The Life of Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin

By: Bāqir Sharif al-Qarashi

P. 303 – 332
Imām Zayn al-‘Ābidin, peace be on him, took great care of preaching to the people. Many sermons were narrated on his authority. With them he preached to his companions and the people of his time. They are still alive, give lessons to people, warn them against arrogance and recklessness, and summon them to the path of truth and rightness. Besides some immortal wise sayings were reported on his authority. They summon man to balance his conduct and to set right his character. In this respect we will mention some of his sermons and wise sayings.

His Sermons

Before we speak about the sermons of Imām Zayn al-‘Ābidin, peace be on him, we’d like to explain the objectives of his sermons and those of all the pure Imāms, peace be on them. They aim at:

A. Educating souls, setting them right, and planting noble inclinations in them.

B. Removing psychological complexes from man’s soul, and destroying all wicked, corrupt natures, selfishness, envy, and aggression against men.

C. Putting before men all historical lessons such as destroying the tyrannical, that they may enlighten the way to man and explain to him the aim of his social and individual life.

D. Directing man to Allah, the Exalted, the Noblest Objective in this world, to save him from all evil things and offenses.

E. Urging man to do good for the hereafter, which his real, eternal abode.

These are some brilliant objectives in the sermons of the Imāms of guidance, peace be on them. Now, we will mention the sermons of Imām Zayn al-‘Ābidin, peace be on him.

1. Dispraising the world and warning men against its evil things and delusions, the Imām, peace be on him, said: “Verily, the world has departed and turned the back, and the next world has come. Each of them has children. Hence be among the children of the next world and be not among the world’s children who turn away from the hereafter. Indeed, those who renounce the world use the ground as rug, the earth as bed, water as perfume, and take a very little thing of the world. Surely, he who yearns for the Garden forgets passions; he who fears the Fire refrains from prohibited things; he who renounces the world, misfortunes are easy for him. Truly, Allah has servants who regard the people of the Garden as immortal in the Garden and the people of the Fire as chastised in the Fire. Their evil things are safe, their hearts are sorrowful, their souls are chaste, and their requests are light. They are patient for a few days, and then they will attain a long rest. As for night, they align their legs, plead to their Lord, and strive to release their necks. As for daytime, they are clement, knowledgeable, obedient, and pious. They are like the arrows without heads and blades. Fear of worship has thinned them out. When a beholder sees them, he asks: ‘Are the people sick or have become mentally disordered?’ The people are not sick, but a great affair has mixed with them because of the remembrance of the Fire and what therein.[1]”

The Imām, peace be on him, warned men against love for the world, which is the origin of every sin. He summoned them to follow the ascetics from among the righteous who worshipped Allah and understood the reality of life in this world, which is perishable and transitory. Only a few days man spends in this world, and then he will meet his Lord. Allah will question him about his acts in the world to repay him according to them. If man did good, Allah would repay him good. If he did evil, Allah would repay him evil. Hence the righteous turned to Allah through their hearts and sentiments. They sincerely worshipped and obeyed Him.

2. He, peace be on him, said: “O son of Adam, you are still in good as long as you preach to yourself, reckon it, fear is your underwear, and grief is your outer garment. O son of Adam, you will die, be raised from the dead, be stood before Allah, the Great and Almighty, be questioned, hence prepare an answer.[2]”

The Imām summons man to set up a preacher in his inner self to preach to it and a reckoner to reckon it for its slips and mistakes, for man will be raised from the dead on the Day of Judgment and reckoned for his sins and offenses.

3. Al-Zuhri reported: [I heard ‘Ali b. al-Husayn say:] “He who does not follow Allah’s laws will be sorrowful for the world. By Allah, this world and the next world are like the two scales of a balance, whichever tilts takes away the other. Then he recited these words of Him, the Exalted: When the great event comes to pass (i.e., resurrection), there is no belying its coming-lowering (the enemies of Allah to the Fire), exalting (the friends of Allah to the Garden).”

Then the Imām, peace be on him, preached to a man: “Fear Allah, be moderate in request, seek not that which is not created, for he who seeks that which is not created is out of breath, but does not attain what he seeks. How can he attain that which is not created?”

The man hurried to say: “How can he attain that which is not created?”

The Imām, peace be on him, answered: “By seeking riches, possessions, and ease in the world in order to take rest therein. Rest has not been created in the world, nor has it been created for its inhabitants. Rather rest has been created in the Garden. Tiredness and toil have been created in the world and for its inhabitants. When one is given a handful of it (the world), he is given a similar (handful) of greediness. Whoever earns a greater (share) of the world is still in need of it, for he is need of the people to keep his possessions and is in need of every mediation of the world. Hence there is no rest in the riches of the world, but it is Satan who whispers to the son of Adam that there is rest in collecting possessions hence he drives him to tiredness in the world and reckoning will be against him in the next world.”

The Imām added: “The friends of Allah do not tire themselves in the world for the world; rather they tire themselves in the world for the next world. Truly, he who takes care of his livelihood, it is written against him that he must preserve it. Such Jesus Christ, peace be on him, said to his disciples : ‘The world is a mere bridge, hence pass over it and do not build it.’[3]”

In this sermon there is a summons to renouncing this world and moderation in seeking it, for attaining rest is the reason for striving for material things, but there is no rest in the world. This is because there are many cares and a lot of pain in it. Rest has been created in the Garden which Allah has prepared for His pious servants. Therefore, one must seek the next world, not this world.

4. A person asked Imām Zayn al-‘Ābidin, peace be on him: “What about you, son of Allah’s Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family?”

He, peace be on him, replied: “Eight demands me: Allah demands my religious duties. The Prophet demands me (to follow) the Sunna. The family demands me (to prepare) nourishment. The soul demands me (to fallow) passions. Satan demands me to follow him. The two keepers demand me to act sincerely. The Angel of Death demands my soul, and the grave demands my body. Hence I am indebted (to them) for these qualities.[4]”

The Imām carefully considered the dimensions of the world and concluded that they were surrounded by these eight demanders, hence he decided to renounce the world and its vanities.

