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Tuesday 25th of June 2019
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This world also gives the sense of swarming, crowding and pressing together

...Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni - may God be pleased with him - from a group of his teachers, from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khalid, from his father, from 'Ali ibn al-Nu'man, from 'Abd Allah ibn Muskan, from Abu Basir, who says: "I heard Abu 'Abd Allah (A) say, 'A free human being is free in all circumstances. Should a misfortune befall him he bears it with patience (sabr). If calamities(ruins) strike him, they don't shatter him. If taken captive and subdued; he turns hardship into ease, as was the case of Joseph, the truthful and trustworthy (may God's benedictions be upon him). His freedom saved him from harm, although he was enslaved, subdued, and imprisoned. The darkness of the pit, the dread and whatever befell him did him no harm, until God favoured him and made the insolent tyrant, who had been his master, his slave. Then God made him His apostle and through him was merciful to a people. In this way patience(stamina) is followed by good. So be patient and reconcile yourself to patience in order to be rewarded: " [1]

Exposition:

Naibah' is the singular of nawa'ib, which means `events' and `accidents' and according to al-Sihah means misfortune (musibah). Dakka is synonymous with daqqa, which means `to is conjoined to pound', crush', 'grind', and 'to knock'. Al-Sihah says: . It also remarks, . This world also gives the sense of swarming, crowding and pressing together (ijtima' andizdiham), as mentioned in al-Nihayah. In a hadith, Amir al-Muminin - may peace be upon him - is reported to have said:means . According to al-Nihayah, dakka also means casara (to break). In the present noble tradition, the former meaning is more appropriate in view of the phrase following it, although the second meaning also fits here. The preposition insignifies wusliyyah and is conjoined to it. Al Majlisi - may God's mercy be upon him - states that it is in some manuscripts, and is accordingly conjoined to , thus making it the result of sabr. The phrase is the passive participle and is the active subject of the verbal sentence. In Mir'at al Uqul it is , and appears as in Wasa'il al-Shi'ah. It seems that it is a calligraphers error in the manuscript of the Mir'at , although its meaning is not totally invalid. However, that which is in Wasa'il is more in agreement with the totality and content of the noble tradition. is conjoined to , implying that Joseph was not harmed by that which he suffered at his brothers hands, nor by grief and adversity. As to the phrase, , it appears that it involves the ellipsis of (until) and relates to in two possible yet conflicting ways. Al-Majlisi - may God be merciful to him - has mentioned several possible meanings of it whose description is not devoid of prolixity. The meaning of the master of Joseph (A) becoming his slave is that he became subservient and obedient to him (A).

Desire, the Source of All Bondage:

Let it be known to you that in a man subjugated to the domination of lust and carnal desire, his servitude, servility and indignity increase in proportion to the intensity of their domination; for servitude means complete submission and obedience. The man obedient to lusts and subjugated to the carnal self is their obedient slave. He submissively obeys whatever they command and is a humble and obedient servant and slave in front of them. This obedience reaches a limit when he prefers obedience to them to obedience to the Creator of the heavens and the earth. He prefers their service to the service of the real King of kind. In that state, honour, dignity and freedom depart from his heart on which then settle the dusts of indignity, destitution and servitude. He becomes humble before worldly people and his heart bows down in prostration before them and before the possessors of worldly power and glory. In order to achieve the objects of his carnal desires and to satisfy the craving of his belly and underneath, he submits to all kinds of disgrace and indignities. As long as he remains in the bondage of lust and the carnal self, he does not abstain from violating the demands of honour, freedom and chivalry. He readily submits to the obedience of anyone, and is willing to accept favour from any insignificant person, as soon as he sees the probability of attaining his objective through his means, even if that person is the meanest and basest of all creation and even if the probability involved is something imaginary. And it is said that mere fancy is the proof of the greedy.

The servants of lust and mundane ambition have put on the shackles of slavery to carnal desire. They are ready to be slaves of anyone whom they know or imagine to be of worldly benefit to them. If verbally they declare themselves to be chaste and honourable, such lip service to honour is mere deception, for their words and deeds contradict such a declaration. This servility and captivity(imprisonment) is a thing which always causes man to undergo suffering, pain, dishonour and distress. Hence a man with a sense of honour and dignity should seriously strive to cleanse himself of this abomination by all means and deliver himself from this bondage. Such purification and emancipation can only be attained through a fundamental treatment, which takes place through curative knowledge and action.

As to curative action, it consists of religious exercises and opposition to the carnal self. Over a period of time these free the soul from excessive love of the world and the pursuit of carnal lust and desire, until it becomes accustomed to virtues and moral excellences. As to curative knowledge, it lies in making oneself understand and causing this to enter into his heart that other creatures are as weak, needy, dependent and impoverished as himself. He should tell his heart, "Since all other creatures are, like me, dependent, in matters big and small, on Him Who is absolutely Able and Powerful, they are not capable of fulfilling anyone's needs. They are too insignificant to deserve the soul's attention or the heart's humbleness. The same Powerful Being that has bestowed honour, dignity and riches upon them is capable of bestowing these on anybody. In fact, it is a matter of shame that man should submit so much to dishonour and indignity for the sake of his belly and his lusts as to accept the favour of an insignificant, impoverished, powerless and lowly creature devoid of wisdom and vision. If at all you should seek anyone's favour, then seek the favour of the Absolutely Self-Sufficient, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, for if you pay attention to His sacred Essence and make your heart humble in His presence, that will liberate you from both the worlds and emancipate you from the servitude of creatures, as it has been said: [3]

That is, the inner, invaluable essence of servitude to God is freedom and lordship. Thus servitude to God, attention to the unique focus of all being, and subjugation of all powers and dominations to the Sovereignty of God create such a state in the devotee's heart that he comes to wield power and kingdom over all the worlds. His spirit rises to such heights of sublimity that he does not pay obeisance to anyone except the Sacred Divine Essence, and even if, accidentally, he should be under the domination and power of anyone, that does not shake(vibrate) his heart, which preserves its independence and freedom, as in the case of Joseph (A) and Luqman (A) whose apparent subservience and servitude did not harm their free and freedom-seeking character. And there may be many a powerful despot and king, who having no trace of inner freedom, dignity and honour in their character, are base servants and obedient slaves of lust and carnal desire and who obsequiously ingratiate themselves to creatures.

Al-'Imam `Ali ibn al-Husayn (A) is reported to have said in the course of a discourse:

I am ashamed to ask anything of worldly things from their Creator, so how can I seek them from creatures like myself?[4]

My dear, if you are not ashamed of seeking the world, at least don't ask for it of weak creatures like yourself. Do understand that creatures have no power to do anyone any worldly good. I admit that you might have succeeded in attracting someone's attention through a thousand indignity and cajolery, but his will has no effect in the kingdom of God and no one has any role in the dominion of the King of kings. Hence do not degrade yourself so much by flattering insignificant creatures for the sake of a passing world and for passing and paltry desires. Don't forget your Lord and preserve your freedom. Remove the shackles of servitude and captivity(custody) and never forget Him under any circumstance, for, as stated in the noble tradition:

The freeman is free in all circumstances.

Let it be known to you that contentment comes from the heart and the absence of neediness is a spiritual state, unrelated to external matters that lie outside the human self. I have myself seen certain persons amongst rich and wealthy classes who say thins which no honourable poor man would say and whose statements are shameful. The hearts of those wretches were covered by the dusts of dishonour and destitution. The Jews, who, in proportion to their number, are the richest and wealthiest of all people on the earth, have faces that manifest debasement, poverty, indigence, beggarliness, hunger and wretchedness. They spend all their lives in hardship, indignity, destitution and squalor. This is nothing but their inner poverty and spiritual abasement.

I have seen amongst pious and darvish-like persons some individuals whose hearts are so magnanimously free of want and need that they look at the entire world with indifference and consider none except the Sacred Essence of God Almighty as deserving of making a request. You too study carefully the conditions of worldly and ambitious people and you will find that their lack of self-respect and their degradation in flattering others is greater than that of others and their obsequiousness in front of people is greater. Those (pseudo mystic masters) who are in pursuit of disciples and claim to guide others, suffer indignities and put up with degrading flattery and ingratiation for some day's satisfaction of their carnal lusts. The heart of the seeker of disciples and adherents is humbler in front of the disciple than that of the latter in front of him. This is because of the difference in the character of their respect for one another. While the disciple's humbleness and affection is of a spiritual and godly character, the master's affection has a mundane and satanic character:

These that have been mentioned are the worldly forms of these evils and indignities. But were the curtains to rise, the real spiritual forms of these servitudes, bondages and chains of carnal lusts and desires will reveal themselves. Perhaps the seventy-cubit chain, of which God Almighty has informed us, a chain with which we shall be shackled and bound in that world, is the Hereafterly form of this very servitude and subjugation to the domination of Passion and Anger. And God Almighty declares:

And they shall find all they wrought present .... (18:49)

And He also says:

(God charges no soul save to its capacity;) standing to its account is what it has earned, and against its account what it has merited.(2:286)

That is, that which we obtain in the other world is a form of our own deeds.

Therefore, break away the lengthy chains of lust and desire. Remove the locks that bar the heart's entrance and set yourself free from bondage. Live like a free human being in this world so that you may be free in the other world; otherwise, you will encounter there the intolerable Hereafterly form of this bondage. The hearts of the saints of God, despite their absolute and total freedom from bondage, were so much dreadful of the final outcome and so much full of lamentations that it amazes all minds. I am aware that the matters mentioned in these pages are of a common and repetitive(monotonous) character. However, there is nothing wrong(amiss) in such repetition, for constant reminding of the self and repetition of the truth is a desirable thing. This is why repetition has been considered desirable in prayers, supplications, worship and rituals. The main purpose is to accustom the self by means of repetitive(dull) exercises.

My dear, don't be deluded; understand that as long as man remains in the bondage of the carnal self and its desires and as long as the lengthy chains of Passion and Anger are around his neck, he cannot attain to any of the spiritual stations; the inward authority of the soul and the domination of its higher will shall not manifest itself. Also, the station of spiritual independence and dignity, which is one of the highest of spiritual stations, shall not be realized. Rather, this bondage and slavery restrains man from revolting against the authority of the carnal self. And when the authority of the carnal self and Satan becomes consolidated in the inward realm and all the faculties of the self become their obedient slaves, becoming submissive(meek) and humble in front of them, they do not remain gorged with mere sins. Little by little, they draw man from minor to major sins and from there to weakening of beliefs, from there to darkening of the intellect, from there to the constricted path of denial and contestation (of the truth), and from there to the hostility and enmity of the prophets and the awliya'. Throughout these stages, the self, which is their slave and under their domination, cannot disobey them. At last this obedience and captivity becomes so severe that it may take man to the most dangerous point.

Hence, the intelligent man with sympathy for himself must try by all means to liberate himself from this slavery, and as long as there is opportunity and his powers are intact and his life, health and youth are there and his faculties have not been totally subjugated (by Satan and the carnal self), he must rise to undertake this task. For some time he must exercise vigilance over himself, study his own inner states, reflect about the conditions of those who have passed away and faced an evil fate(destiny), and make his heart understand the passing character of worldly life. He must awaken his heart and inform it of the truth narrated from the Holy Prophet (S) who said:

The world is the farm of the Hereafter. [5]

That is, if we do not sow the seeds of righteous deeds in the few days of our life here, the opportunity will be lost for ever. When we reach the threshold of the other world and death seizes us, deeds come to an end., hopes are extinguished. If, God forbid, we continue to remain in the slavery of lusts and the captivity( of various carnal desires until the Angel of Death arrives, it is possible that Satan may achieve his ultimate objective of wresting away our faith. He may treat us in such a fashion and metamorphose our hearts to such an extent that we may depart from the world as enemies of God and His prophets and awliya'. If that happens, God knows what calamities, what darkness and what terrors await us.

