Traits of Nobility - Part II
My Duty is My Duty
The journey had been long and tiresome. Finally, they had reached an oasis, and every rider eagerly got off his animal to refresh himself, perform ablution and prepare to offer his prayers. The Holy Prophet (s) was also accompanying them on this journey. After alighting from his camel, he moved towards the water. Suddenly, on second thought, he returned towards his camel. Everyone thought he was going to resume the journey, and sighed with fatigue. They were all ears for the call to remount, when, to their utter surprise, they saw the Holy Prophet (s) tying his camel.
After doing the needful, he returned to his companions, but was accosted by cries from all sides, ‘O Messenger of Allah (s)! Why did you not let one of us perform that task for you instead of going all the way back to do it yourself? We are always on the lookout to do something for you and feel honoured, but you never give us a chance.’
‘It is unwise to depend on others, or ask for their help in anything you can do yourself, be it as small as getting a green branch to brush your teeth. You must consider your work to be your duty, and not become a burden on others.’
Bearing ones own Burden
One day Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (‘a) with a few companions, was walking towards the house of a friend who was unwell. On the way, his shoe string broke and the shoe kept slipping off, making him slow down. He took the shoe off and continued to walk, barefooted. His companion, Abdullah ibn e Abi Yafoor noticed, and quickly took off his own shoe string and offered it to the Imam (‘a), so that he could put his shoe on while ibn e Yafoor walked barefooted.
The Imam (‘a) did not respond to this act of respectfulness. He (‘a) turned his face away and continued walking without listening to ibne Yafoor’s pleas. When he went on insisting, Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (‘a) stopped, turned towards him and said, ‘If a person is faced with a problem, it is his duty to deal with it. It is unfair to shift the burden onto someone else.’
A weight lifting championship was in progress and muscularly strong young men were participating in it. It so happened that the Holy Prophet (s) was passing by. He stopped and saw some youths trying to lift a heavy rock, one by one. He walked towards them and asked, ‘What are you doing?’
‘We are having a weightlifting contest to decide who is the strongest amongst us,’ they responded.
‘Well,’ he said, if you wish, I can tell you which man is the strongest.’
‘That would be perfect. It will give us great pleasure to accept the verdict of someone as wise as you.’
All the young men waited eagerly for the Holy Prophet (s) to hold the strongest man by the arm and take him to the centre of the arena, raise his hand and present him to the crowd as the victor of the tournament.
However, he (s) stood where he was, and defined ‘true strength’.
‘First, he, among you, is the strongest, who gets infatuated with something and is then enamoured by it, but he does not allow it to tempt him away from the path of truth and humanity, or contaminate him with vice. His love for goodness controls his love for all else.
Secondly, a person who is annoyed and enraged but controls his anger, speaks only the truth, and does not let a volley of abusive language defile his tongue; he, among you, is the strongest.
Such a person, in a position of power and authority, never buckles down before threats or obstacles blocking his path, but acts prudently by always observing the limits of truth and justice. He, among you, is the strongest.’
Duty towards a co-traveller
The capital of the Islamic state, in those days, was Kufa. All the citizens of the Muslim empire, including Syria, keenly awaited the important rules and decisions enforced by the popular regime.
One day, two travellers met each other while resting by the roadside. One was a Muslim, the other a follower of the former revealed Scriptures. He was a Zoroastrian, a Jew or a Christian. They exchanged greetings and found that one was heading for Kufa while the other to a place near Kufa. They decided to complete the journey together and part ways close to their destinations. The rest of the journey passed pleasantly, as they discussed various issues, and, time flew, bringing them to the crossroads that led to their destinations. They separated.
After a while, the Scripturist heard the sound of horse’s hooves, looked back and found his companion following him. He stopped and asked him, ‘Did you not say that you were going to Kufa?’
The Muslim replied, “I did. My destination is Kufa.’
‘But there is only one road that goes to Kufa, and you have left it behind.’