5. A beggar came to the Imām, peace be on him, and complained to him of his condition, and he (the Imām) blamed him for this, saying: “Son of Adam is miserable. He faces three misfortunes every day, but he does not learn a lesson from them. If he learns a lesson from, misfortunes will be easy for him. As for the first misfortune, it is the day when his span decreases. When his possessions decrease, he becomes grieved. He can return the dirham but cannot return his span. The second misfortune is that he earns his daily bread. If it (his daily bread) is lawful, he will be reckoned for it, and if it is unlawful, he will be punished for it. The third (misfortune) is the greatest.” The Imām was questioned about the greatest (misfortune): “What is it?” He replied: “When a day passes, his (man’s) departure to the next world approaches. He does not know whether he will (enter) the Garden or the Fire.[5]”

The Imām, peace be on him, urges man to learn a lesson from these three misfortunes which surrounds him. If man carefully considers them, they will hold him back from working for this world and make him work for the next world, which is the abode of mortality and subsistence.

6. He, peace be on him, said: “If men completely knew the virtue of turning to Allah in repentance and norms of sunna, they would express all that which came to their minds, and find the coolness of certainty which would free them from need to dispute in all states except their state. Moreover, understanding this would not escape them in the days few in number and thought short in period. However, ignorance has covered them; self-admiration has afflicted them; caprice has turned them away from the door to certitude; and bad customs have distracted them from the bounty of knowledge.[6]”

If man carefully considered the affairs of this universe, he would certainly believe that there was Creator to whose will and decree all things were yielding, that other than Him had neither force nor strength. If man believed in this, he would find the coolness of certainty in himself, and be free from hardships and difficulties that attacked him during his short term. However, he would not do this, for ignorance has covered him; self-admiration has afflicted him; caprice has diverted him from the bounty of knowledge and reaching the truth.

7. The following is among the valuable sermons which the Imām taught to his companions and Shi‘ites:

“O men, fear Allah, and know that you will return to Him on the day that every soul shall find present what it has done of good and what it has done of evil, it shall wish that between it and that (evil) there were a long duration of time; and Allah makes you to be cautious of (retribution from) Himself.[7] Woe unto you, O heedless son of Adam, while (Allah) is not heedless of you! Your death is the quickest thing toward you. It has swiftly come toward you seeking you, and it is about to reach you as if you finished your fixed term, the angel made you die, you alone went to your grave, your soul returned to you, the two angels Munkar and Nakir broke into (your grave) to question you and to examine you severely. Truly, they will first question you about your Lord -Whom you worshipped-your Prophet-who was sent to you-your religion which you professed-your Book-which you recited-your Imām-whom you followed-your span-in what did you pass it?-and your property-Where did you earn it? On what did you spend it? Hence be careful, consider yourself, and prepare the answer before the examination, the question, and the test. If you were a believer having knowledge of your religion, following the truthful, supporting the friends of Allah, Allah would dictated to you your proof and make your tongue say rightness, hence you would answer well, you would be given good news of the Garden and the good pleasure of Allah, the angels would receive you with happiness and bounty. If you were not such (a believer), your tongue would stammer, your proof would be refuted, you would be unable to give an answer, you would be given news of the Fire, the angels of chastisement would receive you with entertainment of boiling water and burning in the Fire.

“Know, son of Adam, that after this (i.e. the examination in the grave) there will be something greater and more horrible and ache the hearts in a much more painful manner. This is the Day of Resurrection. This is the day when men will be mustered. This is the day which will be witnessed, in which Allah will gather the former and the latter, in which the trumpet shall be blown, and the graves shall be scattered; this is the day of the event when (men’s) hearts will rise up to the throats, and they will be silent. This is the day in which no stumble will be released, nor will a ransom be taken from anyone, nor will an excuse be accepted from anyone, nor will anyone show repentance, except repayment through good deeds and evil deeds. If the believer does an atom’s weight of good, he shall find it, and if he does an atom’s weight of evil, he shall find it.

“Hence, men, guard against sins and acts of disobedience which (Allah) has prohibited in the Truthful Book and the Uttering Explanation. Feel not secure of the planning and destruction of Allah when the accursed Satan summons you to the immediate passions and pleasures of this world, for Allah says: Surely those who guard (against evil), when a visitation from the Shaitan afflicts them, they become mindful, then Lo! they see.[8] Let your hearts fear Allah, remember the good reward Allah has promised to give in your return, and the severe punishment with which He has frightened you. He who is afraid of a thing is careful of it, and he who is a careful of a thing leaves it. Be not among the heedless who incline to the pleasures of this world’s life and do evil deeds, for Allah, the Exalted says: Do they then who plan evil deeds feel secure (of this) that Allah will not cause the earth to swallow them or that punishment may overtake them from whence they do not perceive? Or that He may seize them in the course of their journeys, then they shall not escape; or that He may seize them by causing them suffer gradual loss? [9] Hence guard against what Allah did for the wrongdoers whom He has mentioned in His Book. Beware of that through which He threatened the oppressive people, and which He has mentioned in His Book. He has made those other than you a lesson for you, so the happy are those who learn a lesson form other than them. He has made you hear in His Book what he did toward the unjust people from among the people of the towns before you when He said: And how many a town which was iniquitous did we demolish, and we raised up after it another people. Hence when they felt our punishment, Lo! they began to fly from it. Do not fly (now) and come back to what you were made to lead easy lives in and to your dwellings, haply you will be questioned.[10] When the punishment came to them, they said: O woe unto us! Surely we were unjust.[11] O men, if you say that Allah meant the polytheists in this (verse), then what do you think about these words of Him: And We will set up a just balance on the day of resurrection, Hence no soul shall be dealt with unjustly in the least; and though there be the weight of a grain of mustard seed, (yet) We will bring it, and We are sufficient to take an account.[12]

