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Monday 15th of August 2022
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His Patience, literary achievements

Patience Against Unpleasant Events (Tragedies)

The human life is always accompanied by events and unpleasant calamities, and there is no escape from such happenings. The human structure has been created in such a way, that it has to deal with these imposed situations, i.e. always encountering unpleasant events and calamities during the entire span of our lives. The following famous sentence of the Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali (A.S.) describes the above theme as follows:

الدنيا دار بالبلا محفوفة

  • "The world is like a house which has been encircled with temptations and calamities.

Sickness, physical handicaps, financial losses, death of loved ones and deprivations are some of the few examples of the inevitable happenings from which there is no escape. Even the most prosperous class of people are not immune against these types of occurences. When such calamities befall, naturally, without any choice or intention of our own, in our lives, usually there are two types of reactions shown by the people, as follows:

1. Some people, on account of the calamity give up their resistance completely and therefore become spiritually handicapped.

2. The other group of people, bear with patience considering it a natural thing of this worldly life, and come out of it intact and with dignity.

According to the famous Persian poet Roudaki 1 the merit, greatness, and leadership of a man is tested during his encounter with calamity. Grief, crying, and lamentation which are the ways of weak, timid-hearted and impatient individuals, in itself is a strong natural passion. Which imposes a violent emotional force upon the human structure, whereby all the body parts are employed to perform a particular function. The eyes shed tears, the tongue complains, the throat groans, and the hands, feet, and head, are all involved in performing special actions and movements.

Patience, against calamities means not to surrender to these violent emotional outbursts. A patient human being, while facing such tragedies does not give up his morale and maintains his composure and control. These tragedies do not make him depressed and discouraged, and do not stop him from making efforts and endeavours for accomplishing the main goals in the real life. Therefore this type of patience (against calamities) is also important, and has been termed as fair and charming in the narration quoted earlier.

Now, let us consider the case of a wayfarer who starts his journey in a certain direction so that he could reach the final desired destination. If upon encountering each unpleasant accident, and after receiving a small injury, he gives up his morale and looses his composure, then it is obvious that such a person will never complete this journey and will never reach the final destination. Resistance, offered against these motives of depression, while facing these tragedies is a key factor, which not only secures the high morale, but moreover, this endurance in itself, is an exercise, which is beneficial for building up the determination and strong iron-will among human beings, which are the pre-requisites for continuation of the difficult journey.

Therefore patience against natural tragedies which befall human beings, without any option or choice, consists of the following two important advantages:

Firstly, it secures and maintains the high morale, which is responsible for all constructive involvement, and further acts as an obstacle to prevent it from getting lost or being destroyed completely.

Secondly, it builds up the human determination or will power, which is an important means for all positive actions, and further it provides the required endurance to face the optional tragedies.

The special encouragement and excitement shown by the religious guardians about this type of patience, clearly demonstrates its constructive and miraculous role. In the following two narrations the deep philosophy of this branch of patience could be clearly demonstrated.


First Narration:

عن ابي جعفر او ابي عبدالله عليهما السلام

من لا يعد الصبر لنوايب الدهر يعجز

  • "Whoever has not equipped himself with the weapon of patience, during hardships and calamities of the time, will be subjected to a state of weakness and helplessness . (al-Kafi vol. 2, p. 93)

Second Narration:

عن ابي عبدالله عليه السلام

ان العبد ليكون له عند الله الدرجة لا يبلغها بعمله فيبتليه الله في جسده او يصاب بماله او يصاب في ولده فان هو صبر بلغه الله اياه

  • "For a believer, if a position and rank, has been taken into consideration by Allah, which could never be accomplished by deeds alone, he is inflicted with physical sickness, or loss of wealth, or tragedies to his loved ones, and in case, he remains patient, he is awarded by Allah (the assigned position and rank) (Safinatul Bihar vol. 2, p. 5)

In the above narration the constructive and exalted role of patience has been demonstrated explicitly.

Othman bin Maz'oon, who was an experienced Muslim and had migrated to Ethiopia and Madina, during the early period of Islam, lost his young son at Madina. This tragedy was so devastative that he decided to spend all his remaining life inside his house in prayers, and suddenly stopped all his social involvement completely. His depression after the death of his young son was so intense, that he wished never to face the pleasures of life again. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) after hearing about his state of affairs, paid him a courtesy visit and advised him to change his decision. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said that Islam does not allow monastic life (renunciation of world), sitting in an isolated corner, engrossed prayers. The renunciation of the world by Islamic Ummah means, participation in Jihad for the sake of Allah.

Therefore, patience against unforeseen tragedies, for which we have no choice, means to be able to tolerate the injury caused by the calamity without giving up the morale, and to be able to continue the routine normal involvement of the real life, and eventually forgetting the tragedy with the passage of time.

Justness

 

One should not be surprised that Ali was just. It would have been a matter of surprise if he had not been just. The instances of his justice which have been narrated are the most valuable assets in human history and man should be proud of them.

His brother Aqeel asked him to grant him a special pension out of the public treasury, but he refused to accede tohis request saying: "It is not my personal property that 1 may give it to anyone I like. 'there are also other helpless and needy persons, who are more deserving than you are, and I must be mindful of them". Aqeel said: "If vori do not allow me a pension out of this property I shall go to Mu'awiya".

However, Ali did not care for what he said, and did not revise his decision.

His brother went away and joined Mu'awiya and used to say: "Mu'awiya is better for my world", Mu'awiya's treatment satisfied him, because the public treasury was a tool in his hands with which he strengthened his kingdom, achieved his objects and wanted to revive the past politics and importance of Bani Umayyah.

The Imam did not claim any privileges vis-a-vis his subjects and appeared in the courts as their equal. This was so because the spirit of justice had penetrated into the depth of his heart.

Once Ali saw his coat of mail in the possession of a Christian. He took him in the court of a judge named Shurayh so that he might give a decision regarding its ownership. When both of them appeared before the judge Ali said: "This coat of mail is mine. I have neither sold nor gifted it to anyone". The judge asked the other person: "What have you to say about the claim made by the Commander of the Faithful?" The Christian said: "This coat of mail is mine. In spite of this, however, I do not consider the Commander of the Faithful to be a liar". Then the judge Shurayh turned to Ali and said: "Can you produce any witness who should depose that this coat of mail is yours?" Ali smiled and said: "Shurayh is right. I cannot produce any such witness".

