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Newsletter for July 2013
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A Sermon of Ali
ibne abi Talib (as)
SERMON 1 of Nahjul Balagha
In this sermon, the great Imam recalls the creation of Earth
and Sky and the birth of Adam
Praise is due to Allah whose worth cannot be described by speakers, whose bounties cannot be counted by calculators and whose claim (to obedience) cannot be satisfied by those who attempt to do so, whom the height of intellectual courage cannot appreciate, and the diving’s of understanding cannot reach; He for whose description no limit has been laid down, no eulogy exists, no time is ordained and no duration is fixed. He brought forth creation through His Omnipotence, dispersed winds through His Compassion, and made firm the shaking earth with rocks.
The foremost in religion is the acknowledgement of Him, the perfection of acknowledging Him is to testify Him, the perfection of testifying Him is to believe in His Oneness, the perfection of believing in His Oneness is to regard Him Pure, and the perfection of His purity is to deny Him attributes, because every attribute is a proof that it is different from that to which it is attributed and everything to which something is attributed is different from the attribute. Thus whoever attaches attributes to Allah recognizes His like, and who recognizes His like regards Him two; and who regards Him two recognizes parts for Him; and who recognizes parts for Him mistook Him; and who mistook Him pointed at Him; and who pointed at Him admitted limitations for Him; and who admitted limitations for Him numbered Him.
Whoever said in what is He, held that He is contained; and whoever said on what is He held He is not on something else. He is a Being but not through phenomenon of coming into being. He exists but not from non-existence. He is with everything but not in physical nearness. He is different from everything but not in physical separation. He acts but without connotation of movements and instruments. He sees even when there is none to be looked at from among His creation. He is only One, such that there is none with whom He may keep company or whom He may miss in his absence.
The Creation of the Universe
He initiated creation most initially and commenced it originally, without undergoing reflection, without making use of any experiment, without innovating any movement, and without experiencing any aspiration of mind. He allotted all things their times, put together their variations gave them their properties, and determined their features knowing them before creating them, realizing fully their limits and confines and appreciating their propensities and intricacies.
When Almighty created the openings of atmosphere, expanse of firmament and strata of winds, He flowed into it water whose waves were stormy and whose surges leapt one over the other. He loaded it on dashing wind and breaking typhoons, ordered them to shed it back (as rain), gave the wind control over the vigor of the rain, and acquainted it with its limitations. The wind blew under it while water flowed furiously over it.
Then Almighty created forth wind and made its movement sterile, perpetuated its position, intensified its motion and spread it far and wide. Then He ordered the wind to raise up deep waters and to intensify the waves of the oceans. So the wind churned it like the churning of curd and pushed it fiercely into the firmament throwing its front position on the rear and the stationary on the flowing till its level was raised and the surface was full of foam. Then Almighty raised the foam on to the open wind and vast firmament and made there from the seven skies and made the lower one as a stationary surge and the upper one as protective ceiling and a high edifice without any pole to support it or nail to hold it together. Then He decorated them with stars and the light of meteors and hung in it the shining sun and effulgent moon under the revolving sky, moving ceiling and rotating firmament.
The Creation of the Angels
Then He created the openings between high skies and filled them with all classes of His angels. Some of them are in prostration and do not kneel up.
Others in kneeling position and do not stand up. Some of them are in array and do not leave their position. Others are extolling Allah and do not get tired. The sleep of the eye or the slip of wit, or languor of the body or the effect of forgetfulness does not effect them.
Among them are those who work as trusted bearers of His message, those who serve as speaking tongues for His prophets and those who carry to and fro His orders and injunctions. Among them are the protectors of His creatures and guards of the doors of the gardens of Paradise. Among them are those also whose steps are fixed on earth but their necks are protruding into the skies, their limbs are getting out on all sides, their shoulders are in accord with the columns of the Divine Throne, their eyes are downcast before it, they have spread down their wings under it and they have rendered between themselves and all else curtains of honor and screens of power. They do not think of their Creator through image, do not impute to Him attributes of the created, do not confine Him within abodes and do not point at Him through
Description of the Creation of Adam
Allah collected from hard, soft, sweet and sour earth, clay which He dripped in water till it got pure, and kneaded it with moisture till it became gluey.
