The Vastness of Imam Ali's Knowledge
The Shia think that the knowledge of the prophets is covert and that God has revealed it to him by inspiration and then they vest it in their successors at the last gasp.
Imam Ali (s) said: “The Prophet, in his deathbed, whispered to me and taught me one thousand chapters of knowledge; each one of them contained one thousand chapters.”
Of course Imam Ali’s scientific theories about monotheism, the creation of man, heavens, earth, stars, suns, mountains, clouds thunder, plants, philosophy of history, phylogeny and even the creation of the peacock and the bat. The interpretation of the Qur’an confirmed what he had said about the mentioned above items.
His speeches, his letters to his officers and his scientific sayings (except jurisprudential traditions) had been compiled in a book named Nahj al-Balaghah, which was really next to the Qur’an.
The Holy Qur’an is the words of God. The great part of it deals with many branches of knowledge like theology, sociology, economy and others. This holy book needed to be interpreted by a pious and learned man. Nahj al-Balaghah was the great work of Imam Ali (s) in this concern. It was below the speech of God and higher than man's speech. Imam Ali was the father of gnosis and many Islamic mystics have based their principles on his teachings.
His religious decrees and judgments were followed and obeyed by the previous caliphs as the second caliph Umar often said: “I would have gone astray if Ali (s) had been not here.” 45
Once he was asked what number was to be divided by 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 and 10 without fraction. He answered quickly: “Multiply the number of the days of a year by the number of the days of a week to get the result.”
360 x 7 = 2520.
Once again three persons came to him and said: “There are 17 camels that must be divided among us in this manner; half of them for one of us, a third of them for the other and a ninth of them for the last one. How can we divide live camels among us?”
Imam Ali (s) added to them one of his own camels and then he said: “Now the half of the camels is 9 heads, the third is 6? and the ninth is 2 heads.” 9+6+2=17. He answered their problem and then he took back his own camel.
In fact this was really a scientific masterpiece but the most important thing was his deep knowledge of monotheism, which had given him much importance. Certainly monotheistic knowledge is connected with morality and it is affected by the call of conscience. It consequently brings peace and comfort. It is neither destructive nor ruinous because it is not based on material concerns. Of course Islam provides such liberal education. At first, a person is purified from evilness and then is taught science and wisdom to do good for mankind.
Recently some news came from America saying that some 14 or 15 years old students attacked their fellow students by gun and consequently a number of them were killed. Thereupon the public prosecutor asked the local clergyman to think of a remedy and to restrain the present situation because men of authority could not do anything.
Although it is a bit late to stem the tide of prostitution, drunkenness and licentiousness among the people, it is much better doing nothing at all.
In order to put down such wicked acts among the youngsters, firstly, the educationists should gradually insert the religious teachings in school's programs and, secondly, papers and film editors should reconsider making erotic films and writing deviational stories, because T. V and magazines are the real educators of people. They play an important role in teaching them.
Just as Europe had obtained many benefits from the civilization of Islam during the Crusades, the west, at the present time, needs to be in contact with the spiritual centers in the Islamic Republic of Iran to seek remedy for its shortcomings.
Now it is the outset of exchanging views among the civilizations and it can audaciously be said that the words and deeds of Imam Ali (s) are good guides to find the way of establishing peace and securing the human rights allover the world.
Here I quote some of Imam Ali’s scientific and sententious words to shed more light upon his personality. Imam Ali said:
1-Every one, who is in charge of the Muslim's affairs, neglects his charge, God will neglect him.
2-The worst men of all are the treacherous businessmen.
3-Destitution is the greater death. Having few children is relief. Practicing moderate economy is half of the living. One, who controls his economy, will not face poverty.
4-Avoid gluttony for it causes diseases and illnesses.
5-Weakness and listlessness are the calamity of the nations. Being patient with sufferings and struggling against hardships are courage.
6-Purify yourselves of dirty passions to reach high ranks before God.
7-Keep equality among the all and do not add fuel to the fire of discord because the hearts are always ready to differ from each other.
