it is for the thankfulness of His bounties. It is the demand of my servitude.”
The worship of Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s) was such that not a moment was without remembrance of Allah. Once he went for the Hajj. Seeing the intensive worship of the Imam, the pilgrims were left bewildered. Mutasim had also come for Hajj at that time. His officials reported to him the account of the worship of Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s) and his sincerity and humility in prayers. They said, “We have never seen a more pious person.” The Imam used to weep the whole night in Allah's remembrance and when people restrained him he intensified his lamentations and said, “When have I worshipped the Almighty as befits Him, that you ask me to reduce it?”
A significant proof of his excessive worship is that his wife Ummul Fadl the daughter of Caliph Mamun wrote in a complain letter to her father: You have married me to a person who spends the whole night standing in the prayer niche, and fasts during the day. Neither is he fond of beauty and embellishments nor there is any means of comfort and luxury in his house. Daughters of the kings cannot spend their life with such ascetics.
Like his forefathers, Imam Ali Naqi (a.s) was also a lover of the remembrance of Allah. When Mutawakkil summoned him from Medina to his capital and put him into prison, he appointed a stonehearted person named Zarraqi as the warden who had no mercy for anyone. But he was also astounded by his excellent manners and his worships all day and night long. And gradually he became the Imam's devotee and supporter. When Mutawakkil was informed about the condition of his spiritual inclinations he called him one day and said, “I appointed you so that you behave with your prisoner in the utmost vicious and ill-behaved manner.” He said, “O Chief! This person seems to be higher than angels in spiritual accomplishments. Since he is in my charge, I have never seen him eat during the day and sleep whole night. How do you expect me to deal harshly with one who is mostly busy in the worship of Allah, who fasts everyday, who does not demand anything, who never has a bad word for anyone, whose favorite activity is remembrance of Allah? How can I oppress him and destroy my Hereafter? O Chief! He laments so intensely due to the fear of Allah that his beard gets wet with his tears. He recites the Quran in such a melodious way that if one who hears it had a heart of stone, it would melt like wax. I think that you have put an angel under my charge. I have seen many worshippers but I haven't seen anyone like him.”
Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) also had maximum fondness for the worship of Allah. In the prison where he was meted out every type of discomfort, where fresh air was not available and for two years at a stretch he was given nothing but cold water and two loaves of bread to eat. In such a place the condition was such that he used to spend the whole night in the worship of Allah. He fasted on most of the days. The servants of Motamid used to be perplexed on seeing his worship and they used to say to each other: If only we could freely be allowed to serve this noble personality. Thus Muhammad bin Ismail Alawi says that some persons from Bani Abbas went to Salih bin Wasf, under whom Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) was imprisoned and said, “Be very harsh with him and do not have the slightest mercy.” He said, “I had appointed two men over him. Both were the harshest and most vicious persons but after sometime seeing the excessive prayers of this prisoner, his worship of Allah and his spiritual strength they became his obedient servants ready to kiss his feet. They accompany him in prayers during the night.” After this Salih called those two servants from the prison and said, “What is this condition of yours?” They said, “Whose condition should we describe? Ours or that of the one who fasts during the days and prays the whole night? He does nothing other than pray. When people see his illuminated face, such a demeanor is radiated from it that we cannot show any ill manners. He is such a worshipper that he has converted evil-doer like us into worshippers.”
Since the age of five he used worship the Almighty. During the period of Minor occultation (Ghaibat Sughra) when his special deputies had the honor of visiting him, they always found him engrossed in worship and prayers. Abul Hasan Ali Ibn Muhammad as-Saymoori relates: One day I came to Imam (a.s) and said, “O son of the Messenger (S)! Whenever I have the honor to be in your presence, I find you busy in worship?” Imam (a.s) replied, “Then what else do you expect from me? O Abul Hasan! People are created for this only. That they spend their lives in Allah's remembrance.”
We have dealt very briefly regarding the account of the worship of the Holy Imams. Otherwise, every movement and every rest of theirs was worship. There was nothing from the Divine Law upon which they had not acted. Since Prayer and fasting are the best worship acts, that is why we have particularly mentioned them. Though no one has the capacity to describe them fully.
It is possible for someone to remark at this juncture that many holy saints have passed who spent their lives in Allah's worship. Then what is the precedence of the Holy Imams over them? The reply is that merits in worship are due to some factors:
(1) Magnitude: That is the quantity of worship. For example one who keeps ten fasts in better than one who keeps only one. One who recites a hundred rakats (units) of prayers is better than one who recites fifty. From this aspect no one can be superior to the Holy Imams. Because their prayers, fasts and Hajjs exceeded those of all other people. No one in Islam can challenge that even one prayer of his has not lapsed. Neither can anyone claim that all his life he prayed the whole night and fasted all the days.
(2) Condition: That is to perform each worship act according to the prescribed rituals and manners. On the contrary someone else does it without caring for the fulfillment of all its requirements. Both of them have performed the same act but the former would indeed be superior to the latter. From this aspect also, the Holy Imams' (a.s) worship was better than all others, because they used to perform all the worship acts in the perfect manner. Till date no one has even mistakenly, pointed out their shortcomings in this regard. If there had been any shortcoming in any of their acts, they would not have received the certificate of excellence of their deeds from the Almighty Allah and the Holy Prophet (S).
(3) Essence: That is, the action of one person is better than that of another. For example, the actions of the one who fulfills the obligatory acts are superior to the actions of one who performs supererogatory acts. From this aspect also the acts of Ahl ul-Bayt were the best, because they did not even allow Tark-e-Awla (omitting the preferable option) to enter their actions. They also never ever omitted any recommended deed, and performed each act with utmost precaution and care.
(4) Intention: That is two people perform the same type of deed but each has a different aim in it. For example, one acts for seeking the pleasure of Allah and the other does it for show-off. Since the Holy Imams did everything for the pleasure of Allah and no personal interest was present therein, and they did everything for the sake of the Love of Allah, therefore in any case their actions were the most superior. If it hadn't been so, their excellence would not have been mentioned in the verses of Quran.
(5) Precedence: For example someone started worshipping Allah since childhood and another one started after a part of his life had passed. Since the Holy Imams had begun worship from their early childhood, they had superiority over others from this aspect also.
(6) Attention and Humility: That is one prays with absolute concentration and certainty while another performs it sans these qualities. It is obvious that except for the Holy Prophet (S), no one excelled the Ahl ul-Bayt in this regard. No one else possessed such concentration and humility in worship.
All Muslim scholars agree that the Holy Imams (a.s) excelled all the people in knowledge, merits, worship and austerity and not a single lesser or greater sin was ever committed by them. Therefore the rank of their worship would also always remain superior and better than all the worshippers of the world.
In our definition a brave is one who puts himself in some danger, then saves himself or someone else from it. We call every such person as brave, who gains victory over his enemy. We consider them valiant, all those who are successful in territorial conquests. But the fact is that being actually 'brave' and 'valiant' is something altogether different. It is a middle line, thinner than hair and sharper than the sword's edge. Even a slight deviation of man takes him away from the path of moderation, and instead of virtue, a defect is created in him. There are many qualities that resemble virtues but actually they are not included among the virtues. For example, bravery is a virtue. But above it is dare-devilry or ferocity. That is to jump into danger without any thought and consideration. As much this course of actions moves to the upper side as much it deviates from the path of virtue. The second line is on the lower side. It is termed as cowardice. As much this also increases, as much it would be distant from the virtue of bravery. Actual bravery is only that has none of the above two deviations. Whenever the Holy Imams exhibited their bravery it was always purified of both the extremes. Most of the warriors are such that the give a free rein to their ferocity and rarely keep in mind the actual aim of their fighting. Thus they become distanced from the virtue of bravery. Valour does not mean that one shows force in each and every occasion and that he should always be ready with a brandished sword.
However, if one reflects on the consequences of the incidents and then to protect himself from future perils he takes up the sword, it is true valour.
Since the Holy Imams were cognizant of what valour actually means, therefore whenever they found the circumstances fit for the use of sword they resorted to force. And when conditions demanded patience and peace they put their swords away and exhibited their valour. We cannot call this cowardice because coward is one who only due to the weakness of his heart bears the oppression of his enemy and it is not the one who finds his strength ready for confrontation. But due to the exigencies of circumstances and with an eye on the consequential matters he stops from confrontation. These are such subtle differences as cannot be understood by the common people.
One who fights for territorial annexations, for gathering war-booty and wealth, killing innocent people and oppressing the masses, one who threatens those who are weaker than him and forces his obedience upon them. According to the Islamic view such a one does not deserve to be called valiant. He is actually a ferocious beast. The actual brave is one who refrains from fighting when there is risk of spread of mischief and turmoil. He avoids fighting to maintain peace in the Islamic lands, to keep the innocent people safe and for the defense of religious sanctity. One who does not use his military power and does not proceed with the violent option, in the view of Islamic morals such a one is truly brave and valiant. He is not a coward at all.
Anyway, after this brief introduction let us study about the valour of the Holy Imams (a.s).
If a detailed account were complied regarding the valour of Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) it would make up a considerably thick volume. It is the unanimous opinion of all the Muslim historians that a brave and valiant warrior like Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) has not been born into this world to this date. On the day of the battle of Uhad a call emanated between the earth and the sky: “There is no brave youth except Ali and there is no sword except Zulfiqar.”
In the battle of Khyber the Prophet (S) gave him the title of “The victor who does not flee” and the Holy Quran said:
Surely Allah loves those who fight in His way in ranks as if they were a firm and compact wall. (Surah Saff 61:4)
This proves that Ali (a.s) was a champion beyond comparison. Not once, but hundreds of times, the bravery of Ali (a.s) became apparent to all the people. And every time he remained unprecedented. It is narrated from Musab Ibn Umair in Mustatraf that Ali (a.s) used to be very careful and knew well all the techniques of offence and defense. It was not possible for anyone to get a hit at him. He wore the coat of mail only on his chest and it did not cover his back. Someone said: Do you not fear that someone may attack you from behind? He replied, “May Allah not keep me alive if I allow the enemy to approach me from behind.” It is mentioned in Khazinatul Adab that when Adi bin Hatim had the honor of meeting the Messenger of Allah (S), during the conversation he remarked, “The greatest poet, the greatest philanthropist, and the greatest warrior was from our community.” The Prophet (S) asked him who they were. He replied, “The greatest poet was Imrul Qays bin Hujr, the greatest philanthropist was Hatim bin Sa'ad (that is my father) and the greatest warrior was Amr bin Maad Yakrab.” The Messenger of Allah (S) said, “It is not this way; the greatest poet was Khunsa binte Amr, the greatest philanthropist is Muhammad the Messenger of Allah and the greatest warrior is Ali Ibn Abi Talib.”
Qutaybah has written in Ma'rif that when the confrontation of Siffin intensified, Ali (a.s) challenged Muawiyah to a duel and said: Let the two of us fight it out among us, so that after the slaying of one the Muslims would be safe. Amr Ibn Aas said: Fair enough! Muawiyah said, “You are asking me to fight Abul Hasan? While you know that he is such a warrior that none can escape him? This shows that you desire the rulership of Syria after me.”
It is narrated from Ibn Abbas in Riazun Nazarah that a person asked him, “Was Ali (a.s) himself participating in fighting in the battle of Siffin?” Ibn Abbas said in reply, “I have not seen anyone like him, ever ready to put his life into perils. I used to see him come out fighting bare head (without a helmet), holding the turban in one had and sword in the other. He was so confident of himself that he did not even fear that the enemy may attack his head.”
It is mentioned in Hayatul Haiwan that such powerful was the strike of Ali's sword that it used to cut everything in half in a single shot. If his sword fell on the head it cut the full body into half and if it fell sideways, it similarly divided the body into half.
From the instructions Ali (a.s) issued to his son Muhammad Ibn Hanafiah during the battle of Jamal, we come to know the level of his courage and his method of fighting. He said, “A mountain may move from its place but our feet must not. Fight with your teeth clenched and do not worry if you have to sacrifice your life on the way of Allah. Keep your eye on the last row of the opponent army. Keep your feet fixed on the ground like a tent-peg.”
No precedent can be found of the bravery Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) exhibited on the night of Migration (Hijrat). Surrounded by the bloodthirsty enemies it was only Ali (a.s) who could sleep with utmost tranquility on the bed of the Holy Prophet (S). After migration to Medina, the series of battles started. Ali (a.s) was the standard bearer in all these campaigns and in all of them the credit for victory went to him alone. If we go into the details of each and every battle the present work may be so prolonged as to fail in the aim for which it is written.
However, there is a very significant point in all these battles. Wherever and whenever Ali (a.s) exhibited his unsurpassed bravery it was invariably with the aim of achieving victory for Islam. Not once did he attack or slay anyone due to personal grudge or selfish motives. Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) lifted his sword only against the infidels who attacked the Muslims or the Muslims who created mischief and corruption and oppressed innocent people. He never slew any innocent person. Neither did he ever harm women or children, burn inhabitations or destroy them.
As long as he felt that the well being of Islam was in fighting he fought in an exemplary way. When he saw that the well being of Islam or Muslims was not in violent combat he sheathed his sword and acted with patience.
This is how a true warrior should be. In Islamic terminology this is the definition of a brave one. It is this type of valour that is one of the meritorious moral virtues.
Imam Hasan (a.s) was the son of the Lion of Allah, Ali al-Murtada (a.s). Why shouldn't the quality of valour be not found in him in the best way? The first opportunity that he got to exhibit the gems of his valour was in the Battle of Jamal. Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) gave his standard to Imam Hasan (a.s) and said, “Son, go and confront the enemy with your feet firmly fixed to the ground.” Thus he proceeded to the battlefield and fought with such bravery that the opponents were left astounded. When after slaying hundreds of enemies he returned, Ali (a.s) embraced his son and showered him with praises. After this he participated in the Battle of Siffin. For many days he continued to confront the Syrian forces with a battalion. At last the enemy fled in defeat.
After the Battle of Siffin, again he exhibited a valiant disposition in the Battle of Naharwan. He fought with such bravery that the Kharijis of Naharwan could be seen running here and there.
If Muawiyah had not spread the net of his intrigue everywhere, there would not have appeared signs of revolt in the army of Imam Hasan (a.s). And like the Battle of Siffin, he would again have subdued Muawiyah. However, when each soldier of his army fell a prey to Muawiyah's intrigue and became the Imam's fatal enemy, what could the Imam do in such in circumstances?
Like Imam Hasan (a.s), Imam Husayn (a.s) also earned accolades for his bravery during the lifetime of Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) in the battles of Jamal, Siffin and Naharwan. The greatest achievement of his in this regard is the battle of Karbala’ on the day of Ashura. Hamid Ibn Muslim, a soldier of Yazid's army and the narrator of those events says, “I did not find anyone in the world more valiant than Imam Husayn (a.s). Hunger and thirst of three days, the burning sands of Karbala’ , the corpses of relatives, friends and children before his eyes, the fear of the dishonor of women, wounds in every inch of the body. None in the world could fight so bravely as Husayn did, despite all those things. The first attack mounted by Husayn had created turmoil in the Yazidite forces. People were fleeing at his sight like locusts. Imam Husayn (a.s) waged many attacks, one after the other. The result was that at very many places piles of corpses laid. His last attack was terrific. The enemy fled in such a terror that the last men of that army entered Kufa. Everywhere there were screams of: Spare us! Spare us! O son of the Messenger of Allah! Seeing their wretched condition the son of the Mercy of the worlds had pity on them and put his sword in its sheath. Now it was time to display gems of patience.
After the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (a.s), no ruler demanded oath of allegiance from any of the Holy Imams. Also none of the Imams was having any connection with apparent rulership. Therefore there was no occasion for them to perform the Jihad of the sword. Haider Husayn the poet of Lucknow has worded this beautifully in one of his panegyrics:
Zainul Abideen changed the meaning of Jihad.
The daring is the same but battlefields have changed.
From Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) to Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) there were numerous occasions when need arose to exhibit valour of moral behavior. The Holy Imams (a.s) were never awed by the ruling powers to conceal truth. They never refrained from Amr bil Maroof (Enjoining good) and Nahy Anil Munkar (Forbidding evil).
If the calamities that befell Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) had descended on mountains they would have melted away like wax. If they had fallen on days, they would have changed into nights. However he bore everything with the strength of faith, and did not allow his ancestral valour to leave him for a moment.
Ibn Ziyad and Yazid in their respective courts, tried their utmost to overawe the Ahl ul-Bayt through a shameless display of their power and tyranny, but Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) rebutted their efforts through his daring and irrefutable replies, such that they were humiliated beyond description. The Imam also ascended the pulpit in the Damascus mosque and in the presence of Yazid, praised the Ahl ul-Bayt and denounced Bani Umayyah. Anyone else would have found it difficult to even utter a word in such circumstances.
