Method of Educating the Public
The Imams (A.S.) played a significant role in the area of educating the public, setting examples in educating through the example of one's own conduct; therefore, their methods of education were not confined merely to spreading awareness through the spoken word but went beyond that to enforcing a strict practical censorship over actions to observe the defects and shortcomings of conduct in the life of others. Here we present three examples of the norms of conduct of Imam al-Rida (A.S.) each dealing with one aspect of man's practical life:
Yasir, one of his servants, narrates that the Imam's attendants were eating some fruit one day and they were throwing away a good portion of it uneaten. Abul-Hassan (A.S.) said to them: "Praise be to God! If you have eaten to your fill, there are many who have not; so, you should feed them of it instead."49
In this incident, the Imam points out to the reality of wanton living which we observe in our life. When we feel that we have achieved full satisfaction of something, be it food or anything else, we do not try to satisfy the need of others for it, but we may even try to spoil it in one way or another without realizing the crime towards humanity implied in an action like that.
Sulaiman ibn Ja'fer al-Ju'fi is quoted saying: "I was in the company of al-Rida (A.S.) trying to take care of some personal business of my own and I wanted to go home. He said to me, `Come with me and spend the night over my house.' So I went with him and he entered his house shortly before sunset. He noticed that his attendants were working with clay, probably mending stables, and there was a black man among them. He asked them, `What is this man doing with you?' They said: `He is helping us, and we will pay him something.' He asked, `Did you come to an agreement with him regarding his wages?' They said, `No. He will accept whatever we pay him.' He, thereupon, started whipping them and showing signs of extreme anger. I said to him, `May my life be sacrificed for yours! Why are you so angry?' He said: `I have forbidden them so many times from doing something like that and ordered them not to employ anyone before coming to an agreement with him regarding his wages. You know that nobody would work for you without an agreed upon wage. If you do not, and then you pay him three times as much as you first intended to pay him, he would still think that you underpaid him. But if you agree on the wage, he will praise you for fulfilling your promise and paying him according to your agreement, and then if you give him a little bit more, he would recognize that and notice that you increased his pay."50
Here the Imam tries to point out a significant point related to the system of labour whereby each of the employer and the employee safeguards his rights. Often, disputes erupt about determining the wage the employee deserves in the absence of a prior agreement between the employer and the employee regarding a set wage. By determining and agreeing upon a set wage, each party safeguards its own right without finding a reason to dispute. An increase, though small, in the wage will surely cause the employee to feel grateful and thankful to his employer.
Al-Bazanti is quoted saying:"Al-Rida (A.S.) had one of his donkeys sent to convey me to his residence, so I came to the town and stayed with a dignitary for a part of the night, and we both had our supper together, then he ordered my bed to be prepared. A Tiberian pillow, a Caesarian sheet, and a Marw blanket were brought to me. Having eaten my supper, he asked me, `Would you like to retire?' I said, `Yes, may my life be sacrificed for yours.' So he put the sheet and the blanket over me and said, `May God make you sleep in good health,' and we were on the rooftop. When he went down, I told myself that I had achieved a status with that man nobody else had attained before. It was then when I heard someone calling my name, but I did not recognize the voice till one of his (al-Rida's) servants came to me. He said: `Come meet my master;' so I went down and he came towards me, asked me for my hand to shake and he shook it with a squeeze, saying, `The Commander of the Faithful, God's peace be upon him, came once to visit Sa'sa'a ibn Sawhan, and when it was time to leave, he advised Sa'sa'a not to boast about his visit to him but to look after himself instead for he seemed to be about to depart from this world and that worldly hopes do not do a dying man any good, and he greeted him a great deal as he bid him good-bye.'"51
In the above anecdote, the Imam (A.S.) points out the significance of realistic spiritual upbringing which is not influenced by external appearances nor is deceived by artificial psychological fantasies, for the reason why others pay attention and show concern may be solely due to seeking their self-interest, or maybe due to a sincere affection, or to any other reason, without any of these reasons being linked to the reality of the self and its significance. The Imam tries to push us to avoid being deceived by anything which would push us away from contemplating upon our real world to which our destiny is tied, and we have to be subjective in our outlooks, assessing our realities without being influenced by casual external factors.
50 Al Kafi, Vol. 5, p. 288.
51 Qurb al-Isnad, p. 222, and Al Kharaij wal Jaraih, p. 237, with a slight textual variation.
Adapted from: "Imam al-Ridha (a.s.), A Historical and Biographical Research" by: "Muhammad Jawad Fadlallah"
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