Intellectual Accomplishments of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (a.s.) - Part II
Debate With Abil Awja
Abil Awja first of all had a narrow-minded nature; secondly the company of Hasan Basri had further spoilt his belief, therefore doubts and conjectures used to fill his mind all the time. In addition to being an atheist, this fellow was also brash and foul-tongued. One day he came to Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) and said, "I don't understand how long the Hajj pilgrims would continue to trample the land of Mecca and how long would they continue to worship these stones and rocks? How long would they continue to run around it like runaway camels? Are these not actions of ignorant and stupid people? As you are the Imam of the Muslims and the son of the founder of Islam, give me a satisfactory reply."
Imam (a.s) said, "O man! You have not reflected on the actual matter. The Ka'ba is the protected sanctuary through which the Almighty Allah tests His slaves, because this House is associated with Him. Therefore it is emphasized to respect and visit it. It is appointed as the place of worship for prophets and the direction of prayers of religious people. This house is the channel of His mercy and the medium of salvation. He created this house two thousand years before the creation of the world. The dignity of our slavehood is only that we follow each and every command of Allah and let the purpose for which the Ka'ba is created, be fulfilled."
Awja said, "I am sorry to say that you have associated this house to such a personality whose existence, I refuse to believe. How can one believe in the existence of something, which is unseen? And till one does not believe, there is no question of obeying His commands."
Imam (a.s) said, "You do not use your intellect. He is present and seeing everywhere and at every moment; and is nearer to you than your jugular vein. He listens to what we say and sees us and He knows the secrets of our hearts."
He said, "First prove His existence. If he is on the earth, he went to the heavens and if he is on the heavens, how did he come to the earth?" Imam (a.s) said, "He is not confined in space, that another place should be empty of Him, or some place should surround Him. If He had been confined to a place what difference would have remained between Him and the creatures?
Awja asked, "But how does this prove that He is the Creator of all things?" Imam (a.s) replied, "Does such an obvious fact require a proof? I ask only you, who has created you?" "No one has created me," replied he. Imam said, "Is it possible for a created thing to come into being without a maker?" When Awja heard this he became worried and changing tracks said, "Okay, let it be. Tell me what is the use of things like Day of Judgment, accounting, Paradise and Hell etc. of which you are a believer? After death, a man is mixed with the dust and all these things are mere assumptions. Imam (a.s) said, "Even if it is assumed that you are right, there is no fear for us after death and if your belief is wrong there is no scope for your salvation, while we are risk-free in both the cases. Now you tell me, which of us is better?"
Hearing this, he bowed down his head and after remaining silent for sometime said, "I accept your statement, but tell me, the Quran says, 'When the skins of the inmates of Hell are burnt down, they would be given fresh skins.' Can you explain that the skins that had committed the sins are burnt once, what is the fault of the new skins?" Imam (a.s) said, "They would be the same old skins, only their forms would be changed again. Like a brick is powdered and mixed with water and put in a die for making another brick. The same would be the case of the skins of the people of Hell." He said, "Further, you tell me why different people die due to different diseases? What is the problem if all were to die due to the same disease?" Imam (a.s) said, "If it had been so, people would have remained fearless of death till the appearance of this disease and Allah does not like that anyone should be fearless of death."
Although Sufyan Thawri had gained much knowledge from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s), he was against the Imam and he wanted to project his own image. One day Imam (a.s) was sitting in the Masjid, wearing a dress of thin white cotton. Seeing this dress Sufyan told his colleagues, "I will go and embarrass this Imam of the Rafidis." Saying this he came to Imam (a.s) and said, "Was your exalted and respected grandfather, the Messenger of Allah (S) also wearing these kinds of expensive clothes?"
Imam (a.s) said, "There is no restriction on wearing these types of clothes. In the time of the Prophet the poorest of the Muslims were leading a very frugal life, therefore the Prophet never used to wear expensive clothes, lest they may feel disheartened. Since the situation is not the same now, there is no harm in wearing these clothes. I have worn this dress only for the thankfulness of Allah, otherwise below this, see, I am wearing thick woolen clothes." After this Imam (a.s) raised the skirt of Sufyan's dress and said, "See, you have worn a coarse dress outside, to show off, while below you have donned soft and expensive apparels, so that your body remains in comfort. On the other hand these thick fibers prick into my body and it is painful to it. You have seen my exterior but did not inspect your interior." Sufyan returned in embarrassment. His students said, "If he had embarrassed you, we would also not remain without taking revenge from him." So they came to Imam (a.s) and said, "Are piety and asceticism worthless in your opinion?"
Imam: What do you mean by this?
Students: We mean to say that if you had valued piety you would not have worn such a good quality dress.
Imam: Is it prohibited?
Students: No, it is not so. But the Almighty Allah has praised those companions of the Messenger of Allah (S), who used to prefer others to their own selves.
