The AhlulBayt Islamic Mission (AIM) has been informed of an alarming incident that took place on the evening of Tuesday 14th August 2012 at an event organised by ‘Khodam Al Mohsen ibn Ali’ in which his Eminence, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei was cursed in a lecture.
AIM condemns all groups and individuals who indulge in cursing and doing takfir of our great scholars and religious authorities; and calls on everyone to undertake the utmost of discipline and vigilance in these testing times.
AIM is confident in the conscious spirit of our community to uproot such evil and believe that it is today everyones responsibility to silence this rhetoric that is sowing division amongst Muslims.
Wa Min Allah Al-Tawfiq.
AhlulBayt Islamic Mission (AIM)
15th August 2012 / 26th Ramadhan 1433
￼1. For all grief and sorrow recite daily 100 times ‘’Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem, Laa Hawla Wala Quwwata illa Billaah.
2. For sustenance recite 100 times after every namaaz Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem, Astaghfirullaah wa As’aluhu min Fadlih.
3. If a sick person recites Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem 786 times for 7 days, Allaah will cure him.
4. If ’‘Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem’‘ recited on a sick person 100 times for 3 days they will be cured.
5. For an earache one should recite ’‘Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem” 40 times in the ear.
6. If a prisnor recites 786 times will get freedom.
￼7. If recited 1000 times for 40 mornings Allaah will remove the veils from the heart and will reveal to the reciter the secrets of the Universe.
8. If written 35 times and hung in the house, shayaateen and jinn will not enter that house, blessings will decend.
9. If written 35 times and hung in the shop, costumers will be attracted and one will gain profit in abundance.
10. The one who recites 21 times before sleeping will be protected from shaytaan , theft, calamities and sudden death.
11. Reciting 19 times after Fajr prayers will protect you from the fire of Hell.
The Third Hadith on `Ujb
What is `Ujb?
In the opinion of the `ulama’-may God be pleased with them-`ujb is magnification of one’s virtues and good deeds, their overestimation, and satisfaction with them accompanied with a feeling of superiority on their account, while one exonerates and exculpates himself from all failings and faults. But to feel pleasure and delight on performing virtuous deeds accompanied with a sense of humility and modesty before God and gratitude to God for His favours, and to ask Him to increase them, is not ‘ujb, but is a praiseworthy (mamduh) trait. The great compiler of hadith, al-‘Allamah al-Majlisi–may his grave be filled with fragrance-quotes the great scholar and thinker al-Shaykh Baha’ al-Din al-‘Amili (R) as having said,
There is no doubt that when anyone performs good deeds, like fasting, night vigils, etc., he feels some kind of joy and pleasure within him. This pleasure and joy, if it is on account of the feeling that God Almighty has conferred on him favour and grace, which caused him to perform such acts of piety, while he is afraid of their loss and is anxious about their disappearance, and asks God Almighty for their continuity and abundance-this kind of exultation and gladness is not ‘ujb. But if the exultation and pride is felt on account of the belief that he is the doer of such deeds and that it is he who possesses all such good qualities, and if he glorifies his own deeds with confidence in his goodness, considering himself to be free from all faults and vices, it reaches such a point that one believes that he is conferring some favour upon God in performing these deeds. This feeling of exultation and pride is ‘ujb.
In my opinion, this definition of ‘ujb is correct, but the deeds and actions referred to should be considered to include the external as well as the internal acts, and at the same time to apply both to good and bad actions. Because, while affecting the bodily or external actions ‘ujb also affects one’s inner (mental and spiritual) actions also and corrupts them. In the same way as a virtuous person may become conceited and vain about his good deeds, so also the doer of wicked deeds may think highly of his qualities, and feel proud of himself on their account. The tradition explicitly mentions both of them, as they are frequently ignored by a majority of men. We shall discuss them in the course of our discourse.
This should also be remembered that the delight which is considered to be different from ‘ujb and is reckoned among praiseworthy qualities, is according to its specific nature, as will be explained in the subsequent discussion.
has various degrees, as is also indicated by the hadith; the following are some of them:
First Degree: ‘Ujb
with regard to faith and belief in true doctrines; its opposite is the‘ujb in kufr (infidelity), shirk (polytheism), and fallacious creeds.
The ‘ujb in good traits and qualities, as opposed to the ‘ujb in moral vices and ugly qualities.
The ‘ujb in pious deeds and good actions, as opposed to the ‘ujb in abominable deeds and repulsive acts.
There are certain other degrees also, but they are not so significant as to be put in a separate class; we shall, by the help of the Almighty, discuss these three degrees of `ujb, their causes, the ways of their remedy and cure.
The `Ujb of the Faithful:
Among the above-mentioned states of `ujb, some of them can be clearly detected if one tries to discover them and pays a little attention and is vigilant; but some others, being very subtle and concealed, cannot be detected unless one is carefully critical of oneself and minutely analyzes one’s deeds and actions. Certain stages are more dangerous and fatal than the other stages.
The first and foremost stage which is the extreme and most fatal kind of `ujb is a state in which the person believes to have conferred a favour on his Supreme Benefactor, the King of kings, by having faith in Him, or by performing the duties enjoined by Him. He imagines that through his belief he has caused the boundaries of the kingdom of Heaven to expand, or he has contributed to the splendour and magnificence of the Religion of Truth by having faith in Him. He thinks that by propagating and disseminating His message, preaching His Shari’ah, His laws or His doctrine, or by enjoining good behaviour and forbidding evil conduct or by implementing the hudud prescribed by Him, or by his sermons from the pulpit or his prayers in the niche, he is imparting a certain splendour and glory to His religion. Or he also may think that by joining the congregation of Muslims, or by holding the mourning ceremonies to commemorate the tragedy of al-Imam al-Husayn’s martyrdom, he is glorifying the religion and hence doing a favour to God, to the Martyred Imam (A), and to the Prophet (S). Though he would not reveal it openly, but in his heart of hearts he may think in this manner. In the same way, while serving the creatures of God in matters prescribed or recommended by the religion-like giving of obligatory and recommended alms, helping and protecting the weak and the destitute-he thinks that he is putting them under obligation. Sometimes this feeling of doing a favour to them is so concealed that it is not known to the person himself (the subject of doing of favour to God by men and doing of favour to men by God has been discussed in detail in the second hadith).
At the second level is the state in which an individual is exultant in his heart taking a coquettish air before God. This attitude is different from the one of conferring a favour on God, though many people see no difference between these two states. In this state the individual considers himself as a favourite of God, and includes himself in the clan of the saintly and among those nearest to God. If he hears the names of saintly persons, of those near to God or those captivated by Divine love, he associates himself with them in his heart, although, overtly he makes a simulation of humility and tries to project an opposite image of himself.
In order to make credible his assumed role, he may act against his real belief in such a way which appears to negate it, but in fact posits it by its very negation. If any misfortune comes to him, he blows trumpet ( ) of (lit. ‘misfortune in exchange for friendship’, which implies that the saintly are beset in hardships). Those people who claim being guides of others, `urafa’, mystics, and ascetics are susceptible to its dangers more than other people.
In the next state, the individual considers himself worthy of being rewarded by God Almighty in return for his faith, good behaviour, and good deeds, and considers it obligatory on God to befriend him in this world and grant him higher stations in the Hereafter. He counts himself among the true believers and considers himself to be a pure, innocent, and pious being. Whenever a pious person is praised in his absence, he believes that even if God where to adjudge him with justice, he also would deserve to be rewarded. And sometimes, with utter shamelessness and brazenness, he dares to speak in such terms emphatically. If a misfortune befalls him, or he faces any adversities, he complains about the ways of God in his heart and questions the justness of His actions that causes sufferings for the pious, the sincere, and the truthful, and showers His kindness and generosity upon the hypocrites (munafiq’un). He nurses the sentiments of resentment against God inside his heart, while apparently expressing the sense of gratification and satisfaction. He shifts the responsibility of his misfortunes to the Supreme Benefactor, and pretends to be happy and contented with His will and judgement outwardly. And when he hears that God smites the believers in this world, he consoles his heart without knowing the fact that the munafiq’un are also smitten, and that every individual who is smitten is not a believer.
In the other stage of ‘ujb the individual considers himself as superior to others, and regards himself as better than other human beings. He considers himself to be more pious than others and considers his own faith to be sounder than that of other believers and immaculate. He considers himself to be more perfect and unfailing than others in the observance of the wajibat (compulsory duties) and the `muhrramat (prohibited things). He thinks himself to be more regular than others in the observance of mustahabbat (recommended religious precepts) and more regular in joining the Friday prayer congregation and other ceremonies and rites. He considers himself to be superior to others and treats others as imperfect and insignificant beings. He views them disdainfully in his heart, or treats them with contempt. He excludes every individual from Divine grace and mercy, and considers them a right belonging to himself or to some people like him. The person who has reached this stage comes to a point when he denies whatever virtue he perceives in others and is disposed to regard its presence in others as disputable. Somehow he suspects the sincerity of their virtues in his heart and considers his own deeds as free from any kind of fault. He underrates others’ good deeds, but if he himself performs those deeds he magnifies them. He is sensitive to others’ errors, but overlooks his own faults.
These are some of the signs and symptoms of `ujb though one may be unaware of their presence in oneself. There are certain other stages of `ujb also which I did not mention, and there might be some others of which I am, unavoidably, unaware.
The `Ujb of the Faithless:
The bad deeds of unbelievers, hypocrites, polytheists, atheists, villains, sinners, and transgressors occasionally reach such a point when they become proud of their evil deeds and think highly of themselves. They, on account of their vicious beliefs and deeds, consider themselves to be men of liberal thinking and open minds, free from all fetters and bonds and free from superstitions. They consider themselves as men of courage and valour, link the faith and belief in God with superstition, and consider the observance of religious precepts as a kind of narrow mindedness. They consider good character and moral behaviour as signs of weakness of the personality. They look down on the performance of good deeds and observance of religious duties and rites as the signs of a weak mind and evidence of the lack of common sense. They regard themselves as free-men, who, for not believing in nonsensical superstitions and indifference to religious rules, are worthy of praise. Wicked and vicious qualities having sunk down their roots within the deep layers of their hearts, and their eyes and ears having become accustomed to those acts, and they having gained great charm and grace in their eyes, they consider them as accomplishments. As pointed out in the hadith, at one stage bad deeds appear to be good to the evil person and he perceives them as virtues. This is all allusion to the verse of the Quran which says:
And what of him, the evil of whose deeds has been decked out fair to him, so that he thinks then good?…
The words (`and he considers that he is doing something good’) refer to the following verse:
Say: Shall We inform you who will be the greatest losers in their works? Those whose striving goes astray in the life of the world, while they think that they are doing something good. Those are they who disbelieve in the signs of their Lord and in the encounter with Him. Therefore their works have failed, and on the Day of Resurrection We shall not assign to them any weight.
Such people, who are ignorant and negligent but consider themselves to be learned and aware, are the most wretched of human beings, or rather the most wretched of creatures. Spiritual doctors are incapable of curing them. No admonition or advice can have any influence on them, but can even produce opposite results. They do not listen to any argument. They do not pay any heed to the guidance of the prophets (A), the arguments of the philosophers, and the teachings of the great sages. We should seek refuge in God from the mischief of the self, whose wiles draw men from sinfulness into infidelity and from infidelity into `ujb. The self and the Devil make people accustomed to a sin by diminishing the gravity of that sin. When that vice sends out its roots into the heart, it appears to be a very ordinary and trivial thing to the person, who commits another sin bigger than the one with which he has become familiar. After committing this second sin repeatedly, it also casts away its gravity in his view and appears to be an ordinary thing, and he does not hesitate to commit a still bigger sin. In this way, step by step, all major sins become diminutive in his eyes, and the Divine laws of the Shari’ah, belittled by him, recede into insignificance. His evil deeds culminate in infidelity, apostasy, and `ujb. We shall take up this subject later on.
Snares and Wiles of the Devil:
In the same way as the victims of `ujb (who think highly of themselves), by advancing step by step in transgression and sinfulness, ultimately reach the stage of apostasy, in the same way those affected by `ujb in their devotional activities and worship also advance day by day from the lower stages of `ujb to its higher levels. The snares and designs of Satan and the self are not haphazard, but according to a calculated plan. It is not possible that the Devil would induce a God-fearing person of a clean character to commit a sin like murder or fornication, nor would he provoke a person possessing an honest nature and a pure soul to commit theft or a highway robbery. It is not the case that from the very first day he will ask you to consider your good deeds as a favour done to God or to include yourself in the category of the Divine saints, His favourite servants, and those nearest to Him. In the beginning he starts at the bottom and in a low key. He steals into your heart and persuades you to be extremely careful and dedicated regarding the recommended duties (mustahabbat), prayers, and acts of piety. While you do this, he will turn your attention towards the sins of a certain sinner and will make you compare his deeds with your own. Then he will whisper into your ears that you have enough grounds, both on a rational as well as a religious basis, to consider yourself superior to that person. Indeed your deeds will be the source of your redemption and that by the grace of God you are pious and pure and free from all vices. He achieves two things through these kind of insinuations: first, it inculcates a feeling of general distrusts regarding the creatures of God; second, it makes the person imbued with a feeling of self-satisfied conceit. Both of these qualities are destructive and the sources of various vices and evils.
At this juncture, you should tell your self and the Devil that it is possible that this person who is guilty of committing that sin may possess other good qualities unknown to you or might have performed certain good deeds for which God may bless him with His grace and mercy, and the light of his good deeds and good qualities may guide him and ultimately lead him to deliverance. Perhaps God Almighty has afflicted him with this sin, so as to protect him from `ujb, which is worse than sin. It is said in a hadith of al-Kafi:
Al-Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (A) said:"Verily God Almighty knows that sin is better for a mu’min (a true believer) than `ujb. If it was not thus, He would not have afflicted any mu’min with sin." (Al-Kafi, vol. II, p. 313)
May be on account of the same mistrust in others, my acts will lead me to a miserable life in the Hereafter. Our great master, the accomplished `arif, Shahabadi- r’uhi fidah- used to say, `Do not look down on even a kafir (non-believer) in your heart. It is possible that the divine light of his inner nature may lead him to faith and your rebuke and disdain may lead you towards a wretched life in the Hereafter. Of course to practice al amr bi al-ma’r-uf wa al-nahy `an al-munhar (enjoining right conduct and forbidding bad behaviour) is something different from the inner feeling of contempt.’ He would even say, `Never curse the unbelievers regarding whom it is not known that they will leave the world in the state of unbelief. If they leave the world as rightly-guided servants of God, their spiritual rectitude may prove to be an obstruction in the way of your own spiritual advancement.’ In any case, beware that the Devil and the carnal self make man enter the preliminary stages of `ujb; and from this place, step by step, they slowly take him to higher stages of`ujb, and in this way, in degrees, they lead man to the wretched state in which he thinks that he is conferring a favour on God by having faith in Him and performing virtuous deeds. This is the final stage of `ujb.
The Evil Effects of ‘Ujb:
Know that `ujb in itself is a destructive and dangerous vice which spoils the faith and the deeds. In answer to the question by the narrator of the tradition about `ujb which corrupts human deeds, the Imam (A) mentions the `ujb in faith as one of its forms. We have read in the previous tradition that `ujb is considered by God Almighty to be something worse than sin, so much so that He makes a believer commit sin so that he may be saved from ‘ujb. The Holy Prophet (S) has reckoned `ujb as one of the greatest of spiritual dangers. In al-‘Amali of Al-Shaykh al-Saduq, Imam ‘Ali (A) has been reported to have said:
The one into whose heart ‘ujb permeates is destined to be destroyed.
After death and in the purgatory (barzakh), the possessor of this evil experiences a dreadful loneliness which is incomparable and unimaginable; in an advice given by the Prophet (S) before his death to Imam ‘Ali (A). he says:
No loneliness can be compared in dreadfulness to the one which is the result of ‘ujb.
Moses (A) asked Satan to tell him about the sin by means of which he infiltrates into the hearts of the progeny of Adam (A) and conquers them. Satan replied, it is the time when they feel `ujb about themselves, overestimate their good deeds and the gravity of their sins becomes diminutive in their eyes.
God Almighty commanded David (A) to convey `glad tiding to the sinners and to terrify the pious.’ David (A) asked God as to why he should convey glad tiding to sinners and frighten the pious. Replied God Almighty, `Give glad tidings to the sinners that verily I accept their repentance and forgive their sins, and frighten and warn the pious that they should refrain from `ujb. Verily there is not a single man who does not stand condemned if I bring him to account.’