Once, Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) delivered a sermon in the Holy Mecca and said, “We are the favorite and chosen servants of God, and His vicegerents on the face of the earth. One who obeys us is successful and one who opposes would be evil and wretched.”
Someone conveyed these statements to Hisham, the ruler of Syria. He summoned Imam Ja'far as Sadiq (a.s) and Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) to Damascus. When the two Holy Imams (a.s) reached the court of Syria, Hisham was practicing archery with his officials. He said to Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s): You also try shooting the target. Imam (a.s) said, “I have become aged and cannot perform archery.” Hisham said in a taunting manner, “You are the selected servant of God. You claim that you possess special expertise in every field. Archery in easy for you.” Saying this he gestured his men to hand over to the Imam the bow and arrows. Imam (a.s) took hold of the bow, fixed an arrow and shot it at the eye of the target. It hit the target right at the center. The Imam fixed another arrow and shot it. It penetrated into the tail of the first arrow. He continued till he had shot altogether nine arrows one after the other. Seeing this unimaginable feat Hisham was embarrassed.
He did not utter a word for a long time. The two Holy Imams (a.s) also remained silent for sometime. Then Imam Baqir (a.s) became infuriated. Hisham gauged his moods and he seated each of them beside himself and said, “It seems you have a lot of practice in archery. From where did you receive coaching in this skill?” Imam (a.s), “We are the Ahl ul-Bayt of the Prophet. Do not compare our knowledge and perfection to others. We received these perfections in inheritance. The earth can never remain devoid of us. We are perfect in every matter and other people are deficient in reaching our level.” Upon hearing this reply, Hisham was filled with anger and he said, “Do you claim that the people of the time are obliged to obey you?” Imam (a.s) replied without any fear or hesitation, “Indeed! We are those vested with authority (Ulil Amr).” Hisham said, “But your command is effective nowhere.” Imam said, “Those who do not consider us Ulil Amr, are sinners.” The anger of Hisham intensified. He said, “Am I also not Ulil Amr?” Imam (a.s) replied, “You are a king, made by the people and we are Ulil Amr, appointed by Allah.” Hisham decided that further debate in front of the courtiers was not advisable and thus he ordered that the father and son may be taken at such and such place and kept under detention. When the Imams (a.s) were leaving, someone remarked, “You were audacious to speak in such a manner before the ruler. Thank God he did not order your execution immediately.” Imam (a.s) said, “We Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s) are the announcers of Allah's word and exposers of the truth. We never hesitate in it and we are never afraid of death.”
During the tenure of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) the ruling power was in the hands of Mansur Dawaniqi, who had wrought destruction upon the Hasani Sadat (Descendants of Imam Hasan). Mansur wanted to make Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) his obedient one and that Imam (a.s) may begin to accept him as his leader. But he was not able to achieve his. When he realized that the Imam couldn't come into his control through this manner he became more infuriated. One day he said to the Imam, “Your example for me is like a bone stuck in the throat.” He replied, “Your suspicion is baseless. I do not interfere in any of your governmental matters. Why do you consider my guidance and teachings harmful? And why do you trouble me all the time? He said, “I consider your teachings anti-government, and thus command you to stop your classes and lectures.”
Imam (a.s) said, “I seek Allah's forgiveness! Who can dare restrain me from the propagation of truth?” Mansur said, “If you do not give it up I would have you killed.” Imam said, “Do you threaten me with murder? The Ahl ul-Bayt have always been martyred and imprisoned in the process of spreading the truth?” Mansur said, “I am the Caliph of the time. My obedience is incumbent on you.” Imam said, “No ones obedience is incumbent on us, Ahl ul-Bayt. Rather our obedience is obligatory on everyone.”
From that time Mansur was always thinking of ways to have the Imam murdered.
Now, this is moral valour. When the Shias of Khorasan and Yemen etc. learnt that Mansur was troubling Imam (a.s), his supporters came to him and said, “If the Imam allows, we can fill the fields with Shias and confront the armies of Mansur with absolute determination.” Imam said, “I do not find it expedient to have a violent confrontation. If he forces me to his obedience or tries to stop my guidance and teachings, I would wage holy war against him.”
Now this is true valour. On the other hand if one takes a step without any consideration causing mischief and turmoil, it would be an act of dare-devilry and not valour.
After being on throne for sometime, the Abbaside Caliph, Mahdi realized that in the presence of the Family of the Holy Prophet (S) people would scarcely value his spiritual or temporal status. Thus he began to devise ways to arrest the Imam (a.s). In 144 A.H. he went to Hajj with a lot of ostentatious arrangements. The Holy Imam had also arrived for Hajj. In the very days of Hajj, Mahdi dispatched a slave of his to the Imam and summoned him to his presence. When the slave arrived he found Imam (a.s) engrossed in the worship of Allah. When he concluded his prayers, the slave conveyed the caliph's message and waited for the Imam's reply. The Imam (a.s) said, “Tell Mahdi, that right now I am in the service of such a glorious Emperor Who is the Creator and Master of all the worlds. I don't have time to meet him (Mahdi). I will see after completing the Hajj.” Mahdi found this reply very distasteful. Finding this a good opportunity, his officials and agents began to tell him that Musa Ibn Ja'far intended to revolt against him. “He has raised a battalion of his Shias to fight you. He is collecting Khums and Zakat funds to use in war.” Hearing all this, Mahdi was further infuriated. After Hajj again he summoned the Holy Imam. He arrived. He accorded no honor to the Holy Imam and did not even invite him to be seated.
The Imam did not like these bad manners, and without his permission he seated himself next to him. Mahdi said tauntingly, “I had summoned you before but you did not oblige. Are such the manners of the family of the Prophet?” The Imam replied with utmost daring, “For me the command of Allah had more importance than your instructions. This is the sanctuary of Allah. Herein the ruler and subjects, the rich and the poor, all are same.” He said, “I have heard that you are raising an army against me?” “No”, said the Imam, “Whoever has conveyed to you thus is a liar and an enemy of us, Ahl ul-Bayt. We Ahl ul-Bayt never like mischief and turmoil.” He said, “Is my obedience not incumbent on you?” “Not at all!” replied the Imam, “Allah has made our obedience incumbent on all as we are Ulil Amr.” Mahdi said, “I desire to keep you at Baghdad with me, so that people of that region may also benefit from your knowledge.” Imam (a.s) said, “It would be unbearable for me to leave the Holy House.” But Mahdi did not relent and at last he took the Imam (a.s) along with him to Baghdad and put him in prison.
The above incident clearly shows the valour and courage of Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s)
Numerous incidents connected with the bravery and courage of Imam Ridha’ (a.s) are recorded in the books of history. Here we can only mention one or two of such anecdotes.
Mamun invited Imam Ridha’ (a.s) to his state capital and insisted upon him to accept his heir apparency. The Imam (a.s) continued to refuse it and told him in unequivocal terms that he would never be able to become his heir. He said that he would be poisoned to death before Mamun died. Mamun said, “Who can dare kill you, as long as I live?” The Imam said, “If it had not be expedient I would have even told you the name of my killer.” When Mamun realized that he was not relenting he was infuriated and he said, “By this refusal you aim to become famous for your piety and abstemiousness and that my helpless and weakness may become obvious.” Imam said, “I have never lied in my life. It does not befit me to pretend austerity for the sake of material gains. But your insistence in this matter shows that you want to prove to the world that Ali Ibn Musa (a.s) was not abstemious in the real sense. Material wealth had itself deserted him for some time. And when it came back to him he became involved in it with all desire and fondness.”
Hearing this reply Mamun became more angry and making a show of his apparent strength and power said, “If you do not accept my heir-apparency and continue to refuse it, I would have you killed.” Imam (a.s) said, “If the matter has reached to this point, I will accept it with the conditions that I will not be involved in administration, I would not refrain from enjoining good and forbidding evil and I will never support you in an unlawful matter.”
It is mentioned in Uyoon Akhbar ar-Ridha’ that when Mamun held the commemorative function to celebrate the appointment of Imam Ridha’ (a.s) as the heir apparent, he requested the Holy Imam (a.s) to deliver a sermon. The Imam came to the pulpit and after invoking praise on the Almighty and glorifications of the Holy Prophet (S) he said,
“People! Due to our relationship with the Messenger of Allah! We have a right upon you and in the same way you have a right upon us. When you have fulfilled our rights it is also necessary on us to observe your rights. Thanks be to Allah that He has protected those of our rights that people had destroyed and raise those of our affairs that people had demolished. For a period of eighty years the people of disbelief and disobedience used to invoke curse upon us from the pulpits and they continued to hide our excellences and made false allegations against us. But Allah intended that out fame should rise high.
O People! I did not accept the heir-apparency because I desire post and status and I am desirous of rulership. I accepted it so that if I see you walking on the wrong path I may restrain you, whether you listen to me or not. I inform you that I will never hesitate in the expression of truth, even though I may be killed for this. The existence of us, Ahl ul-Bayt in the world is only for the purpose that we may fearlessly support truth.”
During the time Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s) resided in Baghdad at the behest of Mamun and Mamun was making efforts to give his daughter Ummul Fadl in marriage to him, the Abbasids were severely opposed to him. Once, Imam (a.s) delivered some admonitions in the mosque of Baghdad, mentioning the atrocities committed by Bani Umayyah and Bani Abbas on the Sadats.2) Hearing these things the Abbaside got infuriated and were ready to kill him. Someone reported this matter to Imam (a.s). He said, “Go and tell them that I am not at all afraid of those things. Can they terrorize me to restrain my tongue from expressing truth? We Ahl ul-Bayt are never afraid of such things.” When Mamun learnt about this intention of the Abbasides he strictly restrained them from it.
In a field opposite his palace, Mutawakkil had kept in captivity many man-eating wild animals like lions, tigers, leopards and bears etc. A very high wall surrounded this field. The field was known as Barkatul Saba. When Mutawakkil used to be extremely angry with a criminal, he was pushed into this enclosure. The beasts inside used to pounce on him and finish him off in no time.
One day Mutawakkil summoned Imam Ali Naqi (a.s) and said to him, “I have heard that you are instigating people to revolt against me.” Imam (a.s) said, “Whoever has conveyed this has given you incorrect information. I have never taken part in any political matter.” He said, “You are trying to fool me.” Imam (a.s) became angry at this allegation and he said, “Do you consider me like yourself? We are Ahl ul-Bayt of the Messenger. We never resort to intrigue.” Mutawakkil ordered him to be thrown to the beasts, and he himself went to the terrace of his palace to watch the drama. The slaves tried to forcibly take Imam (a.s) to the enclosure of the wild animals but he said, “There is no need to apply force, I will go there myself.” The Holy Imam walked with absolute tranquility and opening the door of the enclosure stepped inside. All those who witnessed this daring were shocked. As soon as he reached inside all the beasts gathered around him and wagging their tails fell down at his feet, while the Imam caressed their heads and backs in affection. After this Imam (a.s) calmly spread his prayer mat and performed Prayer. The beasts surrounded him in a circle and watched his dignified worship. Seeing this, Mutawakkil was bewildered and he had to face intense regret.
Mustainbillah, the Abbaside ruler was having a very uncontrollable horse, and anyone who mounted it was thrown off the back and trampled. Someone told Mustainbillah that Shias often chant the praises of the miracles of their Imams (a.s). “Make him ride this horse. If he tramples him, a great risk would be eliminated for the caliph. On the other hand if the horse is brought under control, we would be able to have it tamed.” Mustain summoned the Holy Imam and said, “I desire that you mount this horse today.” The Imam (a.s) had already heard about the wild nature of this horse, but not a slightest fear had a way with him. Without any hesitation the Imam moved towards it and mounted it fearlessly. Mustain was very much surprised and said, “How were you able to gain control on a horse that even the most daring people could not mount?” The Imam replied, “We are the Ahl ul-Bayt of the Messenger, our perfections cannot be compared to others.”
Justice is also included among the four greatest moral virtues. This is also a middle line. If one step even a little above it, it would constitute injustice or oppression. And if one moves even slightly to the bottom, it would be willingness to accept humiliation. Both the above positions are blameworthy. Each of the Holy Imams (a.s) was having this quality, and that too, at the most excellent level. Neither they ever committed an iota of injustice nor they bore the oppression of anyone in a humiliating way. They always followed the dictum that “death is better than a life of humiliation”. Rather, justice is seen in the fulfillment of the rights of others and in judging between two parties. Every person faces many occasions in his life, when it becomes necessary for him to observe justice. But there are very few people in the world who have never abandoned justice. The rulers are often obliged to use this in deciding the cases, but the fulfillment of rights is a duty that falls on everybody in the world.
After the Holy Prophet (S), no one had a better judgment than Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s). None of his judgments crossed the boundaries of justice and equity. This became so famous among the Arabs that it became a saying: The case is there but no Abul Hasan to judge it. Seeing the judgments of Ali (a.s), the Messenger of Allah (S) announced to the people, “None amongst you is better than Ali in delivering verdicts.” It was the habit of the three caliphs that when they encountered a difficult case, they used to refer it to Ali (a.s). The result was that Umar is reported to have said on seventy occasions, after realizing his mistake, “If Ali hadn't been there, Umar would have perished.”
The period of the temporal rule of Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) was the cradle of justice and equity. The Imam (a.s) had issued letters to all the governors and judges that no one should oppress anyone. No one should be favored unduly. Every judgment should be based on justice. The rich and the poor should be considered equal.
Regarding the fulfillment of the rights of others, Ali (a.s) used to be so careful that till he had not restored the right of the rightful person, he did not sit at peace. He used to be infuriated if someone usurped a right of another or obtained unlawful benefit. The main reason why Talha and Zubair broke their allegiance to him was this only. They well knew that in the rulership of Ali (a.s) they would not be able to achieve their ambitious aims of gathering wealth and power. Ali (a.s) did not allow his brother to take a few dirhams more than his rightful share from the public treasury. He did not allow his son to take a few spoonfuls of honey from the property of Muslims before all of it was equally distributed among them; how can such a person allow Talha and Zubair to fulfill their desires?
Except for Ali (a.s) from Imam Hasan onwards none of the Holy Imams (a.s) had the occasion to gain temporal rulership. Therefore the gems of their justice could not be exhibited to the world. As for the fulfillment of the rights of people, the Holy Imams (a.s) were utmost careful in this regard and no one ever had the occasion to say that the Imam has usurped their rights. The enemies of Ahl ul-Bayt tried to heap false allegations in this regard but none succeeded. Their conspiracy was soon exposed and they had to face utter humiliation.
Chastity means having control on ones sensual desires. That neither he commits excess and gives a free rein to his sensuality nor restrains it so much that he destroys his lawful desires. Both the extremes are deviations and main sources of most evils.
The Holy Imams (a.s) had such control on their sensual desires that neither they stepped towards excess nor to celibacy. The guides of humanity did not commit any sin. Not because they did not have the capacity to commit sins, or that they did not have the ability to commit sins, but it was due to the fact that their knowledge and certainty was at the level of perfection. While only two things cause sins, lack of knowledge and defect of certainty. Sins cannot be committed by the one who knows what is good and what is evil, what is the reward of a good deed and what is the punishment of an evil deed; what is the benefit of a good deed and what is the harm of an evil deed. And he is also certain that Allah is Most Powerful and capable. He is Just and He is the Punisher and He is also the Forceful One. He has the power to award punishment for an evil deed and is capable to reward a good deed. An infallible is thus only so because he or she neither has a defect in knowledge nor in certainty. All the Holy Imams (a.s) are infallible. Therefore they cannot have any connection with any sinful act. The verse of Quran (Surah Ahzab: Verse 33) is a clear proof of their purity and the cleanliness of their inner beings. They were very far from the fact that they should have any relation to either the external or internal sins. We have already explained the four most important moral virtues. Now we shall discuss about some of their kinds.
The piety of Islam is very different from that perceived by other religions. The austerity of Jewish and Christian faiths and the asceticism of Hinduism, in the view of Islam is obvious oppression and a deadly enemy of civilization. The teachings of Islam in clear words state: There is no asceticism in Islam. Asceticism implies that man completely dissociates himself with all worldly things and recedes to the mountain caves, forests or by the seashores to meditate and practice penance. He completely cuts off himself from the world and whatever is in it. Neither he does good to his relatives, nor he listens to the pleas of those in difficulties, or helps the deprived ones. He also does not have any connection with the principles of society and civilization. No spouse or children for him; he is also unconcerned about his parents relatives. If he is able to get pieces of bread in alms, he eats them otherwise he sits putting his head upon his knees. Such a person is an enemy of civilization. If all the people were to follow this path there would be no continuation of generations. No one would care for or help others. Islam considers such a life useless and degraded. The ascetics and monks have only to suffer a shock in the beginning when they adapt this way of life. But once they enter it they have no concern remaining, there is nothing that demands their attention. So what else can they do but spend their lives in meditation and worship?