So, O base self! O negligent heart! Awake from thy sleep and arise to confront this enemy who for years has subdued you and made a captive of you, who drags you whenever he wants and commands you to perform every ugly and destructive deed! Arise and bust these bonds! Sever these chains! Seek thy freedom and throw away(get rid off) this disgrace and indignity. Wear the girdle of servitude to God, the Almighty and the Glorious, that you may be free from every kind of servitude and slavery, that you may attain to the absolute kingdom of God in both the worlds.

My dear, although this world - being the believer's prison - is not the abode of Divine award and the place of the manifestation of God's kingdom, but should you come out(loom) from the captivity(detention) of the carnal self and submit to the servitude of God, make your heart a true monotheist and clear the dusts of plurality from the mirror of the spirit, and turn your heart's attention to the focal point of Absolute Perfection, you will witness its effects in this world itself and your heart will attain such an expanse that it will become the realm of the manifestation of God's total sovereignty, thus becoming greater than all the worlds. Hence He has said:

My earth and My heaven do not contain Me, but I am contained in the heart of my faithful slave. [6]

Such richness and contentment will then pervade your heart that all the outward and inward realms will become worthless in your eyes and your will, will become so mighty that it shall not attach itself to the corporeal and the celestial realms; rather it will not even consider them worthy of itself.

You have watched the bird's flight;

But should you remove the shackles of lust,

You will witness the flight of man.

  

Sabr, the Outcome of Freedom from Lust:

One of the great results and precious fruits of this freedom and emancipation from servitude to the carnal self is patience in calamities and misfortunes. Now it remains for us to explain briefly the meaning of sabr, the kinds of its fruits and its relation to freedom.

As defined by the researcher of the righteous sect, the explorer of the subtleties of the confirmed creed, the perfect in knowledge and deed, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi - may God sanctify his holy spirit(phantom) - sabr means restraining the self from agitation when confronted with undesirables. And the famous, confirmed `arif (Khwajah `Abd Allah al-'Ansari), says in Manazil al-sa'irin:

Sabr means restraining the self from complaint about hidden anguish.

And let it be known to you that sabr has been considered as one of the stations of those in the middle group(mutawassitun), for as long as the self regards misfortunes and calamities as detestable and feels inward anguish on their account, its marifah is deficient. Thus the station of rida in regard to Divine destiny(kismet) and satisfaction at the turning up of misfortunes represents a higher station, although we consider this also to be one of the stations pertaining to the mutawassitun. So also sabr in regard to abstinence from sins and in regard to fulfilment of duties (ta'at) is also related to deficient knowledge of the secrets of ibadat and the Hereafterly forms of sin and obedience. For if one were to understand the reality of ibadah and to believe in the purgatorial forms of worships and sins, sabr in regard to these has no meaning for him. Rather, the contrary becomes true here, and if a joy or comfort causes him to neglect worship or commit a sin, they (such joys and comforts) become detestable for him and his inward anguish becomes greater than that of those who bear misfortunes and calamities patiently.

The righteous servant and the knower of the duties of servitude, the possessor of noble stations and miraculous characteristics, 'Ali ibn 'Tawus - may God sanctify his spirit - is narrated to celebrate the first day of his becomingmukallaf. He gave feasts and festivated in commemoration of that day, for God, the Blessed and the Supreme, had blessed him with the permission to perform duties on that day. Can anyone say that that sublime spirit exercised sabr in regard to worship and duties considering them as inwardly unwelcome? What a difference between us and those obedient servants of God! We think that God Almighty has burdened us with duties; we consider them troublesome and view them as a botheration. If one of us attempts to offer his prayer at the outset of its time, he says that it is better to be done with it and the sooner one relieves oneself the better! All our misfortunes are due to ignorance and foolishness and on account of the lack or absence of faith.

In any case, sabr is concealed anguish. And that which has been said about the great prophets and the Righteous Imams - who have been characterized with sabr - that could mean forbearance in regard to physical sufferings, which are painful as a matter of human nature; or it could mean sabr in regard to separation from the Beloved, which is one of the great stations of the lovers --and to this we shall return later. Otherwise, sabr in regard to obedience or misfortune or sin is not only inapplicable in regard to them but also in regard to their followers (shi'ah).

The famous `arif `Abd al-Razzaq al-Kashani, in Sharh Manazil al sa'irin, says:

The intent of the Shaykh, when he says that sabr means abstinence from complaint, is complaining to creatures. Otherwise, complaining to God Almighty and beseeching Him for relief is not opposed to sabr. Hadrat Ayyub complained to God and said:

Behold, Satan has visited me with weariness and chastisement. (38:41)

And God yet praises him, saying:

Surely We found him. a steadfast man. How excellent a servant he was! He was penitent. (38:44)

And Hadrat Ya'qub (Jacob) said:

I make complaint of my anguish and my sorrow unto God, (12:86)

although he was one of the forebearing. Rather, to quit complaining to God is a manifestation of the hardening (of the heart) and a sign of grudgefulness.

The accounts of the lives of the great prophets and the Infallible Imams - upon all of whom be God's benedictions- reveal that although their stations were over and above the stations of sabr, rida and taslim (surrender), they never stopped supplicating lamenting and confessing their impotence before the Worshipped One. They expressed their needs to God Almighty and this is not contrary to their spiritual stations. Rather, remembering God, cherishing the intimacy of solitude with the Beloved, and expression of servitude and humility in front of His absolute perfection and greatness is the ultimate end of the hopes of the mystics (`arifun) and the final destination of the journey of the wayfarers (salikun).

The Results of Sabr:

You should know that sabr produces many results, among which is the soul's training and discipline. If a human being bears patiently with misfortunes and calamities for some time, if he seriously endures the hardships entailed by worship and rites and the bitterness arising from the renunciation of carnal pleasures, and if he does all this for the sake of obedience to his Lord and Provider, his soul gradually becomes accustomed to these things. Then it becomes disciplined(tamed) and docile and relinquishes its earlier recalcitrance. To bear with hardships and difficulties becomes an easy thing for it. There develops within it an enduring luminous faculty through which he can rise over the station ofsabr to reach other higher spiritual stations. Sabr in regard to sins is the source of the self's taqwa. Sabr in regard to obedience (ta'at) is the source of intimacy with God. And sabr in misfortunes is the source of rids or contentment with Divine destiny(kismet) and decrees. These are the stations of the faithful (ahl al- iman) or rather those of the gnostics (ahl al-`irfan). In the noble traditions of the Infallible Ahl al-Bayt we find forceful emphasis on sabr. The following is a tradition of al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) from the noble al-Kafi, in which the Imam says:

Verily, sabr is to faith what the head is to the body. The body perishes without the head, and so also when sabr goes faith also disappears? [7]

In another tradition whose isnad reaches al-'Imam al-Sajjad (A), he is reported to have stated:

Verily, sabr is to faith what the head is to the body: one who has no sabr has no faith .[8]

There are many traditions relating to this topic and we will mention some of them later in relevance with the context.

Sabr is the key to the gates of felicity and the main means of deliverance from mortal perils. Sabr makes man bear calamities with ease and face difficulties with composure. It strengthens the will and the power of resolution. It brings independence to the dominion of the soul. Anguish and worry(anxiety) on the other hand, aside from their shameful character, are symptoms of the soul's weakness. They deprive one's being of its stability, weaken the determination, and enfeeble the intellect. The informed researcher Khwajah Naqir al-Din al-Tusi - may God sanctify his soul - states:

Sabr restrains the inner being from anguish, the tongue from complaint and the bodily members from untoward movements.

On the contrary, the inward being of the impatient person is full of anxiety and alarm. His heart is full of tremors and shaky, and this. is itself the greatest calamity that can befall a human being and deprive him of peace. But sabrdiminishes misfortune and makes the heart overcome hardship and assists the will to overpower calamities. In the same way, the impatient person complains of his troubles to everyone, and this, aside from causing disrepute among people who look down upon him as a weakling of instable character, makes him lose his standing in the court of the Holy Lord and in front of His angels. What faith in God and what surrender to the Holy Lord has the servant who cannot bear an adversity that visits him from his Beloved, the Absolute, after having received thousands upon thousands of His bounties and while being immersed in the sea of His favour, and opens his mouth in front of people to complain as soon as an adversity strikes him? So it is right if it is said that one who has no sabr has no faith.

If you have faith in your Lord and believe all the affairs to lie in His mighty hands, if you believe none else to have any say in the matters, of course you will not complain of the hardships of life and the adversities that strike you before God Almighty. Rather you will accept them willingly and thank Him gratefully for His bounties. Hence that inner agitation, those plaintive utterances, those unbecoming bodily movements - all these bear testimony to our lack of faith. As long as we find ourselves amid favours, we are thankful, with a gratefulness that is formal and lacking inner substance, a thankfulness that is offered in greed of further favours. However, when a tragedy occurs or a pain or disease strikes us, we take our complaints against the Blessed and the Almighty Lord in front of the creatures. With a plaintive tongue and a tone brimming with taunts and cynicism, we complain about Him to all and sundry. Gradually those complaints, anxieties and misgivings sow the seeds of hostility towards God and His decrees inside the self. Slowly they sprout and grow, making the once passing feeling into an enduring trait. Thereupon, God forbid, the form of one's inward being assumes the form of enmity towards God and His ordainments. When that happens, things go out of one's control and one is no longer able to check his thoughts and feelings. His inward and outward being becomes coloured with the hostility towards God Almighty, and he departs from this world to face eternal wretchedness and gloom, with a spirit infused with the enmity and hatred of the Lord of Bounties. I seek refuge in God from the evil of a disastrous end and from a provisional faith (iman mustawda`). Hence it has been truly said that when sabr goes faith also departs.

