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  Updated: October 28, 2007

Imam Sadiq (A)’s recommendations to seeker of right path

By: Irfan Hashmi

Have you ever heard of "Unwan al-Basri's tradition"? Allama Tabatabai's late master of practical ethics, Ayatollah Seyyid Ali Qazi Tabataba’i (may their souls be sanctified), refused to teach Islamic practical ethics to any new student unless he expressed his commitment to this tradition. The late 'Ayatollah Qazi (may God have mercy on him) used to recommend this tradition to his students, who sought the mystical journey to God the Almighty. He also asked them to write it and keep it in their pockets and read it twice a week. He regarded this tradition as the best treatment for one’s temporal desires, lust and anger, which mainly stem from spite, greed, and indulgence in sensual pleasures.

The following is an English translation of Unwan al-Basri's tradition.

Unwan al-Basri said: "when I was 94 years old, I used to visit Malik ibn Anas frequently for some years. When Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) moved to Medina, I started visiting him frequently and wished to learn from him just as I had learnt from Malik. One day he told me that he had certain things to do and he had to say many prayers and litanies during the day and night. So he told me to leave him and asked me to learn from and to visit Malik as I used to do before. I said to myself, had Imam al -Sadiq (peace be upon him) noticed through insight any good in me he would not have driven me away. Then I went to the Prophet's Mosque filled with worry. The next day, I returned to the mosque where I said a two – rak’at prayer and called upon God: "O Allah, O Allah, I ask You to soften Imam
al-Sadiq's heart towards me and provide for me of his knowledge which can guide me to Your Right Path."Gloomy, I went back home and decided not to visit Malik for my heart was filled with the love of Imam al -Sadiq. I did not go out save for the obligatory prayers until my patience came to an end. When l got tensed up, I put on my slippers, got dressed and left for Imam al -Sadiq. When I got to his house door, I knocked at it. A few minutes later his servant opened the door and said: "What can I do for you?"

I asked the servant to inform Imam al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) bout my arrival.

"Imam (peace be upon him) is in his oratory saying prayers", said the servant.

I sat down at the door and after a few minutes the servant came back and asked me to go in with Allah's blessing. I got in and greeted Imam al -Sadiq and he greeted me in return.

"Take a seat, may God forgive you", said the Imam (peace be upon him). He looked down for a while and then, raising his eyes he asked:"Abu whom [What is your patronymic]"? "Abu Abd Allah", I answered.

"May Allah make your patronymic firm and give you success". said the Imam (peace be upon him). "What is your question Abu Abd Allah?" He asked. I said to myself if I got nothing from my visit and greeting except this supplication, that will do. Raising his eyes, Imam (peace be upon him) asked again, "What is your question?"

"I had asked Allah to make you sympathize with me and provide me with your knowledge. Now, I hope He has responded to my supplication", I said. The Imam said: "Knowledge cannot, as you might think, be achieved thruough learning, rather it is a light which gets into the heart of the one whom Allah wishes to guide. If you are seeking after knowledge then, look for true devotion (to God) within yourself, seek after knowledge through practice and ask Allah to grant you the power of understanding, so you will be able to understand."

"O noble one!" I said. "Say:O Aba Abd Allah",said the Imam(peace be upon him)."O Aba Abd Allah, what is true devotion?" I asked.

He answered: "It consists of three things: the servant must not consider himself as the true owner of what Allah has conferred upon him. For servants own nothing, and they believe that the wealth belongs to Allah alone, therefore it has to be spent on what Allah has commanded. Servants must not entrust their affairs to their selves and all their attention must be directed to Allah’s commands concerning what to do or not to do. Hence, when a servant does not consider himself as the true owner of what has been conferred upon him, it will be easy for him to spend it then on what Allah has commanded, and when the servant entrusts his affairs to the Almighty, the divine providence, it will be easy for him to withstand worldly misfortunes and when the servant directs all of his attention to Allah’s commands concerning what to do or not to do, he will spare no time for boasting and vying. If a servant is favoured by Allah with these three things, it will be easy for him to deal with this world, with
Satan, and with the whole creation. He will seek no increase in this world, and abandon boastfulness. Further, he will not seek might and superiority other people have, and will not let his days pass by vainly. This is the first step to piety. The Almighty Allah (blessed is He and high exalted) says: "That is the hereafter abode which We will set for those who do not seek for high-handedness or pervertedness on the earth, and the happy ending goes to the pious."

"O Aba Abd Allah, will you advise me." I requested. Imam al- Sadiq (peace be upon him) said: "Take care of nine things, which is my advice to the devot travellers to Allah, and I ask Allah to give you success to put them into practice. Three are concerned with spiritual discilpine, three with forbearance, and three with knowledge. Do remember them and never neglect them."

"I gathered my wits and listened to him well and attentively", said Unwan.Imam al - Sadiq (peace be upon him) said: "Those which concern spirtual discipline are: Never eat if you have no appetite, for it causes foolishness, and do not eat unless you are hungry and eat what is lawful, and invoke the name of Allah and remember the Prophet's tradition, ‘The worst container filled up by human beings is the stomach. If you see that you have to eat, spare one third of the stomach for food, one third for drink and one third for breath. Those which concern forbearance are: If one says to you: If you say one word you will hear ten, reply: ‘If you say ten words you will hear none, when one calls you names, say: If you are right, I pray Allah to forgive me, and if you are not, I pray Him to forgive you and when one promises to behave badly towards you, repay him with advice and loyalty. Those which concern knowledge are: Ask the learned all that of which you know [little or] nothing and never ask them a question out of obstinacy or to test them, and never trust your own private opinion, resort to caution as much as possible, and flee from giving personal opinion in religious issues as you flee from a lion and let not your neck be a bridge for other people. O Aba Abd Allah, get up and leave me alone. Don’t let my litanies get spoiled for I am very careful about my time. And peace be with those who follow the Right Path.    

  "Knowledge is better than wealth because it protects you while you have to guard wealth. it decreases if you keep on spending it but the more you make use of knowledge ,the more it increases . what you get through wealth disappears as soon as wealth disappears but what you achieve through knowledge will remain even after you."MORE ..  


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