We were previously narrating a tradition from the Noble Prophet (S) to the Commander of the Faithful, 'Ali Ibn Abi Talib (as) in which a total of one hundred and three characteristics of a true believer were explained. Instead of aimlessly wandering around (spiritually), the person who wishes to tread upon the path of Islamic 'Irfan (mysticism) should make use and act upon that which is mentioned in this tradition and one will get closer in his journey towards Allah (SwT).
In our previous gatherings, we discussed forty-one characteristics and today, we cover another four characteristics of a true believer.
… وُقُوراً، صَبُوراً، رَضِياً، شُكُوراً…
The Prophet (S) continued: “(A true believer) is: dignified (in the face of challenges), patient, content (with whatever Allah decrees for him), thankful (for the blessings that Allah gives him).”1
We can actually place this tradition alongside the Khutbah of the Commander of the Faithful, 'Ali Ibn Abi Talib (as) given to Hammam in which 110 characteristics that a muttaqin (those who have Allah consciousness) must possess was explained.
Three of the characteristics given by the Commander of the Faithful, 'Ali Ibn Abi Talib (as) in his talk to Hammam were actually explanations of the words of the Prophet (S) in this tradition:
فِي الزَلاَزِلِ وُقُوراً وَ فِي الْمَكَارِهِ صَبُوراً وَ فَي الرَّخَاءِ شَكُوراً.
“In the face of calamities they are dignified, and in the face of detestable acts they are patient; and in the face of ease and comfort, they are thankful.”2
The forty-second characteristic of a true believer is that of “وقوراً”. The word “وقور” is in the meaning of something heavy, and in the Noble Qur'an, we read:
وَ فِي آذَانِهِمْ وَقْراً
“And in their ears is a heaviness.” (18:57).
Thus, we see that due to the sins that people commit, Allah (SwT) places heaviness in their ears such that they are no longer able to hear the Truth.
In the above mentioned speech to Hammam, the Commander of the Faithful,, 'Ali Ibn Abi Talib (as) further said, “They (those who have consciousness of Allah) remain in the time of trials the way they remain in comfort.”
Sometimes, we see that certain people are like feathers such that even with the slightest movement (in the world around them), they lose their footing because they have absolutely no foundation. There are others who are like a leaf; others who are like the branches of a tree; and some who are like the entire tree - however even if a strong wind was to come about, it would rip the tree out of the ground by its roots! However a true believer is like a mountain such that even with strong winds - not only does it not move at all, rather the mountain actually makes the wind stop in its place - and a true believer is just like this!
وَ أَلْقى فِي الأَرْضِ رَوَاسِيَ أَنْ تَمِيدَ بِكُمْ
“And He has set up on the Earth, mountains, standing firm, lest it should shake with you!” (16:15).
In the commentary of this verse of the Qur’an it has been mentioned that if the mountains did not exist on the Earth, then the winds would have destroyed the all of mankind. Therefore, a true believer is one who is able to stop all sorts of corruption and evil and at the same time, move along with the current.
The troubles which the Commander of the Faithful,, 'Ali Ibn Abi Talib (as) alluded to in this speech are sometimes in relation to the inner being of the person such as the inner (lower) passions and desires.
It has been mentioned in Surat Yusuf where it has been stated:
وَلَقَدْ هَمَّتْ بِهِ وَهَمَّ بِهَا لَوْلاَ أََنْ رَأى بُرْهَانَ رَبِّهِ
“And (with passion) did she (Zulaykha) desire him, and he (Yusuf) would have desired her, but he saw the evidence of his Lord.” (12:24).
Sometimes, these troubles are outside forces, such as the evil whisperings of the many external Shaiatin that exist.
The forty-third characteristic is that of showing extreme patience and again, in the speech given to Hammam, the Commander of the Faithful,, 'Ali Ibn Abi Talib (as) said:
وَ فِي الْمَكَارِهِ صَـبُوراً.
“And during the times of distress, one is patient.”
This means that in the face of the distressful events in life, the true, perfect believer has patience. It is not necessary that these distressful events come upon a person with great force - rather, even in issues such as sickness, poverty, losing one's loved ones, etc… one must have patience.
In the life of being a student, or and treading upon the path of being a soldier in the army of Imam al-Zaman (as), and even within the period of our youth, there are many difficulties and challenges that come about and if a person does not have patience and fortitude, then one will not be able to reach any stage in one's life.
We personally know of people who used to fast during the hot days of the summer months and at the time of breaking the fast, did not even have a piece of bread, or even money to go to the public bath to take a shower! The difficulties of today are definitely much less than this and vary for every individual.
If do not have patience, then what will happen? If we are not patient, will this change our situation in any way? How beautifully Imam 'Ali (as) has put it:
إِنْ صَبَرْتَ جَرَتْ عَلَيْكَ الْمَقَادِيرَ وَ أَنْتَ مَأْجُورٌ وَ إِنْ جَزَعْتَ جَرَتْ عَلَيْكَ الْمَقَادِيرُ وَ أَنْتَ مَأْزُورٌ.
“If you are patient, then surely that which has been ordained will be granted unto you and you will be rewarded; and if you are anxious or uneasy then surely that which has been intended will also be granted to you but you will be surrounded (by difficulties).”3
Thus, it is best that we observe patience until we are able to achieve the reward. One intellectual stated that: “Whenever I am faced with difficulties, I say to myself:
إِنْ لَمْ أَصْبِرْ فَمَا أَفْعَلْ.
The forty-fourth characteristic of a true believer is that one is content with whatever Allah (SwT) decrees for him.
We must strive and struggle, but with all the work that we put forth, it is only that which Allah (SwT) has decreed that will come to pass and a true believer must be content with this - thus, the stages of Rida and Taslim (contentment and submission) are very important levels.
With the progress in science and technology today, there are many things which have become clear and understandable for us, such as when a child develops jaundice at a young age. Today it has been shown that this yellowness of the child is actually an antibiotic that protects the child from other diseases whereas in previous times, it was thought that this is a great problem. There are many other 'problems' which humanity still does not know the reason why they occur but we must be patient despite everything.
The forty-fifth characteristic of a true believer is that one is thankful. In the Khutbah of Hammam , the Commander of the Faithful,, 'Ali Ibn Abi Talib (as) has stated:
وَ فِي الرَّخَاءِ شَكُورٌ.
“In times of ease, he is thankful.”
Often, when a person is in a good period of security, safety, and peace, one tends to forget Allah (SwT). However when one is plagued with difficulties, then one falls into the remembrance of Allah (SwT). The Noble Qur’an has said:
فَلَمَّا نَجَّاهُمْ إِلـى الْبَرِّ إِذَا هُمْ يُشْرِكُونَ
“And when they reach back to land (after facing difficulties at sea), once again they setup partners with Him (Allah).” (29:65).
Thus, a true believer is that person who remembers Allah (SwT) at all times - during old age and during one's youth and thanks Allah (SwT) during times of difficulty and ease.
It is our hope that Allah (SwT) gives us all the ability to act upon the words in this tradition, which are sufficient for our entire life time!