“Know, Allah’s servants, that the balances are not set up for the polytheists, nor are the books spread for them; rather they will be mustered to the Fire in groups. The balances are set up for the Muslims, and the books are spread for them. Hence Allah’s servants, fear Allah, and know that Allah does not make His friends love the world’s embellishment, nor does He make them desire for it and its immediate embellishment and its manifest beauty. He created men in the world to try which of them would do good deeds for his (life in) the hereafter. By Allah, examples have been given to you in the Qur’ān, and the verses haven been given as examples to those who understand, hence, O believers, be of those who understand, and there is no strength save in Allah. Renounce the world, may Allah make you renounce the immediate things of the life in the world, for Allah says-and His words are true-: The likeness of this world’s life is only as which We send down from the cloud, then the herbage of the earth of which men and cattle eat grows luxuriantly thereby; until when the earth puts on its golden raiment and it becomes garnished, and its people think that they have power over it, Our command comes to it, by night or by day, Hence We render it as reaped seed-produce, as though it had not been in existence yesterday; thus do We make clear the communications for a people who reflect.[13] Incline not to the world, for Allah said to Mohammed: And incline not to those who are unjust, lest the fire touches you.[14] Incline not to the world and what is therein the inclination of him who takes it as stability and as an abode of settlement, for it is the abode of departure, end, and deeds. Hence supply (yourselves) with good deeds, before its (the world’s) days scatter, and before the permission from Allah (is taken) to destroying it, hence He Who originated it will destroy it and inherit it. I ask Allah to help you and me to supply (ourselves) with fear (of Him) and to renounce this world. May Allah place you and me among those who renounce the life in this world. Peace and Allah’s mercy and blessings be upon you.[15]”

This sermon is full of fearful descriptions about the sights of the Day of Resurrection when no stumble will be released nor a ransom will be taken from anyone; rather men will be repaid according to their deeds, good for good (deeds) and evil for evil (deeds). On this day nothing will save man from the terrible chastisement except his good deeds.

The Imām, peace be on him, warned men against committing offenses and sins and following passions which resulted in great evil. Also he, peace be on him, warned them against following the way of the unjust whom Allah punished severely, and whose houses He destroyed.

There is another important thing in this sermon; it is that the balances of justice and fairness will be set up for Muslims and the books spread for them only. As for the unbelievers, they will be driven to the Fire in groups.

8. The following is another example of the Imām’s valuable sermons:

“May Allah protect you and us from the wrongdoers, the aggression of the envious, and the oppression of the tyrannical. O believers, let not the tyrants and their followers deceive you, for they desire for the world, admire it, cling to it and its vanities. Guard against the world as long as Allah has warned you against it. Renounce it as Allah want you to renounce it. Incline not to it the inclination of those who have regarded it as an abode and station. By Allah, the world’s embellishment and changes are proofs for you. It raises the lowly up and pushes the noble down, and will make groups of people enter the Fire tomorrow. In this there is a lesson, a test, and a restraint for the mindful. The affairs which come to you by day and night- such as, dark discords, new events, unjust laws, the calamities of time, the terrors of the sovereign, the evil thoughts of Satan- hold back hearts from their intentions, make them forget the Being of guidance and the people of the Truth-except few from among those whom Allah has protected, and who follow the way of reason and moderation. Hence seek the help of asceticism against all of this, make use of the lessons and refrain from them, renounce the immediate delight of the world, turn away from its pleasures, wish for the permanent bliss of the next world and strive for it, beware of death, and hate life with the oppressive people. In this manner you are able to look at what is in the world through the brilliant eye whose sight is sharp and to understand new discords, misleading innovations, and the tyranny of the oppressive kings. By my life, in the bygone days you turned the back to the past affairs from among the heaped up afflictions and absorbed in them. You can produce them as evidence of turning away from the errant and the men of innovations, aggression, and corruption in the earth without truth. Therefore, seek the help of Allah, return to obeying Him and those who are worthy of obedience.

“Be very weary of (the world) before remorse, regret, meeting Allah and standing before Him. By Allah, when people disobey Allah, they expose themselves to His punishment, and when they prefer this world to the next world, their outcome and fate will be evil. Recognizing Allah and acting according to obedience to Him are two harmonious companions. He who knows Allah fears Him, and fear urges him to act according to obedience to Allah. (Religious) scholars and their followers know Allah and wish for Him, hence Allah said: Those of His servants only who are possessed of knowledge fear Allah.[16] Accordingly, seek nothing of this world through disobeying Allah; work in this world through obedience to Allah, make us of the world’s days, strive for that which delivers you tomorrow from Allah’s chastisement, for this is the least in outcome, the nearest to excuse, and the most hopeful for deliverance. Prefer Allah’s command, obedience to him, and those whose obedience He has made obligatory to all things. Prefer not the affairs which come to you through obeying the tyrannical and admiring this world to Allah’s command, obedience to Him and to the rulers from among you. Know that you are Allah’s servants, and we are part of you. The Dominant Lord will judge between you and us tomorrow; He will make you stand and question you; therefore prepare an answer before questioning and standing before the Lord of the worlds, on the day when none will speak except with a permission from Him. Know that Allah will not believe a liar, nor will He accuse the truthful of lying, nor will He refuse the excuse of the meritorious, nor will He pardon those who have no excuse. Rather Allah has arguments over His creatures; they the prophets and the trustees (of authority) after them. Hence fear Allah, and set right yourselves. Obey Allah and those whom you follow, that a person may remorse for neglecting Allah’s rights. Ask Allah for forgiveness and turn to Him in repentance, for He accepts repentance, forgive evil deeds, and knows what you do. Beware of making friends with the disobedient, helping the unjust, and neighboring the dissolute. Be weary of their temptations and go far away from their courtyard. Know that he who disobeys Allah’s friends, professes a religion other than Allah’s religion and obeys a command other than the command of Allah’s friend will enter a burning fire which will destroy the bodies whose souls are absent from them and which are controlled by wickedness. There for, learn a lesson (from this), O you who have intellects, thank Allah for guiding you, and know that you cannot leave Allah’s power to that of those other then Him. Allah will see your acts, and you will be mustered before Him. As a result, take advantage of this sermon and follow the noble moral traits of the righteous.[17]”

This sermon is one of the Imām’s excellent sermons. It is not confined to summoning people to renounce the world and to act for the next world; rather it includes political and social affairs, such as:

Warning men from following the tyrannical and their followers, who admire the world’s embellishment and delight. This is because these people always oppose social reform, spread oppression and corruption in the earth.

