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.
أرْبَعٌ مَنْ اُعْطِيَهُنَّ فَقَدْ اُعْطِيَ خَيْرَ الدُّنْيا وَالآخِرَةِ : صِدْقُ حَديث، وَأداءُ أمانَة، وَ عِفَّةُ بَطْن، وَ حُسْنُ خُلق
Four virtues, whoever has them will have the good of this world and the afterworld: honesty of speech, rendering of trusts (being trustworthy), eating from lawful sources, and possessing good manners.
This quote summarized four important virtues to be perfected by a Muslim in his lifetime. Follow these links to know more about them:
أفضل المعروف إغاثة الملهوف
The best favor done to others is saving those who are desperate.
الحزم النظر في العواقب و مشاورة ذوي العقول
Seriousness is: contemplating the consequences and consulting the experts.
Important life events need serious consideration, and for that you should decide wisely and consult knowledgeable and experienced people. This is what being serious means in this quote.
السكوت على الأحمق أفضل جوابه
Not talking to a bigot is the best answer to him.
“Bigot” in this quote means: someone who refuses to understand, although he has the ability to understand. It can also be replaced with “Zealot” or “Fanatic”.
Although you can defeat such a person in a debate, he will not admit it. And he will continue debating. Therefore, the best answer to his verbal attack is to be silent. That way, you don’t waste your energy or time.
Note that the literal translation of “أحمق” into English is “Fool”. But as I understand it, the Imam meant by that word “Bigot”, not “Fool”.
ثلاث لا يستحيى منهن: خدمة الرجل ضيفه وقيامه عن مجلسه لأبيه ومعلمه و طلب الحق وإن قل
Three acts are not considered demeaning: serving your guest, vacating your seat to your father or your teacher, and demanding your rights no matter how small they might be.
In social gatherings in ancient Arabia (and maybe still to this day), your position or seat in the gathering depends on your social status. Leaving your seat to someone who just joined the gathering is considered a respectful act.
The Imam is telling us that these three acts are not shameful or degrading. Being polite and kind to others and demanding your rights are therefore good habits to have.
لا تخلفن ورائك شيئا من الدنيا فإنك تخلفه لأحد رجلين: إما رجل عمل فيه بطاعة الله سبحانه فسعد بما شقيت به وإما رجل عمل فيه بمعصية الله سبحانه فكنت عونا له على المعصية وليس أحد هذين حقيقا أن تؤثره على نفسك
Don’t leave worldly possessions behind you when you die, because you leave them to one of two persons: either a person who uses them in obeying Allah almighty, so he becomes happy with something you toiled to get. Or a person who uses them in sinful deeds, so you helped him to sin. None of those two should be preferred over yourself.
The Imam is not advocating a lavish and extravagant life, rather asceticism and simplicity in this quote.
He is saying don’t leave worldly possessions behind you when you die (whether those are money, property, etc…). Either someone inherits it and uses it in virtuous deeds, in that case you will be judged in the afterlife about keeping your money idle during your lifetime without spending it yourself in virtuous deeds. Or someone else inherits it and uses it in sinful deeds, in that case you actually helped him to sin.
You shouldn’t keep your money behind to either of those. Spend money yourself in virtuous deeds during your lifetime.
Also what can be understood from this quote is that one should ideally spend his life with the bare minimum of possessions and money, so that no excess is left upon reaching death, this is the same philosophy of asceticism.