Polarization Around the Character of 'Ali ibn Abi Talib
- :Martyr Murtada Mutahhari
Polarization Around the Character of
'Ali ibn Abi Talib
Martyr Murtada Mutahhari
This book, whose original title is Jadhibah wa dafi'ah-e Ali 'alayhi's-salam (lit. "The Attraction and Repulsion of 'Ali [as]", or "The Power of Attraction and the Power of Repulsion of 'Ali [as]") is one of the important works of the late, great scholar ash-Shaykh Murtada Mutahhari, the Iranian writer, may Allah have mercy upon him. The writer has himself given his explanation of this title in his introduction and in various places in the book, so there is no need for us to explain it any further.
We should not, however, overlook the fact that some one's power of attraction for those who love and help him, and even those who give themselves for him, and, on the other hand; his power of repulsion which create for that person opponents, enemies and even people who wish to kill him (we use the terms attraction and repulsion just as the author has), are for the primary factors in that person, but are two terms which summarise the multiple factors and effects which manifest themselves in him.
One set of these factors is the "essential" or "inward" ones which are found in that person and which are responsible for bringing people to love and help him, or to oppose and hate him. At the same time, there are essential factors which exist in the helpers or enemies themselves, which act together with the first set of factors to produce that love or enmity. There are also external factors which strengthen the effects of these "essential" ones, or constitute obstacles to their fulfillment.
Now, if we consider the personality under discussion free from the context of his times, but rather as a man of all ages and times, we shall necessarily find some factors in addition to those related to his own time, which will be connected with his historical existence in its fully human sense. Either these additional factors will augment the original ones, or else they will weaken them. The most important of these historical factors is the list of those who have loved, and have given themselves, for him, and their personalities, and the list of his opponents and enemies, and their personalities; and these lists are continually being added to as time proceeds and as centuries and generations succeed one another.
This becomes even more important when we consider a personality of the stature of Amiru ' l-mu'minin (as) , where we find in his pure person the noblest human characteristics combined with the greatest Divine gifts, and in his Shi'ahs and enemies the strongest faith in the Divine Message combined with faith in mankind and its supreme mission, on the one hand and, on the other, hostility to the Divine Message combined with disbelief in mankind and a rising up against them.
If we take note of the above points, we can gain a clear idea of the great amount of energy that needs to be expended, the extent of the research and the depth of study which must be undertaken before it is possible for someone to do justice to the subject, so that a worthy result may be obtained from all the various aspects of his preliminary investigations.
This book, as the scholarly author, may Allah have mercy on him, points out himself, developed out of four lectures originally given in connections with the commemoration of the martyrdom of al-Imam Amiru 'l-mu'minin (as) . They were collected together and published in the form of this book. The author, may Allah have mercy on him, was only doing justice to himself and to his work when he admitted, in his introduction, that his book is only a sample from his immense subject whose dimensions are broad and multi-faceted. It is our misfortune that the author found himself unable to expound any further on this great subject than these four lectures, which were circumscribed within the framework of the particular limited temporal and circumstantial events in which he found himself, except to the extent that the pressures of his responsibilities allowed him to review the material for publication.
Praise be to Allah Who has caused the author, may Allah have mercy on him, to succeed to the extent that he did in proceeding with his discussion, which relates to the powers of attraction and repulsion of Amiru 'l-mu'minin (as). He was fortunately able in this work to reach the same high level which he sustained in his other works. When we saw the great Islamic thinking, the clear historical presentation, the originality and novel exposition which are present in this book and about which the generality of readers are in agreement with us, and which exist despite the limitations imposed upon him, we decided to have the book translated into English. We gave it to an expert translator, whom, we thank Allah, was able to translate it into English with similar originality and skill to that which the scholar Mutahhari manifested in the original text.
We praise Allah that we have succeeded in publishing this book in an English version. We ask Allah, and supplicate Him, that He may cause our work to be only in pure devotion to Him, and that He may cause us to succeed in the best thing in which He causes His virtuous slaves to succeed. For He is the best Guide and the best Artisan.
(Board of Writing, Translation and Publication).
Tehran - Iran.
The great, expansive personality of Amir al-mu'minin (Commander of the Believers), 'Ali - may peace be upon him - is broader and more multi-faceted than anything that one person can enter into in all its aspects and parts, or bring his restless mind to reflect. For a single individual, the most that is possible is that he choose one or several specific, limited areas for study and research, and content himself with that.
One of the aspects and areas of the being of this great individual is the effect he had on people, either positive or negative, or, in other words, his powerful "attraction and repulsion", which still now exerts its active influence; and it is with this that we shall be concerned in this book.
The personalities of individuals are not all the same in the reaction they .produce in spirits and souls. The weaker the personality, the fewer minds it engages and the fewer hearts it excites and agitates. The greater and more powerful it is, the more it excites and provokes a reaction in the mind, although the reaction may be positive or negative.
Those personalities who excite minds and provoke a reaction are spoken of everywhere, they are the subjects of debates and disputes, they become the themes of poetry, painting and other arts, and the heroes of stories and other writings. These are all things which are true to the greatest extent in the case of 'Ali (as) [ (as): is the abbreviation of the Arabic phrase 'alay-hi/ha/himu 's-salam (may peace be upon him/her/them).] and in this respect he has no rival, or at least very few rivals. It is said that Muhammad ibn Shahrashub al-Mazandarani, who was one of the greatest Shiite scholars of the 7th century A.H. (13th century A.D.), had a thousand books with the title "Manaqib" (Noble Virtues), in his library, all written about 'Ali (as) , at the time he wrote his own famous "Manaqib". 1 This is one indication of how much the exalted personality of the master has engaged minds throughout history.
The basic mark of distinction of 'Ali (as) and other people who are bright with the rays of Truth is that as well as engaging people's minds and occupying their thoughts, they give light, warmth, love, joy, faith and strength to their hearts.
Philosophers like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Ibn Sina or Descartes are also heroes of the mastering of ideas and the exercise of the mind. The leaders of social revolutions, especially in the last two centuries, have, to a greater extent, created a kind of adoration among their followers. The shaykhs of Sufism from time to time bring their followers so far into the stage of "submission" that if "the keeper of the tavern" gives the cue, they will stain their prayer-rugs with wine.' But in none of these cases do we see fervour and ardour combined with gentleness, kindness, sincerity and compassion as history has shown among the followers of 'Ali. If the Safavids made dervishes into a war-like army of skilled fighters, they did so in the name of 'Ali, not in their own.
