Wednesday 26th of June 2019

Tawakkul means entrusting all the matters to their Master

Tawakkul means entrusting all the matters to their Master and relying upon His trusteeship. [2]

Some `urafa' have said:

Tawakkul means throwing the body down (as in prostration) in servitude (to God) and attaching the heart to (His) Lordship.

That is, it means using one's bodily powers in obedience to God and refraining from interfering in the matters (of the heart) and consigning it to the Lord. Some others have said:

Tawakkul upon God means the severance by the servant of all hopes and expectations from the creatures (and attaching, them to God).

The meanings mentioned are. closely related arid there is no need to delve further on the meaning of the word. However, that which should be mentioned is that tawakkul has various degrees in accordance with the stations of the devotees. Since the knowledge of these degrees of tawakkul depends on the knowledge of the various degrees of the devotee's knowledge of their Lord, the Almighty and the Glorious, we cannot avoid discussing them here.

Let it be known to you that one of the esoteric principles of the wayfarers of the Path, without which no progress is possible, is the knowledge of God's Lordship and Mastership and the quality of the sway of the Holy Essence over all affairs. We shall not discuss the theoretical aspect of this issue, for it calls for an examination of questions related to free will and predestination, which is not suitable(apt) for these pages. Here, we will only mention the different degrees of the people's knowledge of it.

People are very different in regard to the knowledge of the Lordship of the Sacred Essence .of God. The commoners among the monotheists consider God Almighty the Creator of the general essences of things and their elements and substances; but they do not believe in the all-embracing Lordship of God, and consider His authority over things as limited. As a matter of verbal habit they may often declare that God decrees all matters and has power over all things, that nothing can come into existence without His sacred Will. Yet, their actual station is not at a par with their verbal profession, neither in respect of knowledge, nor faith, neither experience nor conviction. This class of people, to which we also belong, have no knowledge of God's Lordship; their faith in tawhid is deficient and the sovereignty of the Lord is concealed from their sight by the veils of apparent causation. Hence they do not occupy the station of tawakkul, which is our concern here, except on the level of mere verbal claim. Accordingly, they do not rely in their worldly affairs on anything except the superficial causes and material factors. If sometimes they turn their attention to God and beseech something of Him, that is either on account of imitation or for reasons of caution; since not only they see no harm in it but allow a possibility of benefit. Thus there is a scent of tawakkul in them, although whenever they deem the apparent causal factors as favourable they totally forget God and His efficacy.

Now that which is staid regarding tawakkul, that it is not opposed to action and effort is quite right and in accordance with reason as well as revelation. But to fail to see God's Lordship and His efficacy and to consider material causes as independent is contrary to tawakkul. Although this kind of people are devoid of tawakkul in respect to their worldly affairs, they make vigorous claims of tawakkul when it comes to the matters of the Hereafter. They justify their sluggishness and neglect in the matters of acquisition of transcendental knowledge, spiritual development and fulfilment of moral and devotional duties by easy professions of reliance on God and tawakkul on His beneficence. With such verbal declarations as `God is great' and `My trust lies in God's beneficence' they hope to attain the stations of the Hereafter. However, in regard to worldly matters, they declare, "Effort and endeavour are not contrary to tawakkul on God and reliance upon His munificence." This is nothing except one of the guiles of the carnal self and the Devil. For this sort has tawakkul on God neither in the matters of the world nor in the affairs of the Hereafter. But since they consider worldly matters as paramount, they put their reliance on material causes, not relying on God and His efficacy. On the other hand, since the affairs of the Hereafter are not important in their eyes and as they have no real faith in the Day of Resurrection and its details, they conjure up pretexts to conceal their neglect. Hence they say, `God is great', and they declare trust in God and faith in the intercession of the Intercessors, although such professions are nothing but desolate(barren) verbiage and meaningless oscillations of the tongue.

There is another class of people, who, having been convinced either by reason or revelation, affirm that God Almighty is the sole determiner of matters, the cause of all causes, efficacious in the realm of being, there being no limit to His power and influence. On the level of rational belief, they have tawakkul in God; that is the complete grounds of tawakkulhave been furnished for them by reason and revelation. Hence they consider themselves as mutawakkil and are able to supply rational proofs in justification of tawakkul, having confirmed rational conviction in all the essential preliminaries oftawakkul, which are: God's knowledge of the needs of His creatures; His power and ability to satisfy those needs; His freedom from stinginess; and His Love and mercy for His creatures. On the basis of these, it is necessary to have trust on the Omnicient, Powerful, unniggardly and Merciful Lord, Who takes care to provide whatever is good for His creatures and in their interest, Who does not allow them to remain deprived of what is good for them, even though they themselves should be incapable of distinguishing between that which is beneficial or harmful for them.

This group, although they are mutawakkil on the level of rational knowledge, has not yet attained the stage of faith; they are shaky when confronted with the matters of life. There is a conflict(fight) between their reason and their heart, in which reason is dominated by the heart which has faith in material causes and is blind to God's power and efficacy.

There is a third group in which the conviction in God's sway over creation has penetrated into the heart, which has firm(fight) faith in God's Sovereignty and Mastership over things. The pen of reason has inscribed all the essentials oftawakkul on the tablet of their heart. It is they who possess the station of tawakkul. But the members of this group also differ from one another in regard to the level and degree of faith, whose highest degree is contentment (itminan) at which the most perfect degree of tawakkul appears in their heart. Then, their heart is detached from causation and attached to the Lordship of God, on Whom they rely and in Whom they-are content, in accordance with the words of the mystic who defined tawakkul as "casting the body away in servitude to God and attaching the heart to His Lordship."

That which was mentioned above holds true in the case when the heart still dwells in the stage of plurality (kathrat-e af'ar) otherwise it leaves astern the station of tawakkul to attain to a higher station whose discussion lies outside the scope of this exposition.

Thus, it was seen that tawakkul has various stages and degrees, and perhaps the degree of tawakkul referred to in the hadith is the one pertaining to the second group, for it mentions knowledge as its preliminary condition. Or perhaps it refers to a degree of tawakkul according to some other mode of gradation, for tawakkul is amenable to another kind of gradation, as described in relation with the various stages of wayfaring by the experts of mystics knowledge and spiritual discipline, as a gradual gradation from plurality to unity; for absolute extinction (fana'-e mutlaq-e af`ali) is not attained instantaneously but gradually. In the first stage, the wayfarer observes unity in his own self and then in all other beings. The stations of tawakkul, rida, taslim and all the other stations are attainable gradually. The wayfarer may at first exercise tawakkul in some of his affairs and with respect to hidden and unobservable causes. Then, gradually, histawakkul becomes general, in that it extends from hidden and inner causes to manifest and observable ones and from his own affairs to that of his relatives and associates. Accordingly, it is stated in the holy tradition that one of the degrees of tawakkul is trust in God in all one's affairs.

The Difference Between Tawakkul and Rida:

Let it be known to you that the station of rida is different from the station of tawakkul, being higher and more luminous. This is because whereas the mutawakkil seeks his own good and benefit and entrust his affairs to God considering Him the provider of good, the radi (one who has attained the station of rida) is one who has annihilated his will in the Divine Will, having no more a separate will of his own. When a mystic was asked, "Matur'id" ? (What is your wish?), he replied,"Urid an la urid " (My wish is not to wish at all). What he meant is the station of rida.