And so, my dear, the matter is of great importance and the road is full of perils. Muster all the strength at your command and be patient and forbearing throughout the ups and downs of life. With manly courage stand against adversities and calamities. Make your self understand that agitation and anguish, aside from involving a great shame by themselves, are futile in confrontation with sufferings and calamities. No purpose is served by complaining about the irresistible decrees and inevitable ordainments of God in front of weak and powerless creatures, as pointed out by the following noble tradition from al-Kafi:

Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni reports with his chain of transmitters from Sama'ah ibn Mihran from al-'Imam al-Kazim (A) that the Imam said to him, "What stopped you from going for hajj?" Sama'ah says that he replied, "May I be your ransom, a big debt has fallen upon me and I have lost my property. However, the debt that lies upon me weighed more heavily upon me than the loss of property. Had it not been for one of our companions, I could not have come out(loomed) of it." The Imam said, "If you are patient, you will be the object of envy, and if you don't God will enforce His decrees regardless of your pleasure or displeasure." [9]

Thus we know that anxiety(worry) and anguish are not only futile, they are capable of inflicting terrible(awful) injuries and are followed by fatal consequences destructive to faith. On the other hand, sabr, forbearance and restraint bring fair, plentiful rewards and have sublime and beautiful forms in the world of Barzakh. This is stated at the end of the noble tradition expounded by us:

Thus the ultimate result of qabr is good in this world - as known from the example of Hadrat Yusuf (A) - and it is the cause of reward in the Hereafter. In another noble tradition of al-Kafi, whose sanad goes up to Abu Hamzah al-Thumali - may God's mercy be upon him -al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) is reported to have said:Abu Hamzah says: "Abu `Abd Allah said: `Whoever of the believers that bears patiently with a tribulation that befalls him, has the reward of a thousand martyrs.' " [10]

There are many traditions relating to this subject and we will mention some of them in the following section. However, as to that which was said above that sabr has a beautiful purgatorial form, this is mentioned - apart from the demonstrative proofs confirming it - in the following tradition of the noble al-Kafi from al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A):

The Imam (A) said: "When the believer enters his grave, salat is on his right hand, zakat on his left, virtue faces him, with sabr taking him under its shelter. When the two angels encharged with questioning enter upon him, sabr says tosalat, zakat and virtue, `Take care of your companion, and if you fail to assist him I will take care of him myself.' " [11]

The Degrees and Levels of Sabr:

Let it be known to you that, as indicated by the noble traditions, there are various degrees and levels of sabr, and its reward and merit vary in accordance with its degree and level. This is revealed by the following tradition of the noble al-Kafi narrated by the Master of the God-fearing, Amir al-Mu'minin 'Ali (A) from the Holy Prophet (S):

'Ali (A) said, "The Messenger of Allah said, 'Sabr Is of three kinds: sabr at the time of affliction, sabr in regard to obedience, and sabr In regard to disobedience. One who bears patiently with affliction, resisting it with a fair consolation, God writes for him three hundred degrees (of sublimity), the elevation of one degree over another being like the distance between earth and heavens. And one who is patient in regard to obedience, God writes for him six hundred degrees (of sublimity), the elevation of one degree over another being like the distance between the earth's depths and the Throne (al-'arsh). And one who is patient in regard to disobedience, God writes for him nine hundred degrees (of sublimity), the elevation of one degree over another being like the distance between the earth's depths and the furthest frontiers of the Throne: " [12]

This noble tradition reveals that sabr in regard to disobedience is superior to the other levels of sabr, for it not only possesses greater number of degrees but also the range between its degrees is greater than those of the other kinds. It also shows that the extent of Paradise is much greater than what can come into our imagination, for our vision is limited and cramped. That which has been said as a description of Paradise that:

...And a Garden the breadth whereof is as the breadth of heaven and earth .... (57:21)

perhaps refers to the Paradise of deeds. That which has been referred to here in this noble tradition is the Paradise of character and the criterion in the Paradise of character is the strength and perfection of will. Hence its extent should not be cramped within any limits. Some have stated that that which has been meant here is height. That is, it is possibly equal in breadth (to the Paradise of deeds) and different in height. But this appears to be remote, for evidently `breadth' here refers to extent not to breadth as opposed to length, for `breadth' in reference to heaven and earth also has no meaning when taken in the ordinary sense of something opposed to length, although they do have `breadth' in the sense of a `second dimension' in the terminology of natural philosophers. The Book of God, however, does not speak in accordance with any specific terminology.

The noble al-Kafi records the following tradition of the Prophet (S) with a chain of narration reaching al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A):

The Imam (A) said: "The Messenger of Allah (S) said, `A time will come upon the people wherein political authority will not be attainable without bloodshed and tyranny, nor wealth without usurpation and stinginess, nor affection without discarding religion and pursuing lust and desire. Whoever lives in such times and bears patiently with poverty despite possessing the capacity to become rich (illegitimately), and bears up with hostility despite being capable of acquiring favour and affection, and bears with humiliation despite possessing the capacity to honour, God will give him the reward of fifty truthful ones, of those who confirmed me.' " [13]

Something close to this has been said in another tradition from Amir al Mu'minin (A) and there are many traditions relating to this theme. The few which have been quoted here are sufficient for our purpose.

The `Urafa's Degrees of Sabr:

Let it be known to you that that which has been said hitherto relates to the condition of ordinary people and themutawassitun. We stated at the beginning of this exposition that sabr has been considered as something pertaining to the stations of the mutawassitun. But Sabr hays other levels which belong to the wayfarers of the path of perfection and the awliya'. One of such levels of sabr is sabr fi Allah (Sabr in God), and it means steadfastness (thabat) in spiritual endeavour (mujahadah) and abstinence from objects of love and attraction. Rather it means the renunciation of selfhood in the path of the Beloved. This stage belongs to the wayfarers (ahl al-suluk). Another level is that of sabr ma`a Allah (sabr with God). It belongs to those blessed with the Presence and the Beatific vision, which comes at the time of exit from the garment of manhood, and freedom from the curtains of deeds and attributes, and irradiation upon the heart of the lights of the Names and Attributes, and entry into the state of intimacy and awe and safeguarding of the self against changing from colour to colour and absence from the station of intimacy and vision.

Another level is that of sabr `an Allah (sabr from God) which pertains to the stations of lovers of God and piners for Him, of those blessed with epiphany (ahl al-shuhud wa al-`ayan) at the time of returning to their own world, the world of plurality and sobriety (after intoxication with God). This is the hardest and the most difficult of the stations, and to it has referred the Master of the Wayfarers, the Commander of the Faithful, and the Leader of the Perfect (i.e. 'Ali ibn Abi Talib (A) in the noble Du`a' Kumayl:

O my God, my Master and my Lord! Even if I were able to endure Thy chastisement, how shall I bear Thy separation?!

The following is narrated about al-Shibli:

It is narrated that a youth from among the Lovers questioned al-Shibli about sabr. "Which kind of sabr is the hardest?" He asked. "The sabr for God," replied al-Shibli. "No," said the youth. "The sabr by God," answered al-Shibli. "No," said the youth. "The sabr over God," said al-Shibli. "No," said the youth again. "The sabr in God," said al-Shibli. "No," came the answer. "The sabr with God?" said al Shibii, and the youth said "No," again. "Woe to you, which one is it?" said al-Shibli, exasperated. "The sabr from God," came the answer. Al-Shibli gave a cry and swooned. [14]

Another level is that of sabr bi Allah, which is for those blessed with stability and steadfastness, which is attained after the state of sobriety and endurance with God (baqa' bi Allah) and after moulding oneself in accordance with Divine norms(takhalluq bi akhlaq Allah). It is something attained by none except the perfect, and since we have nothing to partake of those stations, to elaborate further about these matters is not appropriate for these pages.

And Praise is God's at the beginning and the end, and may God's benedictions be upon Muhammad and, his immaculate Progeny.

[1]. Al-Kulayni, Usul al-Kafi, ii, Kitab al- iman wa al-kufr, bab al-sabr, 128. hadith No. 6.

[2]. Ibn al-'Athir, al-Nihayah, ii, 128.

[3]. Misbah al-Shariah, bab 100.

[4]. Ilal al-shari'ah, i, 165; Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, x, 29.

[5]. Ihya' al-ulum, iv, 14.

[6]. Ghwali al-lia'ili, iv, 7.

[7]. Usul al-Kafi, ii, bab al-sabr, 128, hadith No. 2.

[8]. Ibid., hadith No. 3.

[9]. Ibid., hadith No. 10.

[10]. Ibid.. hadith No. 17.

[11]. Ibid., hadith No. 8.

[12]. Ibid., hadith No. 15.

[13]. Ibid., hadith No. 12.

[14]. Sharh Manazil al-sa'irin, bab al-sabr, 88. No.28.

 

You should know that shukr for the inward and outward bounties of God Almighty is one of the obligatory duties of servanthood and creaturehood, which everyone must attempt to fulfil to the extent of his capacity, although no creature can adequately fulfil its obligation of thanking God Almighty. The ultimate limit of thankfulness is the knowledge of the incapacity to satisfy it fully, in the same way as the ultimate limit of servanthood is the realization of the incapacity of fulfilling its demands - and hence the Noble Messenger, may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny, confessed to his incapacity, although none of the existents has attempted to discharge the duties of servanthood and gratitude to the extent of that holy master -because the perfection or inadequacy of gratitude is subject to the gnosis of the Munim and the knowledge of His bounties. (Since this gnosis and knowledge are never complete), no one can satisfy the rights of gratitude.

The servant becomes fully thankful (shakur) when he knows the relation of creation to the Creator, and has gnosis of the entire spread of Divine beneficence, from its beginning to end, of the interrelations of the bounties with each other as well as of the beginning and end of the stream of existence in its true reality. And this gnosis is not attainable for anyone except the elect of the awliya', the noblest and best of whom is the sacred essence of the Seal of Prophethood, may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny. All others are devoid of some or rather most of those stations. Rather, as long as the reality of Divine efficacy does not make an imprint on the devotee's heart and as long as he does not attain conviction that

There is no efficient agency in the realm of existence except Allah,

the darkness and obfuscations of shirk and doubt (shakk) remain in his heart and he cannot thank God as he should. One whose gaze(stare) is fixed(stagnant) on causes and means and one who considers the efficacy of existents to be independent, does not relate the bounties to the Lord of bounty, and here lie the roots of ingratitude to God Almighty. Such a one has carved out idols, each of which he considers to be efficient. At times he relates actions to his own efficacy and even considers himself as having control over events and affairs. At times he considers the natural aspects of the world of existence as being efficient, and at times he relates the bounties to their apparent dispensers while considering God to be bereft of any efficacy, believing God's hands to be fettered, whereas:

Fettered are their hands, and they are cursed for what they have said (5:64).

God's dispensing hands are free and the entire realm of being in reality belongs to Him and no other has any role in it. Rather, the entire universe is the manifestation of His power and bounteousness and His beneficence envelopes everything. All bounties are from Him and no one has any bounty of his own that he may be its provider. Rather, the realm of existence owes its being to Him, and others have no (independent) being so that anything may be attributed to be them. However, the eyes are blind, the ears are deaf and the hearts have curtains drawn upon them.

I want a vision that may pierce the (curtain of) causes.

How long shall these dead hearts of ours remain ungrateful toward God's bounties, and relate them to the world, its circumstances and persons? These attachments and attentions amount to ingratitude towards the bounteousness of the Sacred Essence and to Its concealing grace. This shows that fulfillment of the demands of gratitude is not everyone's job, and that Sacred Divine Essence. the Glorious and the Exalted, has declared: That is, there are few servantswho have adequate gnosis of God's bounties or know them as they deserve to be known. And, therefore, there are few servants who stand up to fulfil the duties of gratitude.

The Different Levels of Shukr:

And it should be known that even as the levels of knowledge of the servants of God are different, so also are their levels of thankfulness. The levels of gratitude are also different because shukr is the praise of the Provider for His bounties. Thus the outward kinds of bounties require one kind of gratitude and the inward bounties a gratitude of another kind. If the bounty is of the category of knowledge and gnosis, its shukr is of one kind, and if it is of the category of the irradiation of Divine Names it is of another kind, and if of the category of the irradiation of the Divine Essence, it is of yet another kind. And since all the categories and levels of bounties are enjoyed only by a few of His servants, the effort to fulfil the duties of gratitude at all levels is only possible for a few. Those being the sincere(khullas) awliya', who, in their being, encompass the entire range and levels of being (jami' jami'-e hadarat), being the limit of all limits (barzakh-e barazikh), and encompasses all the exoteric and esoteric levels. Accordingly, their thanksgiving (shukr) is accomplished through all the apparent, inward, and the inmost tongues.