Spiritual goodness and beauty, which love and sincerity bring about, is one thing; supremacy, benefit, and what is of advantage in life, which is what the social leader deals in, or intellect and philosophy, which is what the philosopher deals in, or the establishing of "sovereignty" and "power" which is what the gnostic deals in, is something else.
There is a well-known story that one of Ibn Sina's students said to his teacher that if, with his extraordinary understanding and intelligence, he were to make a claim to prophecy, people would gather round him; but Ibn Sina said nothing, till once, when they were on a journey together in wintertime, Ibn Sina awoke from his sleep one morning at dawn, woke up his student, and told him he was thirsty and to go and fetch some water. The student procrastinated and made excuses: however much Ibn Sina persisted, the student was not prepared to leave his warm bed in the cold winter. At that moment the cry of the muezzin called out from the minaret: "Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar ..... ". Ibn Sina saw that this was a good opportunity to give the answer to his student, so he said: "You, who averred that if I made claim to be a prophet people would believe in me, look now and see how the command I just gave to you, who have been my student for years and have benefited from my lessons, has not even had enough effect to make you leave your warm bed to fetch me some water. But this muezzin has obeyed the four hundred year old command of the Prophet, got up from his warm bed, climbed up to this height and borne witness to the unity of God and to his Prophet. Look and see how great the difference is!"
Philosophers produce students, not followers; social leaders create followers but not complete men; qutbs and shaykhs of Sufism make "lords of submission", not active fighters for Islam.
In 'Ali we find the characteristics of the philosopher, the characteristics of a revolutionary leader, the characteristics of a Sufi shaykh and some of the characteristics of prophets. His school is the school of the intellect and thought, the school of revolution, the school of submission and discipline, and the school of goodness, beauty, ecstasy and movement.
Before he became the just leader (imam) of others, and behaved with justice towards them, 'Ali (as) was himself a harmonised, equilibrated being; he had gathered together the perfections of humanity. He possessed both a deep and far reaching mind, and tender and overflowing affections; he had both perfection of body and perfection of spirit; in the night, in worship, he cut himself off from everything else, and during the day he was active among the people. In the daytime, people saw his kindness and altruism, and listened to his advice, counsel and wise words; at night, the stars looked down on the tears of his worship and the heavens heard his prayers of love. He was both a learned man and a wise man, both a gnostic and a leader of society, both a man who denied his self and a soldier, both a judge and a worker, both a speaker and a writer. In sum, in all senses of the word he was a perfect man with all his attractiveness.
The present book is a collection of four lectures which were delivered between the 18th and 21st of the blessed month of Ramadan 1388 A.H. (1969 A.D.) in the Husayniyah-a Irshad, in Tehran. The book consists of an introduction and two parts. In the introduction the generalities of attraction and repulsion in their broader sense, and the "attraction" and "repulsion" of men in particular, have been discussed. In the first part, the power of attraction of 'Ali (as), which has, and always will, pull the hearts of people towards him, its philosophy, advantages and results, is the subject of discussion, and, in the second part, his powerful repelling effect, and how he strongly warded off and drove away certain elements, is examined and explained. It is shown that 'Ali (as) was a man with these twin powers, and that everyone who wants to be taught in his way must possess these twin powers.
It is not enough just to point to the dual powers of this path in order to make it known. In this book we have tried to show, as far as possible, what kind of individuals were attracted by his force of attraction, and what type of person was warded off by his force of repulsion. How often have we, who claim to follow the way of 'Ali, pushed away the very people that 'Ali attracted, and attracted those who were repulsed by him. In the part on 'Ali's force of repulsion, we have contented ourselves with a discussion of the Khawarij, but since there are other groups which are subject to this force of his, perhaps another time, or at least in a future printing of this book, this deficiency, as well as the other deficiencies of the book, will be amended.
The trouble of correcting and completing the lectures has been borne by the erudite Mr. Fathullah Umidi. Half the book owes its existence to his stylish pen, for, after extracting it from recorded tapes, he wrote it again, occasionally correcting and improving it. The other half of it is the writing of this scholar himself, or, sometimes, after his appropriate corrections, the additions of some points by myself. I trust that on the whole it will be useful and instructive. We beseech Allah, the Exalted to make us true followers of 'Ali (as).
11th Isfand, 1349 Sh.
4th Muharram, 1391 A.H.
2nd March, 1971 A.D.
Tehran - IRAN
1. 3 vols., Najaf, 1376/ 1956.
2. See Hafiz:
Let wine upon the prayer-mat flow,
And if the taverner bids so;
Whose wont is on this road to go
Its ways and manners well doth know.
(transl. A.J. Arberry, in Fifty Poems of Hafiz, Cambridge, 1947, p.83)
And the believers, the men and the women, are friends to one another; they bid to what is good, and forbid what is wrong; they perform the prayer, and pay zakat, and they obey Allah and His Messenger. Those - upon them Allah will have mercy; Allah is All-mighty, Allwise. (9:71)
The hypocrites, the men and the women, are as one another; they bid to what is wrong, and forbid what is good. (9:67)
The law of attraction and repulsion
The law of "attraction and repulsion" is a law which holds sway throughout the entire order of creation. From the point of view of the scientific school of today, man is quite sure that not a single atom of the world of existence is outside the governance of general attraction, and none can escape it. From the largest of the world's bodies and masses to the smallest of its atoms, all possess this enigmatic force called the force of attraction, and all are, in some way, influenced by it.
Ancient man did not discover the universal general law of attraction, but he did discover attraction in some bodies, and recognised some things as symbolic of this force, such as the magnet and amber. Even so, he did not know of the relationship of attraction between these things and all other things, as he was only acquainted with a particular relationship: that of the magnet to iron, or amber to straw.