The judge gave a judgment in favour of the Christian who took the coat of mail and departed. The Commander of the Faithful kept looking at him from behind. After having gone a few steps, however, he returned and said: "I testify that such an order resembles the order of the prophets, because one who is the Commander of the Faithful has appeared along with a person like myself in the court of the judge who is also his subordinate and the judge has given a judgement against him".((In the free countries of the modern world the court and judges have been made permanent and none can remove them from their office. This has been done, so that they may take decision without any fear or favour, and may give judgment against influential persons and even against the members of government.)) Then He added: "O Commander of the Faithful! I swear by God that this coat of mail is yours and my claim was false".

Later the people saw that Christian serving in the army of Ali as a faithful soldier and he fought most enthusiastically against Kharijites in the Battle of Nahrawan.

Ibn Abi Rafe' has narrated thus: "I was the administrator of the public treasury during the period of the caliphate of Ali and was also his scribe. The property received from Basra for the public treasury included a pearl necklace. The daughter of Ali sent word to me saying: "I understand that there is a pearl necklace in the public treasury which is controlled by you. Send that necklace to me on loan so that I may wear it on Eid al-Azha day. Thereafter I shall return it".

I sent the necklace to her on the conditions that she would be responsible if it was lost or damaged, and that she would return it within three days. She accepted these conditions.

By chance the eyes of the Commander of the Faithful fell on the necklace and he recognized it. He asked his daughter as to where she had obtained it from. She replied: "I have taken it on loan from lbn Abi Rafe' the incharge of the public treasury to wear it on Eid al-Azha day and have promised to return it to him within three days".

The Commander of the Faithful summoned me and said; "Do you consider it lawful to commit breach of trust with the Muslims?" I replied: "May God forbid that I may commit treachery with the Muslims". Thereupon he said: "Then why did you lend such and such necklace to my daughter without obtaining my permission and without the concurrence of the Muslims?"

I replied: "O Commander of the Faithful! She is your daughter. She borrowed it to adorn herself and guaranteed its safe return so that I might restore it to its proper place". Ali said: "Take it back today arid .do not do so in future otherwise I shall punish you".

When Ali's daughter came to know about it she said to him: "O father! I am your dear daughter. Who else is more entitled to wear this necklace?"

Ali replied: "O daughter of Abu Talib! Don't deviate from the right path. Can you tell me how many Muhajir and Ansar women adorn themselves with such necklaces?"

Eventually I took back the necklace from the daughter of the Commander of the Faithful and restored it to its proper place.

Ali observed justice even in small and insignificant matters. If it became necessary for him to divide something with others he gave the right of selection to the other party so that people might not think that discrimination was being made in the matter of division between the persons in authority and the subordinates.

One day he went to the shop of a draper named Abu al-Nawar accompanied by his slave and purchased two dresses. 'then he asked his slave to choose one out of the two dresses. The slave picked up one of them and Ali retained the other.((' Such incidents show that the leaders of the faith were very mindful of the rights of their subordinates. Those who make a show of supporting the helpless persons, and accuse religion of being an impediment in the matter of weak persons getting their due right, have not done as much for their subordinates as imam Ali did.))

All the orders and letters which he sent to the governors and other officials rotate on the pivot of justice.

Ali's near ones as well as, others joined hands in opposing him. It was on account of the fact that he did not give them preference from the point of view of equity and justice, and did not grant any concession to his relatives. He was not influenced by anyone and accepted only the right things from others.

When Uthman son of Affan became caliph, he gave full freedom to his relatives, friends and associates to accumulate wealth, and he followed those who gave him wrong advice. Marwan had the greatest influence on him. He did not benefit from the wise recommendation which Abu Bakr had made to Umar. Abu Bakr had said: "Don't be in proximity to those persons who are eager to fill their bellies and acquire position and wealth. Don't be enamoured of the fact that they have associated with the prophet and served him. Assess the nature of every person and find out what sort of man he is".

Ali hated such greedy persons. Hence when he became the caliph he decided to deal with them justly. He, therefore dismissed some of them and checked the greed of others for position and wealth.

There was a group of persons who wanted to give the principles of Islam a new form and make them a means of acquisition of position and wealth and to treat the Islamic territories a hereditary property of their family. Ali fought against them and said to them in loud words: "I know what can keep you from rebellion and mischief, but the thing which is a source of happiness for you is the means of. evil for me". The stage at which Ali's dealing with such people reached is well-known. When the oppressors were defeated they resorted to deceit and the spirit of justice succeeded in the hearts of Ali and his followers, although apparently they were the sufferers. When Ali met martyrdom at the hands of Ibn Muljim, a Nakh'ii woman named Ummul Haisham wrote an elegy for him. A verse of that elegy, goes to show the opinion of the people about his character and justice: "He established truth and entertained no doubt about it. He behaved justly with his kinsmen as well as strangers".

Sincerity and intrepidity are the qualities of great men and they were possessed by Ali par excellence. Sincerity, truthfulness, intrepidity and manliness and all other similar qualities are inter-connected. Hence he did not express anything which was opposed to his real intention and determination. He did not practise deceit, although he knew very well that by doing so he could get rid of the mischief of the enemies.

What has been said above about the truthfulness and character of the imam fully proves his sincerity and intrepidity.

One of his principles and morals consisted of simplicity in everything. He hated formality very much and used to say: "The worst brother is he for whom one has to involve onself in trouble".' He also used to say: "If a believer observes formality with his brother it means that he has separated himself from him. If he expressed an opnion or tendered an advice or gave some present, then this act of his was not tainted with ostentation. This habit was so much ingrained in his nature that the selfish people could not make him act according to their wishes, and the flatterers should not hope to attract his attention. These people used to say that the Imam was hardhearted, ill-natured and proud. However, the imam was neither hard-hearted nor ill-natured nor proud. On the contrary, as demanded by his nature, he said whatever he had to say without any formality or deceit.

A large number of persons who gathered around him coveted personal gains. Ali became suspicious about them and did not conceal his misgiving. Expression of his views about them cannot be called pride or rudeness.

Ali hated pride and was absolutely free from egotism. He also forbade his children, companions and officials to show pride and practise egotism. While giving them advice he used to say: "Shun egotism. You should know that egotism is a bad quality and a calamity for reason". He hated formality. He also restrained the people from going to the extreme while praising him and told them: "I am lesser than what you say".

At times it so happened that he considered the person concerned to be his enemy. On such occasion he did not refrain from mentioning the mental condition of that person of which he was aware and told him: "I am better than what you believe about me in your heart".