As to the words of the Imam (A) in the hadith, "that you should be well-pleased (radiyan) with whatever God does to you," they do not refer to the station of rida. Hence, he (A) says thereafter, "Know for certain that whatever He does to you, your good and benefit lies therein." It appears that the Imams (A) intended to bring about the station of tawakkulin the listener. For this he mentions certain preliminaries. First, he (A) says, "Know that He does not cease to be good and benign towards you." Then he (A) says, "Know that the authority therein lies with Him." Of course, one who knows that God Almighty has power over everything and that He does not cease to be graceful(elegant) and benign, he would attain to the station of tawakkul, because the two main pillars of tawakkul are the same as stated by the Imam (A); although he (A) does not explicitly state the other two or three pillars. After mentioning the explicit and implicit preliminaries - that whatever God Almighty does is welcome because in it lies one's good and benefit - the preliminaries which guide to the station of tawakkul, he (A) draws the conclusion and says: "Then have tawakkul on God."

Tafwid, Tawakkul and Thiqah:

Know that tafwid is also different from tawakkul, and so also thiqah is different from these two. Hence each of the three has been considered a different station on the wayfarer's path. The Khwajah says: [3]

That is, tafwid is subtler and more refined than tawakkul, for tawfid, means that the devotee should see no power and capacity in himself and that he should consider himself ineffectual and regard God as All-effectual. This is not so intawakkul, for the mutawakkil makes God his own substitute, one in charge of his affairs, for attaining that which is favorable and gainful. Tafwid is wider and tawakkul is a branch of it, because tawakkul is in regard to one's interests andtafwid is in regard to absolutely all the affairs.

Moreover, tawakkul does not occur except after the presence of its cause, that is the matter in regard to which the devotee comes to rely upon God. An example of it is the tawakkul of the Apostle (S) and his Companions in regard to security from the evil of the idolaters, at the time when they were told:

Those unto whom men said, 'Lo! the people have gathered against you, therefore fear them'. But it increased them in faith and they said, 'God is sufficient for us and an excellent trustee is He'.(3:173)

Tafwid, however, is mostly(mainly)  antecedent to its referent cause, as indicated by the supplication narrated from the Apostle of God (S):

My God, I surrender my self to Thee; I seek refuge with Thee, and I hand over my matter to Thee.

At times tafwid is subsequent to the occurrence of its cause, such as in the case. of the tafwid of the believer belonging to the Pharaoh's people (40:44).

The account given above is a condensed translation of the exposition by the famous `arif `Abd al-Razzaq Kashani of the words of the perfect `arif Khwajah `Abd Allah al-'Ansari, and that which the Khwajah says is also substantially the same. However, I have reservations about considering tawakkul to be a branch of tafwid, and there is an obvious lack of rigour in regarding tafwid as being the more general of the two. Also, there is no reason to regard tawakkul as being subsequent to the cause, for tawakkul can be both antecedent as well as subsequent.

As to the words of the holy tradition,possibly, since tawakkul is accompanied by viewing oneself as being in charge of one's affairs - because in tawakkul one makes God one's wakil in an affair that he deems as pertaining to himself - the Imam (A) wished to lift(handle) the questioner from the station of tawakkul to that of tafwid, making him understand that God Almighty is not your substitute and deputy in regard to the charge(assignment) of your affairs; rather, He is the master of His own realm and the Lord of His own kingdom (to which you and your affairs belong). In Manazil al-sai'rin, the Khwajah has also pointed out this while discussing the third degree of tawakkul.

And as to thiqah (reliance), it is different from tawakkul and tafwid, as the Khwajah says:

Thiqah is the eye of tawakkul, the (moving) point of the circle of tafwid, and the inmost heart of taslim (surrender). [4]

That is, the three stations cannot be attained without thiqah. Rather thiqah on God Almighty is the soul of those stations, and the devotee cannot attain them without thiqah. This allows us to understand the Imam's allusion to it, after the mention of tawakkul and tafwid, when he says:

[1]. Usul al-Kafi (Akhundi), ii, 391, hadith 3.

[2]. Khwajah 'Abd Allah al-'Ansari, Manazil al-sa'irin.

[3]. Ibid.

[4]. I



...Thiqat al-'Islam wa 'Imad at-Muslimin Muhammad ibn Ya'qub (al-Kulayni): From a number of our companions, from Ahmad ibn Muhammad, from 'Ali ibn Hadid, from Mansur ibn Yunus, from al-Harith ibn al-Mughirah or his father, from Abu 'Abd Allah (A) (al-'Imam al-Sadiq). Al-Harith, or his father, says: "I asked him (A), 'What was (mentioned) in the testament of Luqman?' 'There were marvellous things in it', he said, 'and the most wonderful of that which he said to his son was this: "Have such a fear of God Almighty that were you to come to Him with the virtues of the two worlds(thaqalan) He would still chastise you, and put such a hope in God that were you to come to Him with the sins of the two worlds He would still have compassion for you." Then Abu 'Abd Allah (A) added: 'My father used to say, "There is no believer who does not have two lights in his heart: the light of fear and the light of hope. Were one of these to be measured it would not exceed the other, and were the other one to be measured, it would not exceed this one."" [1]


According to al-Jawhari in his al-Sihah, a'ajib is the plural of u`jubah, in the same way as ahadith isthe plural of uhduthah. Some lexicographers state that u'jubah is something amazing(staggering), either on account of its beauty or its ugliness, and the former (i.e. beauty) is meant in this tradition. It appears that the word primarily has the specific sense of something of striking beauty, and is used in a wider sense. parasitically. Birr is the opposite of `uquq, disobedience. , means so and so is obedient to his Creator, as pointed out by al-Jawhari. `Thaqalan' means mankind and the Jinn.

This noble hadith means that the fear of God and hope in Him should be at the highest degree. Despairing of Divine mercy and considering oneself secure from God's devising (makr) are totally prohibited, as indicated(gestured) by a great number of traditions and explicitly stated by the Noble Qur'an. Secondly, none of these should exceed the other. God willing, we shall elaborate upon this and other aspects of the holy tradition in the course of a few sections.

Between Hope and Fear:

Let it be known to you that the man cognizant of the realities and the relationship between possible existents (mumkin al-wujud) and the Necessary Being (wajib al-wujud), exalted and sublime is He, holds a two-sided viewpoint: The first thing he has in view is the essential defectiveness of his own, of all possible beings, and the wretchedness of the entire universe. Through direct experience or through indirect knowledge he discovers that the entire existence of a possible being is immersed in lowliness and want, drowned in the dark ocean of possibility, poverty and need, always and for ever. The possible existents have nothing of their own: they are utterly insignificant, thoroughly devoid of majesty, and absolutely defective. Rather, none of these expressions can adequately express their utter neediness, and we use them for lack of proper words. Otherwise, defectiveness, poverty and need are a part of the quality of thingness. None of the possible beings and none of tile creatures has anything that is its own. Accordingly, even if a man were to accomplish all the worships, follow(pursue) all the Divine teachings and obey the Holy Lord most perfectly and meticulously, he has nothing but shame, humiliation and fear to his share. What obedience can lie offer? what worship? from whom? and to whom? Are not all the attributes of excellence His own, without the possible having any share whatsoever therein? Rather when the possible being approaches the threshold of these excellences, in order to praise God Almighty, it throws the shadow(stalk) of its defectiveness on His praise and soils the purity and infinitude of His holy Names. It is regarding this station (of finitude and possibility vis-a-vis the infinitude of the Necessary Being) that He declares:

Whatever good visits thee, it is from God; whatever evil visits thee is of thyself. (4:79)

And it is regarding the first station (of the absolute neediness of the possible existent) that He declares:

Say (O Muhammad): 'Everything is from God'. (4:78)

And it is about. these stations that the poet (Hafiz) says:

Our master said, 'The pen of creation did not make any error'.

