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Sunday 5th of December 2021
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The Messenger of Allah, may God's benedictions be upon him and his family

With my isnad reaching back to the venerable and trustworthy shaykh Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni - may God sanctify his spirit - from 'Ali ibn Ibrahim, from his father, from al-Qasim ibn Muhammad, from al-Minqari, from Sufyan ibn 'Uyaynah, from Abu 'Abd Allah (A), who, explaining the utterance of God Almighty, "That He might try you (to see) 'which of you is fairest in works." (67:2) said: "It does not mean one of you whose deeds are more numerous but one who is more rightful in his conduct, and this rightness is nothing but the fear of God and sincerity of intention (niyyah) and fear." Then he (A) added: "To persevere in an action until it becomes sincere is more difficult than (performing) the action itself, and sincerity of action lies in this that you should not desire anyone to praise you for it except God Almighty, and intention supersedes action. Lo, verily, intention is action itself." Then he recited the Qur'anic verse, "Say, everyone acts in accordance with his character (shakilatihi)"(17:84) adding, "That (shakilah) means niyyah." [1]

Exposition:

Bala' (mentioned in verse 67: 2) means 'test' and `examination' as pointed out by al-Sihah:

'Balawtuhu balwan' means `I tested him', 'I examined him', and 'balahu Allah bala'an', or 'ablahu ibla'an hasanan' or ibtaluhumeans 'He (God) tested him.'

'Ayyukum' is the second object (maf'ul duwwom) for li yabluwakum, with the sense of knowing being implicit in it, according to al-Majlisi. But this does not seem to fit, because the interrogative pronoun ayy makes the verb conditional on action (`amal). That which is correct is that is a nominal sentence (jumleh-ye mubtada wa khabar) and is the object of the verb balwa. If ayy is taken to be relative pronoun (mawsulah), there is a sense for the statement of al-Majlisi, may God's mercy be upon him. But its interrogative character is more evident.

Sawab is the opposite of khata' (error), as mentioned by al Jawhari. The second 'khashyah' (fear) does not appear in some manuscripts, as mentioned by al-Majlisi, and should it be there, there are several probable interpretations for it, the more evident of which is that the waw here is in the sense of ma`a (with). And this phrase is narrated in the Asrar al-salat of al-Shahid al-Thani, may God's mercy be upon him ('sincere and fair intention'; instead of).

Ibqa' 'ala al-'amal means observance of action and exercising care over it, as pointed out by al-Jawhari, who says:

 

Shakilah has (also) the sense of tariqah (way), shakl (shape), and nahiyah (region), as mentioned in al-Qamus and al-Sihah. Al-Qamus states:

We will, God willing, explain that which needs explanation in this noble hadith in course of a few sections.

The Meaning of `Test' in Relation to God:

The clause, "That He might try you..." (quoted in the tradition) refers to the utterance of God Almighty:

Blessed is He in Whose hand is the Kingdom and Who is powerful over everything, Who created death and life, that He might try you which of you is fairest in works. (67: 1-2)

The muhaqqiq al-Majlisi, may God sanctify his soul, says: "This noble verse (which refers to the `creation' of death) indicates that death is something which has being, and means either death as something that happens to life or essential non-existence."

The meaning of the noble verse indicates a sense in which creation relates to it (death) as a substance; it does not indicate a sense in which the relation is accidental, as pointed out by the muhaqqiqun. And the possible sense of death as essential non-existence does not apply here, for ascription of being to something essentially(chiefly)   non-existent involves a contradiction, with the further observation that to ascribe the sense of essential non-existence to death does not appear in itself to be something correct.

However, that which is correct is that `death' means transference from the apparent corporeal realm (nash'eh-ye zahereh-ye mulkiyyeh) to the hidden higher realm (nash'eh-ye bateneh-ye malakutiyyeh). Or `death' means the second life in malakut (the realm higher to that of physical nature) following the first life in the realm of mulk (physical nature). Both of these senses involve being, or rather refer to a mode of being more complete than that of mulk. This is because life in the world or physical nature is adulterated with lifeless physical materials and their life is an ephemeral accident, as opposed to the substantial (i.e. inherent in substance) life of the realm of malakut where the souls obtain independence (from all elements of lifelessness that characterize the physical world). That realm is the realm of life, life being its essential quality, and the non-corporeal bodies ofBarzakh (abdan-e mithaliye barzakhi) have their existential dependence on the souls, as has been demonstrated in the place proper to it.

Moreover, the life of malakut - which is expressed by `death' (al-mawt, in the verse) in order not to weigh heavily on the ears of the listeners - does relate to creation and is under the power of the Sacred Essence.

The meaning of `trial' and `test' and the character of their ascription to God, the Exalted and the Glorious, was mentioned during the earlier exposition of some traditions. It was explained that ignorance (implicit in the meaning of `trial' and `test') cannot be ascribed to the Sacred Essence, and there is no need of interpretations and studied explanations in this regard. Here we shall briefly explain this issue.