Each one of the atoms on atoms which exist between this earth and the heaven Is, for its own kind, like straw and amber. 1
Apart from this, there was no talk of the force of attraction with other inanimate bodies; only about the earth was it asked why it was fixed in the middle of the havens. It was believed that the earth was suspended in the middle of space and was attracted on every side, and that since this pull was from all sides, it naturally stayed in the middle and did not incline to any one side. Some people believed that the heavens did not attract the earth, but rather that they repelled it, and that, since the force influencing the earth was equal on all sides, the result was that the earth was fixed in a particular spot and never changed its place.
There was also general belief in the faculty for attraction and repulsion in the case of plants and animals, in the sense that it was recognised that these had three basic faculties: the nutritive faculty, the faculty of growth, and the faculty of reproduction. For the nutritive faculty, they believed there were some subsidiary faculties: attractive, repulsive, digestive and retentive. It was said that there was in the stomach a force of attraction which pulled food towards itself, or, occasionally, when it did not accept the food, excreted or repelled it 2 ; and similarly it was said that there was a power of attraction in the liver which drew water towards itself.
The stomach draws in bread to its resting place,
The heat of the liver draws in water. 3
Attraction and repulsion in the world of man:
The meaning of attraction and repulsion here is not the attractions and repulsions to do with sex, although these too are a particular kind of attraction and repulsion, for they have nothing to do with our discussion and form an independent object of enquiry. Rather the meaning here is the attractions and repulsions which exist among individual human beings in the arena of social life. In human society there are also some forms of cooperation which are based on the sharing of benefits, but these too, of course, are not within the scope of our discussion.
The greatest proportion of friendships and affections, or enmities and hatred are all manifestations of human attraction and repulsion. These attractions and repulsions are based on general resemblance and similarity, or opposition and mutual aversion. 4 In fact, the basic cause of attraction and repulsion must be looked for in general resemblance and contrariety (taddad), just as in the discussions of metaphysics it has been proved that general resemblance is the cause of union.
Sometimes two human beings attract each other, and their hearts wish for them to be friends and companions one with the other. There is a secret in this, and the secret is nothing other than general resemblance. Unless there is a similarity between these two persons, they cannot attract one another and move towards friendship with each other. In general the nearness of both of them is evidence for a kind of similarity and general resemblance between them.
In the second book of Rumi's Mathnavi there is a fine story which illustrates this. A wise man saw a raven who had formed an affection for a stork. They perched together and flew together! Two birds of two different species: the raven had no similarity either in shape or in colour with the stork. The wise man was amazed that they were together. He went close and examined them and discovered that both of them had only one leg.
That wise man said: "I saw companionship
Between a raven and a stock.
Amazed I was, and examined their condition
To see what sign of commonality I could find.
So up I crept, and, to and behold!
I saw that both of them were lame. "
This one-leggedness brought fellowship to two species of animal which were alien to each other. Human beings, too, will never become friends and companions with each other without some reason, just as they will never be enemies without a cause.
According to some, the root of these attractions and repulsions is need, and the elimination of need. They say that man is a creature who is in need, and that he is created essentially in want. He endeavours by his own relentless activity to fill his emptiness and to supply his necessities, but this is impossible unless he joins with an ally and severs his linking relationship with society, so that he can take advantage from his ally by this means and protect himself from damage from some other group. And we will not find any inclination or aversion in man unless it springs from his instinct for taking advantage. According to this theory, the experiences of life and the structure of his primordial nature have brought man up to be attracted and repelled, so that he is enthusiastic about what he reckons is good in life, and keeps away from himself what does not conform with his aims, but is unresponsive when faced by what is neither of these, is that which neither holds out any benefit for him nor is detrimental. In fact, attraction and repulsion are two fundamental pillars of the life of man, and to whatever degree these are reduced, disorder takes the place of order in his life. In the end the one who has the power to fill up the vacuums attracts others to himself, and the one who not only does not fill up these vacuums but rather adds to the vacuums drives people away from himself, and likewise with those who do neither.
Differences between people as regards attraction and repulsion
In terms of attraction and repulsion in relation to other individuals, not all people are the same; indeed they can be divided up into various classes:
1. Individuals who do not attract and do not repel: No one likes them, nor is anyone their enemy; they incite no one's love, affection or attachment, nor anyone's hostility, envy, hatred or odium; they go among men indifferently, just as if a slab of rock were to be among them.
Such a creature is as nothing, produces no effect, a person in whom no positive thing exists either in terms of goodness or in terms of evil (the meaning of "positive" has to do not only with virtue - it has to do with wickedness too). He is an animal, he eats, he sleeps and walks among men. He is like a sheep which is no-one's friend and no-one's enemy, and if he is looked after, if he is given his water and grass, it is because his meat will be consumed after a while. He neither starts any wave of approval, nor any wave of disapproval. Such people form a group of worthless creatures, hollow and vacuous human beings, for man needs to love and to be loved, and we can also say that he needs to hate and to be hated.
2. People who attract but do not repel: They get on well with everybody, they establish cordial relations with all people, they make people of all classes their admirers. In life, everyone likes them, and no-one disowns them, and when they die, the Muslims wash them with water from the spring of Zamzam in Mecca and bury them, while the Hindus cremate them.
So accustom yourself to good and bad, So that after your death
Muslims will wash you in the water of Zamzam, And the Hindus cremate you. 5
According to the advice of this poet, in a society where half are Muslims and respect the corpse of a dead man, giving it ghusl (ablution for the dead), and maybe giving it ghusl in sacred water from Zamzam as a result of greater respect, and half are Hindus who cremate the dead and caste their ashes to the wind, one should live in such a way that Muslims accept you as one of theirs and want to wash you after death in water from Zamzam, and Hindus also accept you as one of theirs and want to cremate you after death.
It is often imagined that excellence of character, civility in social intercourse, or, in the language of today "being sociable", consists of just this, making all men one's friends.
However, this is not feasible for the man who has an aim, who follows a path, who, among men, persues a particular way of thinking or ideal, and does not consider his own advantage; such a man, like it or not, has only one face, he is decisive and explicit in his behaviour, unless, of course, he is a hypocrite and double-faced. For not all men think in the same way, or feel in the same way, and not everyone's preferences are of one kind; among men there are those who are just and those who are unjust, there is good and there is bad. Society has its equitable members, and its despotic members; there are just people, there are iniquitous people. These people cannot all love one person, one human being, who seriously persues one goal and thus collides with some of their interests. The only person who will succeed in attracting the friendship of all the various classes and the various idealisms is one who dissimulates and lies, and says and shows to each person what conforms to that person's liking. But if the person is sincere and follows a path, one group will automatically be his friend and another will similarly be his enemy. Any group which follows the same way as him will be pulled towards him, and any group which follows some different way will exclude him and will quarrel with him.