Ali disliked some of his friends exalting him too much in the same manner in which he disliked his being belittled by his enemies. He has said: "Persons of two types have been destroyed on account of their attitude towards me. The friends who have exaggerated my qualities and the spiteful enemies". he neither showed pride nor humiliated himself unnecessarily-. I he presented himself as he was. He was free from affectation and hypocrisy. It is difficult to find a straightforward man like him. Ile purchased a bagful of palm-dates and was carrying them home. 'Some persons observed this 'and volunteered to carry the bag for him. He, however, told them frankly that the head of the family was more responsible to carry it.

It is said erroneously that artificial humility and meekness constitute good qualities. In fact it is falsehood and mere affectation that one should pose to be inferior to what one actually is. Ali was not humble in that sense and he was also not proud. He displayed himself as he actually was without any meekness or pride, because these two things are not the qualities of manly persons. 'The writer of "Abqari'atul Imam" says: "Ali entered the battlefield bare-headed to fight against the enemies where as they were completely covered with steel and iron. How can it be said that this action of his was based on hypocrisy?

Another attribute of Ali was his noble disposition. He did not entertain grudge in his heart against anybody, even though he might be his fell enemy. As we have already mentioned he directed his sons and friends not to kill his murderer (Ibn Muljim). Although Talha had come as an enemy to kill him, he wept on his dead body and recited a heart-felt elegy for him. Although the Kharijites were his deadly enemies and had fought against him, and his murderer was also one of them, and in fact they had not given him lesser trouble as compared with Mu'awiya and Amr bin Aas, but he advised his friends and followers not to fight against them. He gave this direction because he knew that those people had fallen prey to misunderstanding and had been misguided. They were seekers of truth but .had been mistaken in the matter of its assessment as opposed to Mu'awiya and his companions who were seekers of falsehood and succeeded in acquiring it.

Nothing can be seen in the biography of Ali which may go to show that he was revengeful. In all circumstances he showed truthfulness, honesty, straightforwardness and swords-man-ship.

Magnanimous persons are not revengeful and do not also tolerate injustice and oppression. They get annoyed with one who oppresses others.

Although Ali did not entertain any grudge in his heart a-amst anyone, he had to face a spiteful group. Ilis meaningful words show how grieved he was. Isis grief ryas such as arose from sympathy and kindness. He was (Treived to see that people harmed themselves.

Another quality which distinguished him from others and was complementary- to his other attributes was his perfect faith in his actions and beliefs, and whenever he did anything he believed in its correctness and in his being on the right path. When he decided to fight against Amr son of Abdawudd, the famous champion of Arabia he was warned by the prophet and his companions about the consequences. He however, decided to fight because besides being brave he possessed enthusiasm support Islam.

We repeat that when the enemies had encircled Ali from all sides he busied himself in offering prayers without there being any guard to protect him from the mischief of those enemies, and consequently Ibn Muljim succeeded in wounding him with his poisoned sword. This very thing is a great proof of the fact that he was certain of the correctness of what he did, because a righteous person does not fear anything.

All the words and acts of Ali go to prove that he had perfect and firm faith in his actions. This was so because all his actions emanated from wisdom and capability.(( Its reason was that Imam. Ali was infallible and he said and did everything in accordance with the inspiration and traditions of the prophet of Islam. Hence, he did not entertain any doubt about his views and actions.))

When the people were divided into two groups in their attitude towards him (i.e. friends and enemies) he did not become afraid of the enemies and did not lay down arms before them, because he had perfect faith in his own truthfulness and justice and correctness of his actions. It was in this context that he said: "Even if I strike on the nose of a believer so that he may become my enemy he will not become my enemy and even if I shower all the bounties of the earth on him so that he may become friendly towards me he will not become my friend". lie has also said in this behalf. "I am not afraid of fighting against these people alone even though the entire world may join their army".

When he came to know that a group of the people of Madina had joined Mu'a-wiya he wrote to Sehl son of Hanif the governor of Madina: "I understand that a group of the inhabitants of your city has secretly joined Mu'awiya. However, you should not be worried on this account that some persons will leave you and will not assist you. I swear by God that these persons have not forsaken injustice and oppression and have not stuck to equity and justice.

A literary marvel

The Nahj al-balaghah is a magnificent collection of the inimitable sermons, invocations ( du'a), wills or advices, epistles and aphorisms of Amir al-mu'minin, Imam 'Ali ibn Abi Talib ('a), compiled by al-Sayyid al Sharif al-Radi (may God be pleased with him) about one thousand years ago. Time and years have not only failed to diminish the impressive freshness of this work, but have added constantly to its value as new concepts and ideas have emerged.

'Ali ('a) was undoubtedly a man of eloquence and delivered a large number of speeches that became famous. Likewise, numerous sayings containing philosophic wisdom were heard from him. He wrote many letters, especially during the days of his caliphate, which his admirers recorded and preserved with remarkable interest and zeal. Al-Mas'udi (d. 346/955-6), who lived almost a hundred years before al-Sayyid al-Radi (d. 406/1115), in the second volume of his Muruj al-dhahab, under the heading " Fi dhikr luma' min kalamihi, wa akhbarihi, wa zuhdih, says:

That which has been preserved by people of 'Ali's sermons, delivered on various occasions, exceeds 480 in number. 'Ali ('a) used to deliver his sermons extempore without any previous preparation. The people recorded his words and practically derived benefit from them. [2]

The testimony of an informed researcher and scholar like al-Mas'udi bears out the large number of 'Ali's speeches that were extant during his time. Only 239 of these have been handed down to us in the Nahj al-balaghah, whereas their number, as mentioned by al-Mas'udi, was more than 480.

Moreover, al-Mas'udi informs us about the extraordinary dedication and ardour of various groups of people in recording and preserving 'Ali's words.

