We know that there are different views about the nature of man, two of which stand opposed to each other: the view of the spiritualists and that of the materialists.
According to spiritualists, man is a reality composed of body and spirit. The spirit is eternal and does not perish with death, and we know that religion and Islamic texts affirm this view.
According to materialists, man comprises only this machine of the body, which is destroyed with death, and its dismemberment means the dissolution of his personality.
In spite of this great difference of opinion, there is something about which both groups are unanimous, and that is that there are certain non-material elements which may be called intellectual, and which give a man his value and personality. If he is deprived of them, he will sink to the level of animals. Sa’di, the poet, has expressed this idea in the following poem:
"Man's body is ennobled by his soul,
And this fine garment is not a sign of humanity
If man were known by his eyes, nose, mouth and ears,
What difference would there be between a picture on the wall and humanity?"
There is a saying: "How easy it is to become a scholar and how difficult to be a human being." It requires so many qualities that depend on one's personality and worth.
Deviations which take place in an individual or society are of two kinds: 1) Those anti-values which stand against values, such as tyranny against justice, suppression against freedom, atheism and lack of discipline against devotion and worship, and foolishness and stupidity against wisdom and intelligence. Most deviations do not belong to this group, because such anti-values are soon defeated. 2) Another group of deviations takes the form of a cancerous growth of one value which obliterates all other values. For example, asceticism is a value and criterion of humanity, but a person or a society may turn to it to the extent of ignoring every other value. Human values may be said to come under one heading, as expressed by Gnostics and modern theologians, and that is a feeling of pain, something which animals lack.
Pain is a source of discomfort, but at the same time it gives an awareness and alertness to find the cause. In this way, it is a blessing even though it causes some loss. Rumi expresses this idea in a poem:
"The sigh and groaning which are in sickness, Provide a wakefulness at that time. When you fall ill, you feel penitent of guilt. And a sin will seem ugly to you. Then you resolve to follow the right path And promise to obey thenceforth. So it is certain that sickness has this benefit that it grants you alertness and care. Know then, you who are searching for causes, that he who feels pain, the greater is the awareness and the greater the awareness, the paler the visage."
Feeling no pain is like having no feeling and understanding. It is tantamount to being ignorant. Which is better, to be stupid and ignorant and feel no pain, or to be aware and alert and feel pain?
It is sometimes said that being a lean Socrates is preferable to being a fat pig. Being learned and wise but deprived of comforts is better than a fool enjoying all comforts. Literature is full of complaints of having intelligence, for, it deprives its owner of comfort and ease. A poet says:
"My intelligence and wisdom are my enemies, I wish that my eyes and ears were not open."
Another poet says:
"Do not be wise to grieve for the crazy,
Be crazy to be grieved for by the wise
But such an attitude is wrong. He who attains the level of humanity and understands the worth of sensitivity and pain, never says that his intelligence and wisdom are his enemies. He would rather repeat the utterance of the Prophet that "The true friend of a person is his intelligence and his real enemy is his ignorance."
He who considers his intelligence to be his enemy never feels the uneasiness and misfortunes caused by ignorance, otherwise he would not make such a remark. In physical illness, too, there must be pain, otherwise the illness could not be diagnosed and consequently treated. An illness which is sudden and without pain is most dangerous.
What is human pain? It does not mean only physical pain. It is a pain considered sacred by mystics and is peculiar to human beings and for this reason, a human being is preferable to an angel, for, an angel is free from pain. That human pain is the pain of seeking God. Man is a reality produced by divine breath in another world, and is not wholly homogeneous with the things of this world. He has a feeling of strangeness and alienation with all other creatures here since they are all changeable and perishable and not worthy of attachment. Man, however, has a perpetual anxiety, and this is what draws him towards devotion and worship of God, communion with Him, and proximity to Him, as his origin.
There are many parables in mysticism about returning to one's origin. Poets speak of a parrot brought in a cage from India always longing to break open the cage and flying back home. Rumi tells the story of a reed which is cut off from its reed-bed, and you hear the moan of the pipe lamenting this separation and longing for the reunion. Sometimes they compare a person to an elephant which must be constantly knocked on the head so that it gets no chance to think of its Indian homeland.