Some Christians, who present themselves and their religion as messengers of peace, believe that the perfect man possesses nothing but love, thus he has nothing but the power of attraction, and perhaps some Hindus also believe the same thing.
One of the things that is very striking in Hindu and Christian philosophy is love. They say that one must cultivate affection for all things and make one's love manifest, and when we come to love everyone what can possible prevent everyone from loving us - the bad will also love us, since they will have seen our love.
But these gentlemen should understand that it is not enough merely to be a man of love, one must also be a man with a path, just as Gandhi said: "This is my religion." Love must coincide with reality and, if it coincides with reality it will have some path which it follows, and following a way creates enemies, whether we wish it or not. In fact, it is the power of repulsion which incites one group to struggle and excludes another group.
Islam is also the law of love. The Qur'an presents the Holy Prophet as a mercy for all Being: (rahmatan li'l alamin )
We have not sent thee, save as a mercy unto all beings (Anbiya', 21:107) .
This means that you (i.e., the Prophet) should be a mercy even for the most dangerous enemy, and should love even them. 6
However the love which the Qur'an commands does not mean that we should act towards everyone in conformity with what he likes and what is pleasing to him, that we should behave towards him in such a way that makes him happy and necessarily attracted towards us. Love does not mean that we leave everyone free to follow their inclinations, or still more that we should approve of their inclinations; this is not love, rather it is hypocrisy and double-dealing. Love is that which coincides with reality, it causes one to reach good, and sometimes those things which bring us to the good take a form that does not attract the love and affection of the other person. How many individuals there are to whom someone is loving in this way and who, when they observe that this love is at odds with their own inclinations, become hostile instead of appreciative. Besides, rational and intelligent love is that in which is the good and interest of the whole of mankind, not the good of one individual or one special group. There are many things which can be done to bring good to individuals and to show love for them which are the very same things which bring evil to society as a whole and may be its enemy.
We can find many great reformers in history who endeavoured to ameliorate the situation of society and smooth its sufferings, but who, in exchange, received no acknowledgement but animosity and persecution from people. So it is not the case that everywhere love attracts; indeed love sometimes manifests itself as a great repulsion which brings together whole societies against a man.
'Abdu 'r-Rahman ibn Muljam was one of the most adamant enemies of 'Ali, and 'Ali understood well that this man was a very dangerous opponent. Sometimes, even, others would say to him that he was a dangerous man, and that he should get rid of him. But 'Ali asked in reply, "Should I punish before the crime? If he is my murderer, I cannot kill my own murderer: he is to murder me, not I him." It was about this person that 'Ali said-
I want him to live; he wants to kill me.' (i.e., "I have love for him, but he is my enemy and has malevolent designs against me.")
Secondly, love is not the only healing drug for mankind; roughness is also necessary for certain tastes and temperaments, and conflict, repelling and driving away are also necessary. Islam is both the religion of attraction and love and the religion of repelling and retribution (niqmah). 8
3. People who repel but do not attract: they make enemies but they make no friends. These are also deficient people, and it shows that they are deficient in positive human qualities, for if they partook of human qualities they would have groups, even if they were small in number, who were their supporters and who were attached to them. For there are always good people among humanity, however small their number may be. Even if all men were worthless and unjust, their hostility would be a proof of truth and justice, but it is never the case that all men are bad, just as they are never all good. Naturally, the bad in someone who has an enemy in everyone is to be found within himself, for otherwise how could it be possible for there to be good in the human spirit and then for this man to have no friends. There are no positive sides to the personalities of such individuals; even in their villainous aspects their persons are sour throughout, and they are sour for everyone. There is nothing in them which is sweet even if it be only to a few.
'Ali (as) said:
The most powerless person is he who is unable to find any friends, and more powerless than these is the one who loses his friends and remains alone.'
4. People who both attract and repel: they are people travelling a path, who act in the way of their beliefs and principles; they draw groups of people towards themselves, they take a place in people's hearts as someone loved and wanted. But they also repel certain groups from themselves and drive them away. They make friends as well as enemies; they encourage agreement as well as disagreement.
Such people are also of several kinds, for sometimes both their power of attraction and their power of repelling are strong, sometimes they are both weak, and sometimes there is a difference between them. There are some people with such a personality that their powers of attracting and repelling are both strong, and this is related to how strong the positive and negative degrees in their spirits are. Of course, strength also has degrees, up to the point where the friends that have been attracted will ransom their souls and give themselves up entirely for the cause; and the enemies will also become so head-strong that they will give their lives in their own cause. And it may become so intense that centuries after the death of that person their attraction and repelling will still be effective in people's minds and will exercise a wide influence. This three-dimensional attraction and repelling are among the particular characteristics of the awliya', (the "friends" of Allah), just as the three-dimensional invitations to the way of Allah are peculiar to the chain of the prophets.
In this respect, it must be seen what kinds of people are attracted and what kinds repelled. For example, sometimes those with knowledge are attracted, and those who are ignorant are repelled, and sometimes vice versa. Sometimes noble and civilised people are attracted and the evil and the wicked are repelled, and sometimes vice versa. Thus, friends and enemies, the attracted and the repelled, each one is a clear proof of the essence of such a person.
It is not sufficient merely to have the powers of attracting and repelling, or even that they should be strong, in order that a person's character should become lauded, rather the cause of this is the character itself, and no-one's character is a proof of goodness. All the world's leaders, even criminals such as Changiz Khan, Hajjaj and Mu'awiyah, were people who had both the power to attract and the power to repel. Not unless there are positive points in someone's spirit he can never make thousands of soldiers obedient to him, and subdue their wills; not unless someone has the power of leadership can he gather people around himself to such a degree.