‘I know, but I wanted to accompany you a little further. Our Holy Prophet (s) taught us that when two people travel together, their companionship entails some duties towards each other. I am fulfilling my duty towards you. In a while, I will return to my path.’
‘Oh, I see! Your Prophet influenced the people to this extent with his excellent conduct and behaviour! No wonder Islam spread with such speed.’
He was more astonished when he found that his companion and co- traveller was none other than the Caliph of the Muslim state, Ali ibn e Abi Talib (‘a). After a few days, he converted to Islam and became a loyal friend and close confidante of Imam Ali (‘a).
It was an extremely dark night. The sky, overcast with clouds, portended more rain. Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (‘a) emerged from his house carrying a heavy load on his back. Coincidentally, a close companion, Muali ibn e Khanees, spied him leaving the house and thought it was not safe to allow him to proceed alone on such a dark night. He started following him, but maintained his distance so that the Imam (‘a) might not send him back.
Following him silently, he heard something fall from the Imam’s (‘a) shoulder. He rushed to help and found him muttering under his breath, ‘Dear Lord, return to me what has fallen.’
He greeted the Imam (‘a) and offered to help. The Imam recognising him, asked him to replace the fallen items. Kneeling on the ground, Muali picked up the loaves of bread that had fallen from the pile on the Imam’s (‘a) back. ‘Let me help you carry the pile,’ he said, noticing the weight to be greater than one man could bear.
‘No, it is unnecessary. I am more suitable for the job.’
Both started moving towards the Bani Saida area. The shelterless and poor lived there in large congregations. Ensuring that all the people were fast asleep, the Imam (‘a) placed his bag on the ground and soundlessly placed one loaf or two under each covering cloth. He made sure he had not missed anyone. He then signalled to Muali to leave with him.
Muali, overwhelmed by the care with which he had ensured the next day’s meal for every helpless person sleeping there, who would never learn who was providing them with it, asked, ‘Are all these people your Shiah, and do they believe in your divine leadership? Is that why you are taking such care of them on such a stormy night?’
‘No, they do not believe in Imamate. If they did, I would have also placed salt with their bread.’
The Right to Kill
Imam Ali (‘a) was fatally wounded by the poisoned sword of Abdur Rahman ibn e Muljim (May Allah never forgive him) on the 19th of Ramadan 40 AH, while offering the Fajr prayers in Masjid e Kufa, in the state of prostration. He completed his prayer and went home with the help of those praying with him. Ibn e Muljim was caught escaping, and with his hands tied behind him, he was brought to the mosque.
The anger and fury of the people was at its height. They were waiting for an order from their Imam (‘a), but their faces showed that they wanted to tear Ibn e Muljim alive. They would have done it, had the Imam (‘a), who was the victim of his dastardly act, allowed them.
Imam Ali (‘a) called for the murderer to be presented before him. He, then, asked him, ‘Was I not gracious towards you?’
‘You certainly were.’
‘Then what was the reason for this murderous attack?’
‘I cannot reveal. However, I placed this sword in poisoned water for 40 days, and prayed to God to make this sword kill the worst man on earth.’
‘So it shall, for you will be killed by this same sword in a few days.’
Imam Ali (‘a) then addressed the members of his family gathered around him, thus: ‘Sons of Abdul Muttalib! I warn you not to let your anger get the better of you. Do not accuse anyone you think is involved in this conspiracy, without evidence, as that will lead to mob killing in the streets.’
He then addressed his first-born, Hasan (‘a), thus: ‘My son, if I survive this wound, I will mete out justice to him. However, if I die, strike him but once, for he struck me but once, with the same sword. Do not cut off his nose, ears or tongue. The Holy Prophet (s) clearly forbade it, saying, “Avoid mutilating anyone as a punishment, even if it be a mad dog.” Look after your prisoner’s needs. Provide him with food and drink. See that he does not face any problem in my house.’
After Imam Ali (‘a) passed away, Ibn e Muljim was struck only once by the same sword that he had prepared for himself. He died on the spot.
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