Therefore in the view of Islam there is nothing worthy of praise in such a life. Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) has mentioned in unequivocal words, “One who leaves the worlds for the sake of religion or leaves religion for the sake of the world is not from us.” Only that worship is worthy that one performs being among the worldly relationships.
In Islam piety is that you remain among the people, guarding the rights of others, fulfilling your lawful desires but at the same time not become attached to the world. Break off the wings of greed and ambitions. Cool down the emotions of sensuality. Use everything in such a little quantity that were you to reduce the quantity further, your life would be in danger. The Holy Imams (a.s) traversed this path in a beautiful way. They ate but only as much to avoid death. And ate such food that there was nothing simpler. They wore such clothes, that anything cheaper did not exist, and that it should only protect the body from cold and hot seasons. They kept so few things in the house, that anything lesser would have made life difficult. They constructed such houses for themselves that even the poorest of the poor would not be awed by it. They reduced the necessities to a stage that anything lesser meant death. The fact is that the life lived by the Holy Imams (a.s) requires great determination, will power and a perfect faith.
Imam Fakhruddin Razi has written in Arbaeen that in the lifetime of the Prophet (S) a group of companions was famous for its austerity; like Abu Zar Ghiffari, Salman Farsi and Abu Darda etc. All these great personalities followed the example of Ali (a.s) in simplicity and austerity.
It is narrated from Qabida in Majmaul Ahbab fil Manaqib al Ashab that: We have not seen anyone among the people more pious than Ali (a.s).
Ibn Athir has narrated from Hasan bin Salih in Tarikh Kamil that once in the presence of Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz the conversation steered towards piety. He said: Of all the people, Ali (a.s) was the most pious.
It is mentioned in Usud al-Ghaba that Ammar Ibn Yasir has narrated that the Messenger of Allah (S) told Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s), “O Ali! The Almighty Allah has bestowed you with such a merit as He has not bestowed anyone else. And that is piety in the world, which is an ornament for the people in view of Allah. Allah has made you such that neither you got anything from the world nor the world got anything from you. He gave you the love for poor people and He made you satisfied by their following you and He made them pleased by making you their Imam.”
It is narrated from Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) that he said, “The Messenger of Allah (S) told me, 'O Ali! When people became attached to the material world and forsake the Hereafter. Usurp the inheritance of others and destroy the religion and plunder the wealth of Allah; what would be your condition?' I said, 'I would leave them and forsake whom they follow. And I would betake Allah, His Prophet and the abode of the Hereafter. I would be patient on worldly calamities and difficulties, till the time I meet you.' The Prophet said, 'It is true, you will do this only.'”
Ahmad Ibn Hanbal has written in his Manaqib that one day the Satan suggested to Ali (a.s), “Always keep the public treasury full of wealth and gold coins.” Ali (a.s) came to the Baitul Maal (Public treasury) and ordered that people may be summoned. Then he started distributing till everything was finished and he said, “O Gold and Silver, defraud others.” When the public treasury became empty he ordered it to be sprinkled with water. Then he performed two rakats (Units) of prayers of thankfulness.
It is mentioned in Usdul Ghabah that Imam Hasan (a.s) narrated, “Neither my respected father collected wealth nor he left behind anything, except for six hundred Dirhams with which he desired that slaves may be freed.” In the same book it is narrated from Abu Naeem that he heard Sufyan say, “The Amir (Ali) never placed a brick upon a brick or a bamboo upon a bamboo to construct a house. If he wanted he could have inhabited from Medina to Jurab.”
Ibn Athir has written in Tarikh Kamil that Harun Ibn Antara narrates from his father that he went to Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) to obtain his share of poor people. It was a cold season and Ali (a.s) was shivering as he had only an old cloth thrown over himself. The narrator said to him, “The Almighty Allah has appointed a share for you in the Public Treasury. Why have you not taken anything for yourself?” He replied, “By Allah, I do not like anything of your property. By Allah, this is my own quilt that I had brought with me from Medina.”
It is narrated from Zaid Ibn Abi Wahab that one day Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) came out of his house in such a way that his lower garment was having patches all over it. Ibn Na'ja the Khariji, became angry on seeing him and said, “You are the Chief of the believers, such clothes do not befit you.” Imam (a.s) replied, “What concern do you have with my clothes. This dress of mine is remote from pride and it is deserving to serve as a model for Muslims.”
Ahmad Ibn Hanbal has written in Manaqib that during the temporal rule of Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) he purchased a shirt worth three dirhams. Its sleeves were somewhat long, which he got shortened. Then he said, “Thanks be to God Who bestowed such a dress.” One day he was standing in the Kufa market to sell his sword, and he kept repeating, “By Allah, if I had the money to purchase this garment, I would not have sold my sword.”
Ahmad Ibn Hanbal has written in Musnad that according to the narrator Suwaid Ibn Ghafla, “One day I went to Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) and found him sitting on an old and tattered sack. I said, “You are the ruler of the Muslims and owner of the Public treasury, and you sit on an old sack? You also have to receive foreign visitors. Don't you have anything better in your house?” He said, “O Suwaid, a wise man does not become attached to a house that one has to eventually leave. We have the abode of eternity before our eyes, towards which we would soon depart. The diet of the Imam consisted of dry barley bread or grains half filled with husk. One day something special was placed before him. He did not eat anything. He was asked, “Is it unlawful.” He said, “No, but I don't want to make myself used to things that the Holy Prophet (S) had never consumed.” Once someone said, “The Almighty Allah has made you the owner of a great kingdom, why do you not eat good food?” He replied. “I have heard from the Messenger of Allah (S) say that it is not allowed for the caliph to take more than two measures from public wealth. One measure for himself and one for the guest.”
It is narrated from Suwaid bin Uqbah that, “One day I went to the Imam at the Administrative Headquarters. At that time a loaf of barley bread and a cup of milk was kept in front of him. The bread was so hard and dried that he used to press it with his hands and sometimes with his thighs to break it. I was very disturbed to see it. I told his slave-maid Fizza, “You also do not pity the Amir'ul-Mu'minin? You should at least remove the husk from the flour before making bread. Don't you see there is so much husk in it?” Fizza said, “What can I do? The Imam has taken an oath from me that I would never sieve the flour to make bread.” The Imam said, “O Suwaid, the Holy Prophet (S) and his Ahl ul-Bayt have never eaten wheat bread to satiation for three consecutive days, and never was the flour sieved for them. One day I was hungry in Medina and I came out to find some work. I saw that a woman had collected mud and was trying to mix it with water (to plaster a wall etc). I told her to give me one piece of date for each bucket of water. I pulled out sixteen buckets for her and my palms became sore. I brought the dates to the Holy Prophet (S) and related to him the whole incident, then we both shared the dates.”
Zaid says that one day he went to Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) and saw a pot of water kept near him and on the other side was a canvas bag with its mouth sealed. “I thought he would remove precious things from it and give them to me. When the Imam broke the seal and opened the bag I saw that it contained parched barley meal. He took out a handful, mixed it in a cup of water, offered to me and took some himself. I could not restrain myself, and I said, 'Sir, living in Iraq you have such food? While different kinds of eatables are available here?' He said, 'This is sufficient for survival.' I said, 'Why do you keep the bag sealed?' He replied, 'So that my family may not mix oil etc. in it. I do not want anything to be a part of my diet except barley.'”
It is written in Sharh Nahjul Balagha that the Imam always observed a diet of vinegar and salt. If he exceeded in it he ate some vegetables and if he further increased it, he drank some camel milk. He used to eat very little meat and he said, “Do not make your stomach a graveyard of animals.”
Thrice, Imam Hasan (a.s) gave up all his wealth in charity and twice he gave away half his wealth. Like his father, he also spent his life with the bare necessities. But his food spread was very wide. He used to have different kinds of dishes prepared for the guests, but himself ate only barley bread with vinegar or salt. His cloak was patched in many places. The narrator says, “One day I came to Imam Hasan (a.s) during his rule and found him sitting on a tattered sack. Seeing me, he had a sheet spread over it. I saw that it was patched at many places and it was of a very coarse material. I said, 'O Amir'ul-Mu'minin, you are sitting on a sack. How is it possible for me to step on this blessed sheet?' He said, 'O Abu Salih, take a seat.' I sat down following the command of Imam (a.s) then said, 'O Son of the Messenger of Allah, you are the ruler, is there not even as much share in the kingdom that you can purchase a sheet for personal use?' Hearing this, the Imam became angry and said, 'Abu Salih, we Ahl ul-Bayt were not created for a comfortable life. We are created to provide comfort to others and to safeguard their rights. This sheet fulfills all my needs that an expensive one would do. Then what is the need for me to purchase a new sheet? O Abu Salih, would it not be better if I spend the same money on the poor and deprived people?' Hearing this I said, 'Amir'ul-Mu'minin, you are right. The fact is that, except for the Ahl ul-Bayt no one deserves this position.'”
Imam Husayn (a.s) also spent a simple and austere life like his father and maternal grandfather. He was never fond of expensive clothes or tasty foods. He used to give away all that he received to the poor and destitute. One day received an amount from the public treasury. He kept it before himself waiting for needy people to arrive so that he can distribute it among them. Someone said, “O Son of the Messenger, your cloak is patched at many places, why don't you take some money from this amount and buy a new cloak?” He said, “This is sufficient for me.” Very often people sent him gifts and presents, but he gave them all away to the orphans, the widows and poor people.
The narrator says that one day he saw Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) in such a way that the straps of his sandals were broken, due to which he was walking with a lot of difficulty. The narrator asked him, “O son of the Messenger of Allah! Why don't you buy a new pair of shoes?” He replied, whatever amount I save for it, before I could purchase it some needy person comes with a request and I give it to him.” The narrator said, “Please permit me to buy you a pair of shoes.” Just then a beggar came and requested the Imam for something. The Imam said to the narrator, “Give him whatever you had intended to spend for buying me a pair of shoes. This person is more deserving of it. If I had the money, I would myself have fulfilled his need.”
Abdullah Damishqi says, “One day I went to Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) and found him patching his cloak. I had come with 5000 Dirhams as Khums money and I presented it to the Imam and said, 'Master, it is my desire that you take some money from this amount and buy yourself a new cloak, your cloak has become very old.' The Imam said, 'Keep the money here and announce in Medina that whoever is in need may come to me in the Prophets' mosque.' I made the announcement according to his directions and very soon people converged in hordes. The Imam distributed all the money and I was left astounded.”
He also spent a simple and ascetic life and he never had regard for material wealth. He always wore patched clothes and sitting on a jute sack delivered admonitions to the people. Many a times he remained hungry and gave his share of food to the poor. Saeed bin Abdullah says, “One day I came to the Imam and saw him wearing a very worn-out dress. He said, 'O Saeed, I want to buy a shirt.' I said, 'Master, why do you take that trouble, I'll but one for you.' He said, 'No, I will buy it according to my requirements.' Thus Imam (a.s) walked to the market and I accompanied him. He purchased a dress from a shop costing four dirhams. It was of a very coarse material. I said, 'O son of the Messenger, this does not befit you. I am having the money, you may buy a good shirt, and I will pay for it.' The Imam said, 'Wonderful, O Saeed! You want to bear my burden! Are you prepared to bear my burden on the Day of Judgment also?' I became silent. The Imam moved ahead with the shirt. On the way he saw an unclothed Muslim. He moved towards him quickly and said, 'O man, why are you not wearing a shirt?' The man replied, 'O son of the Messenger of Allah, I have a family and whatever I earn is spent on it. I could not save enough money to buy a shirt.' The Imam gave him that shirt at once. I saw that the Imam was much happier than before. When he moved ahead, I said, 'O Son of the Messenger of Allah! Why did you give the shirt away when you were more in need of it?' He said, 'He was more deserving of it than me. Even though worn out, at least I have a dress on my body, but that person was naked.'
Most of the time the Imam was clothed in a dress of coarse material or wool, due to which his body was in great discomfort. This woolen dress was also patched. One of his companions was disturbed on seeing him dressed thus. He said, “Remember, one who has no modesty, has no faith. One who also does not spend according to his income may be involved in financial hardships. One who does not wear old clothes, makes himself prone to pride.”
The narrator says, “One day I saw Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) sitting on bare floor. I said, 'O son of the Messenger of Allah, where is that floor spread on which you used to sit?' He said, 'I saw a person shivering in cold and told him if that spread could save him from cold he may take it. He said it would, so I gave it to him?' I said, 'Master! Then for how long could you continue to sit on a bare floor?' He said, 'I would not mind even if I have to sit on it all life long. O man, the Prophet (S) often sat on the bare ground with his companions. Why are you surprised if I also sit in the same manner?'”
Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) was having a very high degree of piety and abstinence. Harun Rashid used to say that he had not seen among the Bani Hashim anyone more austere than Musa Ibn Ja'far. His dress, food and household belongings, all seemed to be ascetic. A better part of his life, that is fifteen years, were spent in prison. The prison guards used to be mesmerized seeing his austere way of life.
During hot season he sat on a sack and during cold, he sat on a blanket. At home he wore a dress of coarse and thick cloth. This was very uncomfortable to the body. However, when he went out, he used to wear fine clothes, so that people may not ridicule him to be a miser. One day a Sufi of Medina saw him wearing fine clothes and objected to it. The Imam caught his hand put it inside his sleeve to show him that he was wearing coarse woolen clothes inside and the outward dress was only for the people so that they may not label him an outwardly pious man, and the dress of coarse wool was to keep the body in penance.
When Mamun appointed the Imam as his heir apparent, he reserved a section of his royal palace for the Imam. The Imam expressed to him his dislike in residing in it. He said that such mansions were for kings and not for Ahl ul-Bayt. So Mamun asked what type of a dwelling the Imam preferred. Imam said, “A very ordinary place having no inconvenience. It shouldn't have any means of comfort, there should not be a sentry at the door and there should not be any hindrance to the visitors. The floor should be covered with a mat.” Mamun said, “You are my heir-apparent, such a house is not suitable for you.” But the Imam said, “I like only such a kind of place.” At last Mamun relented and said, “You may choose any house for yourself.” Imam (a.s) selected a dilapidated house near the royal palace and began to reside in it.
In spite of the fact that he was the son-in-law of an influential and wealthy ruler like Mamun, he had no regard for this relationship. He lived a very simple life, as was the way of his ancestors. And he remained in this way as long as he lived. All the luxurious items that his wife Umme Fadl had brought from her father's were kept in a separate building, and the Imam told her, “If you like to spend a life of luxury stay in that house and if you want to spend a life of poverty stay with me in this house.” Ummul Fadl chose to stay with him and that is why she was always unhappy with the relationship.
Once someone lied to Mutawakkil that Imam Ali Naqi (a.s) lived a life of luxury. And that he has collected a lot of wealth and weapons in his house, and was secretly raising an army of his Shias.
Mutawakkil sent a battalion that surrounded the Imam's house and ordered that all that is there in the house may be taken out. When the soldiers entered the Imam's house they found a sack, a shirt of coarse wool and some clay utensils. That was all they found there! When this was reported to Mutawakkil he punished the man who has given the false report.
Like his forefathers and ancestors, Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) also lived a simplistic and abstemious existence. By way of testing, one day, the ruler caliph sent him lots of delicious foods and luxurious clothes. He gave away all of it in charity. Someone instigated the caliph that the Imam had not accorded any respect to the royal gifts and that he has squandered them all away.
The caliph became infuriated and summoned the Imam at once and said, “You have belittled the gifts I sent you and you gave them to the beggars thus insulting me.” The Imam said, “It is not so. We Ahl ul-Bayt of the Prophet, have forsaken the pleasures of the world. We are used to betake very simple food and wear patched clothes. Thus I gave it all to those who were deserving of it.” The caliph had no reply to this.
Benevolence or charity is also one of the moral excellences. The two extremes related to this middle path are, wastefulness and miserliness. In the early period of Islam, when the condition of the Muslims was very bad financially, there was greater need to practice this virtue of benevolence. Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s) realized this perfectly and they did not at all fall short in fulfilling needs of poor Muslims. They bore every type of difficulty but solved the difficulties of other people. They remained hungry themselves but fed others. Patched their own clothes but clothed the naked. If the door of Ahl ul-Bayt had not been open for the destitutes, a lot of people would have perished of hunger or had begged to other communities causing insult to Islam. This is the favor of Ahl ul-Bayt that the world of Islam can never forget.
Wahidi in his Tafsir has related from Ibn Abbas that Ali (a.s) had four dirhams and nothing beyond that. He gave in charity a dirham at night and a dirham during the day. Another one he gave secretly and one, openly. Then the Almighty Allah revealed the following verse:
(As for) those who spend their property by night and by day, secretly and openly (Surah Baqarah 2:274)
Thalabi has written in his Tafsir that Abu Zar Ghiffari narrated that one day he was praying with the Messenger of Allah (S) when a beggar came to the mosque soliciting alms, but none gave him anything.
Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) was also praying, but he indicated the small finger of his right hand on which he was wearing a ring and gave the ring to the beggar. Thus the Almighty Allah revealed the following verse:
Only Allah is your Guardian and His Apostle and those who believe, those who keep up prayers and pay the poor-rate while they bow. (Surah Maidah 5:55)
The enemies of Ali (a.s) also confessed to his generosity. It is mentioned in Matalibus So'ool that when Mahqan Ibn Abi Mahtan told Muawiyah that he had come to him from the greatest miser. Muawiyah said, “Woe be to you. Do you call Ali a miser? If he is given a house of gold and a house of straw, before the house of straw, the house of gold would be finished.”
Shoba has written that Ali (a.s) was so generous and he liked giving charity so much that he never uttered 'No' to anyone who asked him for something. He used to irrigate the farms of a Jew, himself, till he got boils on his palms and whatever he earned therefrom, he gave it all in charity and in order to control his hunger he tied a stone on his stomach.
Allamah Kafawi has written in Tabaqat that once Ali (a.s) was in a duel with an infidel. The infidel said, “I like this sword of yours, let me see it.” At once Ali (a.s) handed him the sword. The man said, “Now that I am having your sword, how would you escape me now?” Ali (a.s) said, “You had begged me for it and my generosity did not permit that I should have refused you, even though you are a disbeliever. As for the question of my survival, the shield of Allah's help is sufficient for me.” Hearing this reply the opponent converted to Islam.
The Imam used to say, “I am surprised at those who purchase slaves with their wealth and make freemen slaves by doing monetary favors to them.”
The account of the generosity and charity of Imam Ali (a.s) is so vast that if mentioned in detail would alone make up a thick volume. Therefore we are content to write this much.
Once a person requested the Imam (a.s) for an amount of 50,000 dirhams. The Imam told him to bring a porter to carry away the money. When the porter was brought Imam (a.s) gave him his cloak and said, “The labor should also be paid by us.”
This anecdote was reported by someone to Muawiyah who wrote to Imam Hasan (a.s), “I have heard that you are giving away 50,000 to each applicant. Is it not wastefulness?” The Imam replied, “There is no wastefulness in charity (or good deeds). I am ashamed that I should reject the plea of a petitioner. The Almighty has given me a kingdom and released His bounties on me. Thus I only convey His bounties to His creatures. If I stop this I am afraid He would also restrain His bounties from me.”
The generosity of Imam Husayn (a.s) is well known. Once Usamah bin Zaid was seriously ill. He went to visit him and when he reached near him, he heard him say, “O! What a great sorrow!” The Imam asked what his problem was. He said that he was in a debt of 60,000 dirhams and now that death was near, the pain of inability of repayment of debt was not less than the pain of death. The Imam said, “Do not worry your debt is my responsibility.”
Usamah said, “What if I die before the debt is repaid?” Imam said, “Rest assured, I will repay your loans before you pass away.” So the Imam returned to his house, called Usamah's creditors and repaid his loans.
Marwan the Governor of Medina was once very angry at the poet Farazdaq and ordered that he may be exiled therefrom. Being highly disconcerted he came to the Imam Husayn (a.s) and said that since he was exiled, he needed 4000 dirhams to settle down wherever he is sent. The Imam gave him the money. Someone said, “Farazdaq is a careless fellow and a poet by profession. Why did you give me such a big amount?” The Imam said, “The best wealth is that by which you protect your honor. My grandfather had shown the same generosity with Ka'ab bin Zubair.”
An Arab came to Medina and asked, “Who is the most generous person in the town?” People directed him to Imam Husayn (a.s).
He came to the Imam and recited three couplets in his praise. The Imam asked his servant how much of the money of Hijaz remained with him. The servant informed him that 4000 dinars were left. The Imam tied up all that money in a piece of cloth and told the servant to call the poet. When the poet arrived, the Imam handed the money to him from behind the door and in reply to his three couplets, the Imam himself recited three couplets that conveyed the following:
Take this and forgive me for this little amount but be assured that I am concerned about your condition.
If the rulership had been in my hands you would have seen how the rain of our generosity rains.
But times keep on changing. At present I do not have much.
Hearing all this, the Arab began to weep. The Imam asked him why he was crying, “Maybe you are unhappy at the paucity of what I gave you?” He said, “It is not so, but I am weeping because such a magnanimous personality has to lie beneath the dust one day.”
Abdur Rahman Aslami was a teacher of one of the sons of Imam Husayn (a.s). He had taught the child Surah al-Hamd (the first chapter of Quran) by heart. When he brought the child to his father and made him recite the Surah the Imam was very pleased and gave the teacher a thousand dinars, a lot of clothes and had his mouth filled with pearls. Someone asked the Imam the reason of such generosity. My generosity cannot be equal to what he has given to me.”
In spite of straitened circumstances, Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) used to regularly help the poor and destitute of Medina. He used to carry sacks full of dates and bread on his shoulders and distribute it to their houses.
Ibn Ishaq says many poor people of Medina used to receive food daily and they did not know its source. When the Imam passed away and the people did not receive their meals it was revealed that their provider was Ali Ibnul Husayn (a.s).
It is written that when the Imam was being given the funeral bath a dark scar was seen on the back. When someone asked what it was, it was replied, “This is due to the sacks of flour the Imam carried to the poor of Medina during the darkness of the night. Our charity has passed away with Ali Ibnul Husayn (a.s).”
Like his forefathers Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) was also very generous. He never sent away a petitioner empty-handed. Once he was himself in a precarious financial condition and did not even have anything to eat. Just then he received 2000 dinars as Khums money, but he distributed it all among the poor and the needy. Someone told him, “You did not consider your family.” The Imam replied, “We Ahl ul-Bayt are used to poverty and hunger and we are not much troubled by it; like other people who become restless and start complaining to Allah. We do not like that any poor or deprived person should complain about the Lord. We are always thankful to the bounties of God.”
The Imam's special servant Moalla (r.a.) says that one day he saw the Imam going towards the Bani Saada neighborhood. “I also followed him. On the way something dropped from the hands of the Imam. I tried to pick it up, and saw that many loaves of bread were strewn on the ground. I picked them one by one and handed them over to Imam who began to insert them in the bag flung over his arm. I asked him to hand over the bag to me, but he refused. Upon reaching the Bani Saada area we saw that some people were lying asleep. The Imam kept one loaf of bread near the head of each person. I asked the Imam if they were his Shias. Imam replied, 'If they had been our Shias I would have brought for them curry to eat the bread with. O Moalla! Remember the charity of the night cools down Divine anger and makes the accounting easy and the charity of the day prolongs ones life and increases wealth. O Moalla! Charity must not be limited to human beings. Animals too are deserving of it. Thus when Isa (a.s) once reached the riverside he took out a loaf of bread from the loaves he was carrying for himself and threw it in the river. Someone remarked that he was wasting the sustenance of Allah in this way. He said: The marine creatures would consume it. And I would get its reward.'”
Abu Ja'far Khashyami says that once the Imam handed him a bag of money and told him to deliver it to such and such Hashemite man and tell him that so and so has sent it. And the Imam told him a fictitious name. So he took the money and delivered it as directed by the Imam. The recipient was very happy on getting the money and he said, “May Allah give him good rewards, he always sends us this amount, which lasts us for a whole year. But Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s), in spite of having so much money does not help us.”
It is narrated from Fuzail Ibn Abi Marwah that one day he saw that the Imam had spread his cloak and many bags containing loaves of bread were kept on it. The Imam was picking up one bag after the other and handing them over to his servant instructing him: Give this to so and so, this to so and so and say this has come to you from Iraq. When the servants returned after distributing the bread they reported that the recipients were complaining about the Imam. Hearing this, Imam (a.s) went into prostration and said, “Humble my head for the descendants of my father, that when I hear my criticism from their tongue I don't feel bad about it.”
It is reported in Biharul Anwar that once Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) was in Mina and he has partaking some grapes when a beggar came asking for alms. The Imam picked up a bunch of grapes and offered him, but he refused saying he didn't need them. So the Imam took them back. Just then another beggar arrived and the Imam gave him only three grapes. The man thanked the Almighty and the Imam gave him as many grapes his hands could hold. The beggar thanked the Almighty again and the Imam this time gave him 30 dirhams also. Once more the beggar thanked Allah and Imam took off his cloak and handed it over to him. Now the fellow said, “May Allah reward you!” The narrator says that if that beggar had again thanked Allah and not prayed for the Imam, he (the Imam) would have bestowed him something more.
One day a person came to him soliciting charity and the Imam ordered his servant to give him 400 dirhams. The servant obliged and the petitioner thanked and moved ahead. The Imam told the servant to recall the man who thought that may be the Imam intended to take back the money. But when he came to the Imam he said, “The best charity is that one makes the eligible petitioner self-sufficient. Whatever I have given you is less in my view. So I also give you this ring worth 10,000 dirhams that you may sell when need arises.”
Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) got very few opportunities to express his generosity because he spent a good part of his life in prison. That is almost fifteen years. As a poet says:
The Imam's imprisonment was so prolonged,
That his youth and old age passed in prison.
In spite of this he was always helping the needy believers. One day an applicant came to him and pleaded that he was indebted for 400 dirhams. The Imam furnished him the amount. Then he said that his clothes were completely worn out. The Imam gave him his own dress. Now he said that he had no mount to ride on. The Imam gave him a horse. After that the man said that he did not know the way. The Imam sent his slave along with him. Finally the man said, “Master! I have no need for all these things. I had only come to test the generosity of Ahl ul-Bayt. I am actually a very wealthy man, and I have brought these 5000 dirhams for you. It is by way of Khums payment.” The Imam smiled, took the money and at that very moment summoned the needy Sadat (Syeds) and distributed it all among them.
One day Mamun sent him 10,000 dinars and conveyed that the Imam may use it for his personal needs. The Imam distributed all the money on the poor and destitutes. When Mamun learnt of this, he was very unhappy and he said, “I had sent you the money for personal use and not for squandering it.” The Imam said, “I was not deserving of it. What personal expenses do I have to need such money? My sack is intact by the Grace of Allah. The dress I had brought from Medina is still with me. I get barley bread for food. When I have no need for anything, in what could I have utilized your gift?”
A petitioner once told him that he was in need. “Help as much as you have the generosity to do so.” The Imam said that it was not possible. So he said, “Then give according to my worth.” “Yes, this is possible,” said the Imam and instructed his slave to give him 200 gold coins.
Ahmed bin Abdullah Ghaffari says that he was indebted to someone. “When the creditor insisted for immediate repayment of the loan I decided to approach Imam Ridha’ (a.s) after the Morning Prayer. When I reached him he was about to take some gold coins somewhere. I related to him the circumstances and begged him to request the creditor not to insist so much for the liquidation of the debt. But there was no mention at all, of the amount I owned. The Imam told me to wait till he returned. So I sat down and waited. When the Imam returned he told me to raise the cover of the floor spread and take whatever was underneath. I saw dinars lying there. I picked them silently and returned home. When I counted the money I found it to be 48 dinars and on one Dinar, it was written: Your debt is 28 dinars. Repay it and utilize the remaining 20 dinars for yourself. I was astounded how the Imam knew how much I owed.”
A person came to him and said that he had come for Hajj and all the money he had brought was exhausted. And if the Imam could provide him enough money to reach home he would, upon reaching, give that amount in charity on behalf of the Imam. He also mentioned to the Imam that since he was well to do he did not deserve charity. The Imam went inside, stretched out his hand and said, “O Khorasani gentleman! Take these 200 Dinars and arrange for your journey home. There is no need for you to give this amount in charity on our behalf. We have given it to you. But now you leave this place so that neither I see you nor you see me.” When the man had left someone remarked, “Your highness did not fall short in generosity, then what was the need to hide you countenance?” The Imam replied, “It was due to the thought that I may not see embarrassment on his face for asking me and for having his need fulfilled. Have you not heard this tradition of the Holy Prophet (S) that one who conceals a good deed becomes eligible for the reward of seventy Hajj pilgrimages? And one who exposes an evil deed is a degraded one and one who conceals it is forgiven?”
Once on the day of Arafat the Holy Imam distributed all his household belongings in charity on the way of Allah.
The door of the Holy Imam was always open to deliver benevolence. Like his Holy ancestors, Imam had a very generous heart. Many eligible poor people of Medina used to get a stipend from the Imam. No applicant went dejected from his door. For the people in need in other places, the Imam used to dispatch funds to his representatives. The deprived ones of Medina in addition to monetary help also received free meals but all this charity was performed in such a secret way that no one knew who was behind it. On most of the nights the Imam himself roamed the streets and by-lanes of Medina carrying victuals for the poor. Whenever he found a needy one he gave him from behind a door or a wall or covered his own face.
There was a perpetual crowd of orphans and destitutes outside the residence of the Holy Imam. People used to sit on the way Imam was about to pass by. This was in spite of the fact that he was leading a very hand to mouth existence in the Iraqi town of Samarrah. Yet he never rejected a petitioner who pleaded to him for assistance. He used to make the young orphans sit before him. Then he caressed their heads with affection and fulfilled all their wishes. In the dead of the night the Imam personally carried food to the houses of orphans, widows and deprived people.
It is narrated from Ali Ibn Ibrahim Ibn Ja'far (a.s) that once he was facing much poverty. “My father said: Let us go to Imam Hasan Askari (a.s). He is very generous and he would definitely help us. Thus we set out to meet the Imam. On the way my father said that he expected 500 dirhams from the Imam. And that if we got that much amount we would spend 200 dirhams for making clothes and the rest would be utilized for rations etc. Upon reaching the Imam's house we conveyed through the sentry, news of our arrival. After some time a slave appeared and informed us that the Imam was waiting for us. Both of us stepped inside. The Imam said, 'Why did you not inform me about you condition before this?' My father said it was due to embarrassment mostly and secondly he felt ashamed to meet the Imam in such shabby clothes. Hearing this, the Imam fell silent and after sometime bid us farewell with the same servant. When we reached the door the servant gave my father a bag containing 500 dirhams and said: Spend 200 dirhams on clothes and 300 on other requirements. The he took out another bag and said: It contains 300 dirhams, 100 for clothes, 100 for household needs and 100 for purchasing a mount. He then said that the Imam has also advised them against traveling to the mountains and instead suggested a particular area where very soon Allah would remove our poverty.”3
Ismail bin Muhammad says: One day I squatted on the way so that when Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) passes by I may mention my needs. Thus when the Imam happened to pass by I uttered the legal oath and said that I was very severely in need at that time. I don't have a penny. The Imam said, “Why do you utter a false oath? Have you not buried 200 gold coins in the ground?” When I heard this I hung down my head in shame. The Imam said, “I mention it not because I didn't want to give you anything.” Then he told his slave to give me all he had. The slave gave one hundred gold coins. When I walked away with the money, the Imam said, “Remember! The money you have buried and not spent on lawful needs would be of no use to you.” Ismail says, “The prophecy of the Imam proved true. When I dug the ground I found the money gone.”
A point needs to be clarified regarding the generosity of the Holy Imams (a.s). A question arises that from where the Imams (a.s) got so much wealth that they distributed hundreds of dirhams and dinars without any qualms? They had no connection with rulership. The rulers were always antagonistic to them to have helped them. The Imams (a.s) themselves did not practice any profession that could have generated so much wealth. When they were themselves leading such a life of financial hardship, from where did they get all the money for charity?
The explanation is first of all the Holy Imams (a.s) were the trustees of all the endowments of the Sadat (Syeds). Secondly the followers of Ahl ul-Bayt paid their Zakat and Khums money to the Imam of the time. This was sometimes sent secretly and sometimes openly. This was the reason that the temporal rulers were always suspicious that the Imams (a.s) were gathering forces to revolt against them. Although after investigations their suspicion always proved wrong. All the monies that Imams (a.s) received in this way were swiftly distributed among the deserving people. They hardly used anything from it themselves. For their own upkeep they either spent from the money they received from orchards etc. or by the labor of their own hands. Or when the above was not possible they only took as much from the Khums money as was necessary to avoid death.
Patience is the best virtue of man, because Allah is with the patient ones:
Surely Allah is with the patient. (Surah Baqarah 2:153)
Patience means that when calamities befall man he refers to the Almighty and he does not utter a single word of complain. Some people start complaining about the Creator of the Universe at the slightest difficulty. For example, if there is too much rain they say: Allah is causing non-stop rain! Or: This rain is a punishment! If one has many children he starts a string of complains etc. There are many things regarding which man begins to complain against the kingdom of Allah. This is opposed to patience. But the patient ones may be afflicted with the greatest calamity but they would not utter a single word of complain against the Almighty God. There is no difference in their referral to Allah. They do not even slightly let go the reins of reliance. The high level of patience found in the Holy Imams (a.s) was such that its equal is not to be found in the Muslim world. Also, it is wrong to think that weeping in a calamity is impatience. Weeping is a psychological behavior. How can Islam promulgate a law against it? One who has an aggrieved heart would definitely cry.
Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) was patient in all the calamities that befell Ahl ul-Bayt after the departure of the Messenger of Allah (S) from this temporal world. Actually it began during the lifetime of the Prophet (S) when people prevented him from writing a will in favor of Ali's successorship. After the sorrowful passing away of the Prophet of God the absence of the companions in the funeral was another fact that caused unhappiness to the Imam. Then the forcible insistence for pledging allegiance! The crashing of the burning door on the side of Fatima by a person well known for his ferocity as a result of which the unborn fetus was aborted. Then the deprivation of Amir'ul-Mu'minin from the right of caliphate. Rejection of the Quran he had compiled etc. They all were such terrible events that if they had befallen anyone else he would have either been fed up with his life and committed suicide or fought with the enemies. If not, then he would have started complaining about Allah Almighty. However, Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) did not do any of these.
Patient is one who, keeping in mind the circumstances restrains his desires for vengeance. The patient person has the consequences in his view and he does not give preference to a little gain in exchange of a larger benefit. In order to maintain patience in all such circumstances Ali (a.s) had to bear untold torture. He says thus in Nahjul Balagha: I remained patient while there was a thorn of sorrow in my eye and suffocation in the throat.
Ibn Abil Hadid truly said: At such a time a valiant warrior like Ali (a.s) chose to keep his sword sheathed. Only Ali could accomplish this feat.
We add here that: If the welfare of Islam had not been intended, nothing could have restrained the sword of Ali(a.s).
The patience exhibited by Imam Hasan (a.s) is such that it has no equal. The treatment people meted out to his respected mother and holy father after passing away of Allah's Messenger (S), is sufficient to make the sentiments of any mortal uncontrollable. However, the Imam remained patient at every, juncture. The intrigues that Muawiyah engineered against him or the cursing of Ali (a.s) from the pulpits for years. The slayings of innumerable followers of Ahl ul-Bayt. Instigating a mutiny in the Imam's army. Not following the terms of treaty for a single day. The amount that was agreed to be paid to the Imam every year according to the terms of the treaty was not even paid once. Poisoning of the Imam through his wife Judah binte Ashath. Such kinds of calamities befell him but the Imam bore all this in patience. He never became the initiator of any kind of mischief or turmoil. He could have also retaliated more severely but he did not allow the emotion of revenge to control his reason, and did not allow the blemish of bloodshed to taint his infallibility. Some battles fought against Muawiyah were all initiated by Muawiyah and defense became obligatory on the Imam.
If we describe this epitome of patience it would make a whole book. No one had the patience of Imam Husayn (a.s). If we leave all the incidents of his life and only consider the tragedy of Karbala’ we would see that the patience of the whole world combined couldn't rival it. Prophet Ayyub (a.s) was very patient but his patience in comparison to that of Imam Husayn (a.s) was like a drop in the ocean. The mountains of calamities that crashed on him in Karbala’ and the hardships that surrounded him are well known to all. But at no time and under no circumstance the lips of Imam Husayn (a.s) uttered any complaint. In the time of calamity the sentence he repeated was: We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return. Can one in whose every vein of the body the spirit of patience flowed could be disconcerted with the calamities surrounding him? Rather as much the difficulties intensified as much Husayn 's face brightened. He became as much reliant on Allah. The world accepted that Husayn is the Chief of the patient ones. In the matter of patience neither a prophet nor a saint could be his equal. If we did not have regard to brevity we would have written a whole book only on the patience of Imam Husayn (a.s).
The enemies of Islam committed such oppressions on Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) after the carnage of Karbala’ , that only to imagine them makes the heart tremble. However the Imam remained patient in all those hardships. May be someone says that what else could the Imam have done, other than bearing all the things patiently? He did not have any army with which he could have retaliated. What strength did he possess that he could have exhibited?
We reply: He could at least have prayed to the Almighty to remove the calamities and hardships. He could have complained to Allah why He was not helping him. He could have cursed his enemies and prayed for their destruction. Agreed that at that time he was a prisoner of his opponents and could not do anything. But after being released from the prison he could have narrated the atrocities of Bani Umayyah and instigated the people to rise against them. He could have raised an army like Ibn Zubair. At that time even low scale propagation would have been successful, because injustice and oppression had made Yazid hateful to everybody. It was this same tragedy of Karbala’ that was used by Ibn Zubair, Saffah and Mansur etc. to raise armies around themselves and to lay the foundation of their empires. The call of Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) would have been a thousand times more effective. The whole of the Arab world could have been involved in the conflict.
But the fact was that the patience of Ahl ul-Bayt was intact. After being released from captivity they entrusted the revenge for the blood of Imam Husayn (a.s) to the Almighty God and remained silent. Do not consider it cowardice. It was the most excellent kind of valour. Do not refer to it as weakness. It was the greatest type of patience. He wanted to show that though they allowed themselves to be destroyed they never could permit the perpetual bloodshed of Muslims. They never did initiate any conflict. Only when they are absolutely helpless and the enemies confront them wielding the swords and their remains no scope for reconciliation do they remove their swords from the sheaths and defend the truth.
Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) was also very patient and thankful. Many circumstances arose for him that anyone else would not have been able to bear, but he observed absolute patience and self-control. What can be said about others, some wretched relatives of the Imam himself caused trouble to him. They also made many efforts to cause disrespect to the Imam, but he observed patience. Hisham the ruler of Syria had restricted his movements and made life very difficult for him but he never forsook patience. He continued to act on the behavior of his holy ancestors.
The narrator says: One day I paid a visit to Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) when one of his sons was seriously ill. I had gone to see the ill child and I found the Imam standing at the door in an aggrieved state. Then he went inside and remained there for some time. When he came out again it was seen that his condition had changed and he did not seem as much worried as he before was. I thought that maybe the child was now better. I asked the Imam about him and he said that the child has passed away. I said, “Master! You were worried when he was alive but are no more aggrieved after his passing away?” The Imam said, “This is the practice of us Ahl ul-Bayt. We seem worried and aggrieved before the coming of a tragedy but when it actually occurs we submit to the Divine Will and we act with patience and accept with pleasure all that comes from Him.
“Satisfied with His destiny and accepting His command.”
This is the specialty of us Ahl ul-Bayt. What we pray from Allah, He accepts it. But if His wisdom does not agree to accept it, we reconcile to His Will and we never utter a word of complain to Him.
The author of Rawzatus Safa writes that a descendant of Umar was the governor of Medina. He used trouble Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) greatly, and mentioned unbecoming remarks about Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s). The close companions of the Imam requested many times to permit them to slay this man. But every time the Imam restrained them and said, “Do not do that without my permission.”
One day the devotees of the Imam said that they could no longer bear the insults and high-handedness of the Governor. “For God's sake allow us to take revenge from him.” The Imam said, “All right, tell me where his house is and where you can find him?” The people informed him. At once the Imam mounted a horse and headed for his house. There was a blooming and green field that belonged to the governor. The Imam steered his horse inside the field and began to trample it. Someone reported this to the governor who came out at once and began using abusive language. The Imam did not pay any attention and continued to ride the horse all over the field. When the crop was absolutely destroyed the Imam came to the man and asked how much he had spent on it. He said: Two hundred dinars. The Imam gave him three hundred dinars and said, “Take this amount now and also be hopeful of the future crop. If Allah wills this time the harvest would be much more than your expectations.” Seeing the excellent behavior of the Imam, the fellow got up, kissed his hands and began to ask forgiveness of his past misbehavior. He said, “Indeed no one in the world is better or even equal to the descendants of the Prophet.” After this, the Imam returned home and related the whole incident to his companions.
Then he asked them, “Now tell me whether this act of mine was better or what you had intended?” They all said that what the Imam had done was much better. The Imam actually trampled his field so that he may know that by the auspiciousness of the steps of Ahl ul-Bayt of the Prophet there is increase in the fertility of fields. Their trampling was much beneficial than ordinary greenery.
During the period Imam Ridha’ (a.s) resided in Merv as the heir apparent of the caliph there was an Abbaside leader who was very jealous of him. He was always waiting for an opportunity to degrade the Imam in the eyes of Mamun, but he did not get any chance. One day he came to the Imam and criticizing the Shiite religion began to foul-mouth the Imam. The Imam asked him, “O Man! After all, what is your aim with this?” “To insult you!” he replied. The Imam said, “The special servants of Allah are never humiliated.” “I do not consider you among the chosen servants of Allah,” he said. The Imam said, “When did I ask you to consider me thus? But the One Whose servant I am considers me thus.” He said, “Show me a miracle and I will accept it.” The Imam said, “Is it anything less than a miracle that you are talking in such a bad way and I am maintaining patience and self-control? Can I not complain to the ruler and have you punished severely?” Hearing this the man became regretful and fell down at the feet of the Imam and said, “From today I have become your devotee. I had come with the intention to make you behave arrogantly with me so that I can fight you and defame you in the town. But I have become a devotee of your good behavior. The fact is that being on such an important position the patience and forbearance you have shown is impossible by anyone else.”
The officers of the Abbaside dynasty were highly jealous of Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s) specially when he became the son-in-law of Mamun Rashid. The nobles of the Abbaside clan did not like that Ummul Fadl be married to Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s) because they had intense enmity to the family of the Holy Prophet (S), but they failed to change the decision of Mamun. This failure made their opposition more severe. Now they began to poison the ears of Ummul Fadl and said to her in a taunting way: Your father has done a great injustice upon you. He has married you to a poor and destitution-loving man. You should have been given in marriage to a prince or a son of an officer. Ummul Fadl was herself of a haughty nature while these people instigated her day and night. The result was that from the first day of marriage she began to oppose the Imam. And then she gave so much trouble to the Imam that cannot be fully related. However, the Imam observed patience and self-control. Some of his relatives also used to trouble the Imam but he never opted for any retaliatory tactics.
Imam Ali Naqi (a.s) resided in Samarrah for thirty years. During this period he had to bear every kind of hardship and difficulty at the hands of the Abbaside rulers. Especially at the hands of Mutawakkil, the most oppressive one. However, the Imam remained patient and thankful. Seeing the atrocities of Mutawakkil and the patience of the Imam the people were much astounded. In spite of the fact that the Imam had hundreds of visitors from among his Shias, he never mentioned his woes to them. If he had even slightly instigated his followers there would have been a revolution in the kingdom of Mutawakkil, because Samarrah and the surrounding areas were heavily populated with the Shias.
Motamid the Abbaside ruler did not leave any atrocity undone on Imam (a.s). The limit was that during the time the Imam was in captivity no one was allowed to meet him. He was given to drink cold water for two years continuously. No more than two loaves of bread were rationed for him every day. He bore all these hardships with patience and self-control. Even after his release, he was not allowed to live a free life. Such a strict vigilance was maintained on him that nothing could be more severe. But he continued to be patient in every hardship. Who can be patient like Ahl ul-Bayt?
Though we have mentioned in brief one or two incidents connected with each of the Imams (a.s), it is a fact that the Holy Imams (a.s) underwent untold hardships and calamities all their life at the hands of the rulers and hardly a day passed in peace and comfort. But in spite of lifelong hardships those patient servants of the Almighty continued to thank Him.
Humility means to be modest and to behave in a very ordinary manner. The opposite of this is pride and arrogance. The virtue of humility was of the best kind in the manners of the Holy Imams (a.s).
Lowly before the believers, mighty against the unbelievers, (Surah Maidah 5:54)
This is in praise of them only. Like the other moral virtues, humility is also a middle line. Any sort of extremism in this regard creates defect in the character of man. The aim of these qualities is that man should not become arrogant and that he does not lose the quality of servitude to God. Along with this one should behave in such a way that one may not be degraded in the eyes of the people and act like Sufi mendicants.
Humility Of Imam Ali (a.s)
Baghawi has narrated in his Mojam that Abu Salih reports from his grandfather that he saw Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) purchasing dates worth a dirham. Then he placed the dates on a cloth and began to lift them. When the narrator offered to carry them for the Imam he said, “The father of the children is more deserving to lift this load.” By this action the Imam intended to offer a lesson for his followers that they must not feel ashamed to perform any chore connected with the house and family.
Ahmad Ibn Hanbal has narrated in his Musnad from Zadan that he saw Imam Ali (a.s) holding a cane in his hand ushering people in the market and guiding those who had lost their way. He also helped people lift heavy loads and all the time recited the following verse of Quran:
(As for) that future abode, We assign it to those who have no desire to exalt themselves in the earth nor to make mischief and the good end is for those who guard (against evil). (Surah Qasas 28:83)
Then he said that this verse is regarding the powerful people.
Ahmad Ibn Hanbal has also narrated in Manaqib that Abul Matar al-Basari says that he saw Imam Ali (a.s) among the crowd of date-vendors. A slave maid was weeping and the Imam asked her why she was weeping. She said that she had purchased a dirham worth of dates for her owner but he has returned the dates and the date-seller was not taking it back. The Imam told the shopkeeper that she was a mere servant and she had no say in the deal. So he must accept the returns and reimburse the money. But the shopkeeper pushed the Imam aside and refused to listen to him. Someone asked angrily, “O man! Do you know who it is?” “No,” he replied. “He is Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s).” When the shopkeeper heard this, he at once accepted the dates, repaid the money and began to implore the Imam to forgive his behavior and not remain displeased with him. The Imam said, “I can only remain happy with you if you give full measure and do not misbehave with the customers.”
One day Imam Hasan (a.s) was passing by a group of boys partaking pieces of bread. They invited the Imam to join them. The Imam dismounted from his steed and joined them. Then he brought them to his house, gave new clothes and a dirham to each of them. Then he said, “I have still not repaid their kindness because what they offered me was all that they possessed. And I have more than what I gave them.”
Jabir Ibn Abdullah Ansari narrates that one day he was going to meet the Imam when on the way he came across a poor man who asked him where he was going. Jabir told him that he was going to Abu Abdillah al-Husayn (a.s). The man said, “I am in great poverty, my clothes are tattered and I have no shoes. I cannot dare to go to the Imam in such a condition. You, sir, may please petition the Imam on my behalf.” Jabir took him along and they arrived at the Imam's place. When the Imam saw the disheveled condition of the pauper he said, “Come here.” The fellow hesitated. The Imam looked at him in concern and again said, “Come here. The poor sit with the poor.” The person moved forward and the Imam seated him beside himself and began to ask about his woes with sincere concern. Jabir says, “Before I could utter a single word of petition on his behalf, the Imam bestowed him a dress and also gave him a hundred dirhams. Seeing the generosity, humility and modesty of the Imam I was absolutely charmed.”
When the Holy Imam left Medina and reached Mecca, on his way to Karbala’ . Abdullah Ibn Zubair came to pay him a visit. When he arrived he found that some poverty-stricken people of Mecca were sitting with the Imam and conversing with him. Abdullah desired that they should leave soon, in order that he may talk to the Imam. However the Imam continued to speak with them affectionately and comfortingly. Abdullah did not like this. When the people went away Abdullah said, “O Son of the Messenger! You allowed those people to remain with you for a long time. You should have given them whatever you wanted to give and bid them farewell immediately.” The Imam replied, “Ibn Zubair, the upheavals of the times have made them deprived. The rulers do not pay any attention to them. I though I would hear the woes of these poor people in detail and lighten the burden of their hearts. O Ibn Zubair, I am the grandson of a grandfather who used to sit with the people of Suffah (Homeless destitutes of Medina) after the Morning Prayer and remain with them till mid-morning, inquiring about their well-being.”
Harith Ibn Yazid, the slave of Marwan was a staunch enemy of Ahl ul-Bayt. One day he came to Imam (a.s) for something and the Imam behaved with him in a very cordial and humble manner. This affected him so much that after this encounter he never spoke ill about the Holy Imam and gradually he began to have so much regard for the Imam that he resigned from the services of Marwan.
The cordiality and humility of Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) was well known among the residents of Medina. He used to deal with his slaves and maids also in the most cordial and gentle way. His behavior with his slaves was such that strangers failed to recognize which of them were the Master and which one the slave. One day a father-son duo from Khorasan came to meet the Imam. When it was the time for dinner the Imam moved forward to wash the hands of the guest but he said, “O son of the Messenger of Allah (S)! I will not allow this!” The Imam said, “It is my duty. Why do you want me to be deprived of its rewards?” Thus, the Imam did not agree and at last washed his hands. After that he ordered Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) to wash the son's hands.
Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) was of an unusually simple and humble nature, especially with the poor people. When the poverty-stricken people of Medina visited him, he seated them beside himself. Rather he used to spread out the skirt of his cloak and make them sit on it. He spoke with them in an affectionate way. If one of them fell ill he visited him. If on the way a needy person met him and desired to tell him his woes he used to halt at once and listen attentively to his problems.
Among the relatives of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) someone's son expired. He went to pay his condolences, but on the way the strap of his sandals broke. He picked up the sandals and continued walking. One of his companions asked, “Shall I bring a vehicle?” “No,” said the Imam, “For the one facing calamity nothing is better than patience and contentment.” Thus, he walked barefoot and completed the formalities of condolence.
One of his slaves fell sick. He used to visit him morning and evening and administer medicine to him with his own hands. He said, “O son of the Messenger of Allah! This illness of mine has inconvenienced you.” The Imam said, “May Allah bestow cure to you soon. I am not at all inconvenienced. Rather, I obtain heavenly rewards by visiting and serving you.”
All his life long Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) never spoke with anyone in a harsh and caustic manner. He never hurt the feelings of others. He used to meet every high and low person in a humble way, and he fulfilled the needs of people with utmost sincerity. Pride and arrogance was never seen in his behavior.
Someone remarked to the Imam, “By Allah! No one is superior to you as regards lineage and ancestry.” He replied, “All the virtues my ancestors possessed were due to their piety and obedience of Allah and not due to something else.” The man said, “By Allah! You are better than ordinary people.” The Imam replied with perfect humility, “O man, do not swear by Allah regarding this. One who has better piety than me is superior to me. By Allah! This verse has not been abrogated:
Surely the most honorable of you with Allah is the one among you most careful (of his duty). (Surah Hujurat 49:13)
He pointed out towards a Negro slave and said, “From the aspect of my relationship with the Prophet alone, I do not consider myself better than this slave. However, if I perform a good deed I would be better than him on the basis of that deed.”
On the basis of his humility and respect, Imam Ridha’ (a.s) used to meet the poorest of the poor without any sort of formality. Mamun did not like this, and one day he objected to it. The Imam said, “I can forsake the heir-apparency but I cannot give up my poor brethren.”
The narrator says that when he learnt that the Imam was married to Ummul Fadl, “I went to congratulate him. Keeping in mind the prevailing way of life I was thinking that the Imam might not allow me audience. But I was wrong. As soon as the Imam received the news of my arrival he called me at once. I saw that there was not a slightest change in his past and present condition. He had the same good manners, same cordiality, same humility, meekness and the same affection and regard. I was feeling thirsty but I controlled it and did not choose to ask the Imam for water. But the Imam realized it and he ordered his slave to get water for me. There was some delay in this, therefore the Imam himself arose and brought water for me. I said, 'Why did your highness take the trouble?' He replied, 'This is a rewardable deed. Do you want to restrain me from it?'”
It is narrated from Saeed Ibn Salih in Rawzatus Safa that: When I learnt that Imam Ali Naqi (a.s) has shifted to Samarrah, my happiness knew no bounds. But I was greatly surprised when I found out that the ruler had housed him in the Poor House, that how a personality like Imam Ali Naqi (a.s) could agree to stay in such a place. Anyway, I came to meet the Imam and he embraced me with great affection, inquired about my well being and seated me beside himself. I said, “O son of the Messenger of Allah (S). I am your worthless slave. Do not insist me to sit besides you.” The Imam said, “Saeed bin Salih, I am the servant of the same God, Whose you are. We Ahl ul-Bayt do not allow pride and arrogance to enter our behavior.” I was highly edified by this humility-liking nature of the Imam, because there was a feeling of superiority in me due to my wealth and I used to meet with an air of aloofness with people lower in status. From that day I reformed my behavior.
Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) was of exceeding humble nature. He used to meet the high and low, all with utmost humility and simple demeanor. This was the reason that every class of people of Samarrah used to chant his praise. When the Imam passed on the way, people used to stand up as a mark of respect. The effect of this was that the crowd that attended his funeral was so multitudinous that it was not seen thus even in the funeral of the ruler.
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.
The fact is that the affection the Holy Imams (a.s) showed towards the people is such that its equal is not found anywhere. This affection was only for the sake of Allah and neither any show-off nor any personal gain is present in it. Seeing the hardship of every Muslim they felt greatly hurt and tried their best to remove it. Most of the time they themselves had to suffer hardships in this regard but they bore it willingly.
Affection Of Imam Ali (a.s)
Ibn Hanbal writes in his Musnad that when the verse:
O you who believe! When you consult the Apostle, then offer something in charity before your consultation; (Surah Mujadilah 58:12)
was revealed, the Prophet told Ali (a.s), “Go and command those people to pay alms (Sadaqah).” “How much should I ask them to pay?” asked Ali (a.s). “One Dinar”, replied the Prophet (S). Ali (a.s) said, “They are unable to pay this much.” “Half a Dinar”, said the Prophet. “They cannot even pay this much” said Ali (a.s). The Prophet said, “A grain of gold.” Ali (a.s) said, “Maybe they cannot even afford this.” The Prophet said, “O Ali! You are very kind to the people. All right! Tell them to give only one dirham.” Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) used to say, “The reduction in this command was due to me.”
It is narrated from Abu Saeed Khudri that when the Messenger of Allah (S) attended a funeral he never asked about any deed of the deceased but inquired about his debt position. It that person remained indebted after death the Prophet did not recite his funeral prayer. One day he attended a funeral and as was his custom, he asked if the departed one had any debts. People told him that the person had died indebted by two dinars. The Prophet moved away from the bier, and told the companions to recite his funeral prayer. Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) said, “O Messenger of Allah, those two dinars are my responsibility. The deceased one is free from the debt.” The Prophet was pleased to hear this, and he recited the funeral prayer. Then he prayed for the well being of Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s).
During the course of his caliphate, Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) saw an old and weak woman carrying a load of food grain on her back. She was out of breath due to her weakness. He moved forward at once and took the load on his shoulders and carried it to her house.
When Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) took the control of Islamic government he ordered his sons to prepare a list of all the deprived people, the poor, the destitutes, widow and orphans of Kufa. He also told them to be accurate and not leave out anyone. Thus he dispatched one son to the east another to the west and so on. When the lists were prepared, during the whole tenure of his Caliphate, it was the habit of the Imam that he used to carry loaves of bread and dates on his shoulder during the night and distribute them to the needy people. Once the Imam was down with high temperature. Hasan and Husayn (a.s) offered to fulfill his duty. The Imam said, “No, the Almighty Allah has entrusted me with the responsibility of this government. Let me perform my duty.” Thus he went out in the feverish condition also.
Affection Of Imam Hasan (a.s)
During the tenure of his caliphate it was the ritual of Imam Hasan (a.s) that till the time people did not assure him that all of the deprived, orphans and widows in the neighborhood had their meals, the Imam did not eat himself. Often it so happened that he began to eat and a beggar appeared at his door. He used to remove the food placed in front of him and remain hungry.
One day Imam Hasan (a.s) learnt that the son of a widow in the neighborhood was ill. He went to visit the child. The widow lamented that there no one who could help her in the illness of her child. The Imam said, “Do not worry, I am there to render all help.” Thus he visited them in the morning and the evening and fulfilled all their needs. He used to sit near the sick boy, massage him and speak to him words of comfort and assurance. The Imam also provided him with whatever he desired to eat.
Affection Of Imam Husayn (a.s)
After the battle of Naharwan the troops of Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) took Shimr as captive. One day Imam Husayn (a.s) passed by the prison and Shimr said, “O son of Allah's Messenger! Take pity on me and request your father to release me. I cannot bear the hardships of this captivity anymore.” The Imam at once came to Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) and began to petition him for the release of Shimr. Ali (a.s) became very angry and said, “Son, you don't know who that fellow is. He is you killer. One day, he would slaughter you in a condition of three days' hunger and thirst.” Imam Husayn (a.s) said, “All this is correct, but I have promised him. Do not let me be embarrassed before him.” Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) ordered his release.
When people laid siege to the house of caliph Uthman and prevented rations from him, Imam Ali (a.s) ordered Imams Hasan and Husayn (a.s) to carry water skins and some loaves of bread and deliver them to the besieged people. Thus when the young men reached there the people stopped them but with great valour they moved ahead. Someone said, “These people are not deserving of mercy.” The Imams (a.s) replied, “May be not in your opinion. But the affection for creatures that Allah has created in our hearts demands that we help them in their difficulty.”
The fact is that except for the Ahl ul-Bayt it is not possible for anyone to show affection for people in such circumstances. It was only their kind-heartedness that they dealt with affection with their most staunch enemies.
Affection Of Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s)
In spite of the financial hardships that Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) always had, he regularly, helped the poor people of Medina and loading leavened bread on his shoulders, he used to distribute it to their houses. Ibn Ishaq says that many poor people of Medina used to receive food daily. But they did not know who had brought it. When the Imam passed away the people realized that the one who used to supply them food keeping his face covered was Ali Ibnul Hasan (a.s). It is said that when the funeral bath was being administered to the Imam a dark bruise was seen on his back. Someone asked what it was and a person from Ahl ul-Bayt replied that it was due to carrying sacks of flour at night to the needy people's houses.
During the plunder of Medina, when the Yazidite forces unleashed general massacre in Medina, Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) was taken at a safe place under orders from Yazid but he used to bitterly lament the destruction of the people of Medina. Those who escaped the carnage and came to him seeking refuge were accorded protection by him, and were treated affectionately by the Imam. Thus many lives were saved by the Imam's affection.
Affection Of Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s)
The affection of Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) was such that those who visited him were inquired about the condition of their neighbors. If someone mentioned the problems of a particular person, the Imam used to visit him and render whatever help he could. One day while walking through a by-lane of Medina he saw a man groaning in pain. The Imam came to him. This fellow belonged to the Bani Umayyah clan and just a few days ago had bad-mouthed the Imam. The Imam said to him, “O man! If you have any need, mention it.” He was ashamed and he said, “O son of the Messenger of Allah (S). I am sick and even a drop of water is prohibited for me. The physician has prescribed pomegranate juice for me. I was going to purchase a pomegranate when due to extreme weakness I fell down here.” The Imam said, “I will get a pomegranate for you.”
Thus he went to the market immediately and brought it to him and fed him the seeds with his own hands. When the fellow regained his senses the Imam said, “Come I'll take you to your house.” Then supporting his shoulders the Imam took him to his house. The fellow was so mesmerized by this affection that he fell down at the Imam's feet and begged forgiveness for his past audacity.
Affection Of Imam Ja'far As-Sadiq (a.s)
One day Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) was going somewhere astride his horse. On the way he saw a person sitting. The person greeted the Imam and looked at him expectantly. The Imam alighted from the horse and inquired about his condition. He said, “Son of Allah's Messenger! I am a traveler. I am exhausted to walk any more. Please allow me to ride on your mount and convey me to such and such tribe. There are some relatives of mine there, and I will borrow their steed and go home on it.” The Imam said, “This steed is at your service, mount it and go wherever you like.” The person thanked the Imam and said, “I will soon return it to you.” The Imam said, “No need, I have given it to you.”
Affection Of Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s)
During the period Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) resided in Medina many trouble-afflicted people visited him and mentioned their woes. The Imam listened to each of their problems in an affectionate way and rendered them whatever help he could. One day a person told him that the Governor of Medina was inimical to him and was finding excuses to harass him. “Please petition him on my behalf.” In spite of the fact that the governor was inwardly inimical to the Imam, the Imam went to him and petitioned him on behalf of that person saying, “I have never approached you for my personal matters, but when I heard the woes of that person I became restless, and I have come to you to consider about him.” The governor was so much affected by the Imam's words that from that day he became very kind to that person.”
Affection Of Imam Ridha’ (a.s)
During the time Imam Ridha’ (a.s) was the heir-apparent of Mamun, it was his practice to roam the town on foot every day in search of people in need and then try to solve their difficulties. When Mamun learnt about it, he told the Imam one day, “I have heard that you go out sight-seeing on foot while conveyance is available for you. Why do you take this trouble?” The Imam replied, “I do not go for sight-seeing, I go to study the condition of poor Muslims.” Mamun said, “You can go for this also on a horse back.” Imam (a.s) said, “In that case the downtrodden people would not meet me freely. Seeing my affluent manner they would be repelled and would not dare to approach me.” Mamun was shocked on getting this reply and after some time he said, “It is a fact that affection towards creatures is truly the job of you Ahl ul-Bayt only.”
Affection Of Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s)
During the eight years of his stay in Baghdad, Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s) regularly imparted religious education to the people. On most of the days people remained in his presence from morning till night. He was neither fed up with them nor worried. One day he was having high temperature, when he was informed of some people waiting for him outside to narrate their problems. The family members of the Imam said that it was not the time to meet Imam (a.s) and they would tell the people to come sometime later. The Imam said, “No, maybe someone is having an urgent need to meet me.” So he came out with the support of a slave and in that same high fever listened to the people. One of them said, “My father is on the death bed. He wanted to make some bequest regarding his property in your presence and also to see you for the last time. But how can I request you to come while you are in such a severe fever?” The Imam said, “I will come.” His family protested how he could go out in such a condition but the Imam said that he would walk slowly. Thus he went keeping his hands on the shoulders of two slaves, one on each side. Allaho Akbar! (God is Greatest)! Except for the Ahl ul-Bayt who else can display such affection?
Affection Of Imam Ali Naqi (a.s)
In spite of leading an impoverished life in Samarrah he was not neglectful of the poor creatures of God. He himself visited the widows and orphans and carried food for them while remaining hungry himself mostly. When an orphan came before him, he used to caress his head affectionately and if he desired something it was provided to him.
Affection Of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s)
A major part of the life of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) either passed in prison or under house arrest. The spies of the caliph Motamid always kept the Imam under strict surveillance. One day some Shia person sent him a gift of some pomegranates. The fruits were kept before the Imam and the caliph's guard was eyeing them in a greedy manner. The Imam gave him one pomegranate. The fellow took it but did not eat it. When the Imam asked him the reason he said that he was the father of five children and he never ate anything without giving it to them also. And that he was thinking how to distribute one pomegranate between them all. The Imam gave him all the pomegranates. He said, “Son of Allah's Messenger! I don't need all of them. Keep some for yourself.” The Imam said, “It is better for the children to eat them, than me.” Witnessing such affection of the Holy Imam the royal guard became such an ardent devotee of his that he always used to remain in the Imam's service. When Motamid heard about it, he summoned the guard and punished him severely. He said, “Even if you put me to death, his love cannot leave my heart.” This reply infuriated Motamid further and he sentenced the man to life imprisonment.
Hospitality is highly emphasized in Islam. The Holy Prophet (S) said, “Respect the guest even if he is a disbeliever.” The most excellent display of this equality was done by the Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s).
Hospitality Of Imam Ali (a.s)
Ibn Hajar Makki has written in Asnial Matalib fi Silatul Aqarib that one day Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) began to weep. When people asked him about it he said that seven days have passed but he did not have a guest. “I am fearful that maybe Allah has considered me degraded.”
Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) used to say, “Three things are most dear to me: Hospitality, Jihad with the sword and keeping fast on a hot day.”
Whenever he had a guest, the Imam used to be exceeding happy and did not leave any stone unturned in rendering him all the comforts and facilities. He asked the guest about his favorite dish and ordered that only that one be prepared for him. However insignificant a person his guest may be, he used to seat him next to himself. Himself he ate that same barley bread softened in water and grains of salt, but he served his guests the most delicious foods.
Hospitality Of Imam Hasan (a.s)
Imam Hasan (a.s) was the most hospitable person. His dinner cloth was very vast. The poor, the deprived, travelers and orphans dined on his food spread. He had the best possible food cooked for the guests, but he never partook anything from it. His diet consisted of that same barley bread and salt. One day he had a visitor. He ordered the servant to lay the food. When the person sat to eat the Imam saw him eating one morsel and keeping one morsel aside. The Imam said, “It seems that you have some children. But eat comfortably. By the Grace of Allah there is sufficient food here. You will be given to take away as much you want.” The man said, “I am a traveler and wife and children do not accompany me but I have seen a Dervish in the mosque eating chaff-mixed barley flour. I am keeping these morsels for him.” Imam Hasan (a.s) began to weep and said, “Do not consider him a Dervish. He is our respected father, Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s). He has divorced the world.”
Hospitality Of Imam Husayn (a.s)
Imam Husayn (a.s) was also of a very hospitable nature. Whenever a traveler who had lost his way reached Medina he used do to be a guest of Imam Husayn (a.s). One day some people were discussing in the Prophet's Mosque about the most hospitable person in Medina. Everyone was expressing his own opinion. Jabir Ibn Abdullah Ansari also joined the group and the people solicited his opinion. He said, “Right now, there is no one more hospitable than the son of the Messenger, Imam Husayn (a.s). I have seen that when a person becomes his guests he serves him so nicely that he forgets his family. If he is in debts, the Imam repays his debts. If he is on foot, the Imam gives him a mount. If he is sick the Imam arranges treatment for him. He goes a long way to bid him adieu and also begs his pardon saying, 'I was not able to do anything for you.'”