From it He carved an image with curves, joints, limbs and segments. He
solidified it till it dried up for a fixed time and a known duration. Then He blew into it out of His Spirit whereupon it took the pattern of a human being with mind that governs him, intelligence which he makes use of, limbs that serve him, organs that change his position, sagacity that differentiates between truth and untruth, tastes and smells, colors and species. He is a mixture of clays of different colors, cohesive materials, divergent contradictories and differing properties like heat, cold, softness and hardness.
Then Allah asked the angels to fulfill His promise with them and to accomplish the pledge of His injunction to them by acknowledging Him through prostration to Him and submission to His honored position. So Allah said:
"Be prostrate towards Adam and they prostrated except Iblis (Satan)."
(Qur'an, 2:34; 7:11; 17:61; 18:50; 20:116)
Self-importance withheld him and vice overcame him. So that he took pride in his own creation with fire and treated contemptuously the creation of clay.
So Allah allowed him time in order to let him fully deserve His wrath, and to complete (man's) test and to fulfil the promise (He had made to Satan). Thus,
"Verily you have been allowed time till the known Day." (Qur'an, 15:38;
38:81) Thereafter, Allah inhabited Adam (p.b.u.h.) in a house where He made his life pleasant and his stay safe, and He cautioned him of Iblis and his enmity. Then his enemy (Iblis) envied his abiding in Paradise and his contacts with the virtuous. So he changed his conviction into wavering and determination into weakness. He thus converted his happiness into fear and his prestige into shame. Then Allah offered to Adam (p.b.u.h.) the chance to repent, taught him words of His Mercy, promised him return to His Paradise and sent him down to the place of trial and procreation of progeny.
Allah chooses His Prophets
From his (Adam's) progeny Allah chose prophets and took their pledge for his revelation and for carrying His message as their trust. In course of time many people perverted Allah's trust with them and ignored His position and took compeers along with Him. Satan turned them away from knowing Him and kept them aloof from His worship. Then Allah sent His Messengers and series of His prophets towards them to get them to fulfill the pledges of His creation, to recall to them His bounties, to exhort them by preaching, to unveil before them the hidden virtues of wisdom and show them the signs of His Omnipotence namely the sky which is raised over them, the earth that is placed beneath them, means of living that sustain them, deaths that make them die, ailments that turn them old and incidents that successively betake them.
Allah never allowed His creation to remain without a Prophet deputised by Him, or a book sent down from Him or a binding argument or a standing plea.
These Messengers were such that they did not feel little because of smallness of their number or of largeness of the number of their falsifiers. Among them was either a predecessor who would name the one to follow or the follower who had been introduced by the predecessor.
The Prophet hood of Muhammad
In this way ages passed by and times rolled on, fathers passed away while sons took their places till Allah deputized Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) as His Prophet, in fulfillment of His promise and in completion of His Prophet hood. His pledge had been taken from the Prophets, his traits of character were well reputed and his birth was honorable. The people of the earth at this time were divided in different parties, their aims were separate and ways were diverse. They either likened Allah with His creation or twisted His Names or turned to else than Him. Through Muhammad (p.b.u.h.a.h.p.) Allah guided them out of wrong and with his efforts took them out of ignorance.
Then Allah chose for Muhammad, peace be upon him and on his progeny, to meet Him, selected him for His own nearness, regarded him too dignified to remain in this world and decided to remove him from this place of trial. So He drew him towards Himself with honor. Allah may shower His blessing on him, and his progeny.
The Holy Qur'an and Sunnah
But the Prophet left among you the same which other Prophets left among their peoples, because Prophets do not leave them untended (in dark) without a clear path and a standing ensign, namely the Book of your Creator clarifying its permission and prohibitions, its obligations and discretion, its repealing injunctions and the repealed ones, its permissible matters and compulsory ones, its particulars and the general ones, its lessons and illustrations, its long and the short ones, its clear and obscure ones, detailing its abbreviations and clarifying its obscurities.