8-Receive people willingly, deal with them cheerfully and trustfully and be humble before them.
9-The ignorant is known by six characteristics: being angry without having virtue, talking idle talk, generosity out of its suitable place, unable to distinguish the friend from the enemy, disclosing the secrets and trusting in every body.
10- Pay the worker his due wages before his sweat is dried.
11- The greatest sin is aggression and violation.
12- The highest virtue of man is to avoid persecuting people and to be kind to them.
13- The one who believes in resurrection won’t be greedy for the worldly wealth.
14- Everything can be changed except habits.
15- The one, who becomes idle, will miss his personal and social rights.
16- Religion does not agree with caprice. Caprice is foe prevailing over reason.
17- He was asked: “What is good?” He said: “Good is not muchness of money and children but muchness of knowledge.”
18- Injustice of judges is the most disgraced act.
19- The highest compassion is to share the brothers in sorrow and in joy.
20- Where are the tyrants and the sons of the tyrants? (He meant that they had perished without taking anything from this world with them).
21- Wealth is the fountain of the sins.
22- Whoever warns you of fault is like one who gives you good tidings.
23- The one, who becomes a leader of the people, has to educate himself before educating the others. His educating must be by his doings before his sayings. The one, who educates and instructs himself, is more estimable than those, who teach and instruct the others.
24- No wealth is more profitable than wisdom.
25- No loneliness is sadder than haughtiness.
26- No intellect is better than tact.
27- No greatness is like abstinence. No courage is like avoiding sins.
28- No compassion is like good humor.
29- No inheritance is like politeness.
30- No guide is like God's favor to grant prosperity.
31- No trade is like beneficence.
32- No profit is like divine reward.
33- No virtuousness is like reluctance to do doubtful things.
34- No knowledge is like meditation.
35- No worship is like performing religious decrees.
36- No belief is like modesty and fortitude.
37- No greatness is like humility.
38- No honor is like knowledge and no aid is like consulting with wise friends.
39- The value of every man is due to his goodness.
40- Take knowledge from every where as possible as you can.
41- Every material thing passes away and every expected thing is to come at last.
42- Woman is as a scorpion but her sting is honey.
43- Wealth is the basis of every sin.
44- Being loose-tongued is like being a beast.
45- Death is near and the company of the friends is short.
46- Avoiding sins is easier than repenting afterward.
47- He, who looks for riches, denies every thing else and he, who acts according to his mind only, will be ruined. He, who consults the others, participates with them in their minds.
48- For me the thinking of an experienced (old) man is more admirable than of a dexterous young man.
49- I knew Allah by the changing of decisions, the breaking of wills and the resolving of problems by themselves. (There is a metaphysical power above us that controls our affairs).
50- Be careful not to waste the blessings of Allah because everything you waste, does not come back again.
51- It is a surprise to me how a miser hurries to poverty, from which he runs away and he misses the wealth, which he looks for. He lives like the poor in this world and he will be punished like the rich in the afterworld. I wonder about the selfish and haughty man, who was a sperm yesterday and will be a rotten carcass tomorrow (why he is so proud). I wonder at one, who doubt about the existence of God while he sees His creation. It is also surprising when one sees that people die before him but he forgets that he himself will die. I wonder at one, who denies the afterworld whereas he has seen the first world and I wonder at one, who is busy heaping wealth in this transient world but is ignorant of the everlasting world.
52- Protect yourself against cold when it comes (at its beginning) and receive it without worry when it is about to go because its effect on bodies is like its effect on trees. In the beginning it ruins and in the end it refreshes.
53- I explain Islam in a way that no one else has explained it before. Islam is submission; submission is steadfastness in religion; steadfastness in religion is spreading one’s belief; spreading one’s belief is acknowledging doing the obligations of God and doing the obligations means action.
54- Missing an opportunity causes grief.
55- He, who follows a moderate course in life, will never become poor.
56- When Allah wants to degrade someone, He deprives him of knowledge.
57- People are enemies of that which they do not know.
58- He, who receives several opinions (in consulting the others), understands the incorrect situations.
