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Noble Characteristics as Preached by Imam Jafar al- Sadiq (A.S.) - Part I

by: Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (A.S.)



Bondage ('Ubudiyah)

The roots of conduct have four aspects: conduct with Allah, conduct with the self, conduct with creation (i.e. people), and conduct with this world. Each of these aspects is based upon seven principles, just as there are seven principles of conduct with Allah: giving Him His due, keeping His limits, being thankful for His gift, being content with His decree, being patient with His trials, glorifying His sanctity, and yearning for Him.
The seven principles of conduct with the self are fear, striving, enduring harm, spiritual discipline, seeking truthfulness and sincerity, withdrawing the self from what it loves, and binding it in poverty (faqr).

The seven principles of conduct with creation are forbearance, forgiveness, humility, generosity, compassion, good counsel, justice and fairness.

The seven principles of conduct with this world are being content with what is at hand, preferring what is available to what is not, abandoning the quest for the elusive, hating overabundance, choosing abstinence (zuhd), knowing the evils of this world and abandoning any desire for it, and negating its dominance.
When all these qualities are found in one person, he is then one of Allah's elite, one of His close bondsman and friends (awliya')


More on Bondage

Bondage is an essence, the inner nature of which is lordship (rububiyah). Whatever is missing in bondage is found in lordship, and whatever is veiled from lordship is found in bondage. As Allah said,

We will soon show them Our signs in the universe and in their own souls, until it will become quite clear to them that it is the truth. Is it not sufficient as regards your Lord that He is a witness over all things? (41:53)
This means He exists both in your absence and in your presence. Bondage means ridding oneself of everything, and the way to obtain this is to deny the self what it desires and to make it bear what it dislikes. The key to this is abandoning rest, loving seclusion and following the path of recognition of the need for Allah.

The Holy Prophet [s] said, 'Worship Allah as if you see Him. Even if you do not see Him, He sees you.'
The letters of the Arabic word for 'bondsman' ('abd) are three; 'ayn, ba' and dal. The 'ayn is one's knowledge ('ilm) of Allah. The ba' is one's distance (bawn) from other than Him, and the dal is one's nearness (dunuw) to Allah with the restriction of neither contingent qualities nor veil.
The principles of conduct have four aspects, as we mentioned at the beginning of the first chapter.


Fearing Allah

Close the gates of your limbs and senses to all that will harm your heart, remove your standing with Allah, and bring in its wake grief and regret on the Day of Judgement and shame about the evil actions you committed.

The scrupulous person must have three principles: he should overlook the faults of all people, he should avoid offending them, and he should balance censure with praise.

The basis of fearing Allah is to constantly take the self to account, to be truthful in one's words and pure in one's transactions, to leave every doubtful thing, to abandon every defect and doubt, to separate oneself from all which does not concern you and not to open doors which you will not know how to close.
Do not sit with anyone who obscures what is clear for you, nor with someone who takes the faith lightly. Do not question knowledge which your heart has no capacity for, and which you will not understand, of whoever said it, and cut off anyone who cuts you off from Allah.



Humility embraces every precious and noble rank and high position. If humility had a language which people understood, it would speak about the realities which are hidden in the outcomes of affairs. Humility is whatever is undertaken for Allah and in Allah, and anything other then that is trickery. Whoever is humble to Allah, Allah will honour over many of His bondsmen. The people of humility have recognizable signs. When one of them was asked about humility, he said, 'It means you are humble to the truth and follow it, even if you hear it from a child.' Many types of pride keep one from using, accepting and following knowledge. There are certain verses about this, denouncing the haughty. The people of humility have signs recognized by the angels in heaven and the gnostics on earth. Allah said,

On the most elevated places there shall be men who know all by their marks. (7:46)

and elsewhere,

Whoever from among you turns back from his faith, then Allah will bring a people whom He loves and they shall love Him, humble towards the believers, mighty against the unbelievers. (5:54)

Surely the most honourable of you with Allah is the one among you with the greatest precaution. (49:13)


Do not attribute purity to your souls. (53:32)

The root of humility comes from the majesty, awe, and immensity of Allah. Allah is not pleased with any act of worship, nor does He accept it unless it comes with humility. No one knows what is the true meaning of humility except those of His bondsmen who are close and connected with His unity. Allah said,
The servants of the Merciful are they who walk on earth in humbleness, and when the ignorant address them, they say; Peace. (25:63)

He commanded the mightiest of His creation and the master of its people, Muhammad, to be humble, saying,

Make yourself gentle to the believers. (15:88)

From humility grow submission, humility, fear and modesty; it is only from within humility that these qualities appear. True and perfect nobility is only given to those who are humble in the essence of Allah.