At the beginning of their creation, the human souls are nothing but pure potentialities and are devoid of every kind of actuality inclining either toward felicity or wretchedness. It is only after their coming into the ambit of physical, substantial motion and voluntary actuality that the potentialities and capacities change into actualities and distinctions. Hence the difference between the felicitous and the wretched, the fat and the lean, comes into existence in corporeal life (hayat-e mulki), and the purpose of the creation of life is the distinction and examination of the souls. Thus the relation of trial and creation becomes clear. As to the creation of death, it has also a role in these distinctions, or rather it is the last link in the causative process (of the emergence of distinctions in the realm of actuality). For the criterion in the realm of actuality is the ultimate forms with which man makes the migration (from mulk to malakut); also, the criterion in the distinctions is the other-worldly malakuti forms that are d through the substantial and voluntary bustle(hum)(movements) of the corporeal world. This also makes clear the relation of testing and trial to creation of death and life, without involving any ignorance (on the part of God). An exposition of this issue elaborate enough to dispel all the doubts surrounding it depends on a discussion of God's essential knowledge prior to creation ('ilm-e dhati qabl al ijad) and His actual knowledge accompanying creation ('ilm-e fi'lli ma'a al-'ijad), which is outside the scope of this exposition. And the Divine utterance, "(that He might see) which one of you is fairest in action," as well as the trial relating to the more righteous of deeds, relate to the above-mentioned matter, and hence the noble tradition. This is because the relative fairness of deeds has been interpreted as their relative rightness, which in turn is made to depend on fear and sincerity of intention. These are the inward forms of the soul, which make up the real distinctive features of the souls or are the manifestations of the hidden distinctions among the essences. And because of the fact that outward action affects the heart and the inward self, these distinctions are also brought about by deeds. Hence the testing of deeds is also the testing of the essences. And if the noble verse were interpreted in accordance with its apparent sense and in independence of the exposition of the Imam (A), even then the testing will have the above-mentioned sense, because the life in the present world and the creation of life and death by itself results in the distinctions that characterize good and evil acts. As to the creation of life, its significance is clear, and as to death, its significance in this relation also becomes clear when we know the ephemeral nature of worldly life and the necessity of transition from this transitory life which is, of course, accompanied with distinctions arising from distinctions of deeds.

Fear, Sincere Intention and Rightness of Action:

You should know that in this noble tradition the rightness and goodness of action is made to depend on two sublime bases, which also constitute the criteria of their perfection and wholeness. One of these is the fear and awe of God Almighty and the other is the sincerity of intention and purity of purpose. Now we have to explain the relation between these two principles and the perfection of action and its rightness and rectitude.

The fear and awe of God Almighty leads to the taqwa and piety of the souls and these result in greater effectiveness of deeds. To elaborate, as mentioned in the course of the exposition of earlier traditions, every act, good or evil, has an effect upon the soul. Now if the act is of the category of acts of devotion and worship, its effect is that of making the physical faculties subservient to the intellectual faculties, making the malakuti aspect of the self-dominant over its mulki aspect. As a result of it, physical nature is made subject to spirituality, until the soul reaches the stage of spiritual emotion and attains its essential goal. Every act that increases this effect and discharges this service in a better way is more rightful and more effective in attaining the essential goal. Also, everything that has a role in this effectiveness has also a role in the rightness of action. Largely, this is also the criterion of relative merit in acts and the famous following tradition also refers to this point:

The best of deeds is the most difficult of them. [2]

These preliminaries show that taqwa purifies the souls from contaminations and obfuscations, and, obviously, if the tablet of the soul is free of the coatings of sins and clear of the obfuscations caused by them, the good actions are more effective- upon it and more conducive to the realization of the goal, thus better fulfilling the great secret purpose of devotional rites, which is the taming of corporeal nature, subjugation of mulk to malakut, and strengthening of the soul's active will power(iradeh-ye fa`ileh-ye nafs). Hence the fear of God, which has a thorough influence on the soul's taqwa, is one of the major agents of spiritual reform with an effective role in the rectitude of action and its beauty and perfection. This is because taqwa,besides being one of the reforming agents of the soul, also affects the influence of inward and outward human actions and is the cause of their acceptability, as declared by God Almighty:

Verily God accepts only from the God-fearing. (5:27)

The second major factor in the rightness and perfection of actions which, in fact, is tantamount to their efficient force (in the same way as the awe and taqwa d from them is equivalent to the condition of their effectiveness and which, in fact, purify the receptor and remove the impediments). It is sincere intention and pure purpose on which depend the perfection and defectiveness of 'ibadat (worships) and their validity and invalidity.

As much as the `ibadat are free from association with non-God and from adulteration of intention, to the same extent they are sincere and perfect. And nothing is as important in 'ibadat as intention and its purity, for the relationship of intention to 'ibadahis like that of the soul to the body and the spirit(phantom) to the corporeal frame. In the same way as their physical form originates in the physical aspect of the self and its body, intention and their spirit originate from the self's inward aspect and the heart. No worship is acceptable to God Almighty without sincere intention and unless it is free from the outward mulki riya'(a kind of riya' which the fuqaha', may God be pleased with them, have mentioned) and shirk, which invalidate and nullify the outward parts (of an ibadah). And unless it is free from inward shirk, in whose presence although an 'ibadah may be correct from the exoteric aspect of the Shari'ah and fiqhi ordinances, it is not valid and acceptable to God Almighty from the esoteric aspect and from the viewpoint of the reality and secrets of worship. Hence there is no necessary relation between the (legal) validity of 'ibadah and its acceptability, a point which has often been mentioned in the traditions.

An exhaustive definition of `shirk in `ibadah' that encompasses all its levels is the inclusion of the good pleasure and satisfaction of anyone other than God, whether it is one's own self or someone else.' If it is for someone else's satisfaction and for other people, it is outward shirk and fiqhi riya'. If it is for one's own satisfaction (rida), it is hidden and inward shirk; this also invalidates the 'ibadah in view of the 'urafa' and makes it unacceptable to God. Examples of it are offering the nightly prayer for increase in one's livelihood, giving sadaqah for safety from afflictions, or giving zakat for increase in one's wealth; that is, when one does these things for God Almighty in order to seek these things from His grace. Although those 'ibadat are valid, and one who performs them is considered to have performed his duty and fulfilled the requirements of the Shari'ah, they do not amount to the worship of God Almighty, nor are they characterized with sincerity of intention and purity of purpose. Rather, this kind of 'ibadat are aimed to achieve mundane purposes and to seek the objects of carnal, mundane desires. Hence the acts of such a person are not rightful.