59- Displease the evil doer by doing good to the good doer.
60- Obstinacy destroys counsel.
61- The result of carelessness is regret and the result of prudence is safety.
62- If there are two different invitations; one of them is to mislead.
63- I did not doubt about rightness since I had been shown it.
64- Whoever turned away from rightness got ruined.
65- If patience does not relieve a man, impatience will kill him.
66- O son of Adam, whatever you earn more than your necessary need, you will only guard it for the heirs.
67- Every container narrows with what is put in it except the container of knowledge; it expands continuously.
68- The tree, whose trunk is soft, has thick branches.
69- Envying a friend is because of untrue love.
70- It is no justice to judge through probabilities.
71- The worst provision for the Day of Judgment is oppressing people.
72- The best act of a generous person is to overlook what he knows (to cover the defect of people).
73- Long Silence leads to dignity. Justice increases connections and communications. Generosity raises esteem. Humility brings blessings. Tolerating hardships leads to supremacy. Good behavior defeats the enemy. Forbearance towards a fool increases supporters against him.
74- Kumayl ibn Ziyad was one of the closest companions of Imam Ali(s). He said: “One day Imam Ali took me out of the city. After taking a deep breath, he said: “O Kumayl, hearts are the containers of knowledge. The best of them is that which preserves its contents well. Take care of what I say to you. People are of three types;
One is the divine scholar, who has set himself free from carnalities. The other is that, who seeks knowledge and he is also on the way of salvation. The third is the common people, who run after every caller and follow every sound. They do not seek the light of knowledge and do not provide any reliable support.
O Kumayl, know that knowledge is surely preferred to wealth. You are guarded by knowledge but you have to guard wealth. Wealth will decrease by expending but knowledge will increase by spending. One, who grows up in a rich family, can not endure hardships when the wealth disappears.
O Kumayl, acquiring knowledge is one of the bases of religion and religion turns round the circuit of knowledge. A learned man steps in the way of religion with knowledge, with which he wins fame during his lifetime and after his death. Knowledge commands but wealth is commanded.
O Kumayl, men of property will die even though they live for a long time but learned men remain as long as there is a life on the earth. Their bodies turn to dust but their images are placed in the hearts for ever.
Then he pointed to his chest and said: “This is full of knowledge and I wish I could find some one to bear its burden. Even if I can find someone, I cannot confide in him because he may misuse it in the way of his worldly desires and he may use God's favor against His servants or he hereby dominates over people, or he may seek rightness and truthfulness but there may be no any insight in his heart. Consequently doubts will be instilled into his mind and he will follow the doubts. He will be affected by passions and will be greedy for wealth. Thus knowledge dies away by the death of its bearers.
Yes, but the earth will never be void of those, who guard God's evidences and laws; either they are well-known and famous or they are unknown and hideaways in order that the Sharia of Allah not to be cancelled or vanished.
How many persons are they or where are they? Although they are few in number but they are highly esteemed by Allah. Allah guards His evidences and reasons by them and they entrust these evidences to others like themselves to sow the seeds of knowledge in their hearts. Knowledge has taken them to the real understanding and hereupon they will be the guide of the compact faith in God.
They deem easy what the unbelievers think as difficult and they become familiar with what the ignorant consider as strange. They live with their bodies in this world but their souls live high with the Beneficent Creator. They represent Allah on the earth and they invite people to His religion.
How I am fond of seeing them. Now go wherever you want, Kumayl.
75- He, who glorifies a rich man for his wealth, loses one third of his religion. (One, who worships God sincerely, ought not to bend before other than Him for the sake of wealth or any other thing because all people are free and equal). If a man reads the Holy Qur’an and is to be put into Hell after death, he is of those, who treat the verses of Qur’an with mockery. If a man's heart gets attached to this world, he will be afflicted with three things; continuous worry that will never let him be comfortable, an unending greed and an unachievable desire.
76- Contentment is as good as wealth and good humor is as good as blessing of God.