Most of these parables mean to say that a human being is anxious to return to the next world, feels the pain of separation and longs for a divine reunion. Imam Ali, in a conversation with Kumayl-bin-Ziad, declares that there is no one to whom he may divulge the secret of his heart. But he says there are some individuals in the world who have attained the point of perfect certainty in knowledge and feel that there is no space to separate them from the spirit of certitude. That thing, namely livelihood, which is difficult for men of pleasure and materialists to achieve is tame and easy for them, and what is the source of terror for the former, namely privacy with God, is the means of companionship for the latter. They go along with people but their spirits soar high, and while they are here they are also simultaneously in the next world going through the mystic and devotional pains and communions that Ali had.
This love of God makes the devotee wholly unconscious of what goes on around him and he does not feel any pain even if an arrow is being pulled out of his body. This pain of separation from God, and longing for divine proximity do not end until he attains his goal of joining God. The Qur'an says the heart is soothed by one thing only, and that is the remembrance of God.
Rumi quotes the parable of a man who was constantly in communion with God and kept on repeating the divine name.Satan came to him once and tempted him in such a manner that he stopped his invocations henceforth. One day, Satan came to the man again and said: "With all your repetition of the name of God and your wakefulness at dawn for devotion and your longing, did you ever hear once from Him saying: "Here am I?" If you had gone to any other door and groaned so much, you would have received a response at least once." This remark appeared logical to the man, so he kept silent. In a dream, an invisible voice asked him as to why he had abandoned his communion. He answered that despite all his longing and pain of love, he had never received an answer. The voice said: "I am sent by God to give you an answer. The pain of love that He has put in your heart is the response."
Imam Ali, in his prayer (dua) of Kumayl, says: "0 God, forgive that sin which causes my praying to be confined and the pain of it to be removed." Thus, prayer is a goal in itself and not always the means of receiving a favorable answer.
Another group claims that the criterion of humanity is to feel the pain of God's creatures and as Sa’di, the poet, says:
"It is not poverty that has made me pale, I am pale because of grieving for the poor."
If the hunger and pains of others become more difficult to bear than one’s own hunger and pain, it is a value which is the basis of personality and a source of other human values. It involves a feeling of responsibility towards other human beings and their needs and sufferings.
We see its perfect example in Imam Ali, especially the last fasting month of Ramadhan in his life. For him it had a new delight, and for his household it was full of anxiety, because his behavior in that month was quite different from the fasting months of previous years.
"Ali (as) speaks of the following Qur’anic verse: Chapter "Spider" (Ankabut) verse 2::
"Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, We believe, and not be tried? And certainly we tried those before them, so Allah will certainly know those who are true and He will certainly know the liars."
He says: "As soon as this Verse descended, I knew that great seditions and trials lay in store for these people, and I asked the Prophet what the Verse meant!" The Prophet answered: "After me, my people will be tested and tried." I said: "Those who were martyred in the Battle of Uhud were seventy in number headed by Hamza-bin-Abdul-Mottaleb, while I was uneasy not to receive the blessing of martyrdom. Why was I deprived of this?" The Prophet said: "If you were not martyred there, you will be martyred in the way of God."
In the battle of Uhud, Ali (as) was just twenty-five, had newly wedded Fatimah (as), and had Hassan (as) as his first offspring. A young family usually expects a gradual progress in life whereas the only great wish of Ali was to get martyred in the way of God. The Prophet then asked Ali (as): "How much fortitude will you show in martyrdom?" Ali answered: "Please do not speak of fortitude; ask me rather how grateful I will be."
In consequence of the Prophet's utterances and of the signs, which Ali (as) recognized and explained, his family and companions became worried. In that last fasting month, he went as a guest to different places to break his fast, but ate very little. His children asked him sympathetically why he abstained from food so much. He answered that he wished to meet his God with an empty stomach. Then, they realized that Ali (as) was waiting for something close at hand. Sometimes, he looked up at the sky and said:
"What my beloved Prophet has told me is true and quite near." On the night before the 19th of Ramadhan, the children were with him for a time.
Then, Imam Hassan went back to his own house. Ali (as) had a private place for prayer where he retired for communion with his Lord after attending to his private and public affairs. The sun had not risen yet when Imam Hassan went there to see his father. Ali (as) had a special affection for Fatimah's children. He said to his son: "As I was sitting there last night, I fell into a slumber and dreamt of the Prophet to whom I said: "I have suffered so much through your people." He said: "Curse them", I cursed them and prayed God to take me away from them and send an incompetent person to them."