Dispraising the world and criticizing its qualities of which is the following:

A. It raises the lowly up.

B. It pushes the free and the noble down.

C. It drives groups of people to the Fire, for it deviates them from the truth.

Asthe world leads men to vices and prevents them from good deeds, they should renounce it, turn away from its pleasures, and strive for attaining the bliss of the next world.

3. Showing grief for the community who faced in his time various kinds of black afflictions, new innovations, unjust laws made by the Umayyads, who drowned the country in oppression, discords, and tyranny. Those events had strong influence on the community, for they held back the hearts from their intentions and deviated them from the path of truth and reason.

4. Summoning men to obey Allah and the Imāms of truth and guidance, who make them walk on the road of deliverance, and guide them to the straight path, who represent the will and awareness of the community and accomplish to it its mightiness and dignity. He, peace be on him, also summoned men to disobey the tyrannical leaders and not to help them.

5. Urging men to fear Allah and to obey Him, for man’s life is prosperous through these two deeds, and his conduct is righteous through them.

These are some contents of this sermon full of religious and political affairs.

9. The following is another example of the Imām’s sermons. In it he spoke about the qualities of the ascetics:

“One of the qualities of those who renounce the world and wish for the hereafter is that they oppose every friend who does not want what they want. Truly he who works for the reward of the next word renounces the immediate embellishment of the world, urges (himself) to do good deeds, prepares himself for death, for Allah, the Great and Almighty, says: Until when death overtake one of them, he says: Send me back, my Lord, that I may do good in that which I have left.[18]

“Live in this world the life of him who will be returned to it, and remorse for the good deeds which he neglected therein, and which he will need on the day of his neediness. Know, Allah’s servants, that he who fears the sudden attack of the authority of the people of the earth by night will turn away from pillow, refrain from sleeping, and abstain from eating and drinking. Woe unto you, son of Adam! Do you not fear the Almighty Lord’s sudden punishment coming by night? One finds neither sanctuary nor refuge nor escape from this sudden punishment. Hence, believers, fear Allah’s sudden punishment coming by night with the fear of the pious, for Allah says: And most certainly We will settle you in the land after then; this is for him who fears standing in My presence and who fears My threat.[19] Therefore, guard against the embellishment, deception, and evil of the life in this world. Remember the ill consequence of the inclination to it, for its embellishment is a trial, and love for it is sin.

“Woe unto you, son of Adam! Know that the severity of indigestion, the nature of inclination (to the world), intoxication of fullness, and the mightiness of supreme power hold back (men) from working, make them forget the remembrance (of Allah), and distract them from the approach of death, hence the one who is afflicted by love for the world behave madly because of the intoxication of drink. He who knows Allah and fears Him trains himself and accustoms it to hunger, lest it should not yearn for fullness, in such a manner horses are made thin to gain bet.

“Hence, Allah’s servants, fear Allah with the fear of him who hopes for His reward. Fear His punishment, for Allah, the Exalted, has excused you, warned you (against His punishment), filled you with desire (for His reward), and frightened you (with punishment), yet you do not yearn for his generous reward nor do you fear His severe punishment, while He has told you about this in His Book: Therefore whoever shall do of good deeds and he is a believer, there shall be no denying of his exertion, and surely We shall write (it) down for him.[20] Then He has given you examples of verses in His Book, that you may guard against the embellishment of the life in this world. He said: Your possessions and your children are only a trial, and Allah it is with Whom is a great reward.[21] Therefore, fear Allah as far as possible, listen and obey. Fear Allah and learn a lesson from Allah’s admonitions. I know that the outcomes of sins have exhausted many of you, yet they do not guard against them, and harmed their bodies, but they do not hate them. Do you not hear Allah’s call concerning belittling the world: Know that this world’s life is only sport and play and gaiety and boasting among yourselves, and a vying in the multiplication of wealth and children, like the rain, whose causing the vegetation to grow, pleases husbandmen; then it withers away Hence that you will see it become yellow, then it becomes dried up and broken down; and in the hereafter is a severe punishment and (also) forgiveness from Allah and (His) pleasure; and this world’s life is naught but means of deception. Hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and to a garden whose extensiveness is as the extensiveness of the heaven and the earth; it is prepared for those who believe in Allah and His messengers; that is the bounty of Allah: He gives it to whom He pleases, and Allah is the Possessor of the great bounty.[22] And He said: O you who believe, fear Allah, and let every soul consider what it has sent on for the morrow, and fear Allah; surely Allah is Aware of what you do. And be not like those who forgot Allah, Hence He made them forget their own souls: it is these who are the transgressors.[23] As a result fear Allah, servants of Allah. Consider carefully (Allah’s creatures) and work for that which you were created for, for Allah did not create you vainly nor will he leave you in vain. He has made you recognize Him, sent for you His messengers, and sent down upon you His Book in which there are His lawful and unlawful things, His arguments and His exemplars. Fear Allah, for your Lord has an argument over you when He said: Have We not given him two eyes, and a tongue and two lips, and guided him to the two ways.[24] Fear Allah as far as possible, for there is no strength save in Him, put trust in none except in Him, may Allah bless Mohammed and his Household.[25]”

This valuable sermon contains the qualities and inclinations of those who renounced the world. Truly they were among the chosen creatures of Allah. The world did not deceive them with its embellishment and pleasures, for they turned toward the next world and sought nearness to Allah. Because of their behavior, their good deeds, and their sweet conversations, they became a good example for those who followed them.