Al-Sayyid al-Radi and the Nahj al-balaghah:

Al-Sayyid al-Sharif al-Radi, or al-Sayyid al-Radi, as he is commonly called, was an ardent admirer of 'Ali's speeches. He was a scholar, a poet and a man of cultivated taste. Al-Tha'alibi, his contemporary, says of him:

He is the most remarkable man among his contemporary and the noblest amongst the sayyids of Iraq. Family and descent aside, he is fully adorned and endowed with literary excellence. He is the most remarkable poet among the descendants of Abu Talib, though there are many distinguished poets among them. To say that of all the Quraysh no poet could ever surpass him would not be an exaggeration. [3]

It was on account of al-Sayyid al-Radi's earnest love of literature in general, and admiration for 'Ali's discourses in particular, that his interest was mainly literary in compiling 'Ali's words. Consequently, he gave greater attention to those passages which were more prominent from the literary point of view. This was the reason why he named his anthology " Nahj al-balaghah", [4]> which means the "path of eloquence" giving little importance to mentioning his sources, a point rarely ignored by compilers of hadith (traditions). Only at times does he casually mention the name of a certain book from which a particular sermon or epistle has been taken. In a book of history or hadith, it is of primary importance that the sources be precisely specified; otherwise, little credence can be given to it. The value of a literary masterpiece, however, lies in its intrinsic beauty, subtlety, elegance and depth. Meanwhile, it is not possible to assert that al-Sayyid al-Radi was entirely oblivious of the historical value and other dimensions of this sacred work, or that his attention was exclusively absorbed by its literary qualities.

Fortunately, after al-Sayyid al-Radi, others took up the task of collecting the asnad of the Nahj al-balaghah. Perhaps the most comprehensive book in this regard is the Nahj al-sa'adah fi mustadrak Nahj al-balaghah by Muhammad Baqir al-Mahmudi, a distinguished Shi'ah scholar of Iraq. In this valuable book, all of 'Ali's extant speeches, sermons, decrees, epistles, prayers, and sayings have been collected. It includes the Nahj al-balaghah and other discourses which were not incorporated by al-Sayyid al-Radi or were not available to him. Apparently, except for some of the aphorisms, the original sources of all the contents of the Nahj al-balaghah have been determined. [5]

It should be mentioned that al-Sayyid al-Radi was not the only man to compile a collection of 'Ali's utterances; others, too, have compiled various books with different titles in this field. The most famous of them is Ghurar al-hikam wa durar al-kalim by al-Amudi, on which Muhaqqiq Jamal al-Din al-Khunsari has written a commentary in Persian and which has been recently printed by the University of Tehran through the efforts of the eminent scholar Mir Jalal al-Din al-Muhaddith al-'Urumawi.

'Ali al Jundi, the dean of the faculty of sciences at the Cairo University, in the introduction to the book 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, shi'ruhu wa hikamuh cites a number of these collections some of which have not yet appeared in print and exist as manuscripts. These are:

1. Dustur ma'alim al-hikam by al-Quda'i, the author of the al-Khutat;

2. Nathr al-la 'ali'; this book has been translated and published by a Russian Orientalist in one bulky volume.

3. Hikam sayyidina 'Ali. A manuscript of this book exists in the Egyptian library, Dar al-Kutub al-Misriyyah.

Two Distinctive Characteristics:

From the earliest times, two distinct merits have been recognized as characterizing 'Ali's discourses: firstly, literary elegance ( fasahah) and eloquence ( balaghah); secondly, their characteristic multi-dimensional nature. Any of these two qualities is sufficient for estimating 'Ali's words as valuable, but the combination of these two qualities (i.e. matchless eloquence, literary elegance, and their multi-dimensional nature-in that they deal with diverse and occasionally incompatible spheres of life) has made it almost miraculous. For this reason, 'Ali's speech occupies a position in between the speech of the human being and the Word of God. Indeed, it has been said of it that ' it is above the speech of creatures and below the Word of the Creator." [6]

Literary Beauty and Elegance:

This aspect of the Nahj al-balaghah requires no introduction for a reader of cultivated literary taste capable of appreciating the elegance and charm of language. Basically, beauty is a thing to be perceived and experienced and not to be described or defined. The Nahj al-balaghah, even after nearly fourteen centuries, has retained the same attractiveness, freshness, charm, and beauty for the present-day audience that it possessed for the people of earlier days. Here we do not intend to give an elaborate proof of this claim. Nevertheless, as a part of our discourse, we shall briefly describe the marvellous power of 'Ali's words in moving hearts and infusing them with the feeling of wonder. We shall start with 'Ali's own times and follow the effect of his discourses through the changes and variations in tastes, outlooks, and modes of thought during different successive ages up to the present day.

The companions of 'Ali ('a), particularly those who had a taste for language and literary grace, greatly admired him as an orator. 'Abd Allah ibn al-'Abbas is one of them, who himself, as al Jahiz points out in his al-Bayan wa al-tabyin, [7] was a powerful orator He did not conceal his passion for listening to 'Ali speak or the enjoyment he derived from it. Once, when 'Ali was delivering his famous sermon called al-Shiqshiqiyyah, [8] Ibn al-'Abbas was also present. While 'Ali ('a) was speaking, an ordinary man of Kufah handed him a paper containing some questions, thus causing 'Ali to discontinue his speech. 'Ali, after reading the letter, did not continue his speech in spite of Ibn al-'Abbas 'urging him to continue. Ibn al-'Abbas later expressed the deep regret he felt on that occasion, saying, "Never in life was I ever so sorry for interruption of a speech as I was for the interruption of this sermon." [9]

Referring to a certain letter that 'Ali had written to Ibn al-'Abbas, he used to say: "Except the speech of the Holy Prophet, I did not derive so much benefit from any utterance as from this one." [10]

Mu'awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan, 'Ali's most contumacious enemy, also acknowledges his extraordinary eloquence. When Muhqin ibn Abi Muhqin forsook 'Ali and joined Mu'awiyah, in order to please Mu'awiyah, whose heart surged with ill-will and bitterness towards 'Ali, he told him, "I have left the dumbest of men and come to you." The flagrancy of this kind of flattery was so obvious that Mu'awiyah himself reproached him, saying: "Woe to you! You call 'Ali the dumbest of men? The Quraysh knew nothing about eloquence before him. It was he who taught them the art of eloquence."

Influence of 'Ali's Oratory:

Those who heard 'Ali speaking from the minbar were very much affected by his words. His sermons made hearts tremble and drew tears from the eyes. Even today, who can hear or read 'Ali's sermons without a tremor passing through his heart? Al-Sayyid al-Radi, after narrating 'Ali's famous sermon al-Gharra', [11] says:

As 'Ali delivered his sermon, tears flowed from the eyes of the listeners and hearts quivered with emotion.