Hospitality Of Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s)
Farazdaq, the poet says that he visited Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) one day, to find some guests there. The Imam ordered that food be laid for them. Some bowls containing meat and broth were placed before the guests and a bowl of roasted grains was also placed there. This was his regular diet. After the tragedy of Karbala’ he never ate anything delicious. The Imam was content only with roasted grains. Farazdaq says, “When the Imam started eating, I began to weep and said: O son of Allah's Messenger. Why don't you take some of the meat and broth?” The Imam began to weep and did not reply. When the guests had eaten to satiation he said to them by way excuse, “I could not serve you the type of food I desired to. I hope you would forgive me. The tragedy of Karbala’ has made us living corpses.”
Hospitality Of Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s)
Faiz Ibn Mazhar narrates: One day I went to Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) to find him aggrieved. I asked the reason and he said, “Last evening a traveler from Syria arrived and went away after saying that he would soon return after meeting a relative. I remained awake the whole night waiting for him from the morning till afternoon but he did not arrive. In his wait I have not eaten a single morsel. O Faiz! Go and search for him.” So I came out to search for him in the lanes and by-lanes but he was not found. I was returning dejected when he saw him walking on the road. I caught his hand and said, “O man, you are very careless. Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) has not eaten since two meal times in you anticipation.” Being greatly ashamed he said, “A relative of mine told me to stay the night. I didn't know that the Imam was so hospitable. Now I would go and beg forgiveness of my mistake.” The Syrian came with me to Imam (a.s). As soon as the Imam saw him, he became very happy. Embraced him and asked about his well being. The man told him about his condition and begged forgiveness for his mistake. The Imam said, “If you want my pleasure, dine with me now.” The person accepted and Imam ate with him after having missed two meals.
Hospitality Of Imam Ja'far As-Sadiq (a.s)
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) used to display such hospitality that people were astonished. Never was his dinner spread devoid of travelers and destitutes. Like Prophet Ibrahim, the Imam never ate without the company of a guest. He often used to say, “A morsel that a believing brother eats with me is better for me than emancipating a slave.”
Sulaiman Ibn Khalid says that once a governor of Mansur was a dinner guest at the Imam's place. Different types of meat dishes and breads were placed on the food cloth. After the people ate to satiation they arose to leave. Just then the Imam's servant entered with a dish of rice. The Imam told them to partake it also but the people said that they were already full. But the Imam said that those who were his friends were also more deserving to dine at his place, and he insisted too much. At the last the people again sat down to eat. The Imam said, “Once rice was presented on the dinner spread of the Allah's Messenger. They were gifted by an Ansari (Helper) man. At that time, Salman Farsi, Miqdad and Abu Zar were also present. They were invited to eat but they wanted to excuse themselves. The Prophet said: Eat! Our friend is only that who eats with us properly. Hearing this they all began to dine happily.”
Abu Hamzah Thumali narrates: One day we were eating at the dinner spread of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s). Various kinds of delicious foods were present there. After that fresh and good quality dates arrived. We also ate those. At last a person said, “On the Day of Judgment you all would have to give the account of the fine things you have consumed here.” The Imam said, “Allah is much Greater, Higher and More Self-Sufficient than this; that He should take account of what you have eaten.” They said, “But Allah Himself says:
Then on that day you shall most certainly be questioned about the boons. (Surah Takathur 102:8)
The Imam said, “The bounty mentioned in this verse denotes love for Ahl ul-Bayt. That is, you would be questioned on the Judgment day how far you have valued that bounty and of how you behaved with them. See, the same bounty is mentioned at another place:
This day have I perfected for you your religion and completed My favor on you…(Surah Maidah 5:3)
This bounty signifies the existence of the Imam.”
Muhammad Ibn Zaid Shakham narrates: One night I was a guest of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s). In the morning he asked, “What provisions of journey do you have?” I told him what I had. He said, “May be it would be insufficient.” After that he gave me two gold coins and twenty dirhams. I took them and went away. But, by chance I could not commence my journey that day. The Imam (a.s) learnt that I was still in town. He sent for me and asked, “Why did you not come back to me? Be my guest, till the time you stay in Medina. And if you need anything just mention it.” I said that I was very fond of milk. At once, the Imam gave me a milk-giving she goat and then he taught me a supplication and told me to recite it in the month of Rajab.
The Imam used to serve his guests with the best foods, and himself ate bread and vinegar. He used to say, “This is the diet of the prophets and we also eat this only.”
Abdullah Ibn Bukair narrates: One day the Holy Imam was having dinner with his guests and various kinds of delicious dishes were laid on the dinner spread. Someone remarked that the Imam spent too much on food, and that one must save for the future. The Imam said, “Sustenance is upon Allah. When He increases our sustenance, we also feed His creatures generously and when there is reduction in it, there is decrease here also.”
The narrator says: The Imam used to spend so generously upon the guests that sometimes there were financial problems for the family's expenses. One day the Imam was having his afternoon meal when a person arrived to him but did not greet him. Those present with the Imam said, “Since he has purposely not greeted you, why did you invite him to join you?” the Imam replied, “It is the jurisprudence of Iraq. It smells of miserliness.”
One day some guests were dining at Imam's place when one of them needed something and no servant was present. A guest arose to get the required thing, but the Imam stopped him and himself performed the job. Then he said, “Our grandfather, the Prophet of Allah, has commanded that it is incumbent for the host not to take any kind of service from the guest.”
Hospitality Of Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s)
Since a major part of the life of Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) was spent in captivity, we don't find in books of history any incident regarding his hospitality. We present the following couplet so well depicting the Imam's condition:
It was the limit of imprisonment
The youth and old age of the Imam passed in prison.
Hospitality Of Imam Ridha’ (a.s)
A major portion of the pension that the Imam received during the period of his heir-apparency of Mamun was spent in entertaining guests. People visited him from far-flung areas. One day Mamun came to meet him. He saw that the house of Imam (a.s) was teeming with guests and the Imam was busy in serving them. Mamun inquired who these people were. “They are all my guests”, replied the Imam. Mamun said, “Being on the honorable post of heir-apparent it does not befit you that like a commoner you serve these ordinary people. So many servants are there at you service, let them take care of these people.” The Imam said, “Being your heir-apparent, it may not befit me, but being the grandson of the Messenger, it is my duty that I serve my guests. We Ahl ul-Bayt are very fond of guests.”
Hospitality Of Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s)
Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s) was also very hospitable. Once a guest arrived at his place in the middle of the night. The Imam asked him if he would like to have dinner. The guest said, “O son of Allah's Messenger, though I am hungry, since it is such an odd hour I don't want to inconvenience you, I will sleep hungry.” The Imam said, “Guests do no sleep hungry at our place.” Saying so he went inside and awakened one of his slave-maids and told her, “I am igniting the oven, you knead the flour.” She said, “Son of Allah's Messenger, I will ignite it myself.” “No”, said the Imam, “I also want to take some part in serving the guest.” Thus the Imam got the food prepared and brought it to the guest himself. Seeing such affection the man began to weep. When he asked the reason he said, “I am crying at the thought that how the world has not recognized such godly people.”
Hospitality Of Imam Ali Naqi (a.s)
During the time Mutawakkil had made life difficult for Imam Ali Naqi (a.s), the Imam often used to go without food but he never complained to anyone about it. One day, he managed to get some food after being hungry for two mealtimes. He was about to commence eating when a guest arrived. He placed the food before his guest in a cheerful manner and did not at all let him realize that he had already missed two meals. When the person finished eating he gave some Khums money to the Imam. The Imam spent the same on the poor and destitute, and slept hungry.
Hospitality Of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s)
Ali Ibn Ibrahim relates: I went to meet Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) and found him in a disturbed state. When I asked the reason he said, “I am having some guests today but I have nothing to serve them.” I said, “Son of Allah's Messenger, just mention it, I will get all that is needed.” The Imam said, “We Ahl ul-Bayt do not serve our guests at the expense of others.” “All right! Then tell me what I can do?” I said. He told me, “Go and sell this Yemeni sheet of mine.” I said, “Son of Allah's Messenger, it is so cold now-a-days and you do not have any other quilt or sheet. Do not sell it.” The Imam said, “The God Who gave this would give another.” I did as the Imam had ordered and sold the sheet for ten dirhams and brought the money to him. Immediately he began to make arrangement for a dinner. I was much aggrieved at the Imam's condition. The Imam said, “Why are you looking at me with pity? I would not have been as much happy by covering myself with the sheet, as I am in entertaining these guests.”
The traditions of the holy infallibles (a.s) greatly emphasize the important of goodness to relatives. The Messenger of Allah (S) said, “The Almighty Allah increases the life span of one who is kind to his relatives.” He also said, “One who is not kind to his relatives, is not from us.”
Imam Ali (a.s) regularly inquired about the well being of all his relatives and kinsmen and used to try his utmost in fulfilling all their needs. Ibn Abbas says that he has not seen anyone more excellent than Ali (a.s) in kindness to relatives. He says, “One day I fell sick and my illness became prolonged. Every morning and evening, Ali (a.s) visited me. Sitting near my head used to recite supplications and blow them on me. He brought to me whatever I desired.” Most of the time he distributed to others whatever he received as his share of war-booty. So much so that sometimes Ali (a.s) also spent his bare sustenance on his relatives. Aqil (the Imam's brother) had many children. One day he complained to the Imam that the stipend he received from the public treasury was insufficient for his family, and that Imam give him some more from it. The Imam said, “O Aqil, the public treasury is the share of the Muslims and I have no right to spend anything from it. It is however possible that I give you something for your children from my share.” From that day it was his practice to first dispatch food to Aqil's house. If something remained he ate just enough to survive or he remained hungry.
Imam Hasan (a.s) used to be kind to relatives since childhood. He had done such favors on all the people of Bani Hashim clan that they were devotees of his excellent manners. It was his practice to inquire about his relatives everyday. He used to consider his half-siblings as full-blood brothers and sisters, and he used to behave with them with the best of affection and regard. Whenever a relative asked him for something, he provided it immediately and shared their sorrow. He used to exhaust all the means for their welfare and success.
Imam's Husayn 's (a.s) kindness towards his relatives does not have an equal. This was the reason that the whole clan was submissive to his commands. And also that is why, they all accompanied him when he departed for Karbala’ . Brothers, nephews and all were ready to lay down their lives at his smallest indication. Finally they all sacrificed themselves on the Imam one after the other.
After the tragedy Karbala’ , Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) was absolutely broken-hearted, and he betook himself to a life of seclusion and spent his days either in Allah's worship or in grief of the incident of Karbala’ . He was so much engrossed in it but he still observed the duty of kindness to relatives. He used to regularly comfort and assure the women of Bani Hashim whose relatives were martyred in Karbala’ and he used to provide them immediately whatever they required. He never told anyone a word that could have hurt him or her. He never did anything to displease anyone. He used to perform with perfection all that is included among the kind behavior.
Zaid Ibn Ali Ibn Husayn and Zaid Ibn Hasan Muthanna were mostly unhappy with the family of Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) because he often expressed opposition to their evil plans. Secondly, they also wanted to take over the public trusts controlled by the Imam, so that people may accept their spiritual powers like they acknowledged the position of the Imam. In spite of all this, Imam (a.s) never cut off relations with them. He continued to act in the best manners of kindness to relatives. One day Zaid came to the Imam and told him about his intention of insurgency against the enemies of Ahl ul-Bayt. The Imam opposed it severely. Zaid became very angry; he got up from there at once and also uttered some unbecoming things. Imam (a.s) remained quiet. After some days it was known that Zaid was sick. Imam went to visit him immediately. Zaid was thinking that the Imam would never come to his place. When he saw that Imam (a.s) had arrived he was very pleased and begged the Imam to forgive his past mistakes.
It is narrated in Al-Kafi that Abdullah Mahaz spoke some harsh words to the Imam in the morning. The Imam observed patience and did not reply to any of his statements. When the Imam met him again in the evening, he (the Imam) said with utmost humility, “O Abu Muhammad! Do you know kindness to relatives is a cause for reduction in divine chastisement?” He said, “You always talk of such things that are not accepted by us.” The Imam said, “This statement of mine is testified by the saying of Allah:
And those who join that which Allah has bidden to be joined and have awe of their Lord and fear the evil reckoning. (Surah Ra'ad 13:21)
After this Abdullah Mahaz acknowledged his mistake and said, “Now you will not find me as one who breaks off relations.”
In the last moments of his life Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) summoned all the relatives who gathered around him and he made monetary bequests to each of them. He also willed seventy dinars to his cousin Hasan Aftas. A servant of the Imam said, “You are leaving seventy dinars for Hasan Aftas, while he is the same person who had come to assassinate you with a sword.” The Imam became angry at this and said, “Do you want that I should not accord kindness to relatives and not be included among those who are described in the following words by Allah:
And those who join that which Allah has bidden to be joined…(Ibid.)
Know that! I am making bequest of money to Hasan Aftas because the Messenger of Allah (S) has said: The disobedient child and one who breaks-off relations would not smell the fragrance of Paradise, that reaches upto a distance of 2000 years' travel.”
Ali Ibn Hamzah says: An Alawi Sayyid was hawking some wares placed in a round tray. I was full of pity at his condition. I came to Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s). I had not said anything but the Imam told me, “A Sayyid's son is hawking at such and such place. Give him these eighteen dirhams and tell him on my behalf to invest them in his trade and profit thereby. It is sufficient for his whole life.” I said in surprise, “Master! I had intended to invite your attention to his plight but you have furnished assistance to him before I could say anything.” Imam said, “O Ali Ibn Hamzah! We are not ignorant of the condition of our kinsmen and we consider kindness towards them incumbent.” So I delivered the money to that young man. Taking the money the youth began to weep. When I asked the reason he said, “Why shouldn't I weep when I have received the news of my death in the near future?” I asked him how that was? He said, “One day Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) had told me that when he sends money to me through Ali Ibn Hamzah, I should know that my death is near.”
During the time Imam Ridha’ (a.s) resided in Medina some of his relatives were antagonistic to him, especially due to the fact that the spirituality of the Imam was effective on all and people used to respect him greatly. However, the Imam behaved with all of them in a very kind and affectionate way and also sent them occasional gifts. The Imam's family members tried to restrain him from this. He said, “This is the only difference between Ahl ul-Bayt and others, that we always repay bad behavior with goodness and we are kind to the relatives.”
Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s) used to behave very nicely and affectionately with all the people of his clan. Among them were also those who did not accept him as the son of Imam Ridha’ (a.s). Imam (a.s) used to bear all the false allegations patiently, but he never broke off relations with them. He used to share their sorrows and hardships regularly and also fulfilled their needs.
During the period Imam Ali Naqi (a.s) resided in Samarrah, he used to regularly inquire about the conditions of his kinsmen from people coming from Medina and also sent to them the Khums money he received, and solve their problems. Once some people from Hasani Sadat visited him in Samarrah. Through them the Imam sent some gifts to his relatives.
Like his venerable ancestors, Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) also cared greatly for according kindness to relatives. Often he had to undergo many hardships due to his kinsmen. However he bore them happily. He used to say that whatever they may do to him he would continue to be kind towards his relatives.
Fortunate were those slaves who lived under the care of Ahl ul-Bayt. It was much better for them than freedom. Though Islam allowed slavery, it laid down such duties on the slave owner that the rights of the slaves were protected. Along with this Islam also prescribed great rewards for emancipation of slaves. It prescribed freeing of slaves as penalties for omitting incumbent and obligatory acts. The kind behavior that the Holy Imams (a.s) accorded to their slaves is such that to find its equal is not possible. The following incidents illustrate how our Holy Imams (a.s) made the slaves and maids happy and how they were always finding excuses to free bondsmen.
Qambar the slave of Imam Ali (a.s) says: I spent my days under the slavery of Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) in such a way that he used to feed me first then eat himself. First he clothed me then he wore himself. One day the Imam purchased two shirts. He saw that the shirt of Salman Farsi was patched at many places. So he gave one shirt to him and told me to put on the second. I said that the Imam's shirt was also quite worn out, but he said, “You wear it. I will buy another one for myself when it is possible.” He never awoke me for some errand and never made me work when I was sick. He never gave me tasks beyond my strength or capacity. The Imam tried to free me many times but I implored and pleaded the Imam not to do so.
Imam Hasan (a.s) used to be very affectionate to the slaves. He freed many slaves for rendering ordinary services.
