With my chain of transmission reaching up to the proof of the sect and its
authority, Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni (r) from 'Ali ibn Ibrahim, who reports
in a marfu' (i.e. without mentioning intermediary authorities) tradition from
Abu 'Abd-Allah (A.S.) that he said, "The seekers of (sacred) knowledge are of
three kinds, so recognize them by their specific qualities and characteristics.
One kind of them seeks it for the sake of ignorance and dispute. Another kind
seeks it for the sake of domination and deceit. Yet another kind seeks it for
the sake of (improving) understanding and intellect.
The one who seeks it for ignorance and dispute's sake is injurious and
quarrelsome. He contests opinions in the gatherings of men, speaking of
knowledge and describing forbearance. He puts on the garb of humility, though he
is devoid of piety. As a result, God crushes his nose and severs his waist.
The one who seeks knowledge for domination and deception is an imposter and a
sycophant. He is domineering with those who are his likes but is humble in front
of the rich, whose sweetmeats he ingests while he demolishes his own faith. As a
result, God blinds his vision and wipes out his traces from the legacy of the
As to him who seeks knowledge for the sake of understanding and intellection, he
is grief-stricken and awake at nights. Having tied his cap with the loose end of
his turban, he stands up in the dark of nights. He acts and is in trepidation. A
caller overawed, engaged in his work, and acquainted with the people of his
times, he is apprehensive of his most trusted brother. As a result of it God
strengthens his supports and grants him amnesty on the Day of Resurrection."
Al-Kulayni (m) says: This tradition was also narrated to me by Muhammad ibn
Mahmud Abu 'Abd-Allah al-Qazvini from several of our companions, among them
Ja'far ibn Muhammad al-Sayqal at Qazvin, from Ahmad ibn 'isa al-'Alawi, from 'Abbad
ibn Suhayb al-Basri, from Abu 'Abd-Allah (A.S.).1
بِأَعْيَانِهِمْ is for stress on the pronoun of فَاعْرِفُهُمْ so what is meant
is: "Know them themselves, so that they become determined and specified
and are not mistaken with others." Similarly, it is said رَأَيْتُهُ بِعَيْنِهِ I
saw him himself and:
Everything that contains halal and haram is halal for you so far as you know
that which is haram itself.
The authoritative traditionist al-Majlisi (r) has mentioned various possible
meaning here (i.e. of بِأَعْيَانِهِمْ) which are extremely far-fetched and do
not include this evident and apparent possibility. He says:
بِأَعْيَانِهِمْ means 'their kinds and the understanding of their categories' or
'such of their actions are visible and observable-' Also it has been said, The
meaning of بِأَعْيَانِهِمْ means, 'their kinds and the understanding of their
categories.' Also, it has been said, 'The meaning of بِأَعْيَانِهِمْ is their
look, appearance and postures, such as their putting on the garb of humility.'
Then he suggests other and as remote possibilities. وَصِفَاتِهِمْ means 'their
characteristics', that is, those conditions which are subject to the personal
traits and purposes of these three categories, such as injuriousness,
disputatiousness and so on. Hence, these characteristics depict their condition
by which they are specifically recognized.
Jahl (ignorance) is the opposite of 'ilm (knowledge), and here it probably means
concealing the truth or pretending not to know it or absence of its acceptance.
Later on, we will discuss it in further detail. Al-Majlisi says in this regard:
Jahl means foolishness and imprudence. It is also said to be the opposite of
Mira' means jidal (controversy) in doctrine and theology (kalam) and is derived
from the same verbal root as jadal (dialectic) which is one of the Five Topics
(al-sina'at al-khams) in logic. Al- Jawhari, in al-Sihah, says:
Although here kalam means speech in general but the intended meaning is
apparently that which has been mentioned. There is another possible meaning
involved here which we shall mention in one of the following sections.