In it there are some verses whose knowledge (1) is obligatory and others whose ignorance by the people is permissible. It also contains what appears to be obligatory according to the Book (2) but its repeal is signified by the Prophet's action (sunnah) or that which appears compulsory according to the Prophet's action but the Book allows not following it. Or there are those which are obligatory in a given time but not so after that time. Its prohibitions also differ. Some are major regarding which there exists the threat of fire (Hell), and others are minor for which there are prospects of forgiveness. There are also those of which a small portion is also acceptable (to Allah) but they are capable of being expanded.
In this very sermon he spoke about Hajj
Allah has made obligatory upon you the pilgrimage (hajj) to His sacred House which is the turning point for the people who go to it as beasts or pigeons go towards spring water. Allah the glorified made it a sign of their supplication before His Greatness and their acknowledgement of His Dignity.
He selected from among His creation those who on listening to His call
responded to it and testified His word. They stood in the position of His Prophets and resembled His angels who surround the Divine Throne securing all the benefits of performing His worship and hastening towards His promised forgiveness. Allah the glorified made it (His sacred House) an emblem for Islam and an object of respect for those who turn to it. He made obligatory its pilgrimage and laid down its claim for which He held you responsible to discharge it. Thus, Allah the glorified said:
". . . And (purely) for Allah, is incumbent upon mankind, the pilgrimage to the House, for those who can afford to journey thither. And whoever denied then verily, Allah is Self sufficiently independent of the worlds" (Qur'an, 3:96).
(1). "The foremost in religion (din) is His knowledge." The literal meaning of din is obedience, and its popular sense is code, whether literal sense is taken or the popular one, in either case, if the mind is devoid of any conception of Divinity, there would be no question of obedience, nor of following any code; because when there is no aim there is no point in advancing towards it; where there is no object in view there is no sense in making efforts to achieve it. Nevertheless, when the nature and guiding faculty of man bring him in contact with a superior Authority and his taste for obedience and impulse of submission subjugates him before a Deity, he finds himself bound by certain limitations as against abject freedom of activity. These very limitations are din (Religion) whose point of commencement is knowledge of Allah and acknowledgement of His Being.
After pointing out the essentials of Divine knowledge Amir al-mu'minin has described its important constituents and conditions. He has held those stages of such knowledge which people generally regard as the point of highest approach to be insufficient. He says that its first stage is that with the natural sense of search for the unknown and the guidance of conscience or on hearing from the followers of religions an image of the Unseen Being known as Allah is formed in the mind. This image in fact is the forerunner of the obligation to thinking and reflection and to seeking His knowledge. But those who love idleness, or are under pressure of environment, do not undertake this search despite creation of such image and the image fails to get testified. In this case they remain deprived of Divine knowledge, and since their in access to the stage of testifying after the formation of image is by
volition they deserve to be questioned about it. But one who is moved by the power of this image goes further and considers thinking and reflection necessary. In this way one reaches the next stage in the attainment of Divine knowledge, namely to search for the Creator through diversification of creation and species of creatures, because every picture is a solid and inflexible guide to the existence of its painter and every effect to the action of its cause. When he casts his glance around himself he does not find a single thing which might have come into existence without the act of a maker so much so that he does not find the sign of a footstep without a walker nor a construction without a builder. How can he comprehend that this blue sky with the sun and the moon in its expanse and the earth with the exuberance of its grass and flowers could have come into existence without the action of a Creator. Therefore, after observing all that exists in the world and the regulated system of the entire creation no one can help concluding that there is a Creator for this world of diversities because existence cannot come out of non-existence, nor can existence sprout forth from nothingness.
The Holy Qur'an has pointed to this reasoning thus:
". . . What! about Allah is there any doubt, the Originator of the heavens and the earth ?. . ." (14:10).
But this stage would also be insufficient if this testimony in favor of Allah is tarnished by belief in the divinity of some other deity.