Praised be the immaculate eye that conceals all defects!

The statement of the mystic master (pir) relates to the second station, and the statement of the speaker himself relates to the first one. Hence, this view(scenery) fills mall with dread, grief, shame and humiliation.

In the other view, he beholds the Perfection of the Necessary Being, the expanse of His mercy, compassion and love. Therein, he sees the unlimited vastness of His various bounties and favours whose number is beyond limit and number and which are bestowed without any prior capacity or deservedness (on the recipient's part). He has opened the doors of favour and bounty on His creatures without any deservedness. The initiative lies with His bounteousness, which precedes request and demand. The Imam Sayyid al-Sajidin Zayn al-`Abidin (A) in the prayers of al-Sahifat al-Kamilah and his other prayers has recurringly pointed out this matter.

This view gives strength to his hope, making him hopeful of Divine mercy. He sees his magnanimous Lord Whose bequests are purely due to His care and compassion, the Lord of all kings Who bestows without asking and prior to the receiver's capacity. All the intellects fall short in knowing even an iota of His nobility. The disobedience of the sinners cots not cause any disturbance iii the order of Isis vast(huge) dominion, and the obedience of the obedient does not add anything to it. Rather, the guidance of the Holiest Essence to the paths of obedience, anti. His prohibition of disobedience, ate for the sake of the creatures, in order that they may attain to His beneficence, His vast(massive) mercy and bounty, that they may attain the stations of perfection and higher degrees of freedom from defect, deformity and ugliness. Hence, should it be that when tomorrow when we enter the court of the Almighty and stand in the presence of His compassion and mercy, we should be able to say: "O God, Who clothed us with the robes of existence and provided us all the means of our life and comfort, over and above the perception of perceivers, Who showed to us all the paths of guidance - all these of Your favours were for our own good and in order to benefit us further from the vast store of Your love and bounty. Now that we stand in Your glorious and magnanimous presence, we have come with the sins of the two worlds. Yet the sins of the sinners have not created any defect in the order of Your dominion, nor diminished the infinitude of Your mercy. What will You have for this handful of dust, that has no significance in front of Your greatness, except pity and compassion? Can anything except pity and compassion be hoped from You, O Lord?"

Hence, man should always be moving back and forth between these two views: neither should he ever close his eyes to his defects and shortcomings in fulfilling the duties of creaturehood, nor should he ever take his eyes off the expansive and all-encompassing mercy, love and compassion of God Almighty.

The Stages and Degrees of Fear:

My dear, know that there are various levels and degrees of fear and hope in accordance with the condition of persons and the level of their knowledge (ma`rifah). The fear of the common people is in regard to chastisement. The fear of the elect is in regard to the wrath. The fear of the elect of the elect is from concealment (ihtijab) (i.e. deprivation from beatitude). Here, it is not our purpose to describe these stations and we will confine our discourse to certain points pertinent to what has been said earlier.

You should know that no creature can worship God Almighty as He deserves to be worshipped; for worship means extolling the praise of that Sacred Essence, and the praise offered by every creature is derived from its knowledge of Him, which in reality does not apprehend His Sacred Essence. Thus, it is not possible for them to praise His beauty and grandeur. Hence the Noblest of creatures and the Most knowledgeable of beings about His Lordship (i.e. the Prophet [S]), confesses his inadequacy in this regard, and declares:

We did not worship You as You deserve to be worshipped. And we did not know You as You deserve to he known. [2]

The second sentence is intended to explain the cause of what is stated in the first one. And he (S) said:

You are as You have praised Yourself [3]

Therefore, imperfection is essential to possible being and Absolute Sublimity belongs exclusively to the Sacred Essence of the Almighty. And since the creatures are unable to attain to the praise and worship of the Sacred Essence without the knowledge and worship of God, none of them can attain to the degrees of perfection and the stations of the Hereafter (as has been demonstrated in its own place for the knowers of the Hereafter, and in regard to which the common people are oblivious, as they consider the Hereafterly stations as extravagances and the like, and regarding their fancies it must be said, 'High indeed is He exalted above that (they say)'!), God Almighty, with His expansive favour and His all-inclusive compassion, opened a door of His mercy upon them, out of His love, of the teachings regarding the hidden and of revelation and inspiration, through His angels and prophets. That is the door of worship (`ibadah) and knowledge (ma`rifah). He, thus, indicated the paths of worship to His servants and threw open the road of knowledge to them, that they may, as far as is possible, remove their shortcomings and defects and attain to the possible degrees of perfection, that they may be guided by the light of servitude to the world of Divine magnanimity, to the domain of the spirit and the aroma, to the paradise of His bounties, or, rather, to the good pleasure of God, which is greater than all that.

Thus, the opening of the gates of worship and service is one of the greatest of bounties, for which the creatures owe their deepest gratitude, although it is a favour for which they can never offer adequate thanks, for each expression of gratitude is itself the key that opens a further door to sublimity. Thus, they are ever incapable of offering adequate thanks for His bounties.

Thus when man attains the knowledge of this fountainhead and his heart becomes familiar with it, he confesses to his own shortcoming, and even if he is able to enter into the court of the Almighty with a record of service and worship equal to that of the worship and service of all mankind, Jinn, and angels near to God, he would still be fearful and conscious of inadequacy. Also, the knowing servants of God and His elect friends, on whom the sacred doors of Providence have been opened and whose hearts have been illumined by the light of marifah - their hearts are so full of dread and trembling that even if all tree excellences were accessible to them, and were all the keys to the treasures of Divine knowledge be given them, and should their hearts be filled with Divine irradiation, that would not reduce their fear by an atom's weight nor diminish the trembling of their quaking hearts. Hence- one of them says. `All are afraid of the End, and I am dreadful of the beginning.' may glory be to God, and there is no power or might which is not by God! I seek refuge in God Almighty! God knows, these words tear a man's heart to pieces. They make the heart melt, and take away his wits. But, alas! How negligent is man!

Another thing is that which we mentioned while expounding an earlier tradition, that all our obedience and worship are for the sake of selfish aims and motivated by self-love. In reality, it is abstinence from the world for the sake of the rewards of the Hereafter - which, nevertheless, for free men, is abstinence from the world for worldly rewards. Hence, were we to come to our Lord with the worship of the two worlds, we would not deserve anything except expulsion from the Divine proximity. This is because, God, the Blessed and the Exalted, has invited us into His sacred proximity and love, declaring, `I have created thee for Myself'. He has made the knowledge of Him the end of our creation and shown to us the paths of knowledge and servitude. Despite it, all that we are occupied with is catering to our belly and our carnal lusts, with no purpose in view except self-seeking and self-love!