Repentance is the rope of Allah, and the mainstay of His concern for His servants, who must always show repentance, in every state. Each group of bondsmen has its own form of repentance:

The repentance of the prophets is for the disquiet caused to their innermost being by any outward source of vexation, while the repentance of the awliya' (friends of Allah) arises from the subtle change of hue in their thoughts. The repentance of the pure lies in their calm abandonment of whatever oppresses them; the repentance of the elite is for being occupied with anything other than Allah, and the repentance of the common people is for wrong actions. Each of them recognizes and is aware of the cause of his repentance, and his intention therein, but it would take too long to explain all of these here.

As for the repentance of the common man, he washes his inward being with the water of regret, in constant recognition of his wrong action, having regret for what he has done, and fear for what remains of his life. He does not think that his wrong actions are insignificant, for that would lead him to laziness; his continued weeping and regret for what he has missed is in itself an act of worship. He should restrain himself from his worldly appetites, and seek Allah's help in showing repentance, and to protect him from returning to what he did before. He trains himself in the arena of ignorance and worship. He makes up for obligations missed: he answers others' calls for help, withdraws from bad company, spends his night awake, thirsts during the day, constantly reflecting on his end and seeking help from Allah, asking Him to make him steady in his states of ease and difficulty, and constant in his trials and afflictions so that he will not fall from the ranks of the repentant. This will purify him of his wrong actions, increase his knowledge, and elevate his rank. As Allah has said,
Thus Allah will certainly know those who are truthful, and Allah will certainly know the liars. (29:3)



Anyone who embarks on a retreat ('uzlah) from the world is fortified by Allah and protected by His guardianship. What joy there is for the person who has withdrawn with Him, secretly and openly! To do this, he must differentiate between truth and falsehood, love, poverty, chose hardship and abstinence, and seize every opportunity for retreat. He must contemplate the outcome of his actions, seeing his incapacity for worship while worshipping as much as possible, abandoning pride, and constantly engaging in remembrance without showing heedlessness, which is the hunting ground of Satan and the beginning of every affliction and the reason for all that is obscure. He should also rid his house of everything he has no immediate need for.

‘Isa [a] said, 'Guard your tongue in order to develop your heart, and make your abode be enough for you. Beware of showing off and of having excess provision. Be modest before your Lord and weep for your errors. Flee from people as you flee from the lion and the viper. They were a medicine and now they have become a disease. Then meet Allah wherever you will.' And Rabi' ibn Khuthaym said, 'If you can manage today to be in a place where you do not know anyone and where none knows you, then do so.'

Retreat brings protection for the limbs, a free heart, a sound livelihood, the destruction of Satan's weapons, the avoidance of every evil and rest for the heart. There is no prophet nor regent (wasi) who has not chosen retreat in his lifetime, either at his beginning or at his end.



Silence is the mark of those who are certain of the realities which have already come to be, and about which the Pen has already written. It is the key to every rest in this world and the next: it brings Allah's pleasure, a lightening of the reckoning and a protection from errors and mistakes. Allah has made it a veil for the ignorant and an adornment for the man of knowledge.

Through silence, passions can be set aside, and with it come self-discipline, the sweetness of worship, removal of hardheartedness, abstinence, virtuousness and resourcefulness. Therefore lock your tongue to speech which is not absolutely necessary, especially when you do not find anyone worth talking to; except, that is, when you are talking specifically about matters to do with Allah.

Rabi' ibn Khuthaym used to place a parchment before him, upon which he would write down everything he said during the day. In the evening he would call himself to account while he was still alive, seeing what he had said both for and against himself. Then he would say, 'Oh! The silent have indeed been saved!'
One of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah used to put pebbles in his mouth. When he wanted to say something he knew was both to Allah, in Allah and for the sake of Allah, he would remove them from his mouth. Many of the Companions used to breathe like someone drowning, and speak like someone who was ill.

People's destruction or salvation lies in speech and silence. Good fortune belongs to those who are given knowledge of what is incorrect and correct in speech, and the science of silence and its advantages, for it is one of the qualities of the prophets and one of the distinguishing marks of the select. Whoever knows the value of speech is an expert in the company of silence: once a person has been exposed to the subtleties of silence, and has been entrusted with its treasures, then both his speech and silence are worship. No one is privy to this worship of his except the King of all, the All-compelling.

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