Although shukr has been said to be one of the stations pertaining to the common people because of its proximity to the claim to the requital of the Provider - and this is considered to be irreverence - however, such a proximity exists only for ethers than the awliya', especially the perfect (kummal) among them, who encompass the full range of being and possess the station of unity and plurality. Therefore, the adept gnostic Khwajah `Abd Allah Ansari, who, although he states that shukr is one of the stations of the common people, adds:

That is, the third degree of shukr lies there where the servant does not see anything except the beauty of the Mun'im,being immersed in His beauty. That consists of three stations. First, he observes Him as the humble slave contemplates his master. In this state, unaware of himself in His presence, he is fully immersed in reverence, not setting any worth upon himself. When in this state of humility, if he is bestowed any bounty, he values it greatly, considering himself as insignificant and unworthy of it. Second, his observation is that of a lover observing his beloved. In this state he is immersed in the beauty of the Beloved and whatever he receives from Him, cherishing it, though it be affliction and hardship. Third, he observes Him without the limitations of the Names, or rather has the epiphany of the Essence itself. In this state he forgets himself and others and sees nothing but the Divine Essence, and is conscious neither of any bounty nor adversity.

This shows that the first stage in all the stations of the wayfarers is the one tread by the common people, and the ultimate stages in all the stations pertain exclusively to the sincere (khullas) or rather to the perfect (kummal) (of theawliya').

The Station of Shukr in Hadith:

We shall complete this section with the mention of some traditions relating to shukr.

In al-Kafi, al-Kulayni narrates with his isnad from Abu 'Abd Allah (A) that he said: "'The Messenger of Allah, may Allah's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny, said: 'One who takes food with gratitude has a reward like the one who fasts exercising vigilance over himself. The healthy person grateful for his health has a reward like the one who bears his (bodily) afflictions patiently. And one who gives thankfully has a reward similar to the one who bears his deprivation with continence.' [18]

Al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from 'Ubayd Allah ibn al-Walid that he said: "I heard Abu 'Abd Allah (A) say: 'There are three things in whose presence nothing can harm one: prayer in affliction, seeking God's forgiveness for one's sins, and thanksgiving for God's favours.' " [l9]

Al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from Abu Basir that Abu 'Abd Allah (A) said: "Verily one of you drinks water and God assigns paradise to him on that account." Then he (A) added: "Verily, one who takes the vessel (containing water), brings it to his mouth, then takes God's Name, then drinks from it, then draws it away while desiring it, then praises God, then drinks from it again, then takes it away while he desires it, praises God, then drinks from it again, then sets it aside and praises God, God, Almighty and Glorious, makes the paradise obligatory for him." [20]

Praise of God is the purveyer of gratitude, and, as has been stated in many traditions, one who says "Al-hamdu lillah' (All praise is God's) has offered his thanks to God. Al-Kulayni, in the noble al-Kafi, narrates this tradition through his isnad from `Umar ibn Yazid:

'Umar ibn Yazid says: "I heard Abu 'Abd Allih (A) say: The (adequate mode of) thanksgiving for all favours, however great they may be, is that you praise God, the Almighty and the Glorious, on their account.' " [21]

Al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from Abu 'Abd Allih (A) that he said: "Gratitude for God's gifts lies in abstaining from what He has made unlawful. One's thanksgiving is complete when one says: 'Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.' " [22]

Al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from Hammad ibn 'Uthman that he said: "Al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A)once came out of the mosque to find his mount missing. Thereupon the Imam (A) said: 'Should God return it to me, I will thank Him as He deserves to be thanked.' It was not long before the animal was brought to him. Thereat, the Imam (A) said: 'Al-hamdu lillah.' Someone said to him: 'May I be made your ransom, didn't you say that you will thank God as He deserves to be thanked? Al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) said to him: 'Didn't you hear me say 'Al-hamdu lillah?' " [23]

This tradition shows that the praise of God is the best of the ways of oral thanksgiving. Among the effects of thanksgiving is increase in ni'mah, as mentioned unambiguously in the Noble Scripture:

if you are thankful, surely I will increase you .... (19:7)

And the noble al-Kafi has recorded this mustanad tradition of al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) in this regard:

Al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) said: "One who has been given thankfulness has been also given increase (in ni'mah) Allah,Almighty and Glorious, says: 'If you are thankful, surely I will increase you." [24]

Conclusion

You should know that `A'ishah had imagined that the motive behind worship was confined to the fear(desperation) of punishment or the effacement of sins. She had imagined that the worship of the Noble Prophet, upon whom and whose progeny be God's peace and benedictions, was like the worship of other people. Therefore she had wondered as to why the Prophet (S) took so much pains. This thought was as much due to her ignorance of the station of worship and servanthood as due to the ignorance of the station of prophethood and messengerhood. She did not know that the worship of slaves and hirelings was foreign to the sacred station of that master. The majesty of the Lord and gratitude for His unlimited bounties had made  comfort and ease foreign to his holy being. Rather, the worship of the sincereawliya' is the stage of the boundless irradiations of the Beloved, as pointed out in the prayer of the heavenly ascent. The holy awliya', upon whom be peace, while being absorbed in the beauty and glory of the Beloved and effaced in His attributes and Essence, are never negligent of any of the stages of servanthood. Their bodily movements are subject to their spiritual stirrings, suffused with love, which are subject to the quality of the manifestation of the Beloved's beauty. However, to satisfy someone like `A'ishah it is not possible to give any but a perfunctory explanation. Hence, the Prophet (S) cramped himself to mentioning one of the lower stations so as to make her understand that the worship of that master was not aimed at such base purposes. And all praise is God's.

* * *

'Ali ibn Ibrahim, in his tafsir, reports with his isnad from Abu Ja'far (A) and Abu 'Abd Allah (A) that they said: "The Messenger of Allah (S) used to pray while standing on his toes, until his feet became swollen. Thereupon Allah, Blessed and Exalted, sent down the verse: 'Taha...' (20:1-2) It meant: "O Muhammad! We have not sent down the Qur'an upon thee to put thee to hardship." [25]

Al-Saduq in Ma'ani al-'akhbar reports with his isnad from Sufyan al-Thawri from al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) that he said in the course of a long tradition: "As to Taha, it is one of the names of the Prophet, upon whom and whose progeny be God's peace and benedictions, and it means: 'O seeker of the Truth (talib al-Haqq) and the Guide towards it (al-hadi ilayh).' "[26]

And it has been narrated from Ibn `Abbas and others that Taha means `O Man'. It has been narrated from some Sunni scholars (`ammah) that Ta refers to the purity (taharah) of the Holy Prophet's heart and Ha refers to its receiving guidance (hidayah) towards God. And it has been said that Ta means the delight (tarab) felt by the inhabitants of paradise and Ha signifies the disgrace and degradation (hawan) felt by the inmates of hell. Al-Tabrisi, upon whom be God's mercy, says: "It has been narrated from al-Hasan that he would read (Ta ha) as Tah ) with fathah on the ta and sukun on the ha. Should this reading of his be correct, then it must originally have been ta, with the hamzah having changed to ha. Then the meaning of the verse becomes:

Take the earth under both of thy feet. " [27]

There is a severe disagreement about the significance of the isolated letters (al-huruf al-muqatta`ah) at the beginning of the Qur'anic surahs. That which seems more likely is that they are of the kind of secrets exchanged between lovers, of whose significance others do not partake. The conjectures advanced by some exegetes in this regard are mostly(mainly)  without any source. The tradition narrated by Sufyan al-Thawri also indicates their being secret symbols, and it is not very improbable that they relate to matters which lie beyond human comprehension. Through them God Almighty has addressed His elect, and there is nothing that is mutashabih (in the Qur'an) but that they know its interpretation. [28] Shaqa' and shaqawah (whose derivative tashqa occurs in 20:1) are antonyms of sa`adah (felicity) and mean hardship and trouble(nuisance). This is what al-Jawhari states:

Al-Tabrisi narrates this tradition in his al-'Ihtijaj:

Al-'Imam Muse ibn Ja'far (A) narrates from his ancestors (A) that Amir al Mu'minin (A) said: "For ten years the Messenger of Allah, may Allah's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny, stood on his toes (in his prayers) until his feet became swollen and his face turned yellowish. He would stand all the night until he was reproached in this regard. God Almighty said to him: 'Taha, We have not sent down the Qur'an upon you to cause you hardship'. That is, We have sent it down upon you that you may be felicitous and happy thereby.' "

And it has been narrated from al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) that the Prophet (S) would heave(lurch) one of his blessed feet during worship in order to make it harder upon himself. 'Thereat God Almighty sent down this noble verse. Some exegetes have opined that this noble verse is intended as an answer to the polytheists who said that the Prophet had fallen into hardship by abandoning their faith.

The perfect `arif Shahabadi, may his shadow endure, used to say:

After some time that that blessed being (i.e. the Prophet) invited the people to his creed and it did not prove to be as effective as he wished, that master thought that perhaps there was something lacking in his call. Thereafter he devoted himself to austerities for a period of ten years, until his blessed feet became swollen. Then the noble verse came down: Don't subject yourself to hardship. You are pure, and a true guide. The defect is not in you but in the people, and that:

Thou guidest not whom thou likest, (but God guides whom He wills) .... (28:56)

In any case that which we infer from the noble verse is that the Prophet (S) used to devote himself to austerities and hardships, and this is what we understand on the whole from the sayings of the exegetes, although they differ regarding the exact character of those austerities. This should be an example and a lesson for the Ummah, especially for the learned who wish to call people to God. That blessed being, with his purity of heart and perfectness would subject himself to such austerities and pains until he was asked to relax by the noble verse sent down by the Sacred Divine Essence. And we, with all the gigantic burden of our sins and offences, are never mindful of our hereafter, resurrection and return, as if we have been guaranteed(ensured) immunity from punishment and security from hellfire! The reason of it is nothing but that the love of world has stuffed its cotton into our ears and we no longer listen to the words of the Prophets and the awliya'.

[1]. Al-Kafi, ii, "kitab al-'iman wa al-kufr" "bab al-shukr," hadith no.2.

[2]. Bihar al- anwar, xvii, 76.

[3]. Ibid., xxiv, 1-9.

[4]. Ibid., xvi, 402.

[5]. Ibid, xv, 3 ff.

[6]. Al-Saduq, 'Uyun akhbar al-Rida, i, 263.

[7]. Bihar al- anwar, xxvi, 247.

[8]. 'Ilm al-yaqin, i, 381.

[9]. Al-Saduq, Kitab al-tawhid, 150.

[10]. Al-Mufid, al- Amali, majlis no. 28, p. 245.

[11]. Al-Tabrisi, Majma' al-bayan, x, 505.

[12]. Bihar al-'anwar, xvii, 73-76, cf. 'Uyun akhbar al-Rida, i, 202, bab 15.

[13]. Sahih Muslim, "kitabal-dhikr'," 41; al-Shaykh al-Bahai, al-'Arba'in, in the exposition of hadith no. 22, with the words, "hundred times" (mi'at marrah)

[14]. Safinat al-Bihar, ii, 322.

[15]. Tafsir Nur al-thaqalayn, v, 689.

[16]. Al-Raghib al-Isfahani, al-Mufradat fi gharib al-Qur'an, p. 265.

[17]. This is a summary of al-Ghazili's discourse from al-Fayd al-Kashani's al-Mahajjat al-bayda', vii, 144-149.