Then, O wretched man, whose worship and devotion do not entitle thee to anything except expulsion and remoteness from His sanctified proximity and to His wrath and chastisement! What have thee to rely upon? Why, shouldn't the fear of God's Might unsettle you and make your heart bleed? Do you, have anything to rely upon? Do you rely upon your works and trust your deeds? If that be so, woe to you and your estimation of yourself! And woe to you for your estimation of the Master of all masters! However, should your reliance and trust be upon the bounty of your Lord, His expansive compassion and the all-inclusive love of the Sacred Essence, your reliance is indeed well placed; you have relied upon a truly reliable thing, and have sought a firm refuge.

Hope and Prayer:

O God! O Lord! Our hands are empty, and we know that we are imperfect and insignificant. We have nothing that is worthy of Thy sacred court. We are faulty, head to foot, and full of defects. Our inward and outward being is soaked in mortal sins, deserving eternal damnation. What are we that we should be worthy of praising Thee, when Thy friends (awliya') declare:

How shall I thank Thee with this dumb tongue of mine?

and confess to their incapacity, weakness and shortcoming? What can we, blindfolded sinners that we are, have to say about His Majesty, except declaring with the inconsequent oscillations of our tongue: "Our hope lies with Your mercy and our reliance in Your favour and forgiveness, and our trust in the generosity and magnanimity of Your Holy Essence, as expressed in the prayers of Your friends:


Al-Kulayni, in al-Kafi, reports with his chain of narrators from al-'Imam al Baqir (A) that he said, "The Messenger of Allah (S) said: ' God, the Sublime and the Blessed, said: "The workers (of deeds) for My sake should not, for My reward, trust the works they have done: for, verily, should they labour and toil for all their lives in My service and worship, they would fall short in their worship and will not attain to the reality of My service in what they seek with Me of My magnanimity and bounty, My paradise and the high stations in My proximity. Rather, they should rely upon My mercy and put hope in My favour and be contented of their good opinion (husn al-zann) of Me; for, verily, therein My mercy will reach them, My good pleasure will go forth to them, and My forgiveness shall envelop them. For, indeed, I am Allah, the Beneficent and the Merciful, and I have been named so on that account "."' [4]


Contemplation, Fear and Hope:

Of things that cause fear of God, is contemplation of the extremeness of Divine Might, the precision(exactness) and sharpness of the path (sirat) of the Hereafter and the perils that man has to face during the days of his life and at death, as well as the hardships of the Purgatory (barzakh)and the Resurrection and the scrutinies of the Reckoning (hisab) and the Balance (mizan). In the same way, reflection over the verses and traditions about the promises of God Almighty can bring about complete and perfect hope. It is reported in traditions that on the Day of Resurrection God Almighty's mercy shall be so abundant(lavish) that even Satan will aspire for God's pardon. In this world, at which God has never looked with favour, and on which since its creation His mercy has not descended (in comparison to the other worlds) except for a droplet of it, we encounter so much of the abundance of God's mercy, bounty and care, which has enveloped everything, apparent and the invisible, that the world is a vast table of the bounties and gifts of the Almighty, so widespread that were all the world's intellects attempt to encompass even a fragment of it, they would be unable to do so. If this is so, then what would be a world which is the house of the hospitality of the generous Lord and the abode of the expansive mercy and compassion of the All-merciful and the Compassionate? Of course, .Satan would be justified in his aspiring for His pity and his hoping from God's generosity. Hence, make perfect your good opinion of Him and rely upon His grace, as He has declared:

Verily, God shall forgive all the sins. (39:53)

and immerse all in the ocean of His mercy and beneficence. It is impossible that God should break His promise, although it is possible that He may withdraw His threats(menaces), and how often He does that! So gladden your heart with the hope of His mercy, for had it not enveloped you, you would not be a creature; every creature is the recipient of His mercy, for He has said:

...My mercy embraces all things. (7:156)

The Difference Between Hope and Delusion:

However, my dear, you should be careful of distinguishing between hope and delusion, for it may be that you be a deluded man, but imagine yourself to be a man of hope. Yet it is easy to distinguish between them on the basis of their grounds. You should reflect over the state of yours that makes you regard it as hope, to see whether that state of yours has come into being as a result of your belittling of Divine commands or as a result of conviction in the all-embracing character of Divine mercy and the greatness of the Holy Essence. Should that prove to be difficult, the distinction can be made on the basis of their effects. Should the greatness of God be imprinted on the believer's heart and should it be content in the expansive mercy and bounty of His Holy Essence, he would be committed to His obedience and service, for esteem for someone great and gratitude and willingness to serve one's benefactor are inviolable features of human nature. Hence, should you be committed to the duties of slavehood and unsparing in your efforts to obey and worship; should you not rely on your works and consider them insignificant; should your hope rest on God's mercy, grace and bounty; should you consider yourself entitled to every kind of blame, disfavour, reproof and wrath on account of your deeds; and should your sole reliance be the mercy and generosity of the Absolutely Magnanimous - should you be such, then you are indeed in possession of the state of hope. Then, thank God Almighty for that, and implore His Holy Essence to establish it firmly in your heart and to elevate you to a higher degree of it. But if, God forbid, should you be one who belittles and takes lightly the commands of God, one who considers unimportant and insignificant the Words of the Holiest Essence, then rest assured that it is delusion that has appeared in your heart as a result of the guiles of Satan and your carnal self. Had you any faith in God's greatness and His expansive mercy, its effects would have been obvious in you. A claimant whose acts are contrary to his claims is one who falsifies himself, and there are many traditions to this effect.

In al-Kafi, al-Kulayni, with his chain of narrators, reports from al-'Imam al Sadiq (A) on the authority of an unnamed narrator who narrated it to Ibn Abi Najran, that he said to the Imam (A): "There are some people who commit sins and say we are hopeful. They remain in this condition until death comes to them." The Imam said: "They are a people who have been swept away by false hopes. They lie, they are not the hopeful; for verily, one who has hope of something pursues it, and one who fears something flees from it." [5]

Close to this in meaning is another tradition of the noble al-Kafi:

(Al-Kulayni), with his chain of narrators reports from al-Husayn ibn Abi Sarah that he said: "I heard Abu 'Abd Allah (A) say: `A believer is not but fearful and hopeful, and he is not (truly) fearful and hopeful unless he responds in action in regard to that which he fears and hopes.' " [6]

Some have said that the person who is hopeful without doing anything is like the one who awaits the result without preparing its needed means, like the farmer(peasant) who awaits a ready harvest without sowing the seeds, without tilling and watering his land(landscape) and without removing the hindrances in the way of a sufficient produce. Such a man cannot be said to have hope. What characterizes him is stupidity and folly. The similitude of the person who does not reform his morals and acts without refraining from sins, is the farmer who sows his seeds in barren, saline soil: of course, such farming(farmstead) does not yield any produce.