Similarly, if 'ibadah is for the sake of the fear of hell and yearning for paradise, it is not sincerely for God and is devoid of sincere intention. Rather, it may be said that such acts of worship are purely for the sake of Satan and the carnal self,. The good(favorable) pleasure of God does not enter the intentions of a person performing such a kind of ibadah in order to be considered even shirk. Rather he has worshipped solely the great idol, the mother of all idols, the idol of one's carnal desire. However, God Almighty has accepted(admired) this kind of ibadah from us out of His expansive mercy and on account of our weakness, by allowing a degree of leniency; that is, He has bestowed upon it certain effects and attached certain favours to it so that if man should fulfill the out. ward conditions of its acceptance;. and perform it with the presence of the heart, all those effects will follow and all the related promises of reward shall be carried out.

Such is the condition of the `ibadat of the slaves and mercenaries. But as to the `ibadah of free men (ahrar), performed for the love of God Almighty and to seek the attention given by that Sacred Essence to Its worshippers, the motive of fear of hell and yearning for paradise being absent in it, it is the first station of the awliya' and ahrar. There are other stations and degrees for them which escape description and lie outside the scope of this discourse. As long as the soul's attention is fixed on worship, worshipper and the worshipped one, worship is not sincere. The heart must be vacated of every other thing and there should be nothing in it except God in order for worship to be sincere, as mentioned in a noble tradition of al-Kafi

Sufyan ibn `Uyaynah (the narrator of the earlier tradition) says, "I asked al-Imam al-Sadiq (A) about the utterance of God, the Exalted and the Glorious, in regard to the Day of Resurrection, `(The day when neither wealth nor sons shall profit) except he who comes with a pure(undamaged) heart?' (26: 88-89). The Imam (A) replied, 'A pure heart is one that meets its Lord in a state in which there is none in it except Him.' Then he (A) added: `Every heart in which there is shirk or doubt shall fail. Indeed, He has meant by it (the purity of heart) nothing except zuhd in regard to the world so that their hearts may be made ready for the Hereafter.' " [3]

Of course, the heart which is occupied with non-God and contaminated with doubt and shirk - whether of the manifest (jali) or the concealed (khafi) kind - has no credibility in the sacred presence of the Lord. To the concealed kind of shirk pertains reliance on means and dependence on anything other than God.

It is even mentioned in tradition that changing the position of one's ring in order to remind one of something is also concealed shirk.[4] To allow other-than-God to enter the heart is considered concealed shirk, and sincerity of intention (ikhlas-e niyyat) is expulsion of other-than God from His sacred abode (i.e. the heart). Similarly, there are various degrees of doubt(shakk), some of which should be reckoned as manifest and some as concealed, which are caused by the weakness of conviction and feebleness of faith. Similarly, hesitation in matters is also on account of doubt. Of the stages of concealed doubt is changeability and absence of stability in tawhid. Therefore, true tawhid means the dropping of relations, limits and pluralities, even the pluralities relating to the Names and Attributes, and fixation in it is purity from doubt. The purity of heart means absolute freedom from shirk and doubt.

In the tradition, the phrase "He has meant by it nothing except zuhd... " is a reference to the fact that the ultimate goal ofzuhd is that the heart should gradually become detached from the world and loathful toward it, with its attention turned to the real goal and the true object of all yearning. From the beginning part of the tradition it appears that the meaning of `Hereafter' is the ultimate limit of the circle of existence and the ultimate destination. This is what `Hereafter' means in its absolute sense. Accordingly, the world constitutes the complete circle of manifestation, and zuhd in regard to it necessarily entails purifying the heart of other-than-God. Hence even one who has other-than-God in his heart and is attached to others - whether they be corporeal, mulki matters, or spiritual ones relating to hereafterly forms, excellences and degrees, and everything other than God - is a man of the world, not zahid in regard to it, being deprived from the true Hereafter and the paradise of Divine communion, which is the highest of the levels of paradise, although he may possess other degrees of spiritual excellences and attain to the sublime levels of paradise in the same way as the people of the world differ in regard to possession of worldly wealth and status but whose stations are far remote from those of the men of God.

  

The Definition of Ikhlas:

You should know that various definitions have been suggested for ikhlas, to some of which that are prevalent among the people of the mystic path we shall briefly refer here. The honourable `arif' and the wise wayfarer, Khwajah `Abd Allah al-'Ansari, quddisa sirruh, says:

Ikhlas means purging action of all impurities.

And the impurity mentioned here is a general one, including both that which arises from the desire to please oneself and other creatures. It is narrated from the great Shaykh Baha'i that the people of the heart have offered various definitions for it:

It has been said: "(Ikhlas means) keeping action free from other-than-God having a role in it."

This definition is close(nearby) to the former one.

And it has been said: "(Ikhlas means) that the performer of an action should not desire any reward for it in the world and the Hereafter."

And it has been narrated from the author of Ghara'ib al-bayan that the mukhlisun are those who worship God in such a way that they don't see themselves in service nor do they take notice of the world or .its people, nor transcend the bounds of servitude in their vision of Lordship. Hence when the devotee foregoes all gains and stakes in everything from the earth to the Throne('arsh), he comes to traverse the path of din, which is the path of service and devotion on which the soul does not take any notice of the events on account of its vision of the beauty of the Lord. This is the Din that God Almighty has chosen for Himself and cleared it from the taint of association with other-than-God, and He has said:

Lo, to God belongs sincere allegiance (al-din al-khalis). (39:3)

And `sincere religion' is the light of pre-eternity (qidam) that appears after the disappearance of contingency (huduth) in the wilderness of resplendent glory and monism. It is as if God Almighty has invited His servants by indicating and signaling(beckoned) to them that they should purify their souls from others and make them turn exclusively towards Him. And it has been narrated from al-Shaykh al-Muhaqqiq Muhyi al-Din al-`Arabi that he said:

'Lo, to God belongs sincere allegiance,' free from the taints of otherness and egoism. And that your extinction in Him should be total, the Essence; the Attributes, the Acts and the din should cease to be relevant for you. Lo, until the allegiance is not purified by Reality, it will not belong to God.

