Noble Characteristics as Preached by Imam Jafar al- Sadiq (A.S.) - Part IV
by: Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (A.S.)
Contemplation of Death
Contemplating death kills desire, cuts off the roots of heedlessness and strengthens the heart with Allah's promise of life hereafter.
It refines nature, breaks the signs of passion, extinguishes the fire of greed and renders this world vile; this is the meaning of the Holy Prophet's words: 'To reflect for an hour is better than a year of worship.' That hour of reflecting is the moment when you unite the ropes binding you to this world and fasten them to the next. The descent of mercy from Heaven never ceases when death is remembered in this way. If a person does not reflect on death, and on his own lack of any means to escape it, on his great incapacity, on the length of time he will spend in the grave and his bewilderment at the Resurrection, there is no good in him.
The Holy Prophet said, 'Remember the destroyer of pleasures.' When asked what that was, he replied, 'Death. Whenever one of Allah's servants remembers this when he is wealthy, this world is constricted for him. Whenever he remembers it in hardship, it is expanded for him.' Death is the first station of the next world and the last station of this world. Blessed is he who shows himself generous and benefits at the beginning, and blessed is he who has done his best at the end.
Death is the closest thing to accompany the son of Adam, although he deems it to be the furthest away. How much man inflicts on himself? What weaker creature is there? In death lies the rescue of the sincere and the destruction of the wrongdoers.
That is why some yearn for death while others hate it. The Holy Prophet said, 'If a person loves to meet Allah, Allah loves to meet him; and if a person hates to meet Allah, the Allah hates to meet him.'
The root of good opinion is a man's belief and the soundness of his heart; the sign of good opinion is that whenever he looks, he sees with the eye of purity and virtue wherever he goes, and modesty, trustworthiness, protection and truthfulness are cast into his heart. The Holy Prophet said, 'Have a good opinion of your brothers: through that you will gain purity of heart and firmness of nature.' And Ubayy ibn Ka'b said, 'When you see a quality which you disapprove of in one of your brothers, then give it seventy interpretations and see if your heart can be at peace with one of them. If it is not, then blame yourself if you cannot excuse him. If you yourself have a quality which will easily make for seventy interpretations, then you should disapprove of yourself more than you do of him.' As Allah revealed to David, 'Remind My slaves of My blessings and My favours. They have only seen exquisite goodness from Me so they should only expect that what remains will be like what they have already had from Me.' Good opinion invites good worship. A person who is deluded continues to remain in rebellion even while he hopes for forgiveness. The best opinion in Allah's creation is reserved for those who obey Him, hope for His reward and fear His punishment.
The Messenger of Allah said, relating from his Lord, 'I am with My slave's good opinion of Me, O Muhammad.' Whoever fails to live up to the reality of the gifts which come from his opinion of his Lord has intensified the proof against himself, and is among those who are deceived by the shackles of his passion.
Entrusting Oneself to Allah
The one who entrusts his affair to Allah is in eternal rest and constant carefree ease of life; he is above caring about anything except Allah, as the Commander of the Faithful said, I was content with what Allah allotted me, and I entrusted my affair to my Creator. As Allah was good in what has passed, so He will be good in what remains.
As Allah said, in the words of a believer among the people of Pharaoh,
"I entrust my affair to Allah, surely Allah sees the servants". So Allah protected him from the evil consequences of what they planned and the most evil punishment overtook Pharaoh's people. (40:44 5)
The Arabic word for entrustment (tafwid) consists of five letters, each letter having an injunction. He who heeds their commands brings the ta of his abandoning (tark) plans in this world; the fa of the annihilation (fana) of every aspiration other than Allah; the waw of fulfilling (wafa) the contract and confirming the promise; the ya of despairing (ya's) of yourself, and certainty (yaqin) in your Lord; and the dad of a conscience (damir) which is purely for Allah, and of the need (darurah) for Him. He who entrusts everything to Allah wakes up in the morning free of all evils, and at night sleeps protected in his faith.
Certainty will take the bondsman to every sublime state and every wondrous station; thus did the Messenger of Allah make known the immensity of certainty when he mentioned that ‘Isa [a] walked on water. He said, 'If he had had more certainty, he could have walked on air.' By this he indicated that in spite of the majesty of the place which the prophets have with Allah, they also have different ranks according to their certainty. Certainty is ever increasing, and remains so throughout eternity. Believers also vary in the strength and weakness of their certainty. A person whose certainty is strong may be recognised by the fact that he finds himself stripped of all ability and power other than what Allah has given him, and by his keeping to Allah's command and worship both outwardly and inwardly. He considers the states of having and not having, increase and decrease, praise and blame, might and abasement, all to be the same because he considers them all on an equal level. However, a person who weakens his certainty attaches himself to external matters, and allows his self free rein therein. He follows the customs and sayings of people without substantiating them, and strives in the affairs of this world, accumulating its wealth and holding on to it, acknowledging and affirming it with his tongue.
There is no withholder or giver except Allah, and the slave can only obtain what he is provided with and allotted. Effort will not increase provision, but he disavows that by his action and his heart. In Allah's words,
They say with their mouths what is not in their hearts; and Allah best knows what they conceal. (3:167)
Allah was compassionate to His bondsmen when He gave them permission to earn money however they might as long as they do not exceed the limits of Allah or abandon their obligations to Him and the behaviour of His Prophet in any of their actions, or abandon the spirit of trust or become caught in the field of greed. But when they forget this, attaching themselves to the opposite of what has been delineated for them, they are counted among the destroyed, who at the end have nothing but false claims. Not everyone who earns is necessarily trustful: from his earnings he brings for himself only what is forbidden or doubtful. He may be recognized by the effect his gains have upon him, by his insatiable hunger, and how he spends for this world without let.