I seek refuge in God from the rigours of His reckoning, which if applied would completely ruin the sincere servants of God and even those belonging to a higher station.
In his al-Khisal, al-Shaykh al-Saduq reports from al-Imam al-Sadiq (A) that he said, "The Devil says, `If I subdue the son of Adam in three things I do not care for whatever he may do, as his good deeds will not be accepted: (1) when he overestimates his good deeds, (2) is forgetful about his sins, and (3) when ‘ujb permeates him.’ "
Apart from the vices which belong to this vicious tree of `ujb, about which you have read, there are a number of major sins and evil traits that are its products. When its roots permeate the human heart, they lead men to apostasy and shirk, and things even worse than these. One of those vices is the vice of belittling of one’s sins. A person afflicted with `ujb never cares to rectify himself; rather, he considers. himself as a pious and virtuous person, and never thinks of purging himself from sins. The curtain of ‘ujb and the thick veil of conceit prevents him from seeing his shortcomings. It is a great misfortune which not only precludes him from achieving all kinds of perfections, but also afflicts him with all sorts of vices, leading him to eternal damnation. Even the doctors of the psyche are helpless in curing them. He has so much confidence in himself and in the deeds he performs that he thinks himself as independent of God Almighty, and does not care for His grace. In his limited mind, he considers God obliged to reward him. He imagines that he is worthy of being rewarded even if God were to reckon his deeds with justice. God willing, we shall take up this matter again later.
Contempt of Others:
Among other vices present in the person who is afflicted with ‘ujb is that of viewing others with contempt. He considers their deeds as insignificant, however superior they may be to his own. This is also one of the ways of human destruction, and a peril on the path of true humanness.
Temptation to Riya’:
Another of the evil effects of `ujb is that man becomes inclined towards riya’ (ostentation, hypocrisy). Because, when a person considers his deeds insignificant and regards himself as morally imperfect and his faith as of no consequence, then, he would not be proud of himself, or his qualities and deeds. Considering himself and everything that is done by him as deformed and unworthy, he will not make a display of them; soiled and ugly goods are not put up for show in a prestigious market. But, since, he perceives himself as a perfect human and his own deeds as good and worthy, he is encouraged to make a show of them, and hence behave so imprudently. The vices which have been mentioned in the second tradition about riya’ are applicable to `ujb also.
The Factor of Pride:
Another ill effect of this vice is that it manifests itself in the form of another fatal disease, that is, the sin of pride (of which we shall have to say more later) and other vices which are direct or indirect products of it. A full treatment of all of them would make our discussion lengthy it is enough to mention it that a person afflicted with `ujb should know that this vice sows the seeds of many other vices and serves as the source of such offences, each one of which is enough for earning everlasting damnation by itself. If one tries to properly understand these vices, and studies the traditions and teachings handed down by the Prophet (S), or the Imams of his household (A), he will realize the necessity of rectifying his self, and will seek to get rid of this vice before, God forbid, he carries it with him to the next world. If this happens, once his eyes are closed on this world and opened to world of barzakh and, thereafter, to the Day of Resurrection, he will see that the persons who committed major sins are better off than him. He will see that God Almighty has immersed them in the ocean of His grace and mercy ‘for the remorse and penitence that they expressed, or for the sake of the trust and confidence that they had in the grace and compassion of the Almighty; whereas this poor fellow, since he had considered himself as not in need of His grace and had believed himself, in the depth of his being, to be above needing His compassion and mercy, God Almighty has dealt with him rigorously in regard to his account, and as he himself wished his account is being examined in the scales of justice. God Almighty will show him that he not only did not perform any worship for His sake, but also that his works of devotion and piety only took him away from God and have removed him away from his goal. Not only his faith and deeds have been invalid, but they have also served as the cause of eternal damnation and painful chastisement in hell. God forbid, lest God Almighty judges anybody with the criteria of His justice, because, as mentioned previously, not a single individual, from the first to the last, will find any way of redemption. The prayers and supplications of His chosen servants and the infallible Imams (A) are replete with the confessions of their failure to do justice to the demands of the worship and the service of Lord. While the most perfect of all creatures and the man nearest to God (i.e. the Prophet [S]) utters:
We did not know You as You deserve to be known. We did not worship You as You deserve to be worshipped,
what will others do? Of course, they were aware of His greatness and they knew the relation between the contingent and the Necessary Being perfectly well. They knew that if they spent their lives in His worship, service, and praise, they would not be able to thank Him for His favours, let alone paying the proper tribute due to His Essence and Attributes.
They knew that no thing does possess anything of its own. Life, power, knowledge and other accomplishments are shadows of His attributes. Every contingent being is absolutely poor in every respect, a dependent shadow not an independent `thing’. What merits does a contingent being possess that it could seek to market them? What power does it possess to make a display of it? They (the Prophet and the Imams) possess the knowledge of God; they have the cognition of His Attributes of beauty and grandeur. They are the people who have realized, with certainty, their own abjectness, imperfection, and weakness and the perfection of the Necessary Being, through immediate knowledge. It is we, wretched creatures, whose vision is blotted because of the thick veils of ignorance, folly, neglect, and conceit, and whose faculties of intellect, hearing, sight, and other senses are shrouded with veils of inward and outward sins, who behave with pretentions in front of the Almighty and consider ourselves as independent beings.
O you, ephemeral, contingent being! You, who are forgetful of your own self and are oblivious of the relation between you and your Creator. O you unfortunate dependent being! You have forgotten your duty towards the King of kings! This ignorance and foolishness on our part is responsible for all our misfortunes and has engulfed us in the midst of all these woes and disasters. There is a source of all these evils. The source of contamination is the fountain itself. We have lost our sense of perception and our hearts have become lifeless. This is the root cause, of all our afflictions, and yet we are not worried about the cure either.
God Almighty, grant us the capacity to realize our responsibilities. Grant us a share of the light of Your knowledge with which You filled the hearts of Your `urafa’ and awliya‘ Grant us the comprehension of the realm of Thy power and Thy kingdom, and guide us to discover our weaknesses and faults. Unfold the mystery of the meaning of (All praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of the worlds) to us, wretched beings, who ascribe all the praiseworthy attributes to the creatures. Make it known to us that none of the praiseworthy attributes belongs to any created being . Reveal to us the truth of:
Whatever of good befalleth thee (O man), it is from Allah, and whatever
or ill befalleth thee it is from thyself.(4: 79)
Inscribe the principle of tawhid (unity of the Divine Being) on the crude tablets of our hardened heart. We are the people of dark realms who languish behind several veils, wavering between apostasy and hypocrisy. We are conceited and egoistic. Purge away the evil of self- love and the love of mundane thins from our hearts and convert us into Your lovers and worshippers: (Verily, Thou art able to do all things ).
Self-Love as the Source of `Ujb:
The vice of `ujb is the product of self-love; since the human being is plagued with the evil of self-love, it is the source of all human faults and moral vices. It is on account of this self-love that man overvalues his trivial deeds and hence includes himself in the category of the saintly and the nearest to God. Because of it, he not only considers himself applaudable and commendable on the basis of those paltry deeds, but sometimes even reckons his wicked deeds as good ones. If he perceives moral goodness and piety in others more than himself, he not only never gives any importance to them, but tries to project them in grim colours as far as possible. He is disposed to see a kind of goodness even in his own wicked deeds, and tends to paint them in glowing colours. He scorns other creatures of God in his heart and views them cynically, while he contemplated himself with optimism, having a-very high opinion of himself. It is on account of this same self-love that he hopes a trivial act of his, and that too tainted
with one thousand defilements, to be worthy of being rewarded by God.
It is better if today we reflect upon our good deeds, and rationally evaluate our worships. We should try to judge them justly, and see whether we deserve to be rewarded and praised on their basis, or if we should be reproached, punished, and condemned because of them. And if God Almighty were to deliver us into the flames of His wrath on account of these deeds which are good and virtuous in our own view, is He justified or not in doing so?
Now I make you arbiter to judge with justice the following matter after deliberation and profound thinking. My question is that if the Holy Prophet (S), whose truthfulness is confirmed, were to say to you, `It makes no difference in afterlife whether you worship God throughout your life, obey His commands, and resist lusts and carnal desires, or if you lead a life violating His commands and following your wishes and sensual desires. This behaviour of yours will not affect your station in the Hereafter. In both cases you will attain salvation and will be sent to Paradise and saved from His chastisement. It will not make any difference whether you offer prayers or whether you indulge in fornication and sin. However, the good pleasure of God Almighty lies in this that you should worship Him, praise Him and thank Him, and resist your sensual desires in this world, although you will not be rewarded for it.’ Were you offered this option, would you choose to be His worshipper or a sinner? Would you resist your carnal desires and forbid yourself from indulging in lusts for the sake of His good pleasure, or not? And would you still adhere to the mustahabbat, the Friday and the congregational prayer, or would you become immersed in luxuries, play, amusements, and lusts? I request you to answer justly, without any self-assumption and hypocrisy. As to myself and others like me, let me tell you, we would have been among the sinners, neglecting our duties towards Him and hankering after our sensual appetites.
From this, we come to the conclusion that all our deeds serve as the means for satisfying our desires and gratifying the carnal appetites. We are the worshippers of our flesh. We give up one pleasure for the sake of a bigger one. Our desired goal, our relentless hope is to widen the scope of sensual achievements. Salat, which is a means of acquiring nearness to Him, we perform in the hope of the company of the hour is of Paradise. Our worship is not aimed at acquiring nearness to the Almighty. It has nothing to do with the obedience of His command either, and is thousands of miles away from the good pleasure of God.
You, poor fellow, ignorant of the Divine teachings, you who cannot comprehend anything except your own bestial motives, you who take pride in your resorting to His remembrance, chanting of His Name, observance of the obligatory and recommended religious duties, avoidance of prohibited and abominable things, you who take recourse in refined morals and abstain from the unlawful and the abominable, put in the scales of justice all the acts that you have performed for obtaining sensual ends, and for the purpose of reclining on seats studded with rubies in the Paradise, in the midst of cheerful and charming rewards of Paradise, wearing silk and brocade, and occupying magnificent mansions therein and for realizing your hopes -is it just to think that all these actions, which are performed for the sake of satisfying our ego and the fulfilment of the self, are being performed for the sake of God and for His adulation alone? You, who are performing your deeds in the hope of receiving fair rewards, are you different in any respect from a labourer who toils for wages but says that he works solely for the master? Are you not a liar when you say that you perform prayers for the sake of God?
Is your salat meant for the sake of acquiring nearness to God, or for the sake of the company of the hour is of Paradise and for sensual ends? Let me state openly without any reservations that all such prayers that we perform are considered by `urafa’ and the friends of God as equivalent to major sins. You, wretched creature, you act against the good pleasure of God Almighty in the presence of the archangels, and the worships that are meant for making an ascension near to Him, you are misusing them for satisfying your carnal self; yet you do not feel any sense of shame for the lies uttered in front of the Almighty and His archangels during your prayers. And as if this were not enough, you made several accusations, thinking as if you were obliging God, exulting in your `ujb, and not feeling any sense of shame or regret while doing all this! What is the difference between this kind of worship performed by you and me, and the sinful acts of the sinners, the extreme form of which is riya’? Riya’ is a kind of shirk,and its ugliness and gravity lies in worship being not for the sake of God, not meant for God. All our worships and devotional exercises are sheer shirk, which does not contain a speck of sincerity. The aim of earning the good pleasure of God does not play even a partial role in it, but the only motive is gratification of lust and service of the stomach.
My friend, beware that the prayer performed for the sake of a feminine mate, whether this-worldly or other-worldly, is not the prayer performed for God. The prayer which is performed for the attainment of worldly benefits or for acquiring the other-worldly rewards is not for God. If so, where is the room for self-pride and conceit? What right do you have for looking down upon the creatures of God and for counting yourself as someone of consequence in the court of the Almighty? Wretched man, you deserve punishment for this prayer and devotion of yours and for it you deserve to be chained by the seventy cubit chain. Why consider yourself as a person deserving a reward then?
Why procure another chastisement for yourself by continuing in this absurd expectation and by persisting in `ujb? Perform the duties assigned to you properly and keep in your mind that your worship is not purely for the sake of God; and if God Almighty sends you to heaven by His mercy and compassion, remember that He has given a waiver to His servants for a certain kind of shirk in view of their infirmity. By means of His forgiving compassion, He covers their sins with a concealing screen. Do not let this screen to be ripped off and the curtain of His remission to be raised from the face of those vices which we wrongfully call worship. God forbid, if that waiver were withdrawn and our deeds are adjudged according to the standards of justice, remember this that our false worships are not less fouler than the mortal sins of the sinners. Earlier we referred to a tradition narrated by Thiqat al-‘Islam al-Kulayni, in his book al-Kafi, on the authority of al-Imam al Sadiq (A); here I am copying a part of it verbatim in order to draw upon its blessing (barakah):
Al-Imam Ja’far al Sadiq (A) reports from the Prophet (S) that he said: `God Almighty-said to David (A), "O David give good news unto the sinners and warn the righteous." Said David (A), "How should I give good news unto the sinners and warn the righteous?" Said the Almighty, "O David, give good news to -the sinners that I accept their repentance, and warn the righteous that they should not have `ujb (self admiration) for their acts, for there is no servant who does not stand doomed when I take an account of his deeds (and deserve chastisement, since, according to the requirements of justice, a man with all his worship cannot thank God properly even for one of His favours).
While the righteous, who are free from sins, deserve to be condemned after a fair trial, what will be the fate of people like you and me? And that too if our deeds be pure and free from worldly riya’; a verboten quality, of which there is very little chance. Now be proud if there is an occasion for being proud and feeling `ujb; but if you realize that it is an occasion for being ashamed and hanging the head in shame and making confession of our sin after every worship, then repent before the Almighty for uttering those solemn lies, and for falsely assigning those virtues to ourselves. Does it not call for repentance when you make this declaration in front of God. While standing for prayer:
I have turned my face, in sincerity and submission, towards Him who created the heavens and earth, and I am not of the mushrikun (those who include others while worshipping God, i.e, polytheists). Verily, my prayer and my worship, my living and my dying, are for Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.
Is your face really turned towards the Creator of the heaven and earth? Are you really a `muslim’ and free from the dirt of shirk? Is your prayer and worship, your living and dying really for God? Shouldn’t we feel some shame while uttering; this sentence in our prayer (`All praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds’). Do you sincerely consider all laudable qualities to be derived from God, while you pay tribute not only to His creatures but also to His enemies? Is it not a lie to apparently admit that God is (`The Lord of the Worlds’), while practically you subscribe to the authority and lordship of the other-than-God? Is there any inkling of shame and repentance in your heart, while you utter (‘Thee alone we worship; Thee alone we ask for help‘)? Do you truly worship God, or worship your own flesh? Do you actually seek God, or aspire for the hour is? Do you seek help from God alone? In your deeds, do you consider God alone? When you go to perform Hajj of the Bayt Allah (the Holy Ka’bah) is God the only goal and end? And is the Master of the House your only pursuit, as the poet says:
It is not the dwelling that attracts my heart,
But he who dwells in it draws my heart.
Are you in search of God, and desire for His beatific vision? Do you hold the majalis (mourning ceremonies for al-Imam al-Husayn [A]) and beat your head and breast for his sake, or for the sake of the fulfilment of your wishes and desires? Is it not your selfish desires which motivate you to hold majalis, to join congregational prayers, and to perform devotional rituals?
My brother, be cautious regarding the guiles of the self and Satan, who do not want your pieties to be taintless, and if they might be accepted by God by His grace, despite their taint, the Devil and the carnal self do not desire them to reach their final destination. Through misplaced `ujb and improper pride they bring all your deeds to nothing, and the little benefit that you aimed at is also not obtained. Having lost His good pleasure, even the hopes of hour is will come to nothing. Now having lost everything eternal damnation in the flames of hell does not seem distant. By means of your faulty, rotten actions tainted with riya’, sum’ah, and a thousand other vices, each one of which is enough for preventing our deeds from being accepted, you imagined to have done God a favour, having become His beloved servant. Poor fellow, you, who cannot comprehend the state of His beloved servants and the fire that is kindled in their hearts, you unlucky wretch with your little knowledge of their heartfelt sincerity and the bright radiance emanating from their glorious deeds, do you think that their deeds are similar to yours and mine? Do you think that the salat of Amir al-Mu’minin ‘Ali (A) differed from ours only in the manner of uttering in the correct pronunciation of some words, or in the prolongation of prostrations and profusion of raka’at,prayers, and supplication? Do you imagine that my prayer differs from his only in the number of rak’ah’s-a few hundred every night? Are the prayers and the supplications of al-Imam Sayyid al-Sajidin (A) (the Fourth Imam) are similar to the mutterings of yours and mine? Do you think he moaned and sobbed for the sake of houris or pomegranates or pears of Paradise like us? I swear by him-and indeed it is a great oath-that even if all of us come together and try to say one (‘There is no god except God’) in the manner of Amir al-Mu’minin (A), we will not be able to do so. Dust be upon my head, I and my little knowledge of the high station of Imam ‘Ali (A)! I swear by the station of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (A) that even if all the archangels and all the prophets of God, except the Seal of the Prophets (S), who is the lord of ‘Ali (A) and all others, if they try to utter a single takbir (i.e. Allahu Akbar, `God is very great’) of ‘Ali’s, they will not be able to do it. The inner state of their hearts is known only to themselves and is unknown to others .