One day the Imam was sleeping. A slave began to fan him. The Imam awoke and freed him.
A slave dropped a bowl of curry and it spilled on the garment of Imam (a.s). He was so terrified that he began to tremble and recite the verse:
…and those who restrain (their) anger and pardon men; and Allah loves the doers of good (to others). (Surah Aale Imran 3:134)
The Imam forgave his mistake and told him, “I free you for the sake of Allah.”
Imam Husayn 's (a.s) had a slave who was very obedient. One day the Imam was pleased of his good services and he freed him. The slave began to weep bitterly. The Imam asked the reason. He said, “O son of Allah's Messenger, I do not want to leave you. This slavery of mine is a thousand times better than freedom.” The Imam said, “I have freed you. Now you can live with me happily like a relative.”
One day Imam Husayn (a.s) saw a slave feeding a dog from his food. When the Imam asked him the reason he said, “O son of Allah's Messenger. I am a trouble-stricken person, by making this dog happy I expect happiness from Allah in return.” The Imam asked him what his problem was. He said, “I am a slave of a Jew and I want freedom from him.” The Imam was moved at this slave's yearning. He immediately came to the Jew, purchased the slave for 200 gold coins and freed him.
Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) was extremely kind and affectionate towards slaves and slave girls. He used to take very less work from them for his personal needs. One day a slave girl began to weep after hearing about the incidents of Karbala’ from him. When the Imam saw this devotion of hers, he said, “Go, I have freed you for the sake of Allah.” She said, “O son of Allah's Messenger (S), I will continue to remain in your service. Being at your feet is everlasting happiness for me.”
Tawus Yamani says that he saw Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) surrounded by his slaves and slave girls. He was telling them, “I have forgive your mistakes. You all pray to Allah that He forgives the mistakes of Ali Ibnul Husayn .”
Since it is obvious that no sin was committed by the Holy Imam, these pleas for forgiveness of sins were for the expression of his servitude to Allah.
Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s) was extremely affectionate towards his bondsmen. The slaves were always yearning that Imam should take their services, but the Imam mostly used to do his own work. He first fed the male and female slaves than ate himself. He gave them better food and himself ate ordinary things. A slightest excuse was sufficient for him to free the slaves. He was never harsh with any of his slaves and never beat anyone of them.
The Imam was very kind upon the slaves and always overlooked their mistakes. Once he had sent a slave on some errand, but when he took a long time to return the Imam went out to search for him and found him sleeping at one place. Instead of awaking him, the Imam began to fan him. When the fellow awoke the Imam told him, “You have the habit of sleeping in the day as well as at night. Allah has made the day for work and night for rest.”
Once a slave of his fell sick. The Imam visited him and found that he was groaning due to a severe headache. “What is the problem?” asked the Imam. He said that he had a terrible headache. The Imam began to press his head. The slave got up abruptly and said, “Son of Allah's Messenger more than the headache it is painful for me that you press my head. I can never accept it.” Another slave was standing there. He tried to press the sick man's head but the Imam said, “Man! Why do you want to deprive me from a great reward?”
A slave girl of Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) fell sick and her illness was prolonged. Everyone was fed up of her care. But Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) continued to be affectionate to her. Every morning and evening asked her what she felt like eating, and whatever she desired was brought for her. She used to invoke blessings for the Imam. Finally she passed away in that illness. The Imam wept profusely at her funeral and performed her last rites in the same way as he would do for a relative.
Abu Bakr Suli says that his grandmother used to narrate: I and three friends of mine were in the service of Imam Ridha’ (a.s) for many years. The Imam took very less work from us. One day we said to him, “Mamun has sent us to serve you and not to live in comfort.” The Imam said, “It is my service only that you fulfill the obligations of Allah.” The Holy Imam used to teach us the religious rules everyday. Being in the Imam's service I memorized nearly 400 traditions, that now I have forgotten. Most of the time it so happened that the Imam used to fill up a pot of water for ritual ablution (wuzu), kept it besides us and then awoke us in a very very gentle way saying, “This is not the time to sleep, it is time for Allah's remembrance.” We used to be very ashamed of such affection of the Holy Imam. When he was martyred we were sent back to Mamun's house. But in spite of all the facilities available there I felt very lonely and the royal palaces seemed like dark dungeons. I used to remember the Imam (a.s) and weep day and night.
Ummul Fadl the daughter of Mamun had brought some slave girls with her and she used to be very harsh with them and beat them with canes. Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s) used to stop her from such harshness and said, “They are Allah's creatures. If you are not merciful on them, Allah would not be merciful on you.” The words of the Imam had no effect on Ummul Fadl. One day she beat a slave girl in such a bad way that she began to bleed. When the Imam came home and saw her condition he rebuked Ummul Fadl. She was so angry at this, that she went to her father's home. The Imam began to treat and serve the slave girl. He himself washed her wounds and applied ointment. He nursed the slave girl for almost a fortnight till she recovered. Then the Imam said to her, “Now you go to Ummul Fadl.” She said, “I prefer to be killed than see the face of such a heartless mistress.”
Like his forefathers, Imam Ali Naqi (a.s) also used to be very kind on the slaves. One day he was going somewhere when he saw that a master was beating his slave a lot. The Imam said to him, “Mister, is this weak man your creature?” “Not my creature, he is my slave,” replied the man. The Imam said, “You have not created him, you have only purchased him for some dirhams and you have the right to beat him this much.” The man said, “Yes, that is why I am beating him. He is my disobedient slave.” The Imam said, “If according to you a disobedient slave is eligible for such punishment, for how much punishment would a disobedient creature be eligible? Do you not disobey the commands of Allah? Are you not the same person who lied there drunk? If Allah punishes you for that disobedience, what your condition would be.”
Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) used to be very affectionate to the slaves. One day a slave, who was a Shia of Ali (a.s) came to the Imam and said, “My owner troubles me a lot. I want to be freed from him somehow.” The Imam said, “If he agrees to sell you, I can pay the price.” The slave spoke to his master and persuaded him to sell him for 200 dirhams. The Imam paid the money and purchased him. Then he freed him the same day for the sake of Allah. In the same way the Imam purchased many slaves from other people and released them. The Imam's slave, Mohlib used to say, “I have never seen a master as kind as Imam Hasan Askari (a.s).” The Imam used to be affectionate towards his male and female slaves like a father is to his children.
It is mentioned in the traditions that one, who shows greed, is humiliated and one who adopts contentment gains satisfaction. Even if the whole world becomes gold for the greedy person, he is not satisfied and one, who observes contentment, is satisfied with just the bare necessities. All the mischiefs and corruption in the world are due to greed and jealousy. If all the Muslims follow the Islamic teachings and observes contentment, the civilization and society would be so reformed that this world, which is called as hell would become a part of Paradise. If we survey, in an unbiased way the lives of the Holy Imams (a.s) we would find that they had absolutely no connection to greed and avarice. Gathering and hoarding of wealth, most of the time takes man towards stone-heartedness and narrow mindedness. The hoarders gradually become more and more greedy. The Holy Imams (a.s) never allowed this contemptuous thing to approach them. The incidents mentioned below illustrate this in a beautiful way.
Comfort-loving people increase the necessities of life so much that a drop becomes a sea. On the other hand Ali (a.s) reduced the necessities of life to such an extent that the sea was reduced to a cup. All the necessities of life were so less that lesser than it is not possible. He was content with whatever came his way and thanked the Almighty. The desire to hoard or save anything never arose. He never stored anything more than was needed. The thought of tomorrow never bothered him, neither was he aggrieved at what was happening that day. During the time of his caliphate he had control over the Islamic wealth. At this time also Ali was the same. He still ate the same barley bread soaked in salted water, wore the same patched dress, sat on the ground created by Allah and the same broken sack was Ali's seat. Whatever share of stipend he received from the public treasury he gave it all away to the destitutes and the needy people. Then he relied on the Almighty and maintained self-control. He was only trying to have just sufficient strength to enable him to survive and always strived to gain the pleasure of Allah. The minimum needed for life was maximum for Ali. He remained hungry often through two meal times. Never asked anyone for anything. Always obtained livelihood through hard work. Never complained to Allah. He was happy in whatever condition Allah kept him. More than himself, he cared for others. Always tried to assure that none should sleep hungry, though himself often remained hungry.
One day a person requested Imam Hasan (a.s) for a thousand dirhams. He asked his servant how much they had. He said it was not more than a thousand dirhams. The Imam told him to give them to the petitioner. The servant reminded the Imam that they had nothing beyond that; not even anything to eat and drink at home. He suggested that something be retained from this amount for household needs. “Why should I retain something?” asked the Imam, “Would my Creator and Master not be there tomorrow?” And the dates that had arrived from the orchards were distributed but a handful that no one liked to take were left over. The Imam said that they were sufficient for removing hunger, “Fulfillment of the needs of those who ask for it is top priority for Ahl ul-Bayt.”
Imam Husayn (a.s) was also a very contented person. One day Abu Darda came to him with a bag of dates and said, “Son of Allah's Messenger, these are very high quality dates from my gardens. I have brought them as gift for you. Store them and eat from them for some days. The Imam smiled and asked, “O Abu Darda! When have you seen us storing something? We are content on that which Allah gives us everyday. We never hoard anything.” This conversation was going on when some companions of the Holy Prophet (S) arrived to meet the Imam. He distributed all those dates among them saying, “This was a gift to me from Abu Darda that I give to you from myself.”
Minhal Kufi says: One day I came to Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) and found him covered with a worn-out sheet. I had purchased a new sheet recently and had not yet started using it. I presented the same to the Imam (a.s) who said, “O Minhal! Give it to some eligible person. The sheet I am having is sufficient for me. We Ahl ul-Bayt are not fond of decorations and fashion. That which protects us from cold and hot is sufficient. So far my sheet has not become useless that I should take yours and forget about the needs of others.”
Hisham was deeply inimical to Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s). He was always in the dread that the Imam would gather the followers of Ali and rise up in revolt against him and he was always thinking up of a way to distance the Imam from Medina and keep him at Damascus under his surveillance. Once he sent the message to the Imam that since he was spending life under such difficult financial circumstance be should come over to Damascus. Hisham told him that he would provide the Imam with a magnificent house and fix for him sufficient pension so that his life passes in peace and comfort. He also said that for the time being he was sending one thousand gold coins to the Imam. When the messengers of Hisham conveyed Hisham's message and placed the bag of gold coins before Imam (a.s) his face became red with anger and he said, “When have I expressed my financial problems to Hisham or his agents? By Allah! This tattered mat and old worn-out cloak of mine is much better than the kingdom of Hisham. We have no need for material wealth. We have no desire for comfort and luxuries. Take these gold coins back and tell him that wherever and in whichever condition I am, it is better for me.”
One day Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) said to his manager Motab, “Day by day there is increase in the food-grain prices of Medina. How much food-grain do we have with us?” He said, “We have no fear of famine, we have sufficient rations.” The Imam told him to sell it all. He said that it would not be advisable to sell it at that time and it would be difficult to purchase it later. The Imam said it didn't matter, “Whatever others undergo, we would also face it.” When all the grain was sold the Imam instructed his employee to purchase it on day-to-day basis like other people do. And also told them to mix barley flour in wheat flour at a 50-50 percent proportion for making bread. Even though there was enough wheat the Imam said that it was by way of sharing the hardships of the people. After some days inflation increased and the Imam distributed all the money among the needy people. Now the situation so worsened that there was nothing to eat at the Imam's place. Motab says that he told the Imam, “If we had not sold our stocks we would not have to face this.” The Imam said, “O Motab! Then how would we have realized the people's hardships? O Motab! We are content in all conditions and we are thankful in every calamity.”
When Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s) was under arrest of Harun Rashid half of the food he received was returned everyday, and the Imam ate very less. The warden thought that Imam did not like the prison food so one day he brought some delicious foods for the Imam from his own house. When they were served to the Imam he refused to eat anything. When he asked the reason he said, “We are not fond of delicious foods. We like only the diet that has been our family diet. We are content and thankful for plain and austere food.”
Sulaiman Ibn Ja'far says: When I came to Imam Ridha’ (a.s) one day I saw that he was seated on an old mat. I said, “Though the Imam is the heir-apparent of the kingdom nothing royal is seen in his house.” He said, “What all according to you should be there for a person over whom death is hovering?” I said, “At least there should be something.” He said, “O Sulaiman! You want to see that which people like and I see that which Allah likes. Everything is available for my needs. See this drinking bowl, this mat, this sheet, this container for vinegar. Tell me what else is needed? Do these things not fulfill my needs?” I said, “What the Imam says is right.” The Imam said, “Then this much is sufficient for us, we do not need anything else. O Sulaiman! I have not come here to rule. I have accepted the heir-apparency to protect the rights of people.”
Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s) used to lead a very simple and austere life. His dress used to be of very ordinary fabric. One day someone told him that since he sat besides the king it did not befit him to wear such simple clothes. The Imam said, “If my value had been due to my clothes it would have befitted me to wear expensive clothes. But when it is not so, why should I give up simplicity? My present dress is concealing my body and it is also comfortable. Then why should I give it up for a fashionable one? We Ahl ul-Bayt are content on whatever we get and we do not allow greed to approach us.”
One day in the presence of the ruler people were discussing about the piety, austerity and reliance on God and contentment of Imam Ali Naqi (a.s). The person praised all this highly and the ruler said: When he does not have anything, what else can he do but be content with his condition? But the people said it was not so. The ruler said that he would test the Imam. One day he sent different kinds of expensive clothes, a tray full of gold coins and other luxurious items to the Imam with special instructions that the Imam put them to his use. The slave who brought all these things also delivered the ruler's message. The Imam said, “All these things are higher than our needs, what can I do with them?” When the slave insisted much the Imam told him to place all those things in a corner. The ruler sent spies to find out whether the Imam was using all those things or not. Everyday they reported everything lay unused. At last one day the ruler came and asked his slave to check whether anything was missing from those items. The slave said that nothing has even been moved from its place. This proved that the Imam had not even touched anything. Finally the ruler ordered his slave to take back all the things.
The contentment of Imam Hasan Askari (a.s) was such that his slave used to say the Imam never asked him for anything. He used to be content with whatever he got easily.
We have mentioned some incidents in brief regarding the high moral qualities of the Holy Imams (a.s). Although a much detailed account can be prepared on it to form a very lengthy book. It is a pity that people did not realize the value of such noble personalities and did not derive any lesson from their lives. The reason is that due to utter greed and avarice people were not having any criterion upon which they could have discriminated between truth and falsehood. Similar to these qualities are debased traits, which the people cannot differentiate. Thus people took as models those who were not remotely connected with the genuine moral virtues. That is the reason that people with utterly debased morals were accepted as successors of the Messenger of Allah (S). But their wealth had concealed their defects.
As we have already explained every moral quality has a medium line. To be a little more or little less renders it useless and results in something, which resembles that moral virtue but actually it is a great defect. Many people are considered as saints of Allah, like the Sufis and Dervishes but if their moral qualities were compared to those of the Holy Imams (a.s) a vast difference would be noticed. If it had not been so they would not have considered Amir'ul-Mu'minin (a.s) as their greatest guide. We could mention them by name and expose them all before the vast multitude of their followers in this country, but it is sufficient to state that it was a great misfortune for Muslims that they did not recognize the true ones from the charlatans. Even those undeserving of any merit were accorded great honor by the people and their defects were disguised as merits.
However the efforts of the Holy Prophet (S) did not go in vain. In every age there was a successor of the Prophet who acted as a model of perfection and the ideal to be emulated by all. If people did not value them they are responsible for their deficiency.
After this let us mention the bitter fact that like the enemies did not gain from the moral virtues of the Imams (a.s), their followers (Shias) similarly remained at loss in spite of knowing those merits. Their condition is that though they listen with great interest when mention is made about the Imam's high qualities but it there is no practical response to it. They do not struggle and try to emulate their guides, as they should. As if we have decided that whatever was supposed to be done is already performed by our Imams (a.s) and there is no need for us to do anything!
There had been a time for many years when our morals matched those of the Imams (a.s) to a great extent. But today our moral conditions are very low, though it is true that they are still better than those of ordinary Muslims, but day by day there is deterioration in our manners. God forbid if one day we also do not become like other people.
If we claim to be the lovers and followers of Ahl ul-Bayt our foremost duty is keep aloof from such defects as lying, back-biting, jealousy, hatred, avarice, show-off, cheating etc. We must take sufficient steps to reform our morals and ensure that we do not stray to a deviated path.
Our Imams (a.s), who are aware of all our conditions can never be happy at our present situation. Our way of life does not resemble theirs; rather it is like that of their enemies. We should remember that the world is the place of action and the farm for the Hereafter. What we sow here would be reaped by us in the Hereafter.
Till the time we do not reform our morals we cannot gain proximity to our Holy Imams (a.s).