CONCERNING THEIR IMAMS WHO BELONGED TO THE HOUSE OF THE PROPHET
1. HASAN B. ALI
He was profoundly versed in Sufism. He said, by way of precept; "See that ye guard your hearts, for God knows your secret thoughts." "Guarding the heart" consists in not turning to others (than God) and in keeping one's secret thoughts from disobedience to the Almighty. When the Qadarites got the upper hand, and the doctrine of Rationalism became widely spread, Hasan of Basra wrote to Hasan b. 'Ali begging for guidance, and asking him to state his opinion on the perplexing subject of predestination and on the dispute whether men have any power to act (istita'at). Hasan b. 'Ali replied that in his opinion those who did not believe in the determination (qadar) of men's good and evil actions by God were infidels, and that those who imputed their sins to God were miscreants, i.e. the Qadarites deny the Divine providence, and the Jabarites impute their sins to God; hence men are free to acquire their actions according to the power given them by God, and thus our religion takes the middle course between free will and predestination. I have read in the Anecdotes that when Hasan b. 'Ali was seated at the door of his house in Kufa, a Bedouin came up and reviled him and his father and his mother. Hasan rose and said: "O Bedouin, perhaps you are hungry or thirsty, or what ails you?" The Bedouin took no heed, but continued to abuse him. Hasan ordered his slave to bring a purse of silver, and gave it to the fellow, saying: "O Bedouin, excusc mc, for there is nothing else in the house; had there been more, I should not have grudged it to you." On hearing this, the Bedouin exclaimed: "I bear witness that thou art the grandson of the Apostle of God. I came hither to make trial of thy mildness." Such are the true saints and Shaykhs who care not whether they are praised or blamed, and listen calmly to abuse.
2. HUSAYN B. ALI
He is the martyr of Karbala, and all Sufis are agreed that he was in the right. So long as the Truth was apparent, he followed it; but when it was lost he drew the sword and never rested until he sacrified his dear life for God's sake. The Apostle distinguished him by many tokens of favour. Thus 'Umar b. al-Khattab relates that one day he sawr the Apostle crawling on his knees, while Husayn rode on his back holding a string, of which the other end was in the Apostle's mouth. 'Umar said: "What anexcellent camel thou hast, O father of Abdallah!" The Apostle replied: "What an excellent rider is he, O 'Umar!" It is recorded that Husayn said: "Thy religion is the kindest of brethren towards thee," because a man's salvation consists in following religion, and his perdition in disobeying it.
3. 'ALI B. HUSAYN B. 'ALT, CALLED ZAYN AL-ABIDIN
He said that the most blessed man in this world and in the next is he who,
when he is pleased, is not led by his pleasure into wrong, and when he is angry,
is not carried by his anger beyond the bounds of right. This is the character of
those who have attained perfect rectitude (kamal-i mustaqiman). Husayn used to
call him 'Ali the Younger ('Ali Asghar). When Husayn and his children were
killed at Karbala, there was none left exccpt 'Ali to take care of the women;
and he was ill. The women were brought unveiled on camels to Yazid b. Mu'awiya -
may God curse him, but not his father! — at Damascus. Some one said to 'Ali:
"How are ye this morning, O 'Ali and O members of the House of Mercy?" Ali
replied: "We are in the same position among our people as the people of Moses
among Pharaoh's folk, who slaughtered their sons and took their women alive; we
do not know morning from evening on account of the reality of our affliction."
[The author then relates the well-known story of Hisham b. 'Abd al-Malik's encounter with 'Ali b. Husayn at Makkah - how the Caliph, who desired to kiss the Black Stone but was unable to reach it, saw the crowd immediately make way for Ali and retire to a respectful distance; how a man of Syria asked the Caliph to tell him the name of this person who was held in so great veneration; how Hisham feigned ignorance, for fear that his partisans should be shaken in allegiance to himself; and how the poet Farazdaq stepped forward and recited the splendid encomium beginning ~ 1
"This is he whose footprint is known to the valley of Mecca, He whom the Ka.aba knows, and the unhallowed. territon? and. the holy ground.
This is the son of the best of all the servants of God,
This is the pious, the elect, the pure, the eminent."
Hisham was enraged and threw Farazdaq into prison. 'Ali sent to him a purse
containing 12,000 dirhems; but the poet returned it, with the message that he
had uttered many lies in the panegyrics on princes and governors which he was
accustomed to compose for money, and that he had addressed these verses to 'Ali
as a partial expiation for his sins in that respect, and as a proof of his
affection towards the House of the Prophet. Ali, however, begged to be
excused from taking back what he had already given away; and Farazdaq at last consented to receive the money.]
