Traits of Nobility - Part III
The Power to Forgive
Abdul Maalik ibn e Marwan died after a tyrannical 21 years of terror. His son, Walid succeeded him as ruler. He knew how his father had perpetrated acts of barbaric cruelty on the Muslims, in order to subdue them. He wanted to atone for them, and especially pacify the Muslims of Medina, so he removed his maternal grandfather, Hisham ibn e Ismael Makhzooni, from the governorship of Medina, and sent his cousin, Umar ibn e Abdul Aziz in his place.
The people of Medina had been praying for relief from Hisham’s oppressive rule since he took charge. History has recorded his shameful acts of barbarity. To quote one, Hisham whipped Saeed ibn e Musayyab, the famous and highly respected compiler of Ahadith, 60 times, for refusing to take the oath of loyalty to him and condone his cruel actions. His body was then wrapped in thick, coarse cloth, and thrown out of Medina. The followers of Ali ibn e Abi Talib (‘a), and especially Imam Ali ibn al Husain, Zain ul Abedin (‘a) were constantly victimized during his governorship.
Umar ibn e Abdul Aziz was famous for his honesty and justice. As soon as he took charge from Hisham, he made an announcement. Hisham was made to stand in front of Marwan ibn e Hakam’s house. The people of Medina were invited to come and avenge the cruelty they had faced at his behest. Group after group arrived; cursed, abused and humiliated him in various ways. The only person Hisham was afraid of was Imam Zain ul Abedin (‘a), and the only group, his (‘a) followers. He knew that his treatment of them deserved nothing less than death. He just hoped that they would not come to avenge their victimization.
The followers of Imam Ali ibn al Husain (‘a) gathered at his house to take him along, so that Hisham could receive his due. However, The Imam (‘a) turned their request down.
‘Killing the already fallen has never been the conduct of the Ahl al Bayt (‘a),’ he said. ‘We do not punish our enemies when they are too weak to defend themselves. On the contrary, we help anyone who is suffering, and try to alleviate his pain, even if he is our worst enemy.’
When Hisham saw the group he dreaded most, approaching, led by the Imam (‘a), he knew his end was near, and he started shivering out of fear.
The Imam (‘a) smiled and walked up to him. He greeted him loudly, so that everyone could hear.
‘Assalam o Alaikum. I have come to offer any help that you might need,’ he said, embracing him.
It was Hisham’s turn to die of shame. The people of Medina, taking their lessons in nobility from their Imam (‘a), returned home, considering it ignoble to wreak vengeance on a fallen man.
Prosperity and Adversity
The Holy Prophet (s) was sitting in the mosque surrounded by his companions and friends discussing various issues when a poorly dressed person entered the mosque. Knowing the etiquettes of a congregation, he looked around for a vacant place to seat himself. He found one in a corner and sat down. Sitting next to him was a prosperous Arab. As soon as the poor man sat down, he gathered his flowing garments closer, showing his desire of detaching himself from his neighbour.
The Holy Prophet (s) was watching, and, addressing the rich man, asked, ‘Were you afraid that the shadow of his adversity would fall on you?’
‘No, Prophet of Allah (s).’
‘Then why did you move away on seeing him sit beside you?’
‘I’m truly ashamed of my act and would wish to pay the penalty for my sinful behavior. I would like to give half of my wealth to my brother in adversity,’ he genuinely apologized.
‘But I refuse to accept it,’ spoke up the poor man.
‘Wherefore?’ questioned the gathering, surprised by his response.
‘I’m afraid that prosperity might make me so arrogant that I will treat my brethren-in-adversity just as he treated me today,’ replied the contented and God fearing Muslim.
Silent Apology, Silent Acceptance
Anas ibn Maalik was honoured with serving the Holy Prophet (s) and remaining his loyal servant for as long as he (s) lived. He understood his Master’s temperament better than all the others who served with him. He was well-acquainted with his simple lifestyle and eating habits. During Ramadhan, he (s) took either milk, a sweet drink or some curry with his bread for Iftar and Sehr.
One evening Anas prepared the bread and placed milk with it at the time of Iftar. However, the Holy Prophet (s) did not return home for quite some time. Having waited for a reasonably long time, Anas presumed he had broken fast with one of his (s) companions. He, therefore, consumed the food himself.
The Holy Prophet (s) returned after some time. Anas took the companion aside and asked him if he (s) had had iftari or not. The companion told him that they had been involved in an important matter and had no time to eat. Anas was nonplussed. It was not possible to prepare anything at this time, and he had consumed his (s) share of the food himself. His eyes lowered, he could not explain what he had done.
The Holy Prophet (s) went to his (s) room while Anas waited, with baited breath outside, to hear him call for food. The Holy Prophet (s) guessed why Anas seemed so guilty and apologetic. He (s) went to bed hungry. Never, for as long as he lived, did he (s) ever mention that incident, or make Anas feel bad. Nor did Anas ever make any presumptions after that incident.
Mind Your Language
Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (‘a) had many followers, some of which stayed with him from the time they rose to the time they went home to sleep. One such person was so attached to the Imam (‘a) that people never saw him ever absent himself from his (‘a) company, be it at home, in the mosque, in the marketplace, anywhere that the Imam (‘a) went. In spite of having a name, he was generally addressed as ‘the friend’.