Istitalah means seeking loftiness and eminence. Khatl, with fathah on kha' and
sukun on ta', means deception and imposture. Al-Jawhari says:
خَتَلَهُ وخَاتَلَه أيْ خَدَعَهُ. والتَّخَاتُل التَّخَادُع.
As to the word mumar, we will explain later on why one who indulges in mira' is
defined as mumar, (which being a verbal tautology does not seem to be a valid
definition) and the one who indulges in istitalah and khatl as one who seeks to
dominate his likes and one who resorts to khibb, for khibb (like khatl) also
As to the phrase مُتَعَرّضٌ لِمَقال it means expressing opinions. A
lexicographer gives the following instance of usage:
يُقالُ: عَرضتُ له الشَّيءَ؛ إذا أظْهَرتُه لهُ. وَعَرَضَ له أمرُ كذا ويعرِضُ: أي
Andiyah is plural of nadi, meaning a circle or club where people assemble for
meeting and discussion. From it is derived dar al-nadwah, which was a place in
Makkah, which was built for assembly and consultation. Nadiyy, nadwah, muntada,
and mutanada have the same meaning, as pointed out by al-Jawhari.
The phrase bi tadhakur al-'ilm refers to maqal or is its appositional
substantive (badal), and to it is conjuncted wa sifat al-hilm. What is meant is
that 'they hold scholarly discourses in order to be reckoned among the learned,
and they describe and extol forbearance to be counted among the forbearing,
whereas they are neither among the learned nor the forbearing. His learning is a
kind of ignorance that resembles knowledge and his forbearance is devoid of the
excellent qualities of forbearance.' Later on we will have occasion to discuss
Tasarbala pertains to the derivative formation tafa'lul, meaning putting on a
sirbal ?a garment.
According to the lexicographer:
يُقالُ: سَربَلتُهُ فَتَسربَلَ. أيْ ألبَستُهُ السِّربَالَ.
Tasarbala bi'l-khushu' means, 'he has put on the garment of humility,' appearing
to be associated with it in the way a garment adheres to and is associated with
the body, though he is devoid of it, since the garment he has put on is a
Wara' with a fathah on ra', means complete abstinence from that which is haram
The sentence fa-daqqa'llah and those resembling it in the following two
sentences, may either imply a curse or may be taken to be indicative of their
condition in the world or the hereafter, or in both. Daqq means knocking, or is
a noun denoting sound.
The words min hadha mean 'as a result of this quality.' Khayshum is the upper
part of the nose and that which is connoted by 'crushing the nose' is disgracing
and humiliating. That is, God Almighty disgraces and humiliates them on account
of those characteristics, and we will have occasion to
discuss it further later on.
Hayzum, with a fathah on ha' and dammah on za', means 'the place where the
waist band is tied', or 'the middle of the breast', or 'a circumscribing bone
like the one encircling the neck.' The first meaning, which suits the idea of
severance, fits here.
Khibb means deception, wickedness, and imposture. As al-Jawhari says, رَجُل خِبٌّ
means a deceitful man. Malaq means flattery and sycophancy, and implies what al-Jawhari
says in al-Sihah يُعطي بِلِسانِه ما لَيسَ في قَلْبِه i.e. one who
expresses with his tongue that which is not in his heart. This interpretation is
rather general, for malaq or tamalluq means an expression of love and attachment
mixed with a show of humility while these are not in one's heart.
As to لحَلوائِهِم al-Majlisi points out that there is nun (instead of hamzah) in
some manuscripts. In that case, it means a middleman's tip or a soothsayer's fee
paid him as a bribe, and it means the presents of money made by the rich to the
impostor in return for his services, which he performs at the cost of his faith.
Al-hatm means breaking, and al-Majlisi says that breaking (of faith) here
implies corruption and decadence (fasad). Khubrahu here is probably with a
dammah on kha' and sukun on ba', in which case it means the capacity to cognize
and discern. Though it is also probable that the word is khabarahu, with fathah
on kha' and ba', in view of its consistency with the verb. The first meaning is
more fitting, though the second one is not without relevance.