It is so strange to see people not showing harmony with Ali (as) in following his way, and causing him so much suffering. Such were Ayesha's companions who broke their allegiance, and Muawiah with his cunning and cleverness, knowing well what would hurt Ali (as) most, and those 'Outsider' rebels(Khawarij) who heartily and faithfully excommunicated Ali (as). When someone hears of all such tragic events, he wonders at Ali's fortitude, and realizes as to why, in his dream, he spoke of his sufferings to the Prophet,
The cackling of ducks is heard from outside the house, and Ali (as) predicts that very soon the sound of wailing and lamentation will dominate that cackling. His family came forward to stop him from going to the mosque that day and suggest sending someone else to lead the congregational prayer instead. At first, he mentioned the name of Ja'dat-bin-Hobeira, his nephew, as substitute. But he changed his mind and said he himself would go to lead the prayer. He is asked to have someone as company, but refuses. Later that day when he was laid down with his terrible wound, he said: "I swear by God that the blow of the sword on my forehead was like a lover being united with his beloved, or like a person looking in a dark night for a well where he could pitch his tent, and is overjoyed to find it."
Anyhow, while setting off for the mosque he was very excited and tried to discover the reason. He felt that a great event was about to take place after he cried out the call of summoning the faithful to prayer, he bade farewell to that dawn, and said:
"0 dawn, has there been a day in Ali’s life when you appeared to find him asleep? Henceforth, his eyes will be closed for ever." As he descended from his pedestal, he said: "Open the way to a fighting believer." We see him as a perfect man who, in all his epic-creating struggles, always remembered God and feared nothing in the way of Him. As former men of learning said, man is himself the gate through which he enters the world of spirituality. Therefore, there are elements in man's essence, which are not in harmony with the world of matter. This is not only what old psychologists believed, but modern ones, too, admit it explicitly.
The holy Prophet (saw) says: "He who knows himself knows God", and the Qur'an devotes a separate account for man as against all other creatures. It says in Chapter "Ha Mim", Verse 53:
"We will soon show them our signs in the Universe and in their own souls, until it will become quite clear to them that it is the truth. Is it not sufficient as regards your Lord that He is a witness over all things?"
You may ask what are those elements in man which cannot be accounted for by material things? This requires a long discussion, and is related to human values and man's humanity. In the case of animals, there is no separation between them and their entity. A horse is a horse, a dog is a dog, a tiger is a tiger, But man may lack humanity, that is, those qualities which are the basis of personality, and though they belong to this world, they are not tangible, and are spiritual rather than material.
Secondly, what is the criterion of man’s humanity and gives him personality, is not framed by nature or anyone else, but by man himself. Imam Ali-bin-Mussa-Reza, the eighth Imam, says:"What is there is known through what is here." As it was mentioned before, all the human values may be summed up into a single value, and that is, having a feeling of pain above various human pains or the pain of every living creature. It is the pain of being a stranger to this world, and being separated from his origin in the other world. He longs to return to his own home and to God, from the earthly world to heaven from where he was driven out. Yet, his coming into this world has not been wrong and futile, and has been sent for a purpose.
No matter what sublimity and perfection a man attains, he still feels he has not reached the ultimate. He desires something, and when he secures it, he feels no attachment for it. Someone said: "I was going round a foreign museum, when I saw the statue of a very beautiful woman lying down on a bed and a fine young man standing on the bed with one leg on the floor and his face turned away from the woman, as if he was on the point of running away." He could not understand what the sculptor had meant by this scene. He asked someone what it meant, and was told: "This scene illustrates the thought of Plato that a man turns with great love and zeal to something, but on attaining it, that love dies away and gets buried there. It is the beginning of weariness dislike and escape."
Others who have pondered more deeply over this issue say that man is a creature who cannot be in love with what is limited and perishable. He longs for absolute perfection and loves nothing else. That means love of God. Even those who deny God or even abuse Him are unaware that in the depth of their nature they love God, but they have lost the way and their beloved. Mohyedin Arabi says no human being has loved anyone but his own God. The Prophets have not come to teach creatures the name of God and His worship, for this is inherent in human nature. They have come to show the difference between the right and wrong paths, and tell men that they are really in love with absolute perfection. If you think that money or rank of life is perfection, you are wrong. The Prophets came to remove false veils and enable men to find their beloved through loving devotions, which we have seen in Imam Ali (as). The Qur’an says in Chapter "Thunder" (Ra'd), Verse 27:
"Those who believe and whose hearts are set at rest by the remembrance of Allah; now surely by Allah's remembrance are the hearts set at rest."
The Qur'an does not ask people not to seek wealth, rank or comfort, but it says that these things do not give peace and tranquility, for, they are not their ultimate goal.