The Iranian king Nadir Shah (b. 1100/ 1688, reigned 1148/ 1736, d.1160/ 1747) was such a person. He cut off so many heads and had so many eyes gouged out of their sockets, but his personality was extraordinarily strong. From a defeated and plundered Iran at the end of the Safavid period he created an army at great cost, and, just like a magnet that attracts iron-fillings, fighting men collected round him who not only saved Iran from foreign powers, but went to the furthermost parts of India and brought new territories under the rule of Iran.
Thus every person attracts his own kind, and drives away those unlike him. A just and noble person attracts towards himself benevolent people who strive for righteousness, and drives away from himself sensual, money-loving, hypocritical people. A criminal person attracts criminals around himself, and repels those who are good.
And, as we pointed out, there is another difference in the strength of the power of attraction. Just as is said about Newton's gravity, that the degree of pull and attraction becomes greater in proportion to the size of the mass of the body and in inverse proportion to the size of the intervening distance, so also among men there is variation in the power of attraction and pull which derives from the individual who has that attraction.
'Ali - one man with two powers
'Ali is one of those persons who have both the power to attract and the power to repel, and his attraction and repelling are extremely strong. Perhaps no attraction and repelling as strong as 'Ali's can be found anywhere in any century or epoch. He has had remarkable friends, truly historical persons, ready to sacrifice themselves, forbearing, burning with love for him like flames from a bonfire, and full of light. They deemed giving up their lives in his way to be their aim and their glory, and they became oblivious of everything in their friendship for him. Years, even centuries, have passed since the death of 'Ali, but this attraction still sends out the same rays of light, and people are still dazzled when they turn to it.
Throughout his life, noble and civilised individuals, worshippers of God, self-sacrificing, altruistic people, forbearing, merciful and just men, ready to serve the people, rotated round the axis of his existence so that the story of any one of them is instructive; and, after his death, during the times of the caliphate of Mu'awiyah and the Umayyids, great masses of people were arrested for the crime of friendship to him and underwent the most severe tortures, but they did not give way in their friendship and love of 'Ali and stood firm to, the end of their lives.
With other individuals, everything dies when they die and become covered up, their corpses under the earth; but although men of truth die themselves, the following and love that they excite become more brilliant with the passing of the centuries.
We read in history that years and centuries after the death of 'Ali people courageously welcomed the arrows of his enemies.
Among all those who were attracted to, and captivated by, 'Ali, we can notice Maytham at-Tammar who, twenty years after 'Ali's martyrdom, spoke from his crucifixion of 'Ali and his virtues and human qualities. In those days, when the entire Islamic people were being suffocated, when all freedoms were quashed and souls became prisoners in their own breasts, when a mortal silence showed like the mist of death on everyone's faces, this man shouted out from the crucifix for people to come and listen to what he would tell them about 'Ali. People thronged round from all sides to hear what Maytham had to say. The powerful government of the Umayyids, which saw its own interests in danger, gave the order to put a gag in his mouth, and, after some days, put an end to his life. History bears many traces of this kind of devotion to 'Ali.
These kinds of powerful attraction are not specific to any particular time; in all ages we see manifestations of them and their strong effectiveness.
There was a man called Ibn as-Sikkit who was one of the great scholars and figures in Arabic literature, and his name is quoted among the authorities in the Arabic language like as-Sibawayh and others. He lived in the time of the 'Abbasid Caliph al-Mutawakkil, about two hundred years after 'Ali's martyrdom. In the administration of al-Mutawakkil he was accused of being Shi'ah, but even then, because he was very learned and distinguished, al-Mutawakkil chose him as a teacher for his own children. One day, when al Mutawakkil's children came to him, and Ibn as-Sikkit was present and had that day apparently given them an examination in which they had acquitted themselves well, al-Mutawakkil showed his pleasure with Ibn as-Sikkit, but perhaps because of misgivings due to having heard that he had learnings towards Shi'ite Islam, asked Ibn as-Sikkit whether the two in front of him (i.e. his two sons) were dearer to him or Hasan and Husayn, the two sons of 'Ali.
Ibn Sikkit was greatly disturbed by this question and comparison and became very agitated. He asked himself whether this proud man had reached such a degree that he had begun to compare his own two sons with Hasan and Husayn. He told himself that it was his fault for having been so successful in their education. In reply to al-Mutawakkil he said
"By Allah, I swear the 'Ali's slave, Qanbar, is definitely dearer to me than these two and their father."
al-Mutawakkil gave the order to the assembled people that Ibn as-Sikkit's tongue should be cut out from his throat. History can tell of many completely overwhelmed people who involuntarily sacrificed their lives in the way of love for 'Ali. Where can such attraction be found? One cannot imagine that in all the world there is a parallel.
To the same degree, 'Ali had stubborn enemies, enemies who set people trembling at the sound of their names. 'Ali is not to be looked at as an individual, but rather as a whole philosophy. And it is for this reason that one group is attracted to him, and one is repelled. Indeed, 'Ali was a man of two powers.
1. Rumi, Mathnawi', bk.6.
2. Nowadays, however, the structure of, the body is thought to be more like a machine, and the action of excretion is likened to a pump.
3. Rumi, Mathnavi, ibid.
4. As opposed to what is said concerning electric currents, where two similar poles repel each other, while two unlike ones attract each other.
5. 'Urfi was an Iranian poet (963/1555 - 999/1590) who travelled to India and frequented the Court of the Emperor Akbar.
6. It shows, what is more, that he loved all things, even animals and in animate things. Thus we can see in the history of his life that all the things he used had special names. His horses, his swords and his turbans all had special names, and the only reason for this was that all existent things were the objects of the expression of his love and affection; it is as if he considered everything to have an individuality. History bears no trace of any human being with this manner apart from him, and this manner in fact shows that he was the paradigm of human love. When he passed by the mountain of Uhud, he looked at it with kindness through his radiant eyes and with a look overflowing with love, and said: jabal yuhibbuna wa nahibbuh - "It is a mountain which loves us and we love it." He was a man in whose love mountains and stones also shared.
7. Biharu 'l-anwar, vo1.42, pp.193-194 (Tehran, new edition).
8. Perhaps we should say that retributions are also a manifestation of affectionate sentiments and love. In du'as (supplication to God) we read: "ya man sabaqat rahmatuh ghadabah" - "Oh You in whom mercy and love have taken precedence over anger", i.e., because You want to be merciful You are angry; otherwise, if that mercy and love did not exist, neither would the anger.