Therefore, the genuine kind of hope is that man should first prepare all the means that are available to him and have been provided to him by the grace of God Almighty, Who has also guided him regarding the paths of right and corrupt conduct and commanded him to make ready those means, and only then he should wait and hope that God, with His favour, will provide the remaining means over which he has no power, and remove the hindrances and perils from his path. Hence, when the devotee has cleared the field of his heart of the thorns of moral vices and of the stones, rocks and salinity of sins, sowing therein the seeds of good works and watering it with the clear waters of lucrative knowledge and sincere faith and guarded his field against the pests of pride (`ujb) and ostentation (riya'), which like weeds hinder the wholesome growth of the harvest, then he may sit and wait for God's grace, hoping that the Almighty may keep him firm(taut) and on the straight path until the last moment of his life. This is the desired and genuine kind of hope, as declared by God Almighty:

But the believers, and those who migrate and struggle in the way of God -those have hope of God's compassion; and God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate. (2:213)

The noble tradition at its end mentions that neither fear(nervousness) nor hope should exceed one another, and the same thing is stated in the mursal hadith of Ibn Abi `Umayr from al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A). When man observes his extreme shortcoming in fulfilling the demands of servitude and creaturehood and when he contemplates the narrowness of the path of the Hereafter, a high degree of fear seizes him. And when he observes his own sins and reflects over the condition of those persons who were righteous at the start but fell into wretchedness and departed from the world in a state of unbelief and without good works, ultimately meeting an evil goal, his fear is intensified. And in a noble tradition of al-Kafi, al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) is reported to have said:

...The believer stands between two dreadful things: the past sins, regarding which he does not know what God will do (with him), and the remainder of his life, regarding which he does not know what mortal sins he will commit therein. So he does not wake up except in a state of dread, and nothing keeps him righteous except fear. [7]

The same thing is stated in the sermon of the Noble Messenger (S) reported in a hadith of al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) in al-Kafi. [8] The gist of the matter is that the self is in a state of utter imperfection and shortcoming, and God at the height of greatness, glory, all-embracing mercifulness and grace, and the devotee is always in a median state of fear and hope between these two views. And since the Divine attributes of glory and perfection cast their light simultaneously on the wayfarer's heart, none of the two, fear or hope, exceeds the other.

Some have said that sometimes fear is more beneficial for man -as in the state of health and robustness - in order that he may endeavour in attaining perfection and performing good works, and that hope is better in some conditions - as when the signs of approaching death appear - so that man may meet God in a state which He loves more. But this opinion does not agree with the above discussion and the traditions mentioned, for the genuine and lovable hope also induces one to good works and hereafterly conduct. Fear of God is also always desirable and is not contrary to confirmed hope in Him.

And some have said that fear is not a moral or intellectual merit in the Hereafter, and that its benefit is limited to the world, which is the abode of works and; deeds, for inducing obedience and service and for restraining men from sin. It is of no use after this world is left behind. On the other hand, hope rill never end and shall endure(withstand) in the Hereafter, for the more of God's beneficence man receives, the more does he aspire to 'His grace and bounty, because the stores of God's mercy axe inexhaustible. Hence, fear comes to an end, while hope continues.

The Opinion of Al-Majlisi:

The great muhaddith al-'Allamah al-Majlisi, upon whom be God's mercy, says: "The truth is that as long as the devotee is in the abode of duty (i.e. this world), he is bound to have both fear and hope. However, after his witnessing of the matters of the Hereafter, one of them, of necessity(urgency) , must surpass the other."

This writer says: That which has been said regarding the dominance of fear or hope in the Hereafter does not agree with the above discussion about the meaning of hope and fear. Even if supposedly true, it would apply only to those of middle stations, for the state of the elect and the awliya' is different from that; for their witnessing of the Divine majesty and glory and the irradiations (tajilliyat) of the Names of love and beauty, which are attained in the heart, are not effaced by the witnessing of the matters of the Hereafter; as a result their fear and hope do not surpass each other. Rather, the effects of Divine majesty and glory and the irradiations of His beauty and love are greater in the world of the Hereafter, and the awe resulting from God's majesty is one of the spiritual pleasures, which on reflection will not be found to be contrary to the noble verse:

Surely God's friends - no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow. (10:62)

And that which has been said regarding fear, that it is not a spiritual merit -- it is not true of the awe in front of God's greatness and glory, for it is an excellence and is more intense in those of perfect and complete character (kamilun, mukammalun) than others. And praise belongs to Allah, for His majesty and His beauty, and may His benedictions be upon Muhammad and his Family.

[1]. Al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, ed. 'Ali Akbar al-Ghifari, 4th edition, Dar Mus'ab Dar al-Ta'aruf, Beirut, 1401 H., II, 67, hadith 1.

[2]. Safinat al-Bihar, II, 180.

[3]. Ibid., p. 181.

[4]. Al-Kafi, II, 71, hadith 1.

[5]. Ibid., II, 68, hadith 5.

[6]. Ibid., II, 71, hadith 11, from al-Hasan ibn Sarah.

[7]. Ibid., hadith 12.

[8]. Ibid., hadith 2.

  ...Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni - may God be pleased with him - from `Ali ibn Ibrahim, from his father, from Ibn Mahbub, from Abu 'Abd Allah (A) that he (A) said: "Verily, it is mentioned in the Book of 'Ali that of all mankind the prophets undergo the severest of trials, and after them the awsiya', and after them the elect to the extent of their nobility. Indeed, the believer undergoes trial in proportion to his good deeds. So one whose faith is sound and whose deeds are good, his trials are also more severe. That is indeed because God Almighty did not make this world a place for rewarding the believer and punishing the unbeliever. And one whose faith is feeble(flimsy) and whose (good) deeds are few faces fewer tribulations. Verily, tribulations hasten towards the believer with greater speed than rainwater towards the earth's depths. 


Some have said by nas (people, mankind) in this noble tradition and its like are meant perfect human beings (kamilun) such as the prophets and the awsiya', and that in reality it is they who are the nas, whereas other people are lil-nas (for the people), as mentioned in some traditions. However, that interpretation does not apply here and it seems proper that mankind and people in general should have been meant in this place. This is evident from the other traditions of this chapter of al-Kafi, and if it has been said in some traditions that by nas are meant the kamilun, it does not mean that the word has this meaning in every place that it occurs. Also, bala' means trial, test and examination, and it applies to the good as well as the bad among people, and the lexicographers have stated this expressly. Al-Jawhari in al-Sihahsays in this regard: And God Almighty' says: ( ... And that He may try the believers with a fair trial) (8:17) All that with which God, to Whom belongs Glory and Majesty, tries His servants is bala' and ibtila', whether it is one of the diseases and ailments, or adversities like poverty, humiliation and loss of worldly fortunes, or a thing of an opposite kind such as acquisition of power and glory, wealth, riches, high status, honour, and the like. However, whenever bala', baliyyah oribtila' and the like are mentioned, it is the former kind of things that are meant.

Amthal means `nobler and better: Hence, the phrase means that one who is better and nobler after the prophets and the awsiya' has to face a severer kind of bala' than the others, and those who are better and nobler than others after them have to face a severer degree of trial. The degree of the severity of bala' is in accordance with the decree of merit. This kind of expression (i.e., like ) does not exist in Persian.

`Sukhf' means `feebleness of the rational faculty' or `foolishness', as mentioned by al-Sihah, and other lexicographical works. Qarar means `resting place,' as mentioned in the dictionaries: The apology means that in the same way as the earth is the resting place where rainwater comes to rest and abide, the believer is the resting place of sufferings and tribulations, which rush toward him, come to rest in him, and do not depart from him. God willing, we will mention that which is needed for the exposition of this noble tradition in the course of a few sections.