Al-Kabah means one's bad and shattered condition as a result of intense grief
Tahannaka fi burnusihi means 'he put the taht al-hanak in his burnus. Burnus is
a tall cap, which the devout used to wear during the early Islamic era, as
mentioned by al-Jawhari in Sihah al- lughah. Al-Majlisi says, 'This phrase
suggests that tahannuk is mustahabb in salat. Such an inference is questionable,
because given the kind of dress that was worn by the devout it suggests only the
istihbab of tahannuk in general, not particularly during salat. Yes, had burnus
been part of a dress- specified for salat such an inference would have been
Hindis means an intensely dark night, as pointed out by al-Jawhari. Hindis here
is substitute for night (layl) and that which is probably implied here is the
dark of the night.
In fa-shadda'llah arkanahu, shadd means providing strength and power: شَدَّ
عَضُدَه: أي قَوَّاهُ. Rukn means something on which a thing stands and by which
it is sustained. Al-Jawhari says, رُكنُ الشَّيء جانِبُه الأقْوى i.e. the rukn of
a thing is its strongest side.
Now, with our trust in God, we shall explain that which is essential and fitting
in the course of a few sections.
You should know that the premises of a syllogism in relation to its conclusion,
or the arguments and theoretical proofs in any discipline in relation to the
proved result and inferred conclusion, have the position of preparatory
preliminaries. They are neither totally independent of the conclusions nor
totally unrelated to them. In this regard both the followers of predestination (jabr)
as well as the adherents of freedom (tafwid) have gone astray and departed from
the path of moderation, each of them adopting an approach consistent with their
doctrine. One of them (i.e. those who believe in tafwid) says that the
preliminaries are independent and if the door of the World of the Hidden ('alam
al-ghayb) were to close and the emanations of the world of malakut to be shut
off, man can derive conclusions unaided from the preliminaries themselves. The
other (i.e. the believers in jabr) claims that the preliminaries are totally
unrelated to the conclusions and the Divine tradition has been established to
inspire the human mind with the conclusions. The preliminaries are only
superficially connected to the conclusions and are absolutely unconnected in
reality. Both of the views of these groups, like their basic doctrines, are
false in the view of those who are acquainted with the true teaching and real
knowledge. The truth, in conformity with the view of those who know it, is that
the preliminaries have a preparatory relation with the conclusions and they
prepare the soul for receiving knowledge through inspiration from its higher
hidden sources (mabadi-ye 'aliyah- ye ghaybiyyah). Here we don't intend to
expound or refute these doctrines of these two groups, for that lies beyond the
scope of our aim, and the purpose of mentioning them is only subsidiary to the
exposition of another issue, which is as follows.
Having known that the knowledge and teachings are inspired by the invisible
spheres and that inspiration is subject to the soul's connection (with these
spheres), you should know that, as pointed out by the hadith:
Knowledge is not extensive learning. Rather, it is a light that God casts in
the heart of whomever He wills.2
Every soul that establishes a connection with the higher realm of malakut and
the angelic sphere, receives such inspirations as are angelic in character and
the knowledge that is cast into it is true knowledge from the angelic realm.
Also, every soul that establishes a connection with the lower malakuti realm,
the realm of the jinn, Satan, and evil spirits, receives inspirations that are
satanic in character of the order of compound ignorance and obscuring veils.