Until the traces of servitude ('ubudiyyah), otherness (ghayriyyah) and egoism (ananiyyah) remain and as long as there is a worshipper and the worshipped one, worship, sincerity and din, there remain the taints of otherness and egoism, and this is regarded as shirk by the 'urafa'. The worship of the sincere ones is the imprint of the manifestations (tajalliyat) of the Beloved and nothing passes through their hearts except the Essence of the One God. And although the horizons of possibility (imkan) and necessity (wujub) have been joined for them and they have attained proximity to the Essence (tadalli-ye dhati) and absolute nearness to the Real (dunuww-e mutlaq-e haqiqi) and the traces of otherness have been completely wiped out, they still perform the duties of servanthood. And their servitude is not through reflection and thought, but through manifestation - a point indicated by the prayer of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny, on the night of his heavenly ascent (mi'raj).

Ikhlas is Subsequent to Action:

You should know that that which is said in the noble tradition, that

To persevere in an action until it becomes sincere is more difficult than the action itself,

is meant to encourage man to exercise care and diligence in that which he does, both at the time of its performance. and after it. For it sometimes happens that man carries out an action faultlessly and without any shortcoming and performs it withoutriya' or `ujb; but after the action he becomes afflicted with riya' through mentioning it, as pointed out in the following noble hadith of al-Kari:

Al-'Imam al-Baqir (A) said: "Perseverance in an action is more difficult than the act itself." He was asked, "what is meant by perseverance in action?" He replied, "A man does some kindness to a relative or expends something for the sake of God, Who is One and has no partner. Thereupon the reward of a good deed performed secretly is written for him. Later, he mentions it to someone and that which was written earlier is wiped out and instead the reward of a good deed performed openly is written for him. Later, when he makes a mention of it again, the vice of riya' is written for him (instead of the reward written earlier)." [5]

Man is never secure from the evil of Satan and his self until the end of his life. He must not imagine that once he has performed an act solely for the sake of God, without desire for the good pleasure of creatures having played any role in it, the purity of his act shall remain secure from the evil of the vicious self. Should he fail to exercise care and vigilance, the self may prompt him to make a mention of it or, as sometimes happens, to express it in the way of a subtle hint. For instance, wishing to impress people about his nightly prayers, the subtle machinations of the self may prompt him to pass a hint(implication) by speaking about the good or bad weather conditions at daybreak or about supplications or the call for prayer, thus making his acts invalid and unworthy. Man must keep a watch over himself, like a kind physician or nurse, and not let the rebellious self get out of control; for a moment of neglect may give it the opportunity to break its reins and lead man into ignominy and perdition. Hence in all conditions he must take refuge in God Almighty from the evil of Satan and the carnal self:

Surely the self of man incites to evil - except in as much as my Lord had mercy. (12:53)

And it should be known to you that purification of intention from all levels of shirk, riya' and other things, constant vigilance over it, and its perseverance in purity make up a greatly difficult as well as an important(remarkable)  task. Rather, some degrees of it are not attainable by anyone except the sincere awliya' of Allah. This is because intention is the efficient motive of action and is subject to other goals. These goals are in turn subject to the spiritual traits that make up man's inward essence and spiritual character. If someone possesses the love of office and position and this love becomes part of his spiritual makeup and character, the end of his desires is to reach that goal and the actions that originate from him are subject to that goal; his motive being the same sought-after object of his spirit, the actions that originate from him are directed to reaching the goal sought. As long as this love remains in his heart, his acts cannot be sincere, and one whose spiritual character and make-up(perfume) are characterized by self-love and egoism his ultimate goal and end is attainment of selfish satisfactions, which are also the motive of his acts, regardless of whether his acts are directed to mundane goals or such otherworldly ends as the houris, palaces, gardens and bounties of the next life. Rather, as long as egoism, self-seeking and egotism are there, even if he takes a step for the acquisition of mystic knowledge and spiritual excellences, these are sought for selfish ends, self-seeking, not God-6eeking, being their aim. And it is obvious that self-seeking and God-seeking cannot go together. Rather, if God is sought for the sake of the self, the ultimate end and goal is the self and the ego.

Thus it is evident that the absolute purification of intention from shirk is a great task that cannot be achieved by every one, and the defectiveness and excellence of deeds is subject to the defectiveness and perfection of intentions, for intention is the efficient and malakuti form of action, as hinted above. The noble tradition also refers to this point where it says:

And intention is superior to action, or, rather, intention is the complete reality of act itself.

And there is no exaggeration involved in this, as some have suggested; rather, it is based on fact, for intention is the complete form of action and its essence itself, the wholesomeness and corruption, the excellence and defectiveness of acts depending upon it. Accordingly, a single act may, on account of the intention that underlies it, at times imply respect and at times insult. Sometimes it may be perfect and sometimes defective. Sometimes it may belong to the highest level of spiritual sublimity, possessing a beautiful, blessed form. Sometimes it may belong to the lower spiritual realm and possess a frightful and odious form.

The apparent form of the salat of `Ali ibn Abi Talib, upon whom be peace, does not differ outwardly in regard to its elements and conditions from that of a certain hypocrite; but whereas for the former it is a means of spiritual ascent toward God (mi'raj ila Allah) and has the highest spiritual form, for the latter it is a means of descent to hell and its spiritual form is incomparably black due to the intensity of darkness.

Because of a few loaves of bread of barley given away by the House of Inerrancy (i.e. The Prophet's Ahl al-Bayt) (A) for the sake of God, God Almighty sent down several verses in their praise. An ignorant person may be led to think that two or three days of hunger and giving away one's food to the poor is a matter of importance, whereas such kind of acts may be performed by anybody and are of not much consequence. Their significance lies in the purity of their (i.e. the Ahl al-Bayt's) purpose and the sincerity of their intention. It is the power and elegance of the spirit of their action, coming forth from their pure hearts, that gives their action so much significance.

