كانَ لي فيما مَضى أخٌ فِي اللهِ وكانَ يُعظِّمُهُ في عَيني صِغَرُ الدُّنيا في عَينِهِ. وكانَ خارِجاً مِن سُلطانِ بَطنِهِ؛ فَلا يَشتَهي ما لا يَجِدُ، ولا يُكثِرُ إذا وَجَدَ. وكانَ أكثَرَ دَهرِهِ صامِتاً، فَإِن قالَ بَذَّ القائِلينَ، ونَقَعَ غَليلَ السّائِلينَ. وكانَ ضَعيفاً مُستَضعَفاً، فَإِن جاءَ الجِدُّ فَهُوَ لَيثُ غابٍ، وصِلُّ وادٍ. لا يُدلي بِحُجَّةٍ حَتّى يَأتِيَ قاضِياً. وكانَ لا يَلومُ أحَداً عَلى ما يَجِدُ العُذرَ في مِثلِهِ حَتّى يَسمَعَ اعتِذارَهُ. وكانَ لا يَشكو وَجَعاً إلّا عِندَ بُرئِهِ. وكانَ يَفعَلُ ما يَقولُ، ولا يَقولُ ما لا يَفعَلُ. وكانَ إن غُلِبَ عَلَى الكَلامِ لَم يُغلَب عَلَى السُّكوتِ. وكانَ عَلى أن يَسمَع أحرَصَ مِنهُ عَلى أن يَتَكَلَّمَ. وكانَ إذا بَدَهَهُ أمرانِ نظر أيُّهُما أقرَبُ إلَى الهَوى فَخالفهُ. فَعَلَيكُم بِهذِهِ الخَلائِقِ فَالزَموها، وتَنافَسوا فيها، فَإِن لَم تَستَطيعوها فَاعلَموا أنَّ أخذَ القَليلِ خَيرٌ مِن تَركِ الكَثير.
I used to have a godly brother and what I found to be great in him was that he regarded this world as unimportant. He was not under the influence of his appetite; he didn’t desire food which he couldn’t find but when he found it he didn’t eat much of it. He used to be silent most of the time, but when he spoke he convinced those who argue and he answered questions of those who ask. He used to be weak and was belittled, but when the going got tough, he was lion of the jungle and snake of the valley. When he entered a debate, his argument was decisive. He didn’t blame anyone before he heard his excuse, and he blamed only for things which are to be blamed for. He didn’t complain about ill health until he got well. He used to do what he says, and didn’t say what he wouldn’t do. If others beat him into talking, he would beat them into silence. He preferred listening rather than talking, and when he was confronted with two choices, he would choose the one farther from his liking.
So stick to these virtues and compete within yourselves about them. And if you can’t get them all, then you should know that getting something is better than losing everything.
“أخ في الله” roughly translates to “Brother for Allah”. In order to be brief and because I found no equivalent term in English, I chose the word “Godly”.
Muslims should care for each other as if they were brothers, although no family relationship between them might exist. In the Holy Quran it’s mentioned that:
The believers are but brothers
Who was the person the Imam was talking about in this quote? According to a commentator of the Imam’s sayings, this quote refers to no one in particular. Instead, the Imam was setting a standard of virtues for us to try to reach.
لاتَجْتَمِعُ الْبِطْنَةُ وَ الفِطْنَةُ
Overeating and mental sharpness do not get along.
ما رَفَعَ امْرَأً كَهِمَّتِهِ، وَ لاوَضَعَهُ كَشَهْوَتِهِ
Nothing raises a person like his endeavor, and nothing degrades him like self-indulgence.
أعدى عدو للمرء غضبه وشهوته فمن ملكهما علت درجته وبلغ غايته
The fiercest enemies of any human are his own anger and craving, and whoever controls them will ascend and reach his purpose.
Craving is the literal translation from the Arabic word: الشهوة . In this quote it includes the variety of human desires: appetite for food, sexual desire, seeking power and fame, etc…
A distinction must be drawn here between seeking and satisfying the necessary desires of a human being (which the Islamic jurisprudence allows us to do), and the overwhelming addiction to lust, power, food, etc…, which is not normal. The latter is what the Imam refers to as your enemy, not the former.
Anger is also considered to be an enemy, and this quote is in line with the modern wave of anger management techniques and efforts.
The Imam is warning us about those two enemies, they are dangerous because they are fierce and invisible. He also shows us our purpose in life: to win the battle against anger and demonic desires, and this winning results in reaching spiritual perfection and ascent into Heaven.