This is why the 'urafa' and the people of true knowledge consider spiritual
purification, the purgation of intentions and motives and the rectification of
one's goals to be the first step in the path of acquisition of sciences,
especially the Divine teachings and the sciences of the Shari'ah. Accordingly,
they give the relevant advice and warnings to the students, for the link with
the higher sources is strengthened through the purification of the soul. And
that which the holy Lord, Exalted and Glorious, says in the noble verse:
﴾And fear God, and God shall teach you. (2:282)﴿
linking the Divine teaching to taqwa (God-fearing) is for this reason that taqwa
purifies the soul and connects it to the invisible sacred realm. This is
followed by Divine teaching and the Rahmani inspirations, for there is no
niggardliness in the higher realms, which are bounteous by necessity, in the
same way as the Necessary-Being-by-Essence is Necessary in all aspects.
However, if the soul engages in acquiring the sciences due to attention to
selfish motives, for better food and drink and for egoistic reasons, its goal
becomes non-divine and the inspirations it receives are satanic in character.
This is one of the foolproof criteria, which I think has not been mentioned by
the 'urafa', for differentiating between Rahmani and shaytani inspirations and
most of the times one is aware of this fact. The inspirations received by the
impious soul full of impurities and obfuscations belong to the category of
compound ignorance (i.e. to be ignorant and be ignorant of one's ignorance),
which is the incurable malady of the souls and the main impediment on their
path. That is because the criterion in knowledge is not acquaintance with
general concepts and scientific terms. Rather, the criterion is the removal of
veils from the soul's eye and opening of the door of the knowledge of God. The
real knowledge is the guiding spiritual lamp that shows the straight path of
nearness to God and to the abode of His bliss.
Everything other than this is vanity, though in the world of mulk and prior to
the removal of the veils of carnal nature those conversant with it should be
reckoned as scholars, gnostics and jurisprudents by those used to learned
controversies and disputes. But once the blinds are removed from the eyes of the
heart, once the curtains of the world of malakut are raised and once one wakes
up from the heavy slumber of mulk and corporeal nature that (which once appeared
to be knowledge and learning) will be found to be the darkest of veils. It will
be found that all those branches of
formal learning were all in all thick spiritual curtains each of them separated
from the other by vast distances and we were ignorant of this fact.
The people are asleep and they wake up on death.3
It is then that the real nature of our learned preoccupations is revealed to us.
But that which is shameful and scandalous is that even after fifty years, or
more or less, of learning and study we remain mistaken about ourselves, at times
imagining that our studies are for the sake of God. We remain unaware of the
ruses of Satan and the self, for self-love is a thick veil that conceals our
defects from ourselves. Hence the chaste awliya' and the noble Imams (A.S.) have
mentioned certain signs and marks of identification so that we may know and
evaluate ourselves by their means without entertaining a baseless good opinion
about ourselves. Later on in this exposition, we will refer to the signs and
marks mentioned in this noble tradition.
We came to know that in a primarily classification the seekers of knowledge fall
into two groups:
those who have a divine aim and those who have a mundane one. It may be said
that the ultimate goal of the latter group is ignorance (jahl), for the seeming
knowledge that they acquire is compound ignorance in reality and a spiritual
veil. The two groups mentioned by Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.) in the tradition that we
are expounding both belong to this class, for the seekers of domination as well
as the impostors dwell in ignorance and misguidance. Hence, it may be said that
the ignorance mentioned by the Imam as a sign of the first group is something
different from the ordinary meaning of ignorance. Rather, it either means
muddling up issues and keeping people ignorant or it means the ignorance of one
who pretends to be ignorant of the truth or is not ready to accept it. Both of
these characteristics are also present in the group afflicted with mira' and
jidal. They deny facts and well-established truths and adhere to ignorance for
the sake of promoting their own opinions and marketing their spurious and little
in demand merchandise.
Although in one classification the seekers of knowledge do not constitute more
than two groups- that is, on the basis of a preliminary classification based on
an affirmation or negation of the divine goal of knowledge? A further
classification will show them to be more than three groups. As to their division
into three groups by the Imam, it may be said that he wished to mention two
major groups consisting of most of the victims of ignorance and misguidance.