Hammam ibn Shurayh, one of 'Ali's companions, was a man with a heart full of God's love and a soul burning with spiritual fire. At one time, he requested 'Ali to describe the qualities of pious and God-fearing men. 'Ali, on the one hand, did not want to turn down his request, and on the other, he was afraid that Hammam might not be able to bear what 'Ali would say. Therefore, he eludes this request giving only a perfunctory description of piety and the pious. Hammam is not only unsatisfied with this, but also his eagerness is heightened and he beseeches 'Ali to speak with greater elaboration. 'Ali commences his famous sermon and begins to describe the characteristics of the truly pious. He enumerates about one hundred and five [12] qualities of such human beings and goes on to describe more. But as 'Ali's words flow in fiery sequence, Hammam is carried to the very extreme of ecstasy. His heart throbs terribly and his spirit is driven to the furthest limits of emotion. It advances in eagerness like a restless bird trying to break out of its cage. Suddenly, there is a terrible cry and the audience turn around to find that it came from no other man than Hammam himself. Approaching, they find that his soul has left its earthly mould to embrace everlasting life. When this happened, 'Ali's remark, which carries both eulogy and regret, was: "I feared this would happen. Strange, yet this is how effective admonition affects sensitive hearts." [13]This is an example of the kind of influence 'Ali's sermons had over the minds and hearts of his contemporaries.

The Opinions of Ancient and Modern Scholars:

After the Holy Prophet (S), 'Ali ('a) alone has the distinction of being one whose speeches and sayings were recorded and preserved by the people with particular care.

Ibn Abi al-Hadid quotes 'Abd al-Hamid al-Katib, the great master of Arabic prose [14] who lived during the early part of the second century of the Hijrah, as saying, "I learnt by heart seventy sermons of 'Ali, and from that time onwards my mind always overflowed [ with inspiration ]."

'Ali al Jundi also relates that when 'Abd al-Hamid was asked about what had helped him most in attaining literary excellence, he replied, "Memorizing of the discourses of the 'bald one'." [15]

In the Islamic period of history the name of 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Nubatah is proverbial for oratory among Arabs. He acknowledges that his intellectual and artistic attainments are indebted to 'Ali. Ibn Abi al-Hadid quotes him as saying:

I committed to memory about a hundred discourses of 'Ali; since then this has served me as an inexhaustible treasure [of inspiration].

Al Jahiz was a celebrated literary genius of the early third century of the Hijrah, and his book Al-Bayan wa al-tabyin is regarded as one of the four main classics of Arabic literature [16]. Often, in his book, he expresses his great wonder and immense admiration for 'Ali's discourses. From his remarks it is evident that a large number of 'Ali's sermons were commonly known to the people of his day. In the first volume of his Al-Bayan wa al-tabyin, [17] after mentioning that some people praise precision in talk or rather prefer silence and disapprove profusion in speech, al-Jahiz writes:

The profuseness of speech that has been regarded with disapproval is futile talk not that which is fruitful and illuminating. Otherwise, 'Ali ibn Abi Talib and 'Abd Allah ibn al-'Abbas were men of prolific speech.

In the same volume of his work, he quotes this famous sentence of 'Ali ('a): [18]

The worth of a man lies in what he has mastered. [19]

Al Jahiz then devotes half a page to expressing his admiration for this sentence, and writes further:

If our book did not contain anything but this sentence, it would suffice it. The best speech is one little of which makes you dispense with much of it and in which the meanings are not concealed within words but are made manifest.

Then he remarks:

It appears as if Allah the Almighty has enveloped it with His glory, and covered it with the light of wisdom proportionate to the piety and taqwa of its speaker.

Al Jahiz, in the same work, where he discusses the oratory of Sasa'ah ibn Suhan al-'Abdi [20] >, says that:

No greater proof of his excellence as an orator is required than the fact that 'Ali occasionally came to him and asked him to deliver a speech.

Al-Sayyid al-Radi's following remarks in appreciation and praise of the speech of Imam 'Ali ('a) are famous:

Amir al-Mu'minin 'Ali ('a) was the reservoir and fountainhead of eloquence which derived its principles from his speeches and revealed its secrets through him. Every orator of mark tried to imitate him and every preacher learned from him the art of eloquence. Nevertheless, they lagged far behind him while he excelled them all. His speech (alone) bears the imprint of Divine Wisdom and the fragrance of the Prophet's eloquence.

Ibn Abi al-Hadid is a Mu'tazilite scholar of the 7th/13th century. He was a masterly writer and an adept poet, and, as we know, was an adorer of 'Ali's discourses. Accordingly, he expresses his profound admiration for 'Ali recurringly throughout his book. In the introduction to his famous commentary on the Nahj al-balaghah, he writes:

Rightly has 'Ali's discourse been regarded as being only inferior to that of the Creator and superior to that of all creatures. All people have learnt the arts of oration and writing from him. It suffices to say that the people have not recorded even one-tenth of one-twentieth from any other Companion of the Prophet (S) of what they recorded and preserved of 'Ali's discourses, although there were many eloquent persons among them. Again, it is sufficient that such a man as al Jahiz is all praise for 'Ali in his book al-Bayan wa al-tabyin.

Ibn Abi al-Hadid, in the fourth volume of his commentary, commenting on Imam 'Ali's letter to 'Abd Allah ibn al-'Abbas (written after the fall of Egypt to Mu'awiyah's forces and the martyrdom of Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, in which 'Ali ('a) breaks the news of this disaster to 'Abd Allah, who was at Basrah) writes: [21]

Look how eloquence has given its reins into the hands of this man and is docile to his every signal. Observe the wonderful order of the words coming one after the other to bow in his presence, or gushing like a spring that flows effortlessly out of the ground. Subhan Allah! An Arab youth grows up in a town like Mecca, has never met any sage or philosopher, yet his discourses have surpassed those of Plato and Aristotle in eloquence and profundity. He has no intercourse with men of wisdom, but has surpassed Socrates. He has not grown up among warriors and heroes but amongst traders and merchants for the people of Mecca were not a warrior nation but traders, yet he emerges as the greatest warrior of supreme courage to have walked upon the earth. Khalil ibn Ahmad was asked: Of 'Ali, Bistam, and 'Anbasah, who was the more courageous? Replied he, "Bistam and 'Anbasah should be compared with other men; 'Ali was something superior to human beings." He came from the Quraysh, who were not the foremost in eloquence, for, the most eloquent among Arabs were Banu Jurhum, though they were not famous for wisdom or wit, yet 'Ali surpassed even Sahban ibn Wa'il and Qays ibn Sa'dah in eloquence.