It is like a father who becomes angry with his son because he loves him and is concerned for his future. If his son opposes him, he becomes angry, and he may sometimes beat him, but despite however much ruder behaviour he may see from others' sons and children, he never gets worked up by it. In the case of his own son he becomes angry, because he has affection for him; but in the case of others, he does not become angry, for he has no affection.
On the other hand, affections sometimes deceive; that is to say, there are sentiments which the intellect cannot truly understand, as the Qur'an says:
In the matter of God's religion (i.e., the divine laws) let no tenderness for them (the offenders) seize you (an-Nur, 24:2).
The reason for this is that Islam, while it demonstrates concern and affection for individuals, is also concerned about society.
The greatest sin is a sin which appears small in the eyes of man and seems to be of no importance. Amir al-mu'minin said:
The most serious sin is the sin which the sinner imagines to be slight and insignificant. (Nahju 'l-balaghah, Saying no. 340).
The spread of sin is something which hides the seriousness of the sin from people's sights, and makes it seem nothing in the eyes of the individual.
9. Nahju 'l-balaghah, Saying no. 11
In the introduction to the first volume of The Seal of the Prophets (Khatim-a Payambaran), it is written concerning the topic of calls to mankind:
"The 'calls' that have occurred among humanity have not all been the same, and the rays of their effects have not been of (only) one kind.
"Some calls and systems of thought are one-dimensional, and proceed in one direction; when they appear, they embrace a broad spectrum of people, millions of people become adherents, but then after their time comes to an end they close shop and are entrusted to oblivion.
"Some are two-dimensional, their rays spread out in two directions. While they embrace a broad spectrum of people, and also progress for some time, their range is not confined to the spatial dimension and also extend into the temporal dimension.
"And some others progress in a multitude of dimensions. Not only do we see them attract a broad range of people from human societies and influence them and notice the effect of their influence on every continent, but we also see that they embrace the temporal dimension, that is to say, they are not confined to one time or era. They rule in all their might century after century. Also, they take root in the depths of the human spirit, and the very core of people's hearts is under their authoritative control; they rule in the profundity of the soul and take the reins of the emotions into their hands. This kind of three-dimensional call is the exclusivity of the chain of the prophets.
"What intellectual or philosophical schools of thought can be found which, like the world's great religions, exert their authority over hundreds of millions of people for thirty centuries, or twenty centuries, or, at the minimum, fourteen centuries, and sink deep into their innermost core."
Forces of attraction are also like this: sometimes one, sometimes two, and sometimes three-dimensional.
'Ali's power of attraction was of the last kind. Not only did it attract a broad range of human society, but it was also not limited to one or two centuries; rather, it has continued and extended throughout time. It is a fact that it lights up the pages of the centuries and ages, it has reached the depth and profundity of hearts and souls, in such a way that, after hundreds of years, when he is remembered and his moral virtues are heard of, tears of longing are shed, and the memory of his misfortunes is awakened to the extent that even his enemies are affected and their tears flow. This is the most powerful of attractive forces.
From here it can be understood that the link between man and religion is not a material one, but rather of another kind, the like of which link connects no other thing to the spirit of mankind.
If 'Ali had had no divine colouring and had not been a man of God, he would have been forgotten. The history of man bears traces of many champions, champions of speech, champions of knowledge or philosophy, champions of power and authority and champions in the battle-field, but all are forgotten by people, or else completely unknown.
But not only did 'Ali not die with his being killed, he became more alive. He spoke well when he said:
Those who amass wealth are dead even when they are alive, but those with knowledge will remain as long as the world remains. Their bodies may have disappeared, but their images continue to exist in the hearts. (Nahju' l-balaghah: Saying no. 47 )
He said about his own character:
Tomorrow, you will see these days of mine and unknown characteristics of mine will be revealed to you, and after my place has been vacated and someone else has occupied it you will know me." (Nahju 'l-balaghah, Sermon no. 149 )
My own age does not understand my deep meanings,
My Joseph is not for this market. I despair of my old champions,
My Sinai burns for the sake of the Moses who is coming.
Their sea is silent, like dew,
But my dew is storm-ridden, like the ocean.
My song is of another world than theirs:
This bell calls other travellers to take the road.
Many a poet was born after his death,
He opened our eyes when his own were closed,
And journeyed forth again from nothingness
Like roses blossoming over the earth of his grave.
No river will contain my Oman
My ,flood requires whole seas to hold it.
Lightenings slumber within my soul,
I sweep over mountain and plain.
The Fountain of Life hath been given Me to drink,
I have been made an adapt of the mystery of Life.
No one hath told the secret which I will tell
Or threaded a pearl of thought like mine
Heaven taught me this lore,
I cannot hide it from my comrades. 1
In fact, 'Ali is like the laws of nature which remain unchanged by time. He is a well-spring of munificence which is never dry, but which rather increases day by day. In the words of Kahlil Gibran (Jubran Khalil Jubran [1300/ 1883 - 1349/1931]), he was one of those personalities who was born before his time.
One of the greatest marks of distinction of Shi'ism over other sects is that its-foundation and its bedrock is love. Right from the time of the Prophet who laid the basis of this sect there has been the whispering of love; when we hear from the words of the Prophet the sentence:
Aliyyun wa shi'atuhu humu 'l-fa'izun.
"'Ali and his party (Shi 'ah) will be the triumphant ones." 2
We see that there was a group around 'Ali who were devoted to him, extremely fond of him and most affectionately drawn towards him. Thus Shi'ism is the religion of love and devotion: taking 'Ali as one's friend is the way of love. The element of love has completely penetrated Shi'ism, and the history of Shi'ism is joined in name with a chain of entirely unknown people, devoted, full of love and self-sacrificing.