The third stage is that His existence should be acknowledged along with belief in Unity and Oneness. Without this the testimony to Allah's existence cannot be complete because if more gods are believed in He would not be One whereas it is necessary that He should be One. The reason is that in case of more than one god the question would arise whether one of them created all this creation or all of them together. If one of them created it there should be some differential to distinguish him otherwise he would be accorded preferential position without reason, which is unacceptable to the mind. If all have created it collectively then the position has only two forms; either he cannot perform his functions without the assistance of others or he is above the need for their assistance. The first case means his incapability and being in need of others while the other case means that they are several regular performers of a single act and the fallacy of both has already been shown. If we assume that all the gods performed the act of creation by dividing among themselves then, in this case all the creation will, not bear the same relationship towards the creator since each creature will bear relationship only to its own creator whereas every creature should have one and the same relationship to all creators. This is because all the creation should have one and the same relationship to all the creators as all the created in their capacity to accept effect and all the creators in their capacity to produce effect should be similar. In short there is no way but to acknowledge Him as One because in believing in numerous creators there remains no possibility of the existence of any other thing, and destruction proves implicit for the earth, the sky and everything in creation. Allah the glorified has expressed this argument in the following words:
"Had there been in (the heavens and the earth [other] ) gods except Allah, they both had been in disorder. . ." (Qur'an, 21:22).
The fourth stage is that Allah should be regarded free of all defects and deficiencies, and devoid of body, form, illustration, similarity, position of place or time, motion, stillness, incapability and ignorance because there can be no deficiency or defect in the perfect Being nor can anyone be deemed like Him because all these attributes bring down a being from the high position of the Creator to the low position of the created. That is why along with Unity, Allah has held purity from deficiency of equal importance.
"Say: 'He (Allah) is One (alone).
Allah, the needless.
He baguettes not, nor is He begotten.
And there is none like unto Him" (Qur'an, 112:1-4).
"Vision perceived Him not, and He perceived (all) vision; He is the Subtle, the All-aware" (Qur'an, 6:104).
"So coin ye not any similitude’s to Allah; verily Allah knoweth (every thing) and ye know not." (Qur'an, 16:74).
". . .Nothing whatsoever (is there) like the like of Him; and He (alone) is the All-hearing and the All-seeing." (Qur'an, 42:11)
The fifth stage of completing His Knowledge is that attributes should not be put in Him from outside lest there be duality in His Oneness, and deviating from its proper connotation Unity may fall in the labyrinth of one in three and three in one, because His Being is not a combination of essence and form so that attribute may cling to Him like smell in the flowers or brightness in the stars. Rather, He is the fountain head of all attributes and needs no medium for manifestation of His perfect Attributes. If He is named Omniscient it is because the signs of his knowledge are manifest. If He is called Omnipotent it is because every particle points to His Omnipotence and Activity, and if to Him is attributed the power to listen or to see it is because the cohesion of the entire creation and its administration cannot be done without hearing or seeing but the existence of these attributes in Him
cannot be held to be in the same way as in the creation namely that He should be capable to know only after He acquires knowledge or He should be powerful and strong only after energy runs into His limbs because taking attributes as separate from His Being would connote duality and where there is duality unity disappears. That is how Amir al-mu'minin has rejected the idea of attributes being addition to His Being, presented Unity in its true significance, and did not allow Unity to be tainted with stains of multiplicity. This does not mean that adjectives cannot at all be attributed to Him, as this would be giving support to those who are groping in the dark abyss of negativism, although every nook and comer in the entire existence is brimming with His attributes and every particle of creation stands witness that He has knowledge, He is powerful, He hears, He sees. He nurtures under His care and allows growth under His mercy. The intention is that for Him nothing can be suggested to serve as an adjunct to Him, because His self includes attributes and His attributes connote His Self. Let us learn this very theme in the words of al-Imam Abu `Abdillah Ja`far ibn Muhammmad as-Sadiq (p.b.u.h.) comparing it with the belief in Unity adopted by other religions and then appreciate who is the exponent of the true concept of Unity.