Modern Perspectives:

During the fourteen centuries that have passed since 'Ali's times, the world has seen innumerable changes in language, culture and taste, and one may be led to think that 'Ali's discourses, which although might have invoked the adoration of the ancients, may not suit the modern taste. But one would be surprised to learn that such is not the case. From the point of view of literary form and content, 'Ali's dis-courses have the rare quality of transcending the limits imposed by time and place. That 'Ali's discourses are universal in their appeal to men of all times we shall discuss later. Here, after quoting the views of the classical writers, we shall quote the relevant views expressed by our contemporaries.

The late Shaykh Muhammad 'Abduh, formerly Mufti of Egypt, is a man who came to know the Nahj al-balaghah by accident. This preliminary acquaintance grew into a passionate love for the sacred book and led him to write a commentary on it. It also prompted him to endeavour to make it popular amongst the Arab youth. In the preface to his commentary, he says:

Among all those who speak the Arabic language, there is not a single man who does not believe that 'Ali's discourses, after the Quran and the discourses of the Prophet (S) are the noblest, the most eloquent, the most profound and the most comprehensive.

'Ali al-Jundi, the dean of the faculty of sciences at the Cairo University, in his book ' Ali ibn Abi Talib, shi'ruhu wa hikamuh, writing about 'Ali's prose, says:

A certain musical rhythm which moves the innermost depths of the soul is characteristic of these discourses. The phrases are so rhymed that it can be called 'prose-poetry'.

He then quotes Qudamah ibn Ja'far as saying:

Some have shown mastery in short sayings and others in long discourses, but 'Ali has surpassed all others in both of these, even as he has surpassed them in other merits.

Taha Husayn, the contemporary Egyptian writer of renown, in his book ' Ali wa banuh ('Ali and His Sons), recounts the story of a man during the Battle of al-Jamal. The man is in doubt as to which of the two sides is in the right. He says to himself, "How is it possible that such personalities as Talhah and al-Zubayr should be at fault?" He informs 'Ali ('a) about his dilemma and asks him whether it is possible that such great personalities and men of established repute should be in error. 'Ali answers him:

You are seriously mistaken and reversed the measure! Truth and false hood are not measured by the worth of persons. Firstly find out what is truth and which is falsehood, then you will see who stands by truth and who with falsehood.

What 'Ali means to say is that you have reversed the measure. Truth and falsity are not measured by the nobility or baseness of persons. Instead of regarding truth and falsehood as the measure of nobility and meanness, you prejudge persons by your own pre-conceived notions of nobility and meanness. Reverse your approach. First of all find out the truth itself, then you will be able to recognize who are truthful. Find out what is falsehood, and then you will identify those who are wrong. lt is not significant which person stands by truth and which sides with falsehood.

After quoting 'Ali's above-mentioned reply, Taha Husayn says:

After the Revelation and the Word of God, I have never seen a more glorious and admirably expressed view than this reply of 'Ali.

Shakib Arsalan, nicknamed " amir al-bayan" (the master of speech), is another celebrated contemporary writer. Once in a gathering held in his honour, in Egypt, one of the speakers mounted the rostrum and in the course of his address remarked: "There are two individuals in the history of Islam who can truly be named amir al-bayan: one of them is 'Ali ibn Abi Talib and the other is Shakib." At which Shakib Arsalan (1871-1946), irritated, left his seat and walked to the rostrum. Deploring the comparison his friend had made between 'Ali and himself, he said: "What comparison is there between 'Ali and me! I am not worth even the strap of 'Ali's sandals!" [22]

Michael Na'imah, a contemporary Lebanese Christian writer, in the introduction to the book al-Imam 'Ali by George Jurdaq, also a Lebanese Christian, writes:

'Ali was not only a champion on the battlefield but was also a hero in all other fields: in sincerity of heart, in purity of conscience, in the spellbinding magic of speech, in true humanitarianism, in the finnness and warmth of faith, in the height of tranquility, in readiness to help the oppressed and the wronged, and in total submission to truth wherever it may lie and whichever form it assumes. He was a hero in all these fields.

I do not intend to quote more from those who paid tributes to 'Ali, for the above-quoted remarks are sufficient to prove my point. One who praises 'Ali extols his own merit, for:

He who admires the Sun's brilliance extols himself:

My two eyes are bright and my vision is not clouded

I conclude my discourse with 'Ali's own statement about himself. One day, one of his companions attempted to deliver a speech. He couldn't as he found himself tongue-tied. 'Ali told him:

You should know that the tongue is a part of man and under the command of his mind. If the mind lacks stimulation and refuses to budge, his tongue will not assist him. However, if the mind is ready his speech will not give him respite. Indeed we (the Ahl al-Bayt) are the lords of (the domain of) speech. In us are sunk its roots and over us are hung its branches. [23] >

Al Jahiz, in the al-Bayan wa al-tabyin, relates from 'Abd Allah ibn al-Hasan ibn 'Ali that 'Ali ('a) once said:

We (the Ahl al-Bayt) are superior to others in five qualities: eloquence, good looks, forgiveness, courage, and popularity with women. [24]

Now we shall take up another characteristic of 'Ali's discourses, which is in fact the main theme of this book; that is, their multi-dimensionality.

The Nahj al-balaghah Among Literary Classics:

Most nations possess certain literary works which are regarded as 'masterpieces' or 'classics'. Here we shall limit our discussion to the classics of Arabic and Persian literature whose merits are more or less perceptible for us, leaving the other classics of the ancient world, Greece and Rome and so on, and the masterpieces of the modern age from Italy, England, France and other countries, to be discussed and evaluated by those who are familiar with them and qualified to discuss them.

Of course, an accurate judgement about the classics of Arabic and Persian is possible only for scholars who have specialized in the classical literature; but it is an accepted fact that every one of these masterpieces is great only in a particular aspect, not in every aspect. To be more precise, every one of the authors of these classics displayed his mastery only in a single, special field to which their ingenuity was confined, and occasionally if they have left their special field to tread other grounds they failed miserably.