Although 'Ali administered the Divine punishments to some, dealt with them with lashes and occasionally cut the hand of someone off in accordance with what is laid down by the Divine Law, they did not turn away from him and their love for him did not diminish in the slightest. He himself said:
If I strike the nose of a believer with this sword of mine so that he will become my enemy, it will not create hostility and if I pour the (riches of the) whole world on the head of a hypocrite so that he may like me, he will never like me; because this has been decreed and laid down by the tongue of the Prophet when he said: "O 'Ali, the believer will never be your enemy and the hypocrite will never love you!" 3
'Ali is the standard and criterion for assaying human natures and temperaments: he who has a sound nature and a pure temperament will never take offence at 'Ali, even though his sword may come down on his head, while he who has a diseased nature will never show any attachment to him, even if he does him great favours, for 'Ali is nothing but the embodiment of truth.
There was a friend of Amir al-mu'minin, a good and believing man, who unfortunately fell into error, and who had to be punished. Amir al-mu'minin cut off the fingers of his right hand. The man took hold of his cut hand, with the blood dripping from it, with his left hand, and went away. Ibn al-Kawwa', a seditious Kharijite, wanted to take advantage of this course of events for his own party and against 'Ali, so he came up to the man with an air of utter compassion and said: "Who cut your hand off?"
"The chief of the Prophet's successors", he said, "the leader of the untainted ones at the Resurrection, the most righteous among the believers, 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, the Imam of right guidance, cut off the fingers of my right hand ... the first to reach the Gardens of Felicity, the hero of the brave, the avenger against the promoters of ignorance, the giver of zakat ... the leader on the right and perfect path, the speaker of what is true and appropriate, the champion of Mecca, the steadfast exceller. " "Poor you!" said Ibn al-Kawwa', "He cut off your hand, and you extol him thus! "
"Why should I not extol him", he said, "now that his friendship is mixed with flesh and blood? I swear by God that he did not cut off my hand except with a right that God has established." 4
This love and affection which we see in such a way in the history of 'Ali and his companions, makes us turn to the topic of love and its results.
The Persian poets called love the "elixir" (iksir). The alchemists believed that there existed a material in the world which they called the "elixir" 5 or "the philosopher's stone" (kimiya) which could change one matter into another matter, and they searched after this for centuries. The poets took over the use of this terminology and said that the real "elixir" which has the power of transformation is love, because it is love which can transmute a substance. Love, absolutely, is the "elixir" and has the properties of the philosopher's stone, which changes one nature into another, and people also are different natures.
People are mines, like gold-mines and silver-mines.
It is love which makes the heart a heart, and if there is no love, there is no heart, just clay and water.
Every heart that is not aflame is no heart;
A frozen heart is nothing but a handful of clay. O God! Give me a breast that sets ablaze,
And in that breast a heart, and that heart consumed with fire. 6
One of the effects of love is power; love is the power of glory, it makes the coward courageous.
A hen will keep its wings folded by its side as long as it is alone. It will strut about quite peaceably, looking about to find small worms to swallow. It will start at the slightest noise, and not stand its ground even in front of the weakest child. But when the same hen has chickens, love takes up its dwelling at the centre of its being and its character completely changes. The wings which were folded by its side are now lowered in a sign of preparation for defence, it assumes an aggressive posture, even the sound of its clucking becomes stronger and more courageous. Previously it fled at the possibility of danger, but now it attacks where there is that possibility, and it attacks bravely. This is love which displays the frightened hen in the form of a valiant animal.
Love makes the heavy and lazy nimble and cunning, and even makes the slow-witted astute. A boy and girl neither of whom, when they were single, found themselves thinking about anything except what was directly related to their own persons, see that they have become concerned about the fate of another being for the first time as soon as they fall in love and set up a family environment. The radius of their wants extends; and when they become parents, their spirit completely changes. That heavy and lazy adolescent boy has now become active and mobile, and that girl who used not to get out of her bedclothes even during the day moves like lightning when she hears the cry of her child in the cradle. What is this power which has so galvanised the languor and weariness in these two young people? It is nothing but love.
It is love which turns the miser into a benefactor, and an impatient and intolerant person into someone with endurance and tolerance. It is love which gave the selfish bird which collected grain only with itself in mind and looked only after itself, the form of a generous creature which calls for its chickens when it finds a grain of corn; or which, by some wonderful power, makes the mother, who was until yesterday a spoiled child who just ate and slept and was irritable and impatient, persevering and forbearing when faced with hunger, lack of sleep and dishevelment, which gives her the patience to endure the hardships of motherhood.
The bringing into existence of tenderness in, and the removal of heaviness and coarseness from, the spirit, or, put in another way, the purification of the feelings, and also the unification and singleness of purpose and concentration, and the disappearance of distraction and dispersion are the strengths and, in the end, power which is produced by the coming together of all the resulting effects of love.
In the language of poetry and literature, when love is spoken of, we encounter one effect more than any other, and that is the power of love to bring inspiration, and its prodigality.
The nightingale learnt its song by the favour of the rose,
otherwise there would not have been
Any of this song and music fashioned from its beak. 7
Although the favour of the rose is, if we attend only to the words, a matter outside the existence of the nightingale, it is in fact nothing but the force of love itself.
Do you imagine that Majnun became deranged (majnun)
by himself? It was the glance of Layla that transported him among the stars. 8
Love awakens sleeping powers, and frees chained and fettered forces, just like the splitting of the atom and the freeing of atomic power. It fires with inspiration and builds heroes - how many poets, philosophers and artists there have been who were created by a strong and powerful love.
Love perfects the soul and brings out astounding latent abilities. From the point of view of the powers of perception, it inspires, and from the point of view of the emotions, it strengthens the will and determination, and when it rises to its highest aspect it brings miracles and supernatural events into existence. It purifies the spirit from the tempers and humours of the body; or, in other words, love is a cathartic, it purges the base qualities arising from egotism, or from coldness and lack of warmth, such as envy, avarice, cowardice, laziness, conceitedness and self-admiration. It removes grudges and malevolence, although it is possible that deprivation of, and frustration in, love may produce, in their own turn, complexes and aversions.
By love, bitternesses became sweet,
By love, pieces of copper became gold. 9
In the spirit, the effect of love is in terms of its development and thriving; in the body, in terms of melting and decomposition. The effect of love in the body is the complete opposite of what it is in the spirit. In the body love is the cause of ruination, and the reason for pallor and emaciation in the body, for indisposition and disorder in the digestive and the nervous systems. Perhaps all the effects which it has in the body are destructive; but in connection with the spirit it is not so - it depends on the object of love and how the person responds to that object. Leaving aside its social effects, it is predominantly perfecting in the spirit and the individual, because it produces strength, compassion, serenity, singleness of purpose, and determination; it abolishes weakness, meanness, annoyance, uncollectedness and dullness. It removes the confusions which are called dassa in the Qur'an (91:10), meaning adulterations of purity with impurity, destroys deceit and purifies the cheat.