The Meaning of Trial:

Let it be known to you that the human souls exist at a level of potentiality from the beginning of their origin, their attachment to the bodies, and their descent to the realm of corporeal existence (mulk), in respect of all things, including knowledge, good and evil traits, and all kinds of perceptive and behavioural faculties. Gradually they move from potentiality to actuality with the grace of God, the Almighty and the Sublime. At first, weak impressions related to particulars (as opposed to universals) emerge in the soul, such as impressions of touch and other outward senses, moving from the lower to the higher. Following that, the inward perceptions also arise in it. However, all its faculties exist only at a level of potentiality, and they do not grow without proper stimulation. For instance, if the base kind of faculties come to dominate it, it becomes disposed to ugliness and evil, for its inner powers, such as shahwah (lust), ghadab(anger), etc., impel it towards sin, licentiousness, aggression and tyranny. After following them for some time it grows into a strange monster and a highly grotesque devil.

However, since the grace and mercy of God Almighty have been accompanying the Children of Adam since eternity, He bestowed upon them two educators and teachers which are like two wings with which they can fly from the depths of ignorance, defectiveness, ugliness and wretchedness to the heights of knowledge, perfection; beauty and felicity, and deliver themselves from the narrow valley of nature to reach the expansive and open horizons of the realms of the spirit(malakut). The first of these is the faculty of intellect and discernment, which is the inner teacher; and the second, the outward teacher, is represented by the prophets and the divine guides who shove(jostle) the path of felicity as distinct from the ways of wretchedness. None of these two can singly achieve this end without the other. For the human intellect by itself can neither identify the paths of felicity and wretchedness nor find the way to the hidden world and the realm of Hereafterly existence. Similarly, the guidance of the prophets cannot be effective without the exercise of the discerning faculties of the intellect.

Thus God, the Beneficent and the Sublime, gave them these two educators so that through them all the potentialities and hidden faculties and capacities, latent in the human soul, should be realized and actualized. God Almighty blessed them with these two great bounties in order to try and test human beings, for it is through these bounties that individual human beings are separated into the felicitous and the wretched, the obedient and the rebellious, the perfect and the defective. And so the Great Wali of God said:


And by Him Who sent him (the Prophet (S)) with the Truth, you shall indeed be mixed and intermingled and then separated in the sieve (of Divine trial and tribulation)? [2]

In the noble al-Kafi, in the chapter relating to Divine test and trial (bab al-tamhis wa al-'imtihan), Ibn Abi Ya'fur reports al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) as having said:

It is inevitable that mankind should be purified, separated and sieved so that a great number is excluded by the sieve.[3]

Also al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from Mansur the following tradition:

Al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) said: "O Mansur! Indeed this affair (i.e. the appearance of al-Mahdi (A)) will not come to you except after despair and not, by God, until you have been separated, and not, by God, until you have been purified, and not, by God, until the wretched attain wretchedness and the felicitous attain felicity." [4]

In another tradition, Abu al-Hasan (A) is reported to have said:

You shall be purified in the way gold is purified. [5]

In al-Kafi, bab al-'ibtila' wa al-'ikhtibar, the following tradition is reported with isnad from al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A):

He said: "There is no qabd (extension) and bast (contraction) except that in it there is for God a purpose, a decree, and a trial. [6]

In another tradition he is (A) reported to have said:

Indeed there is no qabd and bast in that which God has commanded or forbidden except that there is in it from God a trial and a decree? [7]

Qabd means imsak (withholding), man` (obstruction, prevention) and akhdh (seizure). Bast is nashr (unfolding, spreading, resurrection) and 'ata' (gift, bestowal). Hence every gift, expansion and obstruction, and every command, prohibition and duty is for the sake of trial.

Thus we came to know that the sending of prophets and the revelation of heavenly scriptures is all for the sake of the separation of humanity, of the separation of the wretched from the happy and the felicitous, of the obedient from the sinful. And the meaning of Divine testing and examination is this very separation of men from one another, not theknowledge of their separateness, because the knowledge of God Almighty is pre-eternal; it encompasses all things prior to their creation. The hukama' have elaborately discussed the reality of trial and ibtila' and it is beyond the scope of this exposition to mention their opinions.

In any case, the result of this trial and examination is the separation of the felicitous from the wretched. In the course of it the proof (hujjah) of God is established against the creatures. Thereafter, their life, felicity and salvation, or their destruction and damnation occurs after the establishment of the proof and testimony (bayyinah), and there remains no room for objection for anyone. One who attains felicity and eternal life does so through Divine succour and guidance, for God has bestowed all the means of attaining them. Also, one who earns wretchedness and falls(drops) into destruction, following Satan and his carnal self, his wretchedness and damnation are also earned by him out of his own free will, because he does so despite the availability of all the means of guidance and felicity. The conclusive proof of God is established against him and there is no room for any pretext. Hence the Qur'an says:

For it (the soul) is what it has earned and against it is what it has merited. (2:286)

The Prophets and Divine Trial:

It was mentioned earlier that every act of the human being, or rather every event that occurs in the realm of the body and is related to the soul's perceptions, leaves a kind of impression in the self. This is true of both good and evil deeds (whose impression upon the soul is mentioned in traditions as the appearance of a `white dot' or a `black dot' respectively) as well as of pleasures and pains. For instance, every experience of pleasure, derived either from food, drink, sex or something else, leaves an impression upon the soul and creates or increases the love and attachment for that kind of, pleasure in the soul. The more that one plunges into such pleasures and lusts, the greater becomes the self's love and attachment for this world and its reliance upon it. Thus the self is nourished with the love of the world and trained in accordance with it. The greater the sensual pleasures that it derives, the stronger become the roots of this love; and the more the available means of comfort and luxury, the sturdier becomes the tree of attachment to the world. And the. more the soul's attention is directed towards the world, the greater is proportionately its negligence toward God and the world of the Hereafter. Thus when this reliance upon the world becomes complete, the soul assumes a worldly and materialistic form, and the absence of attention towards God Almighty and the 'realm of His munificence and bounty also becomes total and complete. It is about such a soul that, the Qur'an says:

...He inclined towards the earth and followed his lust. (7:176)

The inevitable result of this inner immersion in the sea of pleasure and lust is the love of the world, and the love of the world creates antipathy towards that which is unlike it; attention towards the corporeal realm (mulk) brings negligence towards the spiritual world (malakut).

On the contrary, if one has a bad and painful experience of something, the impression of that experience(advendure) creates an antipathy in the soul. The stronger that impression is, the greater is that inward antipathy. For instance, if after moving to a city one has to face there numerous torments and ailments and undergo outer and inner adversities, he will inevitably abhor that place. The greater the number of adversities that he faces therein, the more will be his abhorrence for that place. If he knows a better place, he will migrate to it, and if he is unable to make the journey, his heart will migrate and go out to the city of his liking.

Thus if a man faces adversities, pain and torments in this world and is overtaken therein by waves of calamities(failures) and tribulations, he will inevitably come to resent it. His attachment to it will diminish and he will come to distrust it. If he believed in another world, a vast world free of every kind of pain and grief, he will inevitably want to migrate to it, and if he were unable to make the journey physically, he will send his heart out to it.