In Persian there are numerous masterpieces in mystical ghazal, general ghazal, qasidah, epic, spiritual and mystical allegorical verse, etc; but as we know, none of the Persian poets of world renown has succeeded in creating masterpieces in all these literary forms. Hafiz is famous for mystical ghazal, Sa'di for anecdotes and general ghazal, Firdawsi for epic, Rumi for his allegorical and spiritual poetry, Khayyam for his philosophic pessimism and Nizami for something else. For this reason it is not possible to compare them with one another or prefer one over the other. All that can be said is that each one of them is foremost in his own field. If occasionally any of these poetic geniuses has left his special field to try another literary form, a visible decline in quality is readily perceptible. The same is true of Arab poets of the Islamic and pre-Islamic periods. There is an anecdote in the Nahj al-balaghah that once 'Ali ('a) was asked the question, "who is the foremost among Arab poets?" 'Ali replied:

To be sure all poets did not tread a single path so that you may tell the leader from the follower; but if one were forced to choose one of them, I would say that the foremost among them was al-Malik al-Dillil (the nickname of Umru' al-Qays). [25]

In his commentary, Ibn Abi al-Hadid cites with asnad (authentic sources) an anecdote under the above-mentioned comment. Here is what he writes:

During the holy month of Ramadan, it was 'Ali's custom to invite people to dinner. The guests were offered meat, but 'Ali himself abstained from the food which was prepared for the guests. After the dinner, 'Ali would address them and impart moral instruction. One night, as they sat for dinner, a discussion commenced about the poets of the past. After the dinner, 'Ali in the course of his discourse said: "The faith is the criterion of your deeds; taqwa is your shield and protector; good manners are your adornment; and forbearance is the fortress of your honour." Then turning to Abu al-'Aswad al-Du'ali, who was present and moments ago had taken part in the discussion about poets, said, "Let us see, who in your opinion is the most meritorious of poets?"

Abu al-'Aswad recited a verse of Abu Dawud al-'Ayadi adding the remark that in his opinion Abu Dawud was the greatest among poets. "You are mistaken; such is not the case," 'Ali told him. Whereupon the guests, seeing 'Ali taking an interest in their discussion, pressed him to express his opinion as to whom he considered the best among poets. 'Ali said to them: "It is not right to give a judgement in this matter, for, to be certain, the pursuits of the poets are not confined to a single field so that we may point out the forerunner amongst them. Yet, if one were forced to choose one of them, then it may be said that the best of them is one who composes not according to the period inclinations or out of fear and inhibition [but he who gives free rein to his imagination and poetic inspiration] . Asked as to whom this description would fit, 'Ali replied, "Al-Malik al-Dillil, Umru' al-Qays."

It is said that when inquired as to who was the most eminent poet of the Jahiliyyah (the pre-Islamic period), Yunus ibn Habib al Dabbi (d. 798 A.D.), the famous grammarian, answered:

The greatest of poets is Umru' al-Qays when he mounts his steed, [i.e. when he composes epic poetry motivated by the feelings of courage and bravery, and the passions roused on the battlefield]; al-Nabighah al Dhubyani when he flees in fear [i.e. when he expresses himself on the psychological effects of danger and fear]; Zuhayr ibn Abi Sulma when he takes delight [in something]; and al-'A'sha, when he is in a gay and joyful mood." Yunus meant to say that every one of these poets had a special talent in his own field in which his works are considered to be master pieces. Each of them was foremost in his own speciality beyond which his talent and genius did not extend.

His literary achievements

"Ali deserves a distinguished place in literary history," Devenport remarks, "in as much as he had cultivated his mind with an ease and assiduity unusual in his age and country. He left many collections of sentences, proverbs and poetical pieces. Gobblin and Lette published fragments of these sentences, the former at Leyden in 1629 and the latter in 1746. Vather published Gobblin's fragments in French in 1660. Ockley, in the third edition of his `History of Saracens', has given an English translation of 169 of Ali's sentences. A treatise also by Ali upon the magical science is said to be still preserved in the Imperial Library at Constantinople. Such a man was Ali. May he for ever repose on the bosom of the Eternal Beatitude."

Arabic literature reached its climax by means of his precious sayings and sermons a few of which have been collected by Syed Shareef al-Razi in the form of a book, known as "Nahjul Balagha."

Students of the Arabic language will observe with interest the assistance that All gave to Abut Aswad-ad-Duwali in the task of systematizing Arabic grammar. Abut Aswad was one of the most eminent of the Tabis, an inhabitant of Busra, and a partisan of Ali under whom he fought in the battle of Siffin. In intelligence he was one of the most perfect of men, and in reason lie was one of the most sagacious. He was the originator of Arabic grammar. It is said that Ali laid down for him the principle : the three parts of speech are, the Noun, the Verb, and the Particle, telling him to prepare a complete treatise based upon it.

Hassan al-Basari called him "the Scholar of God in this Community."

There is a tradition to the effect that Ali had great skill in writing the Kufic characters. He was able to make the elongated Kaf. which is characteristic of that script, with such uniform exactness that it was scarcely possible, even with a compass, to distinguish any difference between the Kafs that he had written.

There are traditions that affirm that Ali had a copy of the Quran of his own, a special copy which he had annotated according to the conversations he had with the Holy Prophet. This additional writing on the margin of his own Quran is apparently in the nature of commcntary from the Prophet that others did not know. It has a bearing on the existence of a mysterious book that is called the `Jafr'. Al-Kulaini remarks that, "when the Apostle taught anything to Ali, Ali evolved from it a thousand other things. He declares that the Sahifa in Ali's handwriting was seventy cubits in length, as measured by the arm of the Apostle, and that it contained everything permitted and forbidden", and everything necessary for mankind. And in the Jafr, or secret book, he assures us that there was to be found, "the knowledge of prophets, and of the scholars of the Bani Israel". Masudi shows how the later Imams were accustomed to refer at times to these secret books that Ali left in their keeping. Belief in the existence of these sacred and secret books with the Imams was firm.

In one of the popular books that Muhammad Bakir Majlisi wrote in the seventeenth century, the "HayatulKulub", or Life of Hearts, it is related that at the time when Muhammad appealed to the Nassara (Christians) in Najraan in Yemen to accept him as a Prophet whose coming had been foretold by Jesus, a great book called the "lama" was referred to in the course of the debate. It was a collection of writings of 1,24,000 Prophets. The first part was the book of Adam, "which related to the kingdom of the Most High, what He had created and He has decreed in heaven and earth respecting things temporal and eternal. This .book, which contains all sciences, was transmitted by the father of mankind to Prophet Shays. Shays added his contributions to the great work and handed it to Prophet Idris, and likewise there were the writings of the Prophets Abraham and Moses and Jesus. until at last the time came for the great and final work of Ahmad (or Muhammad).

A Persian manual on the lives of the Imams, which is a compilation from the voluminous works of Majlisi, was written in Persian and lithographed in Teheran in 1912. It is called "Tazkeratul-A'imma," and here it stated that the `Jafr wa Jaameaa' is a book that the scholars agree that Ali had in his possession, and that the part that now exists consists of twenty-eight portions, and that each portion has twenty-eight pages, and each page twenty-eight divisions "and no one besides God, the Prophet and the Imams know the character in which it is written, unless the sinless Imams would have taught it to one."