The spiritual way ruins the body,
And, after having ruined it, restores it to prosperity:
O happy the soul who, for love and ecstasy,
Gave up hearth and home, wealth and riches,
Ruined the house for the sake of the golden treasure,
And with that same treasure rebuilt it better;
Cut off the water and cleansed the river-bed,
Then caused drinking-water to flow in the river-bed;
Cleft the skin and drew out the iron point -
Then fresh skin grew over it.
The perfect ones who are aware of the secret of reality
Are in ecstasy, bewildered, intoxicated and deranged with love.
Not bewildered in such wise that his back is towards Him,
But so bewildered that (they are) drowned and intoxicated with the Beloved. 10
Love brings man out from egoism and self-love, irrespective of what kind of love it is - animal and sexual, animal and parental, or human - and irrespective of what qualities and excellences the loved-one has, whether bold and valiant, artistic or wise, or whether her or she be in possession of a fine morality, social graces or other special attributes. Self-love is a limitation and a defensive barrier; love completely breaks down this defensive barrier to other than the self. Man is weak until he has gone outside his own self, he is timid, avaricious, covetous, misanthropic, quick tempered, selfish and arrogant; his spirit gives out no spark or brilliancy, it has no vivacity or animation, it is always cold and cut off. However, as soon as he takes a step outside his "self" and breaks down his defensive barriers, these ugly habits and qualities are also destroyed.
Whoever's garment is torn by love
Is entirely cleansed of covetousness or blemish 11
Self-love, in the sense of something which must be eliminated, is not something which really exists. What we mean is that it is not a real, existing fondness for himself which man must do away with so that he can become liberated from "self-love". It makes no sense for a human being to try not to like himself; esteem for oneself which we can call "amour-propre" has not been mistakenly overlooked so that we have to throw that out. The reform and perfecting of man does not mean that, let us suppose, a series of extraneous matters in his existence are thought up and then that these extraneous and detrimental things must be eliminated. In other words the reform of man does not lie in reducing him, it lies in perfecting and adding to him. The responsibility that creation has assigned to man's charge is in the direction of the course of creation, that is, in perfection and growth, not in decrease and reduction.
The struggle with self-love is the struggle with the limitations of the self. This self must be expanded; this defensive structure, which has been placed round the self and which sees every other thing, apart from what is connected to itself as a person or an individual, as foreign, "not me", and alien to itself, must be broken down. The personality must expand to take in every other human being, if not the whole of the universe of creation. Thus the struggle with self-love is the struggle with the limitations of the self; and therefore self-love is nothing else but a limitation of the conceptual and motivational process. Love turns man's affections and drives towards what is outside his self, it enlarges his existence and changes the focal point of his being. For the same reason, love is a great moral and educative factor, on condition that it is well guided and is correctly used.
1. Muhammad Iqbal: The Secrets of the Self, translation of R. A. Nicholson, 2nd revised ed., Lahore 1940.
2. In ad-Durru 'l-manthur, under the seventh verse of surah al-Bayyinah (90), Jalalu'd-Din as-Suyuti narrates from Ibn 'Asakir that Jabir ibn 'Abdillah al-Ansari said that he was in the presence of the Prophet when 'Ali also came in to him. The Prophet said: "I swear by He in Whose hand is my life that this man and his followers (Shi'ah) will be saved on the Day of Resurrection." al-Manawi relates this in two traditions in Kunuzu 'l-haqa'iq, and al-Haythami in Majma'uz 'zawa'id and Ibn Hajar in as-Sawa'iqu 'l-muhriqah relates the same substantial meaning in different forms.
3. Nahju 'l-balaghah, Saying no.42
4. Biharu 'l-anwar, vo1.40, pp.281 - 2 (new ed.) ; and Fakhru'd Din ar-Razi, at-Tafsiru 'l-kabir, under verse 9, surah al-Kahf ("Or dost thou think ...").
5. In the Persian-Language dictionary "Burhan-a qati"' the following is written about "elixir" (iksir): "It is a substance which melts down, combines and perfects; that is to say it makes gold from copper and useful drugs beneficial. It seems that "perfection" is also called "the elixir" metaphorically." It so happens that in love the same three properties are present - it "melts down", it "combines" and it "perfects" - but the well-known and famous metaphorical aspect of it is third one, its perfecting transformative power. Thus poets have sometimes called love by the name of "the doctor", "the drug (dawa')", "Plato" or "Galen". In the prologue to the Mathnavi Rumi writes:
Hail, O Love that bringest us good again -Thou that art the physician of all our ills,
The remedy of our pride and vainglory,
Our Plato and our Galen! (transl. Nicholson, bk.1, 1.23)
6. From Vahshi Kirmani, Iranian poet (991/1583)
8. 'Al'amah Taba'taba'i
9. Rumi, Mathnavi
10. Adapted from Nicholson's translation of Rumi, Mathnavi, bk. 1
11. Rumi, Mathnavi, bk. l
When affection for an individual or a thing reaches the summit of intensity so that it conquers man's existence and becomes the absolute ruler over his being, it is called love. Love is the peak of affection and the sentiments.
But it should not be imagined that what is called by this name is of only one kind; it is of two completely opposite kinds. Those things which are called its good effects are connected with one of its kinds, but its other kind has completely destructive and opposite effects.
The sentiments of man are of various kinds and degrees; some of them are in the category of the passions, especially the sexual passions, and are of those aspects which are shared by man and the other animals, with the difference that in man, for a particular reason the explanation of which cannot be appropriately undertaken now, it reaches its peak and takes on an indescribable intensity; and for this reason it is called love. It never takes on this form among animals, but, in any case, in its reality and essence, it is nothing but a torrent, a bursting forth, a tempest of the passions. It originates from the source of sexuality, and reaches its end there too. Its rise and fall are, too a large degree, connected to the physiological activity of the genital organs and naturally to the year
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