Moreover, it is evident that all the spiritual, moral and behavioural evils arise from the love of the world and negligence of God Almighty and the Hereafter. The love of the world is the source of all sins, in the same way as the love of God, the aspiration for the eternal abode of His bounty, the renunciation of the world and absence of reliance upon and trust in its adornments are the source of all spiritual cures and moral and behavioural reform.

After these preliminaries we come to know that whenever God Almighty has a greater consideration and love for someone, and when someone is the object of the mercy of His Sacred Essence to a greater extent, He restrains him from this world and its charms with the waves of calamity and tribulation, so that his soul turns away in disgust from the world and its adornments and turns his face and his heart, to the extent of his faith, toward the world of the Hereafter. If there weren't any other reason except this one for endurance of severe calamities it would have been sufficient, and a noble tradition also points towards this matter.

Al-'Imam al-Baqir (A) said "Verily, God Almighty treats the believer with tribulations in the same way as a man treats his family with gifts after an absence (upon a journey), and He restrains him from the world in the same way as the physician prescribes restraints for the sick man." [8]

The same thing is said in another hadith, and one should not imagine that God's love and the great care of His Sacred Essence for some people is - God be our refuge - extravagant and pointless. Rather, with every step that a faithful servant of God takes towards Him, God's grace turns towards him and the Almighty moves closer to him. The similitude of the degrees of faith and the availability of the means of Divine succour is that of a man moving with a lamp in darkness; with every step that he takes forward(onward), some more of the path in front of him is illuminated, which allows him to take another step forward. With every step that a man takes forward on the path of the Hereafter, that path appears clearer to him and God's grace upon him increases, preparing the means of attention towards the world of Divine proximity and of antipathy towards the world of separation and distance.

The pre-eternal grace of God Almighty upon the prophets and the awliya' is on account of His pre-eternal knowledge of their obedience during their terms of duty. For instance, if you have two children about whom you have prior knowledge in their childhood that one of them will bring you satisfaction while the other will grow up to cause you displeasure and resentment, your love for the obedient child would be greater from the very beginning.

God's Remembrance:

Another point relating to the severity of the tribulations of the elect among God's servants is that they are made to remember God on account of these adversities and tribulations and to pray and lament in front of His Sacred Essence. This makes them accustomed to remember Him and keep their thoughts busy with Him. It is natural for human beings to seek and learn upon what they think is a source of support in times of 'adversity. In times of   reassurance and welfare they forget and neglect it. And since the elect know no source of support other than God, their attention turns towards Him, they putting their sole reliance in His sacred station, and God Almighty, also, with the love that He has for them, prepares the means of that undivided attention and reliance. However, this, as well as the foregoing point, is not true of the prophets and the perfect awliya', for their station is too high in sanctity and their heart too firm in faith for them to develop attachment for worldly things on account of such things (as comfort and welfare) or for them to waver(hesitate) in their sole reliance upon God. This may be so because the prophets and the perfect awliya' have, through their inward light and spiritual experience, ascertained that God Almighty has no regard for this world and its adornments and that everything therein is base and lowly in the eyes of His Sacred Essence, and for this reason they have preferred poverty to wealth, tribulation to reassurance and ease, and adversity to that which is unlike it. Several noble traditions also support this view.

It is mentioned in the hadith that Gabriel brought the key of the earth's treasures to the Seal of the Prophets (S) and said to him (S) that should he (S) accept it, nothing would diminish from his (S) Hereafterly stations. But the Prophet (S) did not accept it for the sake of humility before God Almighty and chose poverty.

In the noble al-Kafi, al-Kulayni, with a chain of transmitters reaching up to al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A), reports the Imam (A) as having said:

Indeed God has so little regard for the unbeliever that should he ask of Him the world and that which is in it, He would give that to him . [9]

And this is due to the worthlessness of the world in the eyes of the Almighty. It is mentioned in the hadith that from the time that the Almighty created the corporeal world, He did not look at it with favour.

Another point related to the severity of the believer's tribulations that has been mentioned in traditions is that there are certain stations for the believers which they cannot attain without undergoing suffering, pain and affliction. It is possible that these afflictions are the corporeal forms of the degrees of renunciation of the world and devotion to God, and it is also possible that these sufferings have celestial forms (suwar-e malakuti) which cannot be realized without their occurrence in the corporeal world and afflictions therein. Al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A), in a noble tradition of al-Kafi with a continuous(uninterrupted) chain of transmission going up to him, states:

Verily, the servant has certain stations near God that cannot be realized without one of these two attributes: either the loss of his wealth or affliction in his body. [10]

In a tradition relating to the martyrdom of the Doyen of the Martyrs (al-'Imam al-Husayn) (A) it is mentioned that he (A) saw the Prophet (S) in a dream. The Prophet (S) said to that mazlum, "There is a station for you in the Paradise which you cannot attain except through martyrdom." The celestial form of martyrdom cannot be attained without its occurrence in the corporeal realm, as has been demonstrated in the higher sciences. It is mentioned in mutawatirtraditions that for every action there is a corresponding form in the other world, and al Imam al-Sadiq (A) is reported to have said in al-Kafi that:

The greatness of man's reward goes with the greatness of suffering, and God did not love a people but that He subjected them to suffering. [11]

There are many traditions containing this theme.

 The great muhaddith al-Majlisi, upon whom be God's mercy, says:

These traditions relating to the tribulations of the prophets, which have been narrated both through Sunni and Shi'i chains of transmission (turuq), clearly indicate that the prophets and the awliya' differ from others in respect of ailments and bodily afflictions. Rather, they have a greater right than others to suffer on account of their great reward which is responsible for the loftiness of their stations. And this suffering is not only not contrary to their station, it even causes the confirmation of their affair. Should they not undergo afflictions, despite the manifestation of miracles and extraordinary(remarkable) things at their hands, people might say such things about them as the Christians did about their prophet. This explanation is also mentioned in traditions.

The subtle researcher and the great, sacred philosopher al Tusi, may God fill his grave with aroma, states in al-Tajrid: "Of the things that the prophets should be free from is that which is regarded as abhorrent." And the `Allamah of the `ulama' of Islam (al-`Allamah al-Hilli), may God be pleased with him, adds in Sharh al-Tajrid that the prophets should be free from such abhorrent diseases as absence of urinary control, leprosy and leukoderma, for their abhorrent character is contrary to the aim of prophecy.

This writer says: The station of prophethood is subject to spiritual levels and excellences and has no relation to corporeality. Hence physical diseases and defects do no harm to the spiritual station of the prophets and affliction with abhorrent diseases diminishes nothing from the sublimity and greatness of their station, although they may not contribute in a way of confirmation to their (already established) excellences and degrees of sublimity. But that which these two researchers have said is also not devoid of validity. This is because the common people cannot make a distinction between the two stations (of spirituality and corporeality) and imagine that physical defectiveness is related or caused by spiritual defectiveness. Hence they consider some defects as being contrary to the high and great station of the prophets. Hence Divine grace dictates that the prophets who are messengers and bringers of Divine shari'ah should not be afflicted with such diseases as are considered disgusting and abominable by the people. Therefore, the absence of this kind of affliction is not because it is harmful to the station of prophethood, but for the sake of maximizing the effectiveness of the prophetic mission of communicating the Divine teachings (tabligh). Hence there is nothing wrong if some prophets without a shari'ah, great awliya' and the faithful are afflicted with this kind of afflictions, as in the case of Hadrat Ayyub (Job) and Habib al-Najjar. There are many traditions concerning the affliction of Hadrat Ayyub (A), of which are the following two:

'Ali ibn Ibrahim in a long tradition narrates on the authority of Abu Basir that al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) said: "...Then his whole body, excepting his, intellect and his eyes, was subjected to the disease. Then Iblis blew upon it and it became a single wound extending from his head to feet. He (Job) remained for a period in that condition, praising and thanking God, until it became infested with worms. Whenever a worm fell off from his body, he would put it back, saying to it, "Return to your place, from where God created you." And it began to stench until his townsfolk expelled him from his town and his food came from the garbage thrown outside the town."