Other schools of thought emphasize human pain for God's creatures and not for God. The Gnostics, while referring to man's progress towards perfection, say that he embarks on four journeys:
1) Man's journey towards God.
2) His journey with God in God, meaning knowing Him.
3) His journey with God towards God’s creatures
4) His journey with God among creatures for their salvation.
Nothing can be said better than the above, as long as man is separated from God, everything is wrong, But after communion with God, and knowing and approaching Him and feeling Him with himself, he returns to His creatures in the company of God, to help and salvage them and bring them near God. If we say that a man journeys from people towards God, he does not attain anything. And if we say he moves towards human beings without moving towards God, he will be like materialist human schools of today, unable to do anything, because it is absolutely false. Only those who have delivered themselves first can deliver others from being enslaved by nature and other human beings. It means freedom from one's carnal desires in the first place and from the domination of external nature and others in the second place.
From the viewpoint of Islam, is a man someone who feels the pain of others, or feels for God and then feels the pain of His creatures?
The Qur'an says in Chapter "Cave" (Kahf), Verse 6:
"Then maybe you will kill yourself with grief, sorrowing after them, if they do not believe in this announcement."
This Verse shows the Prophet (saw) to be so eager to guide and deliver people from the captivities and difficulties of this world that he wants to kill himself with grief.
Then, two other Verses refer to the same thing:
Chapter "Ta Ha", Verse I:
"We have not revealed the Qur'an to you that you may be unsuccessful."
And Chapter "immunity" (Baraat), Verse 128:
"Certainly, an Apostle has come to you from among yourselves, grievous to him is your falling into distress, excessively solicitous respecting you, to the believers (he is) compassionate, merciful"
Thus, the Prophet feels for other human beings and does his utmost for them.
A Muslim must feel both for God and for His creatures. Sometimes you have seen a father taking so much trouble and spending so much money for his children's education that he is called ravenous with respect to their trading. The Prophet, too, shows the same zeal for his people.
Imam Ali (as), too, shows the same feeling as mentioned in"Nahjul-Balagha". He receives a report from Basra that Othman-bin-Hanif has taken part in a feast. There has been no drinking, gambling and debauchery. But Ali (as) reproaches this Governor for attending a wholly aristocratic feast where no poor person has been present, Then, Ali (as) begins to describe his own pains, saying that he could obtain all means of comfort and pleasure himself if he wished, but would not leave the reins of his life in the hands of desires. He is thinking of all those in various lands who are poor and in great need. This is what ‘feeling the pains of others’ means, He says: "Should I be satisfied with the title of Caliph and commander of the faithful without sharing the troubles of the faithful?"
Avicenna compares this pain to itching which is painful, but pleasant when someone scratches himself. It is not a bitter feeling. In mourning for Imam Hossain, tears are shed because one feels the pain, and yet one loves to do so and to participate in such ceremonies. There, one feels the spirit not to be alone, but it is the spirit of all the bodies. Such a spirit prompts one to wear patched up shoes inspite of all available resources in order to be one with a spirit like Ali' s.
A poet says woe upon that spirit which is great, for in being great it feels everyone's pain and its task becomes crucial. Ali (as) sees a woman carrying a waterskln and thinks that she must be lonely to be forced to perform such a task. He approaches her and politely offers to help her, She accepts the offer, and on reaching her house, he asks her if she has someone to help her. She says that her husband has been killed in the service of Ali-bin-Abi-Talib, and she has no one to look after her, On hearing this Ali's whole body was set afire with pity and he could not sleep all night. Next morning, he and his companions carried some provisions to her house, and then and there he cooked some meat, fed her orphans and caressed them, saying: "Forgive Ali for having neglected you". Then, he lit the oven and came near to feel its heat, and said to himself: "Ali, feel this heat so that you could not forget the heat of hell for neglecting the orphans, the poor and others". This is an example of a perfect Islamic man.
As I said before, when some radical values emerge, these eventually eliminate other values, such as an inclination to worship to the extent of forgetting other duties. Now I feel that another radical wave is about to develop, and that is an inclination to social matters of Islam and neglect of godly duties. If we are to deviate from the path of moderation in Islam, what difference would there be between forgetting the society by turning to worship and vice versa?