77- Imam Ali was asked about the meaning of Allah's saying after praising a virtuous man or woman: (And we will most certainly make him live a happy life). He answered: “It means those who are content.”
78- Participate with one, who has abundant livelihood because he is luckier for getting more riches and he is expected to increase your share therein.
79- About the meaning of the Qur’anic verse: (Surly Allah enjoins the doing of justice and benevolence?) he said: “Do not oppress the others (be kind to the people).”
80- He said to his son Imam Hasan (s): “Do not be the first to declare a war, but if you are called for it, give a contentful answer; because the caller for a war is a rebellious and the rebellious is to be ruined.”
81- Imam Ali (s) was asked to define the wise man and he said: “A wise man is he, who puts things in their proper positions.” Then he was asked to describe the ignorant. He said: “I have already done so.” (The ignorant is one, who does not put things in their proper positions).
82- Imam Ali (s) said: “By Allah, your world (in which you quarrel with one another like vultures and dogs), in my point of view, is meaner than a piece of a hog’s bone in a leper’s hand.”
83- “Woman is evil; from which man cannot escape (he is in need of her).”
84- “One, who acts carelessly, loses his rights and one, who believes the storytellers, misses his friends.”
85- “An extorted piece of stone in a house (to be within its structure) is a cause of its ruination.”
86- “The day of the oppressed over the oppressor will be severer than the day of the oppressor over the oppressed.” (Bearing oppression in this world is easier than bearing it in the next world.)
87- “When responses are numerous the truth remains unknown.”
88- “When the possibilities increase, desires decrease.”
89- “Try to make one’s good idea about you remain as it is.”
90- “The most preferable doings are those that you are obliged to do them (God's obligations).”
91- “I knew Allah through the breaking of determinations, change of intentions and when problems are resolved by themselves.”
92- “The affliction of this world leads to the cheer of the afterworld and the cheer of this world leads to the affliction of the afterworld.”
93- “Anger is a kind of madness because when a mad one returns to his senses, he does repent. If he does not repent, his madness is certified.”
94- “Good health comes from lack of envy (an envious person melts away in the heat of envy).”
95- “If the wise man's word is reasonable, it will be as cure but if it is not, it will be as illness.”
96- “A little job continued carefully is better than a big job done carelessly.”
97- “Between you and the advice there is a curtain of pride and haughtiness.”
98- “When the learned becomes lazy, the ignorant exceeds the limits.
99- “Knowledge closes the way of those, who claim baseless excuses.”
100- Imam Ali (s) was asked about destiny and he replied: “It is a dark path; do not tread upon it. It is a deep ocean; do not dive in it and it is the secret of Allah; do not trouble yourselves for knowing it.”
101- “I had a close friend, whom I respected him very much because he did not pay any attention to this worldly life. He was not gluttonous and he did not wish what he couldn’t find. He did not ask for more than what he would get. He kept quiet most of his time. If he spoke, he would quiet the other speakers. He often quenched the questioners. He was modest but he was like the lion in the war. He would not adduce any argument unless the judge was present. He would not blame any one for an excusable matter until he heard his excuse. He would not complain of any trouble except after abatement of nuisance. He would say what he would do and he would not say what he would not do. Even if he was dominant in speaking, he could not be defeated in silence. He would like to keep quiet more than to speak. If he would face two things, he would reject the one that was nearer to fancy. You have to acquire these good qualities but if you cannot acquire them, you know that acquiring a part is better than to leave the whole.”
102- Imam Ali (s) was asked about the distance between the east and the west. He said: “One day's traveling of the sun.”
103- “Do not keep company with a fool because he approves his doings before you and likes you to be like him.”
104- “Your friends are of three kinds and your enemies are of three kinds too. Your friends are; your friend, your friend's friend and your enemy’s enemy. And your enemies are; your enemy, your friend's enemy and your enemy’s friend.”
105- Imam Ali (s) saw a man busy striving against his enemy but he would harm himself. He said to him:
“You are like that who thrusts a spear through his chest to kill the person sitting behind him (on the horse).”
106- “How many examples there are but how few are those, who learn from them.”