10. The following is one of the Imām’s sermons in which he preached to his companions:

“The most lovable of you with Allah is the best of you in work. The greatest of you in work with Allah is the greatest of you in desire for that which is with Him. The safest of you from the chastisement of Allah is the most intense of you in fear of Him. The nearest of you to Allah is the amplest of you in noble moral traits. The most pleasing of you to Allah is the best of you in spending lavishly upon his family; the most honorable of you with Allah is the most fearful of you before Him, the Exalted.[26]”

The Imām, peace be on him, ordered his companions to cling to the noble moral qualities and stored deeds. He guided them to that which delivered them from the chastisement of Allah in the next world. He urged them to:

A. Wish for that which is with Allah, which is among the greatest stored things. As for wish for that which is with other than Allah, it leads to disappointment and loss.

B. Fear Allah, for fear of Allah prevents man from committing sins and crimes, plants in his soul virtue and dignity, and make him honorable among the members of society. It has been mentioned in the tradition: “The most honorable of you with Allah is the most fearful of you (before Him).[27]”

C. Adopt noble moral traits, for man is distinguished from other than him by them. If he loses them, he loses his humanity.

11. The following is another example of the Imām’s sermons. In it he preached to his companions, saying:

“There is a garden between night and day. Those who obey Allah and fear him enjoy the garden. May Allah have mercy upon you, reciting the Qur’ān at the beginning of night, plead (to Allah) and ask (Him) for forgiveness at the end of it. When daytime comes, do good within it through refraining from committing degrading sins. May Allah place you and us among those who are happy when they understand the Qur’ān and avail themselves of its knowledge.[28]”

The Imām, peace be on him, urged his companions to obey Allah and to worship Him by the darkness of night and the brightness of day. He warned them against committing sins and offenses which lead man to the places of destruction when he will quickly separate from this world and meet Allah, Who will repay him for his deeds, namely good for good (deeds) and evil for evil (deeds).

12. The following is another example of the Imām’s sermons. When man reads it, he will shake with fear. In it the Imām addresses himself, saying:

“O my soul, how long will you trust in the world and incline to its embellishment? Have you not learned a lesson from your bygone ancestors, your intimate friends-whom the earth has concealed-your brothers-of whom you are bereaved-and your companions who have been transferred to the earth? They are now inside the earth while they were on it. Their beauties therein have become decayed and effaced.

“Their abodes have become empty of them, their courtyards have become deserted of them, and the decrees (of Allah) drove them toward death.

“They left the world and their gathering for it; the pits (graves) and earth have hidden them.

“The hands of death have perished many generations! The earth changed, through its decay, and concealed many of your associates. You carried them to their graves and returned to the work of those who are void of every good.

“You are engaged in the world competing (with others) for it; therein you are craving and vying with others for many possessions. You walk in danger and rise in the morning for amusement. Do you know, if you understand, what you expose to danger? He who always strives for this world and forgets the next is a loser without doubt.

“How long will you cling to the world and be engaged in its pleasures? White hair and the warner have come to you, while you are inattentive of what is wanted from you, and your are engaged in your present and future pleasures. You have seen the people who followed passions when they changed and calamities befell them.

“Remembering the terror of death, the grave, and decay holds back one from amusement and pleasures. Will you look for (pleasures) after the approach of the forty (of age) and be obstinate, while white hair is a warner? It seems that you intentionally take care of that which harms you and that you are deviated from rightness.

“Consider carefully how the succession of days abducted bygone communities and perished kings and how death surprised them, hence their traces have become effaced from the world, their stories have remained therein, and they have become decayed (bones) in the earth until the Day of Resurrection and Return.

“They have become decayed (bones) in the earth, their assemblies have become void of them, as if they were gamblers who departed (from the world). They have inhabited an abode in which they cannot visit each other, and how can the inhabitants of the graves visit each other? You see nothing except that they have dwelled in flat graves over which the wind raises and scatters (the dust).

“Many were those who possessed mightiness, authority, soldiers, helpers, were powerful in their world. Therein they attained what they desired, built palaces and places for drinks and amusement, collected possessions, stored things, (had) beautiful slave girls, and noble women.

“The stored things do not turn away death from them when it suddenly comes upon them. The strongholds which they build and surround by rivers, amusement and drink places do not repel (it) from them, nor do stratagems fight against it for them, nor do the armies beseech defending them.

“Allah sends down upon them what nothing can repel. His

decree, which nothing can keep back, befalls them, hence Exalted is Allah, the King, the All-compeller, the All-sublime, the Almighty, the Subduer, the Breaker of the tyrannical, the Destroyer of the arrogant, before whose force all things are lowly, and Who annihilates the subduers.

“The King, the Almighty, whose decree nothing can repel, the All-wise, the All-knowing, whose command is in force, the Subduer, toward whose mightiness of face all the almighty are humble. How many an almighty one is lowly before the All-dominating! The tyrannical kings are lowly and humble toward the mightiness of the Possessor of the Throne.

“Hence be quick! Be quick! Be wary, be wary of the world, its stratagems, the traps which it has set up for you, the ornament with which it has adorned itself for you, the beauty which it has shown for you, the pleasures which it has displayed for you, the destruction and catastrophes which it has concealed from you!

“(My soul), summon (men) to repulse the world’s other disasters and enjoin (them) to renounce (the world). Act seriously! Be not heedless! Be careful, for the inhabitant will soon leave the abode! Be ready (for the hereafter)! Flag not, for your span will remove, and you will go to the Abode of Permanence. Seek not the world, for its bliss-though you have obtained some of it-is a harmful outcome for you.

“Therefore, do the intelligent crave for the world? Will they be pleased with it, while they are sure that it will perish? Will they sleep at night, while death is sudden? Will they incline (to the world) while they expect death at any moment?