[18]. Al-Kafi, ii, "kitab al-'iman wa al-kufr," "bab al-shukr," hadith no. l.

[19]. Ibid., hadith no.7.

[20]. Ibid., hadith no. 16.

[21]. Ibid., hadith no. 11.

[22]. Ibid., hadith no. 10.

[23]. Ibid., hadith no. 18.

[24]. Ibid., hadith no. 8.

[25]. Tafsir al-Qummi, ii, 58.

[26]. Ma'ani al-'akhbar, 22.

[27]. Al-Tabrisi, Majma' al-bayan; earlier to this command the Prophet (S) used to pray while standing on one foot.

[28]. This refers to verse 28:

 

With my continuous sanad reaching up to the pillar of Islam and its reliable authority, Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni, from Muhammad ibn Yahya, from Ahmad ibn Muhammad, from some of his teachers, from al-Hasan ibn 'Ali ibn Abi 'Uthman, from Wasil, from 'Abd Allah ibn Sinin, from Abu 'Abd Allah (A) that he said: "A man came to Abu Dharr and said to him, ' O Abu Dharr what is wrong with us that we abhor death?' Abu Dharr replied, 'That is because you have built and cultivated your world and ruined your Hereafter. So you hate(rail)  to be moved from prosperity towards desolation.' He was asked, 'How do you see our entry into God's presence?' Abu Dharr replied, 'As to the good-doer amongst you, he is like someone returning to his family after a (long) absence. As to the evil-doer amongst you, he is like an absconding slave being returned to his master.' He was asked, 'How do you see our situation before God?' Abu Dharr replied, 'Evaluate your deeds in view of the Qur'anic criterion. Verily God says, "Surely the pious shall be in bliss and the profane shall he in a fiery furnace" "'(82:12,13). The Imam(A) added: "Thereat the man said, 'Then where is the mercy of God?' Abu Dharr replied, 'The mercy of God is near to the good-doers.' "

Abu 'Abd Allah (A) continued: "A man wrote to Abu Dharr, may God be pleased with him: 'O Abu Dharr, teach me something new of knowledge.' Abu Dharr wrote to him, 'Knowledge is vast. However, if you can abstain from wronging someone that you love, do so.' The man asked him, 'Have you seen anyone muddled(jumbled) someone that he loves?!' Abu Dharr replied, 'Yes. Your own self is the dearest of all things to you. And when you disobey God you have wronged it.' " [1]

Exposition:

One should know that people differ in their fear and abhorrence of death and the reasons that underlie their abhorrence. That which Hadrat Abu Dharr - may Allah, the Exalted, be pleased with him - has described, relates to the state of the middle ones (mutawassitun) and we will briefly describe here the condition of the deficient (naqisun) as well as that of the perfect (kamilun).

It should be known that the fear and abhorrence of ours, the deficient (naqisun), for death is on account of a cause that was referred to in the course of exposition of some of the foregoing traditions. It lies in this that man, in accordance with his original and God-given nature, loves life and survival and hates death and extinction. This love is related to absolute survival and immortal, everlasting life, a survival free from extinction and a life that knows no end. Some of our honoured predecessors used to prove the necessity of Resurrection on the basis of this human nature, and a description of their arguments here is outside the aims of our present discourse. Now, since this love and that hate lie in human nature, man comes to love that which he reckons to be the enduring realm of life and hates that which he regards as being contrary to it. Since we have no faith in the realm of the Hereafter and our hearts have no conviction in immortal life and eternal survival, we are attached to this world and abhor death in accordance with that nature.

We have mentioned earlier that rational judgement and perception is different from the faith and conviction of the heart. In accordance with our rational apperception, or judgement based on traditional belief (taqlid), we affirm that death - which is a transition from the dark, lowly sphere of corporeal (mulki) existence to the radiant world of immortal life and the everlasting higher sphere of incorporeal (malakuti) existence - is a reality. However, our hearts do not partake of this knowledge and are oblivious of it. Rather, our hearts cling to earthly nature and the corporeal realm and consider life to be exclusively confined to the lower corporeal mode of animal life. They do not believe in the life and immortality of the other world, which is the world of Hereafter and the realm of (pure) life. Hence we put total reliance in this world and regard the other world with fear, repulsion and resentment. All the misfortunes of ours are on account of this lack of faith and conviction. Had we even a tenth of what faith we have in this world's life and living, its existence and survival, in the world of the Hereafter and its eternal, everlasting life, our hearts would have been more attached to it and we would have devoted some effort to building it. But, alas, the springs of our faith are dry and the edifice of our faith rests on water. Inevitably, we fear death, extinction and end. The exclusive and definite remedy for this malady is cultivation of faith in the heart through beneficial reflection and remembrance as well as sound knowledge and works.

However, as to the fear and abhorrence of the mutawassitun -that is, those who have inadequate faith in Hereafter - that is because the attention of their hearts is turned to the cultivation of the world and they are neglectful of cultivating the Hereafter. Therefore, they are not inclined to move from a well-built and prosperous place to one which is a desolation, as pointed out by Hadrat Abu Dharr, may God be pleased with him. This attitude is also on account of inadequate faith and conviction. Otherwise, with a complete faith it is not possible that one should confine his efforts to the base mundane affairs to the neglect of the Hereafter. On the whole, these fears, anxieties and hatreds arise from unwholesomeness of deeds, waywardness and opposition to one's Master (mawla). Otherwise, had our evaluation been a correct one and had we critically examined ourselves we would not have been fearful of God's reckoning. For there, the reckoning is just and the judge(arbitrator) is a just one. Hence our fear of the reckoning is due to our own inequity and our self-deceptive and fraudulent evaluation of our own selves. In the noble al-Kafi the following musnad tradition of Hadrat Musa ibn Ja'far (A) is recorded:

The Imam (A) said: "One who does not examine and evaluate himself every day is not one of us (i.e. he is not a follower of the Prophet and the Ahl al Bayt). (A person who examines himself every day), if he does a good deed, he beseeches God to increase him (in virtues and if he has perpetrated a vice, he seeks God's forgiveness for it and is penitent before Him." [2]

Hence if you have been taking account of yourself, you shall have no fear of the time of reckoning, for the perils and tribulations of that world are subject to the works performed in this. For instance, had you walked in this world on the straight path of prophethood and the straight path of wilayah without deviating or swerving from the! path of the wilayahof `Ali ibn Abi Talib, upon whom be peace, there will be no fear on you when passing over the Sirat. [3] For the reality of the Sirat is the inward form of the wilayah, as it has been mentioned in ahadith that Amir al-Mu'minin (A) is the Sirat. [4]In another tradition, the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt are reported to have stated: "We are the Sirat. " In the blessed al-Ziyarat al jami`ah, it is stated:

You (the Ahl al-Bayt) are the greatest path (sabil) and the firmest way (sirat). [5]

Whoever moves on this path steadily without stumbling, his feet will not stagger(limped) on that Sirat too, and he will pass over it in a moment as short as the stroke of lightning. Similarly, should his morals and habits be equitable and radiant, he will be immune from the darkness and horrors of the grave, of the Barzakh and the Resurrection, and there will be no fear upon him in those realms. Hence, here, we are ourselves responsible for the malady, and its remedy is in our own hands, as pointed out by Hadrat Amir al-Mu'minin in verses ascribed to him:

The remedy lies in you and you perceive not; The malady arises from you and you discern not. [6]

And the noble al-Kafi records the following musnad tradition of al' Imam al-Sadiq (A):

The Imam (A) said to a man: "Verily, you have been made your own doctor. The malady has been described to you, the sign of health ho also been made known to you, and the medicine has been shown to you. Hence look how you attend your own soul." [7]

You are afflicted with corrupt beliefs, morals and behaviour. The signs of health are contained in the prescriptions of the prophets and the illuminations of (primordial) nature and the intellect. The remedy for the soul's sickness lies in taking steps for its removal. This is the condition of the mutawassitun. However, as to the condition of the perfect and those of convinced faith, they have no abhorrence of death, although they may regard it with fear and anxiety on account of their awe of the Majesty of God, the Exalted, and the dignity of that Sacred Essence. And hence the Messenger of Allah (S) used to say;

So where is the terror of him who knows?

And Hadrat Amir al-Mu'minin (A) had a terrific fear and horror on the night of the nineteenth of Ramadan (the night of his assassination), although he used to say:

By God, the son of Abu Talib is more intimate with death than the infant with his mother's breast. [8]

Their fear is on account of other matters and is not like the fear of those like us who are in the chains of desires and hopes and are enamoured to the transitory world. The hearts of the awliya', too, greatly differ from one another. Their difference cannot be encompassed by any description or writing, and we will refer briefly to some of their points of difference. The hearts of the awliya' differ in their capacity to receive the irradiations (tajalliyat) of the Divine Names. The hearts of some of them are characterized with love and yearning and God Almighty is manifested in them through the Names of Beauty (jamal). Such an irradiation brings an awe suffused with yearning, and the fear in their terror is on account of the manifestation of Divine Majesty and its vision. The lover's heart palpitates with fear and anxiety as the time of meeting the beloved approaches, but this anxiety and terror is different from the ordinary kinds of fear.

The hearts of some of them are characterized with trepidation and grief and God Almighty is manifested in them through the Names of Majesty and Glory. Such a tajalli creates an intense yearning suffused with dread and a wonder and an awe suffused with grief. And it is related in hadith that once Hadrat Yahya (John), upon whom be peace, noticed Hadrat 'Isa (Jesus), upon whom be peace, laughing. Angrily, he said to the latter, "It appears as if you are immune of God's chastisement!" Hadrat `Isa retorted, "It appears as if you have despaired of God's mercy and beneficence!" God Almighty revealed to them that, "Whoever of you has a better opinion of Me is the dearer to Me."

Since God manifested Himself in the heart of Hadrat Yahya (A) through the Names of Majesty, he always dwelt in dread and awe and showed his displeasure to Hadrat 'Isa (A), who gave him a reply in accordance with the tajalliyat of Divine Mercy and Compassion. 

The Reality of Heaven and Hell:

The literal meaning of the hadith where it says: (you have built the world and ruined the Hereafter) is that the abodes of the Hereafter and paradise are places already built and flourishing(thriving) that are turned into ruins(wreckage) by our works. But it is obvious that the intent is parallelism of expression. Since the term ta'mir (building) was used in relation to the world, the parallel term takrib (destruction) was used in relation to the Hereafter. Although the realms of hell and paradise are creations (of God), the building agency of paradise and the material of hell is subject to the deeds of their inhabitants. [9] And this interpretation is in accordance with demonstrative proof as well as mystic intuition (kashf).Hence some of the researchers among the mystics have said:

Let it be known to you - may God preserve you and us from error - that hell (Jahannam) is one of God's great creations, and it is God's prison in the Hereafter. It is called 'Jahannam' because of the remoteness of its pit. Hence a well with a deep pit(quarry)  is called bi'r jahnam. It contains heat and bitter cold. Its coldness reaches the extreme degree of cold and its heat the extreme degree of hotness. A distance of seven hundred and fifty years' journey separates its uppermost and lowermost parts. The people disagree as to whether it is a creation or not, and similarly they disagree concerning paradise. However, in our opinion and that of our companions and the mystics, they are and are not creations. When we say that they are creations, it is like saying of a man building a house and who has built only its boundary(hurdle) walls that "he has built a house." However, on entering one sees nothing but an area and space surrounded by a wall. It is only afterwards that its inner quarters shall be built with rooms, compartments, storerooms and water tanks in accordance with the needs of those who shall come to live therein.