The outward appearance of the Noble Prophet (S) was not much different from that of other people. Hence often when he (S) was sitting with a group of people and some strangers from among the Arab bedouins came to meet him (S), they would ask, "Which one of you is the Messenger?" That which distinguished the Messenger (S) from others is the power and elegance of the spirit of that Master, not his blessed body or his noble frame. In the rational sciences it is demonstrated that a thing's thingness depends on its form, not on its matter. Rather, a definition based on species is exhaustive, and it is defective when based on genus and species, because intermingling with that which is strange and foreign to a thing is inimical to its reality, definition, and wholeness, and matter and genus are foreign and strange to its reality, which lies in its form, actuality, and species. Hence the total reality of acts is that of their forms and their malakuti dimension, represented by intention.

This discussion shows that that which al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) says in this noble tradition is, firstly, in view of the form of action and its matter. What he says is that their formal aspect supersedes their material aspect and that, therefore, intention supersedes action, in the same way as spirit is superior to body. And this does not necessitate the validity of an act devoid of intention and the possibility of a body devoid of spirit. Rather, it is the association of intention with action and the attachment of spirit to body that makes action and body what they are. These two are compounds of intention and action, body and spirit and the formal, malakuti aspect of each is superior to its material, mulki aspect. And this is the meaning of the famous tradition:

The intention of the man of faith is better than his act. [6]

Secondly, that which the Imam (A) says is in view of the dissolution of action in intention, of the mulk in the malakut, and manifestation (mazhar) in the manifest (zahir). Hence he (A) states:

Lo, verily intention is act itself.

Apart from intention there is nothing that is involved, and the totality of act is merged in intention; action has no independent reality of its own. Thereafter, he (A) cites the utterance of God Almighty as witness:

Say: 'Everyone acts according to his character' (shakilatihi) ....(17:84)

Acts are subservient to the soul's character (shakilah) and although the soul's character is constituted by its inward form and the traits (malakat) inherent in it, intentions constitute its outward character.

It may be said that spiritual traits constitute the soul's primary(elementary) character and intentions, to which actions are subservient, makeup its secondary character. Hence the statement of the Imam (A) that shakilah is niyyah.

This shows that the way to the purification of action from all kinds of shirk, riya', etc., is only through the reform of the soul and its malakat, for it is the fountainhead of all the reforms and the source of all the excellences and degrees of perfection. Hence if man expels the love of the world from his heart by means of austerities and exercises based on knowledge and action, the world will cease to be his ultimate goal and his acts will be purged of the biggest shirk, which is the desire to attract the attention of the world's people and to attain respect in their eyes. When that happens, he will be the same in solitude and company, inwardly and outwardly. To the extent that he succeeds in purging his heart of self-love, through spiritual austerities, the love of God shall enter it to the same extent and it shall also be purified of latent shirk. And as long as self-love remains in the heart and man remains in the oppressive habitat of the self, he is not a wayfarer toward God (musafir ila Allah); rather, he is one of those who cling to the earth (mukhalladun ila al-'ard). The first step in the journey toward God is abandonment of self-love and crushing the head of egoism under one's foot. And there are some who say that one of the meanings of the noble verse:

Whoso goes forth from his house an emigrant to God and His Messenger, and then death overtakes him, his wage will have fallen on God..., (4:100)

is that if someone leaves the habitat of the self to migrate to God and sets out on a spiritual journey, and thereafter he encounters complete annihilation (fana'-e tamm), his reward lies with God, the Exalted. And it is obvious that such a wayfarer deserves no reward except the vision (mushahadah) of that Sacred Essence and entry into His court. These words express their sentiments:

None except the Beloved has a place in our heart,

Give both the worlds to the enemy, for the Beloved suffices us.

[1]. Al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, ii, kitab al- iman wa al-kufr, bab al-'ikhlas, hadith No.4.

[2]. Ibn al-'Athir, al-Nihayah, i, 440.

[3]. Al-Kulayni, op. cit., hadith No. 5.

[4]. The tradition appears in Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, in the chapter on the ahkam of dressing (ahkam al-malabis).

[5]. Al -Kulayni at-Kafi, kitab al-'iman wa al-kufr, bab al-riya', hadith No. 16.

[6]. Ibid., bab al-niyyah, hadith No.2.

 

Through my continuous sanad going back to the proof of the sect and its leader, Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni - may God bless his soul - from Humayd ibn Ziyad, from al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn Sama'ah, from Wuhayb ibn Hafs, from Abu Bash, from Abu Ja'far (A) that he said: "One night that the Messenger of Allah .(S) - may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny - was with 'A'ishah, she said to him, 'O Messenger of Allah, why do you exhaust yourself when God has forgiven you your former and latter sins?' The Prophet (S) replied: 'O 'A'ishah, shouldn't I be a grateful servant?' " The Imam (A) added: "The Messenger of Allah - may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny-used to stand on the toes of his feet (in prayer in the night) and so God, the Glorious and the Exalted, sent down the verse: 'Taha. We have not sent down the Qur'an upon thee to cause thee hardship.' " [l] (20:1).

Exposition:

The words (God has forgiven thee) refer to the following utterance of God Almighty in Surat al-Fath:

Surely We have given thee a manifest victory (fath, which also means 'opening'), that God may forgive thee thy former and thy latter sins .... (48:1--2)

The `ulama' - may God be pleased with them - have suggested various explanations for this noble verse so as to reconcile it with the Noble Prophet's infallibility (`ismah). Here we will cite some of those explanations mentioned by the marhum `Allamah Majlisi, may God Almighty's mercy be upon him. Thereafter we will briefly mention that which the `urafa' have said in this regard in accordance with the teachings of the mystic path.