“Except to Allah (one’s soul inclines), but we deceive our souls, and pleasures distract us from what He has warned us. How does one enjoy this life, while he will be ordered to stand in the standing-place of justice on the day when the secrets will be tried? It seems that we think that there will be no resurrection, that we are in vain, and that we will not return after death.

“What does one attain from the world’s pleasures, beauties and various wonders, while he suffers sudden tragedies, maladies, troubles, and pain?

“Do we not see the world’s changes come and go by day and night? The world lends us nothing but blights and worries. How long does the borrower stay therein? He is not happy and safe in his world, nor does he prevents himself from its demands.

“How many a person inclines to the world, but it deceives him. It knocks down him who devotes himself to it, but it not releases him from his stumble, nor does it save him from being knocked down, nor does it heal him from his pain and malady, nor does it save him form his disgrace.

“Rather it leads him, after honor and strength, to evil outcomes which none can repel. When he sees that there is no salvation, and that his carefulness will not rescue him from death, he shows remorse, but it does not profit him, and weeps for his great sins.

“He weeps for his bygone sins, and regrets for what has escaped him in this world. He asks Allah’s forgiveness, but forgiveness does not profit him, nor does apology rescue him from the terror of death and the coming of the trial.

“Grieves and worries encompass him, and he is sad when his strength is feeble. None will relieve him from death, nor does anyone support him against it. His soul becomes agitated out of fear of death, but the uvula and the throat return it to him.

“Hence his visitors and his family decrease, and they leave him alone (with death). They despair of this invalid one. They close his eyes with their own hands, and stretch out his legs when his soul takes leave. Then the affectionate friends leave him.

“How many a painful, distressed one weeps for him, seeking patience, but he is not patient, saying: To Allah we belong and to Him is our return, supplicating Allah for him sincerely, numbering for him all what he remembers. How many a person gloats over his death, but he will die shortly after his death.

“Hence his womenfolk tear their garments; his slave girls strike their cheeks; his neighbor lament for losing him; and his brothers feel pain for his disaster. Then they undertake preparing him for burial, and set out to bring him out, as if he was not among them dear and ransomed, nor was he the preferable, beloved one.

“His loving people and relatives send someone to wash him and shroud him in two garments. Meanwhile they send someone to dig a grave for him. Then his brothers and his clans come together to escort him to his final resting place.

“If you see the youngest of his children-when sadness controls his heart, (men) fear for him out of impatience, tears make his eyes red, he laments over his father and says: Woe! Alas!-you will see an ugly sight of death, of which a beholder is afraid and terrified. When the youngest children forget him, the oldest ones become agitated. His womenfolk are impatient for him, and tears run down their faces.

“Then he is carried from his wide palace to his narrow grave. When he rests in his grave, his acts terrify him, his offenses encompass him, and he is unable to stand before what he sees. Then they power down sand on him with their own hands, weep and lament over him very much. Then they stand beside him for an hour. When they despair of looking at him, they leave him as hostage to his deeds.

“They turn the back (to him), lamenting over him, and all of them are careful of death. They are like the sheep which graze safely, (and then) they become frightened and stop pasturing when someone bare-armed suddenly appears before them (holding) his knife.

“When fear turns away from them, they return to their pasture, and forget this. Do we follow the acts of cattle and put their customs into effect? Return to the remembrance of him who is carried to the Abode of Trial. Learn a lesson from his place under the earth. (Learn a lesson from) him who is pushed to the terror of what you see.

“Only he has rested in his grave; his children and sons-in-law have distributed his inheritance (among themselves). They have divided his properties (among themselves), but none of them have thanked or praised him.

“O you who lives in the world and strives for it, O you who feels safety from the changes of time, how do you feel security from this state, and certainly you will reach it? How do you satisfy yourself of food, while you wait for your death? How do you enjoy your desires, while they are the mount of blights?

“You have not prepared yourself for the departure which has approached, and you are about to travel. Alas! How long will I delay my repentance, while my span will come to an end, and death awaits me? My deeds have been written on the pages, and the One-Who is Just and Powerful in judgment- will repay (me) for them.

“How long will you patch your life in this world with your life in the next, mount your seduction and caprice? I think that you are weak, O you who prefers this world to the religion! Has the Compassionate (Allah) commanded you to do this? Has the Qur’ān been sent down for this? Do you not think that there will be a severe reckoning awaiting you? Do you not consider the state of those who collected (money) and invested (it), raised buildings up and decorated (them), and lived long? Have they not become waste, and their graves become their abode?

“You destroy that which will subsist, and build that which will perish, though it is neither ample nor inhabited. Have you an excuse before Allah when death surprises you, and you have earned no good deed? Are you content that your span comes to an end, while your religion is deficient and your property is abundant?[29]”

This sermon is over. It describes the reality of this world’s life and man’s departure from it. It shows that man craves for this world, adorns it, and clings to its pleasures, while he knows that he will leave it for a narrow, dark grave where his organs cut off, and his stories die down. Nothing will stay with him except his deeds. If they are good, he will be intimate with nothing except with them. If they are evil, he will fear nothing save them.

I (the author) do not doubt the meanings of this sermon, but I doubt some weak words therein, especially as it concerns the lines of poetry. This is because such words do not agree with the eloquence of Imām Zayn al-‘Ābidin, peace be on him, who was the most eloquent in the Arab and Islamic world, and who composed al-Sahifa al-Sajjādiya, which is the purest and most eloquent book in Arabic literature.