The Imam says:
"Our Allah the Glorified, the Magnificent has ever had knowledge as His Self even though there was nothing to know, sight as His Self even though there was nothing to know, sight as His Self even though there was nothing to behold, hearing as His Self even though there was nothing to hear, and Potence as His Self even though there was nothing to be under His Potence. When He created the things and the object of knowledge came into existence His knowledge became related to the known, hearing related to the heard, sight related to the seen, and potence related to its object." (at-Tawhid by ash-Shaykh as-Saduq, p.139)
This is the belief over which the Imams of the Prophet's family are
unanimous, but the majority group has adopted a different course by creating the idea of differentiation between His Self and Attributes. ash-Shahristani says on page 42 of his book Kitab al-milal wa'n-nihal:
According to Abu'l-Hasan al-Ash`ari, Allah knows through (the attribute of) knowledge, is Powerful through activity, speaks through speech, hears through hearing and sees through sight.
If we regard attributes distinct from Self in this manner there would be two alternatives; either the attributes must have existed in Him from ever or they must have occurred later. In the first case we have to recognize as many eternal objects as the attributes which all will share with Him in being eternal, but "Allah is above what the people deem Him to have equals." In the second case in addition to subjecting Him to the alternations it would also mean that before the acquiring of the attributes He was neither scent, nor powerful, nor hearer nor beholder and this runs counter to the basic tenet of Islam.
". . . Allah hath decreed trade lawful and hath forbidden interest..."
"And when you have finished the prayer remember Allah standing, and sitting, and reacting, and when ye are secure (from danger) establish prayer . . ." (Qur'an, 4:103)
"O' ye men! eat of what is in the earth lawful and good and follow not the foot-steps of Satan; for verily he is an open enemy unto you." (Qur'an, 2:168)
"(And) say thou: 'I am only a man like you, it is revealed unto me that your god is but one God, therefore whosoever desireth to meet his Lord, let him do good deeds, and associate not any one in the worship of his Lord'." (Qur'an, 18:110)
"What! enjoin ye upon the people righteousness and ye forget your own selves?
Yet ye read the scripture? What: do ye not understand?" (Qur'an, 2:44).
(2). About the Qur'an, Amir al-mu'minin says that it contains description of the permitted and the forbidden acts such as "Allah has allowed sale and purchase but prohibited usury."
It clarifies obligatory and optional acts such as "when you have finished the prayer (of fear) remember Allah rising, sitting or lying and when you feel safe (from the enemy) then say the prayers (as usual)."
Here prayer is obligatory while other forms of remembering (Allah) are
optional. It has repealing and repealed verses such as about the period of seclusion after husband's death "four months and ten days" or the repealed one such as "till one year without going out" which shows that this period of seclusion should be one year. In particular places it permits the forbidden such as "whoever is compelled without being willfully wrongful or transgressor, commits no sins."
It has positive injunctions such as "One should not add anyone with Allah in worship." It has particular and general injunctions. Particular is the one where the word shows generality but the sense is limited such as "I have made you superior over worlds, O' Bani Isra'il."
Here the sense of "Worlds," is confined to that particular time, although the word is general in its literal meaning. The general injunctions is one which is extensive in meaning such as "Allah has knowledge of everything." It has lessons and illustrations lessons such as "Allah caught him in the punishment of this world and the next and there is lesson in it."
"So seized him Allah, with the chastisement in the hereafter, and the life before (it)." (Qur'an, 79:25)
"Verily in this there is a lesson unto him who feareth (Allah)." (Qur'an, 79:26)
"A kind word and pardon is better than charity that is followed by injury, and verily Allah is Self-sufficient, the Most forbearing." (Qur'an, 2:263)
"And remember when We made a covenant with you and raised the 'tur' (the Mountain) above you (saying), 'Hold ye fast that which We have bestowed upon you with the strength (of determination) and remember that which is therein so that you may guard (yourself) against evil'." (Qur'an, 2:63)
"So we made it a lesson for (those of) their own times and for those (of their posterity) who came after them and an exhortation unto those who guard (themselves) against evil." (Qur'an, 2:66)
"He it is Who fashioned you in the wombs (of your mothers) as He liked;
There is no god but He, the All-mighty, the All-wise." (Qur'an, 3:5)
"Obedience and a fair word; but when the affair is determined then if they be true to Allah, it would certainly be better for them." (Qur'an, 47:21)
"O' those who believe! It is not lawful for you to inherit women against their will; and do not straiten them in order that ye may take a part of what ye have given, unless they are guilty of manifest lewdness; but deal kindly with them, and if ye hate them, it may be that ye hate a thing while Allah hath placed in it abundant good." (Qur'an, 4:19)
"Say thou (unto the people of the Book), 'Dispute ye with us about Allah; whereas He is our Lord and your Lord, and for us are our deeds and for you are your deeds; to Him (alone) we are (exclusively) loyal?" (Qur'an, 2:139)
"There is a lesson in it for him who fears Allah," and illustration as "The example of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is like a grain which grows seven ears each one of which bears hundred grains." It has unspecific and specific verses. Unspecific is one which has no limitation on specification such as "Recall when Moses told his people 'Allah commands you to sacrifice a cow.'"