And it is mentioned in hadith that when the Messenger of Allah (S) went on his noble ascent (mi'raj), he saw certain angels in paradise who would for some time engage in constructing buildings and for some time stopped their work. The Prophet (S) asked Gabriel (A), "What is the reason behind this?" Gabriel (A) replied, 'The material for this building is made up of the remembrance of the individuals of the Ummah. Whenever they engage in remembrance, the material becomes available for building and the angels too resume their building work. But when they cease in their remembrance, these angels too stop their work."' [10] The physical form of heaven and hell is made up of the forms of the good and evil works and deeds of the Children of Adam, which return to them in that world. This has also been referred to in the noble verses of the Qur'an, as in the following utterance of God Almighty:

And they shall find all they wrought present. (18:49)

And

Indeed, these are your own works that are being returned to you. [11]

It is possible that the worlds of heaven and hell are two independent realms and abodes towards which the Children of Adam journey through substantial motions (harakat-e jawhari) and voluntary spiritual (malakuti) movements derived from their behaviour and character, where they receive their share of the Hereafter in the shape of the forms of their works.

The heaven is the higher malakuti realm, being an independent sphere by itself towards which the felicitous spirits are directed, and the hell is the nether malakuti realm towards which the spirits of the wretched make their journey. But that which each of them encounters in its own sphere are the fair and blessed or painful and dreadful forms of their own deeds. This description reconciles the literal meanings of the Book and the traditions -which are plainly(apparently) contradictory-and is also in agreement with philosophical proofs as well as the teaching of the urafa'.

It is obvious that this saying of Hadrat Abu Dharr, may God be pleased with him, consists of a comprehensive and firm command which every human being must observe with due care. Thereafter Hadrat Abu Dharr says that one should examine his deeds in the light of the Book of God. And God says: Mankind consist of two groups: the pious, who are in bliss, and the wayward, who are in hell. The man (who questioned Abu Dharr) made an attempt to cling to Divine mercy when he said, "If that is so, then where is the mercy of God Almighty?" Abu Dharr replied: God's mercy is not extravagant; it is near to the good-doers.

You should know that the accursed Satan and the vicious self that incites man to evil deceive the human being in many ways and drive him towards eternal damnation. The last arrow in their quiver is to deceive man through hope in Divine mercy and to keep man from (virtuous) action by the means of this deception, for this kind of reliance on Divine mercy is one of Satanic snares and deceits. The evidence of it is that we never put any trust in the mercy of God, the Exalted, in our mundane affairs, and we consider natural and apparent means as being independent and effective, to the extent of believing that there is no efficient agency in the world except the apparent causes. However, in matters relating to the Hereafter we imagine ourselves to be reliant on Divine mercy while we neglect the commands of God and His Messenger, upon whom and whose progeny be God's benedictions, as if God had given us no power to act and had not shown us the paths of (spiritual) health and sickness.

In the matters of the world we follow the creed of tafwid (the belief that God has delegated complete freedom to man), while in relation to the matters of the Hereafter we follow the creed of jabr (fatalism), forgetting that both of them are wrong, void and contrary to the teachings of the prophets, may God's benedictions be upon them, and the abiding path of the Imams of guidance and the awliya' near to God, whose faith was greater than all others and all of whom had convinced faith in Divine mercy. Notwithstanding it, they did not neglect their duties and did not leave off effort and endeavour for a single moment.

Brother! Study the book of their works! Read the supplications of Sayyid al-Sajidin Zayn al-Abidin, may peace be upon him. Look carefully and see how he approaches God in the station of servanthood ('Ubudiyyah). See how he attends to the duties of slavehood. Despite it all, when he studies the book of works of the Master of the Pious, Amir al-Mu'minin, may peace be upon him, he expresses his regret and his incapability! Does it mean that, na'udhu billah, we should question their veracity and say that they did not, like us, possess faith and conviction in Divine mercy? Or should we doubt our own veracity and understand once for all that all that we say are no more than snares of Satan and deceits of the carnal self, which scheme to deviate us from the straight path? We take refuge in God, the Exalted, from their malice!

And so, my dear, knowledge is extensive, as remarked by Hadrat Abu Dharr to that man, but the beneficial piece(slice) of knowledge for the likes of us is to abstain from doing ourselves this extent of wrong. We must understand that the commands of the prophets and the awliya', may peace be upon them, contain certain truths which are concealed from us. They, who know what kind of forms and consequences these corrupt words and evil acts of ours possess and what kind of blessed malakuti forms the noble morals and good deeds have, have described all the maladies and their remedies. You - should you have any love for yourself - should not pass by these prescriptions. Decide to cure your afflictions and diseases. Should we move in this condition of ours from this world to the next, God knows what afflictions, calamities and pains await us! And all praise is God's at the beginning and the end.

[1]. Al-Kafi, ii, "kitab al-'iman wa al-kufr","bab muhasabat al-'amal", hadith no. 20.

[2]. Ibid., hadith no. 2.

[3]. Tafsir al-burhan, i. 46.

[4]. Ibid., 51.

[5]. Man la yahduruhu al-faqih, ii, 613; Mafitih al-jinan, "al-Ziyarat al-jami'ah al-kabirah."

[6]. The Diwan ascribed to Amir al-Mu'minin, 57.

[7]. Al-Kafi, ii, "kitab al-iman wa al-kufr", "bab muhasabat al-amal," hadith no. 6.

[8]. Nahj al-balaghah, Khutbah no. 5.

[9]. Al-Saduq, al-'Amali, majlis no. 69, p. 405.

[10]. Bihar al-'anwar, xviii, 292.

[11]. Al-Majlisi, 'Ilm al-yaqin, ii, 884.

 

With my chain of transmission reaching up to the proof of the sect and its authority, Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni - may Allah be pleased with him - from 'Ali ibn Ibrahim, who reports in a marfu' (i.e. without mentioning intermediary authorities) tradition from Abu 'Abd Allah (A) that he said: "The seekers of (sacred) knowledge are of three kinds, so recognize them by their specific qualities and characteristics. One kind of them seeks it for the sake of ignorance and dispute(bicker) . Another kind seeks it for the sake of domination and deceit. Yet another kind seeks it for the sake of (improving) understanding and intellect.

"The one who seeks it for ignorance and dispute's sake is injurious and quarrelsome. He contests opinions in the gatherings of men, speaking of knowledge and describing forbearance. He puts on the garb of humility, though he is devoid of piety. As a result God crushes his nose and severs his waist.

"The one who seeks knowledge for domination and deception is an imposter and a sycophant. He is domineering with those who are his likes but is humble in front of the rich, whose sweetmeats he ingests while he demolishes his own faith. As a result God blinds his vision and wipes out his traces from the legacy of the learned.

"As to him who seeks knowledge for the sake of understanding and intellection, he is grief-stricken and awake at nights. Having tied his cap with the loose end of his turban, he stands up in the dark of nights. He acts and is in trepidation. A caller overawed, engaged in his work, and acquainted with the people of his times, he is apprehensive of his most trusted brother. As a result of it God strengthens his supports and grants him amnesty on the Day of Resurrection."

Al-Kulayni - may God's mercy be upon him - says: This tradition was also narrated to me by Muhammad ibn Mahmud Abu 'Abd Allah al-Qazwini from several of our companions, among them Ja'far ibn Muhammad al-Sayqal at Qazwin, from Ahmad ibn 'Isa al-Alawi, from 'Abbad .ibn Suhayb al-Basri, from Abu 'Abd Allah (A). [1]

Exposition:

 is for stress on the pronoun of so what is meant is: "Know them themselves, so that they become determined and specified and are not mistaken with others." Similarly, it is said (I saw him himself) and:

 

Everything that contains halal and haram is halal for you so far as you know that which is haram itself.

The authoritative traditionist al-Majlisi, may God have mercy upon him has mentioned various possible meaning

here (i.e. of ) which are extremely far-fetched and do not include this evident and apparent possibility. He

says:  means. 'their kinds and the understanding of their categories' or 'such of their actions are visible(detectable) and observable' ... Also it has been said, 'The meaning of means, 'their kinds and the understanding if their categories. Also it has been said, "The meaning of is their look, appearance and postures, such as their putting on the garb of humility.'

Then he suggests other and as remote possibilities. means `their characteristics', that is, those conditions which are subject to the personal traits and purposes of these three categories, such as injuriousness, disputatiousness and so on. Hence these characteristics depict their condition by which they are specifically recognized.

Jahl (ignorance) is the opposite of `ilm (knowledge), and here it probably means concealing the truth or pretending not to know it or absence of its acceptance. Later on we will discuss it in further detail. Al-Majlisi says in this regard:

Jahl means foolishness and imprudence. It is also said to be the opposite of reason.

Mira' means jidal (controversy) in doctrine and theology (kalam) and is derived from the same verbal root as jadal(dialectic) which is one of the Five Topics (al-sina'at al-khams) in logic. Al-Jawhari, in al-Sihah, says: Although here kalammeans speech in general but the intended meaning is apparently that which has been mentioned. There is another possible meaning involved here which we shall mention in one of the following sections.

Istitalah means seeking loftiness and eminence. Khatl, with fathah on kha' and sukun on ta', means deception and imposture. Al-Jawhari says:

As to the word mumar, we will explain later on why one who indulges in mira' is defined as mumar, (which being a verbal tautology does not seem to be a valid definition) and the one who indulges in istitalah and khatl as one who seeks to dominate his likes and one who resorts to khibb, for khibb (like khatl) also means deception.

As to the phrase it means expressing opinions. A lexicographer gives the following instance of usage:

Andiyah is plural of nadi, meaning a circle or club where people assemble for meeting and discussion. From it is deriveddar al-nadwah, which was a place in Makkah which was built for assembly and consultation. Nadiyy, nadwah, muntada andmutanadda have the same meaning, as pointed out by al-Jawhari.

The phrase bi tadhdkur al-'ilm refers to maqal or is its appositional substantive (badal), and to it is conjuncted wa sifat al-hilm. What is meant is that `they hold scholarly discourses in order to be reckoned among the learned, and they describe and extol forbearance to be counted among the forbearing, whereas they are neither among the learned nor the forbearing. His learning is a kind of ignorance that resembles knowledge and his forbearance is devoid of the excellent qualities of forbearance.' Later on we will have occasion to discuss this sort.

Tasarbala pertains to the derivative(misrepresented) formation tafa'lul, meaning putting on a sirbal- a garment. According to the lexicographer:Tasarbala bi al-khushu' means, 'he has put on the garment of humility,' appearing to be associated with it in the way a garment adheres to and is associated with the body, though he is devoid of it, since the garment he has put on is a borrowed one.

Wara' with a fathah on ra', means complete abstinence from that which is haram or suspect.

The sentence fa-daqqa Allah .... and those resembling it in the following two sentences, may either imply a curse or may be taken to be indicative of their condition in the world or the hereafter, or in both. Daqq means knocking, or is a noun denoting sound.

The words min hadha mean 'as a result of this quality.' Khayshum is the upper part of the nose and that which is connoted by 'crushing the nose' is disgracing and humiliating. That is, God Almighty disgraces and humiliates them on account of those characteristics, and we will have occasion to discuss it further later on.