In al-Kafi, al-Kulayni reports from Abu Basir that he asked al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) about the verse, "When thou recitest the Qur'an, seek refuge in God. from the accursed Satan, he has no authority over those who believe and trust in their Lord; (his authority is over those who take him for their guardian and ascribe associates to God) (16:98-100)" The Imam said, "O Abu Muhammad, by God, He gives authority to him (Satan) over the believer's body but not over his faith (din). He gave him (Satan) authority over Ayyub and Satan disfigured him physically, but He did not give authority to him over his faith. And He does give him authority over the faithful's bodies but not over their faith."

Najiyah says, "I said to Abu Ja'far (A) that al-Mughirah says that a believer is never afflicted with leprosy, leukoderma and such other ailments (is that true?) The Imam replied, `Didn't he know that the Sahib Ya Sin (Habib al-Najjar, the man mentioned in Surat Ya Sin) was mutilated (mukanna')?' He (A) closed his fingers and said, `It is as if I see him go to his people in his mutilated state (takannu') to warn them and come back the next day, when they killed him.' Then he added, `Verily, the believer suffers all kinds of afflictions and dies in all manners of dying except suicide.' " [12]

`Sahib Ya Sin is Habib al-Najjar and takannu` (the word is with nun in most of the manuscripts), according to al-Majlisi, means shortening and mutilation. He adds that it was probably leprosy which had resulted in the shortening of his fingers. However, this, as well as many other ahadith, indicate that the believers and prophets are sometimes afflicted with abominable diseases on account of some higher expediency, although there are some other traditions which negate the disfigurement of Hadrat Ayyub's body and its petrifaction, and not much benefit lies in discussing them further with a view to affecting a reconciliation. On the whole, these kind of diseases do no harm to the condition of believers and do not diminish anything from the station of the prophets (A) rather, they lead to the elevation of their station, and God Almighty knows best the truth.

The World is Not a Place of Reward or Punishment:

Let it be known to you that this world, due to its defective, feeble and weak nature, is neither the abode of the reward of God Almighty nor the place of His chastisement and punishment. This is so because the abode of Divine munificence is a realm whose bounties are pure, unadulterated with torment, and its comforts are not mixed with pain and grief. Such bounties are not possible in this world, which is an abode where contradictories throng together and each of whose bounties is mixed(mixture) with numerous kinds of pains, hardships and torments. Rather, as the philosophers have said, pleasure in this world lies in avoiding pain. It may be said that even its pleasures cause pain and every one of its pleasures is followed by pain and hardship. Rather, the very material of this world lacks the capacity to accept absolute goodness and unadulterated bounty. In the same way, its pains and hardships, torments and punishments are also mixed; each of its pains and hardships carries within itself some goodness and bounty, and none of its afflictions and adversities is unmixed. The very material of this world lacks the capacity to accept pure, absolute punishment, whereas the abode of Divine chastisement is a place where punishment is pure and absolute; its pains and afflictions are not like those of this world, which while they afflict one member of the body are absent from the other members. While the healthy members are in reassurance and ease, the afflicted member suffers pain and agony. The noble tradition partly refers to what we have stated here when it says:

That is, the reason that the believer is afflicted in this world with tribulation is that God Almighty has made it neither the place of His reward for the believer nor the place of chastisement for the infidel. This world is the abode of duty and the farm of the Hereafter. It is a place of trade and earning whereas the Hearafter is the abode of reward and punishment, of bounty and damnation.

Those who expect that God Almighty would immediately get hold of one who commits some sin or indecency in this world or perpetrates some injustice or aggression against someone, and cut his hand off and expunge him from the realm of existence, are unaware that their expectation is contrary to this world's order and opposed to God's wont and sunnah. Here is the place of trial and the zone of the separation of the wretched from the felicitous and the sinful from the obedient. Here is the realm of the manifestation of deeds, not the abode of the emergence of the results of personal deeds and qualities. If occasionally God Almighty does take hold of an oppressor, it may be said that it is due to the Almighty's mercy for that oppressor (for it stops him from sinning further). For, when God Almighty leaves the sinful and the tyrants to themselves, His wrath takes the form of istidraj, the gradual seizing.

Hence God Almighty declares.

(And those who cry lies to Our signs), We will draw them on little by little whence they know not; and I respite them - assuredly My guile is firm. (7:182-183)

And He also says:

And let not the unbelievers suppose that the respite We grant them is better for them; We grant them respite only that they may increase in sin; and there awaits them a humiliating chastisement.(3:178)

In Majma` al-bayan, this tradition is cited from al-Imam al-Sadiq (A):

The Imam (A) said: "When a person commits a sin and the bounty (that he had received) is renewed for him, he leaves off asking for forgiveness (istighfar), and this is al-'istidraj (as mentioned in verse 7 :182)."

At the end of the noble tradition, the Imam (A) says:

...And one whose faith is feeble and his intellect is weak, his tribulation is also slight.

This shows that tribulations are both bodily and spiritual, for the persons of weak intellects and feeble sensibility are secure from spiritual tribulations and intellectual suffering in proportion to their intellectual weakness and the feebleness of their sensibility. On the contrary, those with more complete intellects and acuter sensibility have to undergo spiritual tribulations more intensely in proportion to the perfectness and acuteness of their intellect and sensibility. Perhaps it was for this reason that the Holy Messenger (S) said:

No prophet was tormented to the extent that I was.

This complaint of the Prophet (S) refers to this point, for whoever perceives the greatness and glory of the Lord to a greater extent and knows the sacred station of God Almighty more than others, he suffers more and is tormented to a greater extent by the sins of the creatures and their offences against the Lord's sanctity. Also, one who has a greater love and compassion for the creatures of God is tormented to a greater extent by their crooked and wretched condition and ways. And, of course, the Seal of the Prophets (S) was more perfect in all these stations and higher than all of the prophets and the awliya' in respect of his degree of excellence and perfection. Hence his torment and suffering was greater than that of any one of them. There is also another explanation of the Holy Messenger's statement, whose mention is not appropriate for this place.And God knows best and to Him belongs all the praise.

[1]. Al-Kulayni, Usul al-Kafi, vol. II, p.259, hadith No.29.

[2]. Nahj al-balaghah, Khutbah No.16.

[3]. Usul al-Kafi, vol II, p.370, hadith No.2.

[4]. Ibid., hadith No.3.

[5]. Ibid., hadith No.4:

[6]. Ibid., vol. I, p.152.

[7]. Ibid.

[8]. Ibid., vol. II, p.255, hadith No.17.


source : Forty Hadith by Imam Ruhullah al-Musawi al-Khumayni
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