Specific is one where denotation is limited such as Allah says that "the cow should be such that it has neither been used for ploughing nor for irrigation fields." There is clear and obscure in it. Clear is that which has no intricacy such as "Verily Allah has sway over everything," while obscure is that whose meaning has complication such as "the Merciful (Allah) occupies the throne," whose apparent meaning gives the impression as if Allah is bodily sitting on the Throne although the intention is to press His authority and control. In it there are brief injunctions such as "establish prayer" and those of deep meanings such as the verses about which says:
"That the sense is not known except to Allah and those immersed in
knowledge." Then Amir al-mu'minin dilates upon this theme in a different style, he says that there are some things in it which are necessary to know, such as "So know that there is no god but Allah" and there are others which are not necessary to know such as "alif lam mim" etc. It has also injunctions which have been repealed by the Prophet's action such as "As for your women who commit adultery get four male witnesses and if four witnesses do appear shut such women in the house till death ends their life." This punishment was current in early Islam but was later replaced by stoning in the case of married women. In it there are some injunctions which repealed the Prophet's action such as "Turn your face towards Masjid al-haram" by which the injunction for facing Bayt al-maqdis was repealed. It also contains injunctions which are obligatory only at a particular time after which their obligation ends, such as "when the call for prayer is made on Friday then hasten towards remembrance of Allah." It has also indicated grades of
prohibitions as the division of sins into light and serious ones - light such as "Tell the believers to lower their eyes" and serious ones such as "whoever kills a Believer willfully his award is to remain in Hell for ever." It also contains injunctions where a little performance is enough but there is scope for further performance such as "Read the Qur'an as much as you easily can."
"Verily your Lord, certainly is He the All-mighty, the All-merciful."
"Say thou (O' Our Prophet Muhammad) unto the believer men that they cast down their gaze and guard their private parts; that is purer for them; verily Allah is All-aware of what (all) ye do." (Qur'an, 24:30)
"Not equal are those of the believers who sit (holding back) other than those hurt, and those who strive in the way of Allah with their wealth and their selves (lives). Allah hath raised the strivers with their wealth and selves (lives), in rank above those sitting (holding back); Unto all (in faith) Allah hath promised good; but those who strive, He hath distinguished above those who sit (holding [by]) a great recompense." (Qur'an, 4:95)
"Verily, thy Lord knows that thou stands up (in the Night Prayer) night
two-third of the night, and (sometimes) half of it, and (sometimes) a third of it, and a group of those with thee; and Allah measured (well) the night and the day; Knoweth He that never can ye take (correct) account of it, so turneth He unto you (mercifully) so recite ye whatever be easy (in the prayers) to be read of the Qur'an; Knoweth He that there may be among you sick, and others traveling in the earth seeking of the grace of Allah, and others fighting in the way of Allah, so recite ye as much as it can easily be done of it, and establish ye the (regular) prayers, and pay ye the (prescribed) poor-rate, and offer ye unto Allah a goodly loan; and whatsoever of good ye send on before hand for yourselves, ye will (surely) find it with Allah, that is the best and the greatest recompense; and seek ye the forgiveness of Allah; Verily, Allah is Oft-forgiving, the Most Merciful."
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