Thus in another tradition, we find that he considers the seekers of knowledge as
constituting two groups:
In al-Kafi, al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from Abu 'Abd-Allah (A.S.) that he
said, "He who seeks (to learn) hadith for worldly benefit has no share in the
Hereafter, and he who seeks it for a benefit in the Hereafter, God grants him
benefit both in the world and the Hereafter."4
We have mentioned the evils of mira' and jidal earlier in the exposition of one
of the holy traditions. However, it is also proper here that we mention some
relevant traditions and describe a little of their evil effects. In the noble
al-Kafi, al-Kulayni reports with his isnad the following tradition on the
authority of Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.):
Amir al-Mu'minin (A.S.) said, "Beware of dispute and controversy, for they
infect with enmity the hearts of brethren. They are the roots of hypocrisy (nifaq),
out of which hypocrisy grows."5
There are other traditions in al-Kafi narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.):
Abu 'Abd-Allah (A.S.) said, "Beware of controversy, because it discomfits the
heart, gives rise to hypocrisy, and creates ill will within the heart."6
Abu 'Abd-Allah (A.S.) said: Gabriel said to the Prophet (pbuh&hh): 7
Now let us take up the explanation of the fact that dispute and acrimony in
talk sicken the heart, create ill feeling between friends, and make hypocrisy
grow within the heart. It was mentioned earlier that outward actions leave
certain effects on the inner self and the heart that are in accordance with
their character. Here we must say that vicious actions have a more immediate and
stronger impact on the heart. That is so because man is the offspring of the
world of nature and the faculties of lust (shahwah), anger (ghadab) and
diabolism (shaytanah) accompany him and are active in him, as has been mentioned
in a tradition:
Satan circulates in mankind like the blood in veins.8
Hence, the heart is directly confronted with corrupting elements and matters
acclimatized to physical nature. Even a slight external assistance, either from
one of the bodily organs or in the shape of an immoral and vicious companion,
produces a strong effect on the heart. Therefore, there are warnings in the
noble traditions against keeping company with such persons:
Al-Kafi reports on the authority of Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.) from Amir al-Mu'minin (A.S.)
that he said, "It does not behoove a Muslim to be on fraternal terms with an
immoral person, for he makes his own acts appear fair to one and likes one to
become like himself. He is of no assistance to one either in the matters of the
world or the Hereafter and it is a matter of disgrace for one to have social
intercourse with such a person."9
Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.) said, "It is not proper for a Muslim to fraternize with
an immoral person, a fool, or a liar."10
An important point behind the prohibition on keeping company with sinful
persons, or on presence in a gathering where God is sinned against, or on
befriending and mixing with the enemies of God, is the influence of their
morals, states and acts on a person. More important from the viewpoint of such
influence are one's own acts and their effect upon the heart, so that the
perpetration of vicious acts even for a brief period produces a strong influence
on the heart, freedom and relief from which is not possible or attainable even
after many long years. This indicates that should one indulge in dispute and
hostile debate, not much time would pass before a terrible darkness and
obfuscation appears in the heart, the outward verbal hostility soon leading to
an inward hostility that is itself the greatest cause of hypocrisy,
two-facedness and duplicity. Hence the evils of hypocrisy may be recognized
through a recognition of the evils of mira' and jidal. Earlier, in the course of
exposition of one of the traditions, we have described the evils of hypocrisy
and two-facedness and there is no need to repeat that here.
Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.) mentions certain signs and symptoms of the victims of
ignorance and disputatiousness, one of which is causing harm to the people and
being a vicious presence, which by itself is a vice and evil that is sufficient
as an independent cause of one's destruction. It is mentioned in a noble
tradition of al-Kafi:
(God Almighty says) Whoever torments a friend of Mine has challenged Me to
The causing of harm and tormenting of the faithful has here been equated to
declaration of war against God and hostility against His Sacred Being. The
traditions relating to this topic are too many to be included in this brief
Another of the signs of this group has been mentioned to be mira', contesting of
opinions and engagement in learned debates for the sake of domination and
proving one's merit. As to making mira' the consequence of mira' in the
tradition, it is possible that the first mira' is an inner quality and a vicious
trait of the heart and the mira' that has been mentioned as its consequence is
its outward manifestation and symptom.