107- “He, who insists on quarrelling, falls in sin. If he falls in sin, he will be under the effect of that sin. It is difficult for a quarreler to abstain from sin.
108- “Your messenger is the translator of your mind and your letter is the most eloquent thing that expresses your thoughts.”
109- “The indigent is the messenger of God to you. Whoever denies him, denies God and whoever grants him, grants God.”
110- “A self-respecting man will never commit adultery.”
111- “A man can fall asleep when he loses his child, but he cannot when he loses his property.”
112- “The kings are the watchmen of Allah on the earth.”
113- “The least right of Allah on you is that you are not to make use of His blessings in committing sins.”
114- “Not being in need of asking pardon is better than putting forth true excuse.”
115- “The greatest wealth is not look forward to what the others have in their possession.”
116- “A time will come when nothing will remain of the Qur’an except its writing and nothing of Islam except its name. The mosques will be flourishing with building but empty of guidance. Their builders and inhabitants will be the worst of the all on the earth. Seditions will appear from them and all sins will turn towards them. If any one keeps himself aloof from sins, they would bring him back to them and if any one falls behind, they push him towards them. Allah, the Glorified, says: (I swear by myself that I shall send upon them an evil wherein the wise will be puzzled over it (how he can save himself from the perdition) and He will do so. We ask Him to forgive our mistakes during negligence.”
117- “O people, fear Allah (avoid sins) because man has not been created in vain to busy himself with amusement nor he has been set free to do nonsense.”
118- “Words are under your control as long as you do not utter them yet, but when you utter them you will be under their control. Therefore take care of your tongue as you take care of your gold and money, because sometimes a saying may take a blessing away and put you to trouble.”
119- “Do not say what you do not know and do not say all what you know.”
120- “He, who engages himself in various affairs, will be obliged to seek remedies how to get out of them.”
121- “Take from this worldly life whatever comes to you and keep away from whatever refrained from you. If you do not do so, be moderate in your quest.”
122- “A statement may be more effective than an attack.”
123- “He, who opposes rightness, will be knocked down by it."
124- Imam Ali (s) wrote to his officer, Ziyad ibn Abeeh: “Be just with the people and avoid violence and injustice because violence leads them to wander and injustice leads them to insurge.”
Of course, those who accustom themselves to a simple life, leave without getting anything and oppose their fancies, God pours the light of knowledge into their hearts, especially if the simplicity was linked with avoiding sins. To prove this statement, I point out the manner of the ascetics’ lives, who deny themselves for a time and consequently they can foretell the happenings of nature which are going to occur.
Imam Ali was a paragon of simplicity and virtue and the things mentioned above were quite applicable to him. (Those who accustom themselves to simplicity, God pours knowledge into them.) There are enough sayings to be said but let me point out some of the Prophet's sayings about the scientific position of Imam Ali (s) to end this matter.
The Prophet said: “I am the city of knowledge and Ali (s) is its gate. Anyone, who likes to enter the city, has to come in through its gate.” 46 He also said: “Ali is the wisest of all of you.” 47
45. Refer to the judge Fadhlullah ibn Roozbahan in his book Ibtl al-Battil, ibn Hajar al-Asqalani in his at-Tahtheeb p.p.337, ibn Hajar in his al-Issaba, vol.2 p.p.509, Hajji Ahmad Afandi in his Hidayatul Mutab p.p.146, 152, Ahmad ibn Hanbal in his Musnad and Abu Na'eem al-Isfahani in his Hilyatul Awliya'.
46. It was mentioned by al-Hakim an-Nayshaboori, at-Tha'labi, Muhammad aj-Jazayiri, Muhammad ibn Yousuf al-Ganji, al-Khwarizmi and many other Sunni scholars.
47. Refer to Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah by ibn Abul Hadeed, vol.3 p.p.40, Mawaddatul Qurba by Meer sayyid Ali al-Hamadani and many others.
Adopted from the book : "Imam Ali (a.s.); Sunshine of Civilized Islam" by : "Muhammad Huseyn Tahmasebi"
Share this article