Marhum Majlisi says: The Shi'ah have offered various views regarding the explanation (tawil) of this verse. According to one of these, the `sins' (dhunub; singular dhanb) mentioned there mean the sins of the Ummah which are forgiven by the Prophet's intercession. These sins of the Ummah have been attributed to him because of the connection that exists between him and it. This possibility is supported by the following narration of Mufaddal ibn `Umar from al-'Imam al Sadiq (A):

Mufaddal says: "A man asked the Imam concerning this verse. He replied: 'By Allah, he (i.e. the Prophet) had no sin of his own. However, Allah, subhanahu, has insured that He would forgive the sins, whatever they have committed, of those who followed 'Ali (shi'at 'Ali)."

'Umar ibn Yazid narrates that al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) said: "He had not committed any sin, not even intended to commit any. However, God made him bear the burden of the sins of his followers and then forgave them on his account. [2]

This author says: This explanation has a significant basis in the teaching of the `urafa' and it would not be without benefit to mention it briefly. You should know that it has been proved, in the place proper to such a proof, that the unchanging essence('ayn-e thabit) of the Perfect Man (insan-e kamil) is the manifestation (mazhar; pl. mazahir) of the Greatest of Divine Names (ism Allah al- a'zam), which is the prototype (imam) of all prototypal names. The essences (a'yan) of all other existents subsist in the shadow of the essence of the Perfect Man on the level of knowledge and the world of essences, and exist therein on the level of being and the world of realization (`alam-e tahaqquq).

Hence the essences contained in the entire realm of existence are the manifestation of the essence of the Perfect Man, and all the existents are manifestations of his beauty and glory in the world of manifestation. Accordingly, every shortcoming that occurs in the world of exteriorization and every sin that appears in the mazahir (manifestations), whether on the level of creation (takwin) or on the level of volitional action (tashri'), is attributable to the zahir (i.e. that which is manifested through the rnazahir) in accordance with the necessary relation between zahir and mazhar. This attribution is not metaphorical, but literal and factual. It is the reality of this relation which is pointed out in the following verses:

...Whatever evil visits thee it of thy self. (4:79)

Say: 'Everything it from God. (4:78)

And reference to this matter occurs a lot in the Noble Prophet's traditions:

We are the foremost and the last ones. [3]

Adam and whoever that came after him shall stand under my standard on the Day of Resurrection. [4]

The first thing that God created was my light. [5]

(Before Adam was created) we glorified (God) and following us the angels glorified (Him We extolled (His) sanctity and following us the angels called Him Holy . [6]

 

Had we not existed, God would not have been known. [7]

(God said to the Prophet:) Had you not been, I would not have created the heavens. [8]

We are the face of God. [9]

It is stated in a tradition that "the Messenger of Allah - may Allah's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny - (in relation to the community of the faithful) has the position of the tree's trunk; the Imams of Guidance, may peace be upon them, are its branches; their followers (shi'ah) are like the leaves of the tree."' [10] Hence the beauty of the sacred tree ofwilayah is manifested through the mazahir. Should one of the mazahir suffer a shortcoming, that will affect the sacred tree.

Hence the sins of all the existents are the sins of the Absolute Master (al-wali al-mutlaq), and God Almighty, with His encompassing mercy and all-inclusive forgiveness, has showered His grace upon the Noble Prophet - may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny -, declaring, `The sins of the former people and the sins of those to come will be covered by My encompassing mercy and the entire realm of being shall attain its ultimate felicity through your shafa'ah(intercession), and:

The last to intercede is the most merciful of the merciful ones. (i.e. God).

According to this teaching the noble verse at hand fulfils the promise given in another verse, which says:

And thy Lord shall soon give thee, and thou shalt be satisfied. (93:5)

And it has been said of this verse that it is:

The most hope-giving of verses in the Qur'an. [11]

Hence according to this teaching `the former sins' may possibly mean the sins of the earlier ummahs (umam) for all the ummahs are part of the Ummah of this sacred essence (the Prophet) and all the calls (da'wahs) of the prophets represent invitation to the ultimate shari'ah, being the mazahir of al-Wali al-Mutlaq, and `Adam and whoever that came after him' are the leaves of the tree of wilayah.

The second explanation is the one given by al-Sayyid al-Murtada, may God be pleased with him. He says that dhanb is amasdar (verbal noun) and it may permissibly be referred or adjoined to the fall or maful. Here it has been related (in the construct phrase dhanbika) to the maf'ul. Hence the verse (48:2) means, "The former sins of theirs against thee in preventing thee from entering Makkah and al-Masjid al-Haram." The meaning of maghfirah or ghufran (which also means `covering) here, according to this explanation, is the abolishment and removal of the persecution that he (the Prophet [S]) faced at the hands of his enemies. The verse then means: "On the occasion of the victory and through it God would end and cover the humiliation inflicted upon you, and with the conquest of Makkah you would soon enter the city triumphantly." Accordingly ghufran has been made the recompense for jihad and the benefit of victory.

The Sayyid, upon whom be God's mercy, says: If maghfirah here is taken to mean the forgiving of sins, a reasonable meaning cannot be derived from the verse, for forgiveness of sins has no relation whatsoever with victory, nor can it be considered to be the object and benefit of victory. As to the phrase there is nothing objectionable in taking it to mean "whatever of the atrocities that have been afflicted on you and your people in the past."

Thirdly, the verse is explained to mean, "If you have committed a sin in the past or in case you commit any hereafter, I shall indeed forgive you." This is a conditional proposition (of the type `If A then B ) and it is not necessary that its two sides should be factually true.

Fourthly, by `sin' here is meant omission of mustahabbat (supererogatory duties), for the Prophet (S) never defaulted in performing the wajibat (obligatory duties). And it is possible that due to his elevated and exalted station, that which is not considered to be sin for others may be considered sin in relation to him.