Another of the symptoms of this group is its pretence of being forbearing while
it is devoid of this quality. This is itself hypocrisy and two-facedness and
involves riya' and shirk. Similarly, the pretence of humility (khushu') while
being devoid of piety (wara') is also another clear manifestation of shirk, riya',
hypocrisy and two-facedness.
This shows that this characteristic is possessed of great vices each of which is
fatal and destructive. It is necessary that we undertake any kind of effort and
hardship to deliver ourselves from this shameful, faith-killing and destructive
malady of the heart and purge it of its darkness and filth, purifying it and
burnishing it with the sincerity of intention and inner truthfulness. In this
regard there is a point here which is enough to shatter one when one reflects
upon it for a while. It is that which Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.) mentions after
describing the signs of this group. The Imam (A.S.) says:
As a result, God crushes his nose and severs his waist (it may also be
translated to mean: Hence, may God crush his nose and sever his waist.)
This is either a du'a' (prayer or curse) or an indicative sentence (ikhbar).
Whatever it should be, it is bound to take place. For should it be an indicative
sentence, the reporter is a truthful speaker of attested veracity (Sadiq-e
musaddaq). Should it be a du'a', it is the du'a' of a Ma'sum and a wali of Allah
and is certain to be granted. Hence it is indicative of the certain humiliation
and disgrace to befall such a man, and perhaps in both the worlds: in this world
in front of those whose respect he wished to earn through ostentation and
pretence of merit and which produce an opposite result by bringing him disgrace,
reducing his worth, and earning him the contempt of those whom he sought to
dominate and impress; and in the next world were he shall be humiliated and
brought to shame in the presence of the archangels, prophets, apostles, the
infallible awliya' and God's righteous servants.
So, woe to us: the victims of mira' and jidal, of carnal desires and
hostilities! How great is our affliction at the hands of this vicious, heartless
self which would not leave us alone unless it has brought us damnation in all
the stages of life and existence, and yet we never bother to reform it! Our ears
are closed with the stoppers of neglect! We refuse to awake from the heavy sleep
of nature! O God, Thou art the reformer of Thy servants and the Master of their
hearts. The being of all the existents lies in Thy power and the hearts of Thy
creatures lie under the total influence of Thy will. We are not our own masters
and have no power over our own benefit or harm, life or death. Do illuminate our
dark hearts with the light of Thy grace and correct our vices with Thy
magnanimity and mercy and help these powerless and weak creatures of Thine!
We said concerning the mention of mira' in the first part of the noble hadith
that mira' has an inner spiritual being as well as is an outward phenomenon that
is the product, sign and symptom of the first kind of mira'. Similarly, we may
say concerning the second part of the description given by the Imam (A.S.) that
istitalah and khatl have an inner existence as a spiritual habit and quality, as
well as an outward manifestation, which is the result of that habit. Similarly,
in most of the activities of the heart there are various levels: the level of
enduring trait (malakah), the level of state (hal), and the level of outward
behavior, which is the product of the inner trait. Thus those who have in them
the trait of istitalah, the urge for domination and ambition, as well as that
for deception and imposture, they also carry its outward signs and symptoms,
some of which have been mentioned in the tradition by Imam al-Sadiq (A.S.). One
of them is deceit and imposture which make one present himself as pious and
righteous while he is not such inwardly. This group of people are wolves in the
garb of sheep and devils in the form of men. They are the worst of God's
creatures and their harm to the people's faith is more than that of armies of
Another of the characteristics of this group is that they behave with humility
and in a sycophantic manner with those who are the object of their greed. They
spread their nets of imposture, sycophancy, and false humility to trap poor,
weak people, to benefit from the sweetmeats of their love, admiration, and
worldly respect. For this purpose, they exploit their own religion, sell their
faith, and make use of the mundane benefits that are available. This is the
group of people about whom a tradition says that when some people in paradise
see them they will say, "How is it that we came to paradise as a result of your
teaching while you yourselves have been confined to hell?" They will answer, "We
did not act according to what we spoke."12
Another of their signs is that they behave haughtily with their likes who do not
attract their greed and whom they consider as impediments in the way of their
own advancement. They treat them with vanity and try as far as they can to
humiliate them through words and deeds, for they are afraid that anyone of them
can cause him trouble, which can lead to a slump in their credibility.