The Qur'an says in Chapter "Victory" (Fat 'h), Verse 28:
"Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah, and those with him are firm of heart against the unbelievers, compassionate among themselves, You will see them bowing down, prostrating themselves, seeking grace from Allah and pleasure; their marks are in their faces because of the effect of prostration; that is their description in the Old and New Testaments; like a seed produce that puts forth its sprout, then strengthens it, so it becomes stout and stands firmly on its stem, delighting the sowers that He may enrage the unbelievers on account of them; Allah has promised those among them who believe and do good, forgiveness and a great reward."
Below in Verse 4 of Chapter "The Ranks" (Saff), the Qur'an says:
"Surely Allah loves those who fight in His way in ranks as if they were a firm and compact wall."
Here, the Verse describes the Prophet's companions and those trained by him, and calls those as the enemies of truth" who cover the face of truth, while believers stand firmly against these enemies, and when they are among faithful people, they are perfectly kind to and united with them.
This is the social characteristic of Islamic society, which has been neglected for so many centuries. The Qur’an continues to say in Chapter "Victory", Verse 28 referred to above that these people who are highly social, always ask God for more and more for society and desire God's satisfaction, and this is the highest degree of their devotion. In Chapter "Immunity1' (Baraat), Verse 112, the Qur'an says:
"They who turn (to Allah) who serve (Him), who praise (Him),who fast, who bow down, who prostrate themselves, who enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil, and who keep the limits of Allah and give good news to the believers."
These are the divine qualities of a people and those who reform society. And in Chapter "Al e-Imran'", Verse 16, it speaks of:
"The patient, and the truthful, and the obedient, and those who spend (benevolently) and those who ask forgiveness in the morning times."
The word 'patience 'in Qur'an stands for 'resistance, especially for those who are honest and truthful ones in battle; and all the qualities mentioned in the verse are inseparable.
There is a description of the companions of Imam Mahdi, the twelfth Imam, in various narrations saying: "All night, they are monks and in daytime lions." There is another narration about the Prophet's companions, which says: "The Prophet went one day to visit the companions at Safa according to his habit. It was between dawn and sunrise. He saw a young man staggering along, his eyes sunk in their socket, and looking very pale. The Prophet asked him: "How did you begin your morning?" He answered: "I have begun it with certainty," meaning what "You have told us through the tongue and ear, I have found it through insight". The Prophet said: "There is a sign for everything. What is the sign of your certainty?" He answered: "Its sign is that it keeps me thirsty in daytime, and sleepless at night." meaning his certainty does not allow him to break his fast or to sleep, The Prophet said: "This is not enough. I want further signs." He answered: "Now that I am in this world I have a vision of the next world and I hear the voices of those who are in both heaven and hell. Let me name those of your followers who are in heaven and those in hell. (Rumi has expressed all this in a poem.) Then, the Prophet asked him: "What is your wish?" He answered: Martyrdom in the way of God." Thus, this man is a true Muslim with that wish and in the way he spends his days and nights. It is his feeling for God that has produced his other feeling of pain. The Qur'an says in Chapter "The Cow" (Baghara), Verse 153:
"O you who believe! Seek assistance through patience and prayer; surely Allah is with the patient."
To be an authentic Muslim in society, you must pray in all sincerity. Some people scorn prayer, consider it be suitable for old woman, and think it enlightenment to be only sociable. You may have heard that Omar omitted the sentence of "Hasten to good deeds" from the call to prayer. He thought it as an enlightened step, but he was wrong. His time was the peak of Islamic victories and effervescence of Islamic Jihad. Soldiers attacked the enemy in groups and, inspite of being small in number, vanquished it. Their number was no more than fifty to sixty thousand, and yet they fought against two empires, each of which had an army of several hundred thousand. The soldiers of Islam fought on two fronts, and were victorious in both. Umar's reason for that omission was that as the people are called to pray, which is the best devotion and the best deed, they would think that there is no need to call them to other good deeds such as the jihad, for, it would divert them and substitute prayer for other deeds. He suggested substituting the sentence: "Prayer is better than sleep" for "Hasten to good deeds."
He did not think as to why the small army of Islam was victorious. Was it the superiority of weapons of the Arabs over those of the Iranians and the Romans? No, because the two civilized countries of that time were well equipped while the Arabs' arms were insignificant. Was it because the Arab race was stronger? Again no, for, we have seen what Shahpur, the King of Iran, did to the Arabs and how he fastened iron chains to their shoulders. It was the power of faith that defeated the Iranian and Roman armies and the power that is derived from that sentence in ritual prayer: "Hasten to good deeds." When a man stands at night to have communion with God, he gains a morale-boosting power. Prayer means renewal of faith, and the repetition of the phrase "God is great" in prayer makes everything else seem so small and insignificant. Such a man, on seeing so many hundred thousands of soldiers before him, says to himself: "God is greater than all, all powers belong to Him, and we should rely on Him:' It is this prayer that gives him strength. When going to holy war is a duty for a person he must go, and his staying on for prayer in the mosque is prohibited. The condition for the prayer to be acceptable to God is to go on a jihad, while the condition for the jihad to be acceptable to Him is to perform his prayer. Prayer without jihad is null and void and jihad without prayer is likewise null and void.