13. The following is another example of the Imām’s valuable sermons. In it he warns (mankind) against the world. He, peace be on him, said: “Beware of the world and what therein, for it is the abode of vanishing and change. It changes its inhabitants from state to another. It perished the past generations and bygone nations, who had properties more than you (have), lived longer than you, and had houses more than you (have). The world annihilated them as if they were not its inhabitants. The earth has absorbed their flesh, removed their beauties, scattered their organs, and changed their colors. The hands of time have milled them. Then will you crave for subsistence after them? Far be it! Far be it! Surely, you will meet (Allah). You wasted your past span. Hence do good deeds in the remaining part of your span, before your fixed terms terminate, and your expectations cut off. You are about to be taken from the palaces to the graves, sad not happy. By Allah, how many a sinner who shows perfect remorse. How many a powerful person who falls into the paths destruction. Remorse will not profit him, nor will anyone help him against wrongdoing. He will find his past deeds and take what he has supplied himself with. They found what they did present, and your Lord does not wrong anyone. They are in the abodes of death, and are silent in the camp of the dead, awaiting the cry of the Resurrection and coming of the Day of the Calamity, that Allah may repay those who do evil with what they have done, and repay those who do good with goodness.[30]”

With this we will end our speech about the sermons of Imām Zayn al-‘Ābidin, peace be on him. They are indeed some of the greatest spiritual sources and the most successful medicine for curing psychological diseases that abase man and throw him into total ignorance in this life.

His Wise Sayings and Teachings

Imām Zayn al-‘Ābidin, peace be on him, stated many valuable wise sayings and noble teachings that resulted from his full experience in the reality of life, his deep understanding of social affairs, and his knowledge of the conditions and affairs of men. The following is part of what it has been narrated on his authority.

Dispraising Haughtiness

The Imām, peace be on him, dispraised haughtiness. He blamed the haughty for their evil qualities, which are the door to all evil deeds and vices. The haughty think that other than them do not deserve life, hence they wrong men and show enmity toward them. The Imām, peace be on him, said: “I wonder at him who shows haughtiness and vainglory, while was as a sperm yesterday and will be a carrion tomorrow.[31]” If the haughty carefully consider their beginning and their end, they will not show haughtiness and vainglory toward men, nor will they boast of their children and properties.

From their Safe Place, the Careful are surprised.[32]

An example of his immortal wise sayings is these golden wonderful words. He, peace be on him, said: “From their safe place, the careful are surprised. The intelligent are content with the inspiration of speech. Explanation turns away from the ignorant one’s heart. He does not avail himself of words, though eloquent, when he badly listens (to them).[33]” As for the meanings of these pure words, they are as follows:

1. ‘From his safe place, the careful are surprised,’ means that kings and rules employ guards in order to protect them; nevertheless the guards themselves sometimes kill them.

2. It is the intelligent who understand affairs through the inspiration of speech and the contexts of states. In other words, they are in no need of wordiness.

3. Explanation turns away from the ignorant one’s mind, for ignorance has covered it and turned it away from understanding affairs.

4. He who badly listens does not avail himself of pure, wise words, but he who carefully listens makes use of them.

Warning against Disputes

The Imām, peace be on him, warned (the Muslims) against the dispute which leads them to overcoming and haughtiness, and not to the truth. He, peace be on him, said: “Dispute corrupts past friendship and unties strong knots, for it leads to overcoming which is among the strongest reasons for estrangement.[34]” Dispute is a key to evil deeds, moves enmity and hatred among men, and causes to them many hardships and difficulties.

Rejoicing over Sins

Rejoicing over sins indicates that the person goes to extremes in crime, hence the Imām, peace be on him, said: “Beware of rejoicing over sins, for rejoicing over sins is greater than committing them.[35]”

Kinds of Sin

The Imām speaks about the kinds of sin which bring about Allah’s wrath and chastisement. He warns man against them, that he may lead sound religion and world. He, peace be on him, said:

“The sins which alter blessings are: aggression against men, turning away from good habits, affected charity, showing ingratitude toward blessings, and leaving thanksgiving. Allah, the Exalted, said: ‘Surely, Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change their own condition.’

“The sins which bring about remorse are: murdering the soul which Allah has made unlawful (When Cain killed his brother Abel and was unable to bury him, Allah said: Hence he became among the remorseful.), leaving tightening bonds of kin until they are free from need, leaving the prayers until their times pass, leaving will and complaints, refraining from giving zakāt until death comes and the tongue stops.

“The sins which draw down diversities are: disobeying the knowledgeable, showing insolence toward men, and ridiculing them.

“The sins which repel blessings are: displaying poverty, sleep during noon and evening prayers’ times, disdaining blessings, and complaints against Allah.

“The sins which tear apart safeguards are: drinking wine, playing gamble, chatter and joking which make men laugh, mentioning the defects of men, and sitting with the people of doubt.

“The sins which draw down tribulations are: leaving relieving the grieved, leaving helping the wronged, refraining from enjoining the good and forbidding the evil.

“The sins which empower the enemies are: declaring oppression and dissoluteness publicly, making the prohibited permissible, showing disobedience toward the good, and following the evil.

“The sins which hasten annihilation are: cutting the ties of the womb, sinful oath, false words, fornication, obstructing the path of the Muslims, and claiming the Imāmate without right.

“The sins which cut off expectations are: despair of Allah’s repose, desperation of Allah’s mercy, trust in other than Allah, and denying Allah’s promise.

“The sins which make air black are: magic, soothsaying, faith in the stars, denying (Allah’s) decree, and showing disobedience to parents.

“The sins which remove the covering are: borrowing a loan without intention to repay it, spending lavishly on falsehood, showing stinginess toward family, children, and the blood relations, misconduct, the paucity of patience, employing boredom, and disdaining the people of religion.

“The sins which hold back supplication are: evil intention, wicked inner self, showing hypocrisy toward brothers, leaving giving truthful answer, delaying the obligatory prayers until their times pass, leaving nearness to Allah through charity and alms, employing obscene words, untruth, concealing witness, refraining from giving zakāt, loan, and food, displaying curliness toward the poor and the needy, oppressing orphans and widows, scolding and repelling the beggar at night.[36]”

The Imām, peace be on him, warned (men) against committing these sins and crimes, which deviate man’s behavior from the right path and make him far from his Creator. He has mentioned their mean results in this world and the next. This is indeed one of the traditions of the pure Imāms, peace be on them, who spared no effort to educate man’s soul.