…and prefer (them) before themselves though poverty may afflict them, (Surah Hashr 59:9)
And at another place He says: And they give food out of love for Him to the poor and the orphan and the captive. (Surah Dahr 76:8)
Imam: Both these verses were revealed in the honor of us, Ahl ul-Bayt, and they denote our condition. Since you people do not know the abrogating and the abrogated verses of Quran, you are wandering in misguidance. Remember, the people regarding whom these verses were revealed were allowed and permitted to do so and it was rewarding and recompensing; but after this the Almighty Allah had mercy on the condition of the believers and abrogated this command so that their families were not put to inconvenience. At that time even if one had a single loaf of bread, one gave it in the way of Allah and did not think of ones young child or aged parents. Since this command was fatal to such people it was abrogated. That is why the Messenger of Allah (S) said, "One who has five grains, or five dirhams or five loaves of bread and he intends to spend them, then it is necessary for him to give one to his parents, one to his family, one to his needy relatives, one to his poor neighbors and the last one in charity on the way of Allah. This fifth position is lower and less rewarding than the previous four."
Thus an Ansar (Helper) had five slaves and slave girls. Besides these he did not own anything. At the time of his death he freed all of them and did not leave anything for his young children. When the Holy Prophet (S) heard of their condition, he said, "He has left them to solicit alms. He has done a bad thing. If I had known of this before I would not have allowed him to be buried in the Muslim cemetery.
The Almighty Allah has praised those who are not spendthrifts and who practice frugality. The Holy Prophet (S) said, "There are some people in my community whose supplications are not accepted. First of all, those who criticize and curse their parents. Secondly one who lends something without taking anything in writing, or keeping a witness; and when the lender does not repay he begins to curse him. Thirdly, one who criticizes and curses his wife, though Allah has given him the option to divorce her. Fourthly, one who sits at home and does not go out in search of livelihood and who asks Allah for lawful sustenance. So Allah asks this man, "have I not given you limbs to work and have I not opened channels of obtaining livelihood for you?" Fifthly, one who is bestowed a great wealth by Allah and he squanders it all and becomes a pauper. Then he prays to Allah for sustenance. Allah replies to him, "Did I not give you extensive wealth, then why did you squander it away?"
One day the Holy Prophet (S) received gold and he gave it away in charity before the next morning. After this a beggar came seeking alms. The Prophet had nothing to give him. Since he was extremely softhearted he could not bear to see a beggar going away dejected and he was very sorrowful about it. The Almighty Allah revealed the verse,
And do not make your hand to be shackled to your neck nor stretch it forth to the utmost (limit) of its stretching forth, lest you should (afterwards) sit down blamed, stripped off. (Surah Bani Israel 17:29)
Thus all these verses and traditions abrogate the actions that you have mentioned. Let alone this, even Abu Bakr, whom you call 'Siddiq', has proved by his actions that your opinion is wrong. Even though Allah ahs permitted making a will for a third of ones property, he willed a fourth of his property. If he had considered one-third better he would have made a bequest of that much amount. Rather if the donation of all of ones wealth had been better the Almighty would never have limited it to one-third.
Salman Farsi used to take out his yearly expenses from his share of war booty despite his ascetic nature and his contentment with little or nothing. The balance he used to give away in charity. Once someone objected to this that even though he were pious and God-fearing he did thus. "Are you certain of remaining alive for a year that you collect provision for this period?" He asked, "Even though you are my friend, why do you not hope I would live for a year? Why do you prefer the thought of my death to that of my survival? When a person has assured rations for a year he concentrates fully on the matters of the world and the Hereafter and a bankrupt man is always tense. He is not able to perform any worldly task or a deed for the Hereafter in the proper way."
See the life of Hazrat Abu Zar Ghiffari; that inspite of his inclination towards frugality and seclusion, he never reconciled to destitution. He had reared some camels and goats and through them he maintained his family and served his guests. He helped the needy among his neighbors and acquaintances.
See these are the people regarding whose piety and fear of God there is no doubt, but they also lived in a way that they were never penniless by giving everything away in charity, as you people think. Mostly, this explanation of mine would have comforted you and if it is not so, I can explain further." They said, "Please explain further." Imam (a.s) said, "The Almighty Allah had made it obligatory for the believers to fight Jihad against people ten times their number, then He had mercy on them and reduced this number; that is Jihad is to be done against twice ones numbers. This command abrogated the previous one.
See, if a woman appeals to religious judge that her husband does not provide her bread and the Qazi compels him to provide her food and he says, "I am a pious person and I have no worldly possessions, how can I pay for it?" Now if the Qazi does not accept his excuse, then, whether in your opinion is this Qazi unjust or just?"
If you say he is unjust then he would not be qualified to remain a judge and if you say that he is just, then this command would be against your opinion.
If, as per your belief the entire world becomes ascetic and no one cares for any worldly thing, then who would accept charity, which is made so much rewarding by Allah? And how could the rich people produce the recipients of alms? The problem is that you have not understood the book of Allah and the practice (Sunnah) of the Prophet. You have neither understood its reality nor learnt about its abrogated and abrogating ones. Neither have you learnt about His commands and prohibitions. You don't even know that Sulaiman, being a prophet of Allah asked for a kingdom that no one had ever acquired. Allah accepted his prayer and bestowed him such a kingdom. No one objected to him. In the same way his respected father, Prophet Dawood (a.s) was also a King. Prophet Yusuf (a.s) was the Aziz of Egypt. Dhurqarnain was a beloved servant of God. Allah also gave him the rulership of east and west. Thus, O people! Fear Allah and follow His commands and prohibitions. Ask those who know about that which you don't know. The ignorant are always of lesser status than the people of knowledge."
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