The same modern manual mentions also "the Book of Ali" (the Sahifa); "which the Prophet dictated and Ali wrote. It is seventy metres long and the width of a sheepskin. It is also called the `Jama', and it shows what things are permitted and what things are forbidden". Two other minor works of the same sort are the "Jafr Abyad" (the white Jafer), which has fourteen portions, and each portion has fourteen divisions, and the writing of Fatima, with many traditions, to show that God taught Adam twenty-five of the Divine names, Noah knew eight, Abraham had six, Moses had four, Jesus had two, and Assif ibn Barkhia had one, whereas the Apostle of God knew seventytwo of these navies, which he taught to Ali.

Collections have been made of maxims and aphorisms that have originated from Ali. A hundred of these were collected by the Persian poet Rashid al-Din and they have been translated into German. There are one hundred and sixty nine of these moral sayings given in Ockley's History of the Saracens (p. 339).

It was said to Ali, "What is generosity?" He replied, "that from which the initiative proceedeth, for what cometh after a request is liberality and munificence."

On another occasion he remarked, "He who seeketh to do justice unto men, let him desire for them what he desireth for himself."

According to historian Masudi (Murooj-uz-Zahab Masudi Vol. If, page 33, Egypt), Hazrat Ali is credited with not less than 480 treatise, lectures and epistles on a variety of subjects dealing with philosophy, religion, law and politics, as collected by Zaid Ibn Wahab in the Imam's own lifetime. So highly valued are these contributions both for contents and their intrinsic literary worth that some of his master-pieces have formed throughout the course of Islamic history, subjects of study in centres of Muslim learning. Indeed, his reputation seems to have travelled to Europe at the time of the Renaissance. Edward Powcock, (1604-1691), a professor at the University of Oxford, published the first English translation of his `Rhetoric'.

Khawja Hasan Nizam has quoted a list of the following Muslim Scholars who have collected the teachings of Hazrat Ali in their respective books.

1. Seerat-e-Ali by Hafiz Hamadan Ibrahim who died in 181 A.H.

2. Musnad-e-Ali by Ahmed bin Ibrahim who died in 226 A.H.

3. Musnad-e-Ali by Mohammad bin Abdullah who died in 258 A.H.

4. Akbar-wo-Seyar-e-Ali by Yaqoob bin Shaiba who died in 262 A.H.

5. Musnad-e-Ali by Qazi Ismail who died in 283 A.H.

6. Musnad-e-Ali by Abubakr Ahmad bin Ali who died in 292 A.H.

7. Musnad-e-Ali by Ahmad bin Shoaib Nisayee who died in 303 A.H.

The historian John J. Pool (author of the life of H. M. Queen Victoria) in his book `Studies in Mohammedanism' says : "Ali was the first Caliph to protect and encourage national literature. The Prince was a scholar himself and many of his wise sayings and proverbs are published in a book. It is a remarkable work and deserves to be more widely read in the west."

In Summing up Hazrat Ali's worth, Maswoodi says, "if the glorious name of being the first Muslim, a comrade of the Holy Prophet in exile, his faithful companion in the struggle for the Faith, his intimate associate in life and his kinsman; if a true knowledge of the spirit of his teachings and of the Book; if self-abnegation and practice of justice; if honesty, purity and love of truth; if a knowledge of law and science, constitute a claim to pre-eminence. then all must regard Hazrat Ali as the foremost Muslim. We shall search in vain to find, either among his predecessors (save one) or among his successors, those virtues with which God had endowed him."

 

 

[1] Here it is not clear whether al Masudi means that Ali's sermons were recorded in writing, in books, or if he implies that people preserved them by memorizing them, or if he means both.

[2] al Masudi, Muruj al dhahab, (Beirut, 1983), vol II, p. 431

[3] al Tha'alibi quoted by Muhammad Abduh, Sharh Nahj al-balaghah, Introduction, p. 9

[4] Nahj means open way, road, course, method or manner; balaghah means eloquence, art of good style and communication, rhetoric etc

[5] Here the author adds that 'till now four volumes of this have been published'.

[6] The arabic is: fawq kalamil makhluq wa duna kalam ul khaliq

[7] al Jahiz, al-Bayan wa al-tabyin, vol. I p. 230

[8] Nahj al-balaghah, Khutab, No. 3

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid., Rasail, No. 22

[11] Ibid., Rasail, No. 83

[12] According to my own counting, if I have not made a mistake

[13] Nahj al-balaghah, Khutab, No. 193

[14] Abd al Hamid was a scribe ( katib) at the court of the last Umayyad caliph, Marwan ibn Muhammad. Of Persian origin, he was the teacher of the famous Ibn al Muqaffa. It was said of him, 'the art of writing began with 'Abd al Hamid and ended with Ibn al Amid'. Ibn al Amid was a minister to the Buyids.

[15] Asla means someone whose frontal position, portion of the head is bald. Abd al Hamid while confessing the greatness of Imam Ali, mentions him in a detracting manner due to his attachment to the Umayyad court

[16] The other three being: Adab al kitab of Ibn Qutaybah, al Kamil, of al Mubarrad, and al Nawadir of Abu Ali al Qali: quoted from the introduction to al-Bayan wa al-tabyin by Ibn Khaldun in his Muqaddamah.

[17] al-Bayan wa al-tabyin, vol. I p. 202

[18] Ibid, Vol. I p. 83

[19] Nahj al-balaghah, Hikam, No. 81. See also al Sayyid al Radi's comment on this aphorism.

[20] Sasa'ah ibn Suhan al Abdi was of the eminent companions of Imam Ali. When after the death of the third Caliph, Ali became the Caliph, it was Sa'sa'ah who said to him: You [by assuming the caliphate] have given it beauty, while caliphate has not added lustre to your personality. You have raised its worth, and it has not raised your station. It stands in greater need of you than you need it.

[21] Nahj al-balaghah, Rasail, No. 35

[22] This anecdote was related by Muhammad Jawad Mughniyyah, a contemporary Lebanese scholar, at the occasion of a reception party given in his honor in the holy city of Mashad.

[23] Nahj al-balaghah, Khutab, No. 230

[24] al Jahiz, op. cit., vol. II p. 99

[25] A poetic form much popular in classical Arabic and Persian poetry. Ghazal is also another poetic form.

 


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