He who is given permission to earn is one whose self gains while his heart trusts in Allah. If he has a lot of money, he is like a trustee who knows that having property and not having it is the same thing. If he withholds it, he withholds for Allah; and if he spends it, he does so in the way Allah has commanded. Both are for Allah.
Fear and Hope
Fear is the custodian of the heart, and hope is the intercessor of the self; whoever knows Allah fears Him and sets his hopes in Him. They are the wings of belief with which the true servant flies to Allah's pleasure. They are the eyes of his intellect, with which he sees Allah's promise and threat; fear contemplates the justice of Allah through careful awareness of that threat. Hope calls for Allah's overflowing favour and gives life to the heart, while fear kills the self. The Messenger of Allah said, 'The believer has two kinds of fear: fear of what has passed and fear of what is to come.'
In the death of the self lies the life of the heart, which leads to firmness in practice. Whoever worships Allah with a balance of fear and hope will not be misguided, and will obtain what he hopes for. How can a slave be anything other than fearful when he does not know at what action his record will be closed, while he has to his credit no deed capable of helping him, no power to do anything, nor any place to fly to? How can he fail to hope when he knows that despite his incapacity he is drowned in the seas of Allah's blessings and favours, which cannot be counted or numbered? The lover worships his Lord with hope by contemplating his own state with the eye of wakefulness; and the abstinent worships with fear.
Uways al-Qarani said to Haram ibn Hayyan, 'People act in hope.' 'But you act in fear,' Haram replied. There are two types of fear: permanent and changing. Permanent fear brings about hope, while changing fear brings about permanent fear. Similarly, there are two types of hopes: concealed and open. Concealed hope brings about permanent fear, which strengthens the connection of love; while open hope fulfils a man's expectations regarding his incapacity and shortcomings in the things he has done during his life.
Contentment is when a person is content with what he loves and what he hates; it is a ray of the light of gnosis. He who is content is annihilated to all his choices; he is really the one with whom Allah is content. Contentment is a name which contains the meanings of servitude, and maybe described as the joy of the heart.
I heard my father, Muhammad al-Baqir, say, 'To attach the heart to what is present is association (shirk), and to what is not there is disbelief (kufr): these are the wings of heedlessness.' I am amazed at anyone who claims to be a slave to Allah and then contends with Him over His decrees. Content gnostics ('arifin) are far from being like that.'
Affliction is an adornment for the believer and a mark of honour for the man of intellect, because facing it directly needs steadfastness and firm-footedness, both of which confirm belief. The Holy Prophet said, 'We, the company of the prophets, are the people who have the hardest trials, then after us come the believers, then the others like them.'
Whoever tastes the food of affliction while under Allah's protection enjoys it more than he enjoys Allah's blessing. He yearns for it when it is not there, because the lights of blessing lie under the balance of affliction and trial, and the balance of affliction and trial lies under the lights of blessing. Many are delivered from affliction and then destroyed in blessing. Allah praised none of His bondsmen, from Adam up to Muhammad, until He had tested him and seen how he fulfilled the duty of worship while in affliction. Allah's marks of honour come, in fact, at the last stage, but the afflictions themselves come in the beginning.
Whoever leaves the path of affliction is ignoring the lamp of the believers, the beacon of those near to Allah, and the guide for those on the right path. There is no good in a slave who complains of a single trial preceded by thousands of blessings and followed by thousands of comforts. Whoever does not show the patience required in affliction is deprived of thankfulness in the blessings he receives. Similarly, whoever does not give the thankfulness owed for blessings is denied the patience owed in affliction. Whoever is denied both of them is an outcast.
Ayyub said in his supplication, 'O Allah, verily seventy comforts and ease did not come to me until You sent me seventy afflictions.'
And Wahb ibn Munabbih said, 'Affliction to a believer is like a bit to a horse and a halter to a camel.' Ali said, 'Steadfastness in relation to belief is like the head to the body. The head of steadfastness is afflictions but only those who act righteously understand that.'
Patience reveals whatever light and purity there is in the innermost being of Allah's servants, while anxiety shows up the darkness and bereftness inside them. Everyone claims to be patient, but only the humble are firm in it. Everyone denies his anxiety, although it is quite obvious in a hypocrite because the onset of trials and afflictions tells you who is truthful and who is a liar.
Patience is a sensation that continuously prevails in one's consciousness, but what occurs upon a sudden upset cannot be called patience. Anxiety is what disturbs the heart and brings the person sorrow, changing his complexion and his state. Every event whose beginnings are without humility, repentance, and humble supplication to Allah comes from someone who is anxious, not someone who is patient. The beginning of patience is bitter, but its end is sweet for some people; but for others both its beginning and end are bitter. Whoever enters it at its end has entered it. Whoever enters it from its beginning has left it. A person who knows the value of patience cannot bear to be without it.
In the story of Moses and Khidr Allah said,
How can you have patience in that of which you have no comprehensive knowledge? (18:68)
Whoever is unwillingly patient, who does not complain to people and does not become anxious when his veil is rent, is counted among the common people. His share is as Allah said,
Give good news to the patient, (2:155)
That is, good news of the Garden and forgiveness. Whoever meets affliction with an open heart, showing patience with tranquility and dignity, is counted among the elite and his portion is as Allah said,
Surely Allah is with the patient. (8:46)
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