The Reality of Death

The Imām, peace be on him, described the reality of death of believers and unbelievers with these words of him: “The death of a believer is like taking off dirty garments and replacing them with excellent ones. It is like riding the lowest mounts and untying heavy fetters. The death of an unbeliever is like taking off excellent garments and replacing them with the dirtiest and most coarse ones. It is like moving from intimate houses to lonely ones.[37]”

Many traditions have been narrated on the authority of the Imāms of guidance. They say: “The world is the prison of a believer and garden of an unbeliever.” When the believer is about to die, he finds no difficulty in death. He finds the greatest comfort; for he will soon move to Paradise. When the unbeliever faces death, he finds it unhappiness and tribulation. He faces it with regret and pain; for he will move from a garden to a lasting chastisement in a prison.

The Most Important Degrees of Asceticism

A person questioned Imām Zayn al-‘Ābidin, peace be on him, about asceticism, and he replied: “Asceticism is of ten degrees: The highest degree of asceticism is the lowest degree of piety. The highest degree of piety is the lowest degree of certainty. The highest degree of certainty is the lowest degree of satisfaction.[38] Asceticism is in one verse of Allah’s Book: Hence that you may not grieve for what has escaped you, nor be exultant at what He has given you.[39]”

This tradition contains some gnostic realities. They are as follows:

A. The highest degree of asceticism does not equal the lowest degree of abstaining from the things which Allah has made unlawful. Abstaining from such things results from setting right soul and controlling it.

B. Piety is the highest degree of faith (in Allah), yet the highest degree of it is the lowest degree of certainty of Allah, the Exalted.

C. Certitude is the essence of faith, yet the highest degree of it is lowest degree of satisfaction with what Allah has apportioned.

D. The Holy Verse includes the reality of asceticism. It warns man against grief and sorrow for the interests which escape him in this world. Besides it warns him against rejoicing over the pleasures he earns.

The Best Deeds in the View of Allah

The Imām, peace be on him, was asked about the best deeds in the view of Allah, and he answered: “After recognizing Allah and His Messenger, the best deed in Allah’s eyes is detesting the world. This has many branches. Disobedience has also many branches. Self-admiration was the first act of disobedience. It made Satan refuse to (prostrate himself for Adam), show haughtiness, and unbeliever. Envy was the sin of Adam’s son. It made him kill his brother. From this branched love for women, the world, presidency, ease, words, superiority, and wealth. They have become seven qualities and come together in love for the world. After recognizing these qualities, the prophets and the scholars said: “Love for the world is the root of every sin, and the world is an abode of tribulation.[40]”

Surely, love for the world is the foundation of tribulation, source of discords and dangers which befall man. It leads man to sins and offenses and throws him into great evil. The Imām, peace be on him, has mentioned the blights which result from love for the world. Some of them are as follows:

1. Self-admiration.

2. Envy.

3. Love for men and presidency.

4. Love for ease.

5. Love for words (which do not concern and mean the


6. Love for superiority over the others.

7. Love for wealth.

These blights deviate man from the right path, and throw him into sins.

[1] Usūl al-Kāfi, vol. 2, p. 132. Al-Nūri, Ma’ālim al-‘Ibar.
[2] Al-Durr al-Nazim, p. 137. Al-Ya’qūbi, Tārikh, vol. 3, p. 46.
[3] Al-Khisāl, pp. 64-65.
[4] Ibn al-Shaykh, al-Amāli, p. 410.
[5] Al-Ikhtisās, p. 338.
[6] Al-Bayān wa al-Tabyyin, vol. 1, p. 84. Zahr al-Adab, vol. 1, p. 102.
[7] Qur’ān, 3, 29.
[8] Ibid., 7, 200.
[9] Ibid., 16, 45-47.
[10] Ibid., 21, 11-13.
[11] Ibid., 21, 14.
[12] Ibid., 21, 47.
[13] Ibid., 10, 24.
[14] Ibid., 11, 113.
[15] Tuhaf al-‘Uqūl, pp. 249-252. Al-Am`li, al-Tūsi, p. 301. Roudat al-Kāfi, p. 160. Al-Sadūq, al-Amāli, p. 356. Ibn Warām, Tanbih al-Khawātir, p. 225. Al-Bihār, vol. 17, p. 17, first edition.
[16] Qur’ān, 35, 28.
[17] Tuhaf al-‘Uqūl, pp. 252-255. Al-Mufid, al-Amāli, p. 117. Roudat al-Kāfi, p. 138.
[18] Qur’ān, 23, 100.
[19] Ibid., 52, 14.
[20] Ibid., 21, 94.
[21] Ibid., 64, 15.
[22] Ibid., 57, 20-21.
[23] Ibid., 59, 18-19.
[24] Ibid., 90, 8-10.
[25] Tuhāf al-‘Uqūl, pp. 272-274. Al-Bihār al-Anwār, vol. 17, p. 312, first edition.
[26] Roudat al-Kāfi, p. 158.
[27] Ibid.,
[28] Al-Durr al-Nazim, p. 137.
[29] Al-Bidāya wa al-Nihāya, vol. 9, pp. 109-113. Ibn ‘Asākir, Tārikh.
[30] Qur’ān, 53, 30.
[31] Balāghat al-Imām Zayn al-‘Ābidin, p. 27, quoted from Nāsikh al-Tawārikh, vol. 1, p. 484.
[32] The pre-Islamic people knew this proverb.
[33] Ibn Hammdūn, Tadhkira, p. 26.
[34] Zahr al-Adab, vol. 1, p. 102.
[35] Al-Durr al-Nazim, p. 173.
[36] Al-Sadūq, Ma’āni al-Akhbār, p. 78.
[37] Ibid., p. 136.
[38] Usūl al-Kāfi, Chapter on Dispraising the World.
[39] Qur’ān, 29, 23.
[40] Usūl al-Kāfi, Chapter on Dispraising the World.


more post like this