One day, he was seen in the marketplace with the Imam (‘a), who wished to get his shoe stitched by the cobbler. ‘The friend’s’ bondsman was following him. As they turned a corner of the street, ‘the friend’ looked back to see if his bondsman was there behind him. He was not there. After a few minutes he turned around to see if he had returned. He was nowhere in sight. Finding him missing for the third time, he looked back the fourth time and found him standing right behind him.
‘You bastard! Where were you all this time?’ he shouted.
The Imam (‘a) was thunderstruck! He (‘a) stopped, aghast. ‘You abused his mother? How dare you accuse her of something as serious as this allegation! All this time I was under the misconception that you were a God-fearing believer, but today you have shown me that in reality you do not fear God at all.’
‘Ya ibn e RasoolAllah! My slave is a Sindhi, so was his mother. You know they are not Muslims, so my accusation is not false.’
‘His mother might have been a non-believer, but all communities have their own laws of marriage. Those laws are in keeping with their communal system and their union must not be equated with fornication, nor their children considered illegitimate.’
He then turned his face away from the friend and said, ‘Just remove yourself from my proximity this very minute, and never be seen in my company again.’
No one ever saw ‘the friend’ in the company of the Imam (‘a) after this incident.
Controlling Anger Wisely
A man of the desert of Arabia visited the Holy Prophet (s) and, after greeting him, made a request. ‘Give me some advice that I should always practice, Prophet of Allah (s).’
‘Control your anger’, he (s) replied, and offered no more.
The man returned to his tribe. On reaching home, he learnt that, in his absence, the youth of his tribe had plundered the neighbouring tribe and returned with a lot of booty. In response, the young men of that tribe plundered their tribe and absconded. This unruly behaviour continued, so much so, that now both were preparing for a bloody battle to settle accounts.
Hearing this, the man flew into a rage and, donning his armour, prepared to join his tribe in the fray.
On his way to the battleground, he was reminded of the advice given to him by the Holy Prophet(s). He slowed down and thought.
‘What is it that drove me to arm myself for battle? What made me agree to kill and be killed in this bloody way? What is it that made me so furious?’
This introspection made him conclude, ‘This is the time for me to apply the advice given to me.’ His anger disappeared and he stepped out from within the ranks of his tribe and calling out to the chief of the opposing tribe, went to him.
Speaking softly and courteously, he asked him, ‘What is the reason for this blood-shot anger on both sides? If it is the foolish plundering of your tribe by our youth, I will personally pay for the loss incurred by you. This is no great reason for us to shed blood on both sides.’
On hearing these words of wisdom, the gallantry of the people of the other tribe was aroused and they immediately retorted, ‘If you can admit your mistake, we, too, can forgive you, for we are certainly not less noble than you.’
This ended the bloodthirsty feud, and both sides returned home relieved.
Imam Ali (‘a) invited a person with his son to dinner. He welcomed him warmly on his arrival and gave him a prominent seat so that he should also feel distinguished among the respected gathering. Then he (‘a) sat beside him.
Dinner was served and everyone enjoyed the meal. After dinner, Qanbar, the Imam’s (‘a) well known servant, brought the water, soap and towel with the basin to make the guests wash their hands. Imam Ali (‘a) took them from him to help the new guest wash his hands.
The new guest refused to extend his hands and said, ‘Is it right that you should help wash my hands?’
Imam Ali (‘a) said, ‘Your brother-in-faith wishes to serve you so that Almighty Allah rewards him. Do you want him to lose that reward?’
The guest could not bring himself to comply with his (‘a) request.
Finally, Imam Ali (‘a) firmly said, ‘I sincerely wish to earn the reward of serving a brother-in-faith, by Allah, don’t deny me the privilege.’
The guest extended his hands reluctantly. Imam Ali (‘a) insisted, ‘It will give me great pleasure if you wash your hands as if Qanbar is making you wash them. Don’t shy away or feel uncomfortable because I’m doing it.’
As soon as the guest finished washing his hands, Imam Ali (‘a) called his son Muhammad Hanafia and said, ‘Now help his son wash his hands. I am your father, so I helped his father, you are my son so you help his son. If I had invited the son alone, I would have done the needful myself. Allah wishes to distinguish between the respect offered to a father in the presence of his son.’
Muhammad Hanafia did as his father ordered.
Imam Hasan Askari (‘a) while narrating the incident, declared: ‘This is what a true believer should be like.’
Dealing with Lepers
A group of lepers, outcast by society, lived together in Medina. The people repelled them with disgust and hatred because they considered them cursed, not infected, with a disease. They could not quarrel with society so they accepted their humiliation with patience, and cared for one another.
One day they were huddled together around a tablecloth ready to have lunch, when Imam Zain ul Abedin (‘a) passed by. They invited him to share their meal. He apologized, saying that he was fasting. He then extended an invitation to them to be his guests on a certain day of the week. They happily accepted and arrived at the residence of the Imam (‘a).
He welcomed them very warmly and with great respect seated them around the tablecloth. They saw a feast spread out before them, specially ordered by the Imam (‘a) for them. He then sat with them and ate the food from the same serving dishes on the tablecloth.
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