In the system of Islamic values, devotion comes at the top but it must be such whose conditions correspond with Qur'anic criteria. Prayer is real only when it shows its effect by checking wicked acts. It is then that prayer leads to other worthwhile values.
Ali (as) is the sun of all Islamic values and a comprehensive personality. On one occasion we see him as an epic-producing fighter, as if he had been a soldier all his life. Then, we find him elsewhere as a mystic who knows nothing but loving communion with God. As an example, we cite two cases from"Nahjul-Balagha", In the first military encounter of Ali (as) with Muawiah in Siffin on the bank of the Euphrates, Muawiah ordered his men to block the way to the river so that Ali's men could have no access to water and thus be forced to flee.
Ali proposed to hold parleys with them to solve this problem and to prevent unnecessary bloodshed between two groups of Muslims. Muawiah discussed the matter in his war council and it was decided not to let Ali’s men have access to water. Ali (as) delivered a discourse to his men, which was more effective than a thousand drums, trumpets and military songs. He told them the bare fact that Muawiah had gathered a number of perverse men and had blocked the way of Ali's men to water, and said: "You must choose one of the two alternatives, first you must quench your swords with evil blood, and then quench yourselves next."
Then he uttered a sentence which created much excitement among all of them. He asked them as to what life and death meant, and said: "Is life just walking, eating and sleeping? Is death the act of being buried under the earth? No, that is not life, and this is not death. Life is to die victoriously, and death is to live as condemned and vanquished.
Ali’s men advanced swiftly and drove back Muawiah's army, which was now deprived of water. Muawiah wrote to Ali begging for access to water, but Ali's companions were opposed to it. Ali (as), however, was against acting unchivalrous, and said that they must not fight the enemy by creating difficulties for it. Winning victory in such a way is unmanly and unworthy of him as a Muslim. Thus, he showed that manliness and magnanimity are loftier than valor. Rumi, in his poem, calls Ali the lion of God, in courage, but he says no one can describe his magnanimity.
Then, we find Ali in a different scene and a different garment when he is free from public duties and is engaged in his devotion and worship, and utters the following prayer: "0 God, you are a greater companion for your saints than any friend. You are readier than anyone to aid those who trust you. You observe the innermost thoughts and secrets of your friends and lovers, and are well aware of their insight and knowledge, and know that their hearts beat and long for you."
You should listen to the Du’a Kumayl, which is Ali’s prayer, and, in content, it rises to the height of mysticism. There is something in it beyond the two worlds. It shows solely the relation of a sincere, humble and loving servant to the holy essence of providence. The way Imam Ali (as) and Imam Zain al –Abedin (as) commune with God in the dawns of the month of Ramadhan shows us as to how we should approach God as our first step and then perform our other duties towards ourselves and society. We should abstain from one-sided inclinations.
Imam Sadiq (as), just moments before passing away, summoned his kith and kin and uttered one sentence before breathing his last. He said: "Our intercession does not apply to those who take prayer lightly."
The life of Ali (as) may be divided into six phases, the most amazing of which is the last of them. The first period is from his birth to the ordainment of the Prophet. The second period is from the Prophet's ordainment to his Emigration to Medina. The third period, different from the other two, is from the Emigration to the death of the Prophet. The fourth phase is from the Prophet's death to Ali’s own Caliphate, a period of twenty-five years. The fifth phase is his four and a half years of Caliphate. And the sixth or the last phase is of only two days from his receiving a sword blow on the head till his martyrdom.
The last phase is the most amazing of all because Ali shows his perfection as a human being the way he faced death. On receiving the blow he uttered two sentences, namely: "Get hold of man", and "I swear by the God of the Kaaba that I have received my salvation through martyrdom.
A physician, called Assad-bin-Amr, was brought to him, and he diagnosed that poison had entered Ali’s blood. He said he could do nothing and recommended the Imam to make his last will.