Hayzum, with a fathah on ha' and dammah on za', means 'the place where the waist band(ribbon) is tied', or 'the middle of the breast', or 'a circumscribing bone like the one encircling the neck.' The first meaning, which suits the idea of severance, fits here.

Khibb means deception, wickedness and imposture. As al-Jawhari says, . means a deceitful man. Malaq means flattery and sychophancy, and implies what al-Jawhari says in al-Sihah i.e. one who expresses with his tongue that which is not in his heart. This interpretation is rather general, for malaq or tamalluq means an expression of love and attachment mixed with a show of humility while these are not in one's heart.

As to al-Majlisi points out that there is nun (instead of hamzah) in some manuscripts. In that case it means a middleman's tip or a soothsayer's fee paid him as a bribe, and it means the presents of money made by the rich to the impostor in return for his services, which he performs at the cost of his faith.

Al-hatm means breaking, and al-Majlisi says that breaking (of faith) here implies corruption and decadence (fasad). Khubrahu here is probably with a dammah on kha' and sukun on ba', in which case it means the capacity to cognize and discern. Though it is also probable that the word is khabarahu, with fathah on kha' and ba', in view of its consistency with the verb. The first meaning is more fitting, though the second one is not without relevance.

Al-Ka'abah means one's bad and shattered condition as a result of intense grief and sadness.

Tahannaka fi burnusihi means `he put the taht al-hanak in his burnus. Burnus is a tall cap which the devout used to wear during the early Islamic era, as mentioned by al-Jawhari in Sihah al-lughah. Al-Majlisi says, `This phrase suggests thattahannuk is mustahabb in salat. Such an inference is questionable, because given the kind of dress that was worn by the devout it suggests only the istihbab of tahannuk in general, not particularly during salat. Yes, had burnus been part of a dress- specified for salat such an inference would have been correct.

Hindis means an intensely dark night, as pointed out by al-Jawhari. Hindis here is substitute for night (layl) and that which is probably implied here is the dark of the night.

In fa-shadda Allah arkanahu, shadd means providing strength and power: Rukn means something on which a thing stands and by which it is sustained. Al-Jawhari says: i.e. the rukn of a thing is its strongest side.

Now, with our trust in God, we shall explain that which is essential and fitting in the course of a few sections.

Section 1:

You should know that the premises of a syllogism in relation to its conclusion(deduction)  , or the arguments and theoretical proofs in any discipline in relation to the proved result and inferred conclusion, have the position of preparatory preliminaries. They are neither totally independent of the conclusions nor totally unrelated to them. In this regard both the followers of predestination (jabr) as well as the adherents of freedom (tafwid) have gone astray and departed from the path of moderation, each of them adopting an approach consistent with their doctrine. One of them (i.e. those who believe in tafwid) says that the preliminaries are independent and if the door of the World of the Hidden('alam al ghayb) were to close and the emanations of the world of malakut to be shut off, man can derive conclusions unaided from the preliminaries themselves. The other (i.e. the believers in jabr) claims that the preliminaries are totally unrelated to the conclusions and the Divine tradition has been established to inspire the human mind with the conclusions. The preliminaries are only superficially connected to the conclusions and are absolutely unconnected in reality. Both of the views of these groups, like their basic doctrines, are false in the view of those who are acquainted with the true teaching and real knowledge. The truth, in conformity with the view of those who know it, is that the preliminaries have a preparatory relation with the conclusions and they prepare the soul for receiving knowledge through inspiration from its higher hidden sources (mabadi-ye 'aliyeh-yeghaybiyyeh). Here we don't intend to expound or refute these doctrines of these two groups, for that lies beyond the scope of our aim, and the purpose of mentioning them is only subsidiary to the exposition of another issue, which is as follows.

Having known that the knowledge and teachings are inspired(supported) by the invisible spheres and that inspiration is subject to the soul's connection (with these spheres), you should know that, as pointed out by the hadith:

Knowledge is not extensive learning. Rather it is a light that God casts in the heart of whomever He wills. [2]

Every soul that establishes a connection with the higher realm of malakut and the angelic sphere, receives such inspirations as are angelic in character and the knowledge that is cast into it is true knowledge from the angelic realm. Also, every soul that establishes a connection with the lower malakuti realm, the realm of the jinn, Satan and evil spirits, receives inspirations that are satanic in character of the order of compound ignorance and obscuring veils. This is why the 'urafa' and the people of true knowledge consider spiritual purification, the purgation of intentions and motives and the rectification of one's goals to be the first step in the path of acquisition of sciences, especially the Divine teachings and the sciences of the Shari'ah. Accordingly, they give the relevant advice and warnings to the students, for the link with the higher sources is strengthened(toughened) through the purification of the soul. And that which the holy Lord, Exalted and Glorious, says in the noble verse:

...And fear God, and God shall teach you..., (2:282)

linking the Divine teaching to taqwa (God-fearing) is for this reason that taqwa purifies the soul and connects it to the invisible sacred realm. This is followed by Divine teaching and the rahmani inspirations, for there is no niggardliness in the higher realms, which are bounteous by necessity, in the same way as the Necessary-Being-by-Essence is Necessary in all aspects.

However, if the soul engages in acquiring the sciences due to attention to selfish motives, for better food and drink and for egoistic reasons, its goal becomes non-divine and the inspirations it receives are satanic in character. This is one of the foolproof criteria - which I think has not been mentioned by the `urafa' - for differentiating between rahmani andshaytani inspirations and most of the times one is aware of this fact. The inspirations received by the impious soul full of impurities and obfuscations belong to the category of compound ignorance (i.e. to be ignorant and be ignorant of one's ignorance), which is the incurable malady of the souls and the main impediment on their path. That is because the criterion in knowledge is not acquaintance with general concepts and scientific terms. Rather, the criterion is the removal of veils from the soul's eye and opening of the door of the knowledge of God. The real knowledge is the guiding spiritual lamp that shows the straight path of nearness to God and to the abode of His bliss.

Everything other than this is vanity, though in the world of mulk and prior to the removal of the veils of carnal nature those conversant with it should be reckoned as scholars, gnostics and jurisprudents by those used to learned controversies and disputes(bickers)  But once the blinds are removed from the eyes of the heart, once the curtains of the world of malakut are raised and once one wakes up from the heavy slumber of mulk and corporeal nature, that (which once appeared to be knowledge and learning) will be found to be the darkest of veils. It will be found that all those branches of formal learning were all in all thick spiritual curtains each of them separated from the other by vast distances and we were ignorant of this fact.

The people are asleep and they wake up on death. [3]

It is then that the real nature of our learned preoccupations is revealed to us. But that which is shameful and scandalous is that even after fifty years, or more or less, of learning and study we remain mistaken about ourselves, at times imagining that our studies are for the sake of God. We remain unaware of the ruses of Satan and the self, for self-love is a thick veil that conceals our defects from ourselves. Hence the chaste awliya' and the noble Imams, may Allah's peace be upon them, have mentioned certain signs and marks of identification so that we may know and evaluate ourselves by their means without entertaining a baseless good opinion about ourselves. Later on in this exposition we will refer to the signs and marks mentioned in this noble tradition.

We came to know that in a primarily classification the seekers of knowledge fall into two groups: those who have a divine aim and those who have a mundane one. It may be said that the ultimate goal of the latter group is ignorance(jahl), for the seeming knowledge that they is compound ignorance in reality and a spiritual veil. The two groups mentioned by al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) in the tradition that we are expounding both belong to this class, for the seekers of domination as well as the impostors dwell in ignorance and misguidance. Hence it may be said that the ignorance mentioned by the Imam as a sign of the first group is something different from the ordinary meaning of ignorance. Rather, it either means muddling up issues and keeping people ignorant or it means the ignorance of one who pretends to be ignorant of the truth or is not ready to accept it. Both of these characteristics are also present in the group afflicted with mira' and jidal. They deny facts and well-established truths and adhere to ignorance for the sake of promoting their own opinions and marketing their spurious and little in demand merchandise.

Although in one classification(categorization) the seekers of knowledge do not constitute more than two groups- that is, on the basis of a preliminary classification based on an affirmation or negation of the divine goal of knowledge - a further classification will show them to be more than three groups. As to their division into three groups by the Imam, it may be said that he wished to mention two major groups consisting of most of the victims of ignorance and misguidance. Thus in another tradition we find that he considers the seekers of knowledge as constituting two groups:

In al-Kafi, al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from Abu 'Abd Allah (A) that he said: "He who seeks (to learn) hadith for worldly benefit has no share in the Hereafter, and he who seeks it for a benefit in the Hereafter, God grants him benefit both in the world and the Hereafter." [4]

 

Section II:

We have mentioned the evils of mira' and jidal earlier in the exposition of one of the holy traditions. However, it is also proper here that we mention some relevant traditions and describe a little of their evil effects. In the noble al-Kafi, al-Kulayni reports with his isnad the following tradition on the authority of al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A):

Amir al-Mu'minin (A) said: "Beware of dispute and controversy, for they infect with enmity the hearts of brethren. They are the roots of hypocrisy (nifaq), out of which hypocrisy grows." [5]

There are other traditions in al-Kafi narrated from al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A):

Abu `Abd Allah (A) said: "Beware of controversy, because it discomfits the heart, gives rise to hypocrisy, and creates ill will within the heart." [6]

Abu `Abd Allah (A) said: "Gabriel said to the Prophet (S): `Beware of getting entangled in dispute and acrimonious debate with people.' " [7]

Now let us take up the explanation of the fact that dispute and acrimony in talk sicken the heart, create ill feeling between friends and make hypocrisy grow(boomed) within the heart. It was mentioned earlier that outward actions leave certain effects on the inner self and the heart that are in accordance with their character. Here we must say that vicious actions have a more immediate and stronger impact on the heart. That is so because man is the offspring of the world of nature and the faculties of lust (shahwah), anger (ghadab) and diabolism (shaytanah) accompany him and are active in him, as has been mentioned in a tradition:

Satan circulates in mankind like the blood in veins. [8]

Hence the heart is directly confronted with corrupting elements and matters acclimatized to physical nature. Even a slight external assistance, either from one of the bodily organs or in the shape of an immoral and vicious companion, produces a strong effect on the heart. Therefore, there are warnings in the noble traditions against keeping company with such persons:

Al-Kafi reports on the authority of al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) from Amir alMu'minin (A) that he said: "It does not behoove a Muslim to be on fraternal terms with an immoral person, for he makes his own acts appear fair to one and likes one to become like himself. He is of no assistance to one either in the matters of the world or the Hereafter and it is a matter of disgrace for one to have social intercourse with such a person." [9]

Al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) said: "It is not proper for a Muslim to fraternize with an immoral person, a fool or a liar." [10]

An important point behind the prohibition on keeping company with sinful persons, or on presence in a gathering where God is sinned against, or on befriending and mixing with the enemies of God, is the influence of their morals, states and acts on a person. More important from the viewpoint of such influence are one's own acts and their effect upon the heart, so that the perpetration of vicious acts even for a brief period produces a strong influence on the heart, freedom and relief from which is not possible or attainable even after many long years. This indicates that should one indulge in dispute(bicker)   and hostile debate, not much time would pass before a terrible darkness and obfuscation appears in the heart, the outward verbal hostility soon leading to an inward hostility that is itself the greatest cause of hypocrisy, two-facedness and duplicity. Hence the evils of hypocrisy may be recognized through a recognition of the evils of mira' and jidal. Earlier, in the course of exposition of one of the traditions we have described the evils of hypocrisy and two-facedness and there is no need to repeat that here.