The fifth explanation is that this verse is intended to glorify the Prophet (S) and is equivalent to a eulogy, as when one says: 

Sixthly, al-Majlisi says:

Al Saduq in 'Uyun akhbar al-Rida has reported with his isnad from 'Ali ibn Muhammad ibn al-Jahm that he said: "I was present in al-Ma'mun's gathering when al-Rida, upon whom be peace, was also with him. There al-Ma'mun said to him: 'O son of the Messenger of Allah, don't you claim that the prophets are secure from error (ma'sumun)?' He replied 'Yes'. Al-Ma'mun said: 'Then what is the meaning of the utterance of God, "Al-Rida, upon whom be peace, replied, 'The polytheists of Makkah did not consider anyone a greater sinner than the Messenger of Allah, upon whom and whose progeny be God's peace and benedictions, because they worshipped instead of Allah three hundred and sixty idols. When the Prophet - may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny - came to them with the call to pure monotheism (ikhlas), it appeared to them as a monstrosity, and they declared: "What, has he made the gods One God? This is indeed an odd thing.... Go! Be steadfast to your gods; this is a thing to be desired. We have not heard of this in the last religion, this is surely an invention." (38:5-7 ).

"'When God Almighty opened Makkah to His Prophet - may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny - He said to him: "O Muhammad! Surely We have opened for thee a manifest opening, that God may forgive thee what the polytheists of Makkah regarded as thy former and latter 'sins' on account of thy call to the Unity of God." Some of the polytheists of Makkah had embraced(cuddled) Islam and some had left Makkah, and those who remained there had no, power to repudiate the Prophet's call to tawhid. In this way that which was the Prophet's sin in their eyes came to be condoned by means of his domination over them.' Thereat al-Ma'mun said: 'You are wounderful, O Abu al-Hasan!' " [12]

This writer says: This was the sixth explanation of the blessed verse that occurs in the noble hadith. According to it the meaning of `sin' here is that which appeared to the polytheists as sin in conformity with their corrupt claims.

A Mystical Interpretation:

You should know that there is an interpretation of the noble verse based on the teachings of the gnostics and the people of the path of the heart. In order to describe it, it is necessary to mention what they call the `Threefold Openings' (or the `threefold victories', futuhat-e thalathah). Fath in their teaching means the opening of the doors of gnosis and gnostic experience or. the wayfarer by God after that these doors have remained closed and locked upon him. So long as man remains in the dark abode of the self and tied to its attachments, all the doors of gnosis and gnostic experience remain locked upon him. But as soon as he comes out of this gloomy(uninteresting) habitat by means of the force of austerities and the lights of guidance, and leaves astern the stages of the self, the door of the heart is opened upon him and gnostic truths manifest themselves in his heart, and he attains to the `station of the heart' (maqam-e qalb). This stage is called fath-e qarib(the nearer opening), for the first of the openings is the nearest of them. It is this fath that is referred to in this utterance of God Almighty:

...help from God and a nigh opening. (61:13)

Of course, it is with God's help and assistance and with the guiding light and magnetism of that Sacred Essence that this and other openings take place.

However, as long as the wayfarer remains in the realm of the heart ('alam-e qalb) and is subject to the rituals and duties of the heart, the door of the Attributes and Names remains closed and locked upon him. When, thereafter, the irradiations of the Names and Attributes lead to the dissolution of the `alam-e qalb and when those irradiations bring the heart's attributes and excellences to extinction, that which occurs is the fath-e mubin (the manifest opening). Thereat the door of the Names and Attributes is opened upon the wayfarer, the earlier rituals of the self (nafs) and the latter ones of the heart (qalb) becoming effaced and covered (maghfur) by the covering grace (ghaffariyyat wasattariyyat) of the Names. Hence they say that to this refers the utterance of God, the Exalted:

That is, We have opened for thee the manifest opening to the realm of the Names and Attributes, so that thy sins, relating to the earlier station of the self and the latter station of the heart, are covered by the coating grace of the Divine Names. And this is the opening of the door of wilayah. As long as the wayfarer is behind the curtain of the pluralities of the Names(katharat-e asmai) and the particularities of the Attributes (ta'ayyunat-e sifati), the doors to the irradiations of the Essence are locked upon him. But when he receives the irradiations of the Essence of the One, all the rituals relating to the realms of khalqand amr become extinct, submerging the devotee in essential synthesis, and the fath-e mutlaq (the absolute opening) is attained. Thereupon, the absolute sin (dhanb-e mutlaq) is enveloped (maghfur) and the essential sin (dhanb-e dhati), which is the source of all sins, is covered by the irradiations of the One.

Your existence is a sin to which no (other) sin is comparable.

And, they say, it is to this fath that the following utterance of God, the Exalted, alludes:

When comes the help of God and the opening. (110:1)

Hence it is with fath-e qarib that the doors to the heart's gnosis are opened and the sins relating to the (carnal) self (dhunub-e nafsiyyah) become forgiven. With fath-e mubin the doors of wilayah and Divine irradiations are opened and the remaining traces of the earlier sins of the self and the latter sins of the heart are forgiven. And with fath-e mutlaq the door is opened to the irradiations of the Divine Essence and the absolute essential sin is forgiven.

It should be known that fath-e qarib and fath-e mubin are something which the awliya ; prophets, and `urafa' share with others; but fath-e mutlaq is a station that is exclusively and ultimately theirs, and should anyone succeed in attaining it, it is only through the mediation of those elevated spirits.

