Story 21: An Ascetic’s Advice

The summer heat had become intense. The sun’s hot rays beat down on the city of Madinah, and the gardens and farms around it. In such harsh weather, a man named Muhammad ibn Monkadar, who identified himself as an ascetic, a pious person and an anchorite (recluse), arrived in Madinah. He cast his eyes over a corpulent man who had obviously come out to visit and inspect his farms at that time. Because of his heaviness and fatigue, he was treading slowly with the help of a few people by his side, certainly his friends and relatives.

He thought, “Who is this man, in this hot weather during the day, leading a busy worldly life?” He approached the person and to his surprise, it was Muhammad ibn Ali ibn al-Husayn (Imam Baqir) (‘a). He thought: ‘Why does this noble man indulge in the life of this world? I must advise him and dissuade him from this!’

He came forward and greeted the Imam (‘a). Imam Baqir (‘a), out of breath and sweating, returned his greetings. He said, “Is it suitable for such an honourable person like you to come out at this hour of the day, in such hot weather, in order to indulge in the life of this world, particularly, with your heaviness which certainly makes you suffer much? Who has knowledge of their death? Who knows when he will die? Death might overcome you right now, may Allah protect you! If death overtakes you in such a condition, what would be your destiny? It is not worthy of you to be after the life this world, endure so much pain, and suffer with this heavy body in this heat! No! No! It is not worthy of you!”

Imam Baqir (‘a), removing his hands from his men’s’ shoulders, leaned against the wall and said, “If death overtakes me now, I will leave this world while I am performing my duties and worshipping Allah. Regarding my work, it is just like obedience and submission to Allah. You have imagined that worship is confined to invocation, prayers and supplication. I have to live and support my family. If I do not work or endure pain, I will have to extend my hand towards you or people like you to help me out. I am working for my livelihood so that I may not be in need of anyone else. I should be afraid of death if I have committed sins and violated and disobeyed Divine Commandments, but not in such a state of obedience to the Commandments of Allah the Almighty who has ordered me not to be a burden to others, but rather, to gain my own daily bread.

The ascetic said, “I have made a big mistake! I thought that I would give advice to guide others, but now, I have come to understand that I have been mistaken and that I was following a wrong path and was in need of advice myself.”1

  • 1. Bihar ul-Anwar, v. 11, p. 82.