Al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) mentions certain signs and symptoms of the victims of ignorance and disputatiousness, one of which is causing harm to the people and being a vicious presence, which by itself is a vice and evil that is sufficient as an independent cause of one's destruction. It is mentioned in a noble tradition of al-Kafi:

(God Almighty says:) Whoever torments a friend of Mine has challenged Me to battle. [11]

The causing of harm and tormenting of the faithful has here been equated to declaration of war against God and hostility against His Sacred Being. The traditions relating to this topic are too many to be included in this brief exposition.

Another of the signs of this group has been mentioned to be mira', contesting of opinions and engagement in learned debates for the sake of domination and proving one's merit. As to making mira' the consequence of mira' in the tradition, it is possible that the first mira' is an inner quality and a vicious trait of the heart and the mira' that has been mentioned as its consequence is its outward manifestation and symptom.

Another of the symptoms of this group is its pretence of being forbearing while it is devoid of this quality. This is itself hypocrisy and two-facedness and involves riya' and shirk. Similarly, the pretence of humility (khushu') while being devoid of piety (wara') is also another clear manifestation of shirk, riya', hypocrisy and two-facedness.

This shows that this characteristic is possessed of great vices each of which is fatal and destructive. It is necessary that we undertake any kind of effort and hardship to deliver ourselves from this shameful, faith-killing and destructive malady of the heart and purge it of its darkness and filth, purifying it and burnishing it with the sincerity(frankness) of intention and inner truthfulness. In this regard there is a point here which is enough to shatter one when one reflects upon it for a while. It is that which al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) mentions after describing the signs of this group. The Imam (A) says:

As a result God crushes his nose and severs his waist (it may- also be translated: to mean: `Hence, may God crush his nose and sever his waist').

This is either a du'a (prayer or curse) or an indicative sentence (ikhbar). Whatever it should be, it is bound to take place. For should it be an indicative sentence, the reporter is a truthful speaker of attested veracity (sadiq-e musaddaq). Should it be a du'a', it is the du'a' of a Ma'sum and a wali of Allah and is certain to be granted. Hence it is indicative of the certain humiliation and disgrace to befall such a man, and perhaps in both the worlds: in this world in front of those whose respect he wished to earn through ostentation and pretence of merit and which produce an opposite result by bringing him disgrace, reducing his worth, and earning him the contempt of those whom he sought to dominate and impress; and in the next world were he shall be humiliated and brought to shame in the presence of the archangels, prophets, apostles, the infallible awliya' and God's righteous servants.

So woe to us, the victims of mira' and jidal, of carnal desires and hostilities! How great is our affliction at the hands of this vicious, heartless self which would not leave us alone unless it has brought us damnation in all the stages of life and existence, and yet we never bother to reform it! Our ears are closed with the stoppers of neglect! We refuse to awake from the heavy sleep of nature! O God, Thou art the reformer of Thy servants and the Master of their hearts. The being of all the existents lies in Thy power and the hearts of Thy creatures lie under the total influence of Thy will. We are not our own masters and have no power over our own benefit or harm, life or death. Do illuminate our dark hearts with the light of Thy grace and correct(accurate) our vices with Thy magnanimity and mercy and help these powerless and weak creatures of Thine!

Section III:

We said concerning the mention of mira' in the first part of the noble hadith that mira' has an inner spiritual being as well as is an outward phenomenon that is the product, sign and symptom of the first kind of mira'. Similarly we may say concerning the second part of the description given by the Imam (A) that istitalah and khatl have an inner existence as a spiritual habit and quality, as well as an outward manifestation which is the result of that habit. . Similarly, in most of the activities of the heart there are various levels: the level of enduring trait (malakah), the level of state (hal), and the level of outward behaviour, which is the product of the inner trait. Thus those who have in them the trait of istitalah, the urge for domination and ambition as well as that for deception and imposture, they also carry its outward signs and symptoms, some of which have been mentioned in the tradition by al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A). One of them is deceit and imposture which make one present himself as pious and righteous while he is not such inwardly. This group of people are wolves in the garb of sheep and devils in the form of men. They are the worst of God's creatures and their harm to the people's faith is more than that of armies of opponents(rival).

Another of the characteristics of this group is that they behave with humility and in a sychophantic manner with those who are the object of their greed. They spread their nets of imposture, sychophancy and false humility to trap poor, weak people, to benefit from the sweetmeats of their love, admiration and worldly respect. For this purpose they exploit their own religion, sell their faith and make use of the mundane benefits that are available. This is the group of people about whom a tradition says that when some people in paradise see them they will say: "How is it that we came to paradise as a result of your teaching while you yourselves have been confined to hell?" They will answer, "We did not act according to what we spoke." [12]

Another of their signs is that they behave haughtily with their likes who do not attract their greed and whom they consider as impediments in the way of their own advancement. They treat them with vanity and try as far as they can to humiliate them through words and deeds, for they are afraid that anyone of them can cause him trouble which can lead to a slump in their credibility.

One should know that it is a most difficult thing to remain pious when one is in the formal dress of learning, zuhd andtaqwa and to preserve the purity of one's heart in the clerical profession. That is why if someone from this class should act according to his duties and go through its phases with sincerity, correct himself, and after reforming himself engage in reforming others, and protect the orphans in the descent of the Messenger (S), such a man is reckoned among the Outstrippers and the Near Ones (muqarrabun wa sabiqun). Such a thing has been said of four disciples of al-'Imam al-Baqir (A) by al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A). The following tradition is reported in al-Wasa'il from Rijal al-Kashshi with an isnad reaching up to Abu `Ubaydah al-Hadhdha':

Abu 'Ubaydah says: "I heard Abu 'Abd Allah, may peace be upon him, say: 'Zurarah, Muhammad ibn Muslim, Abu Basir and Burayd (ibn Mu'awiyah) are amongst those concerning whom God, the Exalted, said: "The Outstrippers, the outstrippers- they are the Near Ones."'" [13]

There are many traditions relating to this topic and the excellences of the learned (ahl al-'ilm) are more than can be expressed. It suffices to cite the following tradition of the Noble Prophet, may God's benedictions be upon him and his family, about them:

When death comes to one who is seeking knowledge to revive thereby Islam, there will be only one degree between him and the prophets in Paradise. [14]

Later on, insha' Allah, there will be occasion to describe their excellence. However, if, God forbid, should the seeker of knowledge depart from the path of sincerity and take the road of unrighteousness, he will be reckoned among the worst of God's creatures about whom there are strong and strange (condemning) expressions in the traditions.- The first thing that the learned in religious sciences and the seekers of this perilous road must take into consideration is self-reform during the period of studies, counting it as far as possible to be the foremost of their duties, for this is harder and more obligatory than all the duties and obligations dictated by Shari`ah and reason.

O seekers of knowledge and spiritual excellences and teachings! Rise from your sleep and know that you have lesser room for excuse before God, and God Almighty shall call you to a tougher account. The level of your knowledge and works is very different from that of other people.

Your path (sirat) is sharper and narrower and there will be a great scrutiny of the record of your life. Woe to the student and seeker of knowledge in whose heart learning creates darkness and 'obscurity! And we see in ourselves that if we have learnt some inadequate concepts and some futile terms, it has kept us from treading the divine path. Satan and the self have dominated our being and turned us away from the path of humanity and guidance. These absurd and senseless concepts became our biggest hindrance and there is no remedy except to seek refuge in the Sacred Being of God Almighty.

O God, we confess to our shortcomings and plead guilty to our sins! We did not take even a single step in the path of Thy good-pleasure nor did we perform a single act of worship and obedience with sincerity. Yet treat us with Thine all-inclusive mercy and Thine unbounded grace. In the same way as Thou concealed our inadequacies in this world, do cover them with Thy forgiveness and covering grace in the other world, where we need it more!

Here, too, it is essential to remember the point that we mentioned while expounding the earlier part of the noble tradition. That point concerns this utterance of the Imam (A):

As a result God blinds his vision and wipes out his traces from the record of the learned.

That which is denoted by this statement, whether it be du'a' or ikhbar, is certain to happen. One must be very fearful of this inner blindness of vision which is the main source of all kinds of darkness and wretchedness. The blindness of the heart is the source of all misfortunes. Similarly, to be purged from the effects of the learned and to be deprived of their merits and gifts, apart from this deprivation itself, will be followed by an unimaginable humiliation and disgrace in the presence of God's elect on the Day of Resurrection.

Section IV:

As to the men of understanding and intellect - that is those for whom the goal of seeking knowledge is to become learned in Din and to know its truths - there are certain signs of which the main ones have been mentioned in the tradition. One of them is that knowledge creates grief, pain and dejection. To be sure this grief and dejection is not for the sake of the base and transitory worldly matters, but from the fear of the Return and the terror of falling short in the performance of duties and service. This grief and dejection, besides(alongside) illumining the heart, gives. it a purity and burnish. It becomes the original impulse for self-reform and commitment to the duties of servitude and creaturehood. The light of knowledge takes away quiet from the heart of the devotee, introducing him to God and the abode of His bounties. He derives great pleasure from praying to God Almighty and spends his nights in wakefulness and in performing the duties of devotion. Hence the Imam (A) says:

The first sentence apparently indicates engagement in worship. Another sign of this divine man of knowledge is that though fully attentive to the duties of servitude he is still in a state of trepidation. The light of knowledge reveals this to him that however much he may attend to his duties his efforts are still inadequate and wanting, that he cannot entirely fulfil the requirements of gratitude and true worship. This realization fills his heart with terror and it is about such people that God has said:

Even so only those of His servants fear God who have knowledge. (35:28)

The light of knowledge brings trepidation and grief, and though such a person is cognizant of his commitment to self-reform, the fear of the Return does not let him rest. He beseeches God to reform him and is afraid of becoming preoccupied with other-than-God. He shuns the people, fearing lest they should keep him from the path of God and the journey towards the world of the Hereafter, by making the world and its pleasures appear glamorous to him. Thereupon God confirms such a person and strengthens the supports that sustain his being, and grants him amnesty on the Day of Resurrection.

Oh, would that we had been with them, then should we have achieved a great success! (see 4:73)

And all praise is ultimately God's, at the beginning and the end, and may God's benedictions be upon Muhammad and the Pure Ones of his progeny.

[1]. Al-Kafi, "kitab fadl al-'ilm", "bab al-nawadir", hadith 5.

[2]. Bihar al-'anwar, i, 225.

[3]. Ibn Maytham al-Bahrani, Sharh-e sad kalimeh-ye qisar, 54.

[4]. Al-Kafi, i, "kitab fadl al-ilm", "bab al-musta'kil bi- ilmih", hadith 2.

[5]. Ibid., ii, "kitab al-'iman wa al-kufr", "bab al-mira' wa al-khusumah", hadith 1.

[6]. Ibid., hadith 8.

[7]. Ibid., hadith 6.

[8]. Sunan al-Darimi, ii, 320.

[9]. Al-Kafi, "kitab al-'ishrah", "bab man tukrahu mujalasatuh", hadith 2.

[10]. Ibid., hadith 3.

[11]. Ibid., "kitab al-imnan wa al-kufr", "bab man adha al-Muslimin", hadith 8.

[12]. Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, xi, 420.

[13]. Ibid., xviii, 105.

[14]. Sunan al-Darimi, i, 100.

 


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