One should know that it is a most difficult thing to remain pious when one is in
the formal dress of learning, zuhd, and taqwa and to preserve the purity of
one's heart in the clerical profession. That is why if someone from this class
should act according to his duties and go through its phases with sincerity,
correct himself, and after reforming himself engage in reforming others, and
protect the orphans in the descent of the Messenger (pbuh&hh), such a man is
reckoned among the Outstrippers and the Near Ones (muqarrabun wa sabiqun). Such
a thing has been said of four disciples of Imam al-Baqir (A.S.) by Imam al-Sadiq
(A.S.). The following tradition is reported in al-Wasa'il from rijal al-Kashshi
with an isnad reaching up to Abu 'Ubaydah al-Hadhdha':
Abu 'Ubaydah says: I heard Abu 'Abd-Allah (A.S.) say: Zurarah, Muhammad ibn
Muslim, Abu Basir, and Burayd (ibn Mu'awiyah) are amongst those concerning whom
God, the Exalted, said: "The Outstrippers, the Outstrippers -they are the Near
There are many traditions relating to this topic and the excellences of the
learned (ahl al-'ilm) are more than can be expressed. It suffices to cite the
following tradition of the Noble Prophet (pbuh&hh) about them:
When death comes to one who is seeking knowledge to revive thereby Islam, there
will be only one degree between him and the prophets in Paradise.14
Later on, insha' Allah, there will be occasion to describe their excellence.
However, if, God forbid, should the seeker of knowledge depart from the path of
sincerity and take the road of unrighteousness, he will be reckoned among the
worst of God's creatures about whom there are strong and strange (condemning)
expressions in the traditions. The first thing that the learned in religious
sciences and the seekers of this perilous road must take into consideration is
self-reform during the period of studies, counting it as far as possible to be
the foremost of their duties, for this is harder and more obligatory than all
the duties and obligations dictated by Shari'ah and reason.
O seekers of knowledge and spiritual excellences and teachings! Rise from your
sleep and know that you have lesser room for excuse before God, and God Almighty
shall call you to a tougher account. The level of your knowledge and works is
very different from that of other people.
Your path (Sirat) is sharper and narrower and there will be a great scrutiny of
the record of your life. Woe to the student and seeker of knowledge in whose
heart learning creates darkness and obscurity! And we see in ourselves that if
we have learnt some inadequate concepts and some futile terms, it has kept us
from treading the divine path. Satan and the self have dominated our being and
turned us away from the path of humanity and guidance. These absurd and
senseless concepts became our biggest hindrance and there is no remedy except to
seek refuge in the Sacred Being of God Almighty.
O God, we confess to our shortcomings and plead guilty to our sins! We did not
take even a single step in the path of Thy good-pleasure nor did we perform a
single act of worship and obedience with sincerity. Yet treat us with Thine
all-inclusive mercy and Thine unbounded grace. In the same way as Thou concealed
our inadequacies in this world, do cover them with Thy forgiveness and covering
grace in the other world, where we need it more!
Here, too, it is essential to remember the point that we mentioned while
expounding the earlier part of the noble tradition. That point concerns this
utterance of the Imam (A.S.):
As a result, God blinds his vision and wipes out his traces from the record
of the learned.
That which is denoted by this statement, whether it be du'a' or ikhbar, is
certain to happen. One must be very fearful of this inner blindness of vision
which is the main source of all kinds of darkness and wretchedness. The
blindness of the heart is the source of all misfortunes. Similarly, to be purged
from the effects of the learned and to be deprived of their merits and gifts,
apart from this deprivation itself, will be followed by an unimaginable
humiliation and disgrace in the presence of God's elect on the Day of
As to the men of understanding and intellect? that is those for whom the goal of
seeking knowledge is to become learned in din and to know its truths? there are
certain signs of which the main ones have been mentioned in the tradition. One
of them is that knowledge creates grief, pain, and dejection. To be sure, this
grief and dejection is not for the sake of the base and transitory worldly
matters, but from the fear of the Return and the terror of falling short in the
performance of duties and service. This grief and dejection, besides illumining
the heart, gives. it a purity and burnish. It becomes the original impulse for
self-reform and commitment to the duties of servitude and creaturehood. The
light of knowledge takes away quiet from the heart of the devotee introducing
him to God and the abode of His bounties. He derives great pleasure from praying
to God Almighty and spends his nights in wakefulness and in performing the
duties of devotion. Hence, the Imam (A.S.) says:
قَدْ تَحَنَّكَ فِي بُرْنُسِهِ وَقَامَ اللَّيْلَ فِي حِنْدِسِهِ.
The first sentence apparently indicates engagement in worship. Another sign of
this divine man of knowledge is that though fully attentive to the duties of
servitude he is still in a state of trepidation. The light of knowledge reveals
this to him that however much he may attend to his duties his efforts are still
inadequate and wanting, that he cannot entirely fulfill the requirements of
gratitude and true worship. This realization fills his heart with terror and it
is about such people that God has said:
﴾Even so only those of His servants fear God who have knowledge.
The light of knowledge brings trepidation and grief, and though such a person is
cognizant of his commitment to self-reform, the fear of the Return does not let
him rest. He beseeches God to reform him and is afraid of becoming preoccupied
with other-than-God. He shuns the people, fearing lest they should keep him from
the path of God and the journey towards the world of the Hereafter, by making
the world and its pleasures appear alluring to him. Thereupon God confirms such
a person and strengthens the supports that sustain his being, and grants him
amnesty on the Day of Resurrection.
Oh, would that we had been with them, then should we have achieved a great
And all praise is ultimately God's, at the beginning and the end, and may God's
benedictions be upon Muhammad and the Pure Ones of his progeny.
* Book: Forty Hadith (An Exposition on 40 ahadith narrated through the
Prophet (pbuhh&hh) and his Ahl al-Bayt (a.s.)). By Imam Ruhullah al-Musawi al-Khumayni.
Translated by: Mahliqa Qara'i (late) and Ali Quli Qara'i.
1- Al-Kafi, "kitab
fadl al-'ilm", "bab al-nawadir", hadith 5.
2- Bihar al-'anwar, i, 225.
3- Ibn Maytham al-Bahrani, Sharh-e sad kalimeh-ye qisar, 54.
4- Al-Kafi, i, "kitab fadl al-ilm", "bab al-musta'kil bi- ilmih", hadith 2.
5- Ibid., ii, "kitab al-'iman wa al-kufr", "bab al-mira' wa al-khusumah", hadith
6- Ibid., hadith 8.
7- Ibid., hadith 6.
8- Sunan al-Darimi, ii, 320.
9- Al-Kafi, "kitab al-'ishrah", "bab man tukrahu mujalasatuh", hadith 2.
10- Ibid., hadith 3.
11- Ibid., "kitab al-imnan wa al-kufr", "bab man adha al-Muslimin", hadith 8.
12- Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, xi, 420.
13- Ibid., xviii, 105.
14- Sunan al-Darimi, i, 100.