My friend!, do not babble so much about God. Do not exaggerate your love for God. O `arif! O sufi! O philosopher! O mujahid! O ascetic! Ofaqih! O believer! O sage! you poor ensnared wretches! You unfortunate creatures entangled in the snares of the self and its desires! You helpless creatures bewildered in the perplexities of false hopes, aspirations and self-love! You, who are all wretched, being thousands of miles removed from true godliness and love of God. Do not have such a good opinion of yourselves. Do not be so boastful and proud of yourselves. Ask your heart whether it is in search of God or whether it is in love with itself. Is it a monotheist(muwahhid) and devotee of the One, or a mushrik (polytheist) or a dualist? What for this ‘ujb, then? What does this exultation mean? Even if, supposedly, these acts of yours fulfil all the conditions and requirements, and are free from riya’, shirk, ‘ujb and other vices, isn’t their goal acquirement of sensual ends? What merit do they possess that you consider them to be worthy of being presented before the angels? These acts are to be concealed from the sights of people. These acts, which are exercises in impudence and vulgarity, shouldn’t we shameful of them and think of doing something to cover up these abominable performances?
God! We seek refuge in Thee from the mischief of Satan and the guiles of al-nafs al-‘ammarah (the carnal self). You Yourself protect us from their wiles for the sake of Muhammad (S) and his Progeny (A).
The Second Hadith: On Riya’
means to falsely make oneself appear to be virtuous, good natured or a true believer in God before the people for the sake of earning their respect and admiration, or with the purpose of gaining good reputation among them. The hypocrite feigns integrity, uprightness, virtue, honesty And piety without an authentic intention of acquiring these traits for the sake of God. It has several grades and degrees.
The first stage is comprised of two steps:
1. At the first step an individual makes a display of his religious beliefs, and shows off his knowledge of the religious teachings in order to project himself as an honest person in the eyes of people to gain their confidence and respect. Such a kind of person tries to make a display of his trust in God and His Power, saying that he does not believe in any being except Him. He also tries to present himself as a staunch believer through various means, especially by declaring that he depends on none but God. Or such a person, with his gestures and utterances, poses himself to be a staunch follower of the true faith, and this is a more common kind of riya’ than the first one. For instance, when the trust in God or submission to His Will is discussed, he wags his head in affirmation with a sigh, and thus deceives people giving an impression that he is one of the true believers.
2. The second step on the path of riya’ is represented by those who eradicate false belief from their hearts and, through such purification, want to attain power and respect among people; they sometimes articulate their belief overtly, sometimes make a covert display of their purity.
The second stage, too, is comprised of two steps:
1. At the first step an individual demonstrates his piety and virtuous deeds.
2. At the second step one pretends to have done away with the antitheses of piety and virtue, and behaves in such a manner as if he is free from all vices, and the aim of all this is to win the confidence of others.
The third stage of Riya’, which is considered to be overt by the fuqaha’, also consists of two steps:
1. The first step is marked by an individual’s performance of the prescribed forms of piety, prayers and good deeds in front of other people with the intention of demonstrating his good qualities and praiseworthy habits, or by his posture as a person who strictly adheres to the religious commands on purely rational grounds, and thus wishing to win the hearts of people and attracting their attention towards himself. Such acts, whether performed in total or in part, with the motive of Riya’, to please the others, are discussed in the books of fiqh.
2. At the second step, one abstains from evil deeds for the purpose of riya’ only.
Riya’ in Faith or Creed:
Remember that hypocrisy in religious faith is the worst kind of hypocrisy; its retribution also is the severest and its bad effects are far greater and more dangerous than those of other forms of hypocrisy. One who is guilty of this sin, if he does not believe genuinely in those ideas which he pretends to believe in, is counted among the munafiqun (hypocrites), whose place is in the Fire, and he is doomed to eternal damnation and his punishment is the severest of punishments. But if he believes in them, and for the sake of winning peoples’ hearts and for obtaining worldly honour and dignity he makes an ostentation of them, though he is not reckoned among munafiqun, this kind of hypocrisy will cause the light of faith to fade away from his heart and to make the darkness of infidelity and faithlessness to occupy the domain of his heart. Because in the first instance this person commits polytheism (shirk) of the covert type; while his religious beliefs and acts should purely be meant for God and His Holy Essence, he is guilty of committing the sin of doing them for others and thus makes them to share what should absolutely belong to Him only. In this way he makes others partners to God and has given permission to the Devil to occupy his heart as if it does not belong to God. It has been mentioned earlier that faith emerges from the depths of the heart, and in this matter mere abstract knowledge does not suffice. It has been stated in the tradition that any kind of riya’ is polytheism, but this vice, this disastrous atrocity, this hidden cruelty (to one’s own self), and this vicious habit, results in nullifying the good deeds, and in surrender of the realm of the heart to other than God. The darkness of this vice causes man to leave this world as an unbeliever in God, and the feigned faith that he had assumed proves nothing more than a senseless and empty profession; it is a form without content, a body without soul and a skull without brain; and in no way is acceptable to God. This fact is confirmed by a tradition mentioned in al-Kafi, narrated by ‘Ali ibn Salim:
The narrator of the tradition says that he heard al-Imam al-Sadiq (A) saying that God Almighty said, "I am the best of friends; one who makes others My partners in any matter, his deeds are not acceptable to Me. I accept only those acts that are purely done for My sake." 
Hence, it is clear that if the spiritual acts (of the heart) are not performed with sincerity of the heart, they will neither be the object of attention of the Almighty, nor will He acknowledge them, and they will be credited in the account of that partner-the person, for whose sake they were performed. Thus the spiritual acts performed for the sake of somebody else, not for God, will surpass the limits of polytheism, and will enter the domain of kufr (infidelity). It may even be said that the performer of such adulterated acts would be treated as one of the munafiqun.
As his polytheism is not visible, his hypocrisy also is hidden. He, the poor fellow, considers himself to be a believer, whereas in reality he is an idolater, and he is condemned to taste the chastisement prescribed for the munafiqun. How pitiable is the plight of one whose good deeds are to terminate in nifaq.
The Difference Between Knowledge and Belief:
Know that faith or belief is something different from the knowledge of God, the Unity of His Being, and His other Attributes–like sifat-e kamaliyyah (the Attributes of Perfection), the Positive Attributes, sifat-e jalaliyyah (the Attributes of Glory), and the Negative Attributes, etc. and the knowledge of angels, holy scriptures, and the Last Day. Anyone who possesses the knowledge of all these things is not necessarily a believer. The Devil possesses the knowledge of all these things more than I and you or any other individual, but still he is an unbeliever. The faith is a yearning of the heart-an inner experience, which if not genuine, does not become faith. Anyone who has gained knowledge of religion through rational demonstrations and arguments, ought to submit to them whole-heartedly with the totality of his being and obey the call of his heart dutifully i.e. with complete surrender to God, with humility and fear-and accept all the responsibilities expected of him sincerely without any question. Only then he can become a perfect mumin. Culmination of the faith is tranquillity and peace of mind. When the light of faith is stabilized, it brings with it tranquillity of the heart, and this is something which does not issue from knowledge.
It is possible that reason may accept something which is according to its dictates and logic, but the heart may not be ready to agree with it, thus making knowledge useless. For instance, you know through your reason that a dead person cannot do any harm and that all the dead in the world do not possess any power of action, even as much power as is possessed by a fly, and that all the physical and spiritual faculties depart as soon as one is dead; but since your heart has not accepted it and has not approved of the judgement of the mind, you cannot spend a dark night with a dead body. But if your heart yields to your mind and approves of its judgement, this job will no more be difficult for you. After some effort the heart resigns to the dictates of reason, then no dread of the dead remains in the heart.
Therefore, it is clear that the submission which is the gratification and comfort of the heart is quite a different thing from knowledge, which is the gratification of the mind. It is possible that one can logically prove the existence of the Great Intelligent Designer, the Unity of His Divine Being, the Day of Judgement and other true beliefs, but such a belief cannot be considered as faith (iman), and the person cannot be regarded as a mu’min, but he may be counted among the non-believers, hypocrites and polytheists.
Today my eyes and yours are closed, and we do not possess any divine vision. Our terrestrial eyes are unable to perceive, but when the hidden is revealed and the kingdom of heaven is manifested, the physical world vanishes and reality is disclosed; you will realize that you were not a believer in God, and your rational judgement was not congruous with your faith. Unless the words:
)there is no god except God) are inscribed on the tablet of the heart with the pen of reason, man is not a true believer in the Unity of God. When this sacred and holy dictum is impressed on the heart, the domain of the heart turns by itself into the kingdom of God Almighty. Then only man does not see anyone else as efficient in the realm of truth; he does not expect any rank, any distinction or riches from anybody else; he does not seek for honour and fame with the help of others; and his heart does not become hypocritic and profane. Therefore, if you see that riya’ is stealing into your heart, you should realize that your heart has not really surrendered itself to reason, and faith has not illuminated your heart yet; for you consider others to be your God and see them as efficient agents in the world, and you do not trust Him, the only God; it means that you have joined the company of hypocrites, polytheists and idolaters.
Dangerous Effects of Riya‘:
O, you given to riya’, who have entrusted your truthful beliefs and religious understanding to the custody of the enemy of God-the Devil, and have attributed to others what specifically belongs to God, you have exchanged those lights which would have illuminated your heart and spirit, and would have proved to be the source of your salvation and eternal bliss, which would have been responsible for being blessed with Beatific Vision and acquiring Divine nearness, with the dreadful darkness of eternal misfortunes; you have lost the other-worldly treasures, and have alienated yourself from the most sacred threshold of the Beloved, and have deprived yourself of the sight of the visage of the Most High. Be prepared for the darkness, which is not to be followed by any ray of light; the scorn and shame from which there is no release; the diseases which have no cure; the death after which there is no life; and the fire which is ignited from within the depths of the heart to engulf the whole region of your spirit, as well as the realm of the body. It is beyond your capacity and mine to conceive or perceive the intensity of that fire, as God Almighty has mentioned in His Holy Book:
(It is) the fire of Allah, kindled, which leapeth up over the hearts (of men).
The effect of the fire which is kindled by God will be that it would consume the hearts as well. No fire can consume the heart except that which is kindled in the hell. If the belief in the Unity of God, which is inherently engrained in human nature, is abandoned and is replaced with idolatry and infidelity, no intercession of any intercessor will be available to him, and man will be destined to suffer eternal damnation. What kind of chastisement will it be? It will be the effect of the Divine wrath, issuing from His sense of Honour.
Thus, my friend, do not make yourself an object of the Divine wrath for the sake of an illusion, an insignificant and trivial popularity in the eyes of weak creatures of God, and for the sake of worthless attention of hopeless human beings. Do not make a bargain of those Divine blessings, those infinite favours and benevolences with popularity among people, which is not even effective and long-lasting, from which you cannot derive any benefit except inviting ultimate shame and regret. And while your relations are severed with this world of illusion and deception and you cease to act, no regret and sorrow will be of avail.
An Advice for Getting Rid of the Curse of Riya’:
What I am going to mention here to you is expected to work effectively for curing this disease of the heart, your as well as others’. It shall be also according to the rational dictates as well as is in conformity with the truths of revelation and tradition of the Ma’sumin (the infallibles). It is as well verifiable on the basis of the teachings of the Quran and your and my reason. God Almighty, by means of His all embracing power and might, which governs the whole universe and is immanent in the realms of all possible beings, takes under His control the hearts of all His servants, as no one is outside the range of His power and the domain of His domination; and no one should occupy the hearts of human beings without His permission and His creative Will; not even the person himself has any control over his own heart without the permission of God Almighty. This fact has been revealed implicitly and explicitly in the Quran as well as the traditions of the members of the Household (Ahl al-Bayt) of the Prophet (S). Hence, God Almighty is the real owner of the hearts and has sovereignty over them, and you, a helpless and weak creature of Him, you cannot claim to be the master of your heart, without His leave. His Will is predominant over ours and other creatures’ resolution. Therefore, your hypocrisy and deceit, if it is meant for attracting the attention of His servants and for earning respect and popularity among them, know that it cannot bear any fruits, for this is totally beyond your powers, and it belongs to the jurisdiction of His power. He is the owner and the ruler of the hearts. He makes the hearts of the people a seat of love for whomsoever He likes. It is possible that your act produces a result just contrary to your wish. Pay attention to what we have seen and heard about the double-faced hypocrites, whose hearts were not pure; they were ultimately condemned to be disgraced; whatever they intended, they could not achieve, but something that they did not desire happened to them. The following tradition in al-Kafi points to the same fact:
The narrator of the tradition, Jarrah al-Mada’ini, reports from al-Imam al-Sadiq (A) that he asked the Imam about the words of the Almighty that `whosoever is desirous of meeting his Creator, he should perform virtuous deeds and should not ascribe any partner to God in his worship,’ seeking an explanation. Al-Imam al-Sadiq (A) said, `A person who performs good deeds but not for the sake of being blessed with the vision of his God, his acts are aimed at being considered as pious by the people, and he wishes that people should know about his deeds; such a person is counted among polytheists, who have ascribed partners to God.’ The Imam (A) continued: `There is none in the world, who has concealed his good deeds and after passage of time God has not revealed them. And there is none in the world who could conceal his wicked deeds for ever, for they were exposed by God before he passed away from the world.’ 
Hence, my dear friend! try to be worthy in the eyes of God. Try to win the hearts of the creatures by first pleasing the real owner of the hearts, so that He comes to your rescue. Work for the sake of God. As a consequence God Almighty, besides showering His favours and excellences upon you in the Hereafter, will bestow His honours and favours on you in this world as well, and will befriend you. He will raise your status in the eyes of people and will exalt you in both the worlds. But the only thing that you have to do is to sincerely cultivate the love of God in your heart, untainted and unspoiled, with struggle and effort. Purify your inner self so that your actions also will be pure and untainted by the love of the world or hatred of fellow beings; your spirit should be pure and untainted and all the infirmities and corruptions of the soul should be eliminated. Of what advantage is the love or hatred of the weak creatures of God, and gaining favour and name among them? Even if it has some benefit, it is insignificant and short-lived. It is possible that this love of the world may lead you to hypocrisy, and God forbid, it may convert you into a polytheist or a hypocrite or an unbeliever. If you are not disgraced in this world, you will be surely disgraced in the other world, in Almighty’s court of justice, in front of His truthful and worthy servants, in front of His esteemed prophets and those angels who are nearest to God, and you will have to hang down your head in shame, and you will be left in a state of utter helplessness. Can you imagine the disgrace of that day? God alone knows what sort of darkness is to follow that disgrace. It will be the day, as God Almighty has said:
… and the disbeliever will cry: ‘Would that I were dust’. (78:40)
Then it will be of no good. You, poor fellow, for the sake of a trifling love, for the sake of a fame of no avail among the creatures of God, you did not care for the promised Divine favours and have failed to gain His good pleasure, and have incurred His indignation and wrath instead.
The deeds by means of which you could have gained Divine favours, could have secured a happy and blissful life in eternity, and could have attained the highest station in the highest heaven; you have replaced it with the darkness of polytheism and hypocrisy, and have procured for yourself regret, shame and the severest chastisement, and have converted yourself into a ‘sijjini‘ (an inhabitant of the lowest or dungeon of hell) instead. It occurs in the tradition in al-Kafithat it has been reported from al-Imam al-Sadiq (A) that the Prophet (S) said: `Indeed when the angel of God joyously takes to the higher heaven the good deeds of a man, as he carries the good deeds heavenward, God Almighty orders him to place those deeds in ‘Sijjin‘,since they were not performed for Him alone.  You and I cannot imagine what ‘Sijjin‘ is, and which kind of demons are appointed there; and you cannot contemplate the horrors inflicted upon the sinners there. And once we have been made to face it, it will not be possible for us to get rid of it, as all the means of repentance shall be cut off. Wake up my friend! and cast away your negligence and carelessness, and weigh your actions in the balance of your reason, before they are weighed and measured in the other world. And cleanse the mirror of your heart of the rust of polytheism, hypocrisy, and two-facedness. Do not allow the rust of impurity of polytheism and infidelity to gather in such a way that it cannot be cleansed with the fire of the other world. Do not allow the light of your nature to be turned into the gloom of apostasy. Do not be a traitor to yourself and do not destroy what God has entrusted to you, calling it:
…the nature (framed) of Allah in which He hath created man ….
Therefore, burnish the mirror of the heart, so that the light of Divine magnificence may be reflected in it, and may make you forget this world and everything in it, and your heart is kindled with the fire of His love, so that all other attachments and associations may be dissolved in such a manner that you do not spurn a single moment for the sake of the worldly things; and you derive such a pleasure from His remembrance that all the animal pleasures may appear to you a gimmick. If you cannot attain this station, even then do not give up the gifts of God that are promised to be given in the next world and are mentioned in the Quran and the traditions of the Ma’sumin (A), for the sake of gaining the short-lived favour of the weak creatures of God. Do not deprive yourself of all the Divine favours and do not make a bargain of the eternal felicity with the everlasting distress.
Sincerity in Action.
Know that the real King of kings, the true Giver of real bounties, has bestowed upon us all these favours. He created all these things for us and prepared them for us even before we came into this world. He made our food a balanced diet and acceptable to our weak stomach-a patron and servant who serves us with an instinctive and natural love. He created for us suitable climes and weathers and has bestowed upon us all other seen and unseen favours here and in the other world, and after piling up all these gifts for us, He asks us to keep our hearts pure for His occupation, so that we ourselves may be benefited from His presence. In spite of all these warnings and cautions we still do not obey Him and do not pay heed to His words and do not act according to His wish. What an act of gross transgression. With whom are we trying to wage a war, the consequences of which we will have to face? Any slightest harm cannot be caused to His Kingdom, and we cannot exclude ourselves from His reign of power either. If we are acting like the polytheists we are causing harm to ourselves, because:
…Lo! Allah is independent of (all) creatures.
He does not need our worship, our service or our obedience. Any disobedience, polytheism and two-facedness on our part will not cause any harm to His Empire, but as He is (the Most Merciful of the merciful), His boundless mercy and compassion, and His perfect wisdom require of us the pursuance of the right path, and for this purpose He made clear the difference between good and evil, beautiful and ugly to us and warned us of the perils and hazards to be met on the road of human perfection and the path of true felicity. We are indebted to God Almighty for this great guidance and we have to show, with all humility, great respect towards Him in our worships, our devotion and our supplications, whose importance we cannot comprehend unless we gain an other-worldly vision. As long as we sojourn in this narrow physical world, confined to the limits of the sequence of time and shackles of space, we cannot comprehend the infiniteness of the realm of His power, and we cannot even thank Him in our prayers and supplications for His guidance. Never let the idea enter our mind, that by our service and devotion we are doing some favour to His prophets, His chosen servants, and the great `ulama’ of the Ummah. They are our benefactors, who have taken the charge of leading the Ummah towards felicity and deliverance, and who have accepted the responsibility of our emancipation from the darkness and shadows of ignorance and misfortunes, taking us towards the realms of light and joy and greatness. What a great responsibility they took upon themselves, and what horrible pains and troubles they underwent for the sake of our instruction, in order to deliver us from those obscurities and darknesses, that were the result of vain beliefs and compound ignorance, and the chastisements that were to befall us as a result of our bad habits and villainies. They wanted to save us from those hideous forms and dreadful figures in the other world that would be the outcome of our wicked deeds, and they helped us to reach the regions of light, joy and comfort and the spheres of serenity and composure, whose image our mind would fail to visualize. This physical world in spite of its vastness is so limited and narrow that we cannot imagine a heavenly houri with our this-worldly vision. Our vision does not possess enough power to behold the magnificence of that world, which has been described in the speeches of the holy prophets of God, especially in the all-embracing revelations of the Khatim al-nabiyyin (Seal of the prophets), who perceived those truths through Divine revelations, saw them, heard them, and then asked us to acquire them. And we, like recalcitrant children, disobey the commands of the wise, and even do not pay heed to the dictates of our own reason, always being more than ready to oppose the Divinely guided ones. And those sanctified pious souls, out of the love and kindness that they possessed for the creatures of God, did never fall short of their duty, did never appeal to our meaner and baser faculties by bribing them to attract us towards heaven and felicity; they never tried to make us yield through intimidation or force. They did not either demand any remuneration or reward for the services they rendered. The remuneration asked by the Prophet (S) (kindness for his kinsfolk), which is not really a payment for his services, is also meant for our own benefit, being the brightest of our achievements in the next world. Our sense of indebtedness to them in fact serves ourselves and we are benefited more from it than they are. How are they benefited by the righteous acts of poor beings like us? In what way will our sincerity and obedience do them any good? In what way do you and I consider our humble selves benefactors of the guides of the Ummah, from an ordinary faqih to the great Prophet (S) and God Almighty? All of them have in their own right fulfilled their function of guiding us and showing the right path, for which we are indebted to them and even a fraction of it we cannot pay back in this world. Nothing of this world is worthy of the repayment of their debt: (It is to God, His Prophet (S), and His saints to whom all owe gratitude), as God Almighty has said:
… Say: Deem not your surrender a favour unto me; nay, but Allah does confer a favour on you, inasmuch as He hath led you to the faith, if ye are earnest. Lo. Allah knows the Unseen of the heavens and the earth. And Allah is Seer of what you do.
Hence, if we are sincere in our faith in God, it is in itself a favour bestowed upon us by God. God Almighty is Omniscient, and has the knowledge of the hidden. He is Omniscient, knows the inner, hidden reality of all our actions, and He is fully aware of the nature of our faith and the extent and degree of our submission to His Will.
We, the helpless creatures, who do not know the reality, acquire our knowledge from the faqih and think that we have done favour to him. We offer congregational prayers behind an `alim, and we assume that we have conferred a favour on him, whereas, in fact, we are indebted to him. We do not realize this, and, therefore, this faulty outlook turns the effects of our deeds upside down and drags us into `Sijjin’making our actions worthless.
The Second Stage of Riya’:
At this stage, though riya‘ is of lesser intensity than it is at the first stage, but it is possible that if the hypocrite does not heed the warnings, and repeatedly behaves in the same way (the riya’ of action) it is likely to terminate in the riya’ of the former stage-theriya’ of faith. We have already mentioned in the exposition of the previous tradition that in the `Alam al-malakut (the celestial world) man may have a different form other than the human form. Those forms will be in accordance with the state of one’s soul and its traits. If you possess good human qualities, in the other world those qualities will retain you in the human form, provided they are not deviated from the path of moderation. Good faculties will be considered as true merits only when the sensual self does not interfere with them, and the self does not play any role in their formation. Our respected teacher and shaykh Ayatullah Shahabadi used to say that the measure of the false and invalid spiritual practice and true religious spiritual struggle is as to what extent selfishness is involved in such practices, i.e. whether all spiritual effort is for God or for selfish motives. If the wayfarer on the heavenly journey treads a selfish path and his spiritual exercises are meant for acquiring powers for worldly ends, his efforts are rendered invalid, and his suluk (progress on mystic path) will lead him to the calamity of the other world. The false claims of spirituality are usually made by such people. And if the wayfarer treads the right path, and is genuinely in search of God, his devotion is within the bounds of the Shari’ah, and God will help him, as promised in the following verse of the Quran:
As for those who strive for Us, We surely guide them to Our paths ….
Hence, his actions will lead him to felicity; egoism will be eliminated and self-conceit and pride will recede. This is quite clear that anyone who demonstrates his good deeds before people, his aim is a selfish aim, and he will be branded as a selfish, self-conceited, egoistic and egocentric person, and his godliness will be considered as nothing but false and pretentious, which will invalidate his good deeds. As the domain of your existence is replete with the feelings of self-love, the lust for wealth, power and fame, and the wish for ruling over the creatures of God, your good deeds and your excellences cannot be adjudged as virtuous deeds, and your moral behaviour is far away from truly religious morality. The operating force in your realm is satanic and your inner state is not a human condition. When you will open your eyes in the other world, you will perceive yourself in an unhuman form, similar to one of those of the devils. For such selves, which are dens of the Satan, it is impossible to gain religious knowledge and learn the spirit of tawhid. Unless the realm of your inner self is converted into a human state and your heart is purged of impurities and unholiness, you cannot be benefited from spiritual exercises, as God Almighty states in a hadith qudsi:
There is no clearer sign in the earth and in the heavens of the elegance of the Beloved than the heart of a true believer (mu’min).
The believer’s heart is in the occupation of God, not at the disposal of the self. The heart of the believer is not self-willed, nor is it vagrant. It is said of it:
The heart of the true believer (mu’min) lies between two fingers of God, that He may turn it whatever way He pleases.
O you, the poor creature, who worships the self and the Devil and ignorance are the agencies operating in the realm of your heart, you yourself have prevented the hands of God from handling your heart. What sort of faith you are required to possess that your heart be the object of Divine illumination, absolute rule of the Truth may prevail there? Make it a point that unless you change yourself, and as long as the bad habit of ostentatiousness and vanity dominates your deeds, you will be branded as an unbeliever and you will be grouped with themunafiqun (hypocrites), even though you imagine yourself to be a believer in God and as one who has resigned himself to the Will of God.
The Value of Human Existence as a Trustee of Divine Honour:
My friend! wake up from the slumber of forgetfulness and carelessness, be aware, do not let sleep overtake your senses, and know that God Almighty has created you for His own sake, as stated in one hadith qudsi:
O progeny of Adam, We have made everything for you and you for Our service.
He has made your heart His own habitation. You and your hearts are the abodes of Divine Honour. God Almighty is intolerant regarding His Dignity and Honour. Do not be careless in this regard, and do not justify any violation of the Divine principles; and be afraid of His retribution so that you may not be disgraced and made infamous in this world in such a way that despite all efforts you are not able to undo what may befall you. You are guilty of violation of Divine Honour in your heart that belongs to the celestial world, in front of the angels of God and His prophets. The moral excellences through which the saints of God (awliya’ Allah) acquired resemblance to Him, are being surrendered by you to others than God, and you are surrendering your heart, the seat of God, to His enemy, thus committing shirk (polytheism) in the heart of your hearts. Be afraid of God Almighty, Who besides bringing down your other-worldly image and degrading you in front of His angels and His prophets, will also expose and dishonour you in this world itself and you will be condemned to unmeasured indignity which shall be also irreparable, and irremediable, an infamy that cannot be redressed. God Almighty is Sattar, He conceals the sins, but He is jealous also. He is -the Most Merciful of the merciful, but at the same time He is the severest of the punishers also. He Himself says that He covers up bad deeds as long as they do not cross certain limits. God forbid, lest the gravity of your deeds should arouse His anger and should it overcome His tolerance and willingness to conceal sins, as you have read in the hadith.
Hence, come to your senses, seek refuge in God and turn back to Him, for God Almighty is the Compassionate and always seeks for an excuse to shower His mercy. If you ask for His forgiveness, He will readily forgive you, and will cover up your blemishes and past deeds, so that no one will be able to know about them, and He will make you a man of great distinctions, a paragon of virtues and an image of His Attributes. He will make your will consummate in the next world as His own Will is executed throughout the cosmos. It is narrated in a hadith that when the people are placed in the Paradise, a message from the Almighty will be given to them and its purport will be as follows: `From the One who is Eternal and Immortal to him who is also eternal and immortal: Whatever I desire to bring into existence I command it to be and it comes into being; from this hour it has been decreed that you also command whatever you desire to bring into existence and your wish would be obeyed.’
Therefore, do not be egocentric, and subordinate your will to the Will of God Almighty; He will then make you an instrument and manifestation of His Will. He will give you power in the realms under His control, and bestow upon you the capacity to create in the Hereafter. (Of course, this is not the same as tafwid, which is a false notion, as proved elsewhere.)
Now, my friend, do as you please; either accept it or reject it. But know, that God Almighty is not in need of you or me or any other creature, and He has no need of our service and sincerity.
Riya’ in Worship:
The third stage also is divided into several sections.
The riya’ of this kind is more common and manifest than those mentioned above. Because we ordinary human beings usually do not belong to the above-mentioned two states. For this reason, the Devil cannot get hold of us in the way he encroaches upon those who belong to the other states. But since the majority of the worshippers express their devotion to God through formal prayers, the Devil commonly intervenes at this stage more frequently. Sensual temptations are also commoner at this stage. In other words, since such type of people tend to seek the physical pleasures of heaven through their actions, and they aspire to attain higher station by performing good deeds and abstaining from performing wicked ones, the Devil finds an access through this way; and he nurtures the roots of riya’ and deceit with great care, so that it may bear the fruits that are desired by him. He transforms their virtues into vices, and makes them to enter hell through the path of ritual worship. The acts by means of which they aim to secure paradise for themselves are transformed by him into the means of their destruction and doom. The deeds which would have led one to `Illiyyin-the highest heaven, are so distorted that their performer is thrown into Sijjin by angels at the command of God. Therefore, persons who lay greater emphasis on this aspect (i.e. formalistic) and ignore other aspects, have nothing except apparently good deeds to secure salvation in the next world; they are required to be more cautious, so that this provision also may not be snatched away from their hands and they may not be consigned to the flames of hell and deprived of felicity for ever. They should watch over their acts lest the doors of heaven be closed and the doors of hell be opened to them.
How to Combat Riya’?
Most often the sanctimonious person himself does not know that this particular vice has penetrated his deeds and his deeds have now assumed hypocritical proportions and hence become worthless. Because the temptations of the Devil and the self are so unobservably shadowy and subtle and the path of humanity is so delicate and tenuous that unless anyone is extremely discriminate, he cannot understand their inherent evil. He imagines that his actions are meant for pleasing God, whereas they are serving the interests of the Devil. Since man is naturally created self-centered, the veil of self-love and egoism covers his flaws and vices from his own eyes. God willing, we shall also discuss this subject while commenting upon certain other ahadith; I ask for God’s help in this regard.
For instance, the acquisition of religious knowledge, is one of the important religious duties and a kind of worship; but a man busy attaining excellence in this field is liable to fall an easy prey to the vice of riya’, which seizes his heart in such a way that he himself is not aware and the same thick curtain of self-love obstructs his vision. He desires to gain an important position in the eyes of great scholars and men of distinction and honour, by solving an important problem in such a way that no other person has solved it before; he tries to project himself as a person distinguished from others by presenting the subject in a unique way, to make himself the focus of everyone’s attention; with an air of self-assurance, he assumes that if anyone among the scholars and dignitaries eulogizes him in flattering terms, he will be able to receive the applause and praise of the whole gathering. The poor fellow fails to realize that even if he earns worldly fame and honour among scholars or the elite, he will be disgraced in the eyes of the King of kings, and these actions of his will lead him to Sijjin. This act of riya’ is also accompanied with some other vices, like the wish for humiliating and insulting others, or injuring the feelings of his brother in faith, or sometimes being rude to a believer; each one of these vices is enough for landing him in hell. If again your deceptive self falls in the snares of its own guiles and succeeds in convincing you that your aim has been to make known a tenet of Shari’ah and pronouncing the word of truth, which is one of the most meritorious acts of religious devotion, and that you do not aim at demonstrating your spiritual superiority, you ought to interrogate your self by asking that if a friend of yours had solved the same religious issue in a better way and had defeated you in the gathering of those scholars and highly placed persons, even then would you have taken the same position? If it is so, you were true to your own self. But if your self again is bent upon deceiving others and does not refrain from committing another treachery and contends that the utterance of truth is a meritorious act, and possesses a spiritual reward also, and that it is in your interest to attain an elevated station in the Hereafter, you are advised to ask your self: Suppose if God Almighty accords you the real glory for your defeat in case you gracefully accept it, would you still desire to prevail? If you see that your self loves to dominate others in academic discussion for gaining publicity among the scholars for your knowledge and scholarship, and the discussion that you undertake is aimed at winning others’ respect and honour, then know that the intellectual discourse, which is the highest form of worship and prayer, is transformed into the sinful act of riya’, which, according to the narration of al-Kafi, will lead you to Sijjin, you are classed as a polytheist, and this act was performed with the motive of gaining respect in the eyes of the people. This act of yours, according to a tradition, will cause more harm to your faith than the harm done by two wolves who attack a herd of sheep without a shepherd from both sides. Therefore, you who are a scholar and responsible for reforming the Ummah and paving the way to the Hereafter, and curing spiritual infirmities, it is necessary for you first to correct yourself and maintain a sound spiritual state, so that you do not fall under the category of the scholars who do not act upon what they profess.
Pray to God Almighty to purify our hearts of the stains of polytheism and hypocrisy, and cleanse the mirror of our hearts of the rust of the love of the world, which is the source of all vices. O God! kindly help us and protect us helpless beings, afflicted with the disease of vanity and the lust for power and honour, and guard us in this hazardous journey along the intricacies of the labyrinthine dark path, O the Mightiest and the Most Powerful.
Riya’ in Congregational Prayers:
Congregational prayer is an eminent form of Islamic worship, and the leader of this prayer holds a distinctive position of honour. For this reason, Satan also intrudes more in this worship. He is much more envious of the imam (leader) of the jama’ah (congregation) than anybody else. He is always busy finding the ways of keeping away the believers from receiving this Divine honour, and deprives their action of the element of sincerity and truth and drives them to Sijjin. He tries to convert them into polytheists, and for this purpose he invades the hearts of the imams through various means, such as `ujb (self admiration), which we shall discuss later on, and riya’, which is a display of religiosity through this significant worship for impressing the people, gaining publicity, and earning their admiration and respect; for instance, when an imam sees that a certain pious person is attending the congregational prayer, he tries to make an ostentation of his humility and devotion in order to capture his attention and win his admiration; he tries to find various ways of mentioning him in the gatherings of ‘people not present in the congregation; in order to show his importance, he drags the name of that pious man again and again and tries to inform the people about his presence as a follower in the congregational prayer; thus, he tries to create a false impression of a close association with him, especially if he belongs to the business class, and expresses such a great love and friendship for him which he never expressed even for a single moment for God or His favoured servants. And if, God forbid, any of the aristocrats loses his way and comes to pray with the congregation, it is a bigger disaster. The Devil is not unmindful, of the leader of a small congregation either. He approaches him and makes him aware that he is so unmindful of worldly gains that he is content to spend his time in a small local mosque of a poor neighbourhood. This feeling is also similar to the first, or even worse than that; as the vice of jealousy spreads its tentacles in the hearts of such people, who do not enjoy the bounties of this world; the Devil deprives them of the glories of the other world too, and they are condemned to suffer in both the worlds. At the same time, the Devil, does not lose his grip on the collars of people like you and me, who have no access to the leadership of a congregation, and who lament the absence of proper means; he makes us doubt the utility of congregations of Muslims, and makes us scorn and flout them. We may be led to look upon our failure to capture a congregation as otherworldly seclusion, and ourselves as free from love of station and honour. Then we become worse than both of the groups, we neither belong to the first category of people, who enjoy the good things of this life, nor do we belong to the second category, whose achievements are comparatively humbler; nor do we have any claim to the next world; nevertheless if we get an opportunity, we might prove to be more power-hungry, honour-thirsty, and greedy than either of the groups.
How Does Riya’ Infiltrate the Ranks of the Congregation?
The Satan is not content with dragging the leader of the congregation to the hell. His lust is not satiated with that. He infiltrates the ranks of the worshippers also. Since the first row is more esteemed than other rows, and its right wing superior to the left, he makes them his target more often than any other row. He attracts the pious towards the right part of the first row, and incites them to pose to be superior to others in the eyes of the people. The helpless fellow, unconscious of the Satan’s whispering, tries to demonstrate his superiority through a sanctimonious glance or gesture, which displays his inner polytheism, which is enough for sending him to Sijjin. From here, the Satan then steals into other rows to allure other people on account of his awkward gestures and funny behaviour a devotee becomes the target of jeer and sneer of others, who consider themselves to be free from all sort of faults. Sometimes it has been observed that a respectable person, especially a scholar of rare distinction and high intellectual calibre, is made to sit by the Devil in the last row, in order to make people realize that though his position is much higher, but since he does not care for worldly position and is free of self-esteem, he has come to sit in the last row. Some people of this kind will never be seen sitting in the first row.
The Satan is not satisfied with influencing the imam and his followers; he sometimes catches hold of one of the loners by the beard, persuading him to leave his house or shop, and by means of his allurements he launches him into a corner of the mosque over a prayer mat. For such a man, no imam is `adil, or qualified to lead prayers. The Satan makes him perform a prolonged prostration and ruku` and an extended prayer. In his heart of hearts, this individual wishes to make people believe that he is pious and conscientious to such a degree that he avoids the congregation, so that he may not be trapped into following an unjust imam. This person, besides being conceited and sanctimonious, is also ignorant of the laws of theShari’ah. The marji` taqlid (legal authority) whom he follows may not have laid any condition for praying behind an imam except acceptability of his outward behaviour. But the loner is not concerned with that, for his real motive is riya’. He merely wants to present himself as a man of piety in order to gain the favour and admiration of people.
In the same way, our other activities also are interfered with by the Satan. This damned creature, whenever he finds a murky heart, he makes it his resting place and tries to spoil our visible and invisible deeds, and transforms our good deeds into such as lead us directly to the hell.
An Invitation to Sincerity:
My friend, be judicious and careful in your actions. Demand from yourself an account of every deed. Cross-examine yourself for every detail; try to evaluate your deeds through introspection whether they were meant for the realization of virtue or motivated otherwise. What motivated you to ask questions about mid-night prayers? Was it purely for the sake of God with an intention to perform such prayers, or for projecting your image as a deeply religiously person? Why is it that you are eager to inform others about your pilgrimage by all possible means and about the number of times you undertook it? Why are you not content with confining your charitable deeds to yourself alone, and what do you want to gain by informing the others of your acts of charity, for as soon as you find an opportunity you announce them? If it is undertaken for the sake of God, and you intend that people should imitate you, and you think in terms of (the one who shows the path of virtue is as worthy as-the doer of it) while performing this deed, its display is justified; thank God, for He has enabled you to act with a clear conscience and pure heart. But beware of the guiles of Satan while interrogating your self, for he can project the acts adulterated with riya’ as selfless and sacred. If your action is not for the sake of God, then it is better to abstain from doing what you have been doing, for it amounts to sum`ah, i.e. advertisement of false virtues, which is a branch of the accursed tree of riya’; for God Almighty does not approve of it and condemns its perpetrator to Sijjin. We ought to seek refuge in God from the vice of deceit, whose guiles are very subtle. We have a general idea that our deeds are not pure and sincere, because had we been His true servants, why does the Devil, despite promising not to impede the actions of His true servants, disturb our sanctity and make us an instrument of his evil designs? In the words of my respected teacher, the Devil is the watchdog of the Almighty’s court; he does not bark at the person who is near to God, and does not bother him. As the watchdog does not drive the friends of the master away from the house, in the same way, the Satan also recognizes God’s friends, and does not allow any stranger to get access to Him. Therefore, whenever you realize that the Satan interferes in your affairs, you should immediately know that your actions are not performed with sincere intentions and are not meant for the Almighty. If you are a sincere believer in God, why doesn’t your tongue pour forth words of wisdom, coming from the heart? For about forty years you imagine that you have been performing virtuous deeds in order to please God, whereas it occurs in a hadith that whosoever remains faithful to God for forty days, springs of wisdom emanate from his heart. This is, therefore, a sign for us to comprehend that our deeds were not performed for the sake of God, though we ourselves are not conscious of it, and this is the main cause of our irremediable sickness.
Pitiable is the condition of the devotees, worshippers, leaders and followers of Friday congregations and men of high knowledge and learning! When they will open their eyes in the court of the Most High on the Day of Judgement, they will come to know that they are not only among the sinners, perpetrators of major sins, but even worse than infidels and idolaters, and their record of deeds even darker than theirs.
It is a matter of pity for a person that his prayers and other devotional acts should serve as fuel for the fires of hell. May God save us from the moment when, in spite of one’s alms-giving andzakat and piety, one’s appearance will be distorted to such hideousness that it is not even imaginable. You, a helpless creature, are branded as a mushrik, an idolater, and a sinner despite your belief in the Unity of God. God willing, He will forgive the sinners by His mercy, but for the mushrik He has said that He will not forgive him if he dies without repentance.
It is stated in the ahadith that one used to Riya’-the one who makes a display of his religiosity, devotion, high religious status, his preaching and leading of prayers, his fasting, his namaz and even his pious deeds for the sake of gaining respect in the hearts of people is a polytheist. His shirk (idolatry) is confirmed by the traditions of the Imams of the Holy Household (A) and the Quranic text, and hence his sin is unpardonable. It would have been better for you to be among the perpetrators of major sins, to be one notorious for his evil conduct and perpetration of obvious indignities, while being a monotheist, instead of becoming a polytheist.
Now, my friend, introspect seriously and find some remedy to cure your (spiritual) sickness, and realize the futility of acquiring honour in human hearts, a small piece of flesh which will not satisfy a bird’s appetite. These weak creatures possess no power, and their estimation is insignificant. The real power is to be sought in Him; He is the Absolute Cause of all causes-the Ultimate Cause. Even if all creatures make a joint effort to create a single mosquito, they will not be successful in doing so, and if the mosquito causes them a slight harm they will not be able to avert it if God does not will so.
All power belongs to the Almighty. He is the Mover of the universe. Whenever you do something and make an effort to perform something, inscribe on your heart with the pen of reason: (no one is effective in the realm of existence except God).
By all possible means equip your heart with the principle of unity of Divine Action (tawhid-e af’ali), which is the first stage of the belief in the Unity of Being, and thus convert it into the heart of a true believer. Illuminate your heart with the holy dictum of: (there is no god but Allah); and mould it accordingly. Lead your heart to the stage of tranquility (itminan), and make it realize that human beings can cause neither harm nor good, and that God alone is capable of doing any harm or good to anybody. Cure your vision, which suffers from blindness so that you are not raised blind on the Day of Judgement and complain to the Almighty (My Lord! wherefore have You raised me (here) blind …? [20:125]).The Will of the Almighty prevails over the wills of other beings. If your heart surrenders to these holy words, and has faith in them, this can be hoped that your deeds will be rewarded and all the traces of polytheism, Riya’, infidelity and hypocrisy will be wiped out from the face of your heart. This profound faith is in accordance with reason and revelation, and there are no traces of determinism (jabr)present in it. It is possible that some people who do not know the meaning, the basic principles and ingredients of determinism may mistake it as such, whereas it is not jabr but tawhid. Determinism is a kind of shirk; whereas tawhid is right guidance, determinism is misguidance. This occasion is not proper for discussing determinism and freedom. But those who fully understand this issue can appreciate the import of what I say. Moreover, the Prophet (S) has asked us not to indulge in such discourses. Anyway, ask God Almighty, through supplication and humble entreaties all the time, especially in loneliness, to guide you and to illuminate your heart with the light oftawhid. Ask Him to endow you with the vision of the hidden, the perception of the unity (in diversity)-the Unity of Divine Being, so that you may not attach importance to anything else and consider every other thing as insignificant and trifle. Beseech His Holy Essence to make your actions pure and sincere, and lead you to the path of sincerity and love. And if you have reached such a spiritual station that your prayers are responded and you can do something for this helpless creature of God, who has squandered his life in meaningless pursuits, devoid of any real purpose, hankering after desires and lusts, whose sins have sickened the heart to a point where no exhortation, advice, Quranic verse, or tradition of the Prophet (S), or argument or wise saying can have any effect, do pray for him; may be your prayer shall secure his deliverance. God never turns away a believer from His court, and He grants his prayers. By ever remembering these things, which you already know and which are also not new to you, be heedful and sincere from within the heart, and, without ceasing, critically reevaluate your movements, pauses, and your behaviour. Always scrutinize your secret intentions, and strictly take account of everything in the same manner as one business partner is accountable to the other. Abstain from everything that resembles riya’ and simulation, however virtuous it may appear to be. Even in the matter of obligatory religious duties, if you believe that you cannot perform them sincerely in public, perform them secretly, though it is preferable to perform them openly. It is rare for riya’ to occur in obligatory duties themselves; more often it relates to their mode of performance and to acts which are mustahabb or supererogatory. In any case, purge your heart from the dirt of polytheism with perfect solemnness and severest self-criticism, lest, God forbid, you should pass away from this world in this state that your performance is deplorable, and there is no hope of salvation for you. Then you will invite the wrath of God, as mentioned in the tradition quoted in Wasa’il al-Shi’ah from Qurb al- asnad, and reported from Amir al-mu’minin `Ali (A):
Amir al-mu’minin ‘Ali (A) reports that the Prophet (S) said: "One who does some act liked by God in order to show off to people, and in secret manifests such qualities as are abominations to God, he shall encounter God’s anger and wrath [ on the Day of Resurrection]." 
There are two probable interpretations of this hadith. Firstly, it is about such a person who presents himself as paragon of virtue before people, while his inner self is immersed in ugly vices. Secondly, it may be about a person who performs outwardly virtuous deeds with the intention of Riya’. In any case, it is obvious that the hadith condemns riya’, because the performance of the obligatory acts and duties if not motivated by riya’, cannot be the object of Divine wrath. In all probability the second meaning is closer to the import of the hadith, as the open performance of wicked deeds is a greater evil.
This is a warning for us to be cautious lest, God forbid, we do something to incur the wrath of the King of kings and the Most Merciful of the merciful:
A Tradition of Imam `Ali (A):
We conclude this section with a tradition reported from the commander of the pious, Amir al-mu’minin (A), recorded in al-Kafi. Al-Shaykh al-Saduq has also reported the same tradition from al-Imam al-Sadiq (A), which forms a part of the last will and testament of the Prophet (S) to ‘Ali (A):
Said al-Imam al-Sadiq (A) that Amir al-mu’minin (A) said: `There are three distinguishing features of one accustomed toriya’: he expresses joy and cheerfulness when he is greeted by people; he becomes cheerless and sullen when alone; and he wishes to be praised for everything he does.’ 
Since this vice is so hidden and subtle that it remains unnoticed by the person himself, he is unaware of the fact that inwardly he is a hypocrite, and he imagines his actions to be pure and untainted. Therefore, the signs of this characteristic have been described so that men should be able to identify their hidden motives by examining their inner self in their light and be able to prevent and treat them accordingly. An individual may introspect and know that he is not inclined to perform his religious duties when he is alone; even if with great compulsion he forces himself to perform them, or even if he performs them habitually, he does not perform with real sincerity and purity of heart, but rather as a physical exercise; but while performing his prayer in the mosque, in the congregation of the people and in the presence of others, he becomes animated, performing his prayer with utmost joy and enthusiasm. He is inclined to perform long and protracted ruku`s and prostrations; he performs the mustahabb actions properly, caring about their minutest particulars. If one pays a little attention to one’s inner state, one may come to know the reason for this vigour. Why is it so that he spreads the net of his (pretended) piety for catching the attention of people? He may mislead himself by saying that he is more pleased with praying in the mosque, as it is more meritorious to do so, and that it brings more rewards also. He will convince himself by saying that it is preferable to say prayer in a better way in front of others, in order that they may follow his example and be attracted towards the religion. Man deceives himself by all means and never thinks of correcting himself. For a sick person who considers himself to be sound there is no hope of being cured. The ill-fated man’s innermost being not only secretly aims to parade his good deeds before people, remaining unconscious of its inner urge, but is also bent upon presenting his sin as worship and his conceit as propagation of religion, despite the fact that the performance of themustahabbat prayers is mustahabb in seclusion. Why is it that your self always responds in public, and why do you relish weeping out of the fear of God in the gathering of people, though in loneliness in spite of squeezing your eyes you cannot bring out a single tear? Where is the fear of God? Does it grip you in the gatherings of people only? Does it overwhelm you only on the occasion of the Nights of Great Value ( ) in front of several thousands of people? Such a man offers one hundred rak`ah’s of namaz and recites the Du`a-iJawshan-i Kabir and Du`a-i Jawshan-i Saghir in addition to severalsurahs of the Quran and is not bored and does not feel the slightest weariness. If man performs something purely for the sake of God or for gaining His blessings, or out of fear of hell or in the hope of heaven, why should he desire that his deeds be praised by men and admired by them? His ears are all the time eager to listen something in his praise, and his heart is after those who observe his devotion and notice how venerable this gentleman is, for he is so punctual about the prayer and is so concerned about the supererogatory duties. If your deeds are meant for God, what does this exaggerated craving mean? If the fear of hell and the hope of heaven force you to perform these deeds, what does this love of publicity mean? You ought to realize that this desire issues from the accursed and abominable tree ofriya’. Therefore, try as much as you can to purify yourself of these absurd inclinations (to the extent possible), and try to reform yourself.
Variation in Grades and Degrees of Qualities among Different Individuals:
At this stage it is essential to remind you that each one of the qualities of the soul, both the good ones and the bad, has numerous grades and degrees. Those who acquire virtues and give up vices are grouped with the `urafa’, saints and friends of God (awliya’ Allah).As for other individuals, the nature of vices and virtues is determined by the spiritual station to which they belong. It may be that the qualities which are considered to be vices for those belonging to higher spiritual station are not considered vices for those belonging to a lower stage. On the contrary, in a way, they may even be regarded as their accomplishments. And similarly the qualities that are regarded as virtues for the people of a lower category may be vices for men of a higher category. Riya’ is also one of such (relative) vices that we are discussing presently. Authenticity (ikhlas) is the highest stage of freedom from riya’ and is characteristic of the saints (awliya’ Allah); others do not share this quality. The common people generally attain a lower stage of it, and this does not harm their iman or ikhhlas, because, generally, they have a natural inclination that their virtues be known to others. Though they may not have intentionally performed them for the sake of demonstrating them, but their self is instinctively inclined to make them known. This tendency does not annul their action, nor does it make them infidels, hypocrites (munafiqun) or polytheists either. But the same trait is considered to be a shortcoming in the case of a wali or `arif bi-Allah,as for them it amounts to nifaq or shirk. Absolute purification from the impurity of polytheism and obtaining perfect authenticity (ikhlas)of devotion is essentially a primary, condition for attaining the stage reserved for awliya’ Allah, and there are even higher stages which they can attain, but, here, it would be out of place to go into these details. Our Imams, upon whom be peace, have declared that their worship was the worship of emancipated souls (ahrar), which was performed for the sake of love of God alone, neither due to the fear of hell nor in the hope of heaven; and they considered this stage to be the first step of their wilayah. To them worship is a state of ecstasy and rapture which is beyond the reach of our imagination and understanding. Apart from the above-mentioned ahadith narrated from the Prophet (S) and Amir al-mu’minin (A), there is another hadith also, reported by Zurarah from imam Abu Ja’far (A), which is as follows:
Zurarah reports that he questioned al-Imam al-Baqir (A) about the status of a person who performed good deeds, which were seen by others and it made him happy. Said the Imam (A): "There is no harm in it; there is no one who does not like that his good deeds be made known to the people, in case he does not perform them [solely] for the sake of attracting their admiration. 
In one of the two ahadith, the tendency of performing good deeds for the sake of earning respect and admiration is considered as the sign of riya’, while in another hadith it is stated that there is no harm in the joy resulting from the demonstration of a good deed. These two different positions are taken in view of the category to which an individual belongs. There are certain other reasons also for such a view, but we shall abstain from mentioning them.
What is Sum’ah ?
At the end, it is to be noted that sum`ah means to orally transmit one’s good qualities to the ears of people for the purpose of attracting them and publicizing oneself, and this tendency is a branch of the vicious tree of riya’. For the same reason we have dealt withsum’ah as a part of riya’, not as a distinct vice, and have not elaborated its meaning separately.
An Exposition on 40 ahadith narrated through the Prophet [s] and his Ahlal-Bayt [a]
Translated by: Mahliqa Qara’i (late) and Ali Quli Qara’i
First Hadith: On the Tradition of the Forty Ahadith -PART 1
Lord! Grant brightness of sincerity to the mirror of the heart, Cleanse the rust of hypocrisy from the tablet of the heart, and show the path of virtue and salvation to the helpless wanderers in the mazes of the bewilderment and error and confusion. Endow us with the nobleness and generosity of character. Reveal to us your glory and splendour, that you have reserved only for your chosen servants. Expel the legions of Satan and ignorance from the realms of our heart, implant the divine hosts of knowledge and wisdom in their stead. Enrich our hearts with the profusion of your love and that of your Chosen in this transitory world, this ephemeral lodging place. And shower Your choicest blessing upon us at the time of death and thereafter. Extend to us your mercy, and grant us proximity to the Highest Good.
PURPOSE OF WRITING THE BOOK:
I, a humble servant of God, was contemplating for some time, to select forty hadith from among the ahadith of the members of the Household of the Prophet (S) from the authentic books of the sahabah, and scholars, and was trying to compile them with an appropriate explanation of each of them that can be applied to the general conditions of the people. I chose to write them in Persian, so that the Persian knowing people may also be benefited from them. God willing, this compilation would be an attempt to serve the command of the Prophet (S) who said:
From among my followers, one who shall preserve and protect my forty ahadith, so that my people may be benefited from them, God Almighty will treat him on the Day of Resurrection with great men of wisdom and learning (jurisprudence).€
Al-Sukuni relates on the authority of Abu `Abd Allah al-Sadiq (A): `Verily on seeing the returning armies from the battlefront, the Prophet (S) of God said: Blessed are those who have performed the minor jihad, and have yet to perform the major one. When asked, what is the major jihad? the Prophet replied, "the jihad of the self" (struggle against self)
is the section (contingent) of a big army, and it has been said that four hundred is an optimum number for the best sariyyah. According to the wordings of the tradition this can be inferred that man is a marvel possessing two lives and two worlds within one existence. That is, apparent life or the outward world, which is this worldly existence, and is associated with his body, and the other is `inner life’, the inward world, associated with the hidden, invisible, higher other world, his soul in short, which belongs to the realms of invisible and celestial world, and consists of several levels and grades. These levels are generally divided sometimes into seven sections and sometimes into four. They are sometimes divided into three, and sometimes into just two sections. For each one of them is specified host of guardians. The host related with the divine and intellectual powers attracts him towards the sublime, heavenly spheres, and summons him to the acts of virtue and goodness. The other host of guardians is the ignoble and satanic which attracts man towards the baser realms of darkness and shame, and invites him to the acts of villainy and destruction. There is always a state of conflict and strive between these two forces, and human existence serves as the battleground of these two bands. When the divine forces of good become successful, man emerges as a virtuous and blessed being, and attains the high station of angels, and is congregated under the category of prophets, saints and the pious. When the satanic forces of darkness dominate, man becomes a rebellious and vicious being, and is flocked with the fiendish group of the infidels and cursed. Since this is not an occasion to discuss it here, I shall take up this issue of the crusade of the self whenever the self and causes of its deterioration and perfection would be discussed in the latter passages.
This grade itself consists of different stages (fusul). You have to know that the lowest of them is the worldly and outward human existence comprising the initial stages of the self and its apparent. manifestations. The divine spark is blended with the physical to form man’s earthly existence. It is here in this body that the armies of good and evil are stationed, and the visible potentialities of body function as warring forces. It has seven quarters. They are: ears, eyes, tongue, stomach, private parts, and arms and legs. All these diffused faculties under the control of the self are employed by the self in seven spheres of life. The seat of imagination also is an important faculty, as the thought and imagination are sovereign over all visible and invisible human faculties. If the faculty of thought resolves to employ all other faculties to move in the fiendish directions, all of them are converted into satanic forces and the whole territory (of existence) is turned into a satanic domain, and the forces of piety, rationality and good are weakened and subjugated by them. As a result they wind up their business and leave off the scene, vacating the empire for the possession of Satan. If the faith and reason take possession of the mind, and they command all human faculties to work in their own direction, man acts according to the dictates of reason and faith (shar‘), thus making the empire (of his existence) a domain of divine and rational powers, and compel satanic forces to retreat with all its weaponry accepting defeat.
Thus the jihad of the self is the jihad of greater importance. This jihad is superior to being killed in the way of God, since this condition implies overpowering one’s own powers and faculties, and placing them under the yoke of God’s command, and purging the domain of our body of satanic elements and their forces.
Contemplation The First Step:
The first and foremost condition for one’s strife with his own self, and hence his movement towards God essentially means introspection and self-reflection. Some of the moral philosophers have given it the fifth position in priorities, which is also correct. Here introspection is used in the sense of devoting some time, however insignificant it is, contemplating about our duties towards our Master and Creator, Who has brought us into this world, and Who has bestowed upon us all the means of pleasure and joys of life, Who has equipped us with a sound body and faultless faculties and senses, each of whom serves a specific purpose of its own, and whose functioning bewilders human intellect. In addition to all these endowments and graces, He has sent so many prophets and His Holy Book for our guidance and invited us to receive His blessings. Whether all these things have been granted to us by the Master and Emperor of all kings merely to serve this animal existence and to satisfy our appetites and instincts, which we share with other animals, or whether there is some higher aim? Whether all the prophets of God, great sages, thinkers and scholars of every nation have invited the people to follow certain rational principles and Divine legislation, and asked the people to abstain from all animal tendencies and detach themselves from this mortal and perishable habitation were their enemies, or they had conceived an entirely different idea of salvation, which we ordinary human creatures, blindly obeying the dictates of lust, could not conceive?
If we reflect in a rational manner for a moment, we shall realize that the aim of imparting to us all these graces and endowments is something else, superior to and higher than what is visible. This world is a stage of action and its aim is a higher and more sublime sphere of existence. This lower and animal existence is not an end in itself. A rational man should think of his own self introspectively and should feel pity for his state of helplessness. With a sense of pity he should address his own self saying; "O callous self! Thou has wasted precious years of thy short life in pursuance of hedonistic and sensuous propensities! And nothing is gained except regret and sense of loss. Thou should be regretful before God for thy past deeds, and commence a new journey in the direction of His prescribed goal, the journey that leads to the life of eternity and perpetual bliss. Thou should not bargain short-lived transitory joys, which are hard to obtain for eternal bliss and felicity. Think for a while, O Callous self! Thou should think over the conditions of the people from the dawn of civilization up to the present time that is witnessed by thee. See and balance their hardships and torments with the comforts and pleasures they could attain, and thou shall see their pains and sufferings always overwhelmed and cancelled their joys and pleasures. Joys and pleasures are not for everyone in this life. One who invites and induces thee to pursue the worldly joys and material gains, is evidently one of the satanic hosts in the human form, who undoubtedly is an emissary of the Satan. ‘ He always induces other men to join him in his indulgence in sensualities, and declares his conviction in material life herewith. At this juncture, O self! thou should pause for a moment, and think whether he is satisfied with his own condition, or whether all this points to one who himself is inflicted, and wants to taint others’ poor life with the same vice. O self! thou should entreatingly ask God’s approval of thine acts, and seek His pleasure. Pray to Him that thine acts be approved by Him. Between Him and thee there is always a spark of hope. This hope is realized in thy thinking with firm resolution to fight against the Satan and thine own baser self. This strife with the self leads thee to a higher stage, and try thy best to attain that through sincere struggle."
Will and Resolution:
The next stage, after the stage of contemplation and ponderance through which an individual striving to progress on the spiritual path has to pass, is the stage of resolution. (This is a different thing from volition, which al-Shaykh al-Ra’is Ibn Sina, in `al-‘Isharat’,alludes to as the initial stage of `irfan). Some of our revered scholars (may God grant them longevity) also state that resolution is the essence of humanity and criterion of human freedom. The differences in human gradation are actually indicative of the discrepancy of the stages of human resolution. The resolution which is required for this particular stage is synonymous with laying the foundation of a good life, a resolution to purge life from sin, and to perform all obligatory (wajib) acts, and a resolution to compensate for the days lost (in sinfulness), and finally resolve to behave as a rational and religious person ought to. That is, he should adopt a behaviour that is in accordance with the codes of religious law, which would acknowledge him as a real human being, a rational man. His gait and manner should be an imitation and copy of the Prophet’s life. He must, in appearance, follow the Prophet (S) as a model in his manner and actions, in his abstinences and his choices. This is quite possible, since it is in the powers of ordinary servants of God seemingly to act in the way of that great leader of human beings.
You should know that no path for the realization of divine existence can be undertaken unless one familiarizes himself with the apparent or overt form of Shari`ah. Unless a person fully acquaints himself with the knowledge of the Shari`ah laws and follows them faithfully, the higher values of morality cannot be attained by him. Without adhering to the apparent teachings of Islam it is not possible that the light of the Divine Knowledge could descend upon his heart, and the wisdom of the invisible, and the mysteries of the holy law be revealed to him. After attaining this stage, the truth unveiled for him and enlightenment bestowed upon his heart, a person would act with greater observance of the manifest forms of religion. This falsifies the claims of pseudo spiritualists, who say that the inner perfection can only be acquired by relinquishing outer accomplishments, or, that after acquiring inner excellences, necessity of observing outward forms does not remain obligatory. This is a mistaken conception born of ignorance about the stages of worship and the different grades of human progress. We shall deal with this subject in the latter chapters, may God grant it so.
Effort and Struggle (Spiritual):
Dear friend: try to be a man of strong will-power and resolution, so that you may not go from this world as a person without resolution, and hence rise on the day of resurrection as a brainless-being, not in the form of human being. For the other-world is the place where what is hidden is unveiled and secrets are exposed. One’s audacity to commit sin, converts him little by little into a man devoid of will-power, and takes away the noble essence of humanity from him. Our respected teacher used to say that more than anything else, giving the ears to the sounds of music and songs, steal from men their will-power and the power of resolution. Hence, my brother, desist from transgression, resolve to return to God, and acquire a mien similar to that of true human being. Join the community of the men of religion and in seclusion pray to God, so that He may assist you in your mission, and pray that the Prophet (S) and the members of his Household (AS), intercede for you. May God bestow His graces and favours upon you. May He escort you in the coming dangers, since the path of life is full of great risks and hazards. On the way of life there are very deep crevices and it is possible that one may stumble and fall in them in such a manner that none of his efforts could save him from the coming catastrophe. It is also probable that in some cases the intercedings of an intercessor cannot save him either.
Self-Examination and Stipulation (musharatah)
Self-conditioning, contemplation and self-examination are essential pre-requisites for a seeker (mujahid) of truth who is battling with his self. Self-conditioning or stipulation means binding oneself with the resolve not to do anything against God’s commands. This is called musharatah, such as `I will not violate the Law of God today.’ It is very easy to stick to such condition for one day. Try to resolve, abide by your own resolve, and experiment, and you will see that how easy this task is. Satan, the cursed creature, and his legions may magnify the volume of the task in your eyes, but these are the guiles played by the cheat. Curse, and drive the Devil and evil thoughts from within the depths of the heart and the domain of your mind. Experiment for one day and you will verify how easy this task is.
Guarding Against Evil –
After stipulating about his acts, man should enter this stage. It is essential that throughout the period of stipulation the mujahid struggling against his own self should constantly concentrate upon his actions. If any time any idea of violating Divine commands occurs to him, he should know that this idea has been instilled into his mind by the Satan and his allies, who want to deter him from his good resolutions. He ought to curse them, and seek God’s compassionate protection, and banish those villainous ideas from the realm of his heart, and tell the Satan that this day also he has to abide by the condition imposed upon his own self that he would not go against God’s commands, as He is the One Who has provided him with all the excellences and bounties. It is He, Who has given him the riches of health, security and peace year after year in this world. In recognition of all God’s graces it is not sufficient even if he serves Him till eternity, let alone a trivial thing like this. I hope, that Satan will be driven away, and the Divine forces will prevail. I assure you that this practice of self-criticism and self-examination would not hinder your day-to-day activity. I advise you to remain in the same state of mind till night-the time for introspection and inner deliberation-and evaluate your deeds of the whole day. This is the time to see whether you have been honest to the Giver of all, to whom everybody is accountable. If you have been faithful to Him, you should be thankful to Him, that He has made you successful in your intentions. And realize that you have gone a step forward in His direction and became an object of His attention. God willing, God will help you in performing all worldly and religious duties, and will diminish your pains for the next day. If you repeat this many times, it is imminent that you will be accustomed to the acts of piety. You will see then that all this does not require you to make hard efforts. You will also notice that obedience to God gives ample pleasure. Though this world is not where one is immediately rewarded, yet faithfulness to God and abstaining from sins is fruitful in this world also. God never entrusts His creatures with cumbersome and heavy tasks which are beyond their powers, but it is the Satan and his allies who magnify them in your view. God forbid, if there are any lapses on your part, ask God’s forgiveness, and beseechingly implore Him that you will be more careful in future, so that the Almighty may throw open the doors of His grace and compassion to you, and may guide you in the straight path.
The factors, that fully assist man in his jihad with his self and the Satan, and to which a treader mujahid has to pay greater attention is constant remembrance of God. Though there are many other important stages, I will be content to discuss this stage here. Remembrance of God, remembering the graces bestowed by Him. You know that thankfulness is natural and man’s nature commands man to be grateful to his benefactor. If one tries to read the book of his own heart, he will see that this law is written there. The sense of veneration and gratitude for the benefactors increases with the amount of benefaction, particularly if the benefactor’s generosity has no selfish motive. Greater the selfless generosity, greater is sense of gratitude. For example, compare the extent of veneration for one who presents you a horse with a selfish motive, with the respect you have for a person, who grants you a village of several hectares, without any inkling of selfish motives. If a doctor rescues you from the darkness of blindness, you naturally owe to him a lot of respect, and if someone saves you from the clutches of death, you owe him a lot more. You yourselves reflect and estimate the seen and unseen favours bestowed on us by the Almighty, even a small fraction of which all men and the jinn cannot even provide us with. Take for instance the air we breathe day and night, upon which our existence as well as that of other living beings is dependent, nothing can remain alive even if it is taken off merely for a quarter of an hour. What a marvellous gift it is! If all men and the jinn of the world labour hard to contrive such a thing, they cannot do that. In the same way, try to recall other gifts of God also, like external bodily senses viz. sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch, etc., and inner faculties like thinking, imagination and reason, etc., each one of which carries unlimited benefits and which are granted to us by Our Lord. Besides these valuable gifts, there are several other gifts also. Moreover, He has sent His messengers and prophets and His Books as well to show us which path is right and which one is wrong, which path leads us to Heaven or Hell. He fulfils all our needs in this world and the Hereafter, without having any need of our adoration. Observance of His commands, or transgressing them does not make any difference to Him, it is for the sake of our own benefit that He has enjoined good and forbidden indecencies. While remembering all these and various other favours, whose reckoning is beyond the powers of human beings, do we not see that respecting and obeying such a Benefactor is essential for us, or does our reason approve of the acts of violating His commands?
This is an evident fact that we respect great people and those older in age. This is also true that people respect the wealthy and powerful persons, and rulers and kings, since they are recognized as great. Can their greatness be matched with the grandeur and magnificence of that King of kings, in Whose kingdom this world of us is merely a particle of dust. He is the Creator and King of this vast cosmos, whose infiniteness cannot be measured or even conceived by human intellect. Human being, a creature crawling on one of the smallest planets miserably fails to grasp the extent of his own small world, whose sun cannot be compared with far greater suns of innumerable galaxies. Our solar system is nothing as compared to lesser several other solar systems, which still elude the keen eyes (and refined telescopes) of great explorers and investigators of the world. Is that Greatest of the great, who can know and cover not only minute details of these known worlds, but of many more unknown worlds, in a twinkling of an eye, is not venerable according to the dictates of reason, as well as in the light of the great book of nature? If any one fails to do this, he ought to be extra watchful and careful, since God Almighty is present everywhere, and no odd corner of the world can delude his Omnipresent sight. Every living being is within the range of His view and all knowledge is in His infinite attendance, so never forget Him. A speck of penitence in one’s heart would not melt any person into water, and he would not fall to the ground. Therefore, my dear friend, remember God and remember all His favours and graces, and stop disobeying Him. Overpower and subdue the satanic band in this great war, and convert the spheres of your mind into divine realm by driving out the satanic legions and inviting the divine hosts, so that God may succour and protect you in the dangers threatening to befall you in this battle. The battlefield, which is more immense than this one, is the scene of the battle (jihad)against thine own self, the invisible world of within and the second stage of this jihad. Weshall deal with this subject afterwards. By the time, I remind you not to have any expectations from anyone but God. Except Him, the Almighty, nobody can help you. With all humility and with all the tears your eyes can offer (to wash your sins), pray to God and seek His assistance to emerge victorious in this crucial battle. wa innahu wali al-tawfiq
The Second Stage:
The second stage also consists of several steps:
The human soul inhabits another realm and another territory also, which is the world of the hidden and the sphere of the sublime world. In that world, the role of the sensual forces assumes graver dimensions. This is the place, where the struggle and conflict between the divine forces and the fiendish ones is more severe and also more significant. Everything that exists in the external or visible world drifts to this hidden world, and is manifested there. Whichever of the forces whether godly or devilish, is victorious here is essentially triumphant there also. So, the jihad al-nafs or the internal struggle is of great significance for all great religious thinkers, mystics and moralists. It can be rather considered as the origin and the source of all felicities or woes, and of promotion and sublimation or debasement and degradation of self. One should be extremely self-conscious while undertaking this jihad. Because, it is possible that, God forbid, due to the defeat of heavenly forces, the self is left vacant for the unholy occupation of the vicious and unworthy satanic legions, and hence causing an eternal loss to the human being that cannot be retrieved. Even the intercession of an intercessor cannot save him from becoming an object of the wrath and indignation of the Most Merciful of the merciful. It is also possible that man’s intercessor may become his adversary. It is a pity that such a thing should happen to anyone that one who pleads for him should become his opponent. God alone knows that what misfortunes, what perils and what hardships are to follow Divine wrath and antagonism of God’s friends, compared to which all the infernal fires, plagues, evils, serpents and scorpions are insignificant and mild. God forbid, whatever sufferings of hell have been described by saints, ascetics and mystics, compared to them all the imaginable pains and sufferings of this world are very mild. All of the torments about which we have heard, are trifle and insignificant when compared to the miseries one has to undergo in the Hereafter. Heaven and hell whose account has been given in the Book and in the traditions of prophets of God are certainly the heaven and hell of wicked actions, and are prepared for rewarding or punishing good and bad human deeds. There is a subtle allusion also to the heaven and hell of morality, which is more significant than even the Bihisht-e liqa, the heaven of beatific vision, and the Jahannam-e firaq, the hell of separation from Him. This is considered to be of great significance but is hidden from our eyes and is opened to them alone who deserve it. You and me who do not deserve it should not doubt it. We should have faith in it, since God and His friends have told us that this non-detailed (ijmali) faith also is beneficial for us. Sometimes, it is also possible that unbelief arising out of ignorance, and unreasonable rejection, without any knowledge and understanding of the truth may bring great harm to us, the extent of which is unthinkable. In this world we cannot understand those harms. If you hear something which has been reported from any thinker, mystic or ascetic, do not refute it or consider it invalid just because it is not in accordance with your taste, or does not fit in your mode of thinking. This idea may have its origin in a higher source, inaccessible to you like the Quran, hadith or reason. How strange it will be that afaqih issues a fatwa (a religious or legal opinion) regarding a certain ayah (a pecuniary compensation for any offence against a person) of which you are ignorant, and you reject it without checking the relevant evidences. Or, when a holy person or a mystic speaks something concerning religious learning, or he refers to the conditions of heaven or hell, it is easy for you to refute him or even dare to insult him. For it does not need much thinking or knowledge. But do not forget that it is possible that the person, who is an authority on that subject and a master in that field, might have traced it back to the Holy Book, or has access to some traditions transmitted from infallible Imams (AS), and you may not have come across it. In that case, you would be guilty of rejecting God and His Prophet (S) without any plausible excuse. You have no justification to say later that your judgement was not correct, your knowledge was limited, or that you had heard a certain person speaking otherwise on the minbar (pulpit); such excuses are unfounded, and in any case let not your objective be blurred.
Whatever has been related about the paradise of good morals and deeds and about the inferno of bad morals and deeds refers to the states, which we cannot experience here. Thus, my friend ! take great care, search for remedy, and try to discover the ways and means of deliverance for yourself. Seek refuge in God, the Most Merciful and Beneficent, and beseech His mercy with humble supplications and lamentation, so that He may help you in this holy war against your carnal self and you may be victorious and the domain of your heart may be liberated from evil influences. The fiendish legions may be turned out of the place so that it may be given in the possession of its rightful Owner, and the felicities, honours and joys may be granted to you by God. All the praises that you have heard of the Heaven, its houris and its mansions, are nothing compared to Divine Bliss, nothing can be estimated higher. That domain is absolutely a divine sphere, which has been described by the friends of God from this rightly guided luminous ummah (millat-e bayda). This is a world of pleasures which no ear has ever heard of, and no human heart has ever experienced.
Hidden or Inner Powers (Quwwa-e batini):
You should know that with His Wisdom and Authority, God Almighty has created certain powers and faculties in the invisible world of the inner self. They are of enormous benefits for us. Here we shall mention three of them: they are, al-quwwah al-wahmiyyah-the power of invention or imagination, al-quwwah al-ghadabiyyah-the power of passion or anger, andal-quwwah al-shahwiyyah-the power of lust or sensuality. Each of these powers is of great benefit to the mankind, like the preservation of the human individual and species, advancement of human interests in this world as well as in the Hereafter, of which religious scholars have given elaborate accounts and I need not repeat them. What is essential to state here is that these three powers are the source and origin of all virtuous and vicious deeds, and the source of all invisible and sublime forms. Briefly speaking, as man possesses a physical and a terrestrial form in this world, which is devised and contrived by the Almighty in such a wonderful manner that all great philosophers and scientists are puzzled, and the science of anatomy is not fully equipped to discover and understand its functioning rightly even to this day. God has made man superior to other living beings by endowing him a superb constitution and a beautiful appearance. Yet there is another form and a different face of him, which is heavenly and invisible, which is determined by the qualities of his soul and his inner nature. In the Hereafter, whether it is in the Barzakh (an interval of time between the death of man and his resurrection) or whether on the Last Day, if one’s inner nature, his deeds and his inner self are really human, his heavenly visage also will be man-like. But if his deeds are inhuman, he will not possess human form; it will be rather subject to the state of his inner self and his psyche. For instance, if his inner self is dominated by the power of lust or sensuality (al-quwwah al-shahwiyyah) and animality and brutality overwhelm and govern his inner self, his other-worldly visage will be of a brute and the reign of his inner world would be under the control of one of the beasts, corresponding to that quality of his soul. If the power of passion or anger conquers one’s inner self and his psyche, his other-worldly appearance will resemble one of the bestial forms, corresponding to that attribute of his nature. And if the power of imagination and invention is governed by fiendish forces and his inner self is made vicious, governed by the vices like deceit, dishonesty, slandering, backbiting, which are the attributes of Satan, he may undergo a metamorphosis and assume one of the forms of Satan. Sometimes it is also possible that he would have an appearance that symbolizes two or several vices. In that case, a form which does not resemble any of the brutes, but an unusual and queer form, with which cannot be compared the most terrible and ugliest monster in the world, will be acquired by him.
It has been recorded from the Prophet (S) of God that some persons will be raised on the Last Day in such a mien that even monkeys and dog flies will appear better looking than that. It is also possible that several forms may be prescribed for one individual in that world. Because that world is not like this world, where one individual cannot acquire more than one form. This account itself is logical as well as self-evident. Because, the criterion of those different forms (of which human form is one) would be the state of soul at the time of death the state in which the soul departs from the body. It is in this very state and form that man’s soul enters the realm of Barzakh. At the time of entering the other world, that is, the domain of the Hereafter, the first stage of which is Barzakh, in whichever state one’s soul departs from the body, it assumes a form suited to it in the next world also. It is the same form in which he is perceived by the inhabitants of Barzakh and by himself, when he first opens his eyes there, if he has not lost his sight to do so. Because, it is not necessary that man may enter the next world in the same physical state as he had in this world. God Himself says that on the Last Day some of the persons will ask God that why has He raised them as blind while they possessed eyes in the world. God will answer them that as they disregarded His clear signs in the world, they are forgotten and disregarded by God today.
O poor fellow! You had only external sight and were blind inwardly. You are realizing your blindness now, while you were already blind from the very beginning. You did not possess the inner vision which could perceive His clear signs. You, the poor creature, who was endowed with a perfect earthly body and proportionate form, alas you did not know that the measures of the hidden and sublime world are different from this world. You should strive for inner uprightness, so that you may be upright on the Last Day. Your spirit should be a human spirit, so that your form in the Barzakh and the Hereafter may be a human form. You are mistaken to consider the world of the hidden realities, where the secrets of this world are to be unveiled and your deeds are to be disclosed, as similar to this world of appearances, where one can deceive others and can create chaos, confusion and misjudgement. Your eyes and ears, your hands and feet, and other parts of your body will bear witness against your deeds in this world with their supernatural tongues. Some of them may also appear in their celestial forms. So, my friend, it is necessary to keep open the ears of your heart. Be brave, and have mercy on your own self, so that you may leave this world in a human form, and may be counted as redeemed and virtuous. Mind you, these words repeatedly occur in the speeches and teachings of great thinkers, in the inspirations of mystics and in the transmissions of the truthful and infallible servants of God.
How to Regulate Human Instincts:
It is possible that wahm, the power of imagination and invention, ghadab-the power of passion and anger, and shahwah-the power of lust or sensuality, also possess divine aspect, and may bring about felicity and good luck to man, if these powers are subjected to the dictates of reason and good sense and the teachings of prophets of God. They may become satanic forces if they are unleashed and the power of invention and imagination is allowed to rule and lead other two powers. It is not a secret that none of the prophets of God ever tried to eradicate the powers of passion, sensuality or imagination completely. None of the messengers of God have ever demanded to completely kill sensuality and desire or to extinguish the fire of passion or anger and ignore the inventions of imagination. But they have rather advocated for controlling and bridling them and making them function under the command of reason and Divine Laws. For each one of these powers struggles to dominate others and win its goal, whatever mischief, chaos and confusion may be stirred up. For instance, the obstinate bestial self is determined to reach its goal even if it is resolved on committing adultery with married women in the Holy Ka’bah. Intractable power of passion arouses the self to win its objective even if it is contemplating to kill prophets and the friends of God. And the power of imagination, while devising satanic instruments, wants to go its own way, to cause corruption of the whole climate on earth, and to create chaos and disorder in the world.
The great prophets of God were sent to this world with the light of Divine Laws. God revealed to them heavenly books, so that they may prevent people from indulging into extravagances and immoderations, and bring the human self under the control of reason and the law of Shari`ah. To bridle the human self is essential so that it may not exceed the measures of reason and Shari’ah. Hence, every individual who subordinates himself to the Divine Laws and principles of good sense is fortunate, and it is he who attains salvation. He finds refuge in God, the Most Exalted and the Most High, from the dangers and misfortunes which might befall him, and thus is saved from the disgrace of assuming those beastly and hideous forms that may accompany him in the Barzakh, in the grave and on the Last Day, as the result of his vicious deeds and corrupt practices.
How to Bridle Fancy and Imagination:
The first condition for a mujahid in his struggle that he has to observe and abide by, at this juncture and at all other stages, is to control the flight of one’s imagination, so that he can subjugate the Devil and his armies. Imagination is like a bird restless to fly, and sit on any tree it reaches. This flight may bring about many great misfortunes. Fancy is one of the tools of the Devil, with which he enslaves man and renders him helpless. With the help of fancy, he entices men to committing villainies and indecencies.
A mujahid who is determined on self-rectification, and who has made up his mind to purify his inner self and banish satanic forces from there, should firmly hold the bridle of his imagination and let not it soar and wander about wherever it likes. He should try to prevent his mind from nursing corrupt and sinful thoughts, and always divert it to high and noble ideals. In the beginning, it appears to be a little difficult, since Satan and his forces may glorify bad things in your eyes. But with little concentration and attention everything becomes easy. It is possible that as an experiment you may just think for a while, and will not be able to concentrate upon an object. Whenever you see that your thoughts are stooping to lowly and mean things, turn your attention aside from them and think about the worthier and nobler things. If you have been successful in your attempts, thank God Almighty for His help, and pursue these matters further. May God, out of His mercy, open the path of spiritual progress for you, and may you be invisibly guided in the straight path. May human deeds and right conduct be made easy for you. Be careful that vicious thoughts and vain fancies are induced by Satan, who wishes to fortify its forces in the domain of your inner self. You, who are at war with Satan and his legions, and want to make the realm of your inner self a heavenly domain, are expected to be on guard against the guiles of the cursed villain. You should drive away those thoughts that counter Divine command. God willing, you will be able to recapture this significant fortification from the unholy occupation of Satan and his allies, in this internal war. This fortification serves as a boundary (between good and evil). If you are victorious here you may hope for greater and nobler victories.
My dear friend, seek for God’s help at every moment. Pray and beg humbly in the court of your Lord.
O God Almighty! Satan is a great enemy, who has enticed your great friends and prophets. O God! help this weak and entrapped servant of yours, and guard him against these vain ideas and these infirm thoughts that inflict me, so that he may succeed in his war against this strong enemy, who is threatening to destroy my felicity and humanity. O God! please accompany Thy servant and guide him so that he may drive the Satan’s armies from Your seat, and may clip the hands of this usurper.
Estimation and appraisal:
The thing which is to be strictly followed during this process is the estimation and evaluation (of vices and virtues). An intelligent person should carefully examine the effects and demerits of each one of moral vices and bad deeds, which are the product of sensuality, passion and imagination, and are under the control of Satan. He has to compare them with the benefits and blessings of good deeds and moral and spiritual excellences, which are under the guidance of reason and religious law (Shari`ah) and then decide which way is better to act. For instance, the advantages of obeying the dictates of uninhibited sensuality that gets hold of the human soul and firmly takes its roots there, and gives rise to many vices to flourish, may be taken into consideration. In the course of time the sensual aptitudes develop, and a person does not hesitate to commit any of the vices, and tries all means and ways to obtain the sensual pleasure at any cost, and does not fail to perpetrate any crime which he desires to commit, even if it results in something extremely vicious. As a result of letting loose one’s passions several other vices are born and become his second nature. And he is more than ready to maltreat and subdue everyone who comes in his way. Those who react against oppressive activities and try to defend themselves, or show any signs of disagreement or hostility are crushed and oppressed by him. He tries to repel all oppositions by all means, although it may lead to an outbreak of corruption in the world. In the same way, the person, who has surrendered himself to the demonaic power of imagination and lets it to be firmly rooted in his soul, does not hesitate to indulge in a fit of excessive passion and sensuality with all his satanic designs and treacheries and rule over the creatures of God by all kinds of unjust means, even if it is to dispossess a family of their belongings or stripping a city or a country of its resources.
These are the achievements of these faculties, while they are active under the ignoble supervision of Satan. If we think about it, and examine the plight of such people, we shall notice that every one of them, despite the enormous strength they possess, and most of their wishes being fulfilled, they still nurture thousands of new desires that are yet to be fulfilled. It is not possible in this world that all the desires and ambitions that we cherish be fulfilled here, since this world is the abode of obstacles. The elements of this world dispirit our wishes. Our desires are also not limited. For instance, the power of sensuality and lust acts in man in such a way that if he is given one woman, he is attracted to other women. If he is given an empire, he will hanker after some other empire. Man always desires for what he does not possess. In spite of this vanity of imagination and futility of human desire, the kiln of sensuality is always hot, and its heat ever increasing, and our desires are never cooled down. Similarly, the forces of passion are implanted in human nature in such a way that even if he is made an absolute monarch of a state, he will be attracted towards another state, which he cannot get, and he will try to pounce on it with all the force he can muster. This power is also ever increasing. Anyone who has any doubt is advised to examine his own self and other human beings belonging to the classes of poor, rich and powerful; he will agree with me. It is obvious that man is always allured by something which he does not own. This is the human nature as conceived by various great Islamic thinkers and holy men, especially one should refer to a great master of divinity, Mirza Muhammad `Ali Shahabadi.
Anyhow, even if man attains his goals, for how long can he be benefited from them? How long his youthful years are to continue? When the spring of youth fades out and the autumn of his life sets in, his heart has no more a zest for mirth and joy, his organs lose their vitality and those activities lose their relish. His eyes dim, his hearing is impaired, his sense of touch and other senses and faculties weaken. Ability to get pleasure declines or is completely lost. Then hosts of ailments make him an easy prey. His digestive, assimilative and excretory system fails, and his respiratory system cannot perform it: function properly. Nothing but deep sighs, displeasure, regret and remorse are left to accompany him. Thus, the duration of our exploitation of these bodily powers, from the days when one gains consciousness of good and bad till the process of decline sets in, is not more than thirty or forty years, even for a person of very strong constitution. That too, if one does not happen to come across all sorts of diseases and afflictions, which we witness every day and forget about. If, for the time being, we take it for granted (although it has no reality), that a man can attain the age of one hundred and fifty years, with all opportunities of involving oneself fully in all the three indulgences-sensuality, passion and imagination, excluding all the chances of coming across any adversities and misfortunes, even this period of time would prove short, and pass soon like the winds and what would be in store for you for the next world? What benefit will you derive from all these treasures of amusements for your eternal life? What will save you from the horrors of the day of doom, helplessness, desolation and loneliness? What will you present on the Day of Judgement, and how would you face God, His angels, and His chosen servants and prophets? Of course, nothing will accompany you except your wicked and sinful deeds, which will metamorphose you in such a form that would not be known to anybody except God. Everything that you have heard and conceived about the infernal fire, torments of the grave and agonies of the Doomsday, etc., you measured them with the worldly fire and worldly pains. What a gross error you committed. Fire of this world is relatively an accident, and all the horrors are easy to bear. Your estimation of the other world on the basis of this one is imperfect and faulty. Even if the fire burning throughout the world is accumulated at one place, it will not be hot enough to burn the human soul. In the next world, besides burning and roasting the body it will burn the soul and incinerate the heart also. Whatever you have been listening about till now, is actually the hell of one’s actions, which you will see in the Hereafter as a reality, for God Almighty has said:
… And they find all that they did confronting them, ….
You will have to face whatever you did in this world. If you thrived on the property of orphans, God alone knows in what state you will appear in hell and what comforts you will have to enjoy there as your reward. If here your harsh words have injured the hearts of people, this pain and discomfort caused to the hearts of the creatures of God, God alone knows, what punishment it will incur upon you in the Hereafter. You will know it only when you experience it what sort of pain and torture you have procured for yourselves. Because of your detractions, the other worldly and sublime form that was conceived for you is denied to you and you will. have to undergo the pains of chastisement.
This will be the hell of one’s actions, which is comparatively milder, cooler and tolerable, and is reserved for those who committed sins in this world. But for those who have acquired the viciousness of character and villainy of conduct like, greed, lust, hoarding, avarice, contentiousness, love of wealth, power and corporeal things, rapacity, ravenousness and other vices, the hell is their place, a place beyond human apprehension, a state and form which can never be anticipated by any stretch of the imagination, and emanates from within the soul itself. The inhabitants of that hell will be so distressed that they will try to escape from it, (but in vain). In some of the authentic narrations, it occurs that there is a valley in hell, which is reserved for the proud, and which is named as saqaronce it complained to God about the intensity of its heat, and asked Almighty for a relief, so that it might take a breath. After the relief was granted, when it breathed, its breath filled the hell with fire.
Sometimes one’s vices may cause a human being to become a permanent dweller of hell. Because they take away from him his faith and belief. For instance, a vice like jealousy, according to authentic traditions, eats away faith as the fire consumes wood. Another example is that of the love of the world, worldly power and riches, which, according to authentic narrations, consume the faith of a believer more rapidly than two wolves let loose on a sheep herd without a shepherd, one attacking from the front and the other from the back.
Adoration for the worldly things and lust for power deprives a believer of his belief, and God forbid, this sinfulness results in dark and ugly deeds, which finally leads to the loss of faith and one’s end as an infidel, and the hell of the false beliefs and erroneous faith is severer, hotter and darker than those two other hells, mentioned above.
My friend, the higher knowledge has proved that the grades of intensity are infinite. The punishment is severer than what you imagine or what others imagine. If you do not believe in the arguments advanced by philosophers, or the revelations made to mystics, thanks to God, being a true believer, you have faith in the teachings of the prophets of God, and you consider all the reports recorded in the authentic books of the traditions which are accepted by all the Imamiyyah scholars as true and authentic. I hope that you believe in the prayers of infallible Imams, and have read the prayers and sermons uttered by Imam `Ali (A), and the invocation by Imam Sayyid al-Sajidin (A) uttered in the prayer of Abu Hamzah al-Thumali. My friend, reflect a little upon their subject matter and think for a while on their wordings. It is nowhere required to make a rapid reading of the lengthy prayer in a hurry without pondering over its meaning. You and I are not blessed with the spiritual state of al-Imam al-Sayyid al-Sajidin (A) to recite that lengthy prayer in a state of sustained ecstasy at one time. Try to read one third or one fourth of it every night with feeling, and meditate upon its words. You may feel ecstatic while reading it. Apart from this, pay a little more attention to the meaning of Quranic verses, and see what punishment has been prescribed for the inhabitants of hell, to escape which they will pray to the Lord for death, and alas death also will not help, as God Almighty says:
…Alas, my grief that I was unmindful of Allah, and I was indeed among the scoffers!
What kind of regret it will be, of which Almighty is making an emphatic mention. Do not pass quickly, without pausing and meditating upon such verses of the Qur’an:
On the day when ye behold it, every nursing mother will forget her nursling and every pregnant will be delivered of her burden, and thou (Muhammad) will see mankind as drunken, yet they will not be drunken, but the Doom of Allah will be strong (upon them).
Here God Almighty is depicting the Doomsday. My friend, think yourself that, God forbid(na’udhu billah), the Quran is neither a story book, nor is it making jokes with you. What sort of condemnation it will be that will make people abandon their dear ones, and relieve pregnant women of their burden? What a great calamity it will be about which God Almighty, Whose greatness knows no extent, Whose supremacy and authority has no limits and bounds, is commenting upon in such solemn terms. What is going to happen God alone knows. Our intellect is insufficient to measure the extent of its magnanimity. If we study the transmissions and writings of the infallible Members of the Holy Household, and think over them, we shall see that the sight of misery and agony in that world will be quite different from this world, and cannot be equated with the misfortunes of this world.
Here I would like to quote a tradition from the great Shaykh of the Imamiyyah, al-Saduq, for you to demonstrate the meaning and extent of the misery, mentioned above. Nevertheless, this tradition narrated by him refers to the hell of the evil deeds and is comparatively a cooler place than other severer hells. I consider it essential to point out that al-Shaykh al-Saduq is the person who is held in great esteem and respect by all great religious scholars of rijal. He was born as the result of the prayer of the Imam (A), and was the object of great favour of Imam Mahdi (AF), and was among great writers of Shiite religious books. I quote this tradition with reference to a chain of great Imamiyyah scholars, all of whom are considered as authentic narrators of hadith. Hence, if you are a true believer, you should have faith in the following tradition. The gist of the hadith is as follows:
One day the Prophet (S) of God was seated when Gabriel came into his presence, with a sad face and changed complexion. The Prophet (S) asked as to why he was looking so sad and grieved. Gabriel answered, `O Muhammad (S), why should I be not grieved, while today I saw the bellows of hell being set in. The Prophet (S) asked him what the bellows of hell were. Gabriel told him that it referred to the hell-fire which according to the Commandments of God Almighty was ablaze for one thousand years. After it became red hot He ordered it to burn for another one thousand years till it was white-hot. Then He commanded it to burn for one thousand years more till it turned black. Now that it was black and dark, if a slice of seventy cubits of it was to drop on this world, verily its heat would be sufficient to melt the whole world into fluid. If a single drop of its Zaqqum (an infernal tree, mentioned in the Quran proverbial for its extreme bitterness) and dari (something in hell more bitter than aloe, more fetid than carrion, and hotter than fire, which will be the food of the condemned) trickles down in the water reservoirs of the earth, everybody therein would die due to its stench. Thereupon the Prophet (S) wept and Gabriel also wept with him. On seeing this, God sent His angel, who came to them and said that God sent salams to them along with the message that He exempted them both from the committing of sins and the consequent punishments.
My friend, there are a number of ahadith in this regard. Existence of hell and its horrible chastisements are among the essentials of all the religions of the world, which bring forward many arguments in favour of their necessity. And the great, mystics and saints have envisioned it even in this world. Try to imagine sincerely and contemplate the disheartening account of hell given in the tradition. If you consider it as probable only, even then should it not be sufficient to drive us to woods like the mad? What is the reason for our complacence and ignorance? Have the angels of God given us the tidings of being exempted from this punishment as they had given one to the Prophet (S) and Gabriel? Whereas the Prophet (S) and the friends of God could not be oblivious of the fear of God till the ends of their lives. They could not eat and sleep properly because of that fear. Look at the life of Imam ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn (A), whose weeping and moanings, lamentations and supplications melted human hearts. What is wrong with us that we do not feel ashamed? Even in our supplications to God, we so much violate and insult Divine principles, that a thousand pities on our thoughtlessness! Have pity on yourself and the extremity of the pangs of death. Again a thousand pities on our condition in Barzakh, the agonies of the Hereafter, and the Doomsday and its darkness! How pitiable are we who have to face the horrors of hell and its chastisement!
How to Cure Moral Maladies:
My friend! arise, awake from the slumber, be aware of your negligence and make an effort till there is time to repent. Consider this opportunity as valuable, until you are alive, your faculties and your powers are still under control, and you are young. Think about a cure before it is too late, and before moral maladies overpower your existence, and evils take deep roots in your existence and take you in the grips of their tentacles. Drive them away, find out a way of extinguishing the fire of your sensuality and passion. The best remedy prescribed by mystics and moralists is to concentrate upon each one of the evil habits that you detect in yourself, and offer an effective resistance against them. Fight bravely against your carnal self. Act unceasingly all the time against those vicious yearnings. Pray Almighty to assist you in this battle. Undoubtedly after sometime hideous habits would leave you, and Satan and his legions would vacate the fortress, and the battalions of heavenly armies would be installed in their stead.
One of the moral maladies, which may destroy one, cause torment of the grave, and plague man in this world, is the maltreatment of the people of his household, his neighbours, his colleagues and others around him. It is the product of passion and sensuality. If the mujahid is determined on correcting himself, he can counter those impulses of indignation, resentment and vituperation with gentleness and kindness, remembering the Hereafter and the chastisements therein. He should curse the Devil in his heart and take refuge in God. I give you word that if you behave persistently like this, after some time you will realize that your nature is totally transformed and good habits have taken the place of the bad ones. But if you behave according to the propensities of your nature, it is possible that they consume you in this world itself. I seek refuge in God from the anger, which when present in an individual destroys him in both the worlds. At the same time it kills his spirit also, because possibly one may use some indecent words against Divine principles in a fit of anger, as so many times we hear people uttering words of heresy and being guilty of apostasy thus.
Philosophers say that the chances of being saved in a ship without a captain from the stormy waves of ocean are brighter than those of a man being saved in an outburst of wild passion. God forbid, that we should ever belong to that category of people who become aggressive during academic discussions, as some of our students suffer from this intemperance. You have to resist against this bad tendency. Act against it, especially on the occasions of formal functions, which are attended by a great number of scholars and common men. During the discussions, if you see that the other party is justified in its argument, you are expected to admit your fault and confirm what opponents say. God willing, these meannesses will be eliminated in a short time. God forbid, that the words of some scholars, who claimed to be divinely inspired and said that it was revealed that the quarrel among the inhabitants of hell, mentioned by God, is that of the scholars and transmitters of ahadith, should ever be true. Even if you do not believe in the authenticity of this tradition, even then you should carefully try to get rid of this habit. See the following account:
It is narrated from many companions of the Prophet (S) that once as the Prophet (S) came to them they were engaged in wrangling over a religious issue. The Prophet (S) of Islam was greatly displeased and was indignant to this extent that they had never seen him before in such an anger. The Prophet (S) told them it was because of this habit of wrangling that their precursors were destroyed, and he added that a true believer would never wrangle. The Prophet (S) asked them to stop wrangling and told them that he would not act as an intercessor to any wrangler. Wrangling occupies the second place after idolatry among the things forbidden by God Almighty. The Prophet (S) is reported to have also said that unless a believer refrains from wrangling and altercation he cannot know the truth, in spite of his position being correct.
There are various traditions in this regard. How abominable it will be if we deprive ourselves of the intercession of the Prophet (S) for the sake of merely a trivial thing which has no value, no merit whatsoever. Intellectual discussions, which would otherwise be the highest order of service and worship if undertaken with sincere motives, end in such a catastrophe and wipe out all his good deeds and acts of worship. In all circumstances, man should focus his attention on each of his vices individually, and eradicate them from the domain of his soul by restraining his carnal self. Once the trespasser is driven out, the rightful owner of the house can readily come to take possession.
Since the struggle of the self concludes here and man succeeds in driving off the legions of satanic armies from the empire of his soul, this land becomes the abode of angels of God and a place of worship of truthful servants of God. Thus the task of pursuing the journey towards God becomes easier, and the road to humanism is illuminated. The doors of blessings from heaven and their ascending steps are opened to him, and the doors of hell and the descending steps thereof are closed on him. God Almighty views him with mercy and benevolence and unites him with His faithful and His blessed servants. The path to divine knowledge, which is the ultimate purpose of creation of mankind and jinn, is opened to him. God Almighty guards him through this hazardous path.
I wished to refer to the third stage of self (nafs), wherein another struggle against the deceptions and temptations of Satan takes place. But, on later thought, this description seems to be out of place here, so I left it undiscussed.