This discourse reveals that there are various levels of sin and sinfulness. Some of them are considered virtues for the virtuous but are sins for the immaculate. It is reported that the Noble Messenger, may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny, stated:

In order that my heart should not gather rust, I seek the forgiveness of God seventy times a day. [13]

This rusting may be attention to plurality, although it may be on the level of passing, stray thoughts. And it is mentioned in the hadith that the Messenger of God, may God's peace and benedictions be upon him and his progeny, would not leave any gathering without seeking God's forgiveness twenty-five times. [14]

These traditions show that istighfar is not solely limited to such sins as are contrary to ismah (inerrancy), and 'dhanb' and'maghfirah' here (in the context of the prophets and awliya') do not have their ordinarily understood signification. Therefore, this noble verse is not contradictory to the Prophet's elevated spiritual station; rather, it affirms and confirms it. This is because seeking forgiveness for the sins related necessarily to the various stages of spiritual development are a necessary aspect of spiritual wayfaring and ascent to the heights of human perfection, since every being that exists in this world is the offspring of this corporeal and physical realm and possesses all its accompanying mulki, animal and human functions, some of these potentially and some of these in actuality.

Hence should anyone want to make the journey from this realm to the other realm and from there to the realm of Divine proximity, he should pass through all the intermediary phases and stages. And whenever he attains to a higher stage, he is forgiven the sins of the preceding stage, until he attains to the ultimate station where all his sins are forgiven under the irradiations of the Essence of the One. Thereat, the existential sin (dhanb-e wujudi), which is the source and fountainhead of all sins and sinfulness, is covered and effaced under the shadow of the Majesty of the One. This is the highest point in the ascent of a being towards perfection. It is here that the station of `death' and complete annihilation is achieved. And therefore when the noble verse: was revealed, the Noble Messenger, upon whom be God's peace and benedictions, said: "This surah is the news of my death." And God knows best. [15]

The Reality of Shukr:

You should know that thankfulness means appreciation of the ni'mah (favour, blessing, bounty) provided by the Provider(Mun'im) and the appearance of the effects of this appreciation in the heart, on the tongue, and in bodily acts and movements(bustle).(hum) As to the heart, the effects there are of such nature as humility, awe, love and the like. As to the tongue, the effects there appear as praise and glorification. As to the bodily members, the effects consist of obedience, the use of the bodily members for the good pleasure of the Mun'im, and the like. According to al-Raghib:

Thankfulness (shukr) is the contemplation of the ni'mah and its expression. [16]

It has been said that shukr is the (partial) inverse of kashr, meaning kashf (uncovering, discovery), and its antonym is kufr,which means forgetfulness and concealing of ni'mah. Dabbah shakir' (grateful animal) is one which expresses the appreciation of its master and provider by its fatness and robustness. It has also been said that its origin is 'aynun shakra, shakra here meaning mumtali'ah (full). Accordingly, shukr means being full of the mention of the Mun'im (Provider). Shukr is of three kinds: the shukr of the heart, which is the contemplation of ni'mah; the shukr of the tongue, which is praise of the Mun'im; and theshukr of all other bodily members, which is heedful observance of the ni'mah as it deserves to be observed (i.e. recognized, and used for the purpose proper to it).

The confirmed gnostic Khwajah 'Abd Allah Ansari says: "Shukr is a name for the knowledge (marifah) or ni'mah, for it is the means of knowing the Mun'im". The learned interpreter of his work says:

The contemplation of ni'mah as belonging to the Mun'im and the knowledge that it is from Him is shukr itself. It has been narrated that Hadrat Dawud (David), upon whom be peace, said: "O Lord! How can I thank Thee, for my thankfulness is another bounty (ni'mah) of Thee that itself requires thanksgiving!" God revealed to him: "O Dawud, when you have known that every ni'mah that you enjoy is from Me, you have thanked Me."

This author says: That which these scholars have said is based on some lack of correctness(exactness), for shukr is not the heart's knowledge per se or expression of it by the means of the tongue or bodily acts. Rather, it is a psychical state (halat-e nafsaniyyah) which itself results from the knowledge of the Mun'im. The acts of the heart and the body are the fruits of this state. What some scholars have said is close to this, although their statements too are not totally free of loose thinking. They have said:

It should be known that shukr is compensating for ni'mah through word, deed and intention. It rests on three supports.

Firstly, the knowledge (ma'rifah) of the Mun'im and the attributes befitting Him, as well as the knowledge of ni'mah as ni'mah per se. This knowledge does not become perfect unless one understands that all the apparent and hidden bounties are from God Almighty and that it is His Sacred Essence that is the real provider. All the means and intermediaries, whatever they are, are subject to His law and command.

Secondly, it is a state which is the result of this knowledge, which consists of humility, awe, and delight for the bounty as a gift that indicates the Mun'im's care and attention for you. Its sign is that you should not be delighted by the world except for something that causes nearness to God.

Thirdly, it is action that results from this state; for when this state appears in the heart it produces an impulse for action aimed to achieve nearness to God. That action is related to the heart, tongue and other members. As to the heart, its action consists of the veneration, praise and glorification of the Provider, the contemplation of His creation, His acts, the effects of His grace. and His beneficence towards all His creatures. As to the tongue, its action consists of the expression of that beneficence through praising, glorifying and extolling God and declaring Divine unity, as well as through, discharging the duty of al-'amr bi al-ma'ruf wa al-nahy an al-munkar and other duties. As to the bodily members, their thanksgiving action lies in using the outward and inward bounties in obedience, worship and in preventing sin against God and violation of His commands. Thus the eye should be used for studying His creation, reading His scripture, and teaching the traditional sciences of the prophets and the awsiya', may peace be upon them. Similarly for the other bodily members. [17]

 

Ignorance and Ingratitude:

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 the awliya').

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 sincere awliya' 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 Hasignifies 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 (whosederivative 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 wilayah of `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 malakutiforms 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 kalam means 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 derived dar al-nadwah, which was a place in Makkah which was built for assembly and consultation. Nadiyy, nadwah, muntada and mutanaddahave 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). Khubrahuhere 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 that tahannuk ismustahabb 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 salatsuch 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 and shaytaniinspirations 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 adu'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 and taqwaand 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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