4. ABU JA'FAR MUHAMMAD B. ALI B. HUSAYN
Some say that his "name of honour" was Abu Abdallah. Flis nickname was Baqir. He was distinguished for his knowledge of the abstruse sciences and for his subtle indications as to the meaning of the Quran. It is related that on one occasion a king, who wished to destroy him, summoned him to his presence. When Baqir appeared, the king begged his pardon, bestowed gifts upon him, and dismissed him courteously. On being asked why he had acted in this manner, the king replied: "When he came in, 1 saw two lions, one on his right hand and one on his left, who threatened to destroy me if I should attempt to do him any harm." In his explanation of the verse, "Whosoever believes in the taghut and believes in God" (Qur.ii,257). Baqir said: "Anything that diverts thee from contemplation of the Truth is thy taghut." One of his intimate friends relates that when a portion of the night had passed and Baqir had finished his litanies, he used to cry aloud to God: "0 my God and my Lord night has come, and the power of monarchs has ccased, and the stars are shining in the sky, and all mankind are asleep and silent, and the Banu Umayya have gone to rest and shut their doors and set guards to watch over them; and those who desired anything from them have forgotten their business. Thou, O God, art the Living, the Lasting, the Seeing, the Knowing. Sleep and slumber cannot overtake Thee. He who does not acknowledge that Thou art such as I have described is unworthy of Thy bounty. O Thou whom no thing withholds from any other thing, whose eternity is not impaired by Day and Night, whose doors of Mercy are open to all who call upon Thee, and whose entire treasures are lavished on
those who praise Thee: Thou dost never turn away the beggar, and no creature in earth or heaven can prevent the true believer who implores Thee from gaining access to Thy court. O Lord, when I remember death and the grave and the reckoning, how can I take joy in this world? Therefore, since I acknowledge Thee to be One, I beseech Thee to give me peace in the hour of death, without torment, and pleasure in the hour of reckoning, without punishment."
5. ABU MUHAMMAD JA'FAR B. MUHAMMAD SADIQ
He is celebrated among the Sufi Shaykhs for the subtlety of his discourse and
his acquaintance with spiritual truths, and he has written famous books in
explanation of Sufi'ism. It is related that he said: "Whoever knows God turns
his back on all else". The gnostic (arif) turns his back on "other" (than God)
and is cut off from wordly things, because his knowledge (marifat) is pure
nescience (nakirat), inasmuch as nescience forms part of his knowledge, and
knowledge forms part of his nescience. Therefore the gnostic is separated from
mankind and from thought of them, and he is joined to God. "Other" has no place
in his heart, that he should pay any heed to them, and their existence has no
worth for him, that he should fix the remembrance of them in his mind. And it is
related that he said: "There is no right service without repentance, because God
hath put repentance before service, and hath said, Those who repent, and serve"
(Qur.ix,113). Repentance (tawbah) is the first of the "stations" in this Path,
and service (ibadat) is the last. When God mentioned the disobedient He called
them to repentance and said, "Repent unto God together" (Qur.xxiv,31); but when
He mentioned the Apostle He referred to his "servantship" ('ubudiyyat), and
said, "He revealed to His servant that which He revealed" (Qur.liii, 10). I have
read in the Anecdotes that Dawud Tai came to Jafar Sadiq and said: "O son of the
Apostle of God, counsel me, for my mind is darkened." Jafar replied: "O Abu
Sulayman, thou art the ascetic of thy time: what need hast thou of counscl from
me?" He answered: "O son of the Apostle, thy family are superior to all mankind,
and it is incumbent on thee to give counsel to all." "O Abu Sulayman,"cried
Jafar, "I am afraid that at the Resurrection my grandsire will lay hold on me,
saying, 'Why didst not thou fulfil the obligation to follow in my steps?1 This
is not a matter that depends on authentic and sure affinity (to Muhammad), but
on good conduct in the presence of the Truth." Dawud Tai began to weep and
exclaimed: "O Lord God, if one whose clay is moulded with the water of Prophecy,
whose grandsire is the Apostle, and whose mother is Fatima (Batul) — if such a
one is distracted by doubts, who am 1 that I should be pleased with my dealings
(towards God)?" One day jafar said to his clients: "come, let us take a pledge
that whoever amongst us shall gain deliverance on the Day of Resurrection shall
intercede for all the rest." They said: O son of the Apostle, how canst thou
have need of our intercession since thy grandsire intercedes for all mankind?"
Jafar replied: "My actions are such that I shall be ashamed to look my grandsir
in the face on the Last Day." To see one's faults is a quality of perfection,
and is charcteristic of those who are established in the Divine presence,
whether they be prophets, saints, or apostles. The Apostle said: "When God
wishes a man well, He gives him insight into his faults." Whoever bows his head
with humility, like a servant, God will exalt his state in both worlds.
Now I shall mention briefly the People of the Veranda (Ahl-i Suffah). In a book entitled "The Highway of Religion" (Minhaj al-Din), which 1 composed before the present work, I have given a detailed account of each of them, but here it will suffice to mention their names and "names of honour".
1 Twenty-five verses are quoted.