When Umm Kulthum, the Imam's daughter, saw ibn Muljam, she spoke harshly to him and asked as to why he had acted thus towards her father and expressed the hope that Ali (as) would recover. The cursed man said: "Have no hope, for I have bought this sword for a thousand dinars and paid another thousand for smearing it with poison. The poison is so strong that it will not only kill your father; it could kill all the people of Kufa if used against them,"
They brought Ali (as) some milk, and he told those around to treat the assassin kindly. Then he addressed his kith and kin and said: "0 descendants of Abdul Muttalib, after my death do not go among people saying what has happened to me and accusing such and such a man. No, my assassin is only one man."
He then said to his son Imam Hassan: "My son, this man has given your father only one stroke of the sword. After me, you have the choice either to set him free or punish him. If so deal him only one blow whether it kills him or not." Then, he asked if they have fed and treated the man well. This is how he treated his enemy and that is why Rumi, in his poem, calls him the lion of God and says no one can describe the extent of his magnanimity.
All this shows All's manliness and humanity. The poison is affecting him more and more and his companions are weeping and groaning, but they see his smiling lips uttering this sentence: "I swear to God that what has happened to me is not disagreeable, This death and martyrdom in the way of God is something for which I had longed all my life, and so much the better that it has happened during the act of devotion." Then Ali uses a simile that is well known among the Arabs. The desert Arabs were in the habit of staying where there was grass, and when it was exhausted, they moved elsewhere. In hot weather, they sought a place at night where water could be found. He said: "I am like a lover who has found his beloved, or like one looking for water on a dark night who is overjoyed to find it.
In those last moments, they were all around Ali's bed. Poison had done its work, and from time to time Ali (as) fell into a coma, and whenever he opened his eyes, he preached to those present. His last words which were fiery contained a twenty-point address directed first at his sons, Hassan and Hossain, and then at his other children and finally at all people who may hear his words until the day of Resurrection.
Generally, everyone who has pioneered a school of thought has a theory about man's perfection or a perfect man. What is called ethics is related to what should be, not what is, and if man can acquire those ethical qualities, he will attain the peak of humanity, The views of various schools in connection with perfect man may be summarized as under:
1) One view is that of intellectualists who view man in terms of his mental qualities, and think that his essence is his mind and his faculty of thought. This is the view of ancient philosophers including Avicenna. For them, a perfect man was a sage, and his perfection lay in his philosophy. By theoretical philosophy, they meant the proper general understanding of the whole existence, and that is different from science, which means understanding only a section of existence.
To show the difference between science and philosophy, the following explanation will illustrate the issue. You might wish to know something about a city. This knowledge may be general or specific. A municipal engineer can draw the plan of the city to show its limits and divisions into various precincts, parks, streets and squares, in which you would not be able to locate your house. Another man can supply all the local information of a precinct, which a general engineer cannot. A philosopher gives you a plan and picture of the whole existence and tries to find its origin and cause, its beginning and end, and its phases and general principles. If you ask this man something about a plant, an animal, a stone, a star, or the sun, he may not be able to answer your question. For the philosopher, the picture of universe as a whole is significant even though the details may be vague or even unknown.
To intellectualists, finding the general picture was the goal, and its attainment the sign of perfection, in which the world of intellect corresponds with the objective world. They thought this was possible through the use of reasoning, logic and reflection. They believed in two types of philosophy: a) theoretical philosophy or understanding the world as it is, and b) practical philosophy which meant the complete predominance of human intellect over all of his instincts and faculties. Books of ethics judge matters on this basis, and our ethics is a Socratic one based on intellect. Does your intellect dominate your passion, or vice versa? Does your intellect dominate your anger and fear, or vice versa? Thus, if you can manage to understand the world through reasoning, and allow your intellect to dominate the self, then you are a perfect man.
2) Another school is the school of love or Gnosticism. By love is meant affectionate devotion to God. Unlike the intellectual school which is the school of reflection and not movement and in which all movements are intellectual, the school of love is all movement, a vertical rather than a horizontal motion, though at a later stage it assumes a horizontal direction. At first it is an upward flight towards God. They do not believe in reasoning and reflection as the means of advancement; it is the spirit of man that moves ahead until it reaches God. It berates the school of intellect, and this attitude is the basis of one of the finest debates in literature between love and intellect, and those who are engaged in such discussions are themselves mostly Gnostics who have given love victory over intellect. This school considers intellect as a small part of man1s existence and only a means, whereas the essence of man is his spirit, which belongs to the world of, love involving nothing but moving towards God. That is why the followers of this school, such as the poet Hafiz, prefer love and its intoxication to intellect.
Their monotheism is the unity of existence, which takes the form of absolute truth once a human being attains that position. It means that a perfect man becomes ultimately God or a part of Him.
3) Another school of thought thinks of perfect man depending neither on intellect nor on love, but on power, meaning thereby force, strength or something similar. In ancient Greece, there was a group called Sophists who explicitly claimed that might was right, and weakness meant absence of right. Thus, justice and injustice had no meaning for them, since might is right and every human being endeavored to gain power without any condition or limitation.
In the last two centuries, this idea was revived by Nietzche, the German philosopher. He and his followers say truth, honesty and goodness are all nonsense. If a person is weak, it is his own fault and he deserves to be vanquished. He believes religion is invented by the weak, and he himself is opposed to religion, and this is opposite to Karl Marx's view that religion is invented by the strong to enslave the weak. Nietzche thinks the weak have invented it to limit the power of the strong, and the treachery of religion to mankind has been to propagate such ideas as generosity, kindness, humanity and justice etc. among the people, and this has deceived the strong into diminishing their power for the sake of humanity.
He (Nietzche) thinks those who say that 'one should combat the self' are wrong; rather, the self should be nourished. Those who speak of equality are wrong; there should always exist inferiors to work for superiors so as to enable them to grow and produce the superman. He is against the equality of the sexes because the male is created as the stronger sex and the female is to serve the male. Thus, this school thinks superman or the perfect man to be at par with a strong and powerful man, and perfection means power.
Such ideas have consciously or otherwise become prevalent among the Muslims, and sometimes we carelessly speak of life as the "survival of the fittest," whereas this phrase means that defense of right and truth is permissible, Without such a war, no priest, monk or clergy could peacefully engage in worship in churches, temples or mosques; and they should all be thankful to the soldier who makes this worship possible.
It would be fine for mankind to reach a stage of education and perfection where no aggression exists, in which case no legitimate war would be needed. Islam presents such a society in the form of the rule of Mahdi, the upcoming Imam (as). It is said that then even wild beasts will be reconciled with one another and there will exist no war and aggression.
A sentence is attributed to Imam Hossain (as), which is neither correct nor verified as having been uttered by him. This sentence has become prevalent in the last fifty years and says."One should fight a jihad for the sake of one's opinion". Such a sentence is in agreement with Western ideas, while the Qur'an says that a jihad must be waged in the way of right and truth.
A belief may be right or wrong. Another school of thought says that one should have a belief, and an ideal for which one must put in efforts, no matter what that belief is. But the Qur'an says these efforts must be made in the way of right, and if the belief proves to be wrong, it must be reformed. Very often, it is necessary to combat one's own belief to discover the truth, and then begin combat in the way of truth. The idea of the "survival of the fittest" is the basis of the supposition that "might is right", an idea derived from Darwin's philosophy about animal life and applied even to human life.
But we cannot consider human beings to be at the same level with animals with regard to the fact that war is the only way of survival. If this is so, then what can they say about co-operation, unity, sincerity and affection among human beings? They may say these acts and sentiments, too, are for survival, and are imposed on human beings by a superior enemy. It is a necessity to have these elements to face a stronger enemy, The proof of this is that no sooner the enemy is removed, than unity turns into dispersion, and differences and disputes arise among them even when there are only two individuals left.
As the schools of intellect and love meet with opposition, the school of might, too, is faced with those who scorn it and say that man1s perfection lies in his weakness not in his strength for, if he has power, he will show aggression. Sa'di, the poet, has made the same mistake by saying:
"I am the ant that is trampled on, And not the wasp to make others groan with the pain of my sting. How can I express my thanks for this blessing That I have no strength to hurt people."
There is no reason, in fact, to be an ant or a wasp. One should be thankful to have strength without hurting others. Sa’di speaks also of an ascetic who had retired to a cave, and when he was asked as to why he did not live in the town among people, he answered: "There are too many elegant and pretty ones, and an old man slips on an abundance of flowers."
Sa'di also expresses the opposite view in another poem describing the difference between an ascetic and a man of learning, and says an ascetic wants to save his own skin, whereas a man of learning tries to save a drowning man.
The Qur'an speaks, in Chapter "Yusuf" which is called "The Best Story", Verse 90, of him "Who guards against evil and is patient," meaning Yusuf who, inspite of all the available resources for seeking pleasure, controls himself and guards his chastity. He is threatened with death if he does not yield to lustfulness